A morning at Air Studios

Emmy award winning composer, conductor and pianist took some time away from working on his next solo album to spend Saturday morning with us updating his portrait portfolio. Thanks to Gavin we were fortunate enough to use Air Studios, Hampstead. Mat was a like a kid in a sweet shop when Gavin offered to show him around after the shoot – he had the chance to visit years ago on a school trip; not as good as this one-to-one tour.


AIr Studios, London

A treat to hear Gavin play the Steinway at Air Studios whilst we captured some shots for his upcoming album.

Congratulations Nell!

Work admin can be dull. Especially tedious and slow-going with my right hand in a splint; my stupid fault for losing a fight with a cement mixer at the weekend. It did feel less irksome today thanks to BBC Radio 4’s distraction of airing Nell Stevens’ short story “The Minutes”, which follows a group of ill-fated student activists as they plan a protest against the demolition of a South London tower block.

Nell at home, mobile studio set-up

Nell is one of the five all-female finalist authors shortlisted for the prestigious BBC 2018 short story awards.

Wandering around Nell’s part of town

We’ll be sure to tune in to BBC Radio 4’s Front Row on October 2nd to hear whether she is crowned winner. Either way, a great achievement to be a finalist, her work selected from 800 stories entered this year.

Meeting interesting, talented people like Nell is one of the more enjoyable aspects of our work. It makes the admin side of things bearable! Congratulations Nell, and best of luck from us at Mat Smith Photography x

The Lawson Trio Welcomes Violinist, Francesca Barritt

The Lawson Trio: Rebecca Knight (left) Annabelle Lawson (centre) Francesca Barritt (right)

After some time away from the music scene for the birth of Annabelle’s beautiful son Marty, these photos are to welcome Francesca Barritt as new violinist to the Lawson Trio.

Annabelle Lawson: Pianist

Francesca Barritt: Violinist

Fran has been busy this year leading English Touring Opera, and recently performing recitals as part of the fascinating Multi Story Orchestra series, as well as playing at Opera Holland Park season with the trio’s cellist Rebecca.

Rebecca Knight: Cellist

You can catch the Lawson Trio for their latest CD launch concert next month at the Sound Laboratory, University of Sheffield, and events starting in 2019, with recitals in Bromsgrove on 22nd February and Sheffield on 10th March.

On the steps of St. Michael Cornhill Church

The Lawson Trio

Author Marianne Power hiding behind her novel "Help Me", wide eyes peeping from above book cover

Marianne Power: Help Me!

The summer hols are here, and what better way to spend time relaxing and reflecting than by a pool with a good read. My usual go-tos are dark, edgy novels – think author Ian Macabre, (sorry, McEwan).

Not so for Marianne Power, who set herself the task to read a new self help book each month for an entire year, following their advice to the letter, in a quest to change her life, hopefully, for the better.

Picador are set to publish Help Me in Hard back, e-book and audio in September 2018, and we were invited to take some publicity shots of Marianne in East London.

We had fun wandering around Marianne’s neighbourhood of Homerton, popping into some of the local cafes that were favorite haunts of hers whilst penning her journey of self help.

Marianne Power, Author, smiling sat outside a cafe in East London

Marianne’s “go-to” cafe to write about her journey

As Help Me is out after the hols, forgive me if I stick to grizzly fiction whilst enjoying the unusually glorious English summer – I promise to break from my usual genre to dive into a year of self help with Marianne once her book is out this September.

Author of "Help Me", Marianne Power, leaning against London stock wall

The bookseller: Interview with Marianne Power featuring photograph by Mat Smith Photography

An article in The Bookseller

Author and Potter Elizabeth MacNeal Sitting On Garden Steps

Pens, Pots and Pictures: An afternoon with Elizabeth MacNeal

Author Elizabeth MacNeal wearing a green smock dress in her garden

Congratulations to potter and author Elizabeth MacNeal, whose first novel The Doll Factory, a gripping 19th century tale of love, curiosity and possession set in London (published by Picador next year), is now also set to be adapted for TV by the team behind Netflix and ITV hit Marcella.

Mat Smith Photography had the pleasure of spending a few hours with Elizabeth in her home to take publicity shots a couple of weeks ago.

It was a bright hot day and we dodged both sun’s glare and garden sprinklers in Elizabeth’s secluded East London garden to shoot portraits for The Doll Factory book sleeve.


Author Elizabeth MacNeal relaxing crossed-legged in her garden shaded by large umbrella

Elizabeth’s favorite spot for editing and proof reading

Author and Potter Elizabeth MacNeal Sitting On Garden Steps

Outside the pottery studio

At the bottom of the garden lies Elizabeth’s potting studio, and to our delight we explored Elizabeth’s latest ceramic wares, packed and stacked in boxes, and lined on wooden shelves, dragging ourselves away only to make time for some more shots.

Elizabeth MacNeal in dungarees in her pottery studio

Surrounded by ceramics


Author Elizabeth MacNeal sitting crossed legged on her sofa with a serene expression, black and white

The best place for a spot of telly – shortly to be her own novel on screen!

We walked away from the shoot with a TV “must watch” tip from Elizabeth (Happy Valley, in case you wondered – we binge watched and can highly recommend), two beautiful handmade MacNeal cups (from which I drink coffee as I type today) plus the future anticipation of a thrilling novel to read and another TV series suggestion. Can’t wait.

Congratulations again, Elizabeth. We wish you every success with the television adaptation and future work!

How to crop a photo


Clients of Mat Smith Photography – if you prefer us to crop your images then we can always do this, but don’t forget when we crop the photo to required specs, this always reduces the flexibility you have for future use of the photo. That’s why we usually only crop for personal clients and not for business or commercial. Read on for the how-to.

Anyone can crop a photo, you don’t need to be an expert. But it’s one of those things that may benefit from an expert doing it, for the following two reasons:

  1. There are basic visual rules when cropping photos of people: avoid cutting off limbs, don’t crop too close to a head, maintain aspect ratio, etc. There’s no doubt you’ll follow these rules. But a really good crop can lend an image a sense of power. Professional photographers are – hopefully – able to do this as second nature. And it’s a subtle thing. If you have a good eye, then go right ahead.
  2. When you load an image, edit it, then re-save, you are potentially degrading the quality of that image. I’m guessing most readers of this post don’t know how to completely mitigate against this, but again if you do, then go ahead.

Of course, as with all things in life, the more experienced you become, the more you can bend or break the rules.

Q: How do I crop a photo?

Firstly, do you mean crop, which means to remove unwanted outer areas of the image? Or do you mean resize, which means to reduce the file size of a photo?

  • Cropping is useful for “zooming in” on something or removing part of the photo you don’t want to see.
  • Resizing is useful for uploading to certain websites that place a restriction on the file size of the photo. Note: clients of Mat Smith Photography are provided with different resolution versions, so this should not be necessary.

Quickest way to crop (Windows)

Here we’ll use Paint; this is the quickest option as it doesn’t need you to install new software.

Don’t forget: re-saving a JPG file will degrade its quality. You should always attempt to re-crop from an uncompressed file, such as TIFF.

  • Check you know where the file you want to crop is stored on your computer. Please make sure you have unzipped the image file, if applicable.
  • Open Microsoft Paint (click the Start button and type paint, then click on the icon you see)
  • Open your image (click File, top left of window, then Open, now find the file and open it)
  • Drag the Zoom bar (bottom right of window) to zoom out until you can see the whole photo on your screen
  • Find the Home tab (top of the window, next to File) then press the button above the word Select. (Note, if you see something other than a rectangle on this button, use the pull-down menu by clicking on the word Select to change it back)

  • Now drag a rectangle around the area you wish to crop
  • (Ideally you’d get the exact same ratio of rectangle as you had before. If you’re good with numbers, keep an eye on the dimensions in the bottom bar whilst you drag the mouse to create the crop rectangle, and ensure you achieve the same ratio. Generally I need a calculator to do that, unless it’s a square crop. For everyone else, you’ll need to use something more advanced to achieve this properly. But if you don’t care about the final aspect ratio, don’t worry about this.)
  • Now press the Crop button on the same menu, then File > Save As > now give the new file a different name to the original.

There’s your newly cropped file. Now if you want to completely avoid loss of quality, you can save as a BMP file. However most websites won’t allow you to upload this kind of file. It’s still useful though, e.g. if you want to do further edits later, without even more loss of quality.

More advanced way to crop (Windows)

If you don’t own professional image editing software, but wish to maintain the aspect ratio of your crop without needing a degree in maths (okay, maybe a good GCSE…), then you’ll need to download and install some software.

I highly recommend the free software IrfanView, which I’ve used for many years for really quick / basic edits. This is “no frills” but excellent quality. Download it directly from here. Install the software, load up your image file, then you can immediately crop as follows.

  • In IrfanView, no need to select a tool. Just drag the mouse to draw a rectangle. Whilst dragging the mouse, hold down the Alt key on your keyboard. This will constrain the aspect ratio to match the original. You can try a few times until you are happy.
  • Once ready to crop, press Ctrl-Y, and the image will immediately crop.
  • Now you can save the image from the File menu. If it’s a portrait photo, I recommend the following:
    • Check file type is JPG
    • Ensure you don’t overwrite the original – give it a new name
    • Before you hit save, you should see a window with a Save Quality slider bar. Slide this bar to about 90.
    • Hit save

As this is the “Advanced” version of my instructions, a quick word about save quality. The higher the number, the larger the file, but the lower the loss in image quality. I’d always recommend 100% unless you are saving thousands of files and are getting low in disk space, OR unless you need to ensure the file size isn’t too big (e.g. you are uploading to a website).

The ultimate way to crop

Speak to your photographer or purchase Lightroom / Photoshop!

Intense headshot on black backdrop

It’s Magic; Maddox Magic

For all Britain’s Got Talent fans, tonight you witnessed the wonder of Maddox Magic. We first met Sam “Maddox” Dixon back in 2016 shortly after he returned from tour performing with Coldplay. At the time he was transitioning from music to a full time career as magician “Maddox Magic”, specialising in close-up sleight of hand magic and deceptive illusions.

Back then we had great fun treading the streets of East London, photographing as he stunned people into silence on the street with impressive tricks whilst maintaining that unmistakable Maddox smile and unassuming vibe. Read more and see photos from our 2016 shoot here.

For this shoot our brief was to capture more of Sam’s personality, with the addition of a studio setting for May’s front cover of international magic magazine “Vanish”.

Intense headshot on black backdrop

Maddox for Vanish Magazine front cover, May 2018 edition

Maddox Magic sitting on a chair, black backdrop with Rubik's Cube

Rubik’s Cube

Once finished in our Chiswick High Road studios we took a stroll around the block. We’re always a fan of our local railway arches. To others a dingy uninspiring narrow alleyway, to us it provides eye-catching texture, interesting backdrops and therefore photo opportunities galore.

Portrait of Maddox Magic wearing red coat against vertical steel railings

Maddox, Stamford Brook arches

Black and White Portrait of Maddox Magic against shutters set to a vanishing point

Maddox, shutters

A theme to many a Mat Smith Photography shoot is the coffee stop; this shoot was no exception. Artisan Coffee have become particularly special to us – as well as neighbours they also roast their beans in the workshop at the bottom of our garden.

Photo of Maddox shot through window into cafe, with lights behind

Maddox, Artisan Coffee

Talking about the roasters, this was our next shooting location. The mix of rope lighting, London stock, ply and render allows for a great range of scenes all in one venue.

Maddox on bags of coffee beans in a roastery in Chiswick

Maddox Magic, Coffee Roastery, Chiswick

Maddox card trick

Just before sunset we strolled around our local square before heading back to the studio, and as we packed down for the night, we were lucky enough to be treated to a trick.

Maddox Magic, Hoodie, St Peter's Square, Hammersmith

Maddox Magic, St Peter’s Square, Hammersmith

The magic of Maddox as well as, of course, the magic, comes from who he is. Relaxed, personable, engaging. He drew us in and astounded us with a card trick that has left our brains all a-jumble. Afterwards he graciously heard our rookie theories as we scratched our heads attempting to work out what we had just both witnessed.

Mat Smith is a London-based portrait photographer. To see more of his work or to get in touch, visit www.matsmithphotography.com

And here’s Mat’s photo on the front cover of Vanish Magazine, May 2018.

portrait of man in suit with skull and crossbones tie in shoreditch graffiti tunnel

Battling “The Beast from the East”

The combination of outdoor, early morning, winter lifestyle shoots can generally be a little unforgiving on photographer fingers. However, when Graham booked with us a few weeks ago for such a shoot, amongst the planning, the mood-boards, the image consultation and wardrobe styling, sub-zero temperatures did not feature as highly on the consideration list as perhaps they should!

Our surprise battle with that wicked wind-chill began early one Sunday morning, close to Shoredich High Street Station. We love to start early; to capture the pre-dawn light, the empty streets and, from a more practical pragmatic perspective, before traffic wardens have started their shift.

Man with ponytail sitting on pavement with graffiti wall behind, with the word "start" in the jaws of a lion

And let the shoot begin…

It takes a combination of factors to make a memorable, fun, and successful shoot. Some of it is in the preparation, the honed brief, the planning, and of course the photographer’s skill, but once these boxes are ticked, much of the day is down to serendipity and the sheer amount of effort put in by the client. Graham put in effort by the bucket load – both before, and throughout the shoot. Many would have shirked the cold; Graham’s costume changes in the chill and his bare arms (see the portrait on yellow) are testament to his fortitude!

Headshot of man in black army style coat in front of red and white graffiti

Graham – Dawn in Shoreditch

Heating set to full blast, it was time for the car to give some warm relief. The plan was to stop off for a coffee near Bank, but due to a rally and road closures we found ourselves diverted nearer to the Barbican. It’s a running joke here at Mat Smith Photography that the Brutalist Barbican is Mat’s Bermuda Triangle. Once he enters, he and his camera are never to be seen again, at least for a very, very long time. We played it safe today, and used instead for backdrop the high-rise glassy buildings around the danger-zone:

Man with slicked back hair in front of a green tinted glass building in a army style black jacket with silver double buttons

Brutalist Reflection: A portrait of Graham in the eye of the Barbican

Next, a quick stop for a much needed brew & brunch at caravan coffee. Mine was an enjoyable Ethiopian Wote Konga V60 followed by a ludicrouly laden sourdough grilled cheese sandwich, quince jam, with a fried egg for good measure. Graham followed in the same suit, whilst Mat plumped for the smashed avocado, pickled red onion, soy pumpkin seeds, sprouts, manouri – not forgetting a poached egg on top. No food photos, but back to the blog in hand,  here is a portrait of Graham, whilst waiting for his chow:

Man in coffee shop looking out of window

Coffee at Caravan in the City

Back to business, Graham donned his work attire and we wandered up to Bank. Our brief was to capture Graham both for personal portraits and for business use. The stone archtecture of Bank offered us a good contrast to the glassy walls near the Barbican and street art of Shoreditch. Too corporate, however, would certainly not do for Graham’s brief. The choice of orange tie nicely took care of this!

Business man in blue suit, orange tie and white braces in front of grey stone wall

The back streets of Bank

A business man wearing a bright orange tie walking through columns in front of the Bank of England

Suited and Booted by The Bank of England

Black and white photo of a suited and booted man sat laughing on the Bank of England's steps

Bank of England steps

Being Sunday morning, we quickly stopped off at church (albeit not making it past the front door):

Portrait of a man sitting in front of large blue church doors on the steps of a church entrance

A moment’s reflection

And onwards though backstreets and alleyways photographing as we went, happy in the knowledge, for today’s shoot at least, the Beast from the East didn’t defeat.

Man walking down a back street in the city of London looking back at the camera

Till We Meet Again – A backstreet portrait

Inspiring Women – Roundup of Mat Smith’s London Portraits for International Women’s Day 2018

Today’s date, March 8th, International Women’s Day. And the year, 2018, the centenary of women’s suffrage in Britain – although of course we must wait another decade before we the can mark the centenary of equal voting terms for men and women. I was first introduced to suffrage aged 7, by Mrs Winifred Banks, and so, one evening after a photo shoot this week, we re-visited the 1964 Walt Disney classic, Mary Poppins.

I say “re-visited”, for Mat, it was a first.

I hadn’t seen the film for decades, and as well as wincing at the ludicrous “London” accent of Dick Van Dyke, I couldn’t help cringe at the portrayal of Jane and Michael’s ditsy, apparently inept, and often absent, suffragette mother. Many have wrangled over both the positive and negative impact of Mrs Banks and her help or hindrance to the ensuing attitude shift toward women and the roles we fulfil in society. She was, nevertheless, my first introduction to the ever-present plight of women to reach equal standing with men. As I was not, sadly, a “daughter’s daughter” of a feminist, its impact was meaningful.

Today I have been looking back to some of the inspirational women Mat Smith Photography has recently had the pleasure to meet and photograph.

Lady Hale – Portraits for Bristol University

We were commissioned to photograph Brenda Marjorie Hale, Lady Hale of Richmond back in 2016, before she took up appointment as the President of The Supreme Court in 2017. Her role as President follows her appointment as Deputy President from June 2013. In October 2009 she became the first woman Justice of The Supreme Court.

Lady Hale – Now President of the Supreme Court

Lady Hale talked of hoping to use her position to inspire other women and show that they can reach the pinnacle of any profession. She hopes to further improve the gender balance in the Supreme Court moving forward. We wait with eager anticipation to see whether women fill either the position of the new Deputy President or any of the three currently vacant Justices positions later this year.

We ended our shoot in her private chambers:

Lady Hale in her Chambers

Toto James – Portraits for Women’s Institute

“Woman of the Year” nominee in celebration of her work as a Marketing Consultant with leading law firms, and her voluntary work with the Women’s Institute.  Mat Smith Photography was invited to her home for an editorial shoot for the WI Magazine, WI Life.

Woman of the year 2018 – on sofa

You can read all about Toto in this month’s WI Life edition, “The Inspiration Issue”, where our photograph of Toto James is featured on the cover, with a double page spread celebrating Toto, who in her life has blazed a trail in both the business and voluntary sectors.

Woman of the year 2018 – with statue

Mary Kerr – Portraits for Lincoln’s Inn

Mary is currently the Under Treasurer of the Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn.

During our shoot with Mary we loved hearing about a project she, with a wry smile, coined “her baby”; a major £20m conservation and extension project on the Grade II* listed Great Hall and Library, situated within the Bloomsbury Conservation Area in High Holborn – the biggest single project since its original construction in 1845.

Mary Kerr, Under Treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn – in the cloisters

Those who follow Mat’s various personal social media feeds, will be all too aware of the somewhat smaller basement project that fills much of our spare time, and so we were particularly inspired by the 1,247 sq. m, two-storey extension being constructed below ground under the East Terrace of the Great Hall. A day-lit basement providing state-of-the-art teaching facilities comprising a large, multi-purpose lecture theatre and mooting space, 10 flexible advocacy training rooms, quiet study and break-out areas, and additional social meeting spaces.

Mary Kerr, Under Treasurer of Lincoln’s Inn

We look forward to taking up Mary’s offer of revisiting her awe-inspiring project, once it is complete later this year.

Dr. Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – Portraits for American Psychological Association

Commissioned by the American Psychological Association, Mat Smith Photography had the pleasure of photographing one of the most inspiring women we have ever met: Deputy Assistant Commissioner at London Fire Brigade, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton.

Portrait of Sabrina Cohen-Hatton for American Psychological Association

Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton – Deputy Assistant Commissioner, London Fire Brigade

The double studio session held at our High Road Studios, in Chiswick, has been one of Mat Smith Photography’s recent highlights. The brief was to somehow capture Sabrina’s warm, approachable personality whilst dressed in full Brigade uniform, on a stark white studio background, which will be used as a cover shot and feature article in the APA’s May magazine edition later this year.

One of the best parts of any shoot is hearing about the lives of those we photograph. This shoot was certainly no exception. Having left home at 15 and school at 16, Sabrina’s firefighting journey began at her local fire brigade in a small, South Wales mining community. Since then, as well as rising the ranks to become one of the most senior fire fighters in Britain, having served at a number of major incidents, including the Westminster terrorist attack in March this year, Grenfell Tower in June, and the Holborn fire in 2015, Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton also has a PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience, having undertaken a series of night classes.

Portrait of Sabrina Cohen-Hatton, Deputy Assistant Commissioner

She has won two prestigious international academic awards for her research into incident command in the emergency services. It is the first time in history that psychological theory has been used to improve the way officers make risk-critical decisions and her work fundamentally changed the national approach to how fires are fought, to make both firefighters and the public safer.

Sabrina’s book, a firefighter’s memoirs, “Through the Fire” is to be published by Transworld in Spring 2019, which I, for one, can’t wait to read.  And if TV is more your thing, Broadchurch producer Kudos is also adapting her memoirs into a new TV drama series.