Bits ‘n’ pieces.

Yes it’s still quiet on the whole, but business is definitely happening.

My Salisbury Plain project has been keeping me busy, and now with film stock secured for the next several months thanks to the generosity of those who support my work, I’ll be able to carry that on for quite some time to come.

In the meantime, I’ve continued updating and tweaking my website with new Testimonials and portraits being the main focus.

On top of all this, work has been coming in. Not thick and fast just yet, but there are promising signs of new clients contacting me as well as old ones getting back in touch.

I’m actually really looking forward to encouraging clients to be more adventurous in the style of business shots I take for them. I have the kit, the skills and the imagination. Now all I need is the right client and the right opportunity.

So if you’re a business looking to get your marketing back up to speed, drop me a line and let’s get the ball rolling.

First Shoots of Recovery?

“Ok, here’s the future – everything is going to be fantastic. Business will pick up again” is what I wrote only last week.

Now I don’t wish to jinx what is clearly a very tentative, timid signal, but I am starting to get more bookings again, which is just fantastic!

Of course it’s early days and there will be tough times ahead. I think things will continue to be difficult and unpredictable for at least the next 12 months. I also think that the businesses which want to survive and thrive will keep on top of their marketing and this will involve fresh photography.

That businesses are starting to re-focus on the future is particularly encouraging, so let’s keep this week’s post brief and positive.

If you’re thinking in terms of getting your website bang-up-to-date or looking for an opportunity to get some PR going, drop me a line.

We can do this together.

Measured Success

A PR job this week proved that in spite of everything, photography is being commissioned and it can be done safely.

What is different in this lockdown world is the logistics. I had to think more carefully about how I could execute the photos safely (thinking of my subjects as much as of myself).

So I took some simple precautions. No, I didn’t have a mask or gloves. I didn’t wear a hazmat suit. Neither did I take the pictures from the safety of my car.

I simply took a tape measure and some playground chalk. This meant I could mark out positions two metres apart for people to stand on before bringing them into the scene.

Everyone was at least two metres from anyone else (including myself) at all times. The simplest of tools kept everyone safe.

Of course some types of corporate photography cannot happen right now. For example, office headshots aren’t feasible when businesses have furloughed their staff. Cancelled events and business meetings mean none of that work is available to me right now.

However, it’s probably not a bad time for businesses to consider some positive PR. There are good news stories out there, and we could all do with some of that right now! And using a professional photographer to create the images you need will mean you get high quality photos safely.

If you have a good news story – perhaps it’s related to the crisis, perhaps it isn’t, drop me a line and we can look at options.

Maybe I can “chalk up” a success for you too.

Covid-19, The Update Post

The purpose of this blog post is to keep clients informed of my status during the Covid-19 crisis, should they need to know.

I’ll be keeping in direct touch with current clients only as required since I know they’ll all be scrabbling to keep their operations afloat.

This post will be linked from my Home page to keep visitors to the site informed.

Any updates to my status or activities will be posted at the foot of this article, preceded with a date to ensure clarity. If you want to know the very latest news with regards my coronavirus plans, scroll to the very end of this post.

Current Status:

In broad terms, I can tell you that my current status is ok. I am solvent (improved by forthcoming government assistance for the self-employed) and I am fit and well as I practice social distancing and keep journeys to a minimum.

Bookings:

My diary has emptied of advance bookings for at least the next two months. Normally I would also be picking up last-minute work, but of course that is also currently impossible. I want to be as fair as possible with my clients so I propose the following:

  • Any bookings which coincide with a lockdown period can be postponed for a future date without any surcharges.
  • Any bookings which have to be cancelled entirely may incur a fee, however this will be discussed with the client to find the best solution for a positive outcome.
Current Plans:

I have a plan to keep busy, starting with a programme of website updates, tweaks and improvements.

I’ve already brought my accounts up-to-date (sorting my sock drawer is next!) and my fine art print site takeagander.co.uk is also replete with the latest images. Sadly my print supplier has had to close temporarily, so although I can still take print orders, I won’t be able to fulfil them until the printer can re-open. Updates on that are more likely to be found on the takeagander website.

To my clients:

I want to assure all my clients that I have every intention of still being here for them when this is all over. Luckily I had already completed a programme of reducing overheads in the final quarter of 2019, which basically means I have no office rent or associated costs around my neck right now.

All my subscriptions continue to be covered, including for Photoshelter, which means all my client galleries should continue to be secure and accessible at all times. If you experience any problems with your gallery, let me know and I’ll be happy to help.

Anyone requiring help:

I remain open to enquiries, even if they cannot be confirmed bookings at this time. If you have a question I can help with, or you want to start an early conversation about a potential future project, I’ll be delighted to hear from you. If you just need to hear a voice other than your own, call me.

That’s all for now folks. Keep safe, keep well. I can’t wait to work with you again soon.

Updates:

2nd April 2020 – My main task this week has been to make tweaks to the website, some minor and others more involved. Due to a server issue on Monday/Tuesday progress was slow, but I’m glad to say everything is back to normal and I’ve done most of what I intended to complete.

This has included:

  • Writing this blog post, then ensuring there is a link to it directly from the home page.
  • Updating the Personal Projects galleries, making them smaller, more manageable and improving ease of navigation to them.
  • Updating the Business Portraits, Corporate Communications and Editorial + PR galleries with fresh content.
  • Re-writing the text for all the galleries.
  • Back-end tidying of the site structure. Whether this has any discernible effect is up for debate.
  • Re-jigging the About Me page with refreshed text and links to Testimonials and takeagander.co.uk
  • A tweak to my fees to help build a stronger business for the future.

I still need to work through my T&Cs and find a place to display my lovely, shiny GDPR certificate, but this week really has seen impressive progress.

I almost forgot to mention, my image archiving catalogue is also now bang up to date with the last couple of months’ jobs. A rarity indeed.

3rd April 2020 – Yesterday morning felt like four hours of shovelling pixels as I made adjustments to my website. So I spent the afternoon shovelling compost as we work to improve our veg-growing capacity at home. I’m so grateful to have a garden, something so many people don’t have.

Most of today will be spent freshening up my LinkedIn profile page, then it’s back to the website to make some additional changes and improvements.

Back again! I’ve spent the entire morning freshening up my LinkedIn profile, though I’m sure there is more I could do. I’ve also improved access to my GDPR statement and certificate on my website.

I might head back out to the garden for the next couple of hours before my backside fuses to my chair.

6th April 2020 – It’s 05.11 on Monday morning and I seem to be awake. My sleep has been erratic for at least a decade, so this isn’t Coronavirus-stress-related.

At the risk of descending this blog into the realm of the personal, as I face the new week I wanted to share a word on my weekend. Having a garden big enough to do things in is a luxury these days, and I feel extremely privileged to have one large enough for four raised veg beds, a greenhouse, shed and tiny pond.

Although the pond is small, it attracts frogs and other wildlife, and is currently teaming with tadpoles. I’ll be spending time in the coming weeks defending the froglets from the many neighbourhood cats.

Tasks I achieved this weekend: A fresh coat of exterior paint on The Bunker, construction of a brassica cage, construction of two new garden table tops to replace rotten ones using scrap timber (they look better than they sound). Oh and a bit of sunburn! I’m normally very careful in the sun, but really didn’t appreciate that the breeze was deceiving me.

So today I’ll be back to working on my to-do list. I have a couple of rolls of colour film to send off for processing and thankfully the lab can still run safely. I also have a grocery run to do for an isolated resident, but I’m awaiting their list.

Good luck with your week, whatever it involves.

Final update on this post, since this is meant to be a point of useful information for clients, I’ll start a new post which will act as my on-going diary. Carry on reading there if you’re desperate to know how I’m doing.

Friday 22nd May 2020

My plans and risk assessments are well underway as clients start to make enquiries once again. I will have hand sanitiser and reusable mask with me on all jobs. Gloves are not necessary and I believe they present additional risk, so I will only wear gloves if they are required and are supplied by the client. I will wash my hands on arrival, departure and at any point during my time on site that is sensible to do so. Please bear with me because I suffer from hay fever and may need to wash my hands more frequently than normal.

I will work with my clients and subjects to maintain suitable distancing as much as possible.

I will ask that clients allow more liaison time prior to jobs in order that we can plan to minimise the risks to all involved, including of course myself.

If you have particular requirements or suggestions based on your own risk assessments, please feel free to share them with me.

Video

With clients looking for new ways to communicate to their audiences, I have used a large proportion of my lockdown time to get up to speed on good quality video capture, sound recording and editing. I have invested in the equipment required to ensure I am ready to talk to you about your next video project, so do drop me a line if you’re considering adding video to your corporate communications toolbox.

Emergency Blog

Do you know what? I have written and re-written this article about half a dozen times, trying to say so many things about how I hope everyone is ok and about what my coping strategy is.

The problem is, since we’re all in the same boat, anything I write looks like opportunist marketing, so I’ll just say this:

  • Stay safe, obviously.
  • If I can help with anything, let me know. Even if it’s just to pick my brains.
  • I am determined to be here for my clients all through this and well beyond.

In the meantime, if you’re stuck at home and need a diversion, check out takagander and consider buying a print (if there is anything you like). This will help keep me sane while everything else is in shutdown.

And if you do buy a print, use TAKEA20 at checkout to get £20.00 off any canvas print, or £20 off any fine art print (or multiple prints) when you spend £150.00 or more. Hurry though, the offer expires on March 20th. There, I just marketed again! Ugh.

A final few words for now:

It’s going to be tough to plan new photography for your business when we don’t have a timescale for this situation, but do speak to me now because we can all hit the ground running whenever the brakes come off. I look forward to hearing from you soon!

Take care,

Tim

Beyond the Brief

Next time you’re planning to update the photography for your corporate communications, why not consider allowing some additional creative time within the session? Allowing some creative space beyond the brief could result in some interesting results.

An excellent example of this is from November last year when I was commissioned to create new team head shots for business data analysts Kaiasm – I’m massively paraphrasing what they do for the sake of brevity.

There was one shot which I pretty much took as a bit of a joke; I’d noticed how the data graph behind the founder Liam McGee’s head made him look like he had a halo. When I mentioned this to him, he obliged with a suitable pose and expression and I took the shot.

The photo was included in the final edit because I know clients often enjoy the odd outtake in their set, but I didn’t expect to see it used.

A couple of weeks later, the local paper ran the photo with an article about Kaiasm and their pending expansion plans.

So allowing some creative freedom and a dollop of humour can lead to unexpectedly useful results. That photo will have drawn far more attention to the article than any plain headshot or stock image of the office would have done, and will have conveyed Kaiasm as a business run by human beings, not robots.

Bear in mind the creative possibilities, even the occasional happy accident afforded by engaging a professional photographer, and you may find the results are a revelation.

Tethered Capture (seeing the bigger picture)

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the press lately about Royalty and tethering (I won’t expand on that here) and it reminded me that I’ve never really explained what tethering means from a photographer’s point of view and why it might be useful to a client.

Tethering is a method of taking photos while the camera is linked to a laptop via a cable, but what it involves and why you’d want to do it is worth a little further explanation.

Tethered capture, as it’s often called, allows the photographer to review photos on a laptop within about a second of them being taken. Of course pictures can be reviewed on the back of the camera, and that’s my regular way of working. However that tiny little screen, often obscured with nose grease (yum!) isn’t always the best way to check fine detail.

A far better solution is to take test shots, then review them on the laptop screen to see how the light is working and whether any tweaks to clothing or hair might be necessary. Really fine details (a cat hair on a lapel, or a stray hair across an eye) are often only visible when viewed on a larger screen.

The software which allows the pictures to display on the laptop (I use Adobe Lightroom) can also be set to show a rough idea of the final treatment (colour, contrast, sharpening etc) that I’ll be using, so a marketing executive can get an idea of how the finished images will look and we can adjust according to their requirements.

Likewise the sitters also benefit from being able to view the images on a decent-sized screen so they can be happy with their shots before going back to their work. They’ll have a much clearer idea of what we’re getting and this can also help them relax into the shoot. Once we’re happy with the test shots, I don’t tend to look at the screen again until after each person’s sitting.

The other reason I like to work this way if I can is that it means the images are backed up automatically as I shoot – one set on the camera card, a duplicate set on the laptop hard drive. So if there is a failure, I’ve a better chance of recovering images which might otherwise be lost.

Of course tethering only works for the headshot work I do because camera movement is limited by the cable length and the reliability of the connection. I couldn’t shoot a corporate event or a conference using tethering, it just wouldn’t be practical, but for the business headshot it’s a useful tool.

It’s also possible to get camera and computer to communicate via wifi, but this can be too fiddly and unreliable, so I tend to use the cable method.

So if I turn up at your corporate headshot session with a music stand, don’t panic: I’m not about to pull a cello from my rolling case and launch into a Rachmaninoff sonata, sometimes it’s just handy to work tethered and to see the bigger picture.

 

Say CHEESE!

Finding a photographer is as easy as finding cheddar cheese in Cheddar, and in case you were unaware; Cheddar is an actual place and it’s where cheddar cheese originally came from before everyone from the Irish to the Azerbaijanis decided to make “cheddar cheese” themselves and flood the market with their filth. Even so, there is an awful lot of cheddar in Cheddar and it’s easy to find, trust me.

Sorry, I digress. It’s just that living in Somerset, about 30 minutes from Cheddar, I’m a little fussy about where my cheddar comes from. Although, at the risk of prolonging this needless digression further, there’s an excellent Somerset brie which I highly recommend. Apologies to Brieland.

Right, back to my point… which was? Oh yes, photographers are easy to find (yes, I said that already, get on with it Tim!) But actually, like cheddar, not all photographers are the same. Just like Canadian cheddar, there’s a lot of rubbish out there (sorry Canadaland, but your cheddar is pants*). And even amongst the really excellent cheddars, not every cheddar will suit your pallet, just as not every excellent photographer will suit your requirements.

Some cheddars are creamy, smooth and mild. Others are crumbly, borderline gritty with a bite that gives you that weird stinging sensation at the back of your jaw. I actually love a strong cheddar, but it’s not to everyone’s taste and it doesn’t suit all occasions.

So what I’m saying is, yes it’s easy to find a photographer, but make sure they shoot what you need in the style you need it. There is rarely any merit in hiring a wedding photographer to shoot your corporate website (I accept a few exceptions to this rule, but only very few). Likewise, I really don’t ‘do’ food. For that you need a food photographer, who will have all the tools, both mentally and in terms of equipment, to make your dishes look mouthwatering. Hire me to photograph your food and I’ll probably just eat it. It’s also well known I don’t do weddings. Why would I when there are some superb wedding specialists out there?

When hunting out the best photographer for your job, you’ll probably start with a search using the terms for the kind of photographer you’re after, eg: business, portrait, photographer, Bristol, or whatever. This will return MANY sites to consider and you’ll probably want to start by quickly dismissing the part-time photographers, the wedding photographers and the “I have a camera and will literally point it at anything you want me to” photographers.

This is no easy task, but usually a few moments spent looking through their online portfolios will tell you whether or not they do what you need AND are competent at it. Also if a portfolio is a scattergun of different genres, subjects and styles, you might want to move on as this can suggest either that the photographer is not consistent in their field, or that they’ve been stealing other peoples’ photos to build their own portfolio. Perhaps shocking in the age of the internet, but yes this does happen.

It’s taken me years to find the right cheddar for my tastes. I like Wyke Farm Extra Mature for everyday eating and for recipes, while I’ve yet to find a cheddar which quite matches the joy of Westcombe Dairy’s prize-winning offering. So having found my favourites, I stick with them. The same can go for your photographer if it’s a case of shooting the same subject or genre of photography and the photographer shoots to the style and quality which matches your standards.

Just as you can constantly chop, change and shop around for your cheddar cheese, you can constantly chop and change your choice of photographer. However, if your corporate communications end up looking like a ragtag of styles and qualities, well that’s just hard cheese.

*I’m using the UK definition of ‘pants’ as in ‘underwear’. Yes, Canada, I’m sorry, but your cheddar tastes like grey y-fronts. I love Canadians though, and they make the best maple syrup.

The Need for Speed

It’s been a few years since my last major website redesign, but my current site appears to be working very well for me. Clients seem to like the simplicity and ease of access, so I see little point in making any design revisions for now.

However what I have become aware of over the last few months has been a gradual, but noticeable, slow-down in loading speed and that, I think, isn’t good enough so I’ve spent some time tackling that this week.

I know my clients are busy people, and a new client looking to find out more about me doesn’t have time to sit there waiting for the homepage to load. They may be looking for a photographer with my style, skills and qualities, but if they can’t get in to see the work, they may never find out what I can do for them.

So I’ve worked with a colleague to do some behind-the-scenes tidying up and optimisation, and I have to say the difference it’s made has been quite startling. It’s possible, depending on how you came to this blog article, that you will have noticed too.

There are still a few more tweaks I need to make; optimising key images is probably the main one, but also as I update and replace images I’ll be fixing those issues by default.

On which note, what I hope to do next is give the content a bit of a polish. Again, it’s been a little while since I updated the galleries with more recent work. I try to keep on top of this, but what with corporate jobs, admin and launching my fine art print site takeagander.co.uk I’ve had to prioritise tasks.

I’m always grateful for feedback, especially from business clients who are always my priority when it comes to setting out how the website works, so do feel free to throw bouquets or brickbats my way so I know how I can do things better.

After all, this website doesn’t exist to massage my ego; it’s there for you, the business client, to find out quickly, easily and with high quality presentation what my photography can do for your business.

Storms Now, but Storms Ahead Too?

Two nights ago we experienced the weirdest lightning storm anyone seems to remember witnessing. I had only seen something similar once, about 30 years ago in Germany, but even that was nothing compared to this more recent event.

Accompanied with Biblical rain, for almost an hour lightning lit up the night sky with astonishing frequency with BBC Weather reporting some 48,000 strikes nationally. It never struck Earth in my bit of Somerset, it was all cloud-to-cloud, which is what made it and its accompanying Hollywood thunder noise all the more eerie.

It happened to be the day we learned Boris Johnson was to be our new prime minister, and some speculated that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse were about to burst through the clouds and lay waste to all that lay before them.

Of course politics and the weather are not so closely related. Setting aside political decisions which might cause or reduce global warming over generations, we can safely say this lightning storm and Bojo’s appointment are not that intertwined. However, as metaphors go its timing could not have been better.

So what of this new political future? Are we moving to the sunny uplands? Or hurtling towards a terrible storm? Anyone who knows my politics will be aware that I happen to believe Brexit is a very bad idea (putting it both mildly and diplomatically). However, it seems that’s where we are headed and whether we are inners or outers, we’re going to have to deal with whatever Brexit means.

It’s practically impossible to know how Brexit will affect my business. I know it will affect a great many people whose work takes them regularly in and out of the EU and their futures more than mine will rely on a sensible deal being reached about freedom of travel. For my part, looking back at my books over the period during which we were meant to leave, I’d say the uncertainty has definitely affected the willingness of businesses to press ahead with new projects. It’s been a real stop/start year so far.

Perhaps with a definite date in mind clients will feel better able to plan for October 31st and freer to make investment or expansion decisions. Sadly I suspect there is still a great deal of doubt about what Brexit will ACTUALLY mean. For all Mr Johnson’s energetic promises, he still has to deliver what Theresa May couldn’t and it still might not be the Brexit some people had in mind (while still managing to be the Brexit many never wanted).

I worry about the effect Brexit will have on those who have less control over their lives and fewer resources to deal with any negative consequences. I also know business will carry on one way or another. What is absolutely certain though is that nobody, not even Boris Johnson, has any real idea what to expect on the other side of all this. I think we can assume Boris will be ok, but beyond that, not much can be said with any certainty.

Possibly the most inconclusive conclusion I have ever written.