Monday, 24 December 2012

Merry Christmas!!!

I'd just like to wish all of my clients new and old a massive Merry Christmas! And another Merry Christmas to those of you who aren't customers. You're all very welcome!

Thanks for reading my drivel over the last couple of years. I hope 2013 is as successful for you as you hope it will be!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Another Fab Wedding!

Here's a few album pages from another beautiful wedding from earlier this year. A little reminder of how nice the British summer can be.

Congratulations to Claire and David!

Monday, 3 December 2012

Taking Better Photos - Part 3

This is the last part of my mini tutorial. And it's the least obvious and intuitive tip.

Use the Flash in Bright Sunlight
What??? Why would I do that? The sun provides all the light I need! Well yes. But not always from the right angle. The camera exposes a photo for the average brightness in the shot. It's not as good as our eyes at seeing bright and dark at the same time. So you have to help it out a bit.

2 situations to look at are a good background with a dark foreground and a good foreground with a bright background.

In the first photo below, the camera has exposed for the sky, but Liam in the foreground is in shadow. Turning on the flash won't affect the sky, but will brighten the subject making him stand out much better.

In the first photo below, Luca is fairly well exposed, but the sky is over exposed and bleached out. Turning on the flash allows the camera to expose for the sky and the flash lights the foreground. And bam! Fab shot!

So that's my 3 top tips for taking better photos. Whether you're out walking the dog or on a sunny beach somewhere, try to apply 1 or all of these to your shots and see the difference it makes!

Monday, 19 November 2012

Taking Better Photos - Part 2

So we've looked at the Rule of Thirds. Now it's time to add a bit of a dynamic edge to your photos. A good photo will tell a story, but it will also take the viewer on a journey...

Lead In Lines
These are a great way to lead the viewer's eye around the picture. Look for diagonal lines that will lead you to the main subject in the photo. Take a bit of time to walk around and move your shooting point to make the most of things like stairs, railings, footpaths and tree lines.

It adds a bit of movement to the shot and makes it a bit more interesting. And if you can combine this with the Rule of Thirds, even better!

Get out there and give it a try!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Taking Better Photos - Part 1

People often say to me that they'd like to be able to take better photos. Well, it's really not that hard! It takes years of experience to be a good professional photographer, but there are a few tips and tricks you can use to improve your photography, whether you're an enthusiastic hobbyist or just want better holiday snaps!

You don't need a big expensive camera. A phone is usually perfectly adequate! I won't talk about exposure or shutter speed here as most cameras will deal with all that for you. Have a go at these tips and see how your photography improves. This is part 1 of 3. Keep an eye out for the rest...

Rule of Thirds
Composition is a very important part of making a good photo. Think about where you want your subject to be positioned within the frame. Should it be in the middle? At the top? Where do you put the horizon???

A simple rule is the rule of thirds. Imagine the photo split into thirds horizontally and vertically. Something like this.

Try to place straight lines in the picture on one of the imaginary third lines. That's things like horizons, trees and towers.  Moving them off centre slightly adds a bit of interest to the picture and avoids it being split down the middle making 2 halves of a picture.

For an extra bit of interest, try to put interesting objects on one of the intersection lines as well. That's things like faces, rocks and anything else you want people to notice!

Give it a go next time you get your camera out and see the difference!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Fantastic Wedding!

It occurred to me that I've never put up any photos from a wedding. Every once in a while a wedding really sticks out in my mind as being really good. From the bride's preparations in the morning, the group shots, the weather to the speeches and all the bits in between everything goes smoothly and it's a really happy occasion.

I won't write much more as I think the photos speak for themselves. Congratulations to Sami and Martin!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Coping with Competition

Every industry has competition and every industry has its competitors. It seems (to me at least) that photographers have more competition than most! I've mentioned in a previous post that photography is an easy business to get started in and it seems that anyone with a posh camera can call themselves a photographer! The local newspaper keeps printing stories about new photography businesses in the area...

But just because someone is in the same industry it doesn't necessarily mean they're competition. Yes, we're all looking for people to sell photos to, but are we all looking for the same people? I don't think so.

Photography customers all have different criteria when choosing a photographer. Particularly regarding wedding photography. Some people are on a budget and will book the cheapest photographer they can find (not something I recommend!). Some people like the kudos of booking the area's most expensive photographer. Others will book the best photographer they can afford (a much more sensible approach...). No one photographer can appeal to all markets so we have to pick one to work in.

There are literally dozens of 'professional' photographers in Grimsby and Cleethorpes, but I really only count 5 or 6 of them as genuine competition. We're all full time and fully insured. We all put a lot of time and effort into marketing ourselves. We all offer good customer service and excellent attention to detail. And we all supply the best products from the best suppliers. We don't appeal the the 'cheap is best' market, but none of us is the most expensive in the area either.

But even that competition isn't really a problem. There are about 150,000 people living in and around Grimsby and Cleethorpes so there's plenty to go around! There are tons of weddings in North East Lincolnshire every single weekend, so again there's plenty to go around without us all stepping on each other's toes.

And don't forget, photography is very subjective. We all have our own particular and distinctive style which some people won't like. It took a while to get my head around it, but I genuinely don't mind any more if someone books a different photographer over me.

Having said that, I still like it when I win a customer ahead of my competition!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Photoshop - How Much is Too Much?

Photoshop (or any number of other editing packages) is an essential tool for all photographers. There are many film purists who believe it's cheating, but it's really just a different development process. In the olden days you had your film and paper and dunked it in a series of chemicals. It's a skilled process and takes time and practice to get it right. You could also add variation to the chemicals, time and light modifiers to give special effects.

Today, with digital, it's exactly the same. You just do it on a computer! But you can take it further than you could with film. Exposure and white balance adjustments are easy and done all the time to correct a poor original, or just to enhance an already good picture. There is an argument that says it makes photographers lazy. "It's OK. I'll fix it in Photoshop!"  Well, yes. But if you take a lot of photos that need fixing you quickly learn to spend 5 minutes getting it right in-camera to avoid hours of staring at a computer screen... And don't forget, every edit you do in Photoshop degrades the original slightly.

I use Photoshop (or more often Lightroom) on all of my pictures. I'll improve the crop and boost the contrast and colour vibrancy. Occasionally I may need to get rid of a bit of red eye or brighten up a flash photo indoors. For studio photos I'll generally add a bit of punch and remove the background or clean up a dirty floor. I can also remove spots if you want me to.

Which brings me to my point. How much is too much? There are some excellent examples here of celebrity photos that have had 'work' done. But where is the line? My personal view is that I will get rid of anything that isn't permanent or that the camera has exaggerated. By this I mean I will remove spots, bruises, rashes, cuts and scrapes. I'll also remove baby dribble where I can. I can clean up fluff from clothes and even swap faces from one picture to another so everyone is smiling at once. I'll also remove ugly fire exit signs from the background in wedding photos. And I can reduce wrinkles and lines that look worse under the studio light.

What I won't do is give you longer legs or bigger boobs. I won't take 2 stone off you either! There's plenty of discussion about the damaging effects of Photoshopped celebrities to young girls (and boys) which I won't go into. But to me the issue is more fundamental. A photo is a memory captured forever. If the photo doesn't reflect the way you actually looked at that time, it's not really a memory, it's a fantasy. There is a place for fantasy, but that's not really my business. My job is to make you look your best. But importantly you are still you!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Why Use a Studio?

In the current climate, photography is a very popular profession for people going self employed, whether following redundancy or just to supplement an existing income. It's (relatively) inexpensive to set up and you don't need any special qualifications or really any experience to get started. (OK, you'd be daft just to start up without a bit of ability, but you'd be surprised the number of people who do...)

The easiest way to get started is to go mobile. Whether it's in the home or on location, by far the highest number of 'professional' photographers don't use a studio. It has its obvious financial advantages to the photographer, but there are also advantages to the customer as well - no need to pack the kids up in the car, no need to find parking, no need to leave the house at all! Location shoots are good to put the shots into context and can help people relax. Kids are often more comfortable in the park than in a studio, for example...

But I still have a big soft spot for studio work. But why? Well, for one thing it's a bit of an event coming into the studio. It's nice to make an outing of it. It's as much about the experience as it is the photos. My studio (and many others) is set up to make individuals, couples and families comfortable and relaxed. When you walk in it has the 'wow' factor! It's not just a photo shoot, it's a Photo Experience!

From a technical point of view, there's a lot more flexibility in the photos I can take in the studio. There are no space concerns that you can have in a living room, so I can fit a lot of people into one shot, I can get in close or back away to give different perspectives. I also have everything I need in one handy place. If I want to take some contrasty black and white pictures I have the kit to do it. That's not so easy in your home...

I have a whole load of props to use to add a bit more interest to your shots that I can't transport, such as chairs and two chaise longues!

I also have the space for you to come and view the pictures on a big screen. I don't need to invade your house for a second time and we don't all need to crowd around a laptop screen to see your shots!

As always it's down to personal choice, but please do think carefully before investing in your memories!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Just Do It!

Since setting up on my own I've learned a lot of things about business and even more things about the mind set behind running a business. I won't bore you with stuff like tax, accounting and insurance, but I thought I'd share a few things I've picked up about getting your head in the right place. This has all come from my own experiences as well as advice from eFactor and people I've met at networking groups.

Just Do It!
The first thing I learned a long time ago is to go for it. If you have an idea the only thing stopping it working is you! OK, some ideas are daft, but do a bit of research to see if it's viable and do it. There's a massive temptation to make sure everything is perfect before you launch a new business or idea. If you wait until every last detail is ironed out you will never do anything!

No-one likes failure, but how do you know if something will work or not unless you give it a go? The most important thing here is not to avoid trying something for fear of failure. It's very tempting not to give it 100% so you can say later that you didn't really put in the effort which is why it didn't work... It's a horrible feeling to think you gave it your all and it still didn't work, but suck it up, and get on with it!

Have a Plan
Having said that, it's important to have a plan! Do the research and work out what you're going to do before just flying at it hell for leather (whatever that means...).

Don't Make Excuses
If it goes wrong there is always a reason. But it's surprising how many times it's down to you. Whether it's lack of effort, lack of commitment or bad planning you can often track a failure back to your own actions. Put in the effort, give 100% commitment and do the groundwork and you can avoid or at least mitigate 99% of any problems that come your way.

Get Back Up Again
Just like Chumbawumba said...! You will experience problems and you will get knocked down, but don't let it become an issue. If it all goes tits up, dust yourself off and put it right. More importantly, know why it went wrong and learn from it. Everyone makes mistakes, but there's no excuse for making the same mistake over and over.

Take Advice
Listen to what everyone tells you. But be warned, EVERYONE you speak to will have a 'good idea'. And some of them will be contradictory. Listen to them all but use your own judgement to decide which ones to act on. Agencies like eFactor have a whole host of business experts with a variety of specialisms. Find the one that knows your industry the best. Networking groups like 4Networking have thousands of members who have all been through what you're going through, so speak to as many people as possible.

Don't Wait for it to Come to You
Because it won't! Brilliant, you have a website. Well done, your business cards look lovely and your roller banners are stunning! Has anyone seen them? Market yourself to your target market. Get those leaflets through doors, promote your website, get adverts in papers, join a networking group, get on Twitter and Facebook, attend shows and fairs, pick up the phone, go door to door, whatever. Just get yourself out there! People won't order anything from you if they don't know you exist! It might take a bit of time but stick at it.

And Finally... Smile!!!
Keep positive! If you experience a problem go at with the mindset of "how can I solve this?" rather than "oh no, this is a massive problem..." It's amazing how much easier things are with a positive outlook on life!

I'm no expert but these are a few things I've found useful and I hope you do too. For more stuff like this (only much better) have a look at Get Off Your Arse by Brad Burton. Straight talking advice from someone who's been there!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

I'm Not Sexy Enough for Boudoir Photos

Yes you are! Everyone is!

I get a lot of people saying to me "I'd love a boudoir shoot, but I'm just not that sexy." Well my response would be that you are in your own way.

We all have a lot of preconceptions that come from magazines and TV about what sexy is. Is it that cute little lip bite? Is it those come to bed eyes? Well, yes it is. But it's also a cute giggle or a cheeky grin. Everyone can be their own version of sexy! Someone who is relaxed and confident in a sexy outfit is sexy. Fact!

And don't worry about your size or shape either. Chances are you're having the photos taken for your other half. And they think you're sexy! Whatever size or shape you are there is an outfit and a pose that shows off the good bits and hides the bits you're not so keen on. Whether you're a size zero or a more Rubenesque shape I can make you look sexy!

So if you think you want some boudoir photos, but think you won't look sexy - just do it!

Monday, 27 February 2012

Studio for Hire

Before I start, yes, this is a blatant advert for my studio which is available to rent. But it's also a bit about the thought process I went through to make the decision to let it out at all.

My studio is fab! I (along with my dad and a few friends) put in a lot of time, effort and money to make it look ace! And I'm really proud of what we achieved so I want as many people as possible to see it. It's also a very useful, functional space for my portrait photography. It has everything I need for children's photos, boudoir photography and everything else I do including a disabled access toilet and a private changing room. Which got me thinking, it's probably perfect for other photographers needing studio space in Grimsby and Cleethorpes.

But here's my dilemma. Would I be helping out the competition? Amateurs wouldn't be taking the business from me, except that maybe their friends and family might use me if they weren't getting it for free... And amateurs with enough experience can quickly go pro and take work from me! Even worse, a pro is already in competition and taking photos of customers I could have had!

But let's be logical. There are other studios in town. If I turn someone away, they'll just go somewhere else. The pros have already won their client and will do the work whether they have my studio or not. They definitely won't say "Sorry, Chris wouldn't let me have his studio. You'd better let him take your picture instead". So why shouldn't I let them have it?

And so I do! The studio isn't being used by me all the time and is essential an unnecessary expense when it's not in use. The studio is also obviously mine. It's covered in my branding and full of my photos and leaflets. There's always the chance that a client will remember the studio more than the photographer and come back later for portraits from me. Or maybe some wedding photography.

So my doors are open to anyone wanting to use it. I now get paid a small amount for sitting in my office at the computer doing what I would otherwise have been doing for free! In fact there's someone using it as I type this.

And it's available to you if you need it!  More info is at

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

What do You Look For?

This is really a plea for your comments. I'd be really interested to know your thoughts. What do you look for when choosing a photographer? Whether it's for family portraits or a wedding photographer what is the most important thing you consider when making your decision?

Is it simply the first one you find on Google? Is it the one with the fanciest looking website? Does a fancy website put you off if you think they'll be too expensive? Is it how easy it is to find the info you're looking for? Do you go mainly on price? Do you choose purely on the quality of the photos? Do you as for recommendations from friends? Would you prefer to go to a professional studio or have the photographer come to you? Is it down to the personality of the photographer? Or is it something else???

There's a lot of questions there, but which is most important to you? Please feel free to leave any comments below, get in touch on Facebook or just email me!


Monday, 6 February 2012

A Cautionary Tale...

I've had an interesting experience in the last couple of weeks. It leads to a couple of good pieces of advice as well...

Just before Christmas I was approached by someone who had recently got married and booked their photos with someone else. They were very unhappy with the photos they had received and wanted my opinion of them to help them with the arguments they were having. They gave me the edited photos, unedited originals and a selection of photos gathered from their guests. Their complaint was with the edited photos. Their opinion of them was that they were over exposed and made everyone's faces look very pale and 'dead' (their word...).  They were also unhappy with the photos the photographer had chosen to edit.

My personal opinion is actually that the photos are very good! They have been edited very well and are consistent throughout the collection. Poses and crops are creative and of a good standard. They have, however, been edited in a very specific style. Colour saturation is quite low and contrast is quite high. This gives very dark black tones and very bright light tones. It can give the impression of very bright faces and skin tones. This style is currently quite fashionable and modern, but is not to everyone’s personal taste.

But here lies the difficulty. She is a professional, but was also a friend of a friend. As such no Ts & Cs were agreed to and no booking form was signed. That means it was never recorded what was actually agreed. So it boils down to the photographer's word against the couple's. That's piece of advice number 1. Always make sure the paperwork is in place. That goes for the photographer as well as the client. As a photographer I have no comeback at all if the case goes to court and my professional indemnity insurance may be invalidated. As a customer you also really have little comeback. It just becomes a war of words...

The couple were also unhappy with the photos that were chosen to be edited.  Around 1000 photos were taken and around 200 edited. This is actually quite normal. I operate in a similar way. I'll probably select the best 300 though, but that's just me. The couple were surprised with this though as, again, it hadn't been discussed in advance that this would happen! So piece of advice number 2 - keep talking! Again, that goes for both parties. I'll spend as much time as necessary on email, by phone or in person to find out exactly what my couples want and explain to them why it's not possible if it's not. I manage their expectations about how many photos they'll see, how they'll be edited, my involvement and in-your-face-ness on the day, and the timings. Everyone knows what's going to happen so there are no nasty surprises.

The real complaint (and to me the real issue here) is that the photographer is refusing to fix it. In her opinion the photos are good and she doesn't need to do anything. The couple got what they paid for. Without paperwork this is hard to prove, but even with paperwork it shows terrible customer service! Apparently the photographer was almost hostile when the bride complained and made her feel like it was her fault she didn't like the photos! She may well have delivered exactly what was agreed but there is a reputation at stake here. I realise there are limits and there will always be difficult customers, but if it had been me, I would have bent over backwards to give them what they wanted. I would have re-edited the photos having discussed it and done it quickly! There's probably around 10-15 hours work involved in that, but in the end I have another happy customer. And a happy customer is one that will recommend me to their friends.

I know from the couple that this photographer has lost at least 1 wedding because of this and will not be recommended by them in future. I also know that one of their friends is coming to talk to me about their wedding because of the customer service I've given to someone who isn't even a customer! So piece of advice number 3 - make sure your customer service is up to scratch. People are actually more likely to recommend someone who has successfully fixed a problem than someone who has just done a good job in the first place! Reputation counts for a lot.

I hope you've learned something from this. I've banged on for a while so I'll stop now!

Thursday, 26 January 2012

What's in a Wedding? - Part 2

Part 2 of the whole wedding process. I've already covered up to the end of the ceremony. Here's the rest.

After the Ceremony
I'll be around to capture all those special moments that happen afterwards.  The little moments between the bride and groom, friends meeting for the first time in ages, everyone congratulating the happy couple. I'll also get the essential confetti shot. After you've gone back to the reception venue (if it's different) I'll let your guests get a drink and some canapes and then get cracking with the group photos. This can be quite a quick job or a bit of a long process depending on how many pictures you want. I'll then take the bride and groom away by themselves to get a few romantic portraits and a staged cutting of the cake photo just to make sure.  When I'm not otherwise occupied, I'll get even more photos of your guests enjoying themselves and a natural and relaxed way.

The Speeches
Speeches are usually after the meal, so I'll hang around while you eat and come back in time for the groom's bit moment. I'll all the speeches and will do my absolute best to get all the memorable moments as well as the guests' reactions. If you'd like me to I can also stay to photograph the first dance!

The Following Week
While you're away on your honeymoon I then have the job of editing all the photos. I usually take around 800 pictures and they need sorting down to about 300 or so. They then all get cropped, edited and generally enhanced. I'll pick out a few of them to give special effects to such as black and white, sepia and other processes Photoshop is capable of! That can all take up to 15 hours to complete! I'll then put your proofs onto a CD (and my website) and send them to you.

Building the Album
Once you've chosen your favourite 100 or so pictures I then have to design the album.  It's all done by hand using specialist software to make sure each album I produce is absolutely unique to you.  That can be another 4 - 6 hours' work! Once you've approved the design I can order (and pay for) the album.

Still Not Done...
I also have your thank-you cards to design and order (and pay for...) and your album to hand deliver (or post if you're too far away).

Once you've got your album it all starts again...

I hope that rather long post gives you an idea of just how much effort, time and cost goes into producing your wedding album. I love it though and take a lot of pleasure in giving a couple something very special to help them remember their big day for years to come.