Making retro images at a vintage steam fairground

Making vintage style images at a steam powered fairground

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Today we took a family trip to Hollycombe Steam –  a gem of a place showcasing all things steam powered.  My boys have been before with the in-laws and raved about it but I wanted to give it a go too – not least because I fancied some shots of a more candid and documentary style.

The place is fab from start to finish, it’s small and there were no massive crowds nor queues for the rides despite it being a Saturday in August.  Most visitors were families and/or steam enthusiasts and the atmosphere was totally relaxed.  The volunteers manning the rides were friendly and chatty and clearly loved their machines.  There is everything from steam powdered gallopers to a railway engine.

I’ma bit obsessed with older fairground rides and so I spent some time both with the rides and with the people working with them.  I took only a 24mm pancake lens in order to keep the kit light and also to challenge myself a bit. It’s nice to have a multitude of lenses to play  with but when it really doesn’t matter if I get a particular shot or not (no clients, just me!) I like to choose just one and see what I can do with it.

I’m really pleased with the shots, they aren’t super sharp and they are pretty grainy – and I like that – I think they’ve got a good feel.

 

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Next time I might bring a tripod to see if I can do more with the shots capturing the motion of the rides.  Hand-holding at such long shutter speeds means the bits that aren’t moving aren’t sharp either and I think they’ll look better with a pin-sharp reference point and everything else moving around it.

I’d like to say a huge thanks to the folks at Hollycombe – the fact that these amazing machines are not only being preserved but are working and still so much fun to ride is just brilliant.  I’ll be back next summer for another go around!

Sian

http://www.siantphoto.com

 

What a good ‘About Us’ section with awesome photos adds to your small business website

In helping out some friends and photography clients with their websites recently, I’ve been thinking about the obligatory ‘About Us’ section and how that’s developed over time and how it can make a big difference to the feel and appeal of a site.  In the early days of the business website, and still on many long running and large corporate sites, the ‘About Us’ section is a turgid, often buried page required by web designers but neglected by site owners.  The section typically states when your business started, where it’s based and necessary but dull information such as opening times and service statements.  In today’s social internet however, there is an opportunity to use this section to engage with potential customers and really sell what makes your business the place they should go.  Particularly for small business owners, it’s a place to build your brand and sell your personality, tell people about why you’re special and what you can do for them.

Of course you need to have the practical information on your site, where you are, what you do and when you’re open but I’d suggest labelling those pages clearly with what it is “opening hours” “how to find us” and so on.  It’ll make it easier for people (and search engines) to find those details when they want them.

Here are my suggestions for things you might try with your About Us section to make it work harder for your business.

1. Use images of yourself and your staff

If people are coming to you for a personal service (particularly if they’re inviting you into their home or it involves their body or wellbeing) they want to know who to expect and may feel more confident if they can ‘make eye contact’ before they meet you.  In the same way as a good, open, friendly profile picture can make or break your online dating profile, so it can with your business.  If people feel they’re coming to a real person, not a faceless corporation they will be more likely to engage and build long term brand loyalty.  I see a lot of websites with images of the store, or generic stock images representing the service – but I just don’t think they are as engaging as those with pictures of the real people you’ll meet if you go there.

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2. Sell yourselves as well as your product

There’s quite a movement out there now supporting the use of smaller, local businesses so don’t be afraid to get personal and talk about who you are and why you’re running this business.  People want to know that you’re passionate about what you do, what your vision is and why you’re the best option for them.  Talk about your training, ongoing professional development and interests as well as about the services you offer. Don’t be afraid to say you’re a small, local business – it can work in your favour if people feel they’re going to get a more personal service, someone they can ring up and talk to and someone who has an interest in making sure they’re really satisfied with the service or product.

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3. Use images that fit your brand

Having professional images made for use on your website is often seen as a luxury, but it is money well spent.  If the images of your staff are just holiday snaps you’ve got them to submit, or worse  – passport style mugshots –  it shows!  Your images should be in keeping with your brand, fitting with your brand colour scheme, style and the profession you’re working in.  Action shots are great, show yourself and/or your staff at work doing their thing, but make sure these images are well lit, consistent and good quality or it will look a mess.  Combine this with some great headshots of the people you work with and you’ve got a comprehensive image library showing your business at its best.

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4. Create an inspiring statement

I’ve found that small business are often reluctant to shout about themselves on their website.  They’re wary of overstating how good they are for fear that they won’t live up to expectations.  However, there’s a balance here.  Obviously you need to be totally truthful about your business, but in the same way as a good CV focuses on the positive and achievements, so your About Us description should sing about what you can do.  Your description of your business needs to reflect your passion for it, your vision for the business and the persona you want people to see.  Keep it short, but use emotive language to draw people in.  For example here are 2 descriptions I found in the about us section on  two different sites for plumbers (anonymised of course)

X Plumbers is a local company headed by Joe Bloggs, an award winning engineer with over 20 years’ experience. Quality workmanship and customer satisfaction are paramount to our ethos”

“We offer domestic plumbing and heating services of all aspects in Timbuktu and the surrounding areas. We specialise in central heating systems, boiler servicing and gas safety checks, energy efficient controls and solar water heating systems”

The first one is what I’d like to see, it’s warmer and more personal.  The second one is factual, and there’s a place for that information on the website – but not in the About Us section!

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5. Think about navigation

Now that you’ve invested time and effort in your About Us section make sure that people can find it.  Make the link prominent on your site so that people will click it, again use of a gorgeous image will help here.  Many pre-made website templates put the link to this section just at the footer of the homepage but very few people are going to look for it there.

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Find out more about me at www.siantphoto.com