Professional Profile Portfolios

August 18th, 2016

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After many years of visiting Fota House and Gardens, I finally got to take photographs inside the house itself.

It was set up for a session to take a series of profile images for musician Sophie Creaner.  Sophie needs a range of images to provide to media and organisers of concerts to promote herself and concerts in which she’s playing.

So rather than setting up a shoot just for a particular concert, we shot a range of images with different styles and settings so she has something for every occassion.  We included headshots and I’ll end up delivering versions in black and white and panaoramic crops so that she has a lot of choice.

It was a great location for portraits and as usual Sophie was a pleasure to work with.

A Portfolio Session like this is a very cost-effective way of generating a stock of professional images for on-going promotional work.  Don’t leave it until you’re being asked by press or PR for an image for a deadline tomorrow: take the time to plan the setting and layout of your images to present yourself in the way your clients will react best to.

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Analogue Love/Hate

March 29th, 2016

There’s been a resurgence of Arty/Retro/Hipster Love of film recently.  Starting I guess with the Lomo guys and I most recently found a more and more of this kind of stuff around the place.  I got the tour of Sample Studios recently and they even have a dark room (remember those?).

Now, I still own far more film cameras then I’m ever likely to use and every now and then hanker to pick them up, fire the shutter and even tempted to fire off some of my few remaining film rolls.

If only I had the time.

But recently the reality of my film days was brought back to me with a bump.

I recently started leafing through my archive of neagtives looking for a nostagic picture of Mrs Lamb in order to make her Birthday card.  Lots of really lovely old stuff in there and I took more time than I had available to look through those photos.

Amongst them I found a couple of images from my Student Days that I’d had half a mind to scan up so having dusted off the film scanner I ran them through.

Lovely shots (OK I might do more with the location now) but holy cow just how much crap is on that negative!!!

We’re talking, scratches, damaged emulation, dust, drying marks – plus substaintial grain issues.  All that nostaglia about the details of the baths: the signage, the tiling, the scoreboards is now masked with crap.   Now this was probably a home-cooked negative so much of the responsibility is mine.  But I had no better luck with most labs.

Going digital was the first time I got full control over my end-to-end workflow.  Aside from the ability to chimp, the flexibility and speed of digital.  I finally got the quality of finish I was looking for.

Here’s the final, cleaned up image (there’s probably more that could be done with this).   For anyone interested in the original scan it’s available here.

The Loughborough Colleges 25yd Pool, circa 1991

The Loughborough Colleges 25yd Pool, circa 1991

Incentives (Draft 2)

March 24th, 2016

I knew this would be a difficult subject to address.  Draft 1 kinda turned into a rant so it’s consigned to the WordPress ‘permanent draft’ folder.

So let’s start again.

My objective for all my family photo sessions is that everyone enjoys it.  It’s simple really: if we can make sure that the whole experience is a very positive one then the photos will reflect that.  As much as possible is done to make that happen – choosing a good location, timing etc – and from the moment we meet it should be obvious that this isn’t something that anyone needs to get stressed about: we’re just going to go out into the Park and take some photos.

I find that kids react to their environment.  If everyone is cool and easy-going they’ll relax and be themselves.  They’ll start playing and I’ll be able to watch them, encourage them, they’ll start to trust me and take some really lovely pictures of them.

It’s easy to go in to a photo session with expectations of how it’ll be.  In reality you might not have done this before. I think some parents worry that they might not get the images they expect.  Remember that all my work is shot with ‘normal’ people.  The pics on the web site are kids just like yours.

I’ve done this before.  You’re in good hands. I understand that kids need some time to get used to me, the camera and having their photos taken.  They need time to feel comfortable, reassurance that they’re not going to get into trouble for doing or not doing something so they can relax and play.

So don’t panic.  Relax and enjoy your kids and let me handle the photos. Don’t ask the kids to ‘smile’ or ‘be good’ because those terms mean nothing in the context of the photo session.

It’s not uncommon before or during a session for some parents to get so worried that their kids won’t ‘smile’ or ‘be good’ that they offer a reward for doing just that.  I have found that overall that’s not helpful – mostly because it’s too easy to get wrong.  Kids can become so focussed on the reward that it upsets the session.

Equally they can be so unmoved by the reward that they are impervious to it’s charms and parents are tempted to escalate the incentive (or even turn to punishments).  In this case we’re now fighting and the chance of pictures of a relaxed kid smiling are reduced.

I’ll try to illustrate:

Dad: Now you be good for the man
Kid: ????
Dad: Smile now
Kid pulls weird grin
Dad: Not that smile, your real smile
Kids weird grin just gets weirder
Dad: If you give me a big, real smile I’ll give you a treat
Kid just tries harder at the really big weird grin
Dad: No, that’s not it
Kid is now upset because they failed and won’t get the treat
Dad: Just smile for Daddy
A cycle of weird grins, Dad gets frusrated, Kids gets sadder cos Dad’s not happy. Eventually Dad notices Kid is sad and gives the treat to make it better.  Kid thinks he did good and it’s all over.  Until:

Dad: so where’s my smile?
Round we go again – Kid not sure what he did last time for the treat so goes through grinning-crying routine again.

But we still don’t have a photo.

Now these are hypothetical.  In reality, most Dads are Messers at heart (for their own kids at least) and when they realise they you’re giving them the best excuse ever to just kick back and enjoy their family we get what we came for.

So, in summary:

  1. Relax
  2. Treat the session as just a normal thing to do
  3. Don’t offer incentives or negative repercussions for behaviour
  4. You can reward once we’re done but don’t mention it during the session
  5. If your kids aren’t smiling then say or do something that will make them smile or laugh (just make sure I’m ready to photograph the reaction)
  6. Follow my lead for helping me get a good reaction from them

Halloween Revisited

March 23rd, 2016

Our Halloween Dress Up raised a mighty €700 for our two chosen Charities: Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumin and the Ronald McDonald House.

Time has flown since last October’s Halloween Dress up and I just realised I didn’t get to post a follow-up as we ran through a very busy December and January.

A big Thank You to everyone who called by and took part.  We had great fun as always!!!

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First Holy Communions

January 19th, 2016

We’re starting to get a steady flow of enquires for First Holy Communion photographs so I’ve updated details of Communion Sessions on the web site.

There are two key pages: the first talks about what services we offer for First Communions; the second is details of the Communion Print Packages.

Eddies in the Space-Time Continuum

November 12th, 2015

Excuse the Hitchhikers reference but on Friday I got a real last minute request to help capture an office fit-out.

A lot of work was planned for the weekend and they were thinking a timelapse would be cool.  But the carpet was going in in an hour or so.

I’ve done a few of these but nothing for three days long.  Theoretically once you solve power and storage issues then it should be OK – as long as you get the Maths right.  So I grabbed everything and we went for it.  But you never quite know with these things and there’s no way to check it as you go (and no way to do it again if there’s a problem).

It turned out really well, no unforseen problems.  This is the first cut of the timelapse.  I edited it down a bit more and adjusted some of the colouring for the client but it is pretty cool…

Halloween Dress Up for Crumlin 2015

October 21st, 2015

Our fourth Annual Halloween Dress Up for Crumlin is on this Friday. 23rd October.

We’ll be here from 10:30 to 4pm with the Den all set up for anyone who wants to call in for a Free Photo.

So bring the kids in their Halloween Fancy Dress.  We can take some photos with the pumpkins and our cuddly pet spider and they’ll all get a print.  There’s no charge for the photos or the prints but we’ll be collecting for Crumlin Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House.

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Preparing for your Family Photo Session

October 5th, 2015

So we’ve booked the session, decided where to go and now you’re wondering what you need to do before we meet for the photo session.

I’ll contact you shortly before the session to confirm the booking.  I’d normally leave that until a day or so before the actual session so we can get a more reliable look at the weather forecast in case there’s anything nasty definitely headed our way.  All being well you’ll get a text or a call from me to confirm time and place (but if at anytime you want to check, just give me a buzz).

Similarly if someone’s sick or something else comes up just call me and we can re-schedule the session.  I want to get the best images and that’s not going to happen if someone – especially a young child – is suffering with something.

Clothing

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Lots of girls want to choose their own clothes – it’s part of who they are

The most common question I get asked about is clothing.  There’s no absolute rules here but there are a few things to bare in mind:

  • Everyone needs to be comfortable and free to play.  So warm but not too snugged up, layers they can take off if they’re hot and something handy to put on if it gets cold.
  • Cute hats are generally good – especially if they’re used to them – but try to avoid anything that will hide their faces in the pictures: hats with a brim, scalves, body warmers with high necks etc.
  • Nothing too precious.  They need to be able to play freely without you or them worrying about getting a bit dirty.
  • While the ‘white shirt / t-shirt’ image is popular in the US, it can be quite hard on most Irish kids’ complexions – especially at this time of year.  It’s also going to be the first thing to show dirt (and it may be too cool in Autumn as well).
  • In general remember that we’re here to get pictures of you all and your faces are what we’re most interested in.  So avoid anything that’s going to compete with your expressions visually: heavily branded clothes, tops with characters on them (especially faces), very distracting patterns etc.
  • Brightly coloured clothing can work well in the forest but make sure it’s not too much (or clashing).  Again, the problem comes when the colours take away from the kids expressions.

 

Body warmer are handy but watch out for high necks that will hide their chins

Body warmers are handy but watch out for high necks that will hide their chins

For most people the session is about the whole family but there are parents who don’t want to come into the photos.  That’s a bit of shame but it’s OK.  Even so you might be asked to support your children getting up onto a tree or something or just holding their hand at some point so even if you don’t want to do a full family photo, make sure that you’re wearing something you don’t mind being photographed in (even if it’s your back or your arm).

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Mom and Dad need to get in on the act too!

Incentives

This is generally not something you think about before the session but getting this wrong in the middle of the day can make things harder than perhaps they need to be.  It’s often occurred to me that I should have talked to parents about incentives before the session because they have an significant impact on childrens’ behaviour (for good or for bad).

There’s actually quite a lot of psycology in taking pictures.  Offering a reward for ‘good behaviour’ with small kids can be hard to get right (and easy to get wrong).  It tends to work once or twice for a short period and you never quite plan for what happens next.

In fact, this is a big subject and I’m going to need a separate post but suffice it to say here that you should think more about positive re-enforcements (“how nice this is going to be”) and distractions (“what’s over there?”) than offering a reward for ‘being good’.  I’ll be doing my best to make the whole session fun and hopefully they’ll be happy and playful without the promise of a reward.

Food

You know your own kids.  If they don’t eat between meals, they’ll be fine.  If they snack then yes, bring food. Something small, clean, easy / quick to eat and not too sugary.  Bite-sized snacks that aren’t rewards are ideal.

Where to go in Cork

October 1st, 2015

In the last article I looked in a general way at where to go for your location session.  If nothing comes to you yet then here are a few more specific ideas for where to go in Cork:RLU_3917

Currabinny Woods (51.812170, -8.304958) is an excellent location for family photos.  It has everything: it’s compact, good parking and not too far away.  It has plenty of options for kids of all ages in most weather conditions.

Fitzgerald’s Park (51.8962438,-8.4958268) is another good location and very handy from the city.  We normally start at the Museum end and work our way through the park.  Lots of options here including the trees, stumps, sculptures, benches etc.  They new playground is a lot more photogenic but because there are usually so many other kids there we leave that to the end after the session (sometimes it can be used as an incentive if you’re careful with it – more on incentives later)RLF_2006

The Japanese Gardens, Ballinlough (51.8863896,-8.4489809) may not be the most selubrious location but it’s very handy for the office and the lower part of the park offers enough options for a good family photo shoot.  There’s a nice bit of cover there, benches, trees and the quarry as backdrop so it has worked very well for me on many occassions.

The Lough (51.885795, -8.488243) is more limited in terms of stuff to sit, stand or lean on but there’s enough there to work with and the Lough itself looks nice as a background.  The far end is probably nicer than the Hawthorn end but we usually stroll around and see what works best.  The playground is very bright and can be busy for photos.

Ballincollig Regional Park (51.890118,-8.61589) is a bit further out of town and quite a large area.  The area closest to the car park is pretty open but there are areas near the river and down the far end that could be used.  It’s probably more suitable to older kids who don’t mind walking further.

Faran Woods (51.8888995,-8.75678) is even further out.  It’s a good location but there are a some of things to watch out for (apart from having to pay for the Car Park!).  The playground is on the way in so you can get a bit stuck there if you don’t manage things properly.  It’s a nice wooden playground but there’s more opportunities to be had in the woods themselves.RLJ_0384

Rostellen Woods (51.8446453,-8.1904122) is out the other side of the city but handy for Midleton or East Cork in general.  It’s a nice compact woods with options for views of the harbour is your kids can walk that far.  The ruins on the shore also offer some nice options for posing and backgrounds to add to the forest pictures.

Killeagh Woods (51.9427735,-7.9922103) is even further out East of the City but is a really nice compact woods with lots going on there to work with: a stream, bridges, woods, benches, all that.  Take the left behind the Thatched Cottage and left again to go up along the river.

Fota Gardens (51.8927924,-8.3058249) is a great location for photos with plenty of options for playing and forming informal groups: house steps, carved seats, fernery, rose gardens, orangery etc  Technically you may need permission to shoot in the grounds but I’ve never had a problem there.  Much of the Arboretum is evergreen so it works well all year round but if you’re looking for Autumn colour, it’s not your location of choice.

Where to do your family session

September 29th, 2015

In the first part of this series of posts, I wrote about booking your session.  But where would you go?

Well, the simple answer is ‘anywhere’.

I’ve done sessions in many locations across the city and county and there’s never been a location that didn’t work out well.

There are however a few ingredients that make things easier for everyone.  The objective is to get a really good range of pictures of everyone having fun.  Choosing the right location gives us the a better chance of getting as many pictures as possible.

So here’s my guide to choosing a location:RLC_2445-1000px

Somewhere personal.  Do you have somewhere that your family visit regularly, somewhere you’ll look back on and identify strongly with this time in your lives?  These places are definitely the place to start.  Using a location which is part of your family history to create memories is very precious.

Feeling free.  RLD_7503Taking the photo session outdoors serves a number of purposes – it takes the pressure out of a studio session and everyone finds it easier to forget they’re being photographed.  Not many people have their private copse but many of the local parks and forests are quiet enough for us all to feel inhibited.

Backgrounds.  But the location will also for a background to RLJ_0400your photos – even though it may be deliberately out of focus in many of the pictures.  One of the reasons Autumn forest pictures work so well is that the trees are alive with colour and can be used to create stunning backgrounds.   Don’t assume your favourite location is deciduous though – many local forests are evergreen.  That still works but may not be what you expect.

Levels.  If you were to ask me what the hardest place to photograph is I’d say ‘in the middle of a fRLE_3094ield’.  It’s much easier to work with a range of terrain, benches, logs, trees, bridges, walls, summer houses etc to provide options for people to sit, stand and lean on.  It gives them something more natural to do (posing standing still is very unnatural) and it provides the opportunity for Small People to get more height and be closer to their parents (and Big People to hide a bit if they want).  The more things to climb and sit on the better.

Something to do. “Stand there now and look relaxed and happy”.  No better way to make somone tense and uncertain looking.  It’s all about providing a distraction and at it’s simplest it’s just walking, exploring, climbing trees or choosing colourful leaves.  But if you can think of other things that the kids love to do (without turning it into a competition) then we can work it in.  Most of the time they find something to do themselves and we photograph that.  Playgrounds sometimes work but they can be busy (and we don’t want other families coming in) and brightly coloured stuff can be distracting in the final pics.RLJ_6615

Cover.  The obvious concern about an Autumn session is the rain, but full sun is a problem too.  Either way it’s handy to have a bit of cover available to give options for shade as well as to keep out of cold winds.

Distances.  You’re probably going to have to drive to the location so just keep it to a managable journey.  If you’re all tired and cranky after the journey then it’s going to take longer to distract everyone out of it and we’ll get less opportunities for what we’re looking for.  Also consider how far we need to walk from the car park to the nicest spot and how old the kids are (bring the buggy if you need to but we don’t want anyone dozing off before we get some pictures).

In the next post, I’ll look at a few good locations around Cork that you might consider.