50 Faces goes on display this June 2017 “cue fanfare for baring my soul!”

If you’ve followed me for a while, you might already know about my long-running portrait project 50 Faces.  For those who don’t know – here’s a quick summary of what it’s all about.

Back in spring of 2014, I decided I wanted to learn more about portrait photography – that I might actually want to be a portrait photographer – but I wasn’t sure.  Up until this point my serious photography had been focused on the sport that my husband and I were deep into – rock climbing.  I’d started photographing climbing for the record of what we’d acheived, and had taken many successful images of the landscapes in which we climbed and the routes we took from top to bottom.  Increasingly though I was finding it more interesting to focus on what I now know are called ‘environmental portraits’ of the climbers, to try and capture the feeling of climbing through their expressions and their body positions.

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Capturing images for 50 Faces during my time working in Oman

 

I decided that the best way to find out whether I should pursue portraiture as a creative avenue, was to simply do more of it.  To hone my skills in portraiture by simply getting a lot of practice and deciding what worked and what didn’t, what I liked and what I didn’t.  I didn’t want it to be totally random though and I decided quite early on (after a number of people I photographed asked me what I planned to do with the images) that I wanted this to be a project and potentially an exhibition so I made them all black and white and all square format – limitation being the father of creativity afterall!

Fast forward to today and the project is finally complete.  In the intervening years I have met and photographed a lot of interesting people! Many of these people I already knew, quite a number I did not. Many surfaced as volunteer subjects with whom I’ve since become friends.  I took my project to various places I travelled to, including my time spent working in Oman but I also focused on those close to home.  What I’ve realised is that I have definitely changed, developed and found a style as a portrait photographer – and I adore it!  I love the challenge, the interaction with the subject, the planning to get the perfect shot and even the failure when something just didn’t quite work.  I love the look on a person’s face when they see their image and they love it, and the sometimes quizzical reactions of those who see something they didn’t quite expect.  I love the collaboration of making something that truly reflects the person, whether at just that moment in time or with deeper meaning and connection with their personality, their life, their loves.  More than anything I love the creativity, the multitude of ways that a person can be represented in a photograph and the sheer variety even within the self-imposed limitations of the black and white, square image.

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Good friends and complete strangers alike helped me throughout the project – here, my friend Alan poses atop his balcony in Oxford, UK

 

Technically, all that progress (along with a lot of additional training which I would never have known I needed without this project to help me realise what I didn’t know) has led to me launching Sian T. Photography and moving forward with my photography knowing that the path I’d glimpsed back in 2014 was indeed the right one.

I’ll be writing more about 50 Faces over the coming weeks and will eventually share the whole project – for now just know that the exhibition (entitled Face to Face and in collaboration with two other amazing artists) opens on 13th June 2017 at Cranleigh Arts Centre, Surrey, UK.  I’m both excited and terrified about the whole thing. This is 3 years of my work out there to be judged, but more than that it’s the story of my photographic life over those 3 years and how it’s made me who I am today.

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.

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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?

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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