Category Archives: portraits

Kingston Chamber of Commerce New Board Members – Portrait Photography

Portrait photographs of the new members of the board, Kingston Chamber of Commerce. Elected at the annual general meeting, it’s an awesome weight of responsibility, but they held up well, at least for their first day!

Shooting Cows for Editorial

I nearly grew up on a farm, so I was delighted to be commissioned to get some editorial photographs of a couple of farmers with their cattle. It was only ‘nearly’ because I lived next to, not on a farm. They had three boys of my age, so that’s where I was for every moment I could manage. Marching across the fields to bring the cows in for milking, feeding the pigs, collecting the eggs from the chickens, digging up potatoes, riding on a trailer behind a tractor, trying to fish with baler twine and a bent nail, then nearly drowning in the pond after co-opting a tin bath as a boat. The appropriately named Bullock boys lived on the best playground you could imagine, and I had no doubt that at some point in the future I would be a farmer. I was wrong about that!

The editorial photographs I was to take were destined for a brochure promoting the high quality provenance of Campbell’s Prime Meat.

It’s my second editorial job for Campbell’s, and an early start from their Linlithgow base. I’m spending the day with Seonaid, the client and Brian from Stoddarts, one of Campbell’s suppliers and a customer of the two farms we’re visiting. The first destination is the wonderfully named ‘Wolfstar Farm’ in Ormiston, to the east of Edinburgh. The Kings are a father and son team who raise Angus cattle. It’s Ross, the younger one I’m to photograph, and the first animal is a big, handsome bull. As I wander around it’s pen taking pictures, it occurs to me that I’m possibly being a little over confident around the beasts. Because I grew up near them doesn’t mean I know anything about them.

Editorial photography

Ross reassures me that this bull is as docile as it seems, but should never to be trusted. They’re so heavy they could easily crush you against a fence or a wall.

Farmers are famously unsentimental about their animals, after all, they’re growing them for slaughter and the plate. 

But I’ve never met a farmer who didn’t care deeply about the welfare of the animals in their care, and not just for economic reasons. Ross knows which of the animals enjoy a tickle under the chin.

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From the damp murk, and soft countryside of Tranent we drove west, almost right across Scotland. Through the spectacularly beautiful Borders, with a coffee stop at Moffat and then into the sunshine that was blessing Dumphries and Galloway, in the south east of Scotland. We met Alex and Scott Henderson, another father and son team, for lunch in the restaurant of a near-by visitor centre. Because I was a disinterested party, it was fascinating to hear the interplay of different perspectives in the conversation between these three links of the Scottish food supply chain. It ranged through market prices, breeds of cattle and the forthcoming EU referendum.

The Henderson’s farm, ‘Carswadda’ is in the truly beautiful, rural landscape of Lochanhead Dumphries and Galloway.

Alex and Scott produce Charolais cattle, sending to market a dozen head each day. Not surprisingly, Carswadda was a clean and tidy operation.

The farms I remembered from my youth were more chaotic, where you had to wear wellies and mind the barbed wire. We played with the hay bales in the barn and on the Fordson tractor abandoned in a corner of the yard for our benefit. I suspect efficiency has put pay to any such romance now.

 

 

 

 

 

“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.

Customer Facing Staff Need Good Portrait Photos

Motive8 Ltd understand the importance of presenting customer-facing staff in the best possible way, so they value good portrait photos. They’re a global organization, and established market leaders in the design & installation of residential and corporate health and fitness facilities. M8 have management contracts for many of the facilities they install, and every few months I get a call to photograph the latest set of recruits. I can always look forward to M8 shoots, the people are always lively and bright. As they’re also young fitness fanatics, that they’re usually beautiful as well, but of course that has no bearing on my enthusiasm!

How About Us? Staff Pictures on the Company Website

Getting a job is a little like being adopted. You enter someone else’s family with it’s different ways of doing things, different look and sounds, different smells. As time passes the strangeness fades until one day, almost without noticing you become one the gang, an insider, part of this no-longer-new family.

That’s why it’s so interesting to go into a company to shoot profile portraits of the staff. You’re never anything other than an outsider, but an outsider with a mandate to stare at each person and disrupt the routine. As a pebble tossed into an otherwise still pond, it’s fascinating to watch the ripples pass through the private world of the office.

While many quite enjoy the break in routine and an excuse to get away their desk, others just hate having their picture taken. I move each person on quickly after capturing a quick impression of them. It’s not really a portrait, but something to show to clients and customers to enable the process of engagement to begin, even before they’ve spoken to or met anyone. It reassures them them see that none one in the company has two heads.

My commission to photograph the staff at Receipt Bank on Fleet Street was a tribute to the power of networking. The call from Nelson came some four years after we’d attended the same group for about six months. I’m pleased to report that the staff of Receipt Bank have only one head each.

Corporate and profile portraits

Editorial Photography in a Royal Palace

My second editorial photography job for Hong Kong based business magazine A Plus, was photograping Jessica Fries, Executive Chairman of ‘Accounting for Sustainability’, a charity established by Prince Charles to ‘inspire action to drive a fundamental shift towards resilient business models and a sustainable economy’. The office is in Clarence House, London, a Royal Palace. Understandably, there was considerable security rigmarole to get through, a long non-disclosure agreement to sign and a strict condition that I couldn’t photograph any pictures of the Royal family, or show the garden in any of the pictures. I had a look at the garden, but obviously can’t disclose what I saw….

Jessica was a delight to photograph, a lovely person and very amenable to walking around looking for good locations, and it’s still a thrill to my work in a magazine….

 

Nice Shoes on the Mall – artist portrait

I met graphic designer Richard Tomlin at a business networking group some years ago. Now he’s semi-retired and spending a lot of time painting portraits, his picture, ‘Nice Shoes’ is currently being exhibited in the Mall Galleries, London. The Columbia Threadneedle Prize claims to showcase the very best in new figurative and representational art. I think there’s some fantastic work on display.

The winner of The Columbia Threadneedle Prize receives £20,000 plus a solo exhibition at Mall Galleries. But there’s also a Visitors’ Choice Award, voted by visitors to the exhibition in London with a prize of £10,000. So if you’re in London near the Mall before 20th February pop-in and vote for number 89!

Richard’s studio is in a building he share’s with a number of other artists in Kingston upon Thames. As he worked on the picture another artist strolled in and looked at it. Richard says his only comment was ‘Nice Shoes’, so that became the title.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

Getting Better Group Portraits

Act like a new teacher demanding attention from an unruly class – it’ll help getting better group portraits.

group corporate portrait photography Kingston upon Thames-02There are many occasions when both amateur and professional photographers find themselves trying get a group portrait – caralling a bunch of people to pose for a photograph. It can be a lot of fun, get a crowd laughing and you can do anything with them. Or it can be like herding cats….

The ability to slide shadow-like into the background can help get great candid photographs. But like a conductor imposing their will and their interpretation of the music on an orchestra, photographing a group of people is one of those times when any desire to blend in has to be put aside. Instead, you should be like the new teacher at the start of term demanding the attention of an unruly class, or act as a the sergeant major commanding compliance from a platoon of new recruits or perform as an actor on the stage as the curtain goes up after the interval. Of a bad play!

Crowd photography is first and foremost crowd control, sometimes getting a good photograph of a group depends on the strength of the rapport you create with the people you’re photographing.
group corporate portrait photography Kingston upon Thames-9650.jpgTo keep the group on your side it’s vital to be efficient and as quick as possible, so know the precise location you want to use and have the lights set up before they arrive. If you have the choice, stage the shoot outside, a bit of fresh air can waken them up and put some colour in their cheeks. Ask the venue staff where photographers usually take group-shots, it’s likely to be the best place in the grounds. Otherwise think about posing the group within a natural frame like a doorway. Position them with the sun to the side to avoid squints or silhouettes.

getting-better-group-portraits-conferenceAlways use a flash to fill in the shadows on a sunny day, or punch up the colour on a dull day. Soften the flash through a photographic umbrella if it’s a small group, this will help avoid the flat, ‘flash’ look. If the weather drives you indoors use flash to give you the flexibility to stop down the lens for depth-of-field, or look for a light-coloured ceiling or wall to bounce the light from. Maybe you’re a lucky person and you’ll find a large indoor space with discreet decoration to stage the picture.

 group corporate portrait photography Kingston upon Thames-257.jpgOr perhaps you’ll be confined in a room with too much furniture, violently patterned wallpaper and a low ceiling. Well, you’ve still got to get the picture so there’s no choice but to get on with it and use what you got, and always remember that group shots are about the faces, not the art direction.

Indoors or outdoors, there is one great secret to composing a group of people; arrange them in a way that you looks nice. Simple. You’re the photographer – trust your eye, it’s as good as anyone else’s. Be assertive – arrange them how you want them. Symmetry can help, so can the rule of thirds. Look out for light fittings, red fire alarms, green exit instructions, signs pointing to the toilets. But the most important thing in arranging a group is making sure you can see everyone’s face.

group corporate portrait photography Kingston upon Thames--2.jpgLook out for the shy ones trying to hide at the back. Moving an individual whose name you don’t know is a problem, so if eye contact doesn’t work then forget good manners and point. Directing with a light touch gets a better response than the heavy hand; boss people around with a smile and joke! Sometimes there’s someone you can safely pick on, “I knew you were going to be trouble” “There’s one in every group”. But be careful, don’t comment on appearance or body shape, a crowd can turn very quickly! Of course people want to help and co-operate, if they are not playing along ask them to do it as a favour for the hosts or their friends, even for the boss! And point out that they won’t get their dinner until the photography’s finished!group corporate portrait photography Kingston upon Thames-8465.jpg

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

 

A Bad Profile Picture is like a Limp Handshake

Displaying the wrong profile picture to your social network can make an even worse impression.

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Friends will see the joke behind your new quirky profile pic, but new acquaintances will take it seriously. So with the quirky quashed, how do we avoid giving anyone an opportunity to make an unintended judgement about you? Don’t think that you can get away with not posting a picture at all, that’s like refusing a handshake all together.

Basing any judgement on a photo alone is unreasonable and liable to show prejudice. However we’re programmed to measure and assess other people from any cue we can, so it’s difficult to be unaffected in how we treat the person behind the profile.

But we can use social networking images to steer the impression people get of us. Good pics give people a chance to put a face to the name, to confirm that you are the witty charmer they met last night and not the sweaty bore. If someone’s thinking of offering you work, won’t they first want to check you out? Do you look like someone they could work with? Are you more or less like them? And when did you ever hear someone say; ‘I’ve got a great memory for names, it’s faces I struggle with’?

Your face is your logo. In the age of the biometric passport the picture’s not your only identifier, but across a range of social media websites your mug shot works just the same as a corporate logo. Just think how much effort companies take to get a logo right, and then how much they use them.
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So here’re some steps to looking the best you can.
– Welcome the attention of the camera, remember it’s your potential life partner or new client you are greeting. So no pressure!
– Nervous now? Try closing your eyes, think of the person who loves you the best, imagine them standing in place of the camera, open your eyes and give them your warmest smile.
– A gurning smile is not warm.
– Show you’re trustworthy by meeting the viewer’s eye directly – which means looking at the camera.
– Clothes still count, dress appropriately for your line of work and look like you care, Facebook pics can be casual and LinkedIn formal, so perhaps pitch it in between.
– Make an effort with your grooming, but if you’re not a model don’t try to look like one. And men, comb your hair!
– Get someone else to work the camera for you, but tell them to fill the frame with you.no-more-bad-profile-pictures
– You don’t need lots of megapixels, but if you use a camera on a phone make sure there isn’t a greasy thumbprint over the lens. And they’re worse than tummy buttons for holding on to fluff.
– Plenty of light, the camera can’t work well without it, but not direct sunlight. Sunshine will make you squint, put you in silhouette or cast unsightly shadows.
– It’s behind you! What is? The thing that’s taking the attention away from your face. The plainer the background the better.

If you don’t want to get shot, don’t hand out ammunition!

See some examples of corporate headshots I photographed

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