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.
 

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.

Campbells-meat-brochure-editorial-Teddington-Twickenham-Richmond-Kingston-Surrey-

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.

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.

New Hotel in Kingston and a Nice Place for a Networking Event

I love a nice hotel. There’s a charming, boutique establishment on a back-street in the Marias, Paris we’re very fond off. But there’s something about a big, grand hotel that’s rather wonderful. Kingston-upon-Thames is about to get one of those. The Doubletree by Hilton is opening soon, and Kingston Chamber of Commerce held a networking breakfast in the new hotel’s Sopwith Suite. Kingston’s aviation heritage has given a theme to the hotel, they’ve used the names and photographs of old Hawker aeroplanes. The purpose-built structure went up seven years ago, but was mothballed by the then owners. Under new owners, it’s been  finished it to a very high standard, king size beds, giant TVs and a carpet with a design based on an aerial view of Kingston. It’ll be a great place for a meeting over a coffee or a bite to eat. And I’m not just saying that because I got a free breakfast! And a chocolate muffin. And a pain au raisin. 

“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!

Business Networking in St. Mary’s University – photography

Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House, artistic licence moving the River Thames onto the back lawn!

St.Mary’s University is just up the road from where I live. It specialises to sport science and many of their students are themselves athletes. Part of their campus is in Strawberry Hill House, Britain’s finest example of Georgian Gothic Revival architecture, Strawberry Hill House was designed and created as a Gothic fantasy between 1747 and 1792 by Horace Walpole, historian, writer, collector and son of Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole.

corporate-events-photographer-st-marys-university-4190

The University leased most of the dilapidated old mansion to a trust for renovation some years ago. After £9,000,000 of work the beautiful building was opened to the public in 2010. But the university kept a few beautiful rooms for their own use, known as the Waldegrave Suite. When the Head of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science, Prof. John Brewer spoke to a Chamber of Commerce, he used the hall and it’s features to illustrate just how far, high and fast ‘elite’ athletes hop, skip and jump. St.Mary’s students did incredibly well in the Rio Olympics. Prof Brewer explained very proudly that, had the University been a country, it would have been 25th on the medal table, with 3 golds, a silver and a bronze.

corporate-events-photographer-st-marys-university-1214

Police Chief Superintendent Parm Sandhu, Borough Commander of Richmond, spoke at the meeting. Parm is currently one of the highest-ranking Asian women in policing in the UK. She is also the first in the history of the Met Police to hold the position of a Borough Commander.

corporate-events-photographer-st-marys-university-1253

Prof. John Brewer, Head of the School of Sport Health and Applied Science

corporate-events-photographer-st-marys-university-4154

Members of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce