Tim Gander’s photography blog.

Mind Your Language

It is often said photography is a language which communicates across multiple cultures. Well this is true, to a point, but like all languages it can also be misunderstood.

Like any language, photography can be used badly, in the wrong context or just carelessly. In fact one thing we were taught during news photography training (in my case, back in 1992!) was that context is incredibly important. A photo which is perfectly innocent in one context can be offensive, even libellous in another. It’s often down to the words accompanying a picture, but it could include the wider context too – what other pictures are placed alongside it, a headline or even the publication in which a picture appears.

But back to photography as a language…

This Summer I’ve been on a bit of a whistle-stop tour. I was in Co Durham to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law, then off to Austria to for a few days with my sister, and after a week back home I was off again, this time to Brittany for a ‘proper’ holiday with my wife.

In each case I took a film camera with me, and in each case I responded differently to my surroundings. With Brittany I took the decision to keep the photography much more casual, otherwise I would have had no real holiday at all. Ok, I did take a small film camera, but I haven’t processed the films yet and I was pretty pleased with some of the iPhone photos I shot there.

Actually, I also only had a small film camera with me in Austria too, but I put more effort into finding pictures which interested me beyond just the snap. For Co Durham I had a ‘proper’ camera; a Mamiya 6 medium format film camera.

Beyond all this blah blah about film cameras vs iPhones, what’s interesting is how each location had a different effect.

For Co Durham I’d made the decision I was going to visit a couple of areas which were documented by Mark Power in his excellent book The Shipping Forecast (buy it if you have any interest in what photography CAN be). So I spent a very wet day visiting Seaham, Easington Colliery and (in addition to Mark’s locations for sea area Tyne), Peterlee.

I came away with pictures which say something about those areas – I’m always more interested in making photos which describe how a place feels rather than just how it looks.

The ‘problem’ with taking pictures in places like Innsbruck, Austria, or around Côte Sauvage, Brittany, is they’re just very beautiful places. You really have to work (and walk) to get to where the shine is not so shiny. For Brittany this just wasn’t going to happen anyway, but I still see a reaction to my surroundings in the photos I took. There was still some kind of essence of Brittany in my shots, but you can see that as my travels progressed from Co Durham to Austria to Brittany, my approach changed. Frankly, in Austria I failed to get anything other than fairly typical tourist shots, but I did try!

I’m just going to share a handful of images with you, and perhaps you’ll see better what I mean about the different reactions to each location. After all, if photography is a language, it’s probably best if I let it speak for itself.

 

I’m Still Alive!

Gosh, I have been a bit slack – I haven’t posted here since King Charles III came to the throne! Well sometimes life just runs away from you, then you get out of the habit. Before you know it, well here we are…

What started this un-planned hiatus was a thing called Photo|Frome (see photofrome.org if you haven’t heard of it). Being in charge of outdoor exhibitions meant I had no time in the run-up to the launch on June 24th to write anything anywhere.

To be fair, the result of all the hard work stunned even cynical ol’ me. Here’s a bit of a tale about it all.

Working closely with Italian photographic collective T House (Hugo Weber, Alex Zoboli and Angelo Leonardo), we achieved a first for Frome. We took over an entire outside wall of Frome Library and covered it in vinyl prints from our various projects (one project from each of us). The photos below barely do it justice, but you get a better idea of what I’m talking about.

While T House specialise in outdoor exhibitions of photographic works, they tend to work using large paper-based posters applied directly to walls. In the case of Frome Library we had to work differently due to the uneven surface we were dealing with. We needed to use vinyl prints mounted on timber frames screwed to the building wall. This was not going to be easypeasy!

Famous artists have minions install their work for them; in our case this was definitely a DIY affair.

T House organised the artwork and printing of the vinyls, while from my end I organised liaison with the library manager, measuring the building, ordering the timber, fixings, scissor lift and general logistics (none of which I’d ever done before, so somewhat daunting). To be fair, T House had the tougher job in curating the work and dealing with me and my constant doubts about what we could/couldn’t do.

Installation took two of the hottest days of the year to complete, but the effect was powerful. I was worried locals and visitors wouldn’t ‘get it’ or like it, or have any reaction at all, but there was a full spectrum of reactions – none of which involved just ignoring the work, so that was a major achievement. The giant portrait of Monika was a particularly popular selfie spot.

As if that wasn’t enough, I also commandeered some 60 metres of perimeter hoardings at Saxonvale in Frome. This is a place many of you will know that I documented between 2017 and 2019 (which became the book What Happened Here). It was the perfect place to show our combined projects, continuations of the images we installed at the library.

The only slight concern was that this part of our exhibition was being undertaken without permission of the landowner, Somerset Council. However I calculated that it would take longer than the three week run of the festival for anyone to raise a complaint and anything to come from that. I was correct, and in fact nobody complained. We even gave Somerset Council a name-check on the information panel, so it looked official (sneaky!)

T House set about curating the images for this second mammoth installation. This time working with 2 metre by 1.4 metre poster paper sheets, they stapled images from each of our projects as far along the hoardings as we could go before running out of posters.

It took another two, hot days to get this work up, but removal commenced a bit sooner than we’d anticipated as our installation antagonised some of the local graffiti artists by covering their art. Less than 12 hours after the posters went up, they were sprayed, tagged and torn. But that was ok, it meant the work got far more exposure than we could have hoped for, and the ‘intervention’ became part of the narrative of the installation. None of this was planned, but it was all good. Some visitors were even taking fragments of poster away with them as keepsakes!

 

Three weeks after all this effort, and it was time to un-install everything. To be fair, the graffiti artists and the weather did most of the work for us at Saxonvale, but the library show needed to come down in a more controlled manner.

This time I didn’t have a team of three highly-caffeinated Italians, but my son Joe stepped in and we got the lot down safely in one long (sometimes excessively wet) day.

It would be easy to question the value of all this effort, but I know that what we did had a huge impact locally. It was also a big hit with the many thousands of national and international visitors to the Photo|Frome festival. On a personal level I now have three very special Italian friends whose enthusiasm, professionalism and the sheer exchange of ideas has helped me enormously. I’m very much looking forward to working with T House again.

So having not posted for a few weeks, this one has turned into something of a marathon essay. I haven’t even touched on the wider Photo|Frome festival (which really was a very special thing), or my involvement in the various aspects of it. Nor have I mentioned any of the client work which of course carried on over that period.

To say I was a little burned out after all that would be an understatement, but I’m now looking forward to a period of breaks and holiday time in the coming weeks. That will mean another interruption to my blogging, but I’m hoping to get more regular again in September.

For now, have yourself a splendid Summer and I’ll see you again soon!

Coronation Coverage

Away from the hubbub, pomp and ceremony of London this past weekend, I sought out a more local view of the coronation.

Taking the opportunity to work on my Salisbury Plain project, I set out to see the scale of the preparations and celebrations in that area. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but neither did the outcome surprise me – a mixture of nothing much and concentrated activities.

This is just a small selection of my favourites. I wish I could have covered more ground, shot more variety and really fleshed out the story, but my intention wasn’t to shoot an entire coronation photo feature. What I wanted to get was a few images to fit within the wider project. Plus there was a lot of ground to cover in a very short timeslot.

I’ll leave the photos to speak for themselves.

Sound Advice

Another from my occasional series offering hints, tips and advice on video.

Sound vs Vision

Do you have any idea how important sound is to a successful video?

It’s one thing to have great visuals and a compelling storyline, but the one thing that will push your audience away is poor sound.

Ask any decent videographer and they’ll tell you this. More important than picture quality, is the quality of sound.

Now I’m no sound engineer, but I have built up enough basic understanding to know how to organise a video shoot to get the sound quality my clients need. That’s even when they don’t know what they need. Mainly that involves not allowing interviews to happen right next to a road drill. It means knowing when to use a boom mic, when to use a lav mic etc.

One of the first things I learned was to get the mic as close as possible to the sound source. That means those little shotgun mics you see mounted on cameras, well they’ll do an ok job. But if you really want to hold audience attention, nothing beats a close mic on the speaker.

Sound Analogy

In this way, I find it easier to think of sound and microphones in the same way I think about light and studio flash. By placing a flash close to the subject I can more easily control the balance between flash and ambient light (that is, daylight or room light).

Similarly, bringing the mic closer to the subject captures more of the speaker’s voice, less of the background noise. With sound it’s then easier to mix in ambient sound from a separate recording of the space if needed. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it helps.

Terminology

I don’t wish to bog you down in the complexities of sound capture, but it’s worth understanding a couple of basics. Why, as a client, would you need to know this stuff? Well it’s so when I talk to you about where best to shoot an interview, you have an understanding of what I’m thinking about and why certain options might be ruled in or out.

Depending on the space and its ambient noise, there are some basic choices to start with. First will be location. Of course this might be dictated by what the visuals demand, but wise choice of microphone will help eliminate the issues a particular location might have.

There are a few different types of mic, and the below are the ones I use:

Close-up photo of a SE Electronics pencil condenser mic clipped to the end of a stand against a white background.

A pencil condenser mic will give the best result for indoor interviews

Lav mic. For outdoors, lav mics work pretty well. A lav (aka lavalier, or lapel microphone) clips to the lapel. They’re designed to pick up as much voice as possible, ignoring background noise, but they’re not perfect. I have a couple of lav mics for when I need two people on sound.

Boom mic. A boom mic is a long, slim microphone that sits on the end of a boom arm. Sometimes shielded in a blimp (one of those Zeppelin-looking things, sometimes covered in fur), a boom mic is designed to pick up sound from a very specific angle and is best for outdoors use when conditions permit. It’s a bit like how a telephoto lens is designed to narrow-in on a scene. I have one for when the need arises. In fact it was the first mic I used regularly because they can be picked up quite cheap.

Pencil Condenser mic. My personal favourites. These look like stubby boom mics (see photo). They can have a variety of ‘fields of view’ depending on their internal design. For reasons of sound physics (ie something I don’t understand well enough to explain), they work better indoors than boom mics. I have two of these as I prefer them to lav mics and they’re great for two-person interviews.

A Trunk Full of Sound

Now a proper sound engineer will have a suitcase full of microphones. Many of each variety, more than I’ve mentioned above, and duplicates of each in case of technical failure. They’ll have mics which will have cost £thousands because they need the best quality and longevity. Consequently, for the services of a sound engineer, expect to pay a hefty price. It’s not unjustified, but it’s more like Hollywood budget than SME marketing funds. By contrast, I have more than my average client needs, but nothing like the quantity or quality of a full-on sound engineer.

My aim with sound is to make sure my clients get better than they thought they needed because THAT is what will hold audience through their video. And if getting people to watch your video to the end isn’t your goal, what is?

Real World Example

As a real example of the challenges faced by the videographer tackling sound, the video below was recorded in a very echoey space with noisy engineering works going on next door. Setting the mic as close as possible to the sitter helped with the worst of it, but now I have better mics and more experience, I’d do an even better job today!

For more examples, see my Video page. Or just to have a chat about whether I can help with your next video project, drop me a line.

 

Grape Expectations

I am so sorry for that headline. Be assured, that’s the worst pun in this post!

One of the joys of my work is in meeting and photographing creative people who are passionate about their particular field of business.

When this work comes through recommendation, that makes it even more rewarding.

And so it was with Neil Tully MW (that’s Master of Wine to the uninitiated).

Neil, founder and creative director of Amphora Design in Bath, came to me through recommendation, even though he couldn’t remember who’d recommended me.

But that’s less important than the fact that Neil’s requirements were a perfect fit for what I do.

Neil needed fresh images for his professional social media and industry profile listings, but also for less predictable uses. He’s occasionally asked to supply pictures for editorials too, so I bore that in mind for our shot list.

Getting the right variety

A brief like this can seem woolly and vague, but I knew his photo session should cover the following:

  • Plain headshot against white/plain background
  • Headshots with some background interest
  • Feature-style images showing more of Neil in his surroundings

 

Vintage Chateau

The next question was where to do the session.

Amphora Design is the international wine industry’s specialist design and branding consultancy, but that doesn’t lend itself to an easy backdrop for pictures. One office of computers looks much like any other.

After a little more discussion, Neil and I decided that since his business location wouldn’t give us any specific advantages in terms of backgrounds, his home would be the better choice.

It turns out that Neil’s home in rural Somerset had the perfect combination of light, space and architectural interest to give us options for everything we needed.

A handsome, period building with room to set up a backdrop and lights, we also had a choice of feature backgrounds. Tall windows meant I could use natural light too, even though the day was quite grey.

A wonderful finish

We got the headshots done first because they’re the ‘safety shots’. If nothing else quite works, at least you’ve got the basic portraits in the bag. Headshots can often end up being rather routine, but on this occasion I had time to add a mix of closer and landscape oriented options which also worked well. They’ll give Neil more design scope too.

Then we moved on to the more editorial-style pictures. Using window light and an interesting, but uncluttered background created a more relaxed, less formal set of pictures. Perfect for PR and editorial use.

And before we knew it, we were done. A tidy set of images, taken over a couple of hours of conversation and laughs, it barely felt like work at all.

But that’s the joy of meeting and photographing creative people who are passionate about their particular field of business.

If you’re passionate about yours, but your images don’t show this, drop me a line and let’s get started.

Cheers!

Tim

 

 

Can Freelancers Strike?

With all the strikes we’ve experienced lately (and on-going), have you ever considered whether freelancers can go on strike?

Well, as a freelance photographer I can tell you I have. I don’t mean I’m on strike right now; I mean I have withdrawn my labour on occasions.

How does that work?

Obviously freelancers are less unionised than those in the public or essential sectors, so we don’t down tools (cameras) en masse, or march down Whitehall waving placards made of cardboard. That said, there are ways a freelancer can withdraw their labour if they’re not being treated or paid fairly.

The most obvious is to simply not take on badly-paid work. Any fool can fill their diary three times over with that. Making a profit is the tricky part, and working below cost never equates to making a living. Particularly true in photography and videography where the tools we use are so eye-wateringly expensive. This means making a living also has to balance with keeping kit up-to-date, in shape and insured.

If I’m approached with an assignment for which the client hasn’t properly budgeted, I’ll try to work with them to either improve the budget, or trim the brief to fit. If neither is possible, I let them know I can’t help further.

Occasionally clients will impose fees they’ve set, but that doesn’t always make them unreasonable. It depends on the work, the level of use the images will get (the licence) and the logistics of the kind of work they’re proposing. If a fee is low, but everything else fits, I’ll often take on the work. There are many factors besides the fee which can make or break a job. However if there are too many warning signs, I’ll gently let the client know I’m not the photographer for them.

Is that striking?

Perhaps not in the strict legal sense of a strike, but many professional photographers liaise through online forums of various kinds and these offer some of the same support and solidarity you can get through a union. These forums also support photographers in decisions not to take on a particular kind of work, or to reject low fees.

That last point has been particularly important in an industry where isolation is the norm. It can be very disheartening to have to reject potential work, especially if jobs have been scarce, but knowing that the client will struggle to book someone cheaper can help the individual to realise their decision was the right one.

Do clients notice?

Sometimes, but not always. Clients will experience similar inconveniences to ‘victims’ of strike action. Whether they notice is another matter.

I know national newspaper picture desks are finding it harder to commission freelancers. The problem is, the fees have been so low for the past two decades that fewer photographers can afford to work for them. The result for the desks is they’re spending more time phoning round trying to find photographers. When they do find one, they might not be getting the quality they need. You have to ask how much money they save by having a highly-paid picture editor tied up with making endless phone calls.

Newspapers are different, right?

Nope. The same goes for corporates too. If a business needs photography for a website, brochure, PR, social media and so on, they need a decent budget to get decent results. But if budget expectations are mis-aligned with reality, they’ll waste time and end up with poor results. The real skill is in spending good money wisely and getting results which punch above their cost.

I’ve already touched on the inefficiency of trying to book someone on an unrealistic budget. Can corporates afford to waste that time? Why strive for brilliance and efficiency within a business, then waste time trying to save money on mediocre results?

Photographers and other creatives (the good ones at least) quickly detect when a client isn’t serious about the work they’re commissioning and will find ways to avoid un-profitable projects.

Again, is it really striking?

Perhaps it’s more accurate to say that freelancers worth their salt will boycott clients who aren’t worth the effort. Freelancers are running businesses just like, well, businesses and they need to see profit from their time and skills. It’s the clients who respect freelancers as fellow businesses who get the best out of the partnership.

What can businesses do?

So if you’re finding it increasingly difficult to engage photographers (or any creative) to undertake the work you need to commission, maybe take a step back and ask if you’re being boycotted.

Consider engaging with a freelance photographer, writer, graphic designer (whoever you use) and see if there are points of friction you can ease. Maybe improving payment times, or simplifying the briefing process will be enough and cost you nothing. Both these actions will also save you time!

Also, if you know the work you’re commissioning is helping to drive up enquiries, sales and profits, consider rewarding that! More than once I’ve had clients ask me to increase my fees because the work I was doing was helping them to succeed.

I know, crazy talk! But consider this; if you offer your regular freelancer a rise on their rates without them having to impose it, they’ll feel exponentially valued and will reflect this in the service they deliver.

So be pro-active, don’t wait until your freelancer goes strangely quiet.

 

AI AI, What’s All This Then?

Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ll be aware of a great deal of chatter about AI (Artificial Intelligence) and its increasing influence on all our lives. I suspect some of that chatter is AI-generated, but how would we know?

Of course in this article I’ll be contemplating AI’s impact on the future of photography. I think it’s going to be interesting.

The AI Roadmap

I say interesting because you can see that AI is at the foothills of its potential (good or bad). Give it a few years and you’ll see it progress beyond what we can imagine right now.

Also bear in mind that different areas of photography will be affected in different ways and at a different pace.

Right now, AI images of people are creepy, weird and downright unnerving (see examples below generated using DeepAI.org).

Inanimate objects are generally better, but are they convincing? I’d say this is where progress will advance most rapidly. For now, many product shots are rendered using computer graphics anyway, so AI will probably simply change how those renders are generated. Product photographers will still find themselves in demand for the more bespoke shoots.

Some areas could see no impact at all. Do you want AI-generated family photos? How about a wedding? What would be the point?

We’ve Been Here Before

Thinking about images for business, I see AI as having parallels with micro-payment stock photography of a decade or so ago; businesses embraced it as an easy way to fill the gaps between words on their websites, but many have reverted to commissioned work as it’s more convincing.

There is currently a cost barrier to AI. It’s more expensive and time-consuming to get usable visual AI content for marketing purposes than it is to commission original work. However, even if the cost and quality of AI become non-issues, there’s the question of the human factor.

Microstock flourished while it was novel and before businesses realised they needed to connect with clients and consumers on a human level. They discovered their audiences weren’t engaging with the over-polished models and unrealistic scenarios of the stock world. Where we are now is that stock images supplement pictures of ‘real’ people, but they can’t replace them. The same will stand for AI.

In fact commissioned work (in my personal experience) has grown over the past decade. It will continue to grow as businesses use more video, which stock (and AI) imagery won’t be able to compete with for a very long time (if ever).

What stock could never replace, AI won’t be able to either. If anything, AI will replace stock imagery and we’re starting to see that happen.

Stocks and ShAIrs (ouch)

Shutterstock, the bete noir of photography and the murderer of the viable stock image industry, have seen the future. And the future is bleak.

They now have their own AI image-generating portal, which I suspect not only undercuts their contributing photographers, but might also be using the existing library of 400 million+ images (supplied by those same contributors) to feed the neural engine which generates the AI images. It’ll be interesting to see how Shutterstock plans on ‘rewarding’ contributing photographers when their images are reduced to AI fodder. An AI-generated image will contain data from hundreds (maybe thousands) of images from the library, so who gets paid for that data. Will photographers know which pixel was theirs?

Am AI Safe From All This?

Notwithstanding my tortured AI-themed puns, I can see how AI might impact certain areas of my work, but since I mostly concentrate on photographing real people, and since this is what businesses need, it’s hard to see how AI can impact that.

And AI currently works best when used to generate static content. Video would require an unimaginably high level of computing power (read ‘cost’) which doesn’t yet exist. I say yet, but processors based on quantum physics are emerging in laboratories and could be in our devices soon enough.

Ultimately I don’t think it matters what AI does, because one thing it can never replicate is reality. It will have its uses, but for my typical client there is nothing that can beat the human touch. I am going to confidently say, there never will be.

One More Thought

This is perhaps the most troubling thought too. AI has already been used to generate ‘deepfake’ news images and video. We can’t stop this, but news outlets will need new tools and rules to spot and stop this. That is where the real danger of AI lies. The last two words of that sentence are the perfect note to end on.

Video Budget Breakdown

Ok, so you’ve read my previous articles and decided your business absolutely NEEDS video. What next?

Let’s just assume you’ve mapped out the whys, whats and wherefores of jumping into video. What you need to do next is start thinking about budget.

Originally I’d drafted a long-winded post about the various options and costs associated with video, from the DIY approach to the full production company treatment, but a) it was turning into a novel and b) there are too many variables to do the entire subject justice.

Instead I’ll concentrate on how you should think about budget when working with me. I hope that’s more useful!

A Breakdown of Costs

Of course every project will be different and require its own considerations of cost, but as a rule I generally work to my standard photography rates when it comes to planning and shooting video. Where stills and video diverge in terms of cost is when it comes to editing and delivery.

As many of you know, my standard stills packages include some pre-planning, the shoot rate, post-production and delivery as well as the end-user’s licence to use the images. Video works a little differently.

In the case of stills I have a fair idea how many shots can be realistically achieved in a half-day or a day, and from this I know how much post-production time is required. With video, the post-production is by far the longer process. If I spend a day shooting video, depending on the end requirements it could take a full week to finalise an edit. As with all things, there are many variables along the way such as whether I’m generating titles and graphics from scratch, researching music soundtracks and liaising with the client on those, or having to make multiple re-edits according to the client’s wishes before delivery. For this reason, video editing fees are set outside of the shoot fee.

To keep those fees sensible, I offer an hour or two pre-planning time with the client to work out the storyboard and logistics. At this stage I’ll also be putting together a plan for graphics, titles, music etc so that once I have the footage, I can get straight on with the edit. This way, before I even start shooting, you’ll already have a good idea of the scale of costs.

Real-World Examples

I can offer a recent case study where I’ve shot a 15-second reel for the client to use across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and so on.

After initial consultation time and hammering out the brief, it took me a couple of hours to capture enough variety of content to make a mini narrative work in such a short clip (it always takes longer than you think!)

I then spent time editing, liaising with the client on pacing, researching a suitable sound clip, bouncing edits between myself and the client before they were 100% happy, then delivered the clip in upright format. I then re-edited to square format and delivered again.

The total edit time for that clip was three hours. Sometimes the edit will go quicker, sometimes slower – it’s all down to the client’s requirements.

The fee came to £450.00 for the video, though this was discounted from a standard half-day fee because I was shooting stills at the same time, for which I charged a half-day.

As you can see, all kinds of factors can swing the fee up or down. Had the above example been a half-day of video only, the fee could have been more like £900.00 for the same end result. Here the stills fee, which was £590.00, meant I could reign in the video costs a fair bit.

Bear in mind when combining stills and video shoots in a single session, this will often limit how much attention to detail can be paid to either. As a rule, I prefer to separate the two.

Typically a full-day video-only shoot with pre-planning, research, editing resulting in two or three different edits can easily top £1,600.00, so hopefully these figures help when planning a budget for video.

Crucial Element to Budget Planning

This part’s easy. Talk to me. Tell me what you want to do and how you see it working. We can discuss content, logistics, timings and more. From that I can work out an outline estimate. If fees look as though they may have to rise, I’ll always flag this at the earliest possible stage.

Unless you want to go the DIY route, you’ll need to be realistic about the cost of video. I cannot stress enough how important it is to know what you want your video to do before committing the cost to making it happen. A good video should at least pay for itself, either in terms of direct sales, or in terms of brand enhancement and of course the time you’ve saved by getting me in to do it for you.

So drop me a line and let’s get the ball rolling on your video journey!

Is Video The Answer?

Is video the answer? Well that depends on the question. This is the second in a short series of articles discussing the various pros, cons and considerations needed to get the most out of video. You can read the first in this series here.

The Fundamental Question

So I’m starting with the fundamental question you should ask yourself, “does my business need video?”

Certainly it’s hard to avoid these days; from YouTube to Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and frankly any platform you care to name, video has become a solid part of any social media activity, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your business has to jump in to keep up.

If you want to jump to the spoiler, just scroll to the bullets at the end of this post. If you want more in-depth reasoning, read on.

The first factor to consider is whether your clients/prospective clients would learn anything from the addition of video to your communications. If you just want a ‘vanity video’ that’s fine, but be aware it might not appeal to those outside your organisation.

So flip your perspective and start from the client point of view. Ask whether you think they would sit through a 60-second clip that showcases your product or service. If your video doesn’t say something fresh and doesn’t get to the point quickly, you could be wasting your resources.

You might at this stage consider whether stills and text might not serve you better. Plus if you haven’t got those nailed down on your website, are you sure you’re ready to jump into video?

It’s all too easy to get bedazzled by stats that tell you there are a billion videos uploaded to the internet every 15 seconds, but that doesn’t mean anything. If what you upload doesn’t serve your cause, it isn’t doing its job.

What’s Your Story?

This isn’t to say you should avoid using video at all costs. In fact there are many businesses missing a trick by avoiding the fundamental question altogether.

The reason will often be that they don’t believe their product is worth a video, or that it wouldn’t work because it’s a ‘boring’ product or service. But most businesses have a core story to tell. It could be about their product/service, or it could be about their capability. At the absolute basic level, it might not be about what they sell so much as about the team that makes it all happen; their people.

The people that make up an organisation are often their greatest asset and as humans we like to connect with the experiences of others. So why not bring out the human side of your business? Showcase who you are, not necessarily what you do. Short colleague interviews could be one idea to consider.

Flip It Again

This option can be more complicated, but consider asking your clients what they think about working with you, and commit their views to video. Testimonials are a powerful tool, but with video testimonials remember to keep asking the question, ‘if I wasn’t me, would I watch this?’ They need to be concise. They also need to avoid being self-indulgent (ie too long!)

Time Is Money

Yes, the longer your video is, the more expensive it’ll be to produce. Longer videos require more footage and more editing, and editing costs really can spiral quickly. Think about your own attention span and ask how long you’re happy to sit and watch a product/service video. I bet it’s not much more than 60 seconds, 90 tops.

So you could spend £thousands on all the footage and editing, only to have no one watch the result beyond the first 30 seconds. I’ll wager there are plenty of people who pre-check the length of a video before they’ll even click on it. If they see it’s two, three or more minutes long, they might not click Play at all!

Takeaways (things to ask yourself)

  • Is your product or service suited to video explanation/promotion?
  • Who is your audience and what do you want them to take from it?
  • How short (not how long!) does your message need to be?
  • Would you be better off with a series of short clips?
  • How will you promote the video (and where will you host it) once it’s made?
  • Are there other areas of your website and marketing which need attention first?

That’s a Wrap!

I’ll keep returning to this subject because there are as many angles to cover as there are kinds of businesses in the world, so no single article can cover every scenario. However I hope this has got you thinking about the basics before launching into something that requires time and commitment (and not inconsiderable funds).

In the meantime, if you’re considering dipping your toes into video and would like some personal advice, feel free to drop me a line.

Thanks for reading!

Tim Gander is a freelance photographer and videographer based in Somerset. He covers all aspects of corporate communications, serving clients in the South West, centring on Bristol and Bath. You can see examples of Tim’s video work here.

Bye Bye 2022

What. A. Year!

It’s fair to say 2022 has been a bastard. I don’t even want to list the reasons here because it’s too depressing, we all know what I mean.

So perhaps it’s unsurprising if I feel a little guilty that I’m sitting here in a (relatively) warm home, with food in the cupboards while I look back on what has been an unexpectedly successful year for me. But feeling guilty isn’t constructive, so I need to do more in 2023 to give and give back where it can help others. I did some of this in 2022 and hope to do more 2023.

2022’s Achievements (and disappointments)

Before writing this, I checked what goals I’d set for 2022 to see if I’d achieved any of them. It turns out, I didn’t set much in the way of targets, but there was a vague hint in that post about something big.

That ‘something big’ was getting my book What Happened Here designed and launched in time for Photo|Frome in June, which I just about managed. Sadly, for the official launch I caught covid and had to bail out, which didn’t help initial sales of the book. However, it’s been going steadily ever since and even my local bookshop were keen to stock it! So now people can buy online from me, or walk into Winstone’s Hunting Raven in Frome and purchase a softcover copy in-person.

Photo|Frome 2023

Photo|Frome 2022 was a huge success, and while I did what I could to help with setting up, not long after launch I was under quarantine so missed most of the festival. We’re already working hard to make Photo|Frome 2023 happen, but finding cash for an event in the teeth of a recession will be no small task. If you’re able to help, do drop me a line!

What Else in 2023

My hope is that having diversified into video during lockdown, this recession might not hit me as hard as previous ones have. Businesses actively wanting to ride out the storm will need a combination of stills and video for their marketing. Being able to offer both is a huge advantage. Of course I can’t predict how much it’ll help, but I’m glad I have the additional skill now.

And Finally…

I’m going to leave you with a smattering of 2022 images, all from personal projects and trips made this year. They illustrate my key photographic interests when not on commission.

It just remains for me to wish you all a super Christmas and all the very best for the coming year. Let’s hope that in 2023 Putin is deposed, the Iranian government is replaced by people who understand civility and China stops acting like a petulant toddler.

Oh and thank you, in what ever way you’ve supported me over the past 12 months. It doesn’t go unnoticed!