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Inspired By: David Bailey

11 February, 2021

Inspired by: David Bailey

David Bailey is one of those rare beasts who has transcended his own industry and become part of popular culture. For a long time, it seemed almost impossible to take a photo without someone remarking, “Who do you think you are? David Bailey!”

Overcoming dyslexia and dyspraxia to become one of the most celebrated icons of fashion and portrait photography, David’s charm and skill led to him photographing almost everyone of importance during his long career.

The Bailey method

Making the most of his boyish good looks, typical East End charisma and an innate skill with a camera, David developed a style that was simple, effective and very direct. He often said that he spent far more time sitting and chatting with his subjects than he did photographing them. For him, like many of the master photographers, the real challenge was making a connection and then capturing that.

Almost exclusively shooting in black and white on a white background, David Bailey wanted his work to be as real and honest as possible – it was rare to see him use gimmicks or props unless they added to the story of the subject. No, for David a simple white background, medium soft light source and a close head and shoulders crop of his subject was enough. He wanted his subject to be alive, moving freely, and completely engaged with the camera – and that was his secret!

What you can learn from David

“It takes a lot of looking before you learn to see the extraordinary.” 

David knew that most people (including photographers!) look around them without really seeing. He was confident in his lighting and photography skills and kept those as simple as possible so that he could concentrate on the most important thing – really taking an interest in the subject. If you’re shooting a portrait session and your mind is all over the place worrying about your camera, your lights, or even what you’re having for dinner later, then you’re probably going to miss the magic. 

Practice with your gear so it feels like it’s part of you, then when it comes to shooting your subject or client, be open, warm and engaging so that they feel at home, relaxed and act naturally. Recognising that everyone is a mystery for your lens to uncover makes for magical portrait sessions. 

The high contrast mono and white background portrait will always look fantastic printed on a large canvas, and we hope that we’ve inspired you to get in close and personal with your subjects and shoot some crackers. David Bailey is a big inspiration for all of us at Your Image to Canvas, and we’d love to see some of your inspired shots come through the lab.

11 February, 2021


frame next to a house plant
framed photo by the bedside
framed landscape painting on the wall
framed picture next to a quill
holding a framed painting