Them Vampires have a lot to answer for

July 06, 2022  •  1 Comment

Whatever happened to the wedding march? Felix Mendelssohn's wedding lynchpin music, that song which, in the distant past, wafted across the entire country, North, South, East and West, every 3.40pm on a Saturday afternoon.

It's a rousing thing the wedding march, gets you in the mood for life's journey together, kinda shoves you out the door saying 'you're on your own now, enjoy'.

Those where the days, I guess from the 1950's onwards to the 2000's where you were either married in a church (3 o'clock, Saturday ONLY) or Friday/Saturday morning at a registry office. 

Literally nowhere else, or at a time different from those mentioned above.

Life for the wedding photographer was a lot simpler then, my time 1980 onwards. Granted, all work was taken on film so the pressure to get it right was through the roof, there was no Chimping in those days. Incidentally, the first professional digital camera I used in anger in 1995 (The £13500 Fujifilm DS515), didn't have a rear screen, so no Chimping at all, but I said to myself, in the future, I won't ever check the images on that rear screen. 

I've never needed to, I won't, that's the decision, I'm a professional. First live job, that promise was broken in less than 10 seconds.

Anyway, back to Mendelssohn and his one-hit-wonder.

When did weddings change? Well, the law changed in 1997, so a barn or a hotel could become a licensed wedding venue. 

Then the world got a little more complicated and Mendelssohn went out the window, literally.

You see, when I started in 1980, you had two options. (1) Registry office = 2 rolls of 12 shot film (2) Full Church = 3 Rolls of 12 shot film. Nothing other than that was acceptable.

Photos were all posed, you'd even hold 4 frames back on the last roll, 2 photos toasting each other, 2 pretending to cut the cake. You where done in 2 hours. But here's the bit that makes me feel depressingly old. Full blown 150 guest Saturday wedding photography cost (drumroll).....£50

This included the photographers time, travel, skill, plus a leather wedding album with 12 8x6 prints. Plus plus, we processed the film that day, made some rough 'proof prints' then went back to the reception and sold them. And all with no Chimping.

Mad huh?

The 1997 deregulation not only changed the venue space but also us photographers emphasis, we weren't suddenly taking posed portraits, we became reportage photographers telling the story of the day. Oh and whist we are on it, if you come across a photographer who calls themselves Documentary Wedding Photographers (which means they can't organise groups and thus shouldn't be photographing people) or even worse Visual Storytellers (what, the word photographer not good enough for you?), give them short shrift please, just for me, you'll be pleased you did, trust me.

So now, the day has gone from a structured 2 hours with 36 shots to a wild 10 hours with a 1000 shots. That's 10 hours of continually searching for a photo. 

Draining isn't the word I'd use, it's far worse than that.

What's this got to do with vampires I hear you ask? I'll tell you.

The deregulation of venues has also allowed couples to chose their own music and up to, I guess 5-6 years ago that was all fine, but not now. My particular favourite was the bride walking down the aisle to ADCD's Highway to Hell, good wedding that.

But now, from nowhere has come A Thousand Miles by Christina Perri. A loverly little ditty taken from one of the Twilight Films. It's everywhere and boy it really really hurts now. Us wedding professionals have had enough. 

We just hear the first few piano keys being plunged and that's it, despair in our eyes. The registrars, the videographer, the caterers, we all have that little look that says 'OMG, not again'

The thing is. it's a universal song, multi-use if you will. Just when you think it's gone because the bride hasn't walked down the aisle to it, it's the song the couple leave to. When neither events play the song and you think you're home-free, it's the first dance song.

Now, leading into May I guessed it was played at 70% of weddings. All 4 in June and the first wedding in July have ALL played it, so a message, 'It's not big and it's not clever', not anymore. And, you're not original, just think about that for a while. Mendelssohn to Perri, oh how the world is failing.

To end the rant, I'm going to tell you the two best first dance songs I have come across.

(1) Creep by Radiohead (2) Days like This by Elbow (which did have me proper crying behind the camera *idiot ED)

Both songs are the string of garlic to make the vampires just go away.

 

 

Jon

 

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How important is photography?

May 26, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

I mean it, how important is photography? And how cool too.

Dead cool I reckon.

Capturing the lives of complete strangers, these landmarks in the lives. Birth, married, family growth, life in general. 

But here's the thing, why make a shoddy job of it? It's important, every time you are employed to take photos of someone or something, it's super important.

A newborn - Important

A new product - important

A school photo - important

A ming vase in a museum - important

You get the message, it's all flipping important. So, maybe you're a new photographer and you like taking photos, or you're an old lag like me, it makes no difference, we have to ensure that that a paying client trust us to photograph their thing the best it can be. We need to own it. They need to trust that we have their backs.

And here's another thing.

If you are not in the game of making sure your photos are iconic, then why are you even a photographer?

We know that the quality threshold has dropped, that the client is happy with poor quality work, but that doesn't mean we have to be, that approach is a downward spiral. It's said that your typical customer is happy with 60% quality.

60%? Take that model into professional photography and your business will die very quickly.

So take my advice, let the others work on that basis, and you? You aim for the stars. Be the best you can, produce those iconic photos that your client will stand in from of every day and will be captivated by.

Photographer Time McCurry said 'I want my photos to be like reading a line of poetry, twice'.

I like that...

...a lot

 

 

Jon

 

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Sowing the seeds

May 13, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Business doesn't just appear you know? Sorry to break it to you.

You have to sow it, grow it and nurture it.

And that's what we have been doing this week, on our Solid Heritage side of the business servicing museums and collections with our dedicated ONSITE digitisation service.

Now this is a unique offering, which we established 20 years ago now.

The concept in a moment, the way it's done with our competitors STILL.

<phone rings>

'Yes we can do that, ship your rare ming vase over and we can do it' they say. 'Yes you'll have to insure it again, yes, you'll have to pay some very expensive courier charges and yes, you'll worry it'll get damaged while it's out of your care, but hey ho.'

Our concept, established in 2002.

We'll test the equipment to breaking point to make sure it travels. We'll work on process to ensure the throughput is high, yes we'll come to you and set up in your archive, yes you can handle the artefact, and yes, you can pop it back safely within 2 minutes of taking it out.

Now, we have honed this vital service, and it works an absolute treat. At a recent 8000 item project, we set up on view to the general public (we even got them involved in the digitisation process) and our process managed to digitise in very high resolution between 250-280 items per day. 

And these weren't small items. Up to 3m long ships plans. So these were placed on our rig, digitised, tagged with the excession number and placed back safely into the archive (20 steps away) every 120 seconds.

How cool is that?

Have a look at our Solid Heritage page, there's a video showing this.

Now these projects don't come around every day so we sow the seeds today, and then, we get to handle some interesting, stimulating stuff. The Nelson Mandela Collection, Brunel's notebooks, RNLI Gold Medals, and so on.

So, we sow the seeds now by spending 2 days at the Museums + Heritage Show in Olympia. Networking with lovely, truly dedicated heritage folk, discussing how we can help.

We suggest you guys get out and network too, sow the seeds now, reap the benefits later, then repeat.

 

 

 

Jon

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The best part of being a photographer

May 03, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

You know what? Being a photographer is so rewarding in so many ways, and the more you do it, the more the rewards flood in.

Of course, when you get it right it can make you a good living at it, although it seems as though there are only a few of us full timers left after the Covid thing mind.

Then there's the actual image creation, building a photo from what you have in your mind, making it something tangible. Putting your thoughts into stamping a memory down on celluloid, well silicon now, but you get the idea. Making that iconic image for the client is (almost) the best feeling ever.

But for me, the very best part is seeing families grow. Yes, sure, you feel very old as you do it, but it is the best, just the best.

We work with a number of communities, and the families within them, and each year, every year we go back and photograph the family. Watching the family bond, watching the children grow.

New arrivals, christenings, first and second birthday's, engagements and weddings. There have been, over our 42 year history, the chance to photography a few funerals too, yup, I know right.

But think about it, death is part of life and to see how these very different communities deal with each stage of life is a pleasure to be involved in. It makes us understand more I guess, appreciate more and respect more the people we meet.

Of course, the other thing about being a photographer is that you see the world in close up. Through the lens you are focussed on what is going on, there is no peripheral vision, no distractions, and when you are that focussed, it allows you the capture those little fleeting moments, that wink, that smile, that squeeze of a hand at the alter.

On one occasion, the fourth and last wedding in the same week and, a little shellshocked, I turn up to the hotel in Luton. 

I'm sure I heard a call, 'Hi Jon'.

Did I dream it? 

Then another, a female voice this time. I locate the person and my spirits elevate, my favourite family ever (including my own), the Fosters/Chambers. Wow, what a wedding, what a buzz and what a good time I had chatting with the family again. During the two hour drive home I had something positive running through me, more than a buzz, a zest for life.

Did we actually discuss at the bar, doing another family event, just so as they could get Jon to photograph it. We surely did.

That's what this photography thing does for you, it plants you well and truly into other peoples lives. And if we can ALL enhance each others lives, how richer a life would we all live.

I once received an hand written note from a bride (we tend to get great feedback after every wedding), but this one was very special. it said '...you enhanced our big day to such a degree...we are so sad that we will never see you again.' Well, there's still time...

Of course, there was one wedding, the number one fun wedding, the only fancy dress wedding I have ever photographed, Victoria and Geoff. So how delighted was I when, three years later, to receive a call from them to discuss a family portrait. 2 becomes 4.

Ah perfect. The perfect family unit.

So to you guys, The Webbs, The Luceys, the Morgans, The Nunns, The Venthams, The Lees, The Freuds, The Collins's, The Sobels, The Kahans, The Symes, The Baileys, The Fosters, The Chambers and all of you...

...thank you, thank you, thank you, not only do you keep me fed, watered and warm, you stimulate and enhance me and, you make me what I am...VERY HAPPY.

 

Jon

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Multi-disciplined Photographers - Why they are best?

January 10, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

NEVER EVER SPECIALISE.

There I've said it, and I've said it all you budding wedding photographers, portrait photographers, fashion photographers, sports photographers et al.

These words have been ringing around my head for the past, ahem 42 years as a pro photographer. Spoken by my very first boss, Frank Barry in Hayes, Middlesex. Frank had been there for over 40 years himself, establishing the studio in around 1930.

He said, don't ever specialise.

And he was, is, absolutely right. 

Now you're thinking, 'say what', 'I photograph what I like to photograph' and here is the first problem when becoming a professional photographer.

YOU ARE NOW NO LONGER DOING IT FOR YOU, BUT FOR A PAYING CLIENT.

Shocking huh?

Now, this is great if your client likes sunsets, but generally, it's of something much less impressive to you, but vitally more important to them. Their widget is THERE life and if you want to earn a living as a photographer, you need to learn how to photograph a widget. However boring it is to you.

So now that the shock is over, and now you realise this photography lark is actually difficult, why do you specialise? 

Here are the three compelling reasons why you shouldn't:

(1) I've never counted but there must be 15 different types or genres of photography. Fashion, sports, wedding, portrait, events, headshot, aerial etc etc. If you are a professional, that means you HAVE to earn a living at it. If a potential client is recommended to you, but you simply say 'don't do that', they WILL find someone who will.

You have then potentially lost not only income from a single job, but the chance to become their incumbent photographer for ever more. You've opened the door to your competitors.

Thing is, if you choose one type of genre to specialise in, you've narrowed your chances to win business DRAMATICALLY. Accepting 1 out of 15 types of work, is not good business practice.

(2) All photographic genres have TOTALLY DIFFERENT RULES, a sports photographer does not need to know how to handle people, just to predict what they are going to do, and pre-empt it. 

Should a wedding photographer be asked to capture a group on a beautiful staircase, it then becomes an architectural shot where totally different rules apply. If you've never learned to photograph a structure, your results will be poor.

The thing is, if you don't specialise, yet get to know the rules for each genre, and over time, you hone those skills and ultimately become a much, repeat, MUCH BETTER photographer.

Plus, I know for me, a blue blooded creative, if I were to stick to the same genre, I'd be a quivering wreck by the week's end. Bored, bored, bored.

(3) Safety - What happens when a market crashes? Say, oh I don't know, when a global pandemic wipes out the hospitality industry? Wedding and event photographers crashed and burned during 2020-21. Others, like us at Solid Imagery, redirected our skillset elsewhere. Want a photography training course? Family portrait (completely Covid safe)? It's so easy to reinvent when you have already part-invented yourself over the years.

Now there are those clients who only employ dedicated photographers specifically for those types of jobs, and great, for someone who has the financial security to build their genre specific business over time, perfect, but for the rest of us needing to pay the bills week-in, week-out, we have to earn from the get go.

So, yes, multi-disciplined, general photographers just makes total sense all around. And if you don't take my advice, we at Solid might, just might be there to scoop up what a potential client throws you, but which you refuse to catch.

 

 

Jon Ball

 

Our company is made up of three main brands:

Solid Imagery - General, multi-disciplined professional photography

SolidHD - Heritage Digitisation serving the museums sector

Solid Schools - Dedicated, high volume, corporate grade school portraits.

 

 

 

 

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