Shooting the Tenovus Cancer charity donation campaign

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to be asked to shoot a campaign for Tenovus Cancer, a charity based here in Cardiff.

It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything on this scale, and I absolutely loved the experience.

At first, we had planned to shoot on Penarth Pier – as this is where I had photographed Liz, the lovely PR manager of Tenovus, and we both thought it would be a great location.

My image – on the front page of the Echo… it’s teeny, but it’s still there!

However, during the great British “drought” of March 2012, where it seemed to not only be constantly raining,but also to have been raining since the beginning of time, we began to quickly realise that an outdoor shoot simply wasn’t meant to be.


So, where to turn next… naturally, the arcades came into focus (although for some reason it did take an extraordinarily long time for the penny to drop there) and I knew from almost the first frame that this was meant to be the location on the day.

All of the models are Tenovus staff, while all of the outfits feature items from local Tenovus shops. The campaign is designed to encourage donations to the shops, while also highlighting the great finds that can be had from charity shops.

One of the Tenovus shops in Cardiff displaying the campaign material

In terms of practicalities of the shoot, we had seven ‘models’, the photographer (me), the stylist (Dawn, from Dress Me Perfect) and the PR manager (Liz) to work with on the day. We sought permission (as you always should) from the Castle Arcade management for the shoot, who were extraordinarily helpful in letting us take over the arcade for the morning.

All of the models were photographed in two outfits, shot on their own and as part of a pairing with one of the other models. In all, I shot nearly 1000 frames on the day… and although there was a lot of duplication, it meant that there was a lot of whittling down to be done, to get to the final amount presented to Tenovus, which was around 100.


I used two cameras and only three lenses – a combination of a Nikon D3S and Sigma 24-70mm lens and my Canon EOS 60D and either a Canon 50mm f/1.4 or Sigma 30mm lens. The setup was very simple, I used no flashes or lights, working entirely with the natural light provided by the beautiful glass roof of the arcade.

I wanted to use two cameras so that I could quickly swap between focal lengths without having to mess around with lenses. With that many looks to get through, I wanted to make sure that was minimal.

Having the full-frame D3S was extremely useful for the wide angle shots, and those which show off the arcade architecture to its best.

Overall, I think I preferred the images from my Canon 60D (around £700 body only) over the Nikon. This is interesting when you consider that the D3S is a professional level camera costing over £4000! It shows once again that you don’t necessarily need the most expensive equipment to produce images you’re proud of.

One of the shots as it appeared on the front page of the South Wales shopping supplement, 24th May 2012

This shoot marked the first time I had worked with a stylist, which was a new and interesting experience. I’m used to directing models and shoots myself, so handing over that level of control felt a little strange at first, but I soon found having the fantastic Dawn around was a godsend.

When I’m composing a photo, my main attention is on light, eye contact and what’s going on around the model. Dawn was there to make sure there were no creases, dodgy zips and awkward looking arms and legs… all things I may not have noticed myself until after the shot was taken and I was sat in front of the computer at the editing stage.

Dawn was also responsible for sourcing the outfits from the Tenovus shops, and I think you’ll agree she did a great job there – many of the models and staff working on this fell in love with what had been brought along and I think many of them were bought there on the spot.


I hope that all of the models enjoyed the shoot – I have heard since that they felt relaxed and I helped put them at ease. That’s all I can ask for as a portrait photographer, and direction is something I’m constantly trying to improve and learn about.

The Tenovus shop in Penarth

Now that the hard work is out of the way and I’ve had the chance to see the images printed out and in the windows of the wonderful Tenovus shops (of which I was ridiculously excited about seeing), on the Tenovus website and in the local press, I’m really proud of the work that we did to bring this all together.

If you get a moment, please take some time to check out the Tenovus campaign that these photos are attached to – where you can learn more about the great work that the charity does.

I’m really hoping to do more of this kind of work in the future – so if anybody wants to get in touch to discuss a commission, please feel free.

For now, I’ve included a short slideshow of some of my favourite photos from that day, more can be viewed in this Flickr set. As always, any comments, feedback, thoughts and suggestions are always welcome in the comments box below.

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