One thing I love about being a photographer is the chance to meet a wide variety of people, all with different backgrounds, interests and personalities.
As a prime example, this week started with a delightful encounter with local ceramicist Jane Gibson who runs a gallery in Bradford on Avon. Jane needed images of her work to send to art galleries and for her website update.
With a simple backdrop and lighting set-up I was able to create lovely fresh images of Jane’s quirky work, but when I’d finished photographing the pieces I also felt a portrait of Jane would be useful for the promotion of her art. Thankfully she didn’t need too much persuading.
Although Jane’s specialism is ceramics, she also offers a selection of her paintings and I wanted to suggest this in the background of the picture without it overwhelming the photo or being too distracting. I think Jane looks beautiful in the soft window light of her studio with subtle hints of her work behind her.
I particularly enjoy taking portraits with context, and this is a good example of what I mean. A contextual portrait is a great way to broadcast not only what you look like, but also what you do or where and how you work. This can really engage the viewer and hold their attention in a way a headshot against a plain background won’t always achieve.
Most of next week I’ll be working exclusively on contextual and action portraits, which I hope to share with you soon. It’s going to be challenging, but huge fun.
Unless you’re thinking of setting up a new pub or selling beer at festivals, you might not think this post is particularly interesting or pertinent to your business or photography, but this is a good case study for demonstrating how the photography can help shape the style of your website.
When I was approached to undertake the product photography for bar and cellar suppliers A-Cask, their website, brochure and even branding design was all up in the air and in need of a refresh. So they came to Leon Thompson of Creative Direction in Frome (who happens to work from the same building as me), who in turn came to me to talk about pictures for the site.
At this stage I knew Matt Wellsted was going to be working on the logo design and graphics for the site, which filled me with confidence this was going to be a good project to be on, but there wasn’t really anything in the way of visuals to guide my approach.
The obvious solution, since we had to get the photography under way, was to shoot as much as I could against white so that we’d have options down the line to do cutouts and change background styles and colours if needed. But everyone involved was so pleased with the results I turned in, it was decided the pictures should be used with their original backgrounds intact wherever possible and that this would influence the choice of background colour for the website and brochure pages. The final result is a clean grey against which all the photos, graphics and logos work really well.
So although I don’t always recommend starting with the photography when venturing to a new website or brochure design, if your site is going to be strong on images it can be a good idea to work this way and let the image style influence the overall style of the site.
Here’s a a flavour of the site and brochure below. Feel free to let me know what you think.
It’s always good to get a new client, but when that client happens to make chocolates you know life just got a little sweeter.
James Chocolates approached me a few weeks a go because being based in Somerset they wanted to find a more local photographer than their previous one (based in Essex) with whom they could build a relationship. I had a conversation with their marketing man Matt and took delivery of the first batch of these quirky chocolates to shoot.
Product photography isn’t my bread and butter, but having discussed my client’s requirements I knew I could help. I was pleased with the results from the first batch and more importantly, Matt and his designer were pleased too. Aware of what the designer needed to do with the photos once I’d delivered them I made sure I got feedback from the client and the designer to ensure I was presenting them with what they deeded and making the designer’s life as easy as possible.
With a few minor tweaks to the set-up I was presented with a larger second batch to tackle which included chocolate lollies for Halloween and Christmas treats. The results of the Halloween shoot are already in sales literature, and the Christmas one is underway.
Spooky Halloween chocolate lollies! Woooo!
One particularly tricky product to shoot was a selection bag which included a couple of large chocolate lollies. I wanted these to stand on their stick ends, against the bag and with a little bit of an angle. Chocolate may be sticky, but it’s obviously difficult to attach chocolate objects to other things, especially when trying to attach a top-heavy lolly to a paper bag. I ended up using duct tape on the back of one, and Velcro to hold the other in place against the bag. Hopefully you’ll see the result another time.
The Christmas shoot included mini crackers with chocolate penguins in, but I wanted to make some of the penguin figures stand up as if they were marching out of the crackers, which is where shaving their bums (ok, their feet, but bums is a funnier word!) came in. It occurred to me, while shaving their “bases” with a craft knife, what a curious job I have sometimes and how the obsession to make something look just right can leave me doing strange things.
Since the start of the recession, many businesses have had to adjust to a new reality. Everyone is in competition with everyone else and the only growth sector has been the printing of money as the Government bailed out banks to prevent a crisis in the luxury yacht industry.
For most of us though it comes down to hard decisions on what we invest in to help grow our businesses and what we cut back on to save the bottom line. Do you lay off the chauffeur and spend the money you save on a new website? Sell your children’s kidneys to fund an advertising campaign? All difficult decisions. Since my children don’t smoke or drink and can function perfectly well with only one of each vital organ, it’s been a bit of a no-brainer for me (which is handy since I sold my brain), but some of you may have tougher choices to make.
So when it comes to deciding on whether to refresh the photography on your website, or buy a new iPad or new leather-faced office chair, let’s think about which of those things will help your business the most.
The chair is lovely to sit on, meaning you’ll spend more time at your desk fielding crank calls from angry customers or playing solitaire on the PC while pretending to fill in the forecast spreadsheet for next year. What good is a forecast anyway? You predicted 18% growth for the last financial year, only to have to revise it last-minute by adding a “-” to that figure so forecasts are as useful as business plans or bets on the dogs.
You’re not sure why, but in your heart you know the iPad will help grow your business. Ok, in your heart of hearts (the one that isn’t real so can’t be sold on the black market) you know you just “want” it because you do, but you’re desperate to justify the silly cost on what is essentially half a laptop with a solitaire app built in. Now you can pretend to fill in spreadsheets while on the move. Amazing.
Whatever you sell, it needs to look ent”ice”ing.
This is the bit where I say tah-dah! and announce that what you really need is some top-notch photography because that is what will help your business in a very positive way, and right now your business needs all the help it can get.
So there I’ve said it. Get some decent corporate photography. It sounds self-serving for me to say it, and not as fun as a new executive chair or an iPad, but if you look back to the start of this piece I said that everyone is in competition with everyone else. If one truth can be truer than another, this one is: You’re not just in competition with other businesses in your sector. You’re in competition with every other business out there since most people only have a finite amount of money to spend, and more often than not they’ll spend it on the shiny things. Every business is in competition with every other business, and nowhere more so than on the web.
How can photography help? By using professional photography, in a professionally-designed website or brochure with well-written copy, properly set up for search engines, you can make your product or service more findable and desirable than not only your direct competitors offerings, but also all the indirect ones competing for the same pot of money.
After all, what was it made you desire the iPad and the shiny office chair? Was it the rubbish photography and the cheap-looking ad campaign and website?
I’ve recently introduced a new system for presenting and delivering images to clients. I haven’t shouted about it to everyone yet because I felt it needed to be tested with some trusted clients first, but it’s proving so popular that I’m offering it to anyone I think can benefit from it.
Here’s how it works, but a little history first:
The system is great for keeping any commercial images organised.
It used to be I’d shoot an assignment, then make a web gallery from the images before any post production was carried out on them. The client would choose images from the gallery, send me the image reference numbers, and I would carry out post production and send the photos via CD, email or FTP.
The client would either have an agreed number of images included in the price, or would pay an hourly post production fee according to how many images they needed.
This was all well and good, except that most clients would end up choosing 30 images from a 30-image deal (for example) when they only needed maybe 12 images to start with. The rest they were picking just to make up the package, when they didn’t necessarily know how they might use those photos.
Now with the client-specific, interactive gallery, I do the shoot, edit the pictures, do post production on all remaining shots and upload them to the client gallery, from where the client can download the files they need, when they need them. The files are all ready to be published when the client sees them, and they don’t need to download the entire package of photos in one go. The gallery remains for as long as the client requires it, and indeed the client can have me add to the gallery with subsequent shoots.
This development has also allowed me to put together a more formal pricing structure for all those assignments which don’t have special, extra requirements in either equipment, travel or licence to use the images. In other words, standard corporate shoots.
You can download the rates card here Tim Gander Fees to see how it works. I put together three packages to suit different business sizes, types and picture needs, from an all-in option for the busy client with a need for quick access to lots of images over a period of time, to the startup that might just want to have a bank of images sitting safely there for them to buy as and when they need them, thus managing their cashflow better.
Of course there will be times when clients need more extensive rights to the images than my standard terms allow for, and there will be clients with a much lesser requirement, or shoots will be more or less complicated or expensive to run, in which case rates will be negotiated according to the assignment and the client’s needs, but this system will suit the majority of standard, corporate assignments.
I welcome feedback on this, so have a look and tell me what you think.
Tim Gander is a commercial photographer shooting corporate photos for businesses in the Bath, Bristol, Swindon and Salisbury areas of the South West of England, and has a habit of talking about himself in the third person.
Contact Tim on 07703 124412 or email@example.com