What the flickr should I do?

The Law of Flickr dictates that for every opinion applied to the subject, there will be an opinion of equal and opposite force. Despite this, I’m going to ask the question, “Should I be on flickr?” and hope for some kind of definitive response.

In truth, I already have an account there, but like many internet things I’ve signed up to over the years, I’ve never got around to doing anything with it.

This is due to a number of reasons. Perhaps the primary reason is I can’t see the point. The secondary reason is it probably doesn’t suit the work I do. Flickr strikes me as the kind of site where you upload a picture of a flower, kitten, sunset and wait for the heaps of praise to come in from your fellow flickrati.

jew's ear fungi

Probably fine for flickr, but will it help my Google ranking?

Occasionally I’ll shoot something just because it’s fun to take pictures. My weirdly-lit, low-angle fungi shots are just that. It gets me out into the woods, gets me in the fresh air, experimenting with light, but I don’t shoot them in the expectation some large corporate organisation will licence the pictures for fantastic sums of money (if you’re a large corporate organisation, do please get in touch). They would be perfect flickr fodder though.

Before you ask, no I’m not posing this question because I’d like to sell my snaps through the flickr/Getty deal. I’d rather sell my soul to someone likely to pay a fair fee than licence any images I take for 6p a download.

If I use flickr at all, it would be with a view to attracting the corporate commissions I rely on as the mainstay of my business. I want to know if flickr adds Googlejuice to my website, if people looking to commission new work (as opposed to buying stock images) use flickr to find someone who shoots the kind of work I shoot, or if it would just be another account to maintain and feed with no real benefit beyond the fun?

Is flickr only (or best suited) to the keen snapper or professional selling prints or stock?

This week, I’m asking you, my loyal and beautiful readers, for your opinions based on the parameters I’ve set out here.

I fear I’ll end up on flickr posting endless corporate headshots and wondering why no one is telling me I’ve got nice bokeh, it’s a “cool capture” or a great use of light. It might be a lonely time there, but if it gets me more enquires for paid commissions, you won’t find me complaining.

Opinions please!

Latest Blockbuster: The Cow Dancerer

One of the things I enjoy about what I do is the variety. Most of my work involves business portraits or people doing things in business, but every now and then I get called upon to shoot something unexpected. Something, for example, like cows in a field. Straightforward enough, you’d think, but when you need the shot to be used as a very large, very wide, narrow banner, and you not only need the cows in the shot, but a building and some park land in the background, the tricky-factor mounts up.

In May 2009 I was asked by National Trust to engineer exactly such a shot at Kingston Lacy in Dorset to show off their Devon Red herd that they rear there.

Having spoken to the designer who was putting the banner together (I should add the finished, vinyl banner ended up around 3 metres wide), I knew what arrangement would work, but these animals can only be herded to a certain extent and the herdsman who brought the cattle into the field for me early on the morning of the shoot had other things to get on with that day.

So there I was, alone with a field of cows, trying to work out how to get this one shot that would work. No assistant with me, I put the camera on a tripod having decided what the background needed to be, and then worked on the foreground – the cows.

At first, there were far too many animals in the shot. They were blocking out the view beyond, but then my luck changed. Some got bored and started to wander off, which then made me panic as I thought they might all walk away and I’d be left trying to herd these animals back into my scene single-handed.

Thankfully, some were obviously more into having their picture taken than others, and just the right number stayed behind. The calves settled down into the lush grass, and the adults got themselves into a line, but put their heads down to munch.

This still wasn’t quite right. I needed their heads up and turned in my direction, but how do you get a cow to look up? So I got my house keys out, took a furtive look around me, and started to, um, dance. Yes, I danced like a loon, rattling my keys in the air, to get the bovine models to look up.

 The result worked a treat. They must have thought I was mad. Luckily visitors hadn’t started arriving at the house, so my performance was only seen by cows and birds.

You might look at the final result and assume I did some Photoshop to get the cows in that line and looking the right way, but the frame you see is the frame I took, minus the top and bottom crop. Job done, one happy client, and the cows looked pretty chipper too.

If you visit Kingston Lacy, do visit the restaurant and maybe try a Devon Red steak…

Devon Red cows in Dorset

This wasn’t looking good…

Devon Red cows in Dorset.

Years of dance training finally paid off as I got the cows to look up. Click to see big.

Why wasn’t my Dad Vivian Maier!

Those of you who follow me on twitter (those of you who don’t, why don’t you?!) may have read my tweets over the past weekend that I am currently looking through a box full of old transparencies taken by my late father. Most appear to date from the very late 1950s and early 1960s, though not all are dated.

Of course I was hoping to stumble across a veritable Vivian Maier-style collection of emotive, historical images. Unfortunately for me, my Dad wasn’t the street-photographer type.

Many of the images were taken in Germany of the places my Mother and Father visited when making trips to see my maternal grandmother in Ludwigshafen am Rhein where she lived, but Dad always liked taking pictures of landscapes, old houses and castles. None of which change much even in 50 years.

I’m still working my way through the slides though. There are maybe a couple of hundred in all. Again, not exactly Maier proportions, but some have caught some interesting fashion styles and cars and I need to look at them all before deciding if there is anything worth scanning.

One of the main problems I’m finding is the deterioration of the slides. Some have fungi growing on them. With some the slide mounts have sprung open, and others have lost all colour except magenta. Bit of a mixed bag of problems really.

Just out of curiosity, I’m posting a small selection of them here. These aren’t proper scans and I’ve left them deliberately messy – let’s call them instagrams that took a little longer to develop.

With all these issues though, it makes you wonder what state our digital files will be in 50 years from now. One solar flair and perhaps all digital photography will be wiped! Hmm, if only I could control the Sun, then I could control the digital photography market! MWAHAHAHAHA!!!

*Tim has gone for a lie down and nurse will be along shortly with fresh medication.

View of Pultney Bridge and Empire Hotel, Winter 1961

Taken circa 1961, of the Empire Hotel and Pultney Bridge, Bath

Magenta photo of large trees in a park

Trees in a park. All the colour dyes apart from magenta have disappeared.

My mum at Frankfurt Zoo, circa 1960.

In those days you dressed smart for holiday.

Case Study: PR photos for multiple titles.

Although I still take the occasional magazine assignment, I don’t deal directly with newspapers as often as I used to, their rates being low to non-existent. However, the many years I did spend working for newspapers means that when I’m commissioned to undertake public relations photography for a corporate client, I have a pretty shrewd idea of what’s required.

This case study centres on a recent assignment for EDF Energy, which is working with its charity partner ParalympicsGB to find ways to help reduce the environmental impact of multi-sports events and related training facilities. In this case, EDF Energy were working with ParalympicsGB athletes, coaches and managers and the University of Bath.

Over a period of two weeks in August, members of staff from EDF Energy sites around the country came to the ParalympicsGB preparation camp to assist as athletes trained at the rather excellent sports facilities of University of Bath.

What EDF Energy required of me was an individual photo of each of their volunteers that would go to the local paper in their respective home towns as a local interest story. Of course this would also give EDF Energy some PR too, as well as ParalympicsGB and the facilities at University of Bath Sports Training village.

For a couple of hours a day on three separate dates I attended the training camp and went around getting the required shots. We’d hoped to get pictures of the EDF Energy volunteers working closely with the teams, but for the most part this wasn’t going to be possible due to the tight schedules and the intensity of the training, so it seemed the best option was to work as inconspicuously as possible to get the job done.

What I ended up with was really a series of portraits with something of the training in the background, or a relevant backdrop to try to tie the portraits in with the context of the story.

The results, some of which I’ve featured here, got good showings in the regional press, so I’d say the whole exercise was pretty successful. I wish the ParalympicsGB teams all the best in 2012.

EDF staff member volunteering at ParalympicGB team training, Bath

Teams busy with training makes a good backdrop to the portrait.

EDF staff member volunteering at ParalympicGB team training, Bath

EDF customer service advisor from Hove, Louise Foreman of Newhaven, gets to chat with ParalympicsGB powerlifter Adam Alderman during a break in training.

EDF staff member volunteering at ParalympicGB team training, Bath

Sometimes a banner backdrop was all that was available, but a smile lifts the picture.

EDF staff member volunteering at ParalympicGB team training, Bath

These groovy banners also made an interesting backdrop for a simple press portrait.