Antoinette and the Chamber – Networking Event in Kingston

Another networking breakfast event with Kingston Chamber of Commerce. At the Antoinette Hotel in Kingston, they’re always fun and you meet some really interesting people, as you can see below. I take my camera and they’re too polite to tell me to bugger off. Well, usually!


“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.

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.

Official Opening of a Multinational’s International HQ in Richmond – PR Event Photography

I do like Americans, they’re so polite. Louis Berger is a $1 billion global professional services corporation based in Morristown, N.J., USA. Louis Berger ‘helps infrastructure and development clients solve their most complex challenges’. They build things. Big things like airports. They’ve established an international operations headquarters in Richmond upon Thames. As the starting bell rang on the Brexit boxing match, I hope they didn’t regret their choice of location. The staff attending the official opening was very multinational, I heard as much Spanish spoken as English. Thomas Topolski, President, Louis Berger International spoke about the company’s values – ‘At the core of everything we do is the promise to provide solutions that have a positive impact on society.’  The Mayor of Richmond upon Thames, Councillor David Linnette spoke about how the local authority was desperate for the Louis Berger’s business rates. Everyone took his slightly uncomfortable speech very graciously, of course, they’re American.

If your business has an event coming up, get in touch to talk about how I can record the event on camera for you 020 8977 2529

“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.

‘Builder’ Doesn’t have to Mean Nightmare! Home Renovation Video

Watching Julie’s house turning into the home she wanted was fascinating, a good education about the experience of the renovation of an old house. The work was carried out by ‘By Word of Mouth Renovations Ltd’, and was well under way when I made my first visit, everything that was going to be stripped out had gone. The building was just a carcass waiting for the ‘sinews’ of services – plumbing and electrics and ‘flesh’ of decoration to be installed. Along with the fixtures, fittings and belongings that turn a house into home. In this video, the owner, Julie describes her feelings before, during and after the building work.

Great Music – Live at the Park in Teddington

Music from a pure voice, a violin and a guitar – an unusaul, but exquisite sound was heard in The Park Hotel in Teddington, when Charlotte Andrew performed. Her beautiful voice and violin where accompanied by guitar in a programme of popular songs.

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.

Testimonial Video Shoot

There were two bed-sits on the top floor of number 32 Bryn Road, Swansea. One looked out over the bay, the other over dull rooftops. That’s the one I had, the room with a view was taken by Chris. It seemed appropriate at the time, I’d attended a second-rate state comprehensive school and was failing an engineering degree at Aston University. Chris went from public school to Cambridge and was coxing the boat race, you know, the one against Oxford held every year on the Thames. We were both spending the summer on placements at the ‘Aluminium Wire and Cable Company’ in Swansea. We were quite different people, but got on very well, I think because at the that time we were both slightly baffled by life.

Some 36 years later, I’m in very foggy Newport Pagnall to meet up with Chris and video some testimonials for his new business, Coursecheck. I’ve driven from Teddington, Chris from deepest Sussex. We speak by phone and by chance we’ve stopped in the same road two cars lengths apart. I’ve driven my Fiat Panda, Chris has driven is in his Jaguar, his mid-life crisis, he says. But I’m reminded of 32 Brynn Road, and the room with a view.

Coursecheck.com is platform for course delegates to record their unedited feedback about the they’ve just done. It’s a great way for confident, high quality trainers to enable new clients to see independent feedback and ratings. Of course, of the our subjects today speak very highly of how Coursecheck has worked for their businesses.

Both the videos were shot were at the subject’s premises. They were managed smoothly and efficiently – while I’ll set up the camera and the ‘set’. Chris ran through the questions he’d ask and they chatted while I finished the set-up. I’m sure this would have helped brake-down any nerves, but they were both very confident to start with! More video.

Breakfast Muffins in the Mayor’s Parlour – Business Event in Kingston

On the desk of the Mayor of Kingston upon Thames – books to makes sure he knows his place…

Kingston Chamber of Commerce’s latest networking breakfast event was in the Mayor’s Parlour in the Guildhall.  I had to go and have a look – just too tempting for a nosey person like me.  You always meet some interesting people at these well-attended events, and you find out about their many great business ideas!

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.

Up the Red Carpet – Event Photography at the Rose

The Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames are a regular client of mine – I’m the photographer at many of their PR events. But, notwithstanding that I’m a great advocate of their work, both on stage and in the community. The shows I’ve seen have been at least good, and often fantastic. It’s a true community theatre, the building is regularly used for community events and they often cast members of their youth theatre in their plays.

The Rose Youth Awards is one of my favourite events, all the participants get dressed up to walk the red carpet into the theatre and attend the awards ceremony in the auditorium. They are all so excited and bubbling with energy, it’s quite infectious. I play the paparazzo, snapping away with the flash on the camera. Ciaran McConville hosts the ceremony, Director of Learning & Participation at the Rose while writer Jacqueline Wilson gives the awards. I’ve seen Jacqueline at the theatre several times; she’s fantastic with the youngsters, taking the time to talk with them about theatre and writing. She’s a real inspiration, and so is Ciaran. The youngsters absolutely adore him.

“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.