Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Corner cutting on branding is detrimental to your business

I had a new follower on Twitter today. A business consultant wishes to exchange information.  They give me advice on how to run a successful business and in exchange, I give them credit or debit card details.

So here is my piece of free business advice for all of you out there in www land who wish to sell your services to me.

If like me, your requirements in the early days of your business are a template site, then yes, that is acceptable providing the content is original.

However, if you wish to offer me professional services, the first thing I will do is check you out. And as a photographer, your images are the first thing I will look at.

Now this particular site has several images of happy workers, busy professionals shuffling paper with immaculate smiles, I am sure you get my drift.

A quick reverse image search discovers that the images crop up in over 183 places.

These people get around, they are media consultants in America, they work out of several Russian based locations, a UK medical practice, sales leads sellers, qualification sales advisors, rent apartments in Liverpool, use the credit union, do something with anti virus protection, have a job site in the Netherlands… oh and they are also featured on Flickr and a micro stock web site, to name but a few.

I cannot take a company seriously who wishes to sell me, a photographer, business advice, when they have so little care on the creation of their own business brand.

My free advice J

Hire a photographer (ahemm cough cough) and get some real photos done. Lets see the real ‘you’ and your team, not some fake models from America whose image has been used on countless web sites. Honestly, would you not be a little peeved if you were running a web site promoting vegetarianism, only to find that the local kebab shop is using the same images?

Be unique – sell yourself effectively.

Monday, 13 June 2011

I am rapidly approaching the half way mark for my 365 project. For those unfamiliar, one picture every day, the underlying idea is to improve your photography. I am not so sure this is the way to do it. Looking back on the last six months,  I am happy with a lot of the images, disappointed with some, and downright embarrased with a few. Amazingly, the ones where I have been up against the wall due to other commitments and have 'made something up', are the ones that others have appreciated the most! 

What it has done though, is give me a day-by-day photographic diary for the year. I can look at an individual image and remember what I was doing vividly.

Another thing, what is a plain boring image today, may be something special in a few years time. It was a snapshot, not very exciting, of the car park and shop front for the local Focus DIY store that is closing down. Will the building be demolished? Will it be refurbished? Whatever happens it will never be the same. In  a few years time this image may end up being more than a snapshot to someone. If I were not on this personal 365 project, I would not have considered taking this picture, let alone posting it.

So at the half way mark, has it improved my photography? Not at the moment.

At the end of the year, providing I complete the project, I will look back again and see if my feelings have altered.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Training with Lencarta and Jonathan Ryan

Last Sunday saw a drive up to Maidstone for the day to take part in training arranged by Lencarta. For those of you who are not familiar with the name, they are the supplier of both mains and battery powered studio lighting equipment. They also have a vast array of light modifiers and accessories at very competitive prices.
Lencarta arrange training days throughout the year for those interested in  having some hands on experience with the equipment. 

On arrival we were greeted by Jonathan Ryan. Based in Canterbury, he is a highly proficient photographer who has created some stunning work.  I recommend you check out his blog and Flickr Stream.

We had just enough time to grab a coffee, before the fire alarm went off.  Imagine ten photographers standing outside with several thousand pounds worth of camera gear half hoping that it is not a false alarm, and wondering who is going to get their images to the press first. 

False alarm over, and back to the course. The morning begins with a general discussion, and some images on the big screen describing various aspects of photography and lighting. We then move on to studio lighting  101, describing the type of stands, heads, modifiers and basic controls.

It was about now that our model for the day, Claire and our make up artist, Holly, turned up.  After introductions, Claire was seated against a white background to demonstrate what Jonathan called 'beige lighting'  Using a single light with a softbox he demonstrated how the angle of lighting will affect the subject and the background.

We then moved on to the use of beauty dishes, and background illumination  and were given the opportunity to try out the lighting set up for ourselves briefly.

After lunch, we were split into three groups of three and given a specific assignment. My group had the task of shooting Claire for a commercial 'businesswoman of the year' image. We were given twenty minutes to set up and shoot from scratch. Following groups were given black back ground and hi key background scenarios, again against the clock.

Jonathans style of teaching was never dull, all of us were humiliated, and had the mickey taken out of us, but it was  all very much tongue in cheek (well I hope it was) and was all part of the fun of the day.

A wind up chat and packing away the kit ended the day off at about 5.30.

In conclusion, was it worth it?  Yes, but not in the way I thought it would be. I already own a couple of Lencarta strobes and various light modifiers so I was fairly conversant with the practicalities of the lights. What it did do for me, was to allow me to try out some of the items I had considered purchasing, and now will. Plus it  gave me other areas and ideas that I had not considered before. I also came away with far more information talking to both Jonathan, Claire and Holly about the business aspects and the logistics of arranging shoots.  The afternoons assignments against the clock only proved one thing - that if you have three photographers working as a team with 18 minutes to set it all up, the chances are you will fail. The only thing I learnt from that... I want to be in charge if it were the real world!

Training is important to us all, regardless of our skill level.  Meeting like-minded people, swapping ideas helps us to grow, so I would thoroughly recommend any training, and the Lencarta day was great fun and great value for money.
At the time of writing, Lencarta seem to be having significant issues with their web site. It seems to be an ongoing problem.