Your customers are buying ‘you’ – using lifestyle photography to build your brand

 

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with a number of local small business entrepreneurs and I’ve come to realise just how much this new breed of business owners, can benefit from sharing their lives as well as their products online.  The rise of social media marketing as an accessible, free way for new businesses to reach their customers is well documented, as are the many an various reasons why some businesses are more successful than others.  Jasmine Star has a lot of great content on this over on her blog, so I won’t repeat it here, except to say that using social media successfully to build a brand and attract loyal customers takes a lot of work!

One the key things I noticed about those I’ve recently worked with, is that they share a lot online and it’s not always directly related to their products.  They do share products, great pictures showing the lovely things they offer, but they also share their lifestyle – and that’s where great photography comes in.  I think this comes down to a couple of things.  Firstly – we are more likely to buy something we need from someone we identify with, someone who we feel ‘gets us’ and who we trust to provide the product we need.  If there’s a choice between a faceless organisation with whom we feel no connection, and someone we know and trust – all other things being equal we’ll go with the person we know.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Secondly, for many people, the desire to support and help local businesses, especially smaller, newer ones is strong.  Certainly here in Surrey there’s a big movement against big chain stores and in favour of supporting more niche, local businesses who provide different products, better quality or simply a better customer experience.  So telling people about who you are, what you do and what you offer that’s special can tap into this instinct to support and help.  Sharing how your customers’ support makes a difference to you, helps you grow, helps you improve or simply helps you put food on the table – can be a powerful motivator.

The kinds of imagery you need to achieve good results in this area is a little different to the standard corporate headshot. I’ve blogged before about how great imagery makes a massive difference to your business website (see here) and in many ways this is similar.  The images should reflect your brand, be excellent quality of course and communicate about who you are.  However, with these kinds of images we are looking for something else as well – we are looking for ‘soul’.  It’s a tricky thing to put your finger on, but essentially it’s honest, fun, sometimes quirky images that capture both the person and the business and draw people in by engaging with them on a human level – it’s about selling you and your story, much more than selling your product or service.

 

Many thanks to Juliette Phipps of Flowers By Juliette and Sally Hurman of Getting Stuff Done in Heels for allowing me to share some of the images from their recent shoots!

Check out my website at www.siantphoto.com and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @siantphoto

 

A photo of you – a key part of valuing yourself

Why is it not ok to want a great photo of yourself?

A few months ago a friend asked me if I’d take some photographs of her husband and son with the family dog.  The dog was elderly and she wanted some great photographs to remember him when he was gone.  Naturally I asked if she wanted to be in the photos as well, “oh no” she said “no-one wants a picture of me”.  She was slightly joking, but the underlying sentiment here has been one I’ve heard several times since from both men and women and it’s starting to worry me.

The implication is one that touches on a lack of valuing yourself, and in more ways than simply thinking you’re not attractive enough to warrant photographing.  Looks is part of it, but it’s not the whole story in my view.  This sense of “I’m not worth it” rolls up a whole bunch of negative emotions.  From feeling that no-one wants a photo of us, through feeling no -one cares for or values us, right the way to no-one wants to remember us.  Why are we so keen to want a photograph to remember the family pet, yet we don’t want to remember ourselves as we are now, when we look back in years to come?

E38B1595
I had this image of myself done by Hannah Couzens, a photographer I really admire. Yes it was a bit nerve wracking, but I love this result!

There are a multiplicity of factors at play here I’m sure, and so I won’t try and enumerate them all, I’m not a psychiatrist!  However, I reckon there’s also a dose of Britishness here.  It’s just not British to post a great picture of yourself that says “Hey! This is me and I look great! I’m proud of who I am”. Instead we post the ratty selfie, the badly lit, unflattering angle snapshot that says “I’m not trying very hard and yes this is a bad picture but I’m no oil painting anyway”.  Frankly this is sad!

Everyone should have at least one great picture of themselves, as they look right now (so no your wedding picture from 10 years ago is not good enough!) and getting that picture done properly is as much part of taking time out for yourself as getting your nails done or your hair cut. It’s about celebrating yourself, owning how you look, and being proud of it.

IMG-20170206-WA0017
This is my most current pic of me – I try and get people I trust to take good images I can use on my social media – I will not be posting anything that does not make me look as good as I possibly can! Thanks Hannah Carey!

 

 

Ironically when I came to do the shoot with the kid, husband and dog, the husband quite quickly asked “can we get one of all of us?” totally blowing my friend’s excuse out of the water and showing that yes, people really do want a photo of us!

 

See my photography at http://www.siantphoto.com and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @SianTPhoto

 

Top tips for better smartphone photos of your family this spring!

I was so honoured to be asked to write this special spring blog as guest blogger for Muddy Surrey, the Surrey branch of lifestyle blog Muddy Stilettos.  I love the Muddy way of doing things, gorgeous things for the busy, fashion conscious but not obsessed woman (or man!)

Check out the blog, and the rest of their content at

Sian’s Guest Blog for Muddy Surrey

20160731_124337-01

 

Documentary photography – preparing for the L’Oreal Colour Trophy 2017

Documentary film on One Three Seven salon’s entry in the 2017 L’Oreal Colour Trophy

You may recall that in 2016 I was lucky enough to work with One Three Seven salon in Cranleigh to document their journey to the regional finals of the prestigious L’Oreal Colour Trophy.  The Colour Trophy is a massive deal in hairdressing circles with colourists and stylists alike fighting it out to find the next big trend in hair styling.  In 2016 the One Three Seven team make it to regionals and were both thrilled with great placing and disappointed not to make it through to the grand finals.  You can read all about it in my Spark Story from last year.

For me, the project was the perfect mix of documentary and fashion photography and the shoot to create the final looks was what really set me off on my path towards portraits and fashion.  It was definitely a turning point and a very steep learning curve about working under pressure, with very basic equipment and with limited time to get the shot.

This year I was thrilled to be invited back, and while the final ‘looks’ are under wraps until the competition entry is made (don’t want anyone stealing their ideas!) I’ve put together a little video of the preparations and antics during the creation of these stunning styles.

https://spark.adobe.com/video/u8gCjqURcD1gG/embed

Enjoy this little prelude and stay tuned for the final images – you’ll be blown away!

www.siantphoto.com

The beauty of the beast; Customs, hotrods and classics. Photographing cars and the people that love them

Personal photography project on cars and their owners

I have finally published a project about cars and their owners that I started some 3 years ago!

To be honest I doubt it will ever be truly finished, but you’ve got to release these things at some point otherwise they will never see the light of day.

‘The beauty of the beast’ combines my deep love of details and of the beauty in everyday things, and my joy in connecting with and photographing people – really it’s been such a thrill to work on.  My only regret is that I don’t know who all the featured vehicles belong to, having gathered the images at local and national car shows.  So if one of these is yours please get in touch!

The beauty of the beast

 

Designing the perfect photo Christmas card

It’s much more common in the US than it is in the UK to send a personal Christmas card to friends and family.  In fact it’s something of a US institution for families to don their Christmas sweaters for a professionally shot Christmas portrait to adorn their family card.  Here in the UK we’re naturally less forward (or more lazy!?) about these things so it’s unusual to receive a non shop bought card.  As photographers, and particularly as working professionals I feel we should put in the effort to create our own card, but unless you’ve got a particularly photogenic and willing family (will is rather lacking in our house) perhaps not a family portrait one!

I love doing my card. It’s a chance to get creative but also a great way to market my work to existing and potential clients while also giving them the gift of something pretty.  This year I was inspired by the Nutcracker and combined a technique I’ve used before with mirrors and directional lights, along with a borrowed pair of ballet shoes to create the design I eventually had printed on A5 size, fine art cards.

Card design 2016.jpg

The fun thing about this shoot is that I actually created a whole bunch of images, so I had plenty to choose from and use for various purposes.  I chose this one for the printed card because I wanted something different to the normal Christmassy looking things so that my card would stand out among the huge number that most individuals and business will receive.  I wanted something with plenty of texture (I used a burnt paper texture overlay in Photoshop to enhance the patina on the shoes) and something with a vintage feel as this is a look I go for a lot in my work.

However, while this works brilliantly for a paper card, I also used another variant with montage techniques and my favourite crumpled tin foil for Instagram as I wanted something more jolly and bright there and I really love the twinkly bokeh this effect creates.

christmas-design-2

This third version I’m less sure about but I think there’s something here for the future.It’s a little too space age for what I wanted this time around but I’ll hang on to it for the future as I do like the effect.

christmas-design-1

Of course you’ve always got the option to sell your card design to make a few extra pennies, but I tried this last year and the profits were minimal so I’d rather keep my designs exclusive to me and make people feel their special to receive.

So Merry Christmas to all of you, I wish you a wonderful 2017!

http://www.siantphoto.com

Review – Lighting, posing and retouching with Hannah Couzens

Regular readers will know that I’m a huge fan of Hannah Couzens, portrait photographer extraordinaire.  I went on her Basics of Studio Lighting course earlier in the year and had a great time as well as learning a lot of lighting stuff that I’ve been using ever since.  So this next level course was a great way to follow up on that with some more complex lighting techniques as well as learning more about working with and posing models and some very useful tips on portrait retouching.

Hannah ran two classes on back to back days in November and luckily for me the one I was on was all ladies and one of them was also on the previous course with me, so there was a great feeling of cohortiness (yes I’m making up words now) and the atmosphere was relaxed but the participants were also highly motivated and asking lots of useful questions – just what you want in a small group course like this (there were 4 of us in case you were wondering).

We started the day with corporate headshots of our male model.  This is a really practical thing to have up your sleeve as there’s money to be made with corporate headshots if you’re good at it – so I’ll definitely be looking for some opportunities to practice this.  Hannah builds up all the lighting set ups from one light first and then adding lights in and all the while we talking about the posing, how to get a friendlier looking image and coping with common challenges like double chins, glasses and scowling finance directors.  Probably my top tip from this section was about separating the dark suit from a dark background with a back/hair/rim light.

_mg_7191
Corporate headshot with separation lighting from the back

 

Next up was a more fitness style set up, also with our male model.  This started off simple, building up to 3 lights plus a back light with a gel and a smoke machine.  Great fun and, while this is not a set up I can easily replicate on location or in my tiny studio, the posing in particular will be really helpful.  Again, fitness style portraits are a growth area and posing them right is tricky. You want edgy for fitness shots so the lighting needs to be really precise.

_mg_7205
Fitness style shot set up – lights included!

 

After lunch we met Lucy our professional fashion and beauty model for the afternoon.  We began with a Q&A session during which Lucy talked about her experiences working with different photographers, including a few horror stories about over re-touching, overstepping boundaries and uncomfortable situations.  In particular it was interesting to hear that even professional models like Lucy appreciate some direction and encouragement that they’re giving you what you want in terms of looks and poses.  Given this, I now feel a bit more confident giving direction as I was always worried about coming across as too bossy during shoots, whether with models or regular people – I’m a lot less worried about that now and I think I’m getting better images as a result.

_mg_7229-edit

Shooting Lucy for a soft and pretty look as well as a more classic beauty shot was an absolute pleasure.  We had a lot of fun playing with both the lights and the poses and I particularly enjoyed some shots lit for black and white as this is a big part of my work.  I’m getting myself a second speedlight for Christmas so that I can give some of these a go in the new year!

_mg_7225-edit
My new posing and retouching skills at work here – although it’s pretty easy to make it look awesome with a great model like Lucy!

 

As with the previous course, Hannah really packed in the content so there wasn’t as much time on the retouching section as was intended (I think!) as we were having too much fun shooting.  To be honest I think my brain was both fried and buzzing at this time so any more would probably not have gone in well.  Hannah covered frequency separation retouching for skin, which I’ve since been reading more about and having this basic grounding has been useful in exploring the technique further.  For more on this I went to my Kelby One video training subscription and Kristina Sherk – definitely worth getting the free trial to access her course High End Portrait Retouching for a more detailed look at retouching.  But honestly I wouldn’t have known where to start without Hannah’s introduction.

Once again Hannah hit it out of the park with this course, such a relaxed but energetic atmosphere and jam packed with content and some excellent opportunities to practice and get great images.  I made some friends too so that’s a bonus!  Hannah is genuinely supportive as well and there’s a great sense of being part of a club.  She’s always happy to answer questions both during the course and afterwards and she shares a lot of really useful lighting techniques online for free – she’s just a really nice person which counts for a lot in my book.  It’s not a cheap course but it’s a full-on day and a very small group so you get a lot for your money and I think if you’re looking to take your portrait photography to the next level, maybe start charging or start charging more, this course is a good investment in your photographic future.

_mg_7199-edit
One of my favourite shots from the day – lots of fun in post processing!

 

 

 

Lighting, posing and retouching with Hannah Couzens – News you can use!

Aspect Star Rating (out of 5*)
Ease of booking *****
Pre-event communications *****
Personalisation and 1:1 attention ****
Information and Learning *****
Approachability *****
Location *****
Cost *** £250
Image review and feedback ***
Post-event feedback and follow-up ***