Category Archives: advice

Brother, Sister, Partner – Going into Business with a Sibling

Let’s face it, going to work can be a pain. Open plan offices are too noisy and impersonal, small offices are too claustrophobic, no one ever clears up in the kitchen. The vending machine steels money. Bosses are unreasonable and bullying. The pay is inadequate, the days too long, weekends too short and holidays hardly ever come. Well, now I’m self-employed – I decide when to make a cup of coffee, and if the kitchen’s a mess – it’s because I haven’t tidied up after breakfast. I can drink the coffee in peace and quiet, if I choose, have a little nap afterwards (Please don’t draw this last comment to the attention of my partner, she still has to go out to work) 

brother, sister & partner

HMRC class me as a ‘sole-trader’, but of course photographing and filming are very social, interactive and deeply personal – you have to look in people’s eyes. My trade is capturing a person’s soul! But once back in the office, and making business decisions, I can feel very alone, it’s all down to me! So that’s when I go to business networking. It was at one of these meetings that I met Stephen Taylor. His business is called Taylored Room Solutions, designing and fitting bedrooms, kitchens and offices. It’s a partnership between Stephen and his sister, Julia. So they’re never alone making decisions. Which made me curious; how can a business relationship with a sibling, transcend childhood resentments, from parental favouritism to broken toys?

partner editorial photographer Kingston

Councillor Brenda Fraser is the Mayor of Merton performed the official opening

I sat down with Stephen and Julia in their New Malden office and showroom, upstairs at Big Yellow Storage, only recently officially opened by the Mayor. The good news is that they’re really busy. As I promised not to take up too much of their time they insisted it was not a problem, I could have as long as I liked. Here’s a clue to making any partnership work – be a nice person and find a partner who’s just as nice. First credit then must go to Mum and Dad Taylor. “Oh our parents think we’re mad.” Julia tells me, I imagine most parents would worry if two of their kids gave up good jobs to go into business. “But at the beginning, we needed some money and they stepped up with that.” Then she turns to Stephen – “Oh, I forgot to tell you, mum definitely want us to do her kitchen and no mates rates.” “Oh good, double the price then.”

There seems to be a relaxed ease between them that only siblings could have – a brother or sister can know someone’s sensitivities better than anyone. Know how to avoid them, or apply coercive pressure! I ask Stephen how they’d come to give up their jobs and set up in business together. “She bullied me!” Which Julia denies, explaining that she’d been unhappy in her last job and thinking of setting up on her own. At the same time she was wondering if Stephen would be interested. It took Julia’s husband Mark to start the conversation between the two of them. “We talked and talked.” Stephen says. “And then we talked some more. I don’t think either of our partners saw us for months.” I ask if they’d known whether they’d be able to work together. ”We were averagely close.” A guarded answer from Stephen. “We always got on well, I always had a soft spot for Stephen.” Julia drops to a whisper, perhaps so that neither of the other two siblings will hear. Julia’s the oldest, Stephen the youngest of the four and they both say they wouldn’t do this with either of the other two. As Stephen got into his teenage, Julia had already left home for college, so they missed some of the ‘difficult’ years. Instead, Stephen had someone he could talk to, out of the home, but in the family. “Julia was living in a bedsit, I’d go and stay with her. We’d go to the cinema or ice skating, that’s where our friendship developed.”

partner s in the office editorial photographer Kingston

Their office is not big, Stephen sits with his back to the window, Julia’s has the window to her side and her back to Stephen. “There was a natural fit.” She says. “I did furniture design and worked for Sharps Bedrooms, Dream Doors, Kitchen Magic.” “She did a degree in flat-pack.” Her brother interjects. She visits the clients, does the design work and the costing, while Stephen runs the office, the financial management and marketing. “When we started, we had a list showing the split of responsibilities.” He explains. “The thing is, we have 100% trust, neither of us is going to run off with the bank balance.” Julia reinforces the trust and adds, “We try to have a weekly meeting when we both say what we’re doing, but it’s often cancelled because we’re busy.” “The trouble is, our meetings are never 10 minutes.” Stephen says with a smile. “Because we talk and talk, and then we talk some more and then we digress on to something else. But, as a small business, we ought to be able to react really quickly, but we don’t because we talk it through forever. We need to able to say, ‘ I made this decision because…’ And then, if it’s wrong learn from it.”

One of the disadvantages of being of business with someone you like must be a temptation to just spend time enjoying each others company. But what happens when they fall out? Did the Taylored Room Solutions business plan have a section headed ‘Dispute Resolution’? “No!” They cry in unison, “When it kicks off, keep away!” Stephen warns. “The first few times we fell out out… oh dear. It was difficult. It was always something minor, I understood something one way, and Julia another.” “We go really quiet, so we know something’s up.” “Then there’s a text or an email from whichever one feels they’re slightly less to blame.”
partner Stephen editorial photographer KingstonSo would they recommend a sibling partnership? Stephen answers first. “Make sure your personalities are compatible, and complementary. This wouldn’t work if we were both creative.” How important has the support of partners at home been? “Daimon (Stephen’s partner) is very supportive, he’s not involved in the business but if he sees a decision is emotional rather than rational, he’ll say so.” Julia makes a similar point, “Mark (her husband) is the same, he doesn’t want to be involved, but it’s great to have him there to bat things off.” “They love us, but they have an outside perspective and can tell us if they think we’re doing something stupid.” Starting a business always involves a sacrifice. 
“Working twice the hours than I was before for far less money, and you can think, what’s the point?” Stephen asks. “But there’s value in this.” Julia says.

partner Julia editorial photographer Kingston

As we finish our talk, Julia goes back to advice they would give. “It does change your relationship. We were brother and sister, but also friends. Going into business has changed that.” From what I’ve seen I’d say it’s added to their relationship, brother, sister, friends… and now partners.

Visit Taylored Room Solutions website.


“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close to Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

If You’ve Got a Smartphone You Can Have a Business Video

Video is a brilliant asset for any business website, and one great way of using it is in testimonials from current clients and customers. I advocated this to a meeting of OmniLocal Business Networking recently, and to illustrate the point got a few of attendees to record a short piece to camera explaining what they got out of Omni’s networking. Nearly everyone has a video camera in their phone which is more than adequate for the purpose, but you have to take a little extra care setting things up. As a former radio producer and sound recordist I’m absolutely passionate about sound quality, and this is where phones can let you down, so here’re a few tips…

  1. Microphones need to be close to the source of the sound, in this case, the mouth!
  2. It’s worth buying a dedicated microphone if you’re going to do a lot.
  3. Get the phone as close as you can to the subject, without compromising the picture too much.
  4. Tell the subjects to speak up!

These are the testimonials we recorded for OmniLocal Business Networking with an iPhone 5c using available light. There were no windows in the room where we shot this video, only down-lighters. They produce very strong shadows, so we used a reflector to fill them in. A large piece of white card is effective. If you have to put the lights on it’s best to get away from windows – the light should be either  natural or artificial, but not both. 

 

 Make sure you can see the subject, natural light is the easiest and usually looks good. The footage below was shot in a hotel meeting room, we sat the subjects  in a window and placed a reflector on the opposite side. 

So far it’s been too cold to shoot anything outside, but if there’s a good background that can look, but not in direct sunlight. 

 

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

Share Your Photographs – or They Might as Well Not Exist

DSC_5902We just relived our summer holiday. It was a nice holiday so that’s a good thing! We watched a display of photographs from the trip on our TV, they looked sharp, bright and colourful, it’s was a good way to share. I was reminded of childhood slideshows when Dad was cajoled into setting up the screen, the projector and then loading the slides. Usually it was Christmas or when Gran and Granddad came for a birthday tea. We loved it.

RGranny and Granddad at Christmasubbing shoulders is really social

Photographs of family and friends have to be shared, by which I mean looked at together, not just posted to some online ‘social network’. Huddled round the picture you can remember together, remind one another of the people, the time, the place, what happened next, what happened since. Looking at art is a solitary affair because art speaks to the soul and other people are a distraction. But snaps of family and friends speak to our emotions, sharing the looking at them can be as much of an event as the taking of them.
I post pictures in social media, sometimes people comment, which draws another comment and a conversation develops. But it’s a lop-sided, time-shifted conversation. Mostly all you get is the painfully banal ‘nice shot’ or achingly awful ‘awesome’. Neither do I like ceding part of my copyright to the platform’s owner, or that the viewer has to sign-up and log-in.

Shelf-bending dust trapsfamily photography father and son

Let’s give a nod to the traditional photo album. Peeping into an album bulging with photographs is almost irresistible, but fiddling with self-adhesive photo corners is enough to turn anyone into a digital die-hard. As soon as you turn a page of the album the picture would likely pop out of the mounts. Far fewer photographs get printed now because people are much more selective and often they want to do more with the print than leave it in a drawer. There is something about the feel of the paper in your hand, its sheen and smell.
I watched a group of tourists recently photograph themselves with one of the new generation of instant print cameras, either a Polaroid or a Fuji. They made several prints of the same picture so they could all have a copy. That’s what photography should be for – sharing!

Scrapbook – or journal?

I stumbled on this blog that shows a fantastic way to use photographs for a gift: http://www.abeautifulmess.com/2014/08/gift-idea-sister-photo-book.html

Making a scrapbook-come-album will take quite a lot of time and trouble, but wouldn’t you be touched if someone went to all that effort for you? (Well unless it’s a stalker)family photography boys playing rugby
Photo books are great, I’ve made several for clients and for gifts; they always go down well. Last Christmas I made one from scans of my Dad’s slides for him and my sisters. It was a few months after my mum had died so of course I included all the pictures of her I could find. But as mum always said ‘your Dad only ever takes views’. She was nearly right, but there were enough pictures from holidays, days out and walks in the countryside to remind us of 40, even 50 years ago when our Mum and Dad were younger than I am now.

Better on the box

The photo book is special, and a great alternative to the traditional album but it demands a bit of time and effort to make it. There’s a real chance that photographs will be left to languish unseen on hard-drives or worse still on the memory card. Since the TV is at the centre of most homes and displays pictures easily and beautifully I think it’s a great way to show off and share you pictures.
Nothing on TV worth watching? No problem, press a few buttons on the remote and you can be back on holiday.family photography on the beach at Brighton

“Every picture tells a story, make sure it’s the right one!”
Trevor Aston Photography and Video is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London close Kingston, Twickenham and Surrey.

What to do with a Camera in Winter

Get more creative, that’s what!

tall trees under a blue winter sky

explore the structure of trees

What to do with a camera in winter is the question many photographers seem to ask themselves.  With the passing of the rutting season in the Royal parks of London, the herds of stag-shooting photographers have retired to the warmth of their computers. Which is a pity because photography in winter offers some great opportunities for creativity.
ice on a pond

The patterns in ice and the reflections of the trees can make some fantastic patterns

For instance, with each gust of wind and flurry of leaves the trees are getting ever more naked. Look up at the shapes of their bare limbs, who knows what inspiration you may get! Nature’s putting on her drab winter coat, but there’s so much texture and pattern in the bark, or in the fallen foliage in ponds and streams. The mist and fog is a cloak of mystery that can utterly change a landscape.
I love the frost, especially when the sun comes and everything sparkles. In a proper freeze ice throws incredible designs across standing water and creates amazing sculptures around running and tumbling water. For those who care to look, it’s all there in the parks.
Winter is also a great time to photograph the built environment. The sun never gets high in the sky so when it does come out it casts huge, dramatic shadows. The sun creeps into the nooks and crannies of our townscape that never see it in the summer, illuminating surface textures and the rich colours of stone and brickwork. After sunset man-made lightshows fill the streets with twinkling jewels, particularly around the shops at Christmas. The open-air markets make vibrant subjects with their steaming food stalls, colourful products and characterful faces. Even the traffic going home has a romantic appeal as the stoplights of braking vehicles string rubies along the road.

freezing water in a woodland brook

it’s been freezing for days and the ice has grown like glassy fruits

I got very excited last year when it snowed and spent several days sliding around hoping not to fall on my camera. When it snows everywhere is quieter, softer, somehow transformed. The smiles and rosy cheeks of people enjoying the snow make marvelous pictures. Young children’s sheer wonderment, noses tipped with a dew-drop, laughing office workers snowballing in their suits. Photograph the brief lives of snowmen before they melt away, sledge pilots before they tumble into a drift and leaping dogs as they catch a snowball. But watch out for snowball fights lest you become a target!

Here’s a blog I found with some winter photography ideas, and some tips on photographing ice.

Trevor Aston Photography is based in Teddington, Richmond upon Thames in southwest London with easy access to and from central London and Surrey.

Love the Autumn – do photography!

Summer has holidays, winter has Christmas. Autumn, sandwiched in between has nothing but colour.

But, oh what colour!

two lines of tall trees in autumn colours

a spectacular ride of trees in every season

 

Autumn’s the best. Yes, photography in spring is beautiful when everything bursting into life. Winter is wonderful in it’s sharpness and starkness. And of course long, sultry, summer days are magnificent. But Autumn? Autumn is golden, it’s crunchy under foot and smells of sweet wood smoke and musty damp leaves, it’s the sensual season. We should love the autumn.

 

Autumn should be walked in, listened to, breathed and touched. Autumn is definitely a time for photography. In fact, producing half a dozen good pictures of rich, autumn colours should be compulsory for anyone with a camera. A sort of licence fee-in-kind. There’d be a website where you’d upload your pictures, and anyone who didn’t would get a late night visit from mellow fruitful bailiffs; “show us your autumnally themed photographs or we’ll confiscate all your cameras, including your mobile.”

fungus, fir cones and blackberries

fungus is an exotic woodland pant, in the sense that it grows so quickly and might be deadly!

We’d have dedicated channels on Freeview and Sky showing an endless slideshow of trees dressed in reds, oranges and yellows. Giant spiders sitting in enormous webs strung with diamonds of water droplets. Drive-time sunsets. Trees hiding in mists. Squirrels snatching the last conkers and acorns.

 

 

And of course the Lords of Richmond’s parks, the growling grouches, noses in the air, nostrils twitching, sniffing for rivals, strutting stags watching over their herd. The camera is a tool for saving splendours to enjoy later.

a deer stag

a stag bellowing its presence

 

Trevor Aston works in Southwest London and Surrey photographing portraits, PR, events,

7 Steps to Getting More from Your Photographs

man and woman with drink problems photography southwest LondonI propose a new figure of speech – ‘It’s like finding a jpeg on a hard-drive’ instead of the outmoded ‘needle in a haystack’.  The idea comes from the difficulty I’ve encountered when looking for a particular image on a computer.  I know it’s in there somewhere but……

Just imagine if you could open a hard-drive like a desk draw. It would be like entering a cavern jam-packed with vaguely labeled piles of boxes filled with imprecisely labeled folders stuffed with ambiguously labeled documents. Maybe you’re in luck – you find the box of photographs – every photograph you’ve taken. The good, the bad the indifferent, the white frames, the black frames, the blurry frames, the pictures of your feet and pictures of the sky. Somewhere in there is that lovely shot of your sister you took the day before the aliens abducted her to the mothership.

In reality the situation is probably worse with pictures in several places. Some left to moulder for years on the camera’s memory card, some on your phone, others on the tablet and a few attached to emails from friends.

Falkirk containers

Digital Jugglers

I’ve just described the chaos that is my ‘library’ of roughly 60,000 images. Most are in folders named according to the job.  Since I deserted the proper path of film and sold my soul to the digital devil that’s been good enough. But there are dozens of folders now, it’s getting to be un-manageable and can be impossible to find a specific image if I don’t remember where I put it.

Delete the Duds

A  former work colleague told me that he saved every image he took because the failed pictures say as much, in their own way as the successful shots. He might have a point as an artist; I’m more of a photo-tart. I’d rather let go of the letdowns to save the card and drive space, not to mention the time transferring data between the two.  I suggest that when you take a break from the grinding hard work that is photography, you flick through your shots and dump the failures. That might just mean technical failures such as out-of-focus, burred or incorrectly exposed. You could also exercise some editorial judgment and get rid of the shots that don’t live up to you expectations as well, but I prefer to leave that till I’ve seen them on a computer screen and then do a big cull.

something unknown in the ancient woodland

Tag, Tag, and Tag again

It doesn’t actually matter where the files are physically stored on the hard-drive if they are well tagged, you’ll always be able to find them quickly using the tagged terms and the file data such as the date and even time. The best time to tag them is when they are transferred from memory card to computer. Generic terms can be added automatically to each picture, like ‘California holiday’ ‘Christmas’ ‘Christening’. There are many image management tools that enable you to do it, I use Adobe Lightroom, which is fantastic or there’s iPhoto or Picasa. These will become the software you use most often not just for managing a collection but for post-production too. Again I have give Adobe Lightroom a plug, it’s effective, easy and economic.

black and white abstract photograph of plastic bottles

Good Habits Save Time, Money and avoid visits to the doctor

Most of my pictures are utter rubbish, but I want to keep them. Just in case. Now if I can get into a better digital habits by fine-tuning my image management workflow, then the occasional good photograph I take is less likely to get lost under all that digital dross!

late for class

  1. Decide on a folder and subfolder structure.
  2. When the clocks change remember to reset the clock on the camera. It’s another useful search parameter.
  3. Use image management software to tag images as you transfer them from memory card to computer.
  4. Back up your library on two other drives, one of which is in another building.
  5. Enjoy flicking through your folders from time to time, and while you’re there add more tags and delete more crap.
  6. Share your pictures more – make greetings cards, have a print on the wall, compile an album etc. Otherwise what’s the point?
  7. Be less lazy.

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

How to take a good portrait photograph

(This is based on a talk I’ve delivered to number of groups in southwest London. I took the pictures while doing the talk.)

On holiday or at a special event like a birthday party or wedding most of us are willing to have our photo taken – it seems appropriate because it’s special. Pull out a camera on an ordinary day and you’ll often be met with a wave of complaints, ‘I haven’t washed my hair’ ‘I’m too tired to smile’ ‘I’ve got a spot’! Mostly it never even occurs to me to take pictures of ordinary scenes on an ordinary day, but I’m determined to more.  I think it’s the portrait photographs taken, or just ‘snapped’ at home on that wet Sunday afternoon in October that in years to come may become some of the most treasured.

how to take good portrait - photographer Teddington Richmond London

Using the camera’s flash has made this image quite flat.

A good time for an arm-lock

It might take bribery or perhaps a threat, but you just have to take control. Make them do it and make them move, they’ll forgive you. Work out where you want to take the picture and if necessary move the furniture and open the curtains. Natural light makes the best portraits; a north-facing window can give a lovely, soft but directional light. With the subject placed side-on to the window the shape and form of their face will be nicely modelled without casting any harsh shadows. Consider getting someone to hold up a piece of white card to act as a reflector if the shadows are too strong.

 

So don’t get too flashy

advice on how to take good portrait - photographer Teddington Richmond London

bouncing the flash off the ceiling has softened the light but produced a big shadow under the nose

Keep it simple is good advice; don’t use a flash unless you want that hard flat light for aesthetic reasons. Many cameras have a ‘scene’ mode and ‘portrait is always one of them. This will tell the camera to automatically select settings that are more likely to produce a good picture. A narrow depth of field helps reduce distractions from the background. You need a large aperture or low ‘f ‘ number. Move back from the subject and zoom in. Using a wide-angle lens can give them a big nose. If they actually have a big nose no amount of zooming will remove it, unfortunately.

want to know how to take good portrait? Advice from the photographer in Teddington, Richmond, London

soft light from the window gives a much nicer, more characterful picture

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

Do better family photography on holiday

family in Central Park, New YorkOf the pictures I took in New York on our family holiday, the one I like the best is taken on the rocks in Central Park. It was still quite early on our first morning, we can’t quite believe we really are there and not just dreaming ourselves to be in some film or sitcom.  The camera’s sitting on the ground using the self-timer.

New York Street cornerI brought back several hundred pics of skylines, towering buildings, venders, fire trucks, cabs, cops, this street and that avenue.  Now when I look at them I think, so what?  They’re just pictures of New York, like everyone else’s, they’re not knew, they don’t capture our experience of New York. (We loved it by the way)  So this year I’m determined to get more pictures of my family; it’s probably the last time we’ll be four. Our kids are already too old to be coming on holiday with their parents but we’re paying so enough said.

family on the Spanish Steps

Not just the Spanish Steps in Rome, us enjoying ice cream on the Spanish Steps.

Views are to be looked at and experienced, not photographed by me.  Well, unless there’s a family member in the frame – all you tourists standing on Westminster Bridge getting a picture of yourself with Big Ben? Now I understand!  My family is no keener on being photographed than any other, so I’ll have to negotiate. I’ll agree when I can take close-ups so they can be prepared.   I will ignore the shot of the Taj Mahal over the water, but I shall make my son pretend to push up the leaning tower of Pisa.  These are not going to be award-wining portraits, but they will be portraits of our family at a particular point in our lives together – they will be portraits with meaning.

 


 

mum on beach with parasol copyI was surprised how few pictures I had taken of my mum, only finding out when it was too late!  I’m so happy that I found this unique picture of my mum from the mid 1930s.

 

 

 

 

messing around in Moma New York We all enjoyed our visit to MOMA, we had fun and this picture reflects it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York_0250 What to do when you’ve already seen the film? Photograph your family!

 

 

 

 

Frensham Pond_DSC7307_1709 We love every bit of our kids, so not every picture needs a face in it.

 

 

 

 

Brighton-24

They won’t thank you for taking pictures that make them look like an idiot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brighton-23No one looks good with their tongue out!

 

 

 

 

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

Using Flash for Better Outdoor Photographs

I always thought flash was for indoor photography. The only time I remember seeing my Dad use it was at Christmas photographing three generations of the family sitting down to Christmas dinner. We look so miserable staring back at the camera, probably the prospect of playing Monopoly. It wasn’t something he was used to using so every year he had to learn how to open the fan-like reflector, push a flash bulb into the housing, plug in the sync lead and calculate exposure.  I doubt there was ever very much spontaneity to capture but it would certainly have drained away by the time my Dad lifted the camera to his eye.

family child photography Teddington southwest London flash

this needs a little complimentary light to bring up the eyes

What’s a flash bulb?

Oh yes, you might not be as old as me.  Before electronic flash guns were invented photographers had a little glass bulb containing magnesium wire in oxygen.  The glass was coated in blue plastic in case it shattered, they could only be used once.  They had a cost so my Dad wouldn’t dream of using a flash outside in the sun.  Sunshine has always been free!

 

Push the ISO and turn off the flash

Modern digital cameras are getting better and better in low light.  In-doors I’d much rather turn on the lights, turn up the ISO and turn off the flash.  Camera-mounted flash is so harsh – it produces flat pictures with no subtlety or nuance of character.  It’s often adopted as a style for fashion or music photography.  I think it’s horrid.

family child photography Teddington southwest London holiday

too dark – turn on the flash!

Sun out – flash on

On the other hand, outdoors I almost always use flash.  It improves so many pictures by lifting the shadows, especially those thrown across a face by the sunshine.  It’s often called fill-in flash, but it shouldn’t fill the shadows completely, they’re vital to give a picture tonal depth.  Blasting a shot with flash out doors produces the same harshness as it does in doors.

family child photography Teddington southwest London park flash

the flash adds enough light to stop it being a silhouette

Complimentary Light

The right amount of additional light to throw on an outdoor subject is an amount that is just enough to make it look right.  That’s maybe not the most profound thing you’ve read in a photography blog!  The thing is, while I’m advocating lifting the shadows by using flash in outdoor photography, there are often times when you want a nice deep shadow.  Well that’s a good aesthetic choice for you to make, but you only have a choice about how dark to make the shadows if you capture some shadow detail in the first place.  At the risk of stating the obvious, a well-exposed picture has nothing too bright and nothing too dark so you can then choose to burn out the bright parts or turn shadows into pools of darkness.

wedding photography southwest london flashIt demanded a lot of skill in the days of film to apply flash outdoors with any subtlety.  Digital cameras make it possible and practice will make it quicker. When you’re out in the sun, turn on the flash, take the picture, find some shade and have a look at what you’ve got.  Look at the shadows; you should be able to see some detail but it shouldn’t be anywhere near as bright as the sunlit areas.  If it is, lower the power of the flashgun and take it again.  If you can’t manually control the power of the flash then try putting pieces of opaque tape over the flashgun.  Professional level flashguns can be set to balance the flash output with the ambient light, in my experience of the Nikon’s they work really well.

Throwing light into darkness doesn’t necessarily demand a flashgun.  A reflector is just as effective for portraiture, it’s much cheaper than a flashgun but does need either an adjustable mount and stand or someone to hold it.  Reflectors can be white, silver or gold.  The white versions give a softer light than the silver and the gold produces a ‘sunset’ colour cast.  I’ve asked someone in a white shirt to stand-in for a reflector or propped up pieces of white card.  Mirrors can also work, but they give a very hard light, are often heavy and present a real danger if they’re dropped!

 

Sunshine means sun-glasses

What are eyes if not windows on the soul?  So make people take off their cool shades, and remember to allow time for the little red marks either side of the nose to fade.  That should also allow enough time for their eyes to adjust to the brighter light, you don’t want your subject to be squinting in the sun!

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.

Do websites really need photographs?

what's wrong with white space?

what’s wrong with white space?

Most websites have photographs on them, but does anyone ever ask why? Delete all the pictures from the average website and what have you lost? No more over-happy people with pearly-white smiles, no more wholesome, beautiful families, no more immaculate interiors and perfectly presented meals.  A good web designer always wants to leave lots of white space on the page, so won’t they be happy without pictures cluttering it up?

There we are then – the end of the photograph.  Unless we can quickly come up with a convincing argument for adding back a few pictures.  Of course there are places, things and events that have to be seen to be believed. But also, aren’t there feelings that can be conveyed more effectively, impressions made more immediately and connections made more strongly with the right photograph than could be done through text alone?

photography for websitesThe average website visitor is not willing to read very much online. I find it very wearing to read text on desktop computers and laptops for any length of time, and reading a block of text on a small portable device is a complete pain.  It’s often true that a well-chosen picture can convey a message in an instant.  In fact it’s true that picture plus context can convey several messages at once.  For me, seeing a picture of a family enjoying a take-away burger is more attractive than a big close-up of a fat-seeping piece of re-constituted meat in an oh-so-plain bap.  If the people enjoying their burger and fries look like my family and me I’m more likely to be tempted, just because that reassures me that ‘people like us’ also eat fast food.  When we look at a website we want to feel that we’re in the ‘right place’, we’ll be welcomed, understood and appreciated.  Photographs don’t just help ‘target’ the right people, they contribute directly to the businesses image. The photographs on a website can reinforce or damage a brand’s image, I think they’re unlikely to be neutral.  They can help tell us what a company believes, how it works and even how it might treat us.

So is that enough to justify devoting a few more pixels to photos on websites?  Or are there instances when none of that applies?  Well, if all you have are badly composed, ill-lit mobile phone photos or generic, unconvincing stock shots then I think white space is better!

photography for websites

Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.