Buckle Up! It’s going to get rough (again)

The previous 15 years has been a tough time for many, myself included, so what will this coming recession mean and what can I do to help your business?

The short answer to either of those questions could be ‘not a lot’, but I think there are ways we can coordinate our approach and help each other. Here’s a broad outline of my plans as we head into choppy waters.

In the wake of the pandemic, I set up a Startups Exclusive package. Aimed at those starting up new businesses, perhaps as a result of being made redundant or deciding on a career change after being furloughed, this is my most competitive package and is a gesture to help individuals or teams of up to three to get their branding images in the bag. It is limited to genuine startups though, so please don’t try to book this if you’re an established business 🙂

Since the fallout of the pandemic is still with us, compounded by Putin’s nasty little war, it seems fair to keep this package going for the foreseeable future.

The other way I can help your business communicate with your audience is through video work.

Now I’m not going to pretend video is cheap. Cheap video is cheap, but that doesn’t work for most professional businesses. Even the YouTube and Instagram influencer crowd has had to up their game, but good quality video, the kind you’d want representing your brand, has become far more accessible than it used to be.

With sensible pre-production planning, a day’s video shoot can often be edited a number of ways to suit different platforms and target specific audiences. It requires close collaboration and good communication to get the most out of a video session, but the results achievable with relatively modest outlay can be far better polished than anything a solo photographer could offer just a few years ago.

To help clients save valuable marketing budget, I’m very open with clients about what I can do for them in terms of video. Before there’s any commitment between us, I’m happy to discuss an outline brief with you. If your project requires a crew or production company, I’ll tell you I’m not the solution you need. You’ll either have to increase your budget and find the right supplier, or trim your expectations to match your available budget.

If what you want is office B roll (a flavour of your team, culture and working environment, for example), that I can do. I can undertake interview projects, short promo videos – it basically comes down to what you require and what resources will be needed to achieve that.

Ultimately, where this helps businesses is they can now access a quality of video they simply couldn’t raise budget for previously, and video has definitely become more important in corporate communications than ever it was previously.

Underpinning the services I offer, I’ve always believed that communication, coordination and flexibility are the best routes to success. I’ve been freelance for almost 25 years now, and in that time I’ve seen clients flourish and I’ve seen clients fail.

Thankfully far more have flourished than have failed, but I can honestly say that the failures were always the ones least open to communication with me, least willing to take advice on how best to make a project work and a realistic view of the resources required. I was simply a tool for the task, rather than a collaborator in their project.

It will have been a wider, embedded corporate culture which lead to this failure for sure, but if you’re open to communicating, being realistic about what it costs to achieve your goals and can be flexible to adapt to changing needs, we can help each other.

The one thing to keep in mind is that I want you and your business to succeed, even through the toughest times. If we can achieve that, just think what we can achieve in calmer waters!

If any of this chimes with you, why not drop me a line? It’d be great to hear from you.

Documenting Challenging Times

On The Vaccination Trail

Regular readers will be aware of my recent work covering the vaccination programme in Wiltshire. I’d like to dedicate this post to all the hard-working front line staff who are the reason the vaccination rollout has been such a huge success.

I blogged previously about the initial coverage of the walk-in vaccination service at Bath Racecourse, but since then I’ve visited a mobile service on a bus, a school vaccination day and most recently, a session on a narrow boat.

The client, NHS BANES, Swindon & Wiltshire CCG (BSWCCG), use the images for social media promotion of the vaccination programme as well as for external stakeholder communications and reports. However, the images are more than just PR. They’re an historical record of the regional effort to control Covid-19 and its effects.

A Client With Vision

Perhaps 20 years ago such a huge national effort would have been covered more widely and in greater depth by the regional and local press, but they are largely absent from from the scene. With few (I suspect now the number is 0) industry-trained photographers covering local news events anymore, there’s a vacuum of photographic coverage of important regional stories.

This is a shame, but I’m thrilled to be able to help document what is undoubtedly a critical moment.

While BSWCCG is not a media company, their communications team have recognised the need for photography not only as a promotional tool, but also as a means to document the clinical effort within the pandemic. And though I’m no Dorothea Lange, this exercise echos that need to record a critical issue to raise awareness.

My Approach

Not all of my images are strictly fly-on-the-wall photo-documentary, though I do strive to capture what I witness with as much honesty and integrity as if I was still a staff news photographer.

For example, at Clarendon Academy, the two pupils I had permission to photograph had recently come out of self-isolation after contracting Covid-19. This meant they were unable to have their boosters on the day, so I posed those shots with empty syringes (and they were captioned as posed). However the images of the nurse at the dilution station were all taken as she did her work. Nothing staged, pure documentary.

Meanwhile for the narrow boat visit, as for the Bath Racecourse and Lackham College sessions, the vaccinations were real and I had to get my shots live. I couldn’t ask a nurse to hold a position or pose while I got set up – I couldn’t interrupt the process of administering an injection.

This makes for some challenging moments. In particular, in the cramped confines of a narrow boat I had to be very aware of my surroundings. Hats off to the staff who had to work in there all day; I kept my time on board to a minimum.

Regardless of any challenges, I have to go in with a calm, professional attitude. Being jittery about camera settings, working in the rain, with difficult light, or stressing about working in a mask will transmit to those I need to work with, and they’ll react negatively and rightly so. They have a job to do and protocols to follow, they don’t need a clown in the room.

Thank You

So I want to say a big thank you to NHS BANES, Swindon & Wiltshire CCG for commissioning me. I value my involvement in this effort and if there is more to come, I’ll relish the opportunity to play my small part. Also to the administrative staff who’ve been so helpful and in particular to all the registered nurses who, while being utterly professional in their work, have accommodated me in mine.

Thank you.

And Finally

This is probably my final post for the year. I’ll be back in January, kicking off with a look back at 2021 and a look forward at 2022. So have a great and safe Christmas and New Year and I’ll see you again soon. Thanks for staying loyal through 2021.

Tim

I’ll Make These b****y Pictures Move!

There is a vague recollection in the furthest reaches of my mind of my dad making a joke about “moving pictures” while shaking a photo up and down in his hand. It involved the “b” word and was very funny. You had to be there.

Which brings me in the clunkiest way possible to the announcement that I have added moving pictures to my suite of client services. They’ll even have sound! And they’ll be in glorious colour (actually, black and white is also an option, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves).

Yes, lockdown has given me the opportunity to learn a huge amount about shooting video, recording sound and using editing software to bring it all together. I’m not going to pretend I’m the next Martin Scorsese, I still have much to learn, but I’ve used the time to get the basics nailed down.

My focus will be on corporate testimonials, talking heads and interview pieces, giving businesses the material they need to keep putting fresh material out on social media. I think video is well suited to this kind of use and will help my clients communicate more effectively than they might with just a text-based blog.

To give myself material with which to practice camera settings, focus, exposure, colour balance, sound recording, editing, and so on, I shot a short film at home using the best model I could find in my house (my wife). She did a fantastic job, and while the result is probably not what you would call corporate style, it demonstrates much of what I’ve learned in this exercise. You can see the film here.

The result is just over 4 minutes long and it’s entitled A SHEDx Talk with Dr Helen Roberts. I hope you get a few minutes to watch it, because the feedback I’ve had so far has been that it is calming, soothing and inspiring!