E: tim@timgander.co.uk | M: 07703 124412

My 2014 In Pictures

This, dear reader, is the last post of 2014 and as such it’s become something of a tradition for me to do an annual roundup of images, choosing one for each month of the year as it comes to a juddering halt.

The middle of this year was rather dominated with work for University of Bath as I stepped in while their staff photographer recovered from a cycling accident, and while I could have filled more months with student profiles and university events I’ve tried to keep it more varied than that.

I hope you enjoy this year’s selection. It just remains for me to thank all my clients for their custom and support over the year and to wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

Tim

Rotating milking parlour on a dairy in Wiltshire

January – Rotating milking parlour in Wiltshire for an article on the benefits of mechanised dairies

Jolly's of Bath store assistant Josh Gottschling in Revolutions Bar in Bath

February – Portrait of Jolly’s of Bath staff member Josh Gottschling in his favourite bar for an in-house magazine article

Nigel Lawson talking to an audience at University of Bath

March – Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson addresses an audience at University of Bath on issues surrounding renewable energy – he’s not a fan of it

Two silhouetted faces in profile talking with Future Everything Festival signage displayed between them

April – The Future Everything Festival in Manchester for client Digital Connected Economy Catapult

 

Mechanical Engineering student Robert Ford of University of Bath works on his design for a vertical climbing robot

May – Mechanical Engineering student Robert Ford of University of Bath works on his design for a vertical climbing robot

Student  Noel Kwan poses for the Humanities and Social Sciences prospectus for University of Bath

June – Student Noel Kwan poses for the Humanities and Social Sciences prospectus for University of Bath

Hundreds of new University of Bath graduates spill from Bath Abbey to be greeted by friends and family members

July – Hundreds of new University of Bath graduates spill from Bath Abbey to be greeted by friends and family members

A street at dusk in the historic part of Hall in Tirol

August – Finally, a holiday in Austria and I get to take pretty pictures of picturesque streets

Business portrait of Andy Harriss

September – Andy Harris of Rookery Software Ltd is a man every bit as interesting as his hair

Eight-year-old Scout Adam Henderson concentrates on packing customer bags for charity at Tesco's store in Salisbury

October – Eight-year-old Scout Adam Henderson concentrates on packing customer bags for charity at Tesco’s store in Salisbury

Chef John Melican stands at a farm gate with the sign PLEASE SHUT GATE nailed to it

November – A fresh portrait for chef John Melican’s new Melican’s Events website

Yarn-bombed tree in Melksham, Wiltshire

December – On the way back to the car from a job in Melksham I couldn’t resist a shot of this yarn-bombed tree in the December sunshine

 

 

 

The News Itch

Sometimes I hanker after the good old days when I was rushing about covering news events. Of course most of it was pretty mundane stuff (community group cheque presentations, councillors on self-promoting visits to local Scout clubs and so on), but covering Magistrates or Crown Court, while often time-consuming was an interesting challenge. Or a stakeout waiting for some local scallywag to emerge from their last known address, house fires, road traffic accidents… these were not enjoyable, but you felt you were doing a useful job bringing the news to your readers.

Yes, I miss the rush of covering hard news and sometimes I ponder how difficult it would be to start covering local news without the backup of a recognised publication. The problem is, I often spot newsworthy things around my home town of Frome, but there isn’t a local newspaper that would pay for the photos and I’m not prepared to give them away for free to a commercial entity. Instead I occasionally post pictures on my photography Facebook page, and it’s interesting to see how many hits these posts get. It often results in a little spike in visits to the page, which makes me wonder if I shouldn’t be doing more.

Police cordon off an area outside The Cornerhouse pub in Frome, Somerset, after a fight.

It’s not art, but local incidents get little coverage in the papers

Naturally it always comes back to questions of whether I can afford to peel off from whatever task I’m on to go and take pictures of an incident just to share them on my Facebook page, as well as the question of whether, as an individual without the remit of a picture editor, I can really justify approaching police and fire officers to get the necessary details for the caption and gain the access required to get pictures which fully tell the story.

At least when I was a card-carrying press man I had something which said “within the constraints of the law and my professional codes of conduct, I have a right to be here taking photos.” I find it harder to do now that I’m just another bloke with a camera.

With the local publications increasingly ignoring the difficult-to-get or the stories breaking out of hours, I suspect I’ll find myself taking more pictures of the things which happen around my town. I’ll rely on experience and training to know what I can cover and how far I can push my access, because lord knows I have no interest in getting arrested or punched, but if you want to see how I get on and keep up with what I do, you can always Like my Facebook page or keep an eye on this blog.

If you’re like-minded and local, why not get in touch? It might come to nothing, but you never know, we might be the start of a new publishing empire!

My Dried Grape for Existence (Raisin d’être)

People get into photography for all kinds of reasons and I don’t need to list them here, but since the early days of my career my motivation has been that I wanted to take pictures which were of a high enough standard that I would get commissioned (paid) to take pictures which would be published.

This started with newspapers and magazines, but since my business focuses so much more on commercial and corporate photography now, I get the same thrill by being commissioned by business clients to take photos for their websites, brochures and press releases.

If I’m honest with myself, it’s always been the endorsement of being asked to take pictures in exchange for filthy lucre which has been my motivational drug, which leads me neatly to the argument about taking pictures for money as somehow demeaning photography.

Millions of people take pictures for fun, many thousands take pictures for artistic reasons, but amongst true artists there are vanishingly few who pursue their passion with a view to never making money from it. Money, whatever we think of it, is the ultimate endorsement of what we create.

Cover of University of Bath's Donor Report

Making pictures for publication is what motivates me

For me, though I don’t put my work under the heading of art, the opposite of my principle motivation would be to take photos just so people could tell me how great they are, without anyone telling me in cash terms whether or not my work is up to snuff. Likes and shares on Facebook and Instagram are all very well, but it’s too easy for someone to endorse a photo on the web with pretty much zero commitment or investment in that photo. A Like might not even mean they like the photo and you may never know what motivated someone to  give it a click. It’s possible they made a slip of the finger which they couldn’t be bothered to reverse.

No, for me the joy of photography, my reason to strive and improve in it, is to see it used, published and put to work in return for the thing (the ONLY thing) which allows me to carry on doing it; money.

Charging money for photography doesn’t diminish it, doesn’t decrease its value. If you want to decrease the value of your photography, all you have to do is give it away, whereupon it becomes either worthless or impossible to value. If anything, giving photography away diminishes photography as a whole, a consequence which I believe has done much harm to the industry and resulted in a great deal of very poor work being used where it should never have seen light of day.

Taking pictures for money doesn’t weaken my wish to be the best I can be, it enhances my motivation. Nor does it stop me banging the drum for photography worth paying for. My raison d’être may be filthy lucre, but around that sits a joy in my work, a joy in giving my clients what they want and need and ultimately being able to say I’ve stayed true to my principles for 25 years.*

*I haven’t the slightest idea where this article came from. It just sort of wrote itself. Thank you for reading.

The Stupid Economy

Yes, that’s a misquote of the often used “the economy, stupid,” but I thought I’d throw a few thoughts out there about the economy because I covered an “economic dinner” last week (it was a dinner for economists, not a low-budget supper) at which one of the guest speakers was Andy Haldane of the Bank of England.

There was much talk of the economy, interest rates, access to finance and so on, and while I don’t hear everything at these kinds of events on account of I’m busy concentrating on camera and flash settings, angles, focus, and composition, I do get the gist of what’s being said.

But why should anyone care what I, a mere photographer, think is happening with the economy? Why indeed, though it’s fair to say most economists seem to be equally ill-equipped to understand all the statistics about employment, productivity and forecasts on where the economy is headed, so I may as well give it a shot.

Andy Haldane of Bank of England speaks at a lectern at a function in Bath

Andy Haldane of the Bank of England gives an economic forecast at an event in Bath

I was at another function earlier in the year and was approached by a representative of the Bank of England who I thought was going to ask me something to do with photography. Instead he asked me how my business was doing because, he said, “I suspect someone in your line of work feels the ups and downs of the economy rather more immediately than many others.”

I think he’s probably right. Commercial photographers often feel the start of a bust almost before it’s happened because while companies might feel they’re working in isolation and cutting their marketing budgets ahead of an expected downturn, when enough of them do this the photographer feels the downturn before it officially hits. I experienced this in 2008 not long after Northern Rock hit the rocks.

So where are we now and where are we going? Well for a start I’m happy to report that things have picked up over the last two or three years. My turnover is back to where it was pre-crash, and actually marginally up, but it all still feels rather delicate.

Company budgets are still very much under constant revision and my turnover is up because I’ve had more bookings, not because I’ve put my fees up. In fact my fees haven’t changed significantly in about four years.

What can be hard to separate out is whether businesses are booking more photography because they’re feeling more confident or because they’re trying to make up for lost ground having slashed marketing budgets in 2008. I can only speak anecdotally, but I’d say it’s a mixture with a tilt in favour of the latter.

Businesses which have held back spending on photography for more than a couple of years often find that when they come back to review their marketing plans, they’re lacking in pertinent pictures and often have to restart their picture library from scratch. This can be an expensive process, and might force some to further delay commissioning new work. It can become a bit of a vicious cycle.

Then when the decision is made to give the go-ahead on new imagery, because so much is required to recover lost ground it’s understandable that there is some pressure to keep costs down. The end result is, I get more work but I can’t charge any more than I was a few years ago. Many businesses find themselves in a bit of a limbo situation like this.

It really doesn’t require an economist to tell you that the “recovery” is going to be slow and vulnerable. The debt bubble is still in the economy. It was with the banks, now it’s been spread amongst us all, but it is still there and getting worse. This is keeping everyone, businesses and individuals alike, nervous. Of course my best advice would be to not slash your marketing budget (I would say that, wouldn’t I) because it’ll harm your chances of finding new business and retaining existing clients and it’ll cost more to re-start it later.

Now my thoughts on the economy might not be detailed and in-depth, but like any astrologer, if I remain vague I can’t be accused of being wrong can I? Famous last words.

Photography Fees Explained

A couple of weeks ago I promised you an article about how photographers set their rates and where I fit into the market. Then I spotted some shiny things and got distracted and ended up writing about other stuff. Suitably self-chastised, I’m back on track and ready to tackle the subject properly.

I’ll qualify this article by admitting that I can’t explain all photographers’ rates for all genres. This article concentrates on photography for commercial usage by businesses, charities and other organisations. When it comes to rates set by social photographers (think families, pets, dinner dances and weddings) this is structured in a different way because the images aren’t generally licensed for commercial exploitation.

There was a time when commercial photographers worked up an estimate by showing the shoot costs plus their licensing fee based on usage and a fair few still do this, but in my experience I found it difficult to keep explaining all the cost elements repeatedly because the vast majority of clients booking me are not specialist in the field of commissioning photography. More often than not I’m contacted by an office secretary or perhaps an in-house or externally-hired press officer or public relations person.

This isn’t a criticism, it’s just one aspect of how the industry has changed and a few years ago I realised that things had shifted in such a way that I needed to simplify my fee structure in order to speed up the understanding of what I was charging and what was included or excluded.

Lego male minifig with camera takes picture of female minifig.

Now if I was a Lego photographer, I wouldn’t have to worry about running costs*
*random stock photo

What I ended up with was three main packages, one of which hardly anyone ever goes for (ironically my cheapest package, albeit with the greatest number of restrictions). And of the two other packages, the highest fee package is by far the most popular because it’s the most flexible.

If I break down my fees into their constituent elemets, essentially what I’m charging for is a combination of time on site, editing and processing time and the client’s licence to use the images for their corporate communications.

However, if you asked me to make that break-down specific, I couldn’t. I might be able to suggest rough percentages, but they really would be vague and not very informative.

There are of course other factors to account for. Within any freelance photographers fee there has to be an element of skill level and experience charged for. This is probably where I start to look pricey compared to someone who has just picked up a camera, read the instruction book and decided it’s their life ambition to take pictures for money. I reckon 25 years’ experience shows in how I approach clients, how I conduct myself on assignment right through to how the end results look and I consider all of these factors important and worth a premium.

Slightly more tangible are the running costs of being a photographer. Cameras, lenses and supporting equipment (batteries, chargers, bags) as well as a car and its associated costs, public liability insurance, computers, software, image hosting, image storage… All these things and more have to be considered before even a profit and salary (on which tax will be paid) need to be accounted for within a fee.

So where do my fees fit into the overall picture? How did I set them? The simple answer is that before I introduced my current structure I was spending quite a lot of time drawing up estimates for clients who were all of a certain level (SMEs to larger businesses with multiple office locations, but not the Goliath organisations with global span).

More often than not I found my estimates coming to very similar amounts by the time I’d factored in all the costs plus the licence fee. Eventually it just made sense to set up the three packages I have now and they’ve not only attracted more clients with their simplicity and up-front openness, but I spend much less time writing up estimates, which has to be a good thing.

Much of this has the air of a guessing game, but having worked out what it costs to run my business, what I need as a salary, and how many days a year I can expect to get paid commissions, it then comes down to whether I can attain the kind of quality that enough clients are willing to pay my fees to make the whole thing viable. This, in effect, is a business plan and is very much why I charge what I charge. Simple really, but also quite complicated which is probably why cheaper photographers charge what they do, but find they can’t sustain their businesses. That’s a whole other post, which I’m sure I’ve written already.

The Five Day Black and White Challenge

I managed to miss being nominated for the ice bucket challenge when that was doing the rounds and it’s likely I would have refused to take part had anyone nominated me. It’s not that I don’t support charities (I make monthly donations to two and drop coins into the odd tin in between), I just don’t like being made to feel I have to give just because someone tells me to.

So, with that little pre-amble out of the way, when my photographer friend Graham Trott nominated me to take part in the Five Day Black & White Challenge on Facebook, since it isn’t tied to any kind of cause, I decided to take part because I didn’t feel I’d be letting anyone down if I didn’t. Which barely makes sense other than in a weird reverse psychology kind of a way.

Siegfried Sassoon's grave in St Andrews Church in Mells, Somerset.

Siegfried Sassoon’s grave in St Andrews Church in Mells, Somerset.

I’m only on Day 2 as I write this, and I’m just going to post today’s photo here. If you’d like to see the rest as and when they appear, please visit my Photography Facebook Page. If you click the Like button there you’ll see all future updates on that page, which I’m sure you’ll love.

Most of the photos I post during the challenge will be from my archive, but I wanted to take a photo today in connection with Armistice Day and post it on the challenge page. This was taken after I’d observed the two minute’s silence at Mells War Memorial. It shows the grave stone of Siegfried Sassoon, famous for his war poetry and prose writing and also for his mentoring of Wilfred Owen, who sadly didn’t survive the war.

I’ve been to Mells on Armistice Day a couple of times now, when work permitted, and it’s always a touching event because it’s very peaceful. School children are brought to the village memorial to observe the two minute’s silence and learn a little more about the “Great War,” but it’s perhaps a little sad that so few villagers make it down; modern life tends to get in the way for most people who end up observing the silence at their desks.

Sassoon survived the war, but he was decorated for bravery and it’s good to see someone still marks his involvement and contribution to the literature of the conflict. If you’re ever in Mells, see if you can find the grave. The church is worth a visit anyway, as is the village cafe.

 

A Word (or 717) on Photography Fees

It’s a chicken and egg sort of scenario; you need a photographer for your next project, be that headshots, a PR campaign or website refresh, but you don’t know what the cost will be. If you look around on photographers’ websites you might get an idea from their fees pages (most photographers don’t publish guideline fees, which can be unhelpful), but even then, you don’t know what the budget should be.

In the meantime, the CEO or company accountant will want to set a budget for you to go and spend without exceeding it, but they won’t necessarily know what’s involved or what a photographer is likely to charge.

The other problem is you might not know how much time will be required to get what you need. It’s likely it isn’t your job to know, because you probably don’t book photography regularly enough to get a feel for what can be achieved in a given time period. Well, let me simplify and shorten the process of working out what you should be looking to spend.

high view of conference attendies mingling, shaking hands and drinking teas and coffees

Bear in mind events, conferences and large gatherings tend to generate more images which can affect fees

Start with the brief. I set out here what’s required in a brief and it’s important to make sure you have some idea of how many photos are required and what they are to be of. Take into account that mixing headshots, product shots, more feature-friendly portraits and other disciplines will extend the amount of time required because each will need a different set-up. Lighting, lenses and location will often change from one scenario to the next.

Now look at what uses the images will be put to. List them all from social media to local press/public relations (PR), trade PR, national PR, through company website, brochure, pitch documents and general corporate communications and also say if they’re going to be used in advertising. This is really important because any photographer worth their salt will set fees to reflect the levels of use you require (my standard fees cover all uses from social media, through press/public relations to company website use, but paid-for advertising is negotiated separately).

If it’s an event with set timings, look at the time period for which coverage is required. Having a start and finish time will help define the time the photographer needs to spend on site.

Consider any special requirements; props, backdrops, locations, transport and so on.

All of this can be talked through with a photographer, but the more information you have from the start, the easier it’ll be for a photographer to put an estimate together. Every so often I’ll get an email asking how much I’ll charge for “some photos,” which really isn’t enough information to work on.

Once you have a reasonable idea of what’s required, you can start to find photographers who cover the kind of work you need to get done. Use relevant search terms (discipline and location i.e. “corporate photographer Bristol”) in a search engine to find what you need. Check out online portfolios for the quality, style and content which most closely matches your brief, then call or email the most likely-looking candidates.

Of course I can’t speak for other photographers, but armed with this level of information I can help a client choose which of my fee packages will best suit their needs. It might be we have to negotiate on elements which don’t fit the standard fees, or it might be a reduced fee will cover everything. On the whole I find my fee structure helps the client get what they need with the minimum of admin and to-ing and fro-ing over details.

Even with a fairly detailed brief, I like to follow up an enquiry with a phone call just to clarify any points I need more information on and also to introduce myself personally to the client. It’s good to know who you’re going to be working with, and that cuts both ways.

This might seem like a bit of an effort, but it’s well worth it to get the best from the photographer before, during and after the event. Next week I’ll expand on how photographers set their fees and where I fit in the market. I bet you can’t wait!

The Camera Does Matter (it just depends…)

There are many photographic clichés and my least favourites one goes “the best camera is the one you have with you.”

You’ll see it on so many camera forums trotted out by those who like to make themselves look “expert” in some way. Now, while clearly you can’t take a photo without a camera, I have to challenge the thinking behind this particular cliché which is that you can take a prize-winning photo on a pinhole camera and you can take a dreadful snapshot on the most expensive camera money can buy.

While it’s true there are many ghastly photos taken every day on cameras costing many thousands of Pounds, it’s incredibly unlikely you’ll get a prize-winning photo on a pinhole camera or cameraphone.

blurred, colourful photo of fairground waltzers ride

When I take personal photos like this the camera is less important

I’m sure someone somewhere has taken a photo with a cheap camera or on a smartphone which they’ve managed to sell to a newspaper or won a prize with somewhere, but this is to ignore the fact that the world is vast and the “infinite monkey” theory will disprove any sweeping statement. Except it doesn’t disprove anything, because I’m talking about likelihood. I’m also talking about context in which a photo is taken and the context in which it is to be published.

Of course if you get a nice colourful snap on your phone it’ll look lovely on the internet, which will prove you didn’t need a big fancy camera to take that photo. Try to sell that photo to a stock library and it’ll get rejected on the grounds that it won’t come up to client requirements for image size and quality.

Take a photo of Lord Lucan riding Shergar through the lost city of Atlantis, and no newspaper or magazine will give a stuff about the quality, they’ll be tearing your arm off at the elbow to get hold of the image. They might even offer some money to publish that snap. It wouldn’t even need to be particularly sharp.

Now if I turned up at a client’s job with nothing more than my iPhone I think the client would be rightly upset. Replying “but this is the camera I have with me, therefore it is the best camera” would go down like a lead balloon.

And so I’ve re-written this cliché. It goes “the best camera is the one you have with because it’s the best camera you own and because you’re being paid to use it.” There, that’s fixed now so I can go after my new least favourite cliché. Just as soon as I’ve worked out what it is.

No Post This Week

Hello, dear reader. This is just a quick post to let you know that due to a house move I won’t have time to post anything this week. I do apologise, I know much you look forward to reading my posts! Hopefully I’ll be up and running again next week.

Cheers!

Tim

The News is History

With their history of breaking everything they touch, it was only a matter of time before Johnston Press took their dull-edged, leaden axe to the staff photography jobs at The News in Portsmouth, and so it has come to pass.

As a former Portsmouth News photographer (I joined as a trainee in 1992 and left as assistant picture editor in 1998) I’m sorry to see some highly dedicated photographers losing their jobs. I’m sorry to see a daily newspaper , once highly respected by readers and sought-after as an employer by trainee photographers, reduced to running poor quality reporter and reader photos like some small town weekly paper. Not that small town weekly papers should run rubbish photography, but I can’t be Canute to every paper which dumbs down.

The internet effect will have been a factor in this, but papers like The News had a chance to invest in their print and online publications and take their cut of internet ad revenues and readership. Instead they wanted unrealistic profit margins and ever-upward share dividends. This was achieved through asset stripping and a lack of investment in talent and inevitably devalued their product. Readers aren’t stupid, but if you treat them as if they are, you’re bound to lose a few. Or a few thousand.

I’d risk a bet this latest move will be followed by the paper going weekly. In the longer term it’s hard to see what future there is for a newspaper with no photographers and eventually just a handful of reporters whose sole task will be to copy and paste public relations and reader-submitted copy and insert fuzzy photos into the gaps in between. Advertisers will continue to flee and spend their money elsewhere as the readership continues to leach away.

According to its Wikipedia entry, the paper was founded in 1873. Johnston Press took over in 1999, which means it’s taken them a mere 15 years of the paper’s 141-year history to kill it. Nice one.

I thought I’d furnish this post with some of the portfolio photos I was allowed to take away with me after my time at The News, some of which hold quite interesting memories and pretty much none of which could ever happen again if it’s left to readers and PR managers to fill the picture boxes between the copy and the adverts. No more big events covered in an interesting way, or un-planned photos which end up being a story in themselves. Just an endless parade of big cheques, big groups and readers’ sunset photos. Which is fitting when you think that the sun might finally have set on creative, engaging and entertaining newspaper photography.

A Royal Marine reservist emerges from freezing arctic water as part of his training

A facility to photograph the Royal Marine Reservists on arctic training in Norway resulted in this shot of one marine learning how to escape a frozen lake.

Anthea Turner has makeup retouched on set of National Lottery Live, Portsmouth

Anthea Turner has her makeup retouched during National Lottery Live. My taking this photo nearly resulted in the show being cancelled until Ms Turner was convinced I’d destroyed the film. The picture ran with the headline “The Photo Anthea Turner Didn’t Want You To See”.

A youth threatens a pensioner near Hamble, Hampshire

I stopped on my way to a job when I spotted this lad kicking another who was lying on the floor. I called the police and took photos. The fogging on the film was where he kicked my camera open. The story grew when it became apparent Police powers were inadequate to dealing with the incident as ABH laws had just changed.