Category Archives: public relations

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!

Bramble Partners Networking at Gray’s Inn – Event Photography

Photography at an event in Gray’s Inn, or any of London’s prestigious venues is a small perk of the job. Bramble Hub connects public sector organisations with best of breed private sector suppliers through government procurement frameworks. They run regular partner events, some simply social, others opportunities to learn from peers, but they’re usually somewhere really nice. The latest one was in the hall at Gray’s Inn. The building was badly damaged in 1941, a brief history can be read here.

Exhibition and Event Photography

Conference Video

ICT Business Networking Event

The Clairvoyant and her Biographer

Steve and Janet came round to take some portraits for the cover of their forthcoming book. Janet is a clairvoyant and Steve is writing her story.


Using a Mobile Phone to Capture a Testimonial Video

testimonial video TeddingtonYou’ve got happy customers, right? They’d recommend you to friends, right? You’re leveraging this free advertising to build your business? No? Well, surely you’re at least thinking about testimonial video?

It’s worth putting in the effort to get them the testimonials, and to get then right – testimonials can really help your social media profile, and you can put them on your website.  But you’ve got to get the nitty-gritty right, or you might be wasting your time. 

testimonial video TeddingtonCollecting testimonial video is easier said than done, and employing a pro film maker will get much better results than you can do yourself. But, it’ll be much harder to pull off once you and your client have gone your separate ways. They’ll soon begin to forget just how pleased they were with your work, so why not grab a few words on video while they’re hot with enthusiasm? You have a pretty decent video camera with you all the time on your phone, so just do a few things to get yourself prepared, make up your mind to NOT be embarrassed, capture some words of adulation, then pump it up to social media.

9 Things That Will Help Make Your Testimonial Better

Here are four things to think about before you try it, and then another five things to keep in mind when you’re shooting your testimonial video.

Assuming you’re not a Hollywood film director, it’s ok if the vid is a bit rough and ready. But, it can’t be completely rubbish – that’ll reflect badly on you and your business, so put a bit of time aside and do these things…

  1. Make a resolution – to go through the video settings on your phone, make sure you understand how it works
  2. Don’t forget your memory – clear out of your phone’s memory so there’s space to record your video
  3. Rock Steady – how will you keep the phone stable while you shoot?
  4. Can you hear me mother? – how are you going to capture the sound?

Once someone agrees to record a testimonial move quickly before they change their mind. You’ve got to take control, move them to where you want them and even shift the furniture around to make a better shot.  

  1. Landscape, landscape, landscape – let me say it again, landscape! Use the phone on it’s side
  2. Let there be light – find the best light for shooting
  3. You’ve been framed – compose your shot, if it looks nice people will watch for longer
  4. Keep it Focused – check the camera’s focused in the right place
  5. Listen – encourage them by nodding and smiling. Ask open questions to illicit the comments you want, and make a mental note when they say something usable.

This post is part of a short talk on capturing testimonial video using a mobile that I gave to a business networking group, and this is the video we shot at the time using my mobile phone as a demonstration.

Resolution and Settings
Look at the user manual or some YouTube videos and go through the menus on the phone. Make sure you know how to work the video, and set it too record at 720p. It’s good enough for online and takes up less memory space than 1920p or even 4k!

Memory
How much does your phone have? You really don’t want to run out just as you subject’s getting into full flow, so copy everything you want onto your computer or up into the cloud and then delete it from your phone. If your camera can take extra memory, buy some! 1GB will hold 15-20 minutes of video.

Support
Unless you’re shooting a sequel to the Blair Witch Project, you need to keep the camera still. Wobbly video is horrible to watch. A tripod is ideal and there are some nifty mounts you can buy to hold the phone. However, a standard lamp and some elastic bands can work just as well. It’s best to have the phone at the same level as the speaker’s eyes, or slightly higher. You might be able to balance it on some books on a desk, but it can look a bit amateurish, and if it falls down.

Sound
Most of the information  in a testimonial video is in the sound, not the pictures. It’s really important that this is not left to chance, and probably means buying and external microphone. The built-in mics are really just souped-up telephone mics so there’s a limit to how good it can ever be. To get the best sound, the microphone must at its optimal distance, which depends on the type you’re using. The aim is to deliver as much of the desired sound as the microphone needs to operate effectively, and as little background noise as possible. The nearer to the subject the phone is the better the sound will be, but getting too close starts to distort the image seen by the camera. Practice makes perfect, so annoy your family by videoing them lots, then look and listen on a computer so you can judge the quality and learn from it.

Types of Microphone

Mobile phone built-in microphone
Working distance – No more than 1.5 metres
Pros – No cost! Convenient, Will work
Cons – Picks all sounds equally, including handling noise, not high quality
Expect to pay – nothing

Levalier or clip-on
Working distance – Clip to clothing, but mind where the wire goes
Pros – Good quality sound, excludes other noises
Cons – Only suitable for a single person speaking. In shot.
Expect to pay – £14 upwards

Directional or gun
Working distance – 2-4 metres
Pros – Good quality sound, versatile. Can be out of shot.
Cons – Still picks up other sounds.
Expect to pay – £50 upwards

testimonial video TeddingtonPicture Format
Always shoot in Landscape format, not portrait. That means using the camera on its side, otherwise there’ll be wide black lines either side of the video when it’s viewed on a computer, tablet or TV. Some aps like Facebook Live can accommodate portrait format, but only when live.

Composition/zoom
Don’t be tempted to use the zoom, instead move the phone closer to the subject or further away. Most phones only have a digital zoom, which can lower the picture quality.
Rely on your own eye to frame the subject and compose the picture, does it look right? Then it is right. The ‘rule of thirds’ can be useful, rather than having the subject slap bang in the centre, frame the shot with the subject one-third in from either side and balance with something like a pot plant or shadow on a wall.

It’s behind you!
What is? The thing that’s going to distract the viewer from your subject. Look around the image on screen, once someone has agreed to be videoed they’ll put up with being told what to do, so move them to a better position or move the ornaments.

Focus
Take care that the camera hasn’t latched the focus onto a background object. Mobile phone cameras are really made for selfies, so they’re good at spotting a face and focusing on it. But, it’s still worth double-checking by touching the screen on the subjects face, the camera will also adjust exposure and colour to that spot. Beware that phone cameras find it harder to focus in low light.

Lighting
The way the subject in the video is lit is single, biggest influence on the aesthetic quality of image. My favourite light is from a north-facing window, it’s soft and flattering. It doesn’t have to be north facing, but there can’t be any direct sunlight. Put your subject sideways to the window, then look to see how the shadows fall. Does it remind you of a Rembrandt painting?
Here are some suggestions for the light source in video, in my order of preference.

  1. Window, but no sun
  2. Outdoors on an overcast day
  3. Outdoors on a sunny day, but in the shade (if there’s a sunlit area behind the subject they could be silhouetted or at least under-exposed)
  4. Indoors with diffuse ambient light (no strong shadows)
  5. Indoors, under a spotlight or top-light, with a reflector to fill the shadows
  6. As a last resort, outdoors in sunshine, using a reflector to fill the shadows (don’t let the subject wear sunglasses but make sure they don’t squint)

The camera sensor in a mobile phone is tiny, so to work properly they need plenty of light. If it’s too dark the camera will compensate by increasing the ISO or sensitivity. This may make the video noisy or gritty and effect the colours. Or the camera might slow the shutter speed, which could result in blurry image. Most mobiles have fully automatic cameras with little option to take manual control. Try not to have more than one source of light, they may have different colours and the camera will be confused! Don’t expect the cameras to be as good or as versatile as a proper camera, their strength is their portability and convenience – it always with you, so use it!


Another meeting, and another talk about testimonial video. This one was in a noisy hotel bar next to a wedding reception, so really not the right place to record video! Sometimes you can’t change things – there wasn’t time to drag the audience of thirty to another location, so should I have given up? I made the point that if it’s your only opportunity to record a testimonial then why not give it go? I positioned the phone quite close to Margaret so it could hear her, so it’s not a great shot. Judge of yourself whether it was good enough. Thanks to Margaret for being a good sport!

Read Twitter’s advice on what people want to see in videos.

Silver Lining – to be found in every cloud – event photography in Kingston

The Rose Theatre in Kingston upon Thames staged the first production of a new play written by Sandi Toksvig, ‘Silver Lining’. I photographed the press night star-spangled event. 

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.

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.

Beryl the Biker – Rose Theatre press night

Kingston’s Rose Theatre get me to photograph all their press night parties. The brief is to capture the celebrities and cast. A couple of recent productions have been directed by Trevor Nunn and consequently I have quite a lot of Trevor Nunn pictures. Possibly enough to start a photo agency, albeit rather specialised. Specifically, pictures of Trevor Nunn holding a glass of wine. He’s always very kind and patient when I point my lens at him, yet again.

Beryl-cast-Rose-Theatre-Kingston

The cast of Kingston’s Rose Theatre production, ‘Beryl’. Lee Toomes, Samantha Power, Rebecca Ryan, Dominic Gately

Trevor Nunn did not direct ‘Beryl’ at the Rose, it was Rebecca Gatward. The play was written originally for radio by the fantastic actor, Maxine Peake. It tells the true story of a British world champion most people have never heard of. Beryl Burton was twice world road race champion and won the British National Championships thirteen times and claimed five pursuit gold medals in the World Track Championships between 1959 and 1966. I’m a cyclist and really enjoyed the production which saw the cast of four playing over a dozen parts each.

Rose Theatre, Kingston. Event photographer

Beryl Burton’s daughter, Denise Burton-Cole said: “We are thrilled as it’s an outstanding play and it’s great that more people will see it”.

Event photography

No Crisis for the Midlife Cyclist

Laura’s Pet’s Pressies editorial photography

BBC Children’s had a sort of ‘junior Dragon’s Den’ programme, which 9 year old Laura won. Her prize was the opportunity, support and resource to try out her business idea; ‘Pet’s Pressies’. She came to ‘Pets at Home’ in Richmond with her Dad, the BBC sent a TV crew. As well as the the retail space, Pets-at-Home merchandiser lent Claire, one of their experienced merchandiser. Laura was great, she listened to the advice she was given and was very self-assured talking to the customers.

 

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