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.
I propose a new figure of speech – ‘It’s like finding a jpeg on a hard-drive’ instead of the outmoded ‘needle in a haystack’. The idea comes from the difficulty I’ve encountered when looking for a particular image on a computer. I know it’s in there somewhere but……
Just imagine if you could open a hard-drive like a desk draw. It would be like entering a cavern jam-packed with vaguely labeled piles of boxes filled with imprecisely labeled folders stuffed with ambiguously labeled documents. Maybe you’re in luck – you find the box of photographs – every photograph you’ve taken. The good, the bad the indifferent, the white frames, the black frames, the blurry frames, the pictures of your feet and pictures of the sky. Somewhere in there is that lovely shot of your sister you took the day before the aliens abducted her to the mothership.
In reality the situation is probably worse with pictures in several places. Some left to moulder for years on the camera’s memory card, some on your phone, others on the tablet and a few attached to emails from friends.
I’ve just described the chaos that is my ‘library’ of roughly 60,000 images. Most are in folders named according to the job. Since I deserted the proper path of film and sold my soul to the digital devil that’s been good enough. But there are dozens of folders now, it’s getting to be un-manageable and can be impossible to find a specific image if I don’t remember where I put it.
A former work colleague told me that he saved every image he took because the failed pictures say as much, in their own way as the successful shots. He might have a point as an artist; I’m more of a photo-tart. I’d rather let go of the letdowns to save the card and drive space, not to mention the time transferring data between the two. I suggest that when you take a break from the grinding hard work that is photography, you flick through your shots and dump the failures. That might just mean technical failures such as out-of-focus, burred or incorrectly exposed. You could also exercise some editorial judgment and get rid of the shots that don’t live up to you expectations as well, but I prefer to leave that till I’ve seen them on a computer screen and then do a big cull.
It doesn’t actually matter where the files are physically stored on the hard-drive if they are well tagged, you’ll always be able to find them quickly using the tagged terms and the file data such as the date and even time. The best time to tag them is when they are transferred from memory card to computer. Generic terms can be added automatically to each picture, like ‘California holiday’ ‘Christmas’ ‘Christening’. There are many image management tools that enable you to do it, I use Adobe Lightroom, which is fantastic or there’s iPhoto or Picasa. These will become the software you use most often not just for managing a collection but for post-production too. Again I have give Adobe Lightroom a plug, it’s effective, easy and economic.
Most of my pictures are utter rubbish, but I want to keep them. Just in case. Now if I can get into a better digital habits by fine-tuning my image management workflow, then the occasional good photograph I take is less likely to get lost under all that digital dross!
Trevor Aston works in Richmond, Southwest London and Surrey as a portrait, event and editorial photographer.
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’.
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.
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.
‘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/
Kingston Chamber of Commerce had a business networking meeting at The Canbury Arms in Kingston. A group of Young Enterprise competitors from a local school came along to pitch their product. They were fantastic – clear, articulate, lucid and with an enviable confidence that many of us grown-ups would envy.
Like many middle-aged men, I wear a suit to these events, but I’m in a minority, Kingston of Commerce is relaxed and friendly. Not that you can’t be relaxed and friendly in a business suit, but the membership is not dominated by grey middle-aged men, like me. Given that is was International Women’s Day, it was great to attend a meeting roughly balanced between genders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You’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.
Collecting 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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I stopped shooting for my garden design video, picked up my camera and tripod and got out of the way of the BBC’s double-decker sized camera crane. It was the Royal Horticultural Society’s Hampton Court Flower Show 2017. The camera crane belonged to ‘Gardner’s World’, one of my favourite television programmes, so I was more than happy to move. I had to step inside the RSPB stand to get out of the way, and had a nice chat about bird feeders.
Like me, Gardener’s World were filming ‘Journey of Life’, a garden designed and created by Edward Mairis. Unlike me, the BBC had a large crew recording pictures throughout the show for the TV programmes. I was a little intimidated, partly because it was their filming style that I was attempting to emulate.
Edward’s marketing consultant Lisa Woodward had encouraged him to make the video when she saw how wonderful the garden was. So, my commission to make the film came just a few days before the opening. Spending a day in a garden filming flowers – what a joy. Gentle tracks past colourful flower beds. Dramatically craning up over a tree, or pulling focus from one bloom to another. These are the sort of shots that typify BBC coverage of garden show. I love them, but I was working on my own with equipment a lot more modest than the BBC’s, so I had to adjust my pictorial ambition.
The objective for the film was to reflect the connections Edward had created between the garden and the poem, so I had to be sure I had all the footage I needed to do it. Edward felt the film succeeded, to quote the message he left on my voicemail – ‘Love it, love it, love it…’.
Photography from Kingston Chamber of Commerce monthly networking event. October’s was at Bentall’s department store in Kingston. The event’s are always well attended, despite the impression this shot might give.
As you’d expect from Bentall’s, it was an excellent breakfast, and there were a lot of really interesting people to meet, never mind the business!
Autumn’s the best. Yes, photography in spring is beautiful when everything bursting into life. Winter is wonderful in it’s sharpness and starkness. And of course long, sultry, summer days are magnificent. But Autumn? Autumn is golden, it’s crunchy under foot and smells of sweet wood smoke and musty damp leaves, it’s the sensual season. We should love the autumn.
Autumn should be walked in, listened to, breathed and touched. Autumn is definitely a time for photography. In fact, producing half a dozen good pictures of rich, autumn colours should be compulsory for anyone with a camera.
The colours are fantastic – the oranges, red, yellows and browns. But often it’s the light makes them really spectacular – because the sun is lower in the sky it’s more likely to stream though trees, punching the colour with it. Unless, in the dark of the night the chilling mist has risen to shroud the landscape in mystery.
Bloated spiders spin colossal webs that the morning dew hangs from in tiny lenses focusing sunbeams into strings of fairy lights. While birds come back to the gardens searching for treats to fatten them up for winter, squirrels scamper through branches and flower beds burying family-packs of conkers and acorns.
The camera might have been invented for autumn – a tool for saving splendours to enjoy later in the grey of winter.