Sweet Luxury

The other day I was asked to come into a business in Bristol to undertake a portrait session so members of staff could post to Twitter and LinkedIn with fresh, up-to-date (and importantly, professionally-taken) profile photos.

The pictures were taken at the end of an in-house social media training seminar, and I suspect this helped convince attendees of the importance of a decent avatar portrait. I believe this kind of training is an excellent idea for businesses wanting their staff to help promote the brand on online platforms, and of course a clean, clear profile photo gives their posts greater gravitas.

What made it for me though, apart from the lovely welcoming people I got to work with, was the huge amount of space I was given to work in.

If your business has just taken over larger premises and you haven’t quite expanded into it just yet, take the opportunity to make headway on your headshots. While the entire office isn’t crammed with furniture and people, it makes a great space to work in and I can light the portraits better than if I’m shoehorned into a stationery cupboard, or a board room with an immovable table filling it.

Of course once you’ve filled the space, I’ll need to come back to photograph all the newly appointed team members. Don’t worry though, as long as there is room enough, I can make the lighting work. It’s just so much nicer when there’s space a-plenty.

 

Post Apocalyptic?

Yesterday I was nominated by my friend and office colleague David to take part in a Facebook seven-day black and white photo posting challenge. A personal photo each day, no people, no caption or explanation and I’m meant to nominate someone else each day.

Now much as I love David, he knows I’m not a massive fan of this kind of thing, but he’s a big fan of my photography so couldn’t resist just to see how I’d handle it. He also likes to watch me squirm, so that’s two excellent reasons for him to nominate me.

You might wonder why I’m not a big fan of this kind of thing then. Well, since you’ve made the mistake of asking, I’ll tell you.

I’ve been on Facebook for, oh I dunno, many years. Twitter and Instagram too. Over the years I’ve posted pictures I’m very proud of and some junk I probably should have left on my hard drive or in my head. Of late I’ve been working to get my feeds looking more consistent in quality, more coherent in style and less scattered with random junk. This kind of posting challenge may not help.

Therefore I’ll have to be careful that what I post adheres to qualities I can be proud of. Tough to do every single day. But that isn’t the only reason – When I post pictures online I’m aware there is a trade-off happening; I’m exposing my work to a wider audience, getting more eyeballs on my pictures and helping my search engine optimisation, while the social media platforms are benefitting from a constant supply of free content and data they can mine, monetise and aggregate for future, as yet un-defined purposes.

Perhaps I’m being too conspiracy-theorist about this, but here’s a final point to consider; I’m meant to nominate one person every day of the challenge. That’s seven people over seven days (and even I remember from my school times tables terrors, that comes to 49). Each of those 49 people is meant to nominate 7 people, so that’s 343. 343 x 49 = 16,807. You get the idea, if nobody drops the chain we’re quickly into millions of people posting more millions of photos (I tried to work it out, my brain melted).

So mana for Facebook as it keeps people going back to their pages, interacting and laying rich soil for the advertisers who pay Facebook to display their wares in our feeds. We’re all working to feed it like we’re being paid, feeling guilty if we don’t, and so it goes on.

Thankfully we’re not all robot slaves. I was the only person David nominated during his 7 days. My wife got nominated, made it to day 4 and then forgot to continue. There is hope for the human race when we don’t follow the peer pressure and the made-up rules.

So my plan is to post a photo each day, only nominate if I can think of someone who would like to be nominated and I’ll state here that I won’t be accepting future nominations for this kind of thing. If it’s a nomination to be King of the World, I might accept that, but not another photo challenge please.

How Soon Is Now?

Well that’s got The Smiths fans reading. Hello, both of you.*

What that slightly odd headline is nodding towards, in a painfully contorted way like Morrissey performing William, It Was Really Nothing, is that while a photo might be taken for quick social media use, bear in mind you may wish to use it later for other things.

So, what difference does it make if you approach the task with only Twitter or Facebook in mind? You might want to ask yourself if it matters there’s only half a person in the frame, or the resolution is poor.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but your photos and your brand should work hand in glove across many media. The quality shouldn’t oscillate wildly from one media to another otherwise your message is going nowhere fast.

The point of photography is to communicate your message; get it wrong and the world won’t listen.

I hope this post has per suedehead you that such a little thing makes such a big difference.

*The more astute amongst you will have spotted a few familiar references and one rather painful pun.

Tunes On, Pop-Up and Drop In

I tried something a bit different yesterday, some might even call it radical, but let’s not get carried away.

Some background first; My office is based in a shared work hub in Frome in lovely Somerset. Here I can do my editing and admin and because the building hosts several other businesses, I have contact with a range of people working in everything from the charity sector to web developers, app developers, event stylists and many more. There’s even an oil rig support business here, which I suppose is handy for the North Sea.

A portrait photography setup with lights, backdrop and camera on a tripod.

My go-anywhere portrait studio is perfect
for business headshots.

Over the past year or so many new businesses have taken up office space at the work hub as it’s expanded, and I realised there might be an opportunity to help them with a simple, social media portrait session.

Normally if I go to a single business to spend time taking corporate portraits I’ll charge a minimum of £250+vat, and more often than not it turns into a half-day at between £450 and £600, but this would be prohibitive for many of the micro businesses based in the hub. So how about setting up a pop-up studio in the communal space and offering a quick portrait session to anyone who wanted to come along and just charge for the images they download?

Obviously I had to keep the deal simple and decided to offer a no-sitting-fee session with downloads starting at just £30 including VAT for a small file suitable for LinkedIn, Twitter and the like, with a rising scale of fees according to the size of file downloaded.

The day went pretty well, especially since it was a first time for this event. I came in for 08:30 am to set up my studio, organised some tunes to add a relaxing ambience to the space and made test shots before the first arrival.

Black and white business portrait of David Evans of Ghost Ltd

The portraits are designed to be simple and clear so they’ll work right down to avatar sizes.

I had a steady trickle of people (I wouldn’t say I was killed in the rush) and I got the impression that even some of those less keen to be photographed actually quite enjoyed the experience.

I delivered the images in personal galleries to each of the sitters just two hours ago and the portraits have already started to sell!

What was even more encouraging was the number of people who expressed an interest in getting more

photography organised in future for things like website refreshes, so there was a promotional side-effect to my cunning plan too.

It’s possible I’ll turn this into an annual or even six-monthly event because I’m sure as word gets around, more people will want to sign up. In the coming days I’m going to make contact with other hubs in the area to see if they would like to host something similar. This little idea could grow.

 

TIGA Feats

Last week I was at the annual TIGA Games Industry Awards to photograph the gathered great and good and the award winners in particular.

TIGA is the non-profit trade association which represents the digital games industry in the UK, and this year’s awards were presented at The Assembly Rooms in Bath, a historic venue contrasting with the relatively new art of game design.

I’ve covered a few events at the Assembly Rooms over the years, and though it’s a lovely building it’s always quite tricky to deal with the very low-level, yellow lighting in the Great Octagon (see this post on a similar recent challenge), where delegates gather for drinks prior to being seated in the main ballroom which, depending on what the lighting guys have set up, will be a whole new challenge.

Normally I’ll use on-camera flash of some sort for the drinks reception, and then portable studio lights directed at the stage to cover the dais and awards presentations up on the stage, but this time I decided to use available light for the drinks bit, and hand-held flash for the awards as I had to be super-quick for the presentations. The client didn’t want the photography to hold up proceeedings. There were a lot of awards being presented, and I needed to be nimble to get a shot from each one – the studio lights can slow me down as they don’t always charge back up fast enough to be ready for the next photo.

In between covering the flavour of the evening and the awards on the stage, I was also nipping backstage to send images out from my laptop in order that social media coverage could have pictures live on the night.

A pretty long night and tiring too, but great fun and an interesting insight into the gaming industry. I’ll be back at The Assembly Rooms before the month is out to cover the Regen SW Green Energy Awards. I can’t wait to see what the lighting engineers do this time…

In the meantime, here’s a small selection of images from the night:

TIGA delegates chat, drink, network in the Great Octagon, Bath Assembly Rooms

Delegates mingle and drink prior to dinner and the awards

Screen showing TIGA awards twitter activity

Social media was broadcast live to the room

Delegates at dinner enjoying the awards presentations and speeches

Capturing the fun of the evening

Actor and voice artist Corey Johnson comperes the evening

Compere Corey Johnson, actor and games voice artist, keeps proceedings flowing

TIGA gaming industry award winners receive their prize

Awards are presented, speeches are made