Could a retainer save you money?

WLC Business Excellence Awards 2016-1.jpg

New Year revisiting a new idea. Last year I introduced the idea of a retainer to my business photography client options. It was new to me and I wasn’t entirely sure how it would workout for either me or the client. The only ‘retainer’ type structures I could find online were either similar to a shoot deposit or were guaranteeing availability, whether work was carried out or not. The latter usually being fairly expensive for the client.

I wanted to do something that both saved clients money and made it easier for them to include photography in their annual budget and I hoped gain a slightly higher overall spend and a more steady income throughout the year. I was pretty sure it would be very cost effective for the client and that the regular payments would be good for my cashflow, but I was a bit fuzzy on the details.

My usual approach would be not to take an idea forward until I had every detail perfected with the consequence being never taking any action. This time I decided to suck it and see!

A big thank you goes out to West Lothian Chamber of Commerce for being the first to take me up on the offer…the guinea pig so to speak. We sat down and came up with a budget, event list and a few other details to build flexibility and reliability in to the agreement. Now with 3/4 of the year through I’ve done a quick audit. 10 events have been covered from the launch of the Developing Young Workforce programme, annual awards to the monthly breakfasts. When the normal fee is compared to and the amount paid through the retainer the Chamber has so far saved 60% and been able to build a great stock of images of all their events for PR and future promotions.

I’d love to hear about any successes and failures you have had with similar or new pricing structures. Or for that fact any time you’ve introduced new concepts to your clients that they might not be familiar with. How did you go about it? What did you find that did or didn’t work?

And if you’d like to talk through how a retainer might work for your business give me a call and we can grab a coffee and a chat.

Contact me on 0776 309 2221 or email


What do you get when you hire a professional photographer?

Today is a different type of information day. I’m sending you to look at something that explains how photographers work. A great video from the talented Magnus Bogucki, a Swiss wedding photographer, who lays out in less than 3 minutes what exactly you are getting when you hire him. Obviously, other types of photography have different requirements…album design isn’t really called for in profile pictures (I’ll make you one if you want ;)). I would like to challenge is the impression that I often get that we, being photographers, are only working for you when we are actually taking the pictures. There is a lot more to it. I’m sure this will ring true with a lot of other people, especially in the creative industries.

What do you think? Was it what you expected? Was there anything that you found surprising?

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!

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