Print Competition Update!

Okay, so I know I don’t normally spam you with posts, but things just got a little lively.

You might remember I turned my ko-fi fundraising goal into a competition to win an A4 fine art print. Well doing that really put a rocket up the fundraising exercise!

My aim had been to raise a modest £100.00 towards film for my Salisbury Plain project, but the campaign has now reached £225.00! I’ve taken the decision to keep the campaign going until midnight BST on August 7th as originally planned, but to add an extra print prize to the draw for each additional £100.00 raised.

This, I think, keeps it fair on those who originally donated at the start, and offers fresh incentive to anyone still thinking of making a donation.

Remember, you can enter the draw for as little as £3.00 and I only want people to donate if they can afford it. If you want to support my work, but can’t afford to help with a donation, you can share the ko-fi/takeagander link and help that way too. I’m deeply grateful for the moral as well as the financial support.

The winners will be able to pick any image they like on with the exception of Guest Artist gallery.

So, once more, here’s the link if you’d like to donate and be in with a chance to win a print: ko-fi/takeagander

Thank you so very much!


It’s SOE Challenging!

Last month I was asked, for the second year running, to take pictures of the Institute of Road Transport Engineers (IRTE) Skills Challenge which takes place in Bristol.

This is a three-day event during which teams of individuals are put forward by various bus and coach operators to test their skills in, amongst other things, vehicle electronics, braking systems, fabricating, testing and diagnostics.

The photos are used by the Society of Operation Engineers (SOE) to help promote the event through their website, printed material and for the first time this year I was also sending “rush” pictures to the PR team for live use in social media.

It’s fair to say the three days are quite a challenge photographically too. I have to ensure I get good pictures of each entrant because the photos will be used at the subsequent awards event to accompany the prize presentations to winners.

As the challenges are live and timed I have to ensure I get my shots with as little disruption to the participants as possible. At the same time, because of the nature of the challenges, it would be all too easy to just run around getting nothing more than pictures of the tops of peoples’ heads as they concentrate on what they’re doing when what I really want to see are their faces and expressions.

The lighting can also be quite tricky. Sometimes it’s relatively easy as the event takes place in a large engineering hangar with some daylight coming in through skylights in the roof, but this isn’t always ideal, especially when there’s not much sunshine outside or where a contestant is working in a tight corner with little light on their face. I like my lighting to be clean, with as little colour cast as possible.

So I work fast with a small set-up; usually with a wide zoom lens for flexibility and a single flash on a stand, firing into an umbrella for portability and to reduce the influence of the indoor lighting. The umbrella also keeps the light looking natural and soft.

The greatest challenge is always in the machine shop where contestants will be working with metal cutters, grinders and welding equipment. It’s hot, noisy and there are all kinds of health and safety issues to consider.

Photographing welding is an especially tricky art because I have to wear a welding mask to protect my eyes which means I can’t see so well to compose and focus my shots, but the results are often the most interesting, with sparks flying and the intense glow from the welding torch.

Of course a shot of someone welding doesn’t show their face, so I’ll always ensure I get a shot of them doing something else as well, such as inspecting a weld or measuring for a cut.

What’s really great though is that tomorrow I’ll see the entrants again as they go to a prize-giving at the Jaguar Experience in Birmingham. I’ll be taking pictures of the prize presentations and of the overall event for industry public relations and again to promote the event for next year.

As I’ve never been to the Jaguar Experience and don’t know what the venue will be like for photographs, it’ll be a whole new challenge!

Proud to be shortlisted

It’s rare for me to enter photographic competitions; for a start there aren’t that many I feel qualified to enter, and when you strip out the ones with dodgy terms and conditions this narrows down the options even further.

But last year I decided to enter the British Life Photography Awards, a competition which celebrates British life in its many, varied forms. The photos don’t even have to have been taken in the year of the competition, which is some help to me, though most of my catalogue wouldn’t fit the criteria of the competition.

I entered a small selection of photos including my portrait of Donald at the local tyre fitter’s shop and a few from my Standerwick series which studied the life and work of the farmers, traders and auctioneers (as well as the animals) at Frome livestock market.

Out of the set I submitted, one did get shortlisted, though sadly it didn’t make the cut for the final rounds. But still, it’s been many years since I entered any competition at all and I was pleased to even get shortlisted.

The BLPA competition itself isn’t free to enter, but the fees are reasonable and the T&Cs don’t grab complete control of the entries, so I very much hope to be entering again this year. I’ll also be on the lookout for other competitions with similar aims of simply recognising good photography because it can be a great way to give myself more motivation to take pictures of the subjects which interest me, push me to be more technical and “pure” in my approach and hopefully will give me something to crow about when I win!


A day in her life, a lifetime for me


My first published photo (click to enlarge)

As far as I recall, this is the first photo I ever had published in a newspaper. Perhaps a little weird that I still have the cutting, but I have a few books of cuttings dating back… well, to this first one.

This particular shot was taken for a competition and book, though I don’t believe it made the final cut, which was obviously a shame. I do recall that I’d heard about the competition and didn’t have anything to enter, but I was obviously on the lookout for something.

Although the date is missing from the cutting, it would have been around 1987. At that time I was working at London Camera Exchange in Bath, right next to the abbey.

I was probably cleaning cameras and shelving when I spotted this girl going to the fountain for a drink and I must have reacted incredibly quickly because I know I pulled a camera from the display, loaded a film and a telephoto lens and took the photo through the shop window knowing that if I went outside to take it the moment would have passed.

Perhaps the failure to be included in the book scarred me for life because I’ve not entered many, if any, photographic competitions since, but seeing my photo in print gave me a thrill which set me on the path to becoming a professional photographer. I may not have won the competition, but I wonder now if I would have become a photographer if this frame hadn’t been printed. That being the case, I’m going to say I did win. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Freeze Frames Win Votes

If I spent too much time listening to business people and their opinions on the importance (or lack) of photography to their success, I’d probably jack it all in and go into a career with higher public opinion ratings. Perhaps become an estate agent or politician. Maybe a tabloid journalist.

Luckily, I don’t worry about the businesses that don’t understand how essential good imagery is because that way lies madness.

Instead I concentrate on helping those who understand the difference, and who can see what good imagery can do for their chances of success. One such example is entrepreneurial maker of ice cream, Charlie Francis of Lick Me I’m Delicious in Bristol.

Now Charlie didn’t choose me. He wasn’t the one setting up the shoot, which came about as part of Barclays’ Take One Small Step competition which was set up to offer a £50,000 prize to entrepreneurs in different regions of the UK, but I’m glad I got to do the shoot because it turns out Charlie actually understands that image is vital to business. For him, it was critical to his competition chances because to win he had to garner more votes than the other contestants within his region.

Before I visited to do the shoot, Charlie and I spoke on the phone about what would and would not work, and he immediately struck me as someone who understood the fun element of his product and was willing to be very much the “personality” of his business.

It was Charlie’s idea to have a sort of Willie Wonka persona for the shoot, and I think it worked brilliantly, especially given that his ice cream is made before your very eyes using your favourite ingredients and using liquid nitrogen!

Bristol ice cream maker Charlie Francis

Use your personality to win over clients.

The pictures done and delivered to the PR agency, the competition got under way and Charlie started working hard to get his votes in. The press release went all over the region, and an unusually high number of publications included the photo – precisely because it was fun, colourful, and shot to a newspaper style.

Then last week, Charlie discovered he had won the £50,000 prize for the South West region!

Now I’m not going to say this was ALL down to the pictures. I know Charlie worked hard to get the word out and drum up support for his entry, and who doesn’t like ice cream? But the pictures were clearly eye-catching and formed an important part of the vote-winning exercise.

Charlie Francis, Bristol ice cream maker

A choice of upright and landscape shots helps get extra press coverage.

Of course it’s all very self-congratulatory me saying this, so instead here’s what Charlie had to say, “Tim created a set of fantastic eye catching shots which captured the magic of nitro ice cream making.  I used them on my marketing materials to pull people in and they did a tremendous job, a great piece of photographic work.”

Congratulations Charlie, and good luck with the venture. Lend us a tenner 😉

The public are getting wise, proceed with caution…

Friday Thought.

Commercial and public organisations are constantly on the lookout for new ways to engage with customers and the general public. This is understandable and very easy to do now that the internet is highly interactive. Done properly, it can work very well.

However, not all such campaigns are successful in attracting positive PR. One popular idea is to engage with your public by asking them to give you free stuff. Most often, for obvious reasons, photos.

A classic example is when some bright PR spark decides that it would be “cool” if customers sent in their best photos for the company to use for free in its web site, advertising and publications. The conditions for giving the business this free stuff will normally be couched in very legalistic terms, with conditions so harsh, unforgiving and one-sided that only the clinically insane would take part in such a scheme. The bigger problem perhaps is that many customers will ignore the T&Cs because they don’t expect their big, cuddly corporate to do anything underhand or greedy, so they tick the “I have read and understood” bit, having neither read nor understood what they were committing to.

If your organisation is looking into trying this kind of customer interaction, let me sound a word of caution. Amateur photographers are getting wise to this kind of exercise. They’re beginning to understand that if somebody wants their photos, their photos must have a monetary value. Just as if you asked them for the keys to their car, or for a few hours free graft, they understand that while any idiot can give something away for free, it takes a special kind of idiot to do it willingly. And amateur photographers aren’t idiots.

Several organisations and businesses have already bought themselves some negative publicity trying this kind of exercise. The UK’s Environment Agency recently put out a call for graduates, keen on photography, to become free labour suppliers of photos. The BJP wrote an article about it, the EA had to take their Facebook page down at one point, and then finished with a spectacular U-Turn.

Other organisations currently fighting a backlash from photographers include the publisher Archant with their Great British Life photo competition, and Greater London Authority wanting free photos for their new web site. I know there are many more examples, but you get the picture (for free!)

pro-imaging website screen shot

Pro-Imaging advertise competitions as Rights On or Rights Off. Click to see the full list.

Photo competitions which hide rights grabs are another example where photographers, both amateur and professional, have forced a change of terms and conditions, but only after much negative publicity.

The examples of companies which have attempted this particular wheeze and then had to change their T&Cs to be more like a photo competition than a phishing trip is too long to list here, but you can check out the Pro-Imaging web site to see what makes a competition fair, and see which organisers have adhered to the Bill of Rights which has been drawn up through industry-wide consultation.

These schemes and scams keep popping up, and most get battered down by hobbyists and professionals working together for the better ineterests of photography. Why companies and organisations continue to make the same mistakes time after time is a mystery, but I do see the tide turning against this trend for what has been described by others as “loser-generated content”.

So use the internet to interact with your clients and your audience, but don’t ask too much because your clients can quickly swamp the message you intended to broadcast with the ugly sound of protest at unfair practices.