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Thursday, 29 April 2010

The very lovely Rebecca

The first time I met Rebecca I knew instantly that I wanted to photograph her.

We finally made it happen this week and it was a great shoot. She is delighted with the results - and wonderfully surprised about just how incredible she looks. Like most women I meet she didn't relish the thought of having her picture taken. But we had fun, we laughed, we talked. She gamely accepted my direction and suggestions - she was an absolute pleasure to work with.

I want to give this feeling/experience/what ever you want to call it to other women. Give them s
ome fabulous photos to cherish and be proud of. If you think that sounds like something you might like - pick up the phone, give me a call. You won't regret it.

Here are a selection of pictures from the shoot. To gain a better idea of the range of images that I present following a shoot like this please take a look at the AV presentation below the images.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Wallander - inspiring stuff

It isn't often that a TV mini-series delivers not only on storyline and acting but also on cinematography. I found myself quite mesmerised by the BBC's Wallander, which I discovered in it's second series but have since watched from the beginning.

In brief, the first series consists of three single dramas based on the Kurt Wallander Mysteries books and stars Kenneth Branagh. It was shot in in Ystad on Sweden's rural south coast where the books were based. It was produced on the new high resolution RED ONE 4K digital cinema camera. Chosen for its low light, low grain capabilities and a first for the BBC. The Director of Photography on the first two episodes was Anthony Dod Mantle who went on to win a BAFTA for Photography & Lighting.

Why do I include it in my blog? Because it is a beautiful and inspiring piece of work. The use of composition, colour (both intense and desaturated), light and depth of field can be breathtakingly exquisite or stark and harsh in turn. There are many scenes where the content adds little to the story but gives you a strong sense of place and mood. Big skies, strong winds and moody water. In contrast there are many close-ups that utilise harsh directional light to expose the emotional turmoil of Branagh's character.

It absolutely makes you wish you were there with your camera.

Quite unique, wonderfully inspiring. But be warned - there's not a lot of joy.

Monday, 26 April 2010

The unique Ayhnoe Park

I recently attended the opening of the stunning and unique Aynhoe Park in Oxfordshire which is available, for the first time in its history, for private hire.

The current owner, James Perkins, has restored the Grade 1 listed seventeenth century country house and grounds – retaining the strong influence of Sir John Soane but bringing it into the twenty-first century with contemporary touches.

With a layout that could have been created with modern entertaining in mind, the house can play host to parties for as few as ten or as many
people as you wish. Ayhnoe Park holds a Civil Licence for up to 200 guests allowing weddings and civil partnership ceremonies to take place in the house. With an array of beautiful reception rooms and exquisitely appointed bedrooms, Aynhoe also has gardens and a park that are perfectly proportioned to accommodate marquees or temporary structures.

It also provides a professional, bespoke wedding and event planning service. For more information visit their website www.aynhoepark.co.uk.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

A bath, a bump and 3 little beauties

This bump shoot serves as a great reminder to just go with the flow. Having taken some very peaceful and beautiful shots of 7 months pregnant mum in the bath we were discovered by the 3 girls. They promptly stripped off and mum was sidelined.

We all love the resulting pictures and these 4 box frames are now hanging in the bathroom. Congratulations to Lucy and Mark who had a son, Jude. I'm very much looking forward to the new born shoot in a couple of weeks.

Photography copyright explained

One issue that lifestyle photographers keep coming up against is copyright ownership. In recent years it has been added to the list of things to ask your potential wedding photographer for. I feel quite strongly about this and have been disheartened to see so many photographers giving copyright away to clients. And a little surprised - which generally leads me to believe that many photographers really don’t understand what copyright is and the issues involved.

A professional wedding or portrait photographer should never hand over copyright to the images. In order to understand why that’s the case here is a brief overview:

What is copyright?

What it isn’t is the right to copy a photograph. It is actually a complex piece of legislation which is constantly evolving. It exists to try and protect photographs against unauthorised copying and also allows photographers to permit the use of images for payment. The system is in place to try and guarantee respect for the photographer’s economic and moral rights.

There is no system for registering copyright in a photograph in the UK - it exists automatically from the moment the image is created. Copyright lasts for the life of the photographer plus 70 years.

If the photos are of me why don’t I own the copyright?

In recent years clients have started to argue that having paid the photographer to take the images, they own both the photograph and the copyright in it.

In essence what you are paying for is the photographer’s skill, creativity, for their time and expenses and the right to use the photographs. It is important to note that the ownership of the copyright is quite separate from the ownership of the actual physical work.

When you commission a photographer your end product is known as the ‘goods’ – whether this means a print, a digital file, framed image or finished album.

Some photographers will provide a disc of images for your own use included in their packages and some might charge extra. In both cases you should not pass on the images to any of your suppliers without clearing it with your photographer first. Make sure that the terms of the licence are clearly set out in a signed contract and that you have been granted permission to get the images reproduced at a print lab.

A licence that states ‘personal use’ does not allow you to put them into the public domain – think Facebook or similar online networks. By doing this you are publishing or distributing the photographs and opening the door for them be taken and used for economic gain without anyone’s knowledge. If you really want to put some of your photos on Facebook or share them on email then talk to your photographer about this and perhaps you can agree on low-res files that are clearly watermarked with the photographer’s copyright.

If a photographer does decide to assign their copyright then they will have no further interest in, or control over, their work and there may be no further opportunity to earn income from it. It means that a bride could sell her wedding images to her wedding venue, florist or dress designer for profit.

A less contentious but equally important issue for me also relates to retaining control of the quality of how my work is reproduced – many consumer print services do not have exacting standards and this can have a hugely detrimental effect on the final image.

If you would like more information you can visit the website developed by
Sal Shuel, a former administrator of the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies: www.salshuel.co.uk offers a comprehensive guide to what can and can't be done.

Thanks to Brett Harkness

Many lifestyle photographers in the UK will be familiar with Brett and Kristie Harkness and I’ve been lucky enough to train with them in their Milnrow studio. I just wanted to say thank you to Brett for pushing me on the subject of setting up my own business, for telling me to 'just get on with it’ and ‘get some training, check out CPT – Bespoke’. So I did and so should you.

To learn more about training with Brett and Kristie visit their website: www.brettharknessphotography.com

To learn more about Contemporary Photographic Training visit their website: www.annabelwilliams.com

My Bespoke Journey

Last September I made the big commitment to join Aspire (Contemporary Photographic Training’s) 12 month bespoke programme.

Headed up by Catherine Connor and Jane Breakell the bespoke programme 'is for people who are serious about setting up in business and want to do so within as short a period of time as possible whilst avoiding the pitfalls that many who are new to business may encounter. The people who succeed the fastest are those who believe in what we do, and make the most of their 12 month programme by being open minded, determined and hard working'.

With their help and guidance, along with the input of all of the bespoke photographers, I feel like I've made enormous progress and that this is just the beginning of an amazing journey.

CPT also offer a number of Discovery Days covering areas such as digital workflow, weddings, portraits and photoshop tips.

For more information visit their website here.

Ideas for your pre-wedding shoot imagery

Like many photographers I offer a pre-wedding shoot as part of my package. It is really a chance for us to get to know each other so that we feel at ease and comfortable with each other on the day it matters. Many couples love the informal and relaxed nature of the resulting images.

Here are a few ideas of how you can incorporate your favourites into your wedding day:
  • You could use an image of you both in your wedding stationery – many companies now offer templates or bespoke designs for save the date cards, wedding invitations or favours that incorporate your own photographs. The brilliant people at Moo have given this some serious thought – check out their ideas here.

  • A lovely idea is for me to design your Guest Book using a selection of your favourite photographs from the shoot. I use a handmade Queensberry silk album for and together we can choose a silk cover that will complement your wedding day colour palette.

Jerry Ghionis...N.i.c.e.

Photography is a craft that requires constant work fuelled by regular inspiration. To date I’ve found no greater inspiration than Jerry Ghionis. In an industry full of big, male egos - Jerry is a fabulous mix of extreme artistic talent with a generous and fun personality. I’m a member of his i.c.e Society and have joined the very long queue of industry admirers.

What he says when you sign up for i.c.e membership 'Thank you for indulging my passion for teaching and sharing my love for people, photography and the business of photography. Remember, you don't have to be the best. You just have to be better than last week' - Jerry Ghionis

Check him out here.

Gingerlily Flowers

Rebecca is everything you would want your florist to be – creative, dedicated and lovely with it.

She is based in Bedfordshire and has experience working in many venues across this and neighbouring counties.

Here are a few photos that I’ve taken of her work. To learn more take a look at her website www.gingerlilyflowers.com.

Why do you hate having your photograph taken?

As soon as you begin to photograph adults you will repeatedly hear the fact that ‘I hate having my photograph taken’. I realised early into my business that my new career involves a huge amount of psychology and it’s been crucial for me to understand how my clients are feeling before, during and after a shoot.

And I’ve also learnt not to take the rejection of some imagery personally.

To help me understand the issues I’m dealing with I looked into some of the reasons why people feel this way about photography. If you can add to this list from your experience of shoots please do!

  • There is definitely a generational thing at work. Generation Y (generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies) are used to seeing hundreds of digital images of themselves – good and bad – and accept this as normal. Whereas for older generations the proliferation of digital cameras, mainly compacts with on-camera flash, has resulted in losing control and a loss in quality in how we are viewed by others in photos.

  • It is important to accept the fact that the human face is complex and different angles of view can substantially affect how flattering an image is. Having your portrait taken by an experienced photographer should at least result in more flattering images.

  • Many people do not recognise themselves in photos and it is worth remembering that people know their faces in reverse – you only see mirrored reflections and this can be quite different to a 2D photographic image. This leads back to the first point where frequency of exposure probably results in more realistic expectations. I had my portrait taken recently and whilst writing this post I went and flipped the image. To me the bottom version (ie the mirror image) is correct because it is the one I’m familiar with. But it’s only correct to me!

A photographer? You need a brand.

Prior to setting up my photography business I worked for the international brand consultancy Lambie Nairn. Before joining them I read a lot of books and papers on this complex word ‘brand’ and didn’t truly understand it until I saw the power of good brand design and communication play out across different markets and sectors.
I believe in branding because I’ve seen it work.
The reason I have added this dedicated section to my blog is because I believe that, as a photographer, you need a brand. Getting an effective brand should be relatively straightforward but sadly it’s a term that is much misunderstood and abused. I often hear marketers talk about what makes some brands successful. I can tell you that it is very easy to take a successful brand, pull it apart and say why it works. What we had to do was take flagging brands and revive them, or build brands from scratch. We had a process that we used because it worked.
I used this process when I created my brand alongside my friend and ex-Creative Director from Lambie-Nairn, Sally Nesbitt (who has since founded Evolve Agency) .

If you are interested I have published some posts which touch on:

Why do I need a brand?

When you set up a photography business there will by many things that you are told you ‘need’ including:
  • The right equipment
  • The technical knowledge
  • An inspiring portfolio
  • A brand
I’m sure you agree with the first 3 points but why do you need a brand?

Building a new photography business is full of substantial pressures and barriers because of factors such as:
  • Pressure to compete on price
  • The proliferation of competitors
  • Pressure for short terms results
  • Pressure to have a unique photographic style
But assuming that your craft and presentation is at a standard required for your market sector then how can you stand out from your competitors? After all there are many, many great lifestyle photographers out there today.

Your brand will make you stand out – it is one of the only things that will differentiate you.  It will also position  you in the marketplace - immediately saying where you sit on a scale of 1 - 10.  Think of it in terms of supermarkets - are you an Asda or a Waitrose?

My brand is as much about the experience of working with me as the final product I deliver. I’ve made a number of promises about how I want my customers to feel about working with me. In order to deliver the total brand experience I need to take consistently great images, deliver a fantastic customer experience and ensure that my brand looks and sounds the same at every touch point from a brochure to my website and beyond. For every client, every time.

So I hope you can now see the benefit of having a brand. You might not yet understand what a brand actually is though? My next post covers this question.

What is a brand?

Inevitably this question does not deliver a one sentence answer that satisfies. For example, it is often said that a brand is simply a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer, but what does this really mean?

What this definition does tell you is that a brand is different from a product or a service.
There are obvious but important things that help to create strong brands.

As we are photographers let’s take a quick look at Kodak. George Eastman took the technical element of photography and introduced it to the masses, creating a brand that has been used for over a hundred years to communicate the essence of the evolving products and company. The brands’ success has been down to:

  • A commitment to quality
  • The generation of awareness
  • The fostering of loyalty
  • The development of a strong and consistent brand identity

A brands' ability to work hard over time is crucial and as the Group CE of United Biscuits once put it ‘Buildings age and become dilapidated. Machines wear out. People die. But what live on are the brands’. Ultimately brands elicit thoughts and emotions from customers – when building a brand the business needs to know what they want these thoughts and emotions to be.

Each element of the brand then works towards delivering this result.
Generally brands begin as a recognisable promise of performance and authenticity. It is worth noting that due to rigorous legislation preventing forgery in this country authenticity remains key – you can be fairly confident that you have just purchased a real Gucci bag if you used a trusted supplier.

What is also key to successful brands is that on the whole they keep their promises by remaining consistent – visually and behaviourally
. And this is why we are more willing to forgive a bad bran
d experience – we believe it to be an exception to the norm. Consistency leads to consumers having certain beliefs about certain brands. It helps to build brand loyalty, allowing customers to relax and enjoy the experience, confident that the brand will deliver its promises. This does not mean that the product must remain unchanged – products evolve – but the promise and performance must remain the same. Because if the brand fails to deliver it will render the brand meaningless over time.

It is important to remember that in most markets there are many comparable products – so what makes consumers pick one over the other? Often it is subjective but what is clear is that it goes beyond basic performance. It can be about how the brand makes them feel and this is why consumers feel different relationships with different
brands. This is where the idea of brand personality comes into play. Giving brands human personality types means they will attract certain types of consumer and be able to differentiate themselves from competitors.

Another important thing to consider is the power of what choosing certain brands makes other people think. Ultimately people want reassurance that they have made the right choice – a choice that reflects where they want to position themselves in society. Therefore many brand purchases are also social statements and a currency for social exchange.

Crucially a logo is NOT a brand but an entry point and shortcut to the emotional response that has been developed from experiencing the brand.

Take this selection of logos. Each one will elicit a response that is about your experience or perceptions of the brand. Powerful isn’t it? I’ve added my logo to demonstrate that if you have not had experience of a brand then a logo can be nothing more than a name…

How do I create a brand?

When I worked at the branding consultancy we had departments dedicated to brand strategy and brand design. I have taken what I learnt from the process and outlined some basic steps to help you create the foundations for a brand for your business. I strongly advise that you find a graphic designer to create the visual identity. This is the last step in the process though – first you need to do some work.

Step 1 Brand Strategy – Defining your values and personality
Brand values

Consider the question what are my core values – what do I want to stand for? Is the brand about honesty or integrity? Quality? How about excellent communication and customer satisfaction? A company’s values are generally an internal matter although they should be evident to anyone you do business with – whether clients or suppliers. Again consistency is key as your brand values should never change even though the market and your product offering may.

Decide what you want your brand to stand for, ideally something attractive and even unique amongst competitor offerings and try and find 4 behavioural values that cover it.

Brand personality

What personality traits do I want to project? Like a person, a brand can be perceived as being warm, confident, formal etc. Take some time to think about what kind of personality and tone of voice you want your brand to have and then try and sum it up using just 4 values.

In both cases I am suggesting 4 values – it gives enough range to allow you to express a brand without diluting or over-complicating the strategy.

Step 2 Towards a Visual Identity

As a lifestyle photographer you are a huge part of your brand and your visual style must reflect your personal style. It’s very important that you love your brand identity so you need to give your graphic designer some visual references that reflect your taste. Interior or fashion magazines can provide great inspiration - tear out anything that really appeals.

Your colour palette is also crucial – I always recommend walking into a home improvements shop and standing in front of the paint sample spectrum. Pick up anything that you really love. Also take a look at other brands – which ones are you drawn to visually? Make a list for your designer. All of this will really help them understand what you like. Remember though – women tend to buy lifestyle photography so you need to appeal to them – this is something for your graphic designer to consider.
Step 3 Brief the Designer

Once a graphic designer has the words and the visual reference they will be able to start designing you a brand identity toolkit to work across all your communication touchpoints. There isn’t one right way to do this – all that really matters is that they provide something flexible enough to allow you to design simple stationery, a website, a brochure and maybe even consider a trade stand for wedding fayres etc. Generally a brand identity should include the following components:

  • A logotype or wordmark. Here a some useful pointers about good logo design as there is a lot of BAD logo design:
  1. Describable
  2. Memorable
  3. Effective without colour
  4. Scalable i.e. work when just an inch in size
  5. Relevant to the industry in question
  • A colour palette – this can be just one or a combination of colours.
  • A primary and secondary font – for titles and use as body copy.
  • Some kind of creative idea that can be used for your more detailed brand communications. For example when Lambie-Nairn created the brand identity for O2 we needed to be able to visually demonstrate Oxygen. The bubble began as a simple graphic property that worked in print and online. The bubble property has continued to evolve, especially for television communications. You can watch a clip that demonstrates O2's full brand identity here.

Step 4 Living the Brand

Please remember that however hard you work to develop a brand it will fail if you don’t ‘live it’ by consistently being true to your values and personality. An ‘off day’ or unanswered phone will do you damage. Whatever you’ve spent on advertising, promotions, branding, or design, can all be obliterated with a single bad customer experience. Most photographers work alone or as a very small team so it should be easier to remain consistent and control all brand communications.

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