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Monthly Archives: July 2014

28 
Jul

15 Steps to Find the Commercial Photographer of Your Dreams in Leicester

Commercial Photographer LeicesterPosted on Friday, July 28th, 2014

Too often I talk to people who want commercial photography but they either do not know where to start when they have to choose one, or they are disappointed with the end results.

It doesn’t have to be that way if you follow some straight forward steps.  Like any project – good planning will help you find the “Chosen One”, get the best out of the photographer and allow them to do the best for you.

1.   Decide what you want to use the photography for. Are you looking for traditional brochure style photography, or do you need something edgy and modern looking?  The photographer will want to know who your target audience is – young old, national, regional, trade etc.  They will want to know is this for – publicity, website, brochures or printed material or all of these?  How will the imagery be displayed?

2.   Think about how and where you want the photographs taking.  Are they at one site or does the photographer have to travel?  Are they at your premises, at one of your customers’ premises, in a studio or out on a job location?

3.   Do you want Video as well?  Some photographers will “do video” but they have no real experience of real video production procedures.  Will the photographs be used in conjunction with the videos because there will need to be some sensible coordination by the photographer.

4.   How many images do you need? Some photographers charge by the number of images produced, some by the time they have to take to produce the images, others will produce a gallery of images and you pay for each image you chose to buy.

5.   How do you want the images delivering to you?  Do you want them in print, as digital images, on DVD, USB memory stick, or to download from an online web-gallery?

6.   What is your Budget?  Do your research and find out what sort of budget you are going to need to spend to get a quality photographer that you are looking for.  Is the photography budget set in stone or open for negotiation? As with most things in life, you normally get what you pay for.  Cheap photographers are cheap for a reason!

7.   Make sure you involve all in your business that will use the photographs.  I am always amazed at the number of times that I have started a shoot, based upon the brief of a Marketing Manager or Business Owner, only to meet other people in the business.  They express disappointment that the shoot will not cover their needs or they have a chat with the relevant person, only for the brief to be changed “on the hoof”.  Had I known the changes before the event then I would have considered other equipment.  For example, I would need to bring continuous lighting instead of flash if video is needed in addition to still photos.

8.   Research photographers.  There are several avenues to do this and they are all important:

  • Get online.  All reputable and worthwhile professional photographers will have a comprehensive website (and many will have blogs) showing what they do.  They should also have a string of testimonials to look at.  Check their Facebook and Twitter pages – is the feedback from clients good? How does the photographer respond to comments (especially any negative feedback)?
  • Ask your business acquaintances for recommendations.  Ideally, these recommendations will be from people who have used a particular photographer, rather than I have a mate who “does photography” or who “owns a decent camera”.
  • Create a shortlist.  Write down a list of criteria for your project and as you go through the research you can add potential photographers and score them on a grid.  You can then analyse which photographers seem to fit your criteria.
  • Read reviews.  If you find a photographer that interests you – make sure to check for any reviews they might have online. This will allow you to judge their track record and if they are worth pursuing.
  • Remove from your list any individuals with less-than-stellar records, weak references, or a style that you dislike.
  • Expensive equipment does not make a good photographer.  Just because somebody has purchased an expensive camera doesn’t mean they’re a professional photographer.  You are interviewing the photographer not his equipment.

9.   Face to face meeting.   After you have completed your research and reviewed your shortlist – meet your prospective photographer(s).  Be prepared to talk about your specifications in detail.  This should only be necessary for commissioning a photographer for an extensive amount of work.  Telephone conversations should be sufficient for one-off jobs.

An experienced photographer will want to ask their fair share of questions, including the location of the event, the days and hours he will be expected to shoot, the kinds of images you’re looking for and how you’ll be using the pictures. They are almost certain to want to compile an event schedule or shot list.  This will give the photographer a clear understanding of where they need to be at specific times, who and what you want captured and any scheduling conflicts. Communicating specific event details helps the photographer define the job, create an accurate estimate and prevent surprising, last-minute cost add-ons.

When interviewing – make sure to ask questions about public liability insurance, VAT, and whether they have a back-up camera equipment or not.

Give the photographer a realistic deadline for when you want the photos.  Make sure that you specify how you want them delivered, whether online or via portable drives. This will help both you and the photographer come to an agreement on needs, expectations, price and terms, it’s time to draft the contract.

10.   Ask About Your Rights.  Most contracts stipulate that the photographer owns the rights to all photos taken.  In other words, the photographer can use them promotionally (on their website or blog, submit them for publication and even use them in ads).  That also means that you can’t just use any of the digital proofs they send you.  Most photographers have a policy that you can only share watermarked images or images with their credit on them.  This may mean that you have to buy the rights to the images, or that you are granted usage rights in certain territories for a specified length of time.

11.   Get the Post-production Details.  How long will it take to get the photo proofs back from your photographer? A good photographer will be shooting enormous RAW files not your conventional JPG that your snapshot digital camera takes.  The photographer uses RAW files because it gives them greater colour depth and a higher dynamic range than shooting jpegs.  More importantly, it also takes a longer time to upload, process, edit and output all those files.  They will ensure they get the correct colour balance, exposure levels, tone curve and lighting effects. You should ask:

  • How many images should I expect?
  • Will they be high-resolution or low-resolution?
  • Will I be able to get prints made myself, or does the photographer retain the rights to the images?
  • Will the proofs I see be the retouched versions, or does that happen after I select the photos I want?
  • Are there retouching options and special effects.  This might range from simple colour balancing to air-brushing out small details or selectively lightening or darkening particular areas in the photos.

12.   Ask for references.  A good professional photographer will always be happy for you to take references from previous customers.  Take the time to call and ask whether they were satisfied with the photographer’s work.

13.   As with any major decision, sleep on it.

14.   Make your choice.  After your face-to-face meetings or telephone conversations, make the decision.

15.   Use a contract. Again, most photographers will provide you within a contract to stipulate how long he or she will be present, whether they’ll use a second photographer or assistant, and how many pictures you’ll receive and in what form and arrangement.  Beware of any photographers do not offer a contract – you may find it difficult to tie them down to exactly what they are going to shoot for youAlways read what you sign.

The End – you should now have your “Dream Photographer”.  Once this process is all complete you should have the basis for a successful relationship with your chosen photographer that leads to some great photographs.

If you would like to discuss any commercial photography assignments from a “Dream Photographer”, please Contact Me or give me a call on 07073 638 591.  Martin Neeves – Commercial Photographer Leicester.

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Published Date: 28th July 2014
Category: General
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10 
Jul

Homer Simpson’s™ Guide to Professional Photographers in Leicester

Our thanks go to the creators of Homer Simpson for all the fun they have given us over the years.

Homer Simpson™ has become the archetypal image of the stereotype of stupidity and laziness. His failure is based upon a guy who can never beat the system. Looking carefully you see that the reason that he never gets ahead is that he uses lazy logic to justify taking short cuts and reasoning that his failure is someone else’s fault.

Many of the myths about photography could have been generated by Homer Simpson.

Anyone can take a great photograph, hell you just point the camera and press a button

So Homer thinks that the advent of digital cameras has made everyone a great photographer. You can just point the camera and shoot a great photo. It is not the camera that takes the photos, it is the photographer – the camera is just a tool.

Bad PhotoGood photo
“Portrait from the Homer Simpson™ library” – How it could have looked on the right

I just been down to Walmart and got an expensive camera – now I’m a pro

Homer boy, you can have all the kit in the world – commercial photography is more than just taking pretty photos. They need composing correctly, you have got to understand how to exploit different lighting conditions and you have got to take a good image in all conditions.

Just buying a better camera or getting the latest one will not make you a pro or ensure you produce top quality images. In fact, with modern digital cameras they open up new horizons because of their complexity. However, if the professional photographer does not master the high-tech equipment they cannot take great photos. I have seen some outstanding photographs taken on low-tech basic cameras by those who are masters of their craft. OK, a modern digital camera will be able to take photos in focus and correctly (ish) exposed), but it will not have the imagination to create or see a photo, compose it, light it, cajole subjects into giving the right expressions and press the button at the decisive moment.

Too often website owners play at Homer Simpson™ – as can be seen below. Which image is going to entice someone to buy your products? It is not the product that fails but the photograph.

Sorry Homer your shot on the left ain’t a good product shot – here is how it can be done on the right.

CakeNice Food

Do’h – anyone can take photos on a mobile stupid

Mobile cameras are designed as a utility camera to take snap shots on the move, they do not have the lenses or settings or lighting to take professional photos. Again, I have seen some astounding images taken on mobile phones, but it is the photographer not the camera that did that.

So I fluffed it a bit – we can fix it in Photoshop

Now Photoshop is good, but it cannot make a bad photograph good. It can optimise a good photo to show it best characteristics but Photoshop requires a lot of skill set altogether. However, Photoshop can make a great image exceptional in the hands of an expert.

Photoshop cannot cover up a critical mistake such as poor composition, poor expressions by the subjects or a shot that is out of focus. No Homer, you cannot claim that the out of focus shot you produced was your artistic interpretation – let’s face it we know you cannot take good photos.

Pah – if I tell people I’m a professional then by gosh I am one

Homer mate, being a professional photographer is more than just a name. It is about the way you conduct business. It is about the expertise and experience you use to produce great images for your clients. And by the way Homer it is also about the way you handle your clients.

Being a professional photographer is like mastering any skill like driving a car. The more you do it, the more experience you have – then the better you become. A qualification can be an indicator but a true professional will have a credible portfolio to demonstrate his or her skills. I have been a full-time professional photographer for 27 years (and I’m still learning), but when my clients hire me, they are hiring all that experience too.

What do you mean, “What lighting will I use?”? – the freeking camera has a flash on it

Hmm Homer the built-in flash on cameras is for general (very amateur) use and cannot cover all lighting needs. It cannot be angled to bounce the light or used off-camera so it will create harsh shadows against the wall behind subjects and it will often give subjects the dreaded red-eye (which is so attractive – NOT!). All professional photographers know that good lighting is the key to every image. More than that it is also about knowing how to set up a shot is critical to a photograph’s success. A photographer cannot blame a bad shot on the light they have to deal with whatever light they found and enhance it by making the best of their lighting equipment.

Avoid the Homer Simpson™ Professional Photography methods

Thanks for your insights Homer, but you know I think you must stop selling your online book “How to become a professional photographer” because too many business people seem to have read it and taken it as gospel. Daily I come across websites, newsletters, mail shots and flyers that have photography that might well have been produced by the Homer Simpson Photography company. A good shot from a professional photographer will pay you back in spades because it will give your business a professional image. Take a look at your publicity photos. What do they say about you? Do they show you really care about your business and your clients?

If you want to find out how your business can avoid the Homer Simpson approach to professional photography, call Martin Neeves on 01455 271849 or use my contact form to get in touch now.

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Published Date: 10th July 2014
Category: General
Tags: , , , , ,