The Proactive Photographer

It may seem obvious but the best pictures are taken by photographers who have a picture in mind and set out to get it. So many people are reactive, including many professional photographers

They may technically be gifted and highly capable but the nature of their work means they are capturing what happens in front of them. They are in effect creating a record or archive where there is little room for creativity. They need to produce an image to a brief; it has to fit a format and usually delivered in short order. They react to the event quickly, they don’t get a second chance.

Most amateur photographers fall into the category of Reactive Photographers, they may carry their camera with them wherever they go and will shoot family and friends, home and holidays as they happen. There’s nothing wrong with being reactive. If your life prevents you from being a proactive photographer.

Being proactive requires much more thought and planning. The landscape photographers I work with on the photography breaks are the classic example of being proactive. The know the shot they are looking for, they need the clouds to be in the right place and be the right colour, they need the sun to appear at just the right time in just the right place. They have the dedication to get out of bed at uncivilised times in the morning when it’s dark and cold and drive for an hour or more before hiking to their chosen location. After all that the conditions may not be right and their efforts prove fruitless. Undaunted, they’ll be back the next day and the next day until they get the shot they want.

There’s much more of the artist in the proactive photographer, they see the shot not in technical terms and camera settings but in colours, light and shade, shapes and composition. They see the finished result before they pull their camera out the bag and stick it on a tripod.

We’ve all been lucky sometimes and just happened to be in the right place at the right time and got a picture to be proud of but when you plan it and get it right – Wow!

Next time you’re captivated by a fabulous picture – ask yourself; did that happen by chance or by design.

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The Proactive Photographer

Back to School

At Nottingham Forest FC, learning more about using Social Media for business.
You think you’ve been at it for a while but a little eduction does no harm at all. With Susan Hallam of “Hallam Internet” who is opening my eyes about new developments and what is becoming accepted as the right way of doing things.
Watch this space for changes in the way that Red Dog uses all the SM channels over the coming weeks.

Back to School

Networking – Eight Essential Elements

Networking - great promotion if you get it rightLike  any oher form of business promotion, Networking is as much about what you put into it as what you get out of it. Gleaned from many years of attending some truly shocking events and some totally brilliant ones, here’s a few pointers worth considering:

1. Don’t Rush It – Networking is not about making instant returns; you’re not going to turn up at your first event and get lucky. It’s all about building relationships, getting to know people and building trust. There’s more to it than pitching and dealing, plugging and promoting.

2. Communication – Being a good communicator helps and regularly attending a networking event helps you hone that vital business skill and improves your effectiveness. A lot of people are nervous at first but you’ll be amazed at how quickly you find your confidence.

3. Decide What You Want – Try out different networking groups; some are regular and structured, some are more informal. Some require membership and a substantial commitment in time and money, while others allow a pay-as-you-go approach and accept that there are times when you may not be able to get along to the event.

4. The Social Element – For sole traders and micro businesses, the network meeting might be the only personal contact they have in the working day and many people simply enjoy the social aspect of the event. Be wary of thinking they have nothing to offer you, you never know who they might be talking to next.

5. Be Interested In Others – While it’s good practice to take enough business cards with you to a networking meeting, be wary of those who arrive armed with enough promotional literature to paper the venue. They probably have a specific agenda and it’s unlikely to involve asking you about your business.

6. The Elevator Pitch – If you attend an event where you get the chance to stand up for a minute or two and talk about what you do, don’t blow it by talking for too long or by not preparing your elevator pitch and rehersing it. No one appreciates being lectured by a self-obsessed bore and you’ll kick yourself if you just wing it and forget to mention something crucial.

7. Regular is Best – Whether you go weekly, fortnightly or monthly, try and find a group that you can become a regular at, people will trust you more and are more likely to recommend you to others. Remember that everyone at the event will have other networks and making the right impression could well open doors you weren’t even knocking on.

8. Reap The Rewards – If the event produces a delegate list, don’t fall into the trap of rushing back to the office and firing off emails to everyone on it. Be selective, follow up conversations you’ve had with a polite thank you and act on what you’ve promised to do. Above all, enjoy it, don’t go with the sole intention of getting something out of it, give it time, work at being a good networker and the benefits will soon manifest themselves.

Networking – Eight Essential Elements

Dynamic Social Promotion

Social Media for dynamic business promotion

The Social Media landscape is constantly moving and every month brings revisions and added features to each of the numerous channels. For business promotion some are better than others but all have a role to play.

  • Share real time updates – in the lead up to an event and while it’s in progress, let people know what’s going on.
  • Set up a page on Facebook and company profile on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is the most effective for companies that work mainly in the B2B sector while Facebook is a superb way for those who deal with consumers to engage more.
  • When setting up a Facebook page don’t forget to register a ‘vanity’ URL – e.g. facebook.com/reddogphoto – it looks so much better than a long string of numbers. Facebook used to insist you had a minimum of 25 likes before you could do this, but recently they’ve relaxed the conditions.
  • Respond to posts – use positive and negative comments to engage clients, customers, prospects or the public at large. Be sure to address any issues before they fester.
  • Post photographs and video clips – use images wherever you can, images of people, products or premises to create a buzz and give people more reasons to visit your website or get in touch. Make sure the images you use are good quality and saved in a format that will load quickly, no-one wants to wait while a huge image take hours to download. Video clips can be anything from a ‘talking head’ to some action footage of an event or presentation.
  • Ask questions – social is meant to be interactive, so engage your audience, find out what they think of your products or services – and remember to reply and thank them.
  • Create incentives – deals for early bookings, a competition for the best tweets, a prize for the most creative post, link to an online survey or poll, use the twitter hashtag to vote for a winner.
  • Link Social platforms to your business website – with so many different platforms there’s no excuse for not interacting with your customers on many levels. Try and vary the posts to avoid the same wording appearing in half a dozen places but check the main website links to all the channels and they all link back.
Dynamic Social Promotion

It can be complicated

If you do something often enough it becomes second nature and in almost all walks of life jargon develops that those you work with or interact with speak and understand as fluently as you do.

It’s not until you step outside of that cosy environment that problems start and like any other photographer I’m as guilty as the next for lapsing into techno speak thinking that clients know what I’m talking about – that’s always assuming that I know what I’m talking about!

Consider the following terms, definitions and descriptions and see how easily it can be to confuse the issue or leave someone in the dark:

Format – we reel off terms like JPEG, TIFF, pdf, GIF, PNG or Bitmap as if the whole world understands what we mean. They all refer to digital images of one form or another but which one is right for a specific application? In most cases a JPEG file will do the job but it’s too much for a simple application and not enough for a big print application.

Mode – is a digital file saved in RGB or CMYK? Or is it Greyscale? Put very simply it’s the difference between projected light (computer monitor) or reflected light (printed page) and the process for making that image look right whatever it’s intended use. A printer can always convert an RGB file to CMYK but there is a chance that some colours may be look different from the original.

Size – if someone asks how big a picture is, do they mean it’s physical dimensions when printed? The number of pixels contained in it or how much memory it will take up on your hard drive? It’s too easy to talk at cross purposes and it’s worth checking who is referring to what.

Compression – nothing to do with trying to squeeze into a pair of jeans after Christmas that used to be a comfortable fit but everything to do with how easy it is to transmit an image via email or ftp. Imaging software will give you the option of compressing a large image file so that it takes up less space without compromising on quality.

Aspect Ratio – not just a matter or square or rectangle but as can be seen on most new widescreen TVs, pictures have to be corrected to fit, sometimes leaving a black space at the top and bottom of the screen. Traditional film cameras would produce an image at a ration of 3:2 (e.g. 9″ x 6″) whereas the new breed of digital camera will produce an image at 4:3 (e.g. 9″ x 6.75″) and a widescreen TV image could be 16:9 or sometimes even wider. Again it’s worth checking what aspect ratio an image will be produced in, with a view to its intended application.

Copyright – the bugbear of most professional photographers who hate to see their work reproduced without licence. Some photographers insist that images can only be used for a specific period of time, in named geographical areas and in certain publications or outlets. They may also insist that they are credited as the author of the image.

Copyright law is almost impossible to enforce and as the internet makes it so easy to transmit, copy and use digital images, trying to enforce it would be a fruitless task. Photographs should be supplied with a licence to use them, while the photographer retains the copyright, certainly this applies to business and commercial applications. The only real exceptions are when photographs are produced as a work of art.

Resolution – this is linked back to size and compression and much depends on what an image will be used for. Online images for websites, blogs, newsletters etc should be saved at 72 dpi and compressed to shorten download time. Pictures for the printed press should be saved at at least 150 dpi but preferably at 300 dpi. This will make them much too big for email transmission but will provide the quality needed for print media.

It isn’t really complicated – but it can easily end up being complicated. Armed with some of the facts from above, hopefully a little communication between all parties will prevent it becoming so.

It can be complicated

Picture Your Event – 10 Top Tips

After photographing many events, it occurs to me that some organisers might appreciate a few tips to make sure they have some great images to remember all that hard work they put in.

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Clear Brief
From the outset, have a clear understanding of what images you want from the event and what you plan to use them for. Do you want general pictures to show the atmosphere of the event or do you need more specific shots of particular people or products.
Check your timetable, the agenda or schedule and spot any likely clashes, you may find it will impossible for the same photographer to be in two places at the same time. Remember the photographer is only human and will need a break occasionally.
Your photographer should be able to offer advice about what works best and make suggestions on how best to achieve the shots you’re after.

Copyright
Make sure that you will not be restricted in how you use the images shot. The photographer will often retain the copyright but grant you the licence to use the images as you wish.
Some photographers may require you to agree to terms and conditions that only permit you to use the images for a specified time period, they may also insist that they are credited as the author of the images and may even require a link to their website.
Clarify the terms and conditions by which the photographer is working; are you paying for the images or just their time?

Distribution
Plan how you intend to distribute the images. As they will be digital files, they can be transmitted or uploaded at the touch of a button anywhere in the world. Decide in advance who will have access to the images and ensure that the photographer understands whether they are for public viewing or limited to a controlled distribution circle.
You may wish the images to be seen by as many people as possible, in which case you need your photographer to make sure that the viewing procedure is as simple as possible.
Depending on your agreement with the photographer and assuming there is an online viewing facility, decide in advance if you want the images watermarked or not and if you are happy for them to be downloaded by anyone who views them.
Should you wish to limit the distribution of the images, make sure your photographer is given clear instructions and protects the images against unauthorised access.

Your Images – Use Them
It often amazes me that I can supply an event organiser with a selection of several hundred images and never see them used. They are a valuable marketing tool and are so much better than library images.
Your images should be supplied to you in a form that makes it easy for you to incorporate them into emails and blog posts as well as website images. They should also be of high enough quality (300 dpi) and large enough for print media or large format display prints with a duplicate set of images formatted at 72 dpi and small enough for web use or email.

Marketing Tools
They are your images, you’ve paid for them so get them out there and use them wherever you can. They may well be worth a thousand words each, so use them to sell future events to potential exhibitors, sponsors, delegates and visitors.
Don’t forget that sponsors will appreciate images that illustrate their contribution to the event, it may well be worth having some prints produced and sending them as a thank you gift. Your photographer should have access to a professional print lab who can produce a, finish and package prints to any size or specification.

Send them to The Media
Newspapers, magazines and trade publications are much more likely to use a press release about your event if there’s a good picture available.
If you’re in touch with the media during the course of the event, your photographer should be able to format any chosen image and transmit it directly to a picture desk within minutes of its capture. A good WiFi connection can help in this respect but the absence of one should not prevent images being transmitted if necessary.

Make them accessible
Everyone loves to check out the pictures of an event they have been part of. Make sure that those who’d like to see the pictures know how to do so. A link in an email, blog or website that takes the viewer directly to an online image gallery will enhance the event’s reputation. The gallery should ideally have a slideshow facility and the option to select images for individual or bulk download.
An added advantage is for the downloads to be available in different sizes. There’s little point in waiting ages for an 8Mb image to download if it’s only wanted as an email image and likewise a 300k thumbnail will be blurred mess if someone tries to blow it up for print use.

Make the Photographer’s Job Easier
If you want some great images to remember your event with, it helps if you make the photographer’s job easier. As mentioned above, a good brief helps but in addition if shots of specific people are required, let them know in advance so the photographer is not left trying to gain access to them.
With conferences in particular, make sure the AV team understand the need for adequate lighting. A video camera requires less lighting than a stills camera and while modern high end professional DSLRs can capture images in almost impossibly dark conditions, the resulting shots will not show the event at its best.

Install a sponsors backdrop
It has become almost commonplace at sports events now that the post event interview is shot in front of a backdrop with all the sponsors logos prominently displayed. It’s worth employing the same practice at Conferences, Awards and Exhibitions, ensuring that the backdrop is located away from the main stage and preferably away from the main flow of traffic. Again good lighting helps and a non-reflective background material greatly enhances the resulting images by avoiding the glare of overhead lights or flashguns. Not only does this keep sponsors happy, speakers, VIPs or award winners can be directed to a clearly designated area.

Use a Professional
Being a good photographer is just the beginning, using a professional photographer with a background in working in the events industry will make the job of the organiser that much easier by managing the whole process of capturing the images without fuss.
A professional photographer should be able to understand your brief and manage the entire photography process including posing individuals and select groups as required.
Images should be available for press distribution whenever necessary and should be available to view online within hours of the event finishing.
Above all a good professional should be unobtrusive and capture your event without becoming part of it.
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Picture Your Event – 10 Top Tips

Are You Moving and Shaking?

Pleased to say that after meeting with Joy Hales, Editor of Derbyshire Life, I’m on the lookout for people in Derbyshire who could be classified as a “mover” or a “shaker”. I am looking for anyone who is doing something different or doing something well – preferably both, who would like to be photographed and featured in the county’s popular glossy monthly.

I’ll be writing a 500 mini feature about each subject and while it will be good publicity for whoever is selected, it’s not meant to be an opportunity for a free plug.

If you know someone, either in business or working in the community who is a bit of a star, then let me know. If you are that person then don’t let your natural modesty get the better of you, get in touch.

The plan is to feature someone every other month, so that’s six per year. No doubt competition will be fierce but if you are the sort of person who’s right for the feature, then you’ll want to let me know and you won’t be shy when it comes to having your picture in the magazine.

Don’t worry it’s not going to cost you anything and the exposure could be just the business break you’re looking for. Email me with your contact details: features@reddogphoto.co.uk and I’ll give you a call. Naturally this only applies to people in Derbyshire or very close to it, so if you’re based overseas or too far away – sorry, you’ll have to wait until I get a contract with one of the Nationals.

Are You Moving and Shaking?