R Gill Photography: Blog http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog en-us (C) R Gill Photography richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:13:00 GMT Tue, 14 Nov 2017 09:13:00 GMT http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/img/s/v-5/u828535713-o676194562-50.jpg R Gill Photography: Blog http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog 120 120 Trust is always earned never given http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/trust "Don't worry about it Richard, I trust you."  For me this is one of the greatest compliments that a client can pay to you.  It came from a conversation with a property developer. He was asking for a price on a new job and I wasn't quite sure how to cost it. It involved several visits to a building site over many months and the travelling time and hours spent on site would vary. The story behind this remark goes back to a conversation from a year ago.  

The same client asked for a price for creating a time lapse video of a new property development.  Producing a high quality time lapse video for a project that lasts many months can be expensive as they require frequent visits to the site to check the cameras, change the memory cards and download backups of the data. I knew his marketing budget was rather meagre and that it would not cover the costs involved.  I declined to quote and instead sent details of a low cost waterproof camera that had the ability to create time lapse video without much user input.  I don't think they ever went ahead with that project but my honesty in turning down a potentially lucrative job and offering them an alternative solution created a new level of trust in our relationship.  They knew straight away I was not going to rip them off, that I would give them an honest opinion of the best way to do a job and they were grateful for advice that gave them a practical solution.  I understood their needs, and the constraints they had to work within.   Elevated photos of a new houseNew housing development

A year later when they came back to ask for a quote on another long running project I was hesitant about quoting a price.    They new they could trust me and that I wouldn't take advantage of them, so when I tested the water by suggesting what I thought the cost was likely to be they knew they were getting an honest quote. "Don't worry about it Richard, I trust you." was the reply to my pricing suggestion.

Marketing gurus promote that you need to "know, like and trust" a person before you will do business with them and this was a great example of the mantra in action.  In photography it is especially important.  If you want your portrait taken how are you going to relax and feel at ease if you don't like the photographer.  If you don't trust them then you will always be worried that they are not going to make you look your best.

Corporate portraitA standard head and shoulders shot with a relaxed subject

 

One of the problems of working as a professional photographer is that everyone is your competition.  Anyone with a camera phone can take a good shot and if its not critical to get "The Shot" then it doesn't really matter if they produce a bad photo. Potential clients will often choose a mate with a good camera or a colleague who is handy with a smart phone.  They might well "know, like and trust" them, but not necessarily for the right reasons.  If they don't know their photographic ability or expertise, can they really trust them to produce a great shot?

There are always going to be some occasions when getting a great shot is vital. For example when you are going to use those images to market your business and they are going to be in circulation for many months. Photos that you use on your website or printed brochure.  Then you need to have someone who understands the key details of photography:  

  • compostion
  • lighting
  • the technicalities of the camera
  • depth of field 
  • current trends and styles
  • matching the photo style to your brand

Above all you are going to need someone you can trust to get it right.

As well as general commercial photography I specialise in property and food photography.  When I walk into a property to photograph the interior I know straight away what to look for, the unsightly dangling wires of table lamps, the waste paper bin, objects hidden under the bed, all these will need to be moved out of sight. I will be paying particular attention to where the light is coming from.  What can you see out of the window?  Is the view an important part of the picture?

LibraryLibrary in country house

If you are a business which sells food, you will never question the importance of employing a highly trained chef.  One who has years of experience getting all the ingredients, flavours, textures, colours and the look of the dish just right. Are you going to throw all that away for a quick snap on a phone of his classic signature dish? No, you are going to choose someone who you can compose a beautiful image and who knows the technical aspects of the camera and gets it right first time.  A person who won't disrupt your kitchen but who can work quickly whilst the food is still looking at its best. Orange and Whiskey Ginger CakeOrange and Whiskey Ginger CakeOrange, whisky and ginger cake

If you are thinking about getting some new marketing photos then give me call.  We can get to know each other and if you like me then we can build up the trust and produce some beautiful images to showcase your business.  Here's my number 07557 780336, I look forward to speaking to you.

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) food photographer food photography photo photographer photography property photography trust http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/10/trust Mon, 16 Oct 2017 15:34:15 GMT
Swallow Your Own Medicine http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/9/swallow-your-own-medicine I regularly bore people with the virtues of how good photography can make a difference to the sale of your product or service.  I believe it is especially true for property, holiday lets and food.

Recently I had the chance to put my money where my mouth was.  Marketing my own home.  The one big advantage of living on site was that I could choose the best days to photograph the house.  For the outside I chose a sunny day with blue sky and clouds behind the house.  The house faces east so the front had to be photographed in the morning, when the sun would be shining on to it.  This would be the opening shot of any brochure or online posting so the most important photograph. The front of the house on a sunny dayOld School HouseThe front of the house on a sunny day The sun moves behind the house in the afternoon and early evening and shines onto a secluded deck area at the top of the garden so this needed to be photographed in the late afternoon. Not many people will have the chance to do this, but some high end estate agents will book a photographer for the day so they can follow the sun round the property.   You could even have the property photographed at twilight to take advantage of the "golden hour" - ask any landscape photographer or artist and they will tell you that this is a lovely soft golden light that enhances colours and makes the pictures look warm and enticing.

Sitting roomSitting room with character oak beams

As my house is a late 17th century country cottage with small windows I knew the interior would always be difficult to photograph.  I deliberately chose a slightly over cast day as this would give the soft light that would make the interior look at its best.

As well as making sure the photographs were technically the best they could be I also took the trouble to stage the rooms.  I do a lot of work with the hospitality industry, photographing holiday parks, chalets, and holiday lets as well as hotels and restaurants.  The savvy marketeers in these businesses know that they have got to sell the lifestyle, - relaxing by an open fire, enjoying a drink in the evening sun in the garden... I am sure you get the picture.   Having worked with a number of property staging professionals, I don't pretend to be an expert, but I felt I knew enough to do a half decent job of selling the lifestyle of our home, so I did some basic staging of the rooms.  I also know a property stager so if I didn't get a satisfactory result I could always call in a professional at a later date.

We have a multi-fuel burning stove in the sitting room so posing a couple of glasses of red wine in front of the fire was an obvious set-up.  Doing some basic things like having fresh flowers in the rooms, a recipe book open in the kitchen,  and setting up the garden furniture with a jug and glasses of sangria were easy and quick to arrange.

I was also aware that when the photographs are used they would end up in two formats.  They would go on to Right Move and other property portals where the size would be limited to only 1200 pixels.  They would also be used in a full colour A4 size brochure.  They would only be used in a landscape format.  As well as shots of the complete rooms it was important to capture some of the details of the property and its character in close up shots.  These needed to look good even if the image size might be limited to a small format.

Wine in front of the fireA glass of red wine before a welcoming fire

 

Sangria on the deckSangria on the deck area

So when the day came to launch the marketing of the property I was on tenterhooks to see if my belief in quality photographs would be vindicated.  Within 2 days of the property going online we had 6 viewings arranged and within 4 days received an offer of the asking price.

Of course good photography is not the whole story behind this success, but without doubt it helped to a get good level of interest.  The photos did their job, they got viewers through the door.   It is not only property that benefits from well thought out images, food, products or the people in your business need to look their best if you want to get customers through your doors.  Having mouthwatering photographs of your food will encourage diners to your restaurant, pictures of friendly welcoming staff will encourage visitors to your business and engaging product photos will help you secure buyers for your produce. 

Mackerel starterMackerel starterWarm Cornish mackerel, pickled cucumber, horseradish and dill mayonnaise

 

You don't have to take my word for it.  Marks and Spencer's, probably the best known brand for their food photography, recognised how powerful their images are in influencing shopping trends.  They recently decided to stop using images of high fat foods to encourage shoppers to buy healthier products see the full story here

 

 If you think your business or property would benefit from good quality photography and lifestyle staging, please give me a call on 07557 7780336 for an initial chat.

 

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) food photography marketing photographer photography property property marketing property photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/9/swallow-your-own-medicine Tue, 19 Sep 2017 11:08:02 GMT
What Do the Images You Use Say about Your Brand? http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/8/what-do-the-images-you-use-say-about-your-brand "I'll have one of those please", my wife said pointing to the picture of a starter on the menu.

"Errrm, No you won't.  We just cut and pasted that from Google images - I think it is actually Chinese food!" replied the waiter.  

We were sat in an Indian restaurant at the time and just burst out laughing at this response.  Rather than head out the door to the nearest Chinese restaurant, my wife chose Chicken Chat as usual. However the response from the waiter pretty well sums up our view of the place.  The "wow" factor isn't there.  You will just get a tasty meal at a resonable price and the staff are good for a laugh.  If you stop and think about this in more detail you might draw a few other conclusions:

  • They probably don't make everything from scratch
  • They don't care much about the provenance of their ingredients
  • They are not good to surprise you with any innovative cooking

The images you use tell your story, they build or destroy your brand.  If like the restaurant above you use someone else's photos, apart from the copyright issues you are not telling your customers anything about you or how great your business is!  They are not going to connect with your brand and they are unlikely to become a loyal customer returning time and time again. Not the best way to grow a successful business.

The same can be said of stock images.  I follow a local business on Twitter which regularly uses stock photos in their feed.  The business is based in the English Lake District, an area which has just been awarded world heritage status for its outstanding beauty.   The stock photos they use are obviously not taken in the Lake District, in fact most of them look like they are not even taken in England, but in a completely different country! With so much beautiful scenery on their doorstep and so many competitors that are smart enough to show pictures of the Lake District I really wonder why they bother.  The message they are sending out to the world is confusing at best.  It certainly doesn't encourage me to use their business or recommend it to anyone else.  I wonder if I can trust them as their feed is not authentic, and I get no impression of what their business is really like.

So when you are choosing images to post on your website or in your social media feed here are 5 questions that you should ask yourself:

  1. Do they tell your story?
  2. Are they authentic?
  3. Do they engage with your target audience?
  4. Do they make your product or service look amazing? 
  5. Are they consistent with your other marketing?

Here are two examples to show you what I mean:

Story telling: Jack Holden from Mountain Oak WoodCraft in the shot below produces hand made gates - here is part of the story:

Shaping part of gate using a draw knifeGate MakingShaping part of gate using a draw knife

Authentic: This is a photograph of a Chocolate Mousse dessert from the A la Carte menu at the  Punchbowl Inn at Crosthwaite - if you order this, this is what you get!

Chocolate and salted caramel mousseChocolate and salted caramel mousseChocolate and salted caramel mousse, hazelnut praline, ice cream

 

It may not be practical or affordable to use a professional photographer for every image you want to use on your social media.  But if you are using your photographs where they will be seen for several weeks (e.g. on your website or printed brochures) by hopefully thousands of people then you do need to use images that reflect your brand and what your business stands for.   Your engagement with customers will increase and they will grow to love and respect your product or service.  If you are not convinced just look at the photography in Marks & Spencer's food advertisements.  The food always looks mouthwatering, beautiful and of high quality - right in line with their brand strategy.

If you think you need some new pictures that more accurately reflect your brand's values lets's have a chat, please give me a call on 07557 780336.  Check out this special offer for Food Photography shoots booked in August - see here

If you want to see more on how good photography can help your brand here is some Further reading

Words and photographs by R Gill

 

 

 

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) brand food food photographer food photography images marketing photographer photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/8/what-do-the-images-you-use-say-about-your-brand Mon, 07 Aug 2017 10:47:11 GMT
Punch Bowl Inn at Crosthwaite chooses R Gill Photography to capture Summer Menu http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/7/punch-bowl-inn-at-crosthwaite-chooses-r-gill-photography-to-capture-summer-menu Case Study: Food Photography Shoot

Mackerel starterMackerel starterWarm Cornish mackerel, pickled cucumber, horseradish and dill mayonnaise

For an award-winning restaurant like The Punch Bowl Inn & Restaurant at Crosthwaite (Cumbria Life’s Dining Pub of the Year 2017), having the quality of its food reproduced through stunning imagery is hugely important. 

We’re proud of the fact that the food at The Punch Bowl is creative, exciting and pushing the boundaries of traditional pub food, and our photography needs to reflect this. Investing in good photography can make you stand out from the crowd and should capture the juiciness and texture of food on the plate. We want people to look at our dishes – whether they are on our website, social media or in a magazine - and immediately want to taste our food. 

Being a busy inn and restaurant delivering up to 140 meals a day, it’s of course hugely important for us to know exactly what to expect in advance from a photoshoot. Our kitchen team need to focus on our customers so we can’t expect them to spend lots of precious time cooking up dishes over and over again just to photograph. That’s why we needed someone that could get it right first time. A successful photoshoot is about more than just the photos; the photographer needs to understand our business, our style and our expectations. 

The brief for R Gill Photography was to fully capture and embrace The Punch Bowl’s new summer menu. Richard communicated well with us before the shoot and established clear timescales, which were followed on the day. He had proposed just three hours to photograph 10 different dishes from our new summer menu, which we thought might be slightly ambitious, but on the day everything ran perfectly to plan and schedule. 

Richard arrived at 9am to give us a couple of hours for the kitchen team to focus on each of the dishes prior to lunchtime service. He came along fully equipped with everything needed to get the best light and angle out of all of the dishes but the equipment wasn’t intrusive at all. We had decided to use two rooms for different backdrops as well as going for a mix of overhead, close up and rustic style shots. Richard found the best light in each area, which was a must for bringing out the texture of our food.  

Once the shoot began, Richard was focused and swiftly established an efficient routine with each dish, which didn’t involve moving backwards or forwards between dishes or delaying over minor issues. He was quick between shots and had a good eye for seeing anything that might not be quite right on the plate and subsequently tweaked it – whether this was just turning a leaf or a piece of garnish the opposite way. As Richard worked quickly, the dishes were shot at their very best - whilst still warm - ensuring the food didn’t lose its overall fresh look and shine from cooling down. He was comfortable working with head chef Arthur and the team, and immediately grasped and captured The Punch Bowl’s style and what we expected from each shot. 

Richard discussed and explained everything with us throughout the shoot and was reassuring and confident when putting forward his own ideas. He also offered specific and clear direction on styling. For example, we thought the carpaccio dish should be more of a rustic shot, but Richard convinced us it would work better from overhead and the finished results with its true-to-life, vibrant colours proved this.  

Cumbrian Beef CarpaccioCumbrian Beef CarpaccioCumbrian, beef carpaccio, 36 month aged Parmesan, rocket, toasted pine nuts.

Richard is a very friendly and personable photographer with great experience and knowledge, which came through in abundance during the shoot. He got the right lighting and the perfect shots to help us promote our new summer menu and everyone at the Punch Bowl is very happy with the finished photographs. We wouldn’t hesitate to use Richard again for future photography and would recommend him to anyone looking for a relaxed but 100 per cent focused and skilled professional food photographer. We wish him every success in his art. 

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) award winning food photographer food photographer food photography photographer photography richard gill http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/7/punch-bowl-inn-at-crosthwaite-chooses-r-gill-photography-to-capture-summer-menu Thu, 20 Jul 2017 12:35:09 GMT
We are in the News! http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/6/we-are-in-the-news Here is a copy of an article which appeared in the press this month showcasing some of my awards for food photography, .

 

Food shots are photographer’s bread and butter

3 Chilli Sourdough bread loaves3 Chilli Sourdough bread loavesA group of 3 chilli sourdough bread loaves arranged on a baking tray

An artistic shot of artisan bread from the Lake District has won a Kendal photographer the judges first prize on an online photography website.

Richard Gill’s photograph of Lovingly Artisan’s bread entitled ‘3 Loaves No Fishes’ was the judges’ top pick of almost 300 online entries to the photography community website, Photocrowd. 

Richard, from Sedgwick, has already had previous success in the Photocrowd food & drink category when his close up shot of a cherry covered in bubbles was runner up in the public’s vote and received a judge’s commendation last December. 

A cherry covered in bubblesA cherry covered in bubblesA single cherry immersed in a fizzy liquid, covered in bubbles

 

He said: “Having stunning images of food is increasingly important for food producers and restaurants to show on websites and social media. Clients really appreciate help with styling to make the dishes look beautiful and the food to look mouthwateringly tasty, whilst ensuring the colours are accurately reproduced, and the image is well composed and focused. So I’m really pleased that the judges have picked up on these elements in my photos to award me the top spot.” 

Photocrowd’s judging panel is made up of more than 100 professional photographers from all over the world. Expert judges choose a winning selection in each category as well as members of the public – the crowd - being able to vote for their favourites. 

On awarding Richard first place, judges said: “The set up and composition work well and the small piece of hessian peeping into the top left corner is a small but essential element in the success of this image, and adds to the whole rustic feel of the wonderfully captured crusty loaves. The lighting and colouring used suit the subject completely and it is an image we could see in a food magazine or on the wall of an artisan bakery. Congratulations.” 

Richard took a leap into professional photography just four years ago after being employed in the corporate world for over 20 years. He works with some key national companies including Savills, Hoseasons and Alliance Medical, as well as local Lake District businesses and tourist attractions. He has also recently completed a shoot of all of the Punch Bowl Inn & Restaurant at Crosthwaite’s dishes from their new summer menu. 

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) Gill Richard food food photographer food photography photographer photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/6/we-are-in-the-news Thu, 29 Jun 2017 10:48:09 GMT
90% Imitation, 10% Inspiration http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/6/90-imitation-10-inspiration Commercial photoshoots are often the most interesting as it gives me a chance to be creative.  Although the client will give me a detailed brief of what is required, there will be a bit of time for me to try out some other ideas.  It is often these unplanned shots that produce the “wow” shot of the day.  

I am often asked how did I come up with that idea, and the short answer is, they just happen!

My goal is to give every client at least one wow shot.  Sometimes it is just not possible as the brief or the subject doesn't allow for much creativity, but whenever possible I hope to exceed my clients expectations.

Having set myself this challenge I realised I needed to understand how these shots are produced.  I started to research the behaviour of other creative people.  I soon realised that many other artists just have things happen.  I watched an OkGo video and was intrigued to hear when they were asked, “where do your ideas come from?" They replied “it feels like we just find them.” (If you haven't heard of OK Go, check out this TED talk).

In Will Gompertz’s book “Think like an Artist” he points out that most artists steal their ideas.  They look at the work of other artists work for inspiration. They review the old masters, or other emerging talent and prime their subconscious, and during their training they might spend many hours copying the work of other painters.  It is this priming of the subconscious with old ideas that triggers the creative process.  When these images are mixed with the uniqueness of our own personality and temperament then a new idea or image emerges or hits us like a brain wave. 

Although I hadn't really appreciate it before studying this, I realised this is what I had been doing.  Before a photoshoot, I plan carefully the shots I want to take, but also include a few ideas that I just want to try.  I am not sure if they will work until I get to the location and see the lighting and conditions, but hopefully one of them will just become the "wow" shot of the day.

At a recent photoshoot for a home made ice cream manufacturer I studied lots of food photographs before the shoot.  On the day I took this shot (below) inspired by an entry I saw in the PinkLady Food Photographer of the Year competition.  My shot is different from that entry, but my subconscious was definitely primed by it.  This turned out to be the shot that my client loved.

A family looking into an ice cream cabinet to choose their favourite flavourWhich flavour?A family looking into an ice cream cabinet to choose their favourite flavour

In another example this photo below, taken for a pet portrait competition, was inspired by a photograph of the interior of a washing machine which had been entered into a competition on Interiors.  This definitely turned in to a "wow" shot as it won the competition.

A dog looking into a washing machineAny socks in here?A dog looking into a washing machine

So next time your are planning a photoshoot leave a bit of time and space for the photographer to be creative.  Then maybe you will get a fabulous surprise shot.  If you like my creative style and want to work with me for your next photoshoot please give me a call on 07557 780336 or email me richard@rgillphotography.co.uk. 

If you are interested to see more of my creative work - take a look at my latest project Food Film Puns

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) creative creativity food photography inspiration. photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/6/90-imitation-10-inspiration Wed, 07 Jun 2017 07:57:57 GMT
Lessons from a lifestyle change http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/5/change-of-career Richard GillRichard GillRichard Gill

One of the most common questions I get asked when I am in the middle of a photoshoot is, "how did you get into this?"  I usually get the feeling that the questioner is not quite happy with their own lot, maybe envious of what I am doing or just intrigued about the lifestyle choices people make.  When I explain that I decided to switch careers after spending 20+ years in the corporate world working in the lighting industry, their interest is even more piqued.  Consequently I thought maybe it was time to put this into a blog post and share my experiences with you of how I made a lifestyle change in my career.

From the outside it looked like I had a great job.  For the last ten years of my corporate career I was an international sales director, jetting off to a different country every week.  Moscow one week, Munich the next - how glamorous? But the reality was something rather different.  The sights I saw were mainly airport lounges, hotel rooms and meeting rooms.  It was an endless slog of 4:00am get ups to check in at the airport for 6:00am combined with CEO's pushing me to meet the monthly sales target. Then when the month ends, it all starts again with the next month's target breathing down your neck.  

On previous occasions when I got really fed up with this cycle I would look for another job.  The change of job would satisfy me for a few months, but then the honeymoon period would fade and the same old gripes would get me down.  I realised I needed to do something completely different.  As you go through life a few major experiences also focus your thinking.  For example the death of a close relative, or a friend contracting a serious illness makes you realise what is really important to you.  On a Sunday evening when I started to check my emails I wanted to be excited about the coming Monday not dreading what messages I would find in my inbox.  I knew working for myself was part of the answer, but I also knew I wanted to do something that I would love doing.  I looked carefully at all my interests and hobbies to see if one of those could be my new way of earning a living.  I had been keen photographer since I was seventeen and thought that I could make a living from it if I focussed (no pun intended) on some specialist areas.

As my children are all grown up, my financial needs were not as great as they used to be.  So I started saving a business start-up fund and read everything I could about photography.  I went on courses in my holidays and booked days with professionals who could mentor me. Having done some research on what other photographers in my area were offering I decided to specialise in property, food and commercial photography.  My sales and marketing background was a great help. Although pitching to a prospective client is quite different when you are not representing a big brand, now I am representing Richard Gill - it's personal!  I also realised that the routes to market for creative industries are quite different to those of manufacturing and lighting.  It took me many months to figure out the best route to get customers.  

Richard Gill photographing foodRichard Gill photographing foodRichard Gill photographing food

Three years down the road I can honestly say I don't regret my decision.  I love what I do.  My old colleagues and friends joke that I am semi-retired, but the truth is I work as hard and as many hours as I did before.  One big difference though - now it is my choice. My working week is not defined by normal Monday to Friday hours.  If I haven't been booked to do a shoot on a Tuesday and the weather is fine I might choose to have a ride round the Lakes on my motorbike.  I will often be working at the weekend which makes up for anytime I have off during the week.  

It's by no means stress free. I don't have a CEO chasing me to meet my sales target, but that doesn't stop me worrying about the number of bookings in my diary and whether I will earn enough to pay the mortgage this month! If I am not booked I am not earning, that is a major motivator.  I also have to earn enough to cover the lack of benefits - no paid holiday, no sick pay, no company pension.    

Lessons I have learned

  • Do you research thoroughly - don't just look at the customers and market size, but really figure out who buys your product and the routes to market.
  • Don't spend forever doing the research and writing the plan.  You won't figure it all out,  at some point you have to go for it.  If the plan isn't working change or modify your plan. As the business grows your plan will need to be revised and updated anyway.
  • Be flexible at the start, you just need to gain some momentum, you can come back to focus on your core interest as you get the income rolling in.
  • Have a contingency fund so you can get through the lean months at the start and the quiet times of year.
  • Don't be scared to make the leap, the net will catch you, opportunities you weren't expecting do come along.

 

 

 

 

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) career change lifestyle photographer photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/5/change-of-career Thu, 18 May 2017 08:04:21 GMT
Is it Worth Persevering with a Boring Book? http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/4/is-it-worth-persevering-with-a-boring-book If you have a short attention span or if you think this post is going to be boring here is the quick answer - 

If it is recommended to you by someone who's opinion you value.  

Personally I don't like to give up on something I've started, but occasionally when I get bogged down in book, I put it away and move on to something more inspiring.  Recently though I had a booked recommended to me that is possibly one of the most boring books that I have ever read,  but I was still compelled to finish it.  Whats more the book changed the way I work, improved my efficiency and save me a lot of wasted time and stress. The book is Digital Asset Management for Photographers by Peter Krogh.  Apologies to the the author for being rude about the book as it is very well written, the content is very useful and relevant. It is just that the subject matter is dull so it was never going to be a thrilling read.    

The title does give you a big hint that the book is not a thriller so why did I even pick it up.  I spend a lot of time photographing inaminate objects (buildings or food) and last year I was looking to enhance my photography of people.  Part of my work is to tell the story of my clients.  So after doing a short course on photo journalism I was lucky enough to be mentored by Stuart Freedman.   For those of you who may not know, Stuart is an award winning  reportage photographer whose work has featured in many national and international publications like Time, The Sunday Times Magazine,  and Paris Match so he knows his stuff.  Whilst we were reviewing my portfolio together he asked if I had any pictures showing a particular theme (I forget what theme it was now).  I hunted for that particular photo on my laptop, but couldn't find it.  I could picture the photograph in my head but couldn't remember where it was stored on my hard drive.  You need to read "The Dam Book"  Stuart told me.    

My photography of people had dramatically improved in the short period I worked with Stuart.  I learnt how to structure a photo essay and how to capture compelling images that would help me tell the stories of my prospective clients.  So when he recommended the book I trusted his opinion and ordered a copy and started to read it.  The hard back version was very heavy going so I then went to the authors website and found the electronic version.  This included instructional videos and made the book a whole lot easier to cope with.  I can't say I ever found the book exciting, but I did find it extremely useful.    It tells you how to organise a photo library, how to store your files, how to label and categorise them.  How to organise keywords and assign them to the photos so when someone asks you for a specific photograph you can find it quickly and easily.  

I take close to 10,000 photographs a year.  Many of which I don't need to keep longer than a few months, but many that I do need or want to keep for future use. That leaves me with a catalogue of more than 35000 photos. I'll admit to being not very good at housekeeping because admin bores me, but now I do know that within my catalogue I can isolate all the shots that I will need to delete easily and quickly.   I have a well organised library that allows me to find photographs of any subject in less than a few minutes.  This saves me a lot of stress, and helps me avoid missed opportunities.  If I need to find all my best food shots to prepare a pitch to a new client I can find them in seconds.

If Stuart hadn't recommended Peter Krogh's book I would never have heard of it, let alone read it.  Maybe that says more about the power of recommendations than about the power of boring texts.  How about you?  Have you read anything boring that really helped you?- let me know in the comments section. 

  

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) food photographer food photography photographer photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/4/is-it-worth-persevering-with-a-boring-book Fri, 21 Apr 2017 08:02:00 GMT
What Can you Learn from Cheap Chocolate? http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/3/what-can-you-learn-from-cheap-chocolate I recently bought a book simply titled "Chocolate".  I am not a chocaholic. I am an aspiring food photographer and I bought the book because I was blown away by the stunning photography.  The book was a collaboration between Pierre Hermé and Sergio Coimbra.  For those of you who don't know, Pierre Hermé is one of the world's best pastry chef's and Sergio Coimbra is one of the world's best food photographers.  If you have seen photographs taken for Marks and Spencer it is likely that you have seen some of Sergio Coimbra's work (you can read more about him here). He is one of my sources of inspiration.  He has photographed dishes from many of the worlds top chefs. He has even built a chef's experimental kitchen at his photo studio so that he can observe the culinary masters at work right inside his studio.

To understand how Sergio took some of his photographs I set about trying to emulate one or two.  I bought some cheap chocolate bars, set up my camera and lighting and took some photos.  Straight away I noticed key differences in the chocolate.  The shine of the chocolate was just not there.  There was a number of defects in the surface, air bubbles, surface discolourations, pockmarks, tiny bumps, scratches  and blemishes.  

Chocolate close up Chocolate squareClose up of a square of chocolate in a chocolate bar

My first lesson was a reminder that the choice of ingredients is critical.  Any chef could have told me that.  Provenance and quality of ingredients has direct affect on the quality of the finished product. 

Having discovered these defects I was intrigued what had caused them.  I started to research the chocolate making process, blending, conching and tempering. Many of these processes were familiar to me as I studied metallurgy at university and they are all used in metal processing.  My distant memories of fluid mechanics lectures helped me understand the effects of viscosity on bubble formation. A dusty appearance can be caused by humidity being too high and this excess moisture might also be the cause of a gritty appearance. Get the tempering right, control the temperature properly and you get a beautiful sheen and the chocolate to hold fine detail.   All this made me realise that having an understanding of the subject would help me to take a better photograph.

My final lesson was to embrace what I had. I knew and more importantly understood what was bad about the chocolate I had bought.  I knew I couldn't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, but could I make something ugly appear beautiful? Realising that there would be defects throughout the chocolate I decided to highlight them. I set up a light with a yellow gel and shone this onto a broken piece of the bar. The white sugar crystal defects that were littered through the chocolate bar gave contrasting lines and spots of yellow against the dark chocolate. The yellow light gave warmth and vibrance to the picture.

Close up of chocolateBroken piece of chocolateClose up of a broken piece of a chocolate bar showing sugar crystal defects

My main lesson from this experience - it doesn't matter what you are photographing: a person, a building, food or a product if you take the time to get to know the subject and understand what is important to them, then you will get a better photograph.

If you would like to work together photographing your products, business or people please give me a call on 07557 780336 or email richard@rgillphotography.co.uk

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) chocolate food food photographer food photography photo photographer photography http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/3/what-can-you-learn-from-cheap-chocolate Fri, 10 Mar 2017 11:37:35 GMT
Gin and Juice http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/2/gin-society-festival-lancaster It's not often you spend a night drinking eleven gins and are still able to remember the evening, but that was my first experience of a Gin Society Festival.  In truth I had four gin and tonics and a small sip of the other seven.  Gin is not my usual tipple, but I do enjoy one now and again, usually before a meal or on a summers evening relaxing outside.  When I discovered there was to be a gin festival in Lancaster it was good opportunity to learn more about this libation and do something different on a Saturday night.  I went along with my wife, my son and his fiancé.  Without realising it at the time this was a smart move as we could all try something different and so experience a wide selection of different gins and mixers.

The festival was held in Lancaster Town Hall which had a lively relaxed atmosphere.  There was music playing and a group of swing dancers performing to the tunes.

The first thing that struck me was how many different varieties of gin were on offer.  Not only a wide selection of gins (I counted almost 100) but a wide choice of mixers and 10 different garnishes including basil, ginger, lime, orange, rosemary, cucumber, lemon, mint, pink grapefruit, and strawberry. 

As well as the Gin Society's bars, a few British distillers had their own stands.  This was a marvellous opportunity to talk to the distillers and learn more about all the factors that go into producing the unique flavour of a craft gin.  

I am not qualified to give you a meaningful critique of all the gins we tasted, but can share with you a few of the highlights we found during the evening.  

  1. Boodles Mulberry mixed with rose lemonade, if you like something a bit sweeter this was like drinking Turkish delight.  
  2. Silent Pool Orange Gin with a pomegranate mixer, was a lovely refreshing drink.  
  3. Edinburgh Rhubarb and Ginger mixed with ginger ale was gingerbread in a glass!  
  4. Brockman's Gin which includes blueberries and blackberries as well as traditional botanicals was reminiscent of drinking ribena.
  5. Manchester Gin with its subtle citrus flavours served with traditional tonic water was a lovely mellow classic G & T. 

My personal favourite was the Alnwick Gin mixed with pink grapefruit and rosemary.  It had a lovely summer feel to it and I could imagine sipping one of these sitting by a barbecue on a balmy summer evening.

There are several Gin Society festivals running through out the rest of the year including; Manchester in March, Carlisle in May and  Saddleworth in June. Check the Gin Society Facebook Page for more details.

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) alcohol cocktail cocktails craft drink drinking festival food gin gin and tonic lancaster photographer photography tonic http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/2/gin-society-festival-lancaster Thu, 23 Feb 2017 12:22:04 GMT
How to Take Great Photos of Food with your Smart Phone http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/2/how-to-take-photos-of-food-with-your-smart-phone If you are a chef, an avid food blogger, or just someone who likes to share pictures of delicious food on your social media channels then you will most probably be taking lots of pictures on your smart phone.  If you would like some tips on how to do it better then read on.

Lighting

Ask any photographer and they will tell you that lighting is the most important aspect of any photograph.  For food soft natural light is the ideal.  There is a good reason for choosing natural light and that is that it will render the colours in the food accurately.  Artificial light can dramatically alter the colour of items, remember the story about the colour of a dress that went viral a couple of years ago?  You also want to avoid direct sunlight as this is harsh and will exaggerate unsightly details.  Cloudy days are ideal.  If you can, position your food next to a north or east facing window.  Then stand so you are perpendicular to the light source i.e with the window by your left or right shoulder.  This will give beautiful soft lighting over the food and help you to create a great shot.

If you are taking the photograph outdoors find an area that is in the shade, then even if the sun breaks through the clouds you will still have some soft lighting.  

Which Angle?

The most common and usually the best angles to take photos of food are:

1. From Above

2. At 45 degrees

3. At Plate Level

Which one of these you choose is down to the shape and aesthetic of the food dish you are photographing.  "From above" works well for food that has been carefully arranged on a plate to have an artistic quality typically a starter or main course.  It also works well for showing ingredients or a collection of dishes.

photograph of pancakesPancakesThree different pancake toppings taken from above

"At 45 degrees" works well for most situations and is the most common angle.  This is often a shot you will take as well as one of the other formats.  It gets the viewers attention as it focuses the eye on the main subject.

photograph of rhubarb topped pancakeRhubarb topped pancakeRhubarb topped pancake taken at 45 degrees

"At plate or table level" is ideal for food that has height.  Dishes like desserts often benefit from being taken in this way. Close ups of food items, the crust of an artisan loaf for example also look spectacular when shot at this level.

Photograph of cheesecakeChocolate chip cheesecakeCheesecake photograph taken at plate level sourdough breadCrust of a sourdough loafClose up of a sourdough loaf

Whichever mode you choose try to ensure your phone is parallel or perpendicular to the food, especially if the dish has a straight edge.  For example if you are taking the photo of a dish at plate level you might be able to rest your phone on the table so that it is perfectly level and have the food or plate parallel to the phone.  Taking the same picture at an angle can work and produce a more artistic shot, but does need very careful composition otherwise it will look odd.  The best option is to take a level shot first and then if you want to experiment take one at an angle.  If the angle shot doesn't look right then you will always have a good level shot for back up.

Photograph of cheesecake taken at an angleCheesecake Photograph of cheesecake taken at an angle

Composition

Composition is a blog topic in its own right, however there are a few key things you should think about about when composing a food photograph.  The rule of thirds is a good starting point. Position your subject so that it is on a line a third of the way into the frame.

 

Divide the frame into thirds using two horizontal and two vertical lines

If you are doing a close up, you may well have the food in the centre of the frame, but look at the dish carefully and see if there are elements that you could position on one of the intersections of the lines (maybe a fork if you have cutlery in the shot).  If you are taking the picture at plate level then position the plate on the bottom third line and have the top of the food on the top third line. This will give a pleasing composition (see dessert pic above).

Look round the frame. It is very easy to get obsessed with the main subject and not to notice other items that have crept into the photograph. Train your eye to look round the edges of the frame,  it is a good habit to get into which will improve all your photography.  Is there anything in the photograph that looks unsightly? Conversely would the picture benefit from introducing something extra in the corner, a tea light candle, a flower or some cutlery?

Are you going to take the picture in landscape or portrait format? The size of the dish may determine this as you may only fit it into the frame in one orientation.  If you have a choice then consider where the photograph will be used.  Platforms like Pinterest lend themselves to photos taken in portrait mode. However other platforms like Facebook and websites are better suited to landscape mode photos.

Further information 

Do you need some food photographs taken for your website or marketing materials that need to be better quality than those from a smart phone then please give me a call on 07557 780336.  You can see some more examples of my work here- food portfolio.

If you have got the bug for food photography and want to take your skills to the next level then there are some excellent courses on food photography and styling run by Aspire Photography Training

An essential part of making food photographs look appealing is the styling of the shot.  For some expert tips on food styling check out this article from Stylist magazine.

 

Thanks to Rebecca Gill for the illustrations used in this article to see more of her amazing work click here rgillustrate

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) composition food food photography lighting photography smart phone tips http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2017/2/how-to-take-photos-of-food-with-your-smart-phone Fri, 17 Feb 2017 09:45:29 GMT
English Literature Inspires Heritage Craftsman http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2016/10/english-literature-inspires-heritage-craftsman As a teenager, instead of sitting in front of a screen playing the latest game Jack Holden discovered English Literature.  He went on to study a degree in English Literature at the University of Cumbria, but on qualifying realised that a life indoors was not where he should be.  Inspired by Lake district authors such as Ruskin, Wordsworth and Coleridge he sought a life outdoors.  He won a place on the Bill Hogarth Memorial Apprenctichsip Trust (BHMAT) scheme and is now training in coppice crafts.  I followed him over a period of a few weeks this summer as he created an oak gate.  These photos show the manufacturing process from the felling of a tree to the installation of the finished gate at a Lakeland farm house. You can see more details on Jack's website here

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2016/10/english-literature-inspires-heritage-craftsman Wed, 28 Sep 2016 19:57:14 GMT
Latest Apprenticeship Scheme Doesn't Help Creative Youngsters http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2016/4/latest-apprenticeship-scheme-doesnt-help-creative-youngsters If you are not academically minded and want to pursue a career in a traditional craft industry you will be hard pushed to find an apprenticeship. When you think about this maybe it is not so surprising.  More than 200 000 people work in the heritage craft sector, but almost 80% of them are self employed. Consequently they don't qualify for government support to take on an apprentice.  Many of these crafts can be highly lucrative and lead to an international career.  Andy Goldsworthy for example has commissioned work installed in San Francisco

In my part of the world , the English Lake District, dry stone walls are a dominant feature of the landscape.  Maintaining and building these structures is typical of the heritage industries that need young people to learn this skill.  One solution the Dry Stone Walling Association (DSWA) has iniatated to help solve the problem is to use a heritage lottery grant to fund the training of five apprentices.  I spent a day watching them practice their skills at the DSWA base near Kendal.

Dry stone walls are an integral part of the rural landscape.

Master Craftsman Andrew Loudon explains what the apprentice's are expected to build today.

‚ÄčAs you can imagine the walling profession is dominated by men, but one of the apprenticeships was awarded to female participant,  Tracy Cumberbatch .  Tracy had been trying to get a job in the countryside with local agencies such as the National Park Authority but was continually losing out to other candidates with degrees.  Not able to afford today's university fees Tracy looked for alternative ways to enhance her skill set and the bursary scheme offered by the DSWA was an ideal way to get an additional qualification.

Just like a wall built frorm bricks the stones in each row should overlap so that you don't get a continuous vertical gap running down the wall.

Today's exercise was to build a wall end and unlike the wallers from the past todays students can capture their efforts on their smart phones to share with their friends and family.

Handling rough stones all day can take its toll

At the end of the exercise there is only one thing to do - exchange walling banter over a brew!

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) annual countryside craft dry heritage labour rural stone wall walling workers http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2016/4/latest-apprenticeship-scheme-doesnt-help-creative-youngsters Fri, 29 Apr 2016 12:54:35 GMT
Residents Pull Together to Support those Still in Shock http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/12/residents-pull-together-to-support-those-still-in-shock Although the clear-up has begun in earnest, 4 days after the horrific floods in Kendal, Cumbria many residents are still in shock.   House Contents on the StreetWater damaged goods are piled on the street for collection Water damaged goods from houses are piled on the pavements waiting to be taken away

Water Damaged ItemsWater damaged furniture is piled on the pavement

St George's Church has a team of volunteers providing hot drinks, soup and a place to chat.

St George's ChurchVolunteers provided hot food and cleaning materials

When I spoke to this gentlemen, he told me had only just come out of his house.  He hadn't felt able to leave before now. The shock had been too much for him.  Thanks to the volunteers he was enjoying his first hot meal in 2 days.  Electricity supply is intermittent and there was no power in the Church when I visited. However the gloomy candlelight seemed to provide the right sombre feel for those lost in their thoughts.  

Two neighbours worrying about what will happen next.

Undeterred by the lack of electricity, the volunteers still provide hot soup.

Team of VolunteersVolunteers at St George's church prepare to hand out hot soup.

Local residents are also doing their bit

A welcome cuppa!

Managing to show a brave face.

For businesses and residents life goes on and a sense of humour still prevails.

This sign was on the window of a flooded business

The river level has dropped significantly.  The environment agency are visible in the community, but I am not sure that is of much comfort to those that were flooded.

If you want to help you can make a donation to a support fund set up by the Cumbria Community Foundation click here for details.  For businesses affected by the flooding there is useful information on how to obtain grant funding and support on the Cumbria Growth Hub page here

 

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) Cumbria Desmond Kendal Storm floods http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/12/residents-pull-together-to-support-those-still-in-shock Wed, 09 Dec 2015 18:21:49 GMT
Preparing for a Special Event http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/11/preparing-for-a-special-event Behind the scenes look at preparation for a Thomas weekend at Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway.

Equipment getting prepared, a Ruston Bucyrus, RB17 crane.

Ruston Bucyrus CraneRuston Bucyrus CraneRuston Bucyrus Crane at Lakeside and Haverthwaite Railway

Fuel is added using a hand pump

Fuelling upFuelling upFilling the fuel tank

A freight tanker is washed ready for the big day

Washing the TankWashing the TankCleaning a rail liquid tank transporter

Boiler tubes need to be swept

Steam EnginesSteam EnginesSteam Roller and Steam Ploughing Engine

Feeding the brush up the tubes

Cleaning the TubesCleaning the TubesSweeping the boiler tubes on a steam roller

Magnetic stripes are added to a tank engine to make it look like Thomas the Tank engine

Adding the StripesAdding the StripesStripes are added to the Tank engine

Bunting is used to decorate the station buildings

Putting up the FlagsPutting up the FlagsPutting up bunting in preparation for a Thomas the Tank event weekend

Discussing the preparations.

Steam RailwaySteam RailwayEquipment at Haverthawite station

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/11/preparing-for-a-special-event Thu, 19 Nov 2015 11:01:03 GMT
Glass Blowing at Cumbria Crystal http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/11/glass-blowing-at-cumbria-crystal  Getting the Glass Hot In the Melting PotIn the Melting PotGetting a glass nugget up to temperature for blowing

Blowing into the correct shape with the use of a mould

BlowingBlowingBlow glass into shape

Blowing hard!Blowing hard!Blowing the molten glass

Heating up to check the form

Working the shapeWorking the shapeWorking the shape of the glass

The Glass Blower

Glass blowerGlass blowerGlass blower

Engraving

EngravingEngravingEngraving a glass vase

The finished products

Candle holdersCandle holdersEngraver candle holders

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richard@rgillphotography.co.uk (R Gill Photography) crystal furnace glass glass blowing hot http://www.rgillphotography.co.uk/blog/2015/11/glass-blowing-at-cumbria-crystal Tue, 17 Nov 2015 18:06:16 GMT