Sunday, 31 January 2010

Clever sweaters

This little video amused me. It's also a clever piece of marketing, I think, on the part of Pringle of Scotland, who commissioned David Shrigley to produce a short 'behind-the-scenes' animation for this year's Milan Fashion Week... Enjoy!

Many thanks to the lovely Inny for the heads-up :)

Friday, 22 January 2010

Tough times and productivity

It's an interesting time for everyone right now. Of course, you don't need me to hark on about how the economy is on its knees and how companies are struggling to survive, their owners wondering how they are going to pay the bills just so that they have a base to work from.

Stress and concern is around every corner, and we all handle this in different ways. My take on the situation is not quite so head-in-the-sand as some people's. Yes, I've felt the effects and yes, I am looking forward to a return to normality (whatever that may be). But at times like these, I tend to get somewhat philosophical and just push on regardless. Sounds like an obvious approach, right?

Time, that ever-precious commodity, takes centre stage - and I'm not one to sit and twiddle my thumbs as the hours pass by. In recent weeks, I have been preparing for what lies ahead and taking care of tasks which might otherwise find themselves pushed further down the order - to the point that it could be weeks before they get done. Such activities are not reserved for moments of quiet, though; for me, January is always a month of gathering thoughts and looking ahead.

Take yesterday, for example. Following an early start and a networking meeting, I scheduled a get-together with a photographer friend, to get some objective, constructive criticism about my website. As regular readers will know, I am not at all happy with the current site. In consideration of its revamp, I was (and still am) completely open to suggestion and feedback.

We discussed where my company is heading, where I want it to be in 6 months' time, and what I need to do to get it there. We considered all manner of issues from website styles to functionality, cost-effectiveness and client appeal. It was a very frank and worthwhile meeting.

The result of those two hours? I now have the design process of my 2010 Commercial/Editorial website under way and, more importantly, I have a 3-phase marketing plan set out in the Moleskine which will take me right up to March. At that point, I will be following a separate, but mostly similar, plan of attack for the Wedding side of my business.

Out of the apparent gloom of this rainy January morning, I am genuinely excited.

All too often, we get too close to our businesses, our projects, our day-to-day running of things. We fail to see the glaringly obvious flaws when it comes to the way we operate and the ways in which we might make improvements. It is not unusual for people to get on the defensive when offers of support and advice come their way, but I have no issue with asking for opinion; it is only in so doing that we develop as professionals, as artists and as individuals.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Documenting property

In a previous post, I wrote about a quick job undertaken locally for a good client of mine. Well, in this additional follow-up, I thought I'd speak about the idea of photographically recording your building either for future reference or for promotional purposes.

So, the second shoot, about three weeks later at the same location. This time around, the properties in question were covered in a delicate veil of snow, which had fallen the previous night. Luckily, I was just about able to navigate to treacherous roads to get there; but even more lucky (photographically, at least) was the fact that the snow had not been disturbed around the buildings, so I knew they would look wonderful in the pictures.

The first picture here shows the scene which presented itself back in November. A very simple shot, it illustrates the property clearly and smartly.

Nothing more than that, it is a simple record shot - and one which has already been used in a number of promotional activities by the client.

The second shot - very obviously the same building, and essentially an identical shot, but this time with a slightly different message behind it. Specifically, this picture illustrates how these new-build houses offer comfort and shelter from the elements. If this is not immediately apparent, it is perhaps worth mentioning that I also shot some interiors, featuring inhabitants, in order to support the 'making this house our home' message.

To all you business owners out there, I would say this: Regardless of your sector or type of property, it's always worth considering how you might go about exploiting your premises in order to educate and encourage new customers. After all, assuming that you are paying out on a lease and utilities, it makes sense to get the most out of such a great asset.

With the change of seasons comes a fresh set of new opportunities for exploiting what you have at your disposal. Perhaps you run a hotel which looks equally lovely at first light in the summer months as it does last thing at night as it is bathed in the crisp winter light. Or maybe you are a landscape designer who could be documenting the changing face of a client's gardens.

And if the above does not fit with your requirements, because you are not thinking in business terms, there is still relevance here. It might be worth you documenting the various changes your property goes through over the years - whether this be because you want to track building work and modifications, or because you have family and/or sentimental reasons for doing so.

On this latter point, you only have to see the popularity of activities such as the tracing of one's family tree to see the value of keeping a photographic record for future generations.

Whatever your situation, it's well worth giving this some thought.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Awards in spite of the snow

The trouble with planning ahead, of course, is that, very often you can't predict what might happen in between now and the time you are planning for. As if to prove this point, I recently found myself having to reschedule arrangements in order to photograph an awards night for a new corporate client.

The problem was actually something which neither I nor my client could prevent - the weather. Specifically, the snow. And, come to think of it, how typical that in the weeks before and weeks that followed, the snow did not pose nearly half as much of a threat to our activities!

But, look, you've probably heard just about enough about the snow if you're over here in the UK, so let's talk about the shoot...

All said and done on the arrangements front, I did finally manage to get to the location - the local Guildhall - in plenty of time. With all bags and cases decanted, the first thing to do was was have a run through the brief with those concerned. Even though timings often shift throughout the evening (as they did here), it is important to have a framework which allows us to make the most of our opportunities on the night.

The next 30 minutes or so were then spent wandering around the reception bar area, where guests slowly arrived for a pre-meal drink. I covered this with a two-camera set-up, which allowed me to switch between close-up grab shots from a distance and posed/semi-posed images of couples and small groups, as and when they presented themselves. I really like the flexibility of this approach which, by default, lends itself to the production of a wide variety of photographs.

Following a few 'table' shots, and with everyone now seated, I headed upstairs to get a bird's-eye-view of the main hall. With an ultra-wide lens fitted on a camera bolted securely to a tripod, and a relatively long exposure, I was able to capture the low-light atmosphere of the room. You'll notice how people's movement appears to be blurred in places; I really like this effect and every time I create it, I am reminded to put the technique into practice more often!

The final part of my brief was a set of award presentation shots, for which I had to stand up on stage. On this occasion, the approach was not my typical one, and was actually far from perfect. Due to the fact that the client had television cameras filming the whole sequence, I had to remain very much 'in the wings', shooting on a long lens at people with a less-than-favourable background.

I suppose we are perfectionists, and so this did not sit well with me. One of the first things you learn to do as a photographer is to check that your backgrounds are smart and uncluttered; unfortunately, on this occasion, they were neither. But I was governed by the situation and the pictures were technically very good, so this was just one of those occasions where you grin and bear it.

A few final grab shots of performers on stage rounded off the night, before I once again headed out into the cold. I was lucky to get a train back home (the roads were not suitable for driving) as I had put in some extra time and it was a 50/50 chance whether I'd catch the last one.

All that then remained to be done was the editing. All pictures were online for the client to view the following day and a disk containing those same images was sent out in the next available post.