Category Archives: photos

Take Better Photos

Take Better Photos in Teddington - workshopper practicing what she'd learnedTeddington-based Handmade Workshops have asked me to run photography workshops for them. ‘Take Better Photos’ is a three hour workshop beginning with two hours in a room above a pub eating cake, drinking coffee, discussing leading lines and negative space. Then there’s an hour in Bushy Park putting some of the learning into practise.

It’s so rewarding to spend time with people who are keen to learn photography, and a lot of fun! This page shows the ground we cover in the workshop, so if you already know it, you don’t need to do the workshop! Otherwise click here to find out when the next one is.


The best camera is the one you have with you.Take Better Photos in Teddington - old bellows camera

Always carry a camera, most of us have one in our mobile phone – and they’re quite good. Never hesitate to take a picture because you don’t think the camera’s good enough. You could spend a fortune on a new camera, or find your nearest secondhand camera shop where they can give you informed advice. 

If your camera is in a case, take it out and turn it on

Having to take the camera out of its case is very a small barrier to taking a picture, but if you’re as lazy as me it’ll stop you bothering. 

Keep your mobile handy

If it’s the only camera you have with you, keep it in your hand. Put a shortcut to the camera app on the home screen.

Take Better Photos in Teddington - crowd taking photos with mobile phones

If you think you see a picture, stop and take it.

I’ll use any excuse not to take a picture – if I’m on the way somewhere, then I’ll tell myself I can’t afford the time, or, it’s a terrible shot that’s not worth the time. But take the shot! At the very least it’ll be good practise and help you learn the camera. And sometimes you might surprise yourself by taking an award-winning photograph!

Know your camera – what modes are available?

Find out what all the buttons are for and what all the positions on the dials mean. You might need to look at the instruction book, or at an online tutorial about your camera. Make sure that at least you know how to change the ‘modes’.

Take Better Photos in Teddington - tourists asking a policeman to take their pictureGood times to learn about you camera

On a rainy Sunday afternoon
In front of TV when you partner’s watching that you don’t like
On a long haul flight

Bad times to learn about you camera

At your daughter’s wedding

Keep the lens clean

Clean the lens of your phone every time you use it. Use a proper lens cloth or you might end up making it dirtier or scratching the lens. Mobile phone camera lenses are inevitably coated in handbag or pocket fluff and smeary finger prints.

Take Better Photos in Teddington - taking pictures at Tate ModernNever use digital zoom, move closer to the subject

Mobile phones will probably have digital zoom, but they don’t zoom they just crop the picture down. Cropping reduces the definition which makes the photo appear grainy, blurry, or pixelated.

Consider camera support

There are times when you want to use slower shutter speeds. It might allow you to use a smaller aperture to get more depth of field, or allow motion-blur within the picture. To keep the camera steady during a long exposure use a tripod or monopod. Or balance it on the head of a small child.


Take Better Photos – Light – It Makes the Picture!

Pay attention to lighting

The nature of the light illuminating your subject is one of the key factors in making a picture. If there’s time, look at the scene and try to understand where the lights coming from. If it’s artificial light, work out where the light sources are, and what sort of light is it? How hard, (sharp) are the shadows? Try moving the subject around the space, all the time watching how the light changes on the subject. Or move the camera around the subject, always watching how the light changes. When working outdoors consider the time of day, the direction of the sun and the weather!

Lovely, soft and flattering. Light from a window, without direct sunlight

Use window light

Natural light, but not direct sunlight coming through a window can be a wonderful light source creating beautiful soft lighting. It’s especially good for portraits and can also work well for food and products.

Avoid using flash indoors

Usually flash photographs look horrible. But flash doesn’t always result in harsh shadows and that obvious flash look. When shooting with flash in manual mode, you can match the flash to the ambient light in the scene to make subjects pop. Outdoors, in bright light, using a flash can fill in the dark shadows making a better picture.

Set the camera’s exposure manually

Both shutter speed and aperture are creative choices having great effect on how a picture turns out. If you can, set them yourself. Some mobile apps allow manual control. Letting the camera choose the ISO setting can let you, the photographer make the choice of shutter speed and aperture to create the effect you want. Be careful to make sure that the camera hasn’t ‘run out’ of adjustment leaving the picture under or over exposed.

The boy is the subject, bit I’ve allowed the camera to set the exposure, and it chosen the sky

Use spot metering

Spot metering is taking readings from a specific place in the frame. If you can, set the camera so you choose the point in the frame where your camera takes readings. Otherwise you can end up with silhouettes or burned-out faces.

Consider setting a specific white balance

The camera’s confused by the bright daylight coming through the window making the subjects orangey and under exposed. I should have told it to adjust for artificial light and expose for the graduands

Different light sources can have different colours. Sunshine, overcast, shadow, LED or fluorescent bulbs are all different. Getting good colour is about adjusting the camera so that white things are white in the picture. The camera will do a good job of it for you, but good colour is about more than just achieving good white balance.

Digital cameras will actually let you set a colour profile, which adjusts the tones in an image to your personal taste. Most cameras will have a number of pre-sets too, such as standard and vivid, as well as several customisation options.


Take Better Photos – Motion Blur and Focus

A little blur can make a picture

Camera shake causes blurry pictures and is usually a bad thing. When the subject itself is moving an amount of blur can make a picture more dynamic, more alive. Such as the tennis players serving arm and racket, the water in a fountain, leaves in the wind or stars in the firmament. Or you might follow the subject with the camera and blur the background – a galloping horse, hunting cheetah or racing car.

Use flash to freeze

When you want to freeze motion, try using the flash. It will have to be brighter than the ambient light to effectively freeze the motion.

Stop-action pictures can reveal things we don’t normally see, because they’re moving too fast.


Take Better Photos – Composition – Or How to Make a Picture

Use grid-lines to balance your shot

One of the easiest ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera’s grid-lines in the viewfinder. That superimposes a series of lines on the screen of your camera that are based on the “rule of thirds”. Then you can ask, ‘What are the points of interest in this shot? Where should I place them?’

Try using the rule of thirds

This is an artistic composition principle used the great masters of painting. It says an image should be broken down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, so you have nine parts in total.

According to this theory, if you place points of interest in these intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced, level, and allow viewers to interact with it more naturally. Try it, and see what you think. 

Moving the subject off to one side in the frame leaves a lot of the fame ’empty’. This might seem like a waste, but no, it’s ‘negative space’.

Use negative space

“Negative space” refers to the areas around and between the subjects of an image. It can have a big effect on how the picture looks, and it’s useful if you want to put text on the image. It’s often a large expanse of open sky, water, an empty field, or a large wall. Including a lot of empty space in a photo can make the subject stand out more.

Is it the rule of thirds or the negative that makes the picture look better? They can be two sides of the same coin. 

Use leading lines

In some photos, there’s a line that draws the viewer’s eye toward a certain part of the frame. Those are called leading lines. They can be straight or circular/curved such as staircases, building facades, train tracks, roads, or even a path through the woods. Leading lines are great for creating a sense of depth in an image, and can make your photo look purposefully designed

Use focus to emphasise the subject of the picture.

A narrow the depth of field will through the other things out of focus, making your subject stand out.

Play with reflections.

Reflections usually make pictures better, they can offer a sort of semi-symmetry and hint at a repeating pattern. Both symmetry and patterns can enhance pictures. Windows and water can become mirrors, but so can almost any smooth surface if you get the camera up close.

Look for symmetry.

Pictures that contain symmetry can be very pleasing to the eye — it’s also one of the simplest and most compelling ways to compose a photo. Remember there are different forms of symmetry, such as horizontal, vertical and rotational.

St.Martins in the Puddle
St.Martins in the the Fields. London becomes an abstract

Create abstracts.

Abstract compositions can be found all around us. Shapes, patterns, textures and forms bounded by the frame of a photograph might be intriguing, compulsive or even revelatory.

Keep an eye out for repetitive patterns.

Repetitive patterns appear whenever strong, graphic elements are repeated over and over again, like lines, geometric shapes, forms, and colours. Patterns can make a strong visual impact. Once you start looking for patterns, you see them everywhere!

A nail sunk in an old, park bench.

Capture small details.

We don’t usually get to see the form of a small thing, or  the patterns or textures on a surface. But you can photograph them, revealing something hidden by scale. Many camera’s have a ‘macro’ or close-up mode, it’s well worth giving it a try. If you camera doesn’t have a macro setting consider buying a supplementary lens.

Be unconventional.

Don’t risk missing a picture by trying to find an unconventional angle, but once you’ve snapped one or two, get down low, get high up, put something in the frame, or in front of the lens. ry to find something that isn’t obvious.

Consider the whole frame

Just before you press the shutter release button to take the picture, look all around the frame for anything that shouldn’t be there or could be in a better place. Perhaps taking a step one way or another or pausing for a moment might correct the fault.

So you take better photos, what are you go to do with them now? Seven steps to getting more from your photos

Your most convenient subjects are your family, but they don’t always see it that way. How to get your family to love photography

The autumn colour colours make it a great time for photography. Love the autumn – do photography

There’s no need to stop taking pictures in the winter. What to do with a camera in winter

How to take a good portrait photograph

Get better family photos when you’re on holiday

Portraits can be great with a serious expression on the subject’s face. For a happy-snappy, a smile is best!

You don’t need a perfect family for a perfect family portrait.

 


Pics and their Pitfalls – Pictures on Websites Need to be Taken Seriously

Not a stock-shot of a woman on phone wearing headset with microphone I’d just taken some pictures of a client for her new website. She’s starting a health and lifestyle business. She told me she needed other website images too, but had seen some shots on Google Images she quite liked. I was curious about how she’d clear the copyright and surprised at her answer, “I don’t have to if they’re on Google Images. Do I?” I explained that the images belonged to someone who would probably expect some kind of payment, but I’m not sure she was convinced. With so much free stuff online, you can come to expect everything to be free. I use Google mail, calendar, contacts and of course, search. It’s staggering just how much Google gives for free, and perhaps understandable to think that Google images are free too. Well Google image search is free, but the images it finds aren’t. Actually Google isn’t really free, they collect a vast amount of data about my likes, dislikes, interests, whereabouts and goodness knows what else. I’ve always considered it to be a fair exchange, but I’m beginning to feel uneasy about it.

So how do you know whether or not you can safely use an image that pops up in a search result? Well that’s easy, if you don’t have the specific permission of the copyright holder to use it, you can’t use it. So, you might be thinking ‘isn’t the internet an unpoliced jungle? If I do use it, who’ll know?’ Well, even if the photographer is on the other side of the world, it’s easy for them to search online for unlicensed use of their photographs. Using Google Image search of course. Just as a word or a sentence is a string of letters, a digital image is just a long string of 0s and 1s – the digits! This sequence is as near to being unique as the image you see. So it’s easy for a computer to compare your image’s string of 0s and 1s to the strings of every other image on the internet. Google Images has a facility to look for a specific picture by examining its digital footprint, Tineye Reverse Image Search is another free image search ap. So if the copyright owner chooses to look, eventually they will find. Under English law the copyright of an image resides with the photographer unless they sign it over to someone else. This means that if you use an image on a commercial website you owe someone some cash. A thank you would be nice too.

The good news is that are of lots of free website images available, some web hosts offer a library of free ‘stock’ website images. Web designers often hold large collections too. Whether they’ll have one that suits your exact needs is another very good question. For a relatively small fee you can buy royalty-free images from so-called microstock sites. That means you can pay pennies for a website image and owe nothing else. It’s the ‘pile high, sell cheap’ side of the stock photography industry. The fact that the pile is so high means that it is more difficult to find the right image for your purposes. If you’ve got bored with looking for that needle in a haystack, (there’s a stock photograph idea) you might decide to increase your budget and go to one of the big picture agencies like Corbis, iStock or Getty. They have picture researchers to do the donkey-work for you. (oo, another stock photography idea) There are many specialist image libraries too.

Here are two radical solutions –

1) take it yourself

2) commission a photographer

You don’t need an expensive camera for option 1) but you do need a little patience. That’s a whole other blog post. For option 2) you just need to do research. Look at some online portfolios and then be precise about your requirements and the limits of your budget. It’s up to the photographer to decide if the job’s worth taking on.

Obviously I think it’s essential to get good photography for a business website, it’s the best way to connect and engage, to tell your story. By good, I mean the right images that say the right thing about the business, the service and the ethos. Everything you put in front of a potential client should support the values and the message you are trying to convey. If it doesn’t support it, it’s doing damage. In a picture-rich environment like ours we learn to ‘read’ imagery very quickly – an obvious, ‘make-do’ stock shot says ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘don’t care what you think’.

Remember, every picture tells a story, but make sure it’s the right story!

Rianbow over a Scottish loch

This image can be licences from alamy.com

Care Home Editorial photography

care home editorial photographyDoing editorial photography in a care home that isn’t yet open could be a challenge. After all, it’s the residents that need to be photographed. Of course there would be real protection issues to tackle if we were photographing real residents.

Care home Caddington Grove in Dunstable was virtually ready to go and fully staffed. While the last touches were being added to the accommodation, training was being completed the marketing materials were being prepared.  Graphic designer Les Copland was looking for editorial photography to illustrate brochures and for the home’s website. The owners agreed a budget for a couple of models to populate the spaces for the photo shoot, and we asked the staff to invite their older family members to volunteer as well. Not too big an ask really – sit around and chat, drink tea, eat biscuits and enjoy a set lunch. On the day we had eight people. Everyone was really nice and very willing, and I was careful not to push it too far!

What Colour Should I Wear for a Photo Shoot?

It’s not just the colour – there are as many ‘right’ ways to dress for a profile portrait photograph as there are people to be photographed. When I take a booking for a profile portrait shoot, I’m sometimes asked, ‘what shall I wear?’ I tend to hedge around the question with my answer, because I don’t really know. I’m not a ‘snappy dresser’.

Own Your Style

So I sat down with Jacqui O’Connell of Soul Dresser. Jacqui helps people find their personal style, and she was going to help me formulate a more thoughtful answer. “Firstly, people should own their style. They should dress so they feel comfortable for the shoot, or they won’t come over as best they can.” That immediately sounds like the nub of the matter – you’ve got to be comfortable before you can be relaxed, and you’ve got to be relaxed before your can feel confident. Jacqui continues; “People often fall out of love with getting dressed, but choosing what to wear should be fun and exciting, you should be able to look forward to people’s reactions.” You should look forward to people seeing your new profile photograph too. What ever your reason for wanting a new picture, you should also know what reaction you want to provoke from anyone seeing the picture.

Are You Gold or Silver?

So I asked Jacqui for the single most important thing to think about when dressing for a photographic shoot. “Start off by getting your colour right, we all have a seasonal colour that’s right for us. Firstly, are you warm or cool? Does silver or gold work best for you? Gold is warm, silver is cool. Autumn and spring are the warm seasons – deeper colours will work best. Winter and summer are cool – bold colours can work well.” Jacqui could see I was already lost, she suggested finding an online resource to help decide. “Most people know, but don’t put a label on it. It’s often the colours that you’re most drawn to. The thing is, wearing the wrong colours, especially near the face will be a distraction because they don’t really work.” Jacqui thought I was probably autumn because I wear deeper, warmer tones.

Colour and Comfort

‘What should I wear for the photo shoot? Now when people ask this I can offer a really practical piece of advice – know your season. Choosing the right colour can actually make you feel more comfortable in front of the camera. The context of where the picture will used is vitally important too, as is the occupation of the sitter and what their client would expect to see, but we need to use all the tools we have to connect – getting your colour right can be one of them. As Jacqui says; “There’s a style for everyone, find it, own it and you’ll really shine.”

Jacqui O’Connell, Soul Dresser http://souldresser.co.uk/ 

 

Get Your Family Loving Photography

Holding up a camera between you and your family to take a picture is to place a barrier between you and them. You’re pushing them away a little. But photography can be a shared, unifying activity – if you work at it.

‘Doing photography’ is a good thing. It forces you to look, and teaches you to see. Going about the daily round with eyes open allows the opportunity to appreciate the marvel and beauty of the ordinary. The shape of a leaf on the tree by the bus stop, the flowers opening on the hawthorn in the hedgerow, the clouds billowing over the city-centre skyscrapers, the texture of an old brick wall, the life and times engrained in the face of the elderly person resting on a bench, the body language of the courting couple, the radiant wonder in the curious eyes of the baby. Seeing and appreciating some of these small things can be a step towards finding some peace of mind and contentment.

For a family member to love photography they really need to be doing it themselves, as well as tolerating you taking their picture. I was delighted when my son chose to do Photography GCSE and bought him a little Nikon. He never used it. I assume he took pictures with his phone, I don’t know because in two years I didn’t see a single one of his photographs. My daughter developed her own interest in photography after she’d left home, so nothing to do with me, but we’re going to the Andreas Gursky photography exhibition in London’s Heywood Gallery together.

We can help our family find a love of photography, firstly by not turning them against it, and secondly by encouraging them and sharing our own knowledge and interest.


Don’t…

…be boring

Some people grow up associating photography with boredom. That’s because they’ve spent so much time waiting for dad to take a picture of the ‘view’. I saw a child being told off by his mum on the train the other day, he wanted to look out of the window at the other trains at Clapham Junction, she wanted him to smile for the camera. He’s learning to dislike the taking of photographs. On the other hand, sharing your own delight at a nice picture of your child will encourage a positive association. If you can get the picture quickly and without fuss, so much the better. There was a lovely picture to be taken of the boy looking out of the window at the trains, but it was missed. Do photography around what the child wants to do, do not drag them to a National Trust garden and then get cross when all they want to do is go on the swings.

With a young family in tow, there’s little point in having a sophisticated camera. Better to have something very portable that can be kept out and ever-ready to snap a picture. The camera on a phone fits that bill quite well, but it will let you far more often than a simple, dedicated camera on a strap around your neck.


Don’t…

 …get in their Face

Respect your family’s personal space and privacy. Don’t photograph a teenager just after they’ve got up. Even if it is in the middle of the afternoon and really funny. Remember that your kid’s social media is probably very important to them, and more complicated than we can ever image. Trust is easily lost, so don’t share pictures of your children without their knowledge. (As I’m doing for this post) Active consent to sharing is even better. In the tangled web that is modern social networking you can never be sure in whose feed the pictures might pop up. Damaging the trust between parent and child is bad at any age, but especially through the tricky teenage. But if they trust you not to embarrass them, you’ll get more acquiescence and even cooperation. Then you’ll get to take more pictures of them. Perhaps, even just after they’ve got up.


Do…

…keep your powder dry

So you want a day doing photography, and your family is the subject. So you want to keep them sweet. So this is not the day to tackle them on tidiness, homework or cleanliness. This is the day to take them somewhere they want to go to. If that’s not going to facilitate your photography, then try a compromise. They will let you take some pictures of them at a location of your choosing, and you will wait in the car while they go round the shops.


Do…

 …listen

When you’re taking pictures of your family, get them to suggest locations and poses. ‘Try to make it fun’ – is a deadening phrase, I don’t think you can make things ‘fun’. But you can have fun doing things. Smaller kids might enjoy running around looking for something for you to photograph and looking at the screen on the camera as you take the picture, or through the viewfinder. You could even let them hold the camera and take the picture. This is when they might start to develop their own interest in photography.


Do…

…get it gift wrapped

When they’re ready, or perhaps just before, give them a camera of their own for a birthday or Christmas present. Do a little research into what’s available, even secondhand if your have a trusted camera shop locally. Think what they’ll like and what they’ll use – it should look good and be no bigger than their phone. It’s for them not for you. Keep repeating that.

The 10 Best Cameras for Kids are listing in this Digital Camera World article.


Kids are Great Photographers

They’ll surprise you. They have a fresh perspective, their view of the world is unencumbered by experiences. But whatever they take, love it. And remember they’re not interested in how you’d have taken it. Ask them to share their pictures with you so you can share them on your social media. Get some of the pictures printed, stick them on the fridge or frame one for the wall.

A Gift for Life

Photography is a great form of self expression that’s available to everyone. It forces us to look at what’s around us and teaches us to see it. Only then can we really appreciate it.

Three Questions to Get a Better LinkedIn Profile Picture

All things being equal, if you’re looking at LinkedIn for a contractor, freelance, employee or partner and you have the choice between someone with a profile showing a picture and someone without a picture, you’ll probably choose the person with a picture. If the choice is between the person with a good picture and the person with a bad picture, all other things being equal, you’ll choose the person with a good picture.

So what’s the difference between a good picture and a bad picture? The answer to that question depends on the individual making the judgment. You can never know what personal influences and prejudices will affect their judgment, but you can assess the professional and social expectations and seek to meet them. A professional profile picture is not a portrait and it’s not an opportunity for self-expression. A professional profile photograph is there to market you as a person, a professional, a provider of specific services. A professional profile photograph is a marketing asset.

Create a Brief for Your Profile Portrait to Meet

You should be very clear in your mind about what your picture is for. Whether the photographer is a professional or a colleague, you both need to remember that you’re not creating something just to fill a hole in a webpage.

Here are three questions to consider. The nearer you can get to answering them, the closer you are to knowing what you want.

i) Who do you want to address through the picture? (Target audience)

ii) What do you want them to take from seeing the picture? (A single-minded message)

iii) What picture will provoke ii), from i)?

Of course you can save time by commissioning a professional photographer, it’s our job to create images that fulfill a specific purpose.

Who’s Your Audience?

With whom do you wish to connect on LinkedIn? Your audience might be potential clients and customers, the senior team in a particular organisation, or recruiters and head-hunters. If you can envisage your target as one person, real or imagined so much the better, it’s easier to think through what picture might work and what might turn them off.

What’s the Take Away?

This is what you want to leave with the person seeing your profile picture. It could be a message like ‘I can solve your problem’ or ‘I am an expert in this field’. Or it could be a feeling like ‘you’d like to meet me’ or ‘I’ll fit in your organisation’. Ultimately, you probably want people to get in touch. The purpose of this post is to help you get a profile picture that reinforces whatever objective you have for your LinkedIn presence.

What Picture Will Help Achieve Your Goal?

This is the nub of it, and the hardest to answer. The visual language available in a profile portrait is quite restricted; smile, stance, dress, location. But, within each of those there many possibilities, and of course the right combination depends on you and your objective. Always concentrate on the output, not the input – so not which tie looks best, but how will my target audience be influenced. Conceiving the right profile picture to take involves imagination – put yourself in the shoes of your target, imagine seeing this (yet to be taken) photograph and think about how you would feel and what you would take out of seeing it. If this all sounds a bit much, spend some time looking at stranger’s profile photographs and ask yourself;

  • What do I think?
  • How do I feel?
  • How has my impression of this person been changed by looking at the picture?

Then think about your answers to the questions – is that how you want people to feel when they look at your profile picture? If not, keep looking until you find one that does! Once you’ve found a picture that you think works in your own terms, you can use it as a template for your own profile photo.

I came to portrait photography from being a creative in the BBC. I interpreted briefs from marketing and developed ideas to deliver a defined message to stimulate a response or action in a defined audience. A good profile portrait picture on your LinkedIn page will help you do the same, it will be a marketing asset. Every picture will tell a story, make sure it tells the right story.

Book a place on our very competitive Fourth Monday combined video and photo profile shoots, or contact me directly to talk about profile photograph.

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.

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

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Members of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce

How to Get a Smile for a Portrait

WARNING! This post contains pictures that may be distressing to anyone of a nervous disposition!

bits of protrait photographs-4 The human face is fascinating; it can convey so much before even a murmur is heard. It’s the first thing our baby eyes focus on, so no wonder that we learn to read facial expressions so well.  And we can still never know everything that’s hidden behind its ever-changing mask.

Portrait photography should try to capture at least an impression of the true person, even a genuine expression of something that makes them who they are.  Revealed perhaps by the nervy sparks that pull the face into awkward contortions and facsimiles of smiles.

It’s the photographer’s job to switch on the lights in the eyes, warm up the smile and enable the sitter to put aside perceptions of their own frailties and look the camera in the eye.  When we see someone’s humanity in a picture we can relate to them more easily, it’s openness and honesty that allows a camera to capture it.

Having seen hundreds and hundreds of smiling faces in photographs I’ve realised while there is a vast range between faintest curl and rictus, they often fit into a just a few categories.

 

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Types of Smiles

The Full Beam

It’s spontaneous and uncontrolled, a genuine response from a sitter. It’s lovely to see doesn’t often make a good picture just because it causes the eyes to narrow leaving the smile entirely in the mouth.

The Enigmatic

When you can’t tell what the sitter is really thinking or feeling.  The enigmatic smile is not common because not many people are confident enough to hide their real feelings in front a camera. But it can be sexy look.

The Film Star

Some people just have it – when you ask for a smile and they can give it to you as if at the flick to a switch.  Apparently genuine, bright and open.  It’s a smile that starts in the eyes, then invades and occupies the face.  The film star smile is a gift for both the sitter and the photographer.

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The Rabbit

As, ‘in the headlights’.  There’s tension, fear and suspicion.  Glassy eyes holding back a supernova of panic.  The ‘rabbit smile’ is little more than a grimace and sadly it’s the best that most of us have to offer a photographer and the unrelenting, judging, betraying stare of the camera lens.

 

Types of Sitter

Of course the type smile the photographer sees often relates to the type of sitter.  Most people assume the characteristics of one of them when they become the subject of a photograph.

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The Delighted

Not only willing but positively pleased to be asked to step in front of the camera.  Sometimes the greatest challenge is to stop them posing, but there’s no doubt you’re going to get a good picture.

The Bemused

The reluctant subject, the person who does not like the attention or respond to the photographer.  They’re in imminent danger of giving ‘the rabbit in the headlights’ smile.

The Crucified

This person loathes having their picture taken and appears to physically shrink before the camera.  They can’t smile and should they try their face goes into a spasm of pain.  The best thing to do is move very, very slowly so that their self-consciousness is gradually eroded by boredom.

The Resentful

This person doesn’t want to be photographed, can’t see the point of it and would rather be doing something else.  They’re unlikely to compromise and it’s not worth spending too much time on them.

 

bits of protrait photographs-5Summoning Up a Smile

Most people want to be nice, they try to help the photographer by standing up straight and smiling when asked.  But while they’re willing, they’re not necessarily able.  Smiling to order is very hard for most of us. For many it’s impossible to get past the barrier of self-consciousness or across the chasm that should be filled with self-esteem.  It’s up to the photographer to help, to distract, amuse or flatter.  So many people will say ’oh I don’t photograph well’ but I tell them they simply haven’t found the right photographer, because there’s a great photograph of everyone waiting to be taken.

You get an immediate sense of the person as they walk in to the studio, and the type of sitter they’re going o be.  Some eye you suspiciously, some look at you pleadingly, some come in to the studio with a forced smile set across their face.

Whichever it is, I try to get them to ‘reset’ their face by asking for a dead-pan, passport-like expression.  I want them to relax all the muscles of the face and let it sink into repose.  I’ll press the shutter release a couple of times to get them used to the clunk and the flash.  Then I might ask them to imagine themselves somewhere else and feeling gently content, quietly satisfied.  The mouth should stay closed; this is just an incipient smile.  A few shots of that and then I ask them to think about going home at the end of their working day, the taste of the first glass of wine, beer or g & t.  If that’s not enough to draw out a nice, natural smile then I offer them the rest of the week off, or suggest that their boss should stand there and take the picture, naked.

During the process I take them back to the state of facial repose a couple of times to prevent the muscles getting ‘stuck’.  But no matter what, some people find the whole experience so excruciating that you can see the tension rising with every click of the shutter.

Even then it can be worth inviting them to close their eyes and imagine themselves lying in the sun on a beach, listening to the gentle lapping of waves – someone’s been to the ice cream van to get them a double 99.  Now open your eyes and say thank you, with a smile!

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None of this works when you’re doing selfie, as you can see!

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