I guess you could classify this post as a mini-rant, because that is how I feel whenever I see a "Meet the Staff/Team" web page and almost wretch at the images posted.
Granted, on rare occasions the images are acceptable and on even more rare occasions they are exceptional.
Here's my 10 tips for putting together a cohesive and professional set of staff/team headshots.
Why is monitor calibration important anyway?
Glad you asked.
The simple answer is that each sensor, each lens, each monitor, each printer etc. can render colours differently.
Your camera monitor may display jpg images with a colour values at one level, while the computer screen that you review it on may render them at a completely different level. Then when you go to print that beautiful flower image, the printer may reproduce the values different yet again.
Printing and the calibration of printers, is an entirely different conversation. So let's stick with the monitor at the moment.
When a monitor is properly calibrated, it is set up to display all the colours it is able to display. The screen is not too bright, so that the colours are washed out. Not too dark so that they lack richness and saturation. Zooming in to pixel level, the viewer can delineate between colours easily. Colours show their full potential. They show how the image was captured on the sensor (or film) and don't lack for anything. Accuracy is the name of the game.
If for example you were to photograph a person with the intention of sharing the image, or printing it, it is highly possible that an uncalibrated monitor would display the tones incorrectly. Skin could show up greenish, the bright blue sky could be dull and lifeless. Lacking of saturation and contrast where in reality it existed in abundance.
It also means that retouching time would probably be longer than necessary. Adding more stress to the retoucher (perhaps that is you). Calibration is an important aspect of an effective workflow that starts with the image capture.
How calibration is achieved can be a long discussion. There are tools that are designed specifically for the task. Prices very. The process is rather simple, but takes a little bit of time. No matter. It's absolutely worth it, and once it's done you only have to follow up every two weeks or so (in most cases).
Good quality monitors designed for the graphics and photography markets, will have highly detailed adjustability so that you can fine tune your monitor to suit your work environment and uses. A quality calibration tool will work with these adjustments in order to make sure your calibration is right on the money.
Some of the more high quality monitors available are from manufacturers such as: Eizo and NEC.
For calibration tools, look at those by X-Rite, Datacolor and others.
Calibrating your monitor is the start to a better workflow and better results. You WILL see the difference.
Taking a chance in your portrait work can be a daunting step, especially when you are just starting out in the photography world.
I know that when I was a beginner, I was intimidated by all those buttons and dials not to mention the fact that I had a living person waiting patiently for my to say "say cheese". Believe me, I felt the pressure.
I think that for a person to be a successful photographer, no matter how you define that, they must go beyond the technical aspects of making a portrait. A skilled photographer is so comfortable with the mechanics of making an image, that it is second nature. They are thinking more about the subject, lighting, positioning, and ultimate goal. All that camera "stuff" is assumed.
Case in point, let's look at this image. I shot this for a personal project on musical instrument makers. Richard here, makes Irish flutes. His business partner (who wasn't available) makes Irish drums, bodhrans. Beforehand, Richard talked about where he spends part of his time in the production process, his workshop that used to be a garage. He admitted that he has never had a car in here. It's always been a workspace for him.
He also pointed out that the graphic on the exterior is his adaptation of an old Irish fairytale creature, and that he uses it on all his branding material.
To get this image, I had to position two lights. One inside the shop and one outside a small window that he is facing. The exterior was lit by a cloudy sky.
Once I figured out the mechanical aspects of getting the lights to fire, (optically triggered), I just had to position him properly and wait for the sun to submerge a bit to pull it all together. I was no longer thinking about the camera and flashes once I had established that I was getting the response I wanted.
Before we entered the space, I had a half-hour chat with Richard about his process and his history. Having this time to become familiar with each other, made the shooting part all the more comfortable. He relaxed and played, I snapped away. I made him a framed 18x22 print that he graciously accepted and loves.
The point is to go beyond the technical before you can truly be a creative photographer. You will be more successful when you think more about the subject and what you are attempting to express. This all comes with practice and with continued observation of the world around you.
I highly advocate the study of art in all forms. Painting, dance, figure studies, sculpture and other forms of creativity and expression. Get your butt down to the local galleries, museums, book shoppes. Whatever it takes. When you find arts that inspire you in any way, ask yourself why they get your creative juices going. Keep a record of some sort and draw from that record in your portrait work. It will serve you well.
Please take a few minutes to come enjoy some wonderful artwork now on display at Beard Free Brewing on The Parkway in Peterborough. I have a number of fine art prints on show and available for purchase.
Along with my work there are pieces by local painters on the walls as well. All work is available for purchase at very reasonable prices.
When you stop by, I encourage you to help support local business by trying some of the delicious local brews made right there at Beard Free.
Owners Marie and John along with brewer Jenn will be only too pleased to talk about the product they produce should you ask. You can also bring a meal and relax at the brewery in their eating area if you wish. People have been known to stop in a lunch time with their meals and enjoy a cold drink
My work will be up for about a month. The prints on show are 12x18 inches and are available for just $30 each. Additional prints are available for $55 and $90 respectively as the sizes increase to 16x24 and 20x30 inches. Each image will be ready for your framing. See an image you would like? Tell the folks at the counter and they will start your order. Thanks.
In photography, and I'm sure in other art forms, there are times when the artist has for lack of a better term, down time. The photographer might be between assignments, or the painter might be taking a break from a major project. Whatever it is, it's a time when the artist has the opportunity to go and sit and contemplate their next move, or if they/we are smart about it, will delve into a work that generates results that are completely unknown to them thus far.
This sort of mini-project is what I indulge in now and then, as a way to explore techniques I've until this point not had experience with. Maybe, I had seen samples of this technique or subject matter being presented in a book, magazine, gallery show etc. Perhaps it's a technique that hasn't been popular for over 100 years and is being explored by a niche group overseas.
The important part is that I need to take the time to bring these new subject matter and new techniques to the forefront of my experience every now and then in order to freshen up my creativity. To add some visual spice to my repertoire.
The image above was shot in a wooded area in town, along a slow moving creek. I like the simplicity of the overall composition, but I revel in the details of the fern leaves. While it is commonplace to see a photograph of a fern, all lush and green, it is completely unique to see a plant in this colour. The experiment part, came with the post processing.
I wanted to show the plant in a new way. A way that takes your attention away from the colour and brings forth the texture and shapes. I've also made similar images of ferns, but with a treatment of copper colour. Very much like a shiny new penny. Those proved popular enough to generate a few sales through online channels.
Experimenting, for me, means that I have no limits. I can go out into the world and do whatever strikes me as interesting and worthy of my attention.
I encourage every creative to go out and do something that is completely outside of the norm for you. Work with subjects that you don't normally work with. Find a project that will generate new and exciting work for you. Don't listen to your inner critic. Listen to your inner child. Sometimes the kids are spot on.
Showing my art work in public is kind of rare for me. I believe that I've been part of perhaps 3 shows previous to this month.
This is the first show where I have a significant amount of my work on display. 10 pieces to be exact. This is 1/3 of the entire collection of prints that I put together for the Peterborough Artists Portrait Project.
I had the opportunity to show these and grabbed it. Steve is part owner of Beard Free Brewing in Peterborough. It's an upstart brewery that is gaining popularity at a lighting-fast pace, mostly through the spread of social media.
I approached Steve as part of my interest in building a base of images showing brewers doing their thing. Making images that are distinctly my own is essential for being able to approach new markets as well as a way for me to try out some new tools of expression.
I talked to 4 breweries, all within a couple hours drive of Peterborough. My first contact was with the marketing director of The Publican House. A few emails later, and I was invited to spend time in the brewery. I had a good time. Learned a lot and made a handful of images, a few that will end up in my promo material.
Being able to show my work is a stepping stone that until now has been at arms length. Thank you to Steve of Beard Free Brewing for giving me this opportunity. I look forward to shooting in your workspace soon.
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.
Photo-Artist working a personal vision.
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