Branding your business involves so many things. Your website design and all the content within, how you address the public or other businesses. The colours you choose for your marketing material, your interaction with community, who you choose to sponsor for fundraising efforts and so much more.
Part of that is the photography you use for your marketing. We see thousands of images of all sorts each and every day. Some of which are business related, including those on television, the internet, brochures, newspaper etc. The reason that these images exist is to inform people. We learn from these images. We absorb information and quickly process this information as something useful to us or not. These images cause us to form an opinion and impression of the subject within.
As a potential client takes the time to search websites for information on a product of interest, they are scanning potentially hundreds of images. Even before they see the product they find the most interesting. They are aware of your company's branding. They get a feel for the character of your employees, your managers, your technicians as they peruse the "Meet our Staff" page of your site.
What impression do those photos produce? How is this impression impacting them subconsciously as they decide wether or not they like your business? Are there other factors that mould the general impression of your business?
One way to get a better idea is to launch a blind poll.
I recently did a study to get an idea of what people are really thinking about those staff photos.
I posted 4 images on the site www.photofeeler.com. It provides unbiased feedback from the general public worldwide. People can rate the image in 3 categories: competency, likability, and influence. They can also leave comments with more personal, descriptive feedback.
The results are amazing. It reveals what people truly think. Comments and ratings are completely anonymous, so there's no holding back.
The first two images below are images that I shot personally for business people to use for self promotion. The last two were pulled from publicly available websites. Check out those numbers.
These are actual numbers from random visitors to the site. The average number of votes is 67 per photograph.
Notice that the lower two images have significantly lower numbers than the top two. The gentleman who isn't even looking at the camera received very low numbers. He's not connecting with the customers. It shows 1)that he doesn't really care and 2)that the "photographer" doesn't care, and 3)that the business doesn't care either giving that they posted such a terrible representation of their business.
Below that, the image with the worst numbers show a poorly composed, unlit photo in front of a distracting graphic. We can't see the person's eyes, and even though he is a technician, he is wearing a dirty work shirt. Further pulling down the image of this business.
What are these numbers telling us? Well, they are telling us that the manner in which these people are photographed plays a big part in the public's opinion. It also gives us an idea of where the businesses branding efforts are failing.
Can you afford to let your branding slip in this day of fierce competition? Every time you speak to the public (or other businesses), send out a mailer, email a prospect etc. your brand is exposed and either reinforced or degraded.
Do you want to have numbers near the 90's or the 10's? Do you want to build your brand or knock it down?
Here's your call to action. Take a close look at your "Meet the Staff" page and decide if your images are supporting your brand or knocking it down. Do you want staff/team photos like the top two or the bottom two? It's time to get the response you want by using images that support instead of degrade your brand.
Mike Taylor Photo Arts
This is an exercise that will explore the importance of hiring a photographer who's sole job is to make you and your business look great.
Here is an image of a man. Take a quick look at the image and then blurt out where you think the man is while the photo is being made.
The internet is a wonderful thing, mostly. Private individuals and businesses are using it to connect on a global scale. People use the internet to do amazing things and also to get mundane tasks completed, like shopping and researching products they are interested in.
For the past month or so, I've been researching the various businesses in order to find potential prospects for my photography services. Small and medium sized businesses primarily.
Here's what I've found out.
People are lazy. Yes, even business managers and owners. They feel like they are obligated to put up a website because that is the "normal" thing to do. Sure, they hire a site developer or maybe a design firm to get it done. But that's where things usually leave their scope of interest. I get it, they've got daily tasks to attend to.
But, in doing so, they are forgetting to pay attention to the fine details. The details such as branding.
They forget that the first impression, and one that is more and more being formed within a few seconds of seeing a company website, can make or break the flow of a client once they've entered the sales funnel.
Think about this, if you were to post a personal headshot on the internet, in the hopes of securing a job, a date or whatever is your interest, you would probably post the best image of you that you could get together. Right? (I sincerely hope you would). Well, then why would you waste your web page by posting sub-standard images of your business in the internet?
Did you pay for your website? Are you expecting people to feel confident in your abilities based on the horrible images of your staff? Studies have proven time and again, that a viewer forms an opinion of a person in a photograph within 3 seconds of seeing it. Wouldn't you want to assure that that impression is a positive one?
Let's get back to the photo of the man above.
What was your first thought? Was it a jailhouse lineup?
(that was mine)
Well, you are incorrect. I won't reveal who he is or where he works, but this is a staff photo.
I know that he and his employer deserve much better.
When you take a close look at your staff photos, be sure that they leave a positive impression with the viewer. Your business is one step closer to closing a sale by telling visitors to your site that this is a good place to be. A good place run by welcoming, professional people. Don't take the chance of ruining all the effort you put into your business every day by posting unprofessional images.
Whenever I complete a job for a client, or even for myself, I sit down and make a brief statement of what I learned before, during and after the shoot.
The latest job, for Holiday Ford in Peterborough, was no different. After the shoot I unpacked all my equipment, re-charged all the batteries and made my list of things that I learned.
I like to complete this process as soon as I am done and before I get into the editing process. In fact the editing or retouching is usually set aside for at least a night. I feel that I often perform better after a good night' sleep. This results in better images and happier clients.
So, what did I learn?
In this case I learned that I need to invest in a more powerful flash system to deal with the bright sunshine. Shooting groups of people where the light needs to spread over a wide group, requires either a multitude of small flashes or, 2 to 3 large lights with either portable battery packs or built in power supplies. Either way, I am looking at what could be a substantial financial investment. (the key here is "investment")
I also learned that I need to have access to a skilled assistant or two. (Thank you Ernie for being available and for providing your invaluable assistance.) Why did I choose Ernie? The main reason is that as a photographer with years of experience, he was able to anticipate what I needed, and offered valuable input. This is important in being able to get the job done on time with a minimum of hiccups. (and yes, we did have a hiccup) Hiring an assistant can be problematic in smaller communities compared to larger metropolitan areas. There just aren't that many around. In this case, I utilized the Facebook Groups which are made up of local photography enthusiasts, pros and semi-professionals. I posted a request for an assistant, and Ernie was one of 3 people who raised their hand.
I learned that generally being pleasant with the portrait subjects is very important. They are nervous and probably uncomfortable having a lens aimed at them, even if just for 2 to 5 minutes. It's intimidating to say the least. Engaging in brief conversation and getting them to communicate makes them relax and even enjoy the experience.
There are a couple of additional points that were in my post-shoot notes, but you probably get the idea of what sort of thing I make note of after my shoots.
I would advise every photographer to do a similar review after every shoot. I know that when I do it, I certainly gain insight into how I can improve moving forward. It takes just a few minutes and you can only benefit from doing it. Shoot, reflect, improve. It's a valuable process and an inexpensive investment in your business.
Focus or sharpness in a photograph, in my opinion is a relative and totally personal choice. When you look at the work of a famous or even not-so-famous photographer, do you ever complain that the subject of the photo is out of focus and then dismiss the work as being sub-par?
By what standard can you declare an image to be in focus anyway? Is it the sharpness of the pupils in a person's eyes? What if the person is jumping and the whole point of the image is to illustrate the action? I would think that having the person blurred would be required in order to get that across to the viewer.
What if there are more than one major point of interest, with one moving and the other static? Who decides what should be sharp and by what degree?
I heard a photographer say the other day (on a video) about a triangle of photography. On one point is the sitter or subject, the other points are the photographer and the viewer respectively. Each of these are key to the success of a photograph. A change in any of these key points means a radical change in the image.
I would like to think that if 3 different photographers were given the task of photographing the same subject they each would produce a distinctly different image. Each image would therefore impact a potential viewer in a different way. Using sharpness or lack of it, could play a key role in this process.
As of late I've been considering the use of movement, and the lack of sharpness in my portraits. What I like about this opportunity is that it affords me the ability to show, or at least interpret my idea of energy and life. I can attempt to express a feeling of life by using motion. Living creatures (humans included) are not static. By using motion the sense of life/spirit is caught in a non-precise manner and presented to the viewer.
One or more exposures at the camera may be a long-winded approach to this expression, but at this time at least for me it is a necessary one. At other times, simply moving the camera lens during a long exposure produces the desired result. I never know exactly how to go about it until I'm fully involved. That's the fun part. I might plan the project completely, but until I actually get the camera in my hand and the subject in front of me nothing is set in stone. All of it could change in an instant. This is the joy of creating an image that is driven by creative energy, the light (and shadow) and of course the response of the subject and all that effect it in regards to the viewer.
I think that I will continue to work on images that express my feeling of energy far into the future. There is no reason for me to alter my intent. I suppose it could be the basis for a long-term personal project. Now there's an interesting thought.
Till next time.
I can't imagine photographing a person for a portrait and not taking a moment, no matter how brief, to make sure that they are looking their absolute best.
One of the best tools for a photographer to have on hand is this little beauty. Perhaps you've never seen one, but I would highly suggest that you as a subject of a photograph, and if you are indeed a photographer grab one. It is a lint roller, or lint brush.
These little gems are a quick solution to hours of post-processing work and cost less than $6. I purchased this one at Staples for $4.99. I couldn't imagine spending all the time to set up a shoot and forget to be sure that every effort had been taken to make sure my sitter appears their best. Especially if a stylist is not available. In many cases for me, the photographer is also the stylist.
Another nifty tool is a makeup pad to quickly remove shine from the face, as it absorbs perspiration. Again, this speeds up the post-processing which saves time and can save the client dollars better spent elsewhere.
What little tips can you offer fellow photographers to help their workflow, as they have helped yours? Leave a comment below.
Have you every had the feeling that you've been working away at the wrong thing for longer than you'd care to remember?
Earlier this year, I was getting that feeling. Mostly because I was feeling like I was doing work that was what people expected me to do. I was doing work to satisfy the visual needs of people who didn't share my vision. They simply wanted images that helped them achieve their goals, Fulfill their agenda.
My images are/were starting to looking like those by hundreds of other photographer. The only difference is that I got the job.
So, I've taken upon myself to make a change. A pretty drastic one.
I've decided to step away from what is expected of me, and work towards creating a body of work that speaks to my own creative vision (thank you Joel Grimes). This is why as of today you won't see any portraits on my website. Not until I revamp my portfolio.
I've set a goal to do at least one cool new portrait each week, more if I can. These portraits will be strong with my creative vision. They will show technical skill, excitement, energy, spirit. Life-not-still-life will be my new motto. This is how you will identify a portrait that I create.
Portraits that show people as more than statues with smiles. People rarely sit still and smile. We are more than just a bag of skin covered meat. We are spiritual creatures on a physical journey. We are energy. It is my job to express that thought and make the viewer feel that energy.
I'm truly looking forward to this new chapter in my photographic experience. Watch for the new portfolio coming in the next few months. Life-not-still-life.
Almost every day I find a new bit of information put out into the world by a successful business person and/or photographer.
I thought I would start sharing some of that with you fine visitors to this here blog.
Chase Jarvis is a multi-talented photographer, entrepreneur based in Seattle WA who has built a very successful business with the philosophy of sharing information so that all involved can benefit. One of his most common sentiments: "a rising tide floats all boats". I agree.
Here is a link to one of his videos that I think will benefit a wide audience: https://youtu.be/ccXxU5J1T3w
Enjoy and please share with your crowd.
Imagine for a moment that you are a photographer who only photographs mechanic gadgets for a manufacturers catalogues. Day in and day out. That's what you do.
You get pretty good at it over the years. You are quick and efficient. The boss loves you and you earn a decent dollar for your efforts.
A number of years go by and you continue shooting the exact same images, over and over. This is a factory mentality where by you are the machine churning out copy after copy of highly repeatable product for a receptive hierarchy of managers and business executives. They know what your work looks like, but they probably have no clue what your name is.
If you were in such a position would you not have the desire to expand your experience beyond that of the factory floor? To get out into the world and stretch your creative body, test your limits, grow and expand? What's holding you back?
This is the driving force behind my two personal projects currently on the go. I started one a couple of years ago and have since put it on hold. It involves me visiting the workshops of Ontario based musical instrument makers. These people have some serious skills. Most of them are full-time builders of instruments. A few are working a full-time job while making instruments on the side. I hold these men and women in high regard. They've each welcomed me into their homes and shops for 40 to 120 minutes while I pick the best angle, fiddle with lights and make them look amazing to the viewer.
The other project is ongoing and coming to a local gallery this summer. This one involves the photographing of artists local to Peterborough city and county. The plan was to do 40 portraits. About half way through, people started emailing me to see about being included. Hey, that's pretty cool. How could I say no? Meeting these artists was a big step for me. I'm not really one to put up my hand and offer my thoughts in public. I guess it's my introverted nature. But I'm growing through that in tiny increments.
These projects have driven me to expand beyond my own fears and hesitations. I've learned more about myself in the process of working these projects that at any other time in my adult life. Each project is a challenge to organize, schedule and execute. They both have developed further than my original mock-ups. Each project has produced a few gems that I'm very happy with. I've increased my skill and built on my personal style of shooting. I've refined my approach to doing portraits, especially since each was done in and entirely new space. Sometimes 3 in a day.
It's giving me the incentive to go in a direction that I would have been hesitant to look at just 10 years ago. When the show goes live in July/August, I will get even more impactful feedback that I hope will guide me in my creative direction. This feedback from the public, I will probably take with a grain of salt. I don't expect anything revolutionary, unless I am eavesdropping. Getting an honest opinion might be difficulty I will have to find a workaround for.
My point is that you need to get involved in personal projects as a way to keep your wits and expand your creative abilities. It doesn't have to be a huge one or an expensive venture. All you have to do is start.
Every photographer should have a backup of all their files. Images, book keeping, contracts and agreements etc.
Yesterday I picked up this little unit from LaCie (pronunced la - see)that I plan to use a s my backup while shooting tethered to my laptop computer. Even though I keep duplicates of each image on my laptop' hard drive, I can't hep feeling that I need to safeguard against a catastrophic event that might take down my laptop hard drive at the worst possible moment.
Imagine having spent days planning, hours shooting and just before you pull up your files for editing, the hard drive bails. It won't spin up, or the whole things just starts to smoke. With an external back up scheme, your chances of getting the job done increases exponentially. I will probably get another in order to have multiple copies stored in different physical locations in the future, but this is a good start. I'm waiting until I upgrade my laptop before I settle on an additional external as the input ports have changed over time.
Ask me how much I would recommend you to have backups for all your necessary files and client projects. I'll tell you that crap happens, and you simply don't know when that might occur. Case in point, I have replaced 2 hard drives from my desktop computer. I did not back up all the files, unfortunately and lost many important files. I have since learned my lesson, and you should too.
This hard drive cost me just over $160 with taxes and will potentially save me thousands should a big problem occur that takes out my laptop drive. (or the entire unit gets stolen) I know with all certainty that it is a worthy investment. No hesitation. For a more robust backup solution, take a look on YouTube for a video by pro photographer, Chase Jarvis as he outlines the lengths he and his crew go to in the name of insuring the safety of their work >>> https://youtu.be/Y-6EQo6it7Y
Down on my belly in the muck, broken twigs, bugs and general forest waste. That's simply what it takes at times, to get the angle and the image.
There are times when my work takes me out of the comfort (?) of my work room and into the not-so-clean-and-tidy real world. Such as was the case lately, when I shot a series of images for local sporting goods retailer, Fontaine Source for Sports.
We headed out to the Harold Town Conservation Area for a few hours of mountain bike excitement. All in the effort to create awe inspiring images that demonstrate the product and show what fun and joy you can have when fully engaged.
This visit, the second of two, was a bit more enjoyable than the first, as we didn't have the flying, biting insects to contend with. And, I was lucky enough to return with all the equipment I arrived with. Always a bonus.
While I wasn't cycling, I did have to deal with a couple arms-full of photo gear while trudging along the same trails as the guys riding. No, I didn't take a nose dive down a hill or trip over one of the myriad branches, boulders, tree roots etc. I did, however have the pleasure of watching others do it. (Sorry, no photos) I believe that there were 3 minor crashes, during the second trip to the trails. No blood or broken bones, but a bit of concern for expensive bikes.
To grab the sensation for the viewer, I felt the need to incorporate a flash or two. Tall trees and low sun angle, meant for a pretty dark scene. The flash clamped to a tree branch in these photos, for example, meant that the riders (Ben Logan above and his friend, Cody) were crisply illuminated against the dark trees. No modifier. Just a 1/8 CTO gel on the flash head for a touch of warmth. The dark trees tend to cool the light, so the CTO is warranted.
All the images were inspected for blunders and very basically edited in Adobe Camera Raw, and that's about it for adjustments. The gems were delivered to Ben at the store where he transferred them to a USB drive. Now the images are proudly displayed on the wall-mounted TV screen for all the visitors to enjoy.
Now honestly, how could I just sit at an office all day when I can have this kind of fun? Sometimes getting dirty is what it takes, and it's way more fun.
Photo-Artist working a personal vision.