Category Archives: photos

Three Questions to Get a Better LinkedIn Profile Picture

Many people need a better LinkedIn profile photograph. 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.

Click here if you need a better LinkedIn profile photograph, call me on 020 8977 2529, or contact me to talk about profile photographs.

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!

How to get a smile-3

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.

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

 

 

A Perfect Family Portrait

You Don’t Need A Perfect Family For A Perfect Family Portrait

Any idea how many pictures you have on your phone or on your computer? How often do you look at them? Most of us have hundreds of photographs of our family that chart growth on development, but how many can qualify as a perfect family portrait?

It’s great to snap away while your kids are small; once mine got bigger they stopped being quite so co-operative. Now I tell myself that one day I’ll sort through the folders and folders of photos lurking in every corner and crevice of my computer’s hard-drives. If not during the long winter nights then I’ll do it when I retire. Of course going through old pictures of your family is a sheer delight, a luxuriant bathe in nostalgia. “Oh look at this picture.” I’ll say to my daughter. “That’s a picture of you when you were nice.” And she’ll reply; “You should remember who’ll be choosing your nursing home in a few years!” If we take enough, we’re bound to get some good pictures. Surely?
Just occasionally it’s worth investing a little more time to get a really special portrait of your family. It can be a lovely present for grandparents, or a picture of the kids with the grandparents for mum on Mother’s Day or dad on Father’s day can make great presents for your partner. They’ll all love it, they have to!

So how to get that special picture? It’s got to be more than just clicking away for longer. Firstly, make everyone aware that it’s important to you and get their co-operation. Bribery, blackmail and coercion are the most useful tools. Plan it for some time ahead so no one has to change a plan they’ve made to go to the skate-park or out with a boyfriend. Remind everyone of how much the picture will be appreciated by mum/dad/grandparents. Think carefully about where and when to stage the portrait. Do it in the daytime to take advantage of natural light. 

Beware that direct sunlight will look horrible with strong contrast and shadows. Positioning people in or near a north or east facing window will give a lovely soft light that still shows the shapes and textures. Try to include things like photographs of late relatives, souvenirs from holidays, odd bits of sports or hobby equipment or anything that represents your lives. These are the touches that will make the picture much more meaningful and poignant as the years pass.

If you’re to be in the picture yourself, you’ll need a camera with a shutter time delay or a remote control. A tripod is useful but you can balance the camera on a chair, table or even a stepladder. You could set up the shot and then get your daughter’s boyfriend to press the button; it’s a good excuse to leave him out of the picture! Compose the picture with care so that everyone can be seen and be in focus. The more natural the shot looks the better, and you can overcome some of the awkwardness by getting everyone to play the family’s favourite board game. Keep everyone in position for as long as possible; as they get bored they’ll stop posing for the camera, then as conversations start and niggles begin to reveal themselves you’ll get photographs that look much more real. The portrait will show everyone interacting with each other and being a family. Of course small children won’t keep still for very long, so best to just let them move around, they’ll add some spontaneity and help distract everyone from the camera. The important thing is to keep shooting so you’ve got lots of shots to choose from, and save the bad shots for blackmail next time!

family portrait Richmond photographer

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!

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