Who’d do Their Business in a Stuffy Chamber?

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. 

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.

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.

Journey of Life – Promotional Garden Design Video at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show

garden design video exhibition photographer Hampton CourtI 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.

Creating a Marketing Asset

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…’.

garden design video Hampton Court event photographer

The Royal Horticultural Society Awarded Edward a bronze medal

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.

Bentall Breakfast – Photography at the Business Networking Event

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.

event photography Kingston Surrey

Where’s the Chamber gone? Jerry Irving, CEO of Kingston Chamber of Commerce opens the meeting

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!

Love the Autumn – Do Photography!

Summer has holidays, winter has Christmas.

Autumn, sandwiched in between has nothing but colour.

But, oh what colour!

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.

The Lords of London’s Royal parks, the growling grouches, noses in the air, nostrils twitching, sniffing for rivals, strutting stags watching over their herd.

White Noise – Artists and their Art on Exhibition in London

This was a terrific exhibition in a great space. The Crypt under St.Pancras Parish Church is everything you’d hope it would be – cool, damp, dark with low vaulted ceilings. It’s very different from typical sterile galleries. The works of art seem to interact with their surroundings giving a more ‘visceral’ feel. 

I was at the private view at the invitation of the artists and enjoyed photographing them alongside their work. Most of them weren’t keen on being photographed, it was their work they wanted to be the subject, not themselves.


Awards Ceremony Photography in Kingston

The faces change from year to year, but their unlimited energy and enthusiasm remains just the same. It was the annual Rose Youth Theatre awards ceremony, one of my regular bookings. “They love it when you play the paparazzi.” Ciaran O’Connell, the theatre’s Director of Learning and Participation told me. I stand at the end of the red carpet and snap them as they arrive at the theatre dressed up in the best outfits. “Come on, look this way! Smile for the camera!“ Great fun. Last year Cairan adapted and directed ‘Wind in Willows’ and he’s doing ‘Alice in Winterland’ for this Christmas. Members of the Youth Theatre perform alongside the professional cast, a fantastic opportunity for any kids with acting ambitions. And probably good box office once all the friends and family have bought tickets.

Last year’s awards

Cairan’s blog about Wind in the Willows

Promotional Video – ‘How to Drive Your Business to the Next Level’

This seminar was filmed for a promotional video. Beverley Corson and Bryan Charter are Engineering Business Growth. They are a good example of the value of business networking – they met at a breakfast meeting, realised they shared a lot of their business philosophy and formed a partnership. This seminar – How to Drive Your Business to the Next Level’ is a taster for their ‘Engineering Business Growth Club’. 

I used my BBC training and skills to make this promotional video, filming editing and post-producing. If you’d like your business to benefit from a BBC-quality video, call on 020 8977 2529 or message me.