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Monthly Archives: November 2013

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Kallum’s an interesting guy. Far younger than his relaxed and confident manner would have you believe. Already a serial entrepreneur at the age of 24, his real skill is as a connector; he possesses a natural ability to get people together and working well, which will see him go far, of that I’m absolutely certain. This skill is at the fore in his key role at the Acorn Enterprise Initiative, aimed at getting fledgling businesses through the “danger zone” ( most businesses fail at the 3 year stage ). He’s well known locally for the popular Dunfermline Talks Business networking events too, another example of his consummate skill in getting people talking, and working together. On top of that, he runs Audacious Marketing, where ( yet again ) he helps people improve their business. Kallum’s a busy man, it seems.

So with all this confidence, obviously bearing fruit, you’d think Kallum wouldn’t be bothered about a photo shoot. After all, first impressions really count, and online doubly so.

Well, no.

Barring a couple of sitters, almost every client I’ve had has viewed a portrait shoot like a trip to the dentist. Kallum was no different, the scrutiny of a professional eye proving an initially unnerving experience.

He’s in good company though, there are tales on the web of some pretty prominent people, crumbling in front of that unblinking lens. The photographer’s main skill during a shoot, if it is to be a successful one, is to allay those fears quickly, relax the sitter and bring that personality out for all to see. This is not a “one size fits all” skill either. We’re all different, and we all need different approaches.

This takes time, and sometimes, I’m afraid, that can mean the photographer has to be surprisingly blunt. Like telling you to stop smiling. Because it’s making you look daft. Nothing shows nerves like a forced smile. So please for the love of Mike, people… don’t do it.

Kallum had initially said, in our pre-shoot planning meeting that he wanted his cheeky nature to come through in the shots, and in some of the shots I think that comes through very obviously. But there are other, less obvious sides to him too, and I felt it was important to show those too. Once I got him to stop smiling nervously, and relax a little, that started to come through, and I believe that you can see, even in the more serious shots, that there’s a twinkle there. What it took though, was a blunt photographer, to tell him to stop feeling the need to smile. By the end, we were getting natural smiles, and having a lot of fun. I know of few people who could get there in the first few minutes. As I’ve said already, it takes time.

All in all, we had an hour to get the shots we needed. We also had minimal space to shoot in ( a small two desk office, which still had the desks in ). This is fast becoming a major skill of mine. I believe I got studio quality images out of a difficult space, in a tight time frame. I’m really happy with the results.

The biggest thrill though, was watching Kallum’s face as he looked though the images for the first time. A huge smile appeared, unbidden on his face. I should have had my camera ready…

You can view some of the final results here: http://pixelchristi.co.uk/134465/2076389/gallery/my-latest-portrait-shoot-kallum-russell-entrepreneur

 

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Last month I worked with a great company called Wild Packs, who are committed to getting kids from outside of the USA into US summer camps, to experience the profound benefits of the system. They’re pretty unique in that respect and by their very nature are full of fun and personality.

So it was exciting to be asked to come along to Crieff Hydro during a company retreat to do their portraits. It’s an important and oft underrated part of the business equation. In an increasingly impersonal online world, it’s vitally important to put forward your very human face.

That first impression really counts. You might be getting your business online, but whether it’s via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or your own website; people are still buying into you. So this stuff really matters, and as a photographer it’s an honour and a responsibility to be asked to help get it right.

The challenge with this kind of shoot is 3 fold: space available to shoot; time available to shoot and nervousness, pure and simple. Some people, understandably, get nervous in front of the camera, almost to “dentist” levels of fear.

In order to be ready for these challenges I make a point of having as much knowledge as I can. Knowing the people at the venue who can help, and knowing your options can make the difference between disaster and success on a shoot. Pre-shoot preparation, should be pretty invisible to the client, but if it’s not done, the job gets so much harder.

I’ve also worked hard at being flexible. I don’t need a studio, and you’d be surprised at the results I can get in some pretty small spaces. At the Hydro, I only had access to a small client liaison room, in order to do the shoot, yet the results, in my humble opinion are “studio” quality. In my opinion, studios are not necessary for most modern portraiture. As a client, you need not take excessive time out of your day to get business portraiture done. The photographer should come to you, I know I certainly can.

Also the photographer should be aware of how valuable your time is, and how much of it you’re willing or able to give. In this instance, I had a morning, to set up and do portraits for the whole company. As it turned out, due to preparing well and having a good system worked out, it took an hour. I was aware that the good folk at Wild Packs were keen to be back in the conference room, and wanted to miss as little as possible from the presentations they were actually there for.

As for nervousness. That’s simple. Be professional, respectful, and just plain nice. Sometimes, as with this shoot, photographers don’t have much time to get each sitter to relax. As a photographer, appearing nervous and stressed, or worse, standoffish, will make the job even harder. One of the common elements I always get in my feedback, is that I’m painless to work with and manage to put people at ease relatively quickly. This is a vastly underrated photography skill.

As an aside, for any other photographers reading this, I believe it’s essential that you put yourself in front of the lens on a regular basis. Only then can you understand your clients’ anxieties about standing in front of your camera. The “selfie” is a vital tool.

Organisation, flexibility and being human. These are the solutions to the key challenges in business and corporate portraiture.. It’s an extremely simple set of solutions, but it’s crazy how few bring them all together.

Hopefully, it shows. It was a great pleasure to work with the team at Wild Packs and especially Jamie, who was always huge fun and very approachable.

 

Creating a great first impression for your business is just one of my skills. If you want to find out more about what I do or contact me about my services you can find my contact details here.