Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Calling all musicians...

A quick request...

As anyone who has checked out our videos on YouTube or the GBP Blog will know, we always like to include a music backing track to our productions. Up until now, this has always been a single track, used over and over again. It has served us very well, but it's time for a change.

So... Are you a musician, UK-based or international? Do you know any great musicians out there whose sounds should be pushed out to a greater listenership? If so, get in touch!

Here's the deal: Our videos typically run 3-5 minutes and feature behind-the-scenes footage, often time-lapse, of shoots and all manner of things that arise in the course of our work (have a browse through this blog and you'll get a good idea). If you'd be kind enough to let us use your soundtrack, we'll give you a plug - not only on the videos themselves, but right here on the Blog too. And on our Twitter stream. And in our monthly Newsletter... All of which have a far-reaching global audience. Hey, it's all free publicity!

Added to that, we'll give you special rates on photography if you or your band ever need some fresh publicity shots.

Interested? Then drop us a quick line via email or in the comments section below. And if you have a web presence at all - your own site,Facebook page, Twitter stream, MySpace profile etc - pop that down too.

Remember - it's all about spreading the word, and connections build connections.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Sun, wind, scenery, portraits

Last week, I undertook an assignment photographing a couple on their Wedding day. This came about as the result of a referral passed by one of our corporate clients some months ago, and just goes to prove the value of networking and the power of recommending trusted suppliers.

This was not a 'Wedding photography' job, per se, as the couple were having a very low-key ceremony and did not require our coverage at the West Sussex registry office where they 'tied the knot'. Instead, they asked us to meet them at a rather grand five-star hotel about an hour and a half away, up in the glorious Bedfordshire countryside, where we would simply concentrate on some nice relaxed portraits within the picturesque grounds.

One thing which I did take from the 'Wedding photography' check-list was the need to have a look at those grounds ahead of our meeting. We always insist on conducting a recce with every couple we photograph, taking in all locations where photography is required (for example, the Bride's preparation address, church, Reception location etc). Typically, this occurs about one month before the Wedding day, and let's us make an initial connection and look for possible areas for photography, as well as taking stock of potential issues and considerations such as the need for a contingency plan, should the weather be less than favourable.

On this occasion, though, logistics dictated that it was not feasible to make two trips and so I simply arrived about an hour ahead of time, in order to have a wander around and see what photographic opportunities awaited us. What greeted me was something of a photographer's playground - rock gardens, freshly-mown lawns, stone statues and gardens created by the famous landscape designer Capability Brown. All good stuff, and I couldn't wait to make some images!

There were two main obstacles that we faced here: One was the strong overhead sunlight - lovely to walk around in, but less than ideal for portraits, as it casts heavy shadows at every opportunity and people have a tendency to blink! No worries, though; I simply 'filled-in' these darker areas with some complimentary subtle flash light, and took the couple into shaded areas where suitable. The second concern was the wind - it was a very breezy day; but again, we made use of natural shelter where possible and exploited those moments of facing oncoming headwinds so as to inject a little humour into the images. Hey, you have to make the most of what you're given!

Following that day, the pictures were placed in a secure, password-protected album on our website, allowing the couple to take advantage of the Slideshow function and share them with friends and family.

A printed Preview Album is also on its way to them, together with suggestions of how best to display these pictures. And our services do not simply end at 'pressing the button' - as I have often said, pictures are there to be looked at; because we want our clients to get the most out of images, we will happily discuss the wide range of presentation options available to suit all tastes and budgets.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

It's a team effort

As I have said many times here on the GBP Blog, the clients we work with aren't always of the 'shirt and tie' variety. One of the greatest joys of what we do is the range of assignments we undertake. For example, one day I could be on the beach shooting informal portraits, the next I might be thirty metres up in the sky perched on a crane and swaying in the breeze. As I said in yesterday's post, indoor work is all well and good, but give us half a chance to get out of the office and into the fresh air with our clients and we'll take it.

Another quick example from last month, then, which saw me working with a local football club one Sunday morning. Nothing too challenging or remarkable about the job itself, but a prime example of the need for simple yet effective pictures which could be used widely in all manner of marketing activities.

We were very lucky with the weather on this occasion - blue sky, puffy white clouds - all of which worked very well with the team's freshly-washed, colourful kit. In terms of a 'shot list', we had already outlined three sets of images to capture during our time together - team shots (as a whole), player profiles (individuals) and supportive imagery (game action). As is often the case, organisation was the key here; I turned up early in order to meet my contact and make introductions with the team, and the players themselves were already in place, warming up. It was then simply a case of getting everyone into position for the first 'group' shot, followed by individual portraits in quick succession.

Given that all anyone there really wanted to do was play football (i.e. not stand around being photographed!), I kept things very simple. Setting up two cameras - one for the portrait stuff, the other for the action - the D2H was again brought out of the bag for the latter, making the most of its ability to capture the fast-paced action. On this occasion, I seem to recall, it was set to a rate of 4 frames per second and I shot in bursts of 2 frames in succession.

The resulting images from the hour or so that I spent on the sidelines have since been used on the team's website and in the local press, with plans to use them further in newsletters and printed promotional matter.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Indoors, up-country

With the weather getting better (well, I am an optimist!), it would be nice to think that all our assignments will be set outdoors from now on. Being realistic, of course, this won't be the case - by default, some projects dictate an indoor set-up. Think product and food photography, room sets and medical sector - that sort of thing.

April saw a trip up-country to Cumbria, to undertake a follow-on shoot for a hotel set in the glorious Lake District. I love the outdoors and this area of the country always holds great appeal, so the long drive up there didn't seem half as bad when faced with such a backdrop.

The task at hand was to photograph a number of recently-refurbished bedrooms and some of the finer details contained therein. For this, I used one of my favourite setups - one tripod-mounted camera, two lenses (wideangle for overviews, standard for closer details), and one/two mains-powered lights, each bounced off the ceiling.

Now, the joy of lighting any subject is that there exists a great deal of flexibility - and therefore potential visual results - in the equipment we can use. On location outdoors, for example, regular readers will know I am a great fan of using small, lightweight flash guns, making the most of wireless technology.

However, when photographing room sets, I nearly always turn to the use of 'continuous' lamps, specifically a set of 1000-watt halogens. These are great, and typify the essence of lighting. Simple and 'no-frills', they produce a very natural light, enabling me to see immediately how the subject is looking, where shadows are falling and where any unwanted highlights might appear, even before I take the first test picture.

Having spent many thousands of pounds on the refit, it made sense for our client to again make use of strong imagery in the marketing of their hotel. And as GBP produced the previous set of pictures, it also made sense to have us back so as to keep a continuity.

In these tough economic times, there is a tendency for businesses to hold back on their advertising/marketing activities and, unfortunately, one of the first casualties of this action is frequently professional photography. Out of this, two observations can be made:
  • Firstly - 'in-house', 'DIY' photography often has a negative effect on your business. For example, you might have a nice website and a great product, but many is the time we have seen poor 'snap-shot' imagery not just completely undermine the efforts of a web paid designer, but also make a company's product/staff/service look second-rate and amateurish when compared to those of their competitors.
  • Secondly - any marketing company will tell you that when times are tough, the last thing you should do is cut your marketing spend. Rather, you should invest (within your budget, of course) in keeping your product/service in the minds of existing and potential clients. When things calm down, you will then be ahead of those competitors who have held back - clearly an advantage.
A final note about these last points, in something of an ironic twist - It doesn't have to cost as much as you think to employ such professional services, but not heeding these warnings can/will have a profound effect on your business, to the point where it is very difficult to recover from such a 'cutting corners' approach.

It doesn't cost anything to ask for advice or opinion, so feel free to get in touch or speak up in the comments section of this post!