Problem solving: How does a photographer serve up a solution?

As a commercial photographer each job presents it own challenges. I have always viewed myself more of a service provider that an artist. I look at what a client needs to get across to their target market and create images that serve that need. Here are 3 examples of the theory in practise.

Case study: Edgen Murray

Edgen Murray is an international steel manufacturer that supplies to the oil industry. They brought me in on a 2 fold project. The first part of the project was to take profile pictures of the management team that matched pictures that had been taken in their other locations in Australia and Singapore. The second was to shoot the various steel products they had on site and capture the size and scale of their new site at Newbridge.

In part one we shot the management team at the head offices in Edinburgh against a matching grey backdrop and lighting as close as I could get to the brand identity specified. Those images were then edited to match exactly the ones from the other regions to unify and clearly represent the company as a global player. The second part of the project involved photographing key products and the site in general. Here are some of the images and some kind words from the marketing manager.


“We have used Claire for taking corporate headshots of our senior management and have been very pleased with the service she has provided. Moreover, Claire has been great in assisting us with digital work we needed done urgently on other photography. She has been very helpful, professional in turning around projects quickly, and in general great to work with.”

– Valentina Mina, Marketing Services Manager

Case Study: ConnectED Profile Pictures

ConnectED is a networking group that meets every Tuesday. We wanted to help small business owners get professional profile pictures, so we arranged to have them taken at one of the weekly meetings at a discounted rate. The challenge was how to get images that captured everyones personalities. By making everyone feel comfortable and relaxed then adding a few tweaks with colour balance and saturation in the editing process I created individual portraits from the same lighting and equipment set up. Eddie had a few kind words to add…not like the dentist at all 😉

“If you’re a little self-conscious then getting your photo taken can be a bit like going to the dentist! Claire made it fun and easy and the result speaks for itself. Did I mention fantastic value for money?”

– Eddie Caldow, Printer Cartridges, Empty Cartridge Recycling, Printer Maintenance, Printer Engineer, Sustainability

Case Study: Rock Trust

The Rock Trust works in Edinburgh and the Lothians with young people between the ages of 16- 25 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Their role is to advise, educate and support young people. The project was to capture the different sides of the charity. The experience you people can expect at the centre and in the supported accommodation. The fundraising events businesses and individuals can get involved in, as well as the research and conferences that the charity organises and supports.

“Claire worked with us to create and implement a plan for our website and publicity images. She paid great attention to our work, the service users and our values and ensured that she not only met, but surpassed, our expectations. Claire has worked with the young people in their homes, staff team at our conferences and supporters at our events and she works well in every situation. We continue to work with Claire as not only has she produced beautiful images but she is also great to work with.”

– Kate Polson, Chief Executive at The Rock Trust

So if you have a photography problem let me know and I might be able to serve up a solution.

Simple imagery fundamentals when branding your business

Simple imagery fundamentals. What are the important things to think about when choosing images for your website, Facebook, Instagram etc?

Day 15 Colour wheel

First think about colour. You might have a warm colour pallet (colours yellow through to crimson) or a cool pallet (purple through to green). There is lots of information on choosing your colour scheme and using the psychology of colour to maximise your brand in your industry. This is one of many of you to look at if your are really interested “How to use the psychology of colour”.

How does this relate to your images? Is your brand bold bright or more muted? Your images should match or compliment your brand on your website and things like your banners at the top of Facebook or Twitter. They should continue to convey your brand to your prospective clients. If you use Instagram then think about choosing one filter as it does a similar thing, but there are a lot of other things to talk about on Instagram, so I’ll tackle it in a separate blog.

Second thing to think about is shape. Do you have large images that tex scrolls across, wide banners, square tiles, long drop down banner type images? The dimensions of your images are important as the rule of thirds (see previous post) is also a good guide, but as the dimensions change you have to visualise how that effects our composition. Here are the dimensions for Facebook to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, but this is equally true for blogs etc.

Day 15 dimensions

Okay I lied it’s not that simple…that’s why photographers ask you for money. It’s not just having a camera and taking nice pictures. However if your keen to have a go and are short of money thinking about colour and shape is a good place to start when branding your business.

Favourite images from my week

Sunday is going to be favourite picture day. A week in the life so to speak.

There are not too many this week as there has been more admin done than taking pictures but here are a few from my phone. I am very lucky working in Edinburgh as it is both tiny enough to walk to lots of places and it is also full of beautiful colours, lines, architecture and my favourite the constantly changing Scottish light.

This week I had fun with the Biggar High School prom…nothing like what I remember the leavers dance! I also finished a couple of edits; one for the Edinburgh Businesswomen’s Club committee and the other some family pictures that I did for my sister. A mixture of business and pleasure, because variety is the spice of life.

Starting with the young and glamorous at New Lanark World Heritage Site.

Then the inspirational ladies from the Edinburgh Businesswomen’s Club.

Finally, family fun!

So those were some of my favourite images from my week. It is always good to reflect on the positive…not the admin 😉

Simple photography, the lazy person’s guide

Let’s keep it simple for the weekend. You don’t have any time, you don’t think you’re creative, you’re not really interested in photography, but you need to take pictures for your business.

Here are 3 things, using 1 rule, you can do to to take better pictures without the need for time, creativity or enthusiasm (though try and have some fun with it!).

Here are 3 things and the rule of thirds.

  1. Don’t put a horizon in the middle of the picture. Put it on the upper or lower third.
  2. Off centre portraits, putting the person’s eye on the top left corner to create a stronger connection to the image as when looking at an image people spend the majority of the time in that corner (45%).
  3. Leave empty space in the image. Don’t feel the need to put you subject bang in the middle of the frame as big as possible (it’s boring). Put key details in the transects of the lines and don’t be frightened to leave some space. It leads to a more interesting picture.

So when taking pictures your first thought to make your photography better and more engaging should be the rule of thirds. Simple!

Imagery lessons for SMEs…using Tinder

Here is a giggle and a few things to think about on imagery for small and medium sized businesses.

I was talking to a friend yesterday about Tinder. For those who are not familiar it’s a dating app where you select people you are interested in based on 1 initial image, 5 additional pictures and a few words. If it sounds superficial, it is, but you would be amazed how much you can learn about yourself and others in 6 pictures.

Then when I sat down to write today’s blog on imagery lessons for SMEs it occurred to me that it is a perfect example of how to use imagery effectively. Looking at the difference between stock photography and images tailored for your target market, the importance of first impressions and how to tell a story that gets across your USP.

There is a caveat in this post that the pictures are not of professional quality but being used to illustrate a point 😉

So back to my friend…lets call him ‘Gary’ (not his real name). Gary is looking to get back into the dating game after a long time away and he wanted to get my impression of his Tinder profile, so we started with his main image, the picture everyone sees first. He had a really nice professional picture lifted straight from his LinkedIn profile…the stock photography of Tinder pictures if you will. A terrible choice in my opinion for a number of reasons.

  • Firstly it tells someone looking at it absolutely nothing about you.
  • Secondly it appeals to the pretty much anyone, which is fine if you are going for mass market, but of no use if you are looking for a specific type of client or in this case are a bit more discerning about your dating preferences.
  • Thirdly, Tinder is full of people you really don’t want to meet, so you should be using your images to filter out people who you will have nothing in common with to save yourself (and them) some time and effort.

In contrast this is my opening image on Tinder…

Tinder Main Image

…I have found this very effective in filtering out people I have nothing in common with. I think is says a few things: I’m interested in politics**, when dressing up I like to commit and come from left field…you will never find me in a ‘sexy nun’ outfit, I have a pretty dark sense of humour and am happy to laugh at myself. This immediately removes lots of people who would class me as a weirdo and have no interest in politics and attracts people who think I look like a laugh. From a business perspective it talks to my niche market!

Then if they click though, to learn more about me, they see…

Fitness is important and I'm pretty confident/have a high opinion of myself.

‘Fitness is important and I’m pretty confident/have a high opinion of myself.’

FullSizeRender3

‘I’m a keen photographer and traveller.’

FullSizeRender2

‘I can look presentable sometimes…’

FullSizeRender

‘…but most of the time i don’t really care…would rather swim in a loch.’

In conclusion:

  • The importance of stock photography verses images tailored for your target market, really depends on how niche your product is and how much you want to stand out from your competition. The majority of SMEs I meet have very clever and interesting things to offer but that is often not communicated by their online presence. This seems like a lost opportunity to me.
  • First impressions are massively important, if people don’t like what they see you will get swiped left (rejected) and you’ll never see that prospective client again. Making your landing page engaging is key.
  • Telling a story though images is much easier and more engaging than text and as result gets across your USP much more effectively when done correctly.

I hope that made a few of you smile on a Friday. Any questions on photography for business or setting up online dating profiles ask below 😉

**I would usually keep political leanings off any of my business platforms, but in this case it makes a point and for anyone who’s interested I voted yes in the referendum because I believe in the positive, socialist message of the Yes campaign, not because I wanted separation. I love everyone, but don’t think the system is serving those that it should be. C x

5 Top Tips for Effortless Social Media Images

How do you take better pictures to represent yourself online? So you have all the right Social Media accounts…Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and a strategy on how you want to use them. You know stock photography sites you can use, but the problem is your USP is all about your people, your place, your product, so how do you get that across to your target market?

How do you improve your social media photography content? Not by using expensive equipment, but tablets, smartphones and your existing equipment to generate higher quality more engaging images for your websites and social media channels.

I’ve put together a training course to help SMEs and start-ups improve their photography. However, if all you’re looking for is a few quick tips here are a some things that can make a huge difference with very little effort.

Look: Look for light and interesting angles. Is the light coming from as strange direction? What colour is it? Are there reflective surfaces where you can see yourself? Picking an unusual angle of an everyday subject makes it more interesting.

Ask: Ask people to move closer together in group shots. It makes them awkward to get into each others personal space, but leads to better pictures. Ask if people mind having their pictures taken. It keeps people happier to be considered and can raise awareness of your company if you encourage them to check out the pictures on your social media channels.

Move: Move closer to your subject. Too much dead space is not (usually) that interesting. Move to change the perspective. Get lower or higher so your image is not what people would expect to see.

Use: Use the apps on the phone or tablet to make the best of your images quickly before you upload them. Use something to stabilise the camera like resting your arm or the camera itself on a table to keep the picture sharper, especially in low light situations.

Think: Think about the composition. Peoples eyes move from left to right across a picture, so put something there for them to look at. Think about a plan before the event. What is going to appeal to your target market? The venue, people, food, entertainment? Have a plan and you will save time on the day and be more likely to get the pictures you need.

Here are a few examples of different looks you can achieve from a camera phone and if you want to have a coffee and a chat to find out more give me a call 0776 309 2221 or email claire@clairewatson.co.uk

The Best of Week One

So 9 days in to the 30 day blogging challenge and its 11pm…oh well not exactly to plan but it’s going to be done before midnight! Here is the edited highlights for you to see all of this weeks ideas.

Day 1: Getting started: taking action and setting goals. The start of my 30 day blogging challenge. Lessons, goals and getting started. With links to Sarah Arrow’s 30 day blogging challenge.

Day 1 Getting started

Day 2: Finding a Commercial Photographer. How do you find the right commercial photographer for you and your business?

Day 3: The Myth of Only being Online. Why I think business needs face to face interaction more than just an online presence. People buy from people.

Day 4: They Importance of Systems to a Creative. How do you find time and headspace to be creative? I need a system.

Day 5: Learning from others. Learning from other people is a key part of business. Here is some great tips from Sanja Moll of the Salt Yard Group and LeCoq restaurants.

Day 6: How do you keep your productivity? Weightlifting is great for entrepreneurs. It’s all about maximising productivity!

11188400_1561218964140260_6898549026614849951_n

Day 7: Why do you need a professional profile picture? Why are professional profile pictures important to have and to use? Ultimately, you are your brand. With links to William Arruda’s ‘22 LinkedIn Secrets LinkedIn Won’t Tell You’ article fro Forbes.

Day 8: Your message your market. The importance of images to get your message across to your target market. With links to Mark Parkinson: The Power of Visual Communication, Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty, Red Bull: Stratos.

Never miss out on another blog post subscribe on the left.

Your message, your market!

Images are about getting your message across to your market. Images communicate so much more than text. This is both a good and a bad thing. Poor images give an immediate negative impression, but equally great images make you stand out from the crowd and connect to your audience better than anything you can write. It’s evolution.

“What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are. Through experience and experimentation, we continually increase our understanding of the visual world and how we are influenced by it. Psychologist Albert Mehrabian demonstrated that 93% of communication is nonverbal. Studies find that the human brain deciphers image elements simultaneously, while language is decoded in a linear, sequential manner taking more time to process. Our minds react differently to visual stimuli. Thanks to millions of years of evolution, we are genetically wired to respond differently to visuals than text.” – Mark Parkinson, The Power of Visual Communication

I’ll talk about a case study of work I’ve done later in the week, but today I wanted to look at a few ad campaigns with a bit bigger budgets. Here’s a great link to top ad campaigns of the 21st century. My favourite is also their top choice Dove: Campaign for Real Beauty. The images are bright, clean and not over photoshopped, which matches their message and bucks the trend in the industry.

Day 8 DOVE-REAL-BEAUTY

The Red Bull: Stratos is also a favourite as it is just visually spectacular. The images grab us because they are totally out with our experience. Fortunately, we don’t need to leave the atmosphere to get great images. Most SMEs don’t quite have the budget of Red Bull 😉

Day 8 red-bull-stratos-felix1

What makes your business different? It does’t have to be plummeting through the earth’s atmosphere or being pictured in your pants. It can be small details like the quality of your stationary, the friendliness of your staff, the unique features of your building, the difference of your approach that makes you stand out from your competitors. Images can show people who they are much better then telling them.

Over the next 2 weeks I will blog more about how to get images that take your message to your market. I’d love to hear other people’s feed back on their images.

Why do you need a professional profile picture?

Why are professional profile pictures important to have and to use? Ultimately, you are your brand. We are all highly attuned to reading images whether we are aware of it or not. You wouldn’t turn up to a networking event in your holiday clothes with a glass of wine so why would you put that on the internet? Why would you want that to be the first thing people see when they look you up online? There are lots of tips for improving your LinkedIn profile, but I have never seen one that doesn’t recommend a professional picture.

This is one of the most interesting and entertaining articles I’ve come across. Pictures don’t come up till number 20, but there are lots of other tips in ‘22 LinkedIn Secrets LinkedIn Won’t Tell You’. Here’s what he says about what your picture.

“Make sure your headshot is high quality, with good lighting and ultra-sharp focus. LinkedIn is not the place to run a casual snapshot. Also, make sure that you’re either facing forward or turned toward your left shoulder, in the direction of your content. If you’re looking to your right, gazing off the screen, this sends a subtle message that you don’t believe the content of your own page.” William Arruda, Forbes.

Your profile picture should represent you and make a connection with your prospective clients or employers. An image from a professional photographer should do that. So the only question left is…what does your picture say about you?

Professional Profile Picture Gallery

How do you keep your productivity?

Productivity is important. There are only so many hours in a week and entrepreneurs can never find enough of them, so short of inventing time travel (if anyone has let me know), how do we make the most of the time available to us? **Not in a ‘we’re all going to die’ way but in a ‘there are only 24 hours in a day 7 days in a week’ way…and we can’t work all of them.

“Nobody ever became an entrepreneur so they could avoid working hard. Running your own business stretches anybody’s work-life balance to the absolute limit. And it has now emerged that micro-business owners are working an average of 52 hours a week, 63 per cent longer than the average worker, according to research by call handling firm Penelope.” – Jack Torrance, Real Business

However, the problem with a 52+ hour working week is it comes up against this other well known fact.

“For decades, studies have shown the diminishing returns of consistently putting in more than 40 hours a week, while some economists (and Google founders) have repeatedly pointed out that with technology doing more and more of the heavy lifting when it comes to productivity, it might be wiser economically and socially (and hey, maybe even spiritually) if we all worked a bit less–say, 30 hours a week.” – Jessica Stillman, Inc.com

So we are working on average 12 hours where our productivity is consistently falling. What can we do to help with that?

I would love to know, how do you clear your head and reset?

I have a theory…entrepreneurs like hard work, are constantly thinking about their businesses and struggle to switch off. My personal experience is that things that used to help me relax, when I had a 9 to 5 job like reading or watching TV, don’t work anymore. I get distracted or feel that I’m not using my time effectively. So my new approach is weightlifting!

Stay with me and I’ll explain why I think weightlifting is an excellent way of switching off for entrepreneurs. It’s really complicated, you have to concentrate, it’s physical not mental, you can fit it into 30 mins, it lifts your pulse rate, is good for your health and gets you out of your head and into the moment.

So how do I improve my productivity. I clear my head and reset by lifting heavy!

…or you could try mindfulness 😉

%d bloggers like this: