About the author: Jane Burkinshaw is a professional photographer and passionate about all things photography related. Jane specialises in portrait photography and runs photography courses.

Commercial photography shoots ARE fun!!! by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Let's face it, most adults hate having their photos taken, especially as we get "older" and clients that come to me to have a commercial head shot or portrait done are usually dreading it. And I know where they are coming from, as I don't enjoy having my picture taken. Is that really me? Is that what I look like? I don't get how I can look so different from the woman I see in the mirror.

Of course I only see myself from one angle in the mirror and my face is in repose (or in my "mirror face" according to my husband!). At other times we are photographed from all angles and in mid sentence, mid frown, mid unflattering looking down - our faces and bodies frozen for  a split second in the most unforgiving light.

I needed some new shots of me recently and decided to invite some of my photography students to have a go. They loved it as an opportunity to learn and, surprise, surprise I really enjoyed it and was very pleased with the results. The secret was lots of laughs and jokes to make me relax and them knowing which poses and light and angles would work. There were some pretty dreadful shots of me where the light and my pose were wrong but we deleted them quickly and moved on.

Shots taken by my photography students
I use the same strategy of fun and laughs when I photograph clients - children or adults - and I love it when people tell me they are surprised that it was so much fun! Last weekend I met a lovely couple, Russ and Teresa, who wanted images for their businesses. Russ needed a very corporate shot and was dreading it! Teresa runs a successful garden design company and wanted pictures that reflected what she does. Fresh from the hairdressers she was also quite nervous before we began.

I always have a coffee and a chat with my clients before we begin and right from the outset I'm working to make them relax. Once the shoot starts I gauge how far I can go with being a bit cheeky, teasing and getting family members or colleagues to help make people laugh. On this occasion I had a great little assistant in 10 year old Ashley and then Russ and Teresa took it in turns. The sight of Russ wielding two enormous umbrellas and a pair of stepladders was enough to guarantee smiles.

Lots of laughs behind the scenes
Teresa's final images
I offer commercial photography services on an hourly, half day or full day basis. I can shoot in a purpose built natural light studio or on location. If you would like to have a chat about your photography requirements please get in touch.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

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Afternoon Tea with a Difference by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

I was delighted to be invited last week to be a guinea pig for a new concept for an afternoon tea at Sakana, a new Pan-Asian restaurant just off Deansgate in Manchester. The food was highly likely to be right up my street and I was also expecting something that would be interesting to photograph too.

As it turned out it wasn't just the food that was visually stunning (more on that shortly); the venue was spectacular too, with a giant steel Japanese maple as the focal point of the two tier restaurant.
The light up steel tree by local artist Sarah Gallagher, with my fellow guests Toni and Mark.
All the food is prepared in sight of the diners and it was great to see the chefs becoming excited about putting together this new Afternoon Tea menu.

Chefs preparing food at the sushi bar.
All the chefs gather round to see the Afternoon Tea presented on the platters. They were all taking photos of the new concept too!
Sue France of Scones, Jam & Cream was diligently making notes about our afternoon tea experience in her notebook (let's not mention the trapped notebook incident and diligent waiter crawling with his bum in the air to rescue it!).

Sue France, event organiser extraordinaire.
Back now to the main event, the Pan Asian afternoon tea of savoury and sweet sushi. When it was delivered to our table we must have spent at least ten minutes admiring and photographing it, as it was so beautifully and skilfully crafted. I'll let the photographs do the talking here.

3 tiers of deliciousness; 2 savoury and the top one sweet desserts.
Matcha Tiramasu on the top and Thai Vermicelli below.
From the top: Passionfruit Cheesecake, Duck, Pomegranate, Cucumber, Egg Roll, Futomaki Vegetable.
Not forgetting the stunning backdrop of the steel maple tree.
I can honestly say I loved all of it, but as I hadn't tasted many Asian desserts before (and having a bit of a sweet tooth), they were my favourite, especially the Coconut Macaroon and the Ginger Brûlée.

"Stop taking photos and let us start eating!"
What better way to round it all off then with a glass of Prosecco!

Cheers!
Afternoon tea at Sakana will be introduced soon at £15 per head including a selection of loose leaf tea. Prosecco is £5. We all agreed that it was well worth it as an afternoon tea with a real difference.
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Pampering, Posing and Prosecco by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Once the new studio was completed I wanted to organise a shoot that would be fun for friends and allow me to try out the space before I started using it for real. So two weeks ago I invited four friends over as guinea pigs and another friend, Sue, who sells a range of skincare and make up products (Arbonne - promised her a plug!). Our numbers grew when we decided to add a make up artist, Claire  and then Mhari with her gorgeous Stella and Dot jewellery (plugs all done for now!).

The girls - Debbie, Nicky, Kaarin and Lucy arrived with changes of clothes and nervous smiles. We gave them a bit of a pamper with some face cleansing and face pack products (always good for a funny photo!) and then they all had their make up done and jewellery chosen to complement their outfits.
Pampering and gossiping time!
Time to add the stunning bling.
We gave some advice on how to stand for a full length shot as no one ever knows how to do it and what to do with their hands! This pose, demonstrated by Sue, shows how it's much more flattering to stand at an angle, weight on the back leg, front leg forward. I call this the Cheshire Ladies pose as everyone always does it at weddings and events!
Cheshire Ladies pose. But make sure you're facing the light for best results. We turned Sue to face the other way for the actual shot.
I love Nicky's more casual take on this pose. Looks really natural and relaxed.
Everyone had a go at a full length pose, including Mr T - what a posasaurus!
As you can imagine when eight women get together it's very noisy and at times very silly. Nicky might not ever get a job as a reflector holder!


None of them normally enjoy having their photographs taken but all did extremely well, with lots of different poses - standing, seated, lying down. I still haven't had time to edit them all but here's my favourites of the four models.


Sue Cobb of Arbonne, modelling Stella & Dot jewellery.
Huge thanks to Sue Cobb and Claire Fulton of Arbonne and Mhari Oakes of Stella & Dot for giving their time and skills on the day. Thanks to the four models for their sense of humour and willingness to do something out of their comfort zone. Boudoir shoot next time, ladies?!

Thanks to Nic Burkinshaw and Abii Burkinshaw for the catering (a lovely spread of quiche, home made bread, salad and home made cookies, accompanied by Prosecco for a little extra sparkle!)

Almost forgot to mention the star of the show - Bella, Lucy's daughter and my great niece.

Make up (none), clothes and accessories all model's own!









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Bring on 2015! By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

When I was made redundant from a role in international marketing in 2007 I knew immediately what I wanted to do: set up my own business taking photographs and writing copy for small businesses, hence the name Picture It Big. Within a few weeks I was heading off in a completely different direction, photographing children at nurseries, after being given an opportunity at my own children's day nursery. Like many new starters I went wherever the business was, hungry to earn money, gain experience and build a portfolio.

A couple of years later I started running photography courses following lots of requests from photography clients. I discovered a new passion: sharing my knowledge with others. It was so rewarding and really enjoyable, although hard to gain enough exposure to fill the course places. I eventually hit on the idea of running workshops from home, thus eliminating the worry of booking and often cancelling venues.

In the meantime I had been reflecting on the photography services I was offering and realised that I needed to focus more on the more profitable areas and on the types of photography I really enjoyed. After all, what's the point of working for yourself, if you are doing stuff that doesn't make you want to leap out of bed in the morning?

As I end my sixth full year in business and look forward to 2015 (a big year in my mind as I turn 50!), I've got a clear business strategy and a wonderful new studio where it will all happen! Portrait and commercial photography will be my main photography focus, both in the studio and on location. I also have a full programme of courses taking place in the studio and interest and take up has so far been phenomenal. The business is being re-branded Jane Burkinshaw Natural Light Photography, to better reflect what I now do, with Love Your Lens as a sub-brand for the photography workshops.



When I look back on the last 6 years, I could kick myself for not having got to this point via a shorter route. If I'm honest I've made tons of mistakes, wasted money on the wrong types of promotion, not always been as focused and dedicated as I could have been. It was very difficult adjusting to a new life of working from home and not having to adhere to a 9 to 5. But if I'm a bit kinder to myself, I know I've learned an enormous amount, about photography and running a business. I've been around to take the kids to after school activities or even just into town to buy Christmas jumpers! I've managed to fit in being a parent governor and a trustee of a charity Gift Of A Wedding. Most importantly, as my husband reminds me, I am no longer the stressed out, slightly depressed person I was back in 2007, when office politics and an unbearable workload dominated my every waking thought.

Via local networking groups I've discovered a whole new community of fellow business owners, who are supportive, knowledgable and generous with their time and advice. Many people have become good friends, along with quite a few of my clients.

As I sit here typing this, I'm grateful that I'm able to be at home to care for a poorly daughter; I'm excited that the electrics are being finished in the studio and I'm looking forward to a Christmas lunch tomorrow, with a lovely crowd of ladies who all run their own businesses and have their own stories of successes and failures, challenges and triumphs.


I think I'd better finish now as I've just read that last sentence! Needless to say I'm really looking forward to 2015 with a new focus and brand spanking new studio (big reveal coming soon)! I need to make the final word a big THANK YOU and shout out to Nic, my husband, who is known as Poor Nic to everyone, for having the misfortune to be married to me. He has been a massive support to me in every way and  I would not have got to this point without him.
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Using white card to fill in shadows in your product / still life photographs. By Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Taken by one of my photography students
Natural light photography is wonderful: it has a beautiful, soft quality about it and it's "free", as you don't have to invest in a studio and lighting equipment. This shot was set up on my dining table near a large window and using a couple of pieces of board with a grey wood grain printed on them. I had these made specifically for the purpose but you could use pieces of wood, card, slate etc that you might find around the house.

Dark shadows on the left side of the vegetable.


When we did the first shot we realised there was a lot of shadow on the left side of the vegetable - the side furthest away from the window. This might not be a problem for certain shots, as shadow can add mood and interest. For the purposes of what we were doing we wanted to reduce the intensity of the shadow. This is easily done by using a piece of white card to bounce the light from the window back onto the subject. You can easily see the change as you move the white card around. You need to ask someone to hold it for you or prop it up against something.

Sometimes you may need 2 or more pieces of card to fill in shadows, as was the case with this flower shoot.



The final edited shot

A few tips to finish off with:

  • Make sure your shutter speed is at least 1/60th of a second to avoid camera shake.
  • If it's too slow, increase your ISO or use a tripod.
  • If bright sunlight falls on your table top set up, move it away from the window until you're in even shade.
  • If you want a really soft blurry background set your f/number as low as it can go.
By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too! Like Picture It Big on Facebook to see more tips like this.



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Shoot to live or live to shoot? (By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

As a professional photographer of course I have to shoot to live i.e. take photos and get paid for them in order to earn a living. I do this by taking portraits of people, occasionally animals, and of businesses, products and events. However, there is another way to earn a living with a camera that I haven't explored yet: shooting for stock, that is taking photographs and submitting them to image libraries, where, hopefully, they will be purchased by people. Stock photography is big business, with photographic images needed for newspapers, magazines, websites, brochures, greetings cards, calendars, point of sale material etc etc. and it can be seen as "easy" money; you post your pictures and wait for the cash to come rolling in.

I've sold one image from a stock library and that was more by accident than design. Before going professional I posted a few of my best images onto a library that was a bit like Flickr and promptly forgot all about them. Several years later a cheque for £75 dropped through the letter box; someone had bought an image of some masks that I'd taken in Venice. I was really chuffed and started to look into how to get images accepted onto the more well known galleries like Getty and Shutterstock. I quickly concluded that I hadn't got enough images of the type required and that I still needed to focus on building my portraiture and commercial business.

Cut to the the present day where I now have an extensive library of photographs of all sorts of subjects and every now and again someone tells me I should be selling via image libraries. I was browsing the internet a few weeks ago when a course on how to get into stock photography caught my eye. I realised it was being run by someone who sold a lot of flower and garden photographs and decided to sign up.

The course was yesterday and it was great, really informative and I came away with all the knowledge I need to start submitting to image libraries. But something's been bugging me since and I've been mulling it over and over. The course leader is a successful stock photographer, selling tens if not hundreds of images per month, some at less than 20 pence per image, others for £400. This is no mean accomplishment and it has taken her about four years to get to that stage. But what struck me was how cynical she was about the industry and how "un-passionate" she was about her trade. Photography for her was now only a means to earn money and she didn't shoot the things she enjoyed photographing, just the ones that she knew would sell. "If it won't sell, I don't shoot it."

Now that is just good commercial discipline and I get that. When I'm photographing a newborn I avoid unflattering poses and ugly angles as I know the parents won't like the image and it won't end up as a framed print, so why waste my valuable time. What I couldn't get my head around was that this photographer would shoot stuff that was mediocre, uninspiring and in her own words "not a great photograph" purely because she knew it would sell. She laughed about us not reacting to her images with "oo's" and "aa's" and didn't seem to mind that we weren't blown away by her work. I spoke to her at lunchtime and she said she couldn't remember the last time she'd picked her camera up for pleasure and just taken it out with her.


I couldn't do that, I love what I do and every picture I take has to be the best I can do or it doesn't make it into my galleries, in front of a client, or in the future, into an image library. I know who will make the most money from stock photography and it won't be me, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my  passion and enjoyment for the sake of earning more money. I've been trying to think of a comparison with other industries and I guess it could be a bit like a talented chef giving up working   in a top restaurant serving fine cuisine and instead setting up a fast food restaurant  because it would earn him more money.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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All squared up for 2013


After completing the 366 project in 2012 and deciding not to carry on this year I've been twiddling my thumbs a bit, itching to embark on something else, but it had to be less time consuming and a little more flexible, but still challenging.

I was catching up on some reading over the weekend, thawing out after a romp in the snow with the dog and came across an e-book I had downloaded over Christmas. It's called "Square" by a photographer and author Andrew Gibson and looks at images that are square as opposed to the more usual rectangular format. Aside from featuring some really beautiful photography this book looks into the increasing popularity of square images and gives some great pointers into what makes them work.

We are so used to the rectangular format that unless we have a camera (e.g. a medium format camera) or  an app (Instagram etc) that creates a square image, we forget to consider anything else. It's perhaps the amazing popularity of the Instagram type photo that has contributed to a re-appreciation of the square image.

I took a look back at my 366 images and could only find a handful that were square, excluding those that I had taken with a retro camera app on my phone - you can tell which these are as they feature a border. I didn't create any of the non-retro camera images with the intention of them being square - I decided to do that afterwards on the computer, so I wasn't really setting out to shoot and compose for square images.

Click to enlarge

The square format has got me buzzing with excitement and now my thumbs are twitching rather than twiddling. During 2013 I am going to create a series of images that are square and intended to be square from the outset - I'll be specifically looking for subjects and compositions that work for the square format. I'm not setting any timescales or boundaries, other than I'll work on it throughout the year. As and when I take an image I am happy with I'll share it on this blog and ask for feedback.

You can download "Square" by Andrew Gibson (and other great e-books from him and other authors) at Craft and Vision. Each book costs around £2 to £4 and they often sell bundles together. I love the fact that I can download them to my tablet and read them wherever I am. I've not bought a bad one yet - they are highly readable, not too techie and the imagery is stunning. I've not been paid to say this, they don't even know I'm recommending them!

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!

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Top tips for a great business headshot (Corporate headshots Cheshire with Picture It Big)

In this digital age business portraits are very important. Even before you meet a client for the first time or go for an interview, you will have been checked out on LinkedIn or on your website and will have already made a first impression. A potential client surfing the net may have opted for the next listing below your's because they liked the look of the person more!

So you can't avoid it any longer, you need to get your head shot updated. That grainy old picture just doesn't communicate the right professional image and let's face it, was taken ten years ago. You've changed and fashions have moved on and it just won't do anymore. If you are like 90%+ of the population you dread having a formal picture taken as much or more than a trip to the dentist for a root canal filling! I would certainly prefer the latter and am infinitely more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it.

I've photographed lots of different people over the years and have also had to face up to having my own portrait done and have amassed a number of hints and tricks to make the experience more pleasant and to ensure that you end up with a portrait you are pleased with.

What to wear (and what not to!)
  • A head shot usually means head and shoulders, usually to around chest level, so pay particular attention to what is worn in this area.
  • Think about the image you want to project. Usually for a business head shot this will be professional business clothes but it depends on the profession you are in. In this shot Maura has chosen a slightly softer but still smart look - she is a collaborative solicitor and wanted to appear approachable and professional but not stuffy so opted not to wear a business suit.
  • Wear something you feel good and comfortable in. Avoid tight fitting clothes and clothes that wrinkle and crease easily.
  • Avoid busy patterns, logos or overpowering bright colours. Reds, yellows and oranges can reflect a colour cast onto your skin and should be avoided. Pastel or nude / skin colours can make you look washed out. Colours that match your eyes are good.
  • Avoid fussy scarves and collars. Simple is usually better. Jewellery is OK as long as it is understated. Don't wear anything that will date your picture too quickly.
  • Go for 3/4 or full length sleeves rather than bare arms. Bare skin distracts attention away from your face and unless your arms are tanned and toned (and mine aren't!) then it doesn't look great.
  • V neck jumpers are generally quite flattering as they elongate the neck. Avoid polo or roll neck tops.
  • If you need a full length shot rather than a head shot, then wear tops and bottoms in the same colour. Avoid strongly contrasting colours i.e. white top and black bottoms, as this cuts you in half and makes you look shorter.
What about make up and hair?
  • If you know you look good then you'll feel good too and that will show at the photo shoot. There's no need to book a full makeover, especially as you might end up not looking and feeling like you! But this is a personal choice, some people feel better if they've had their hair and make up done and others are happy to do their own.
  • If you have long hair you could do some shots with your hair tied back and some with it down. 
  • Wear what make up you would normally wear for a evening out - and we're talking a meal out not a full on Christmas party! Avoid lip gloss and anything too shimmery.
"I feel really uncomfortable posing for my photo".

Don't we all! But any good photographer will know how to make you feel relaxed and how to pose you in ways that flatter you. Here are some tips to make sure your best side is captured:

  • We all feel uncomfortable just standing in front of the camera - how should we stand, what should we do with our hands? To avoid feeling so awkward lean against something if possible and you will feel much more relaxed.
  • Try not to stand full on to the camera, instead stand at an angle, with your hips and shoulders on a slight diagonal and turn your head towards the photographer. If it's for a full length shot, then put your weight on your back leg and bend your front leg slightly, toe pointed towards the photographer.
  • Where possible I get people to sit down on a chair as this is often much more relaxing for them. It also enables me to shoot from above, getting the model to look up slightly which is often more flattering.
  • Sitting "cowboy" style on a chair (astride it backwards) works well, giving you somewhere to rest your hands and getting you to lean forward.
Top Secret Tip
  • To avoid those double chins (we all have them especially when we smile!) then try this little tip: point your chin down and then jut it out forward - this tightens the jaw line.  The photographer is shooting you from face on, not from the side so although this feels unnatural it really works! Try it in front of the mirror.
Backgrounds

The decision whether to go for a plain background or a natural one depends on you and sometimes on restrictions imposed on you. In the shot below a graduated grey background was required to match existing head shots of business colleagues on the company web site.


Where possible I prefer neutral, natural backgrounds that complement the image the client is looking for  - complimentary colours, nothing distracting in the background to draw the eye away from the face. In the image below I purposely included the urban background but made sure that it was out of focus so as not to be distracting.


In some cases you can hint at the working environment but always ensuring it isn't a distraction.

And in this next shot we styled it so that the client was lying down amid hundreds of toy white rabbits. It's still suitable as a head shot but has a much more informal feel and is suitable for PR purposes.


A little extra help...

I edit every shot in post production and make sure that the client looks at his or her very best. I remove blemishes and imperfections, reduce wrinkles, slightly brighten eyes and teeth and even slim faces a little. We're not talking L'Oreal airbrushing, my intention is that the client will look at the picture and say "Wow, that's a really nice shot of me!" but not be able to put their finger on exactly what I've done!

What happens after the shoot?

Everyone works slightly differently, but I usually select a number of final images, do an initial edit on them and then send them across as low resolution files to the client who will select two to three they wish to use. I then provide fully edited high resolution JPEG files.

Who owns the copyright to the final images? 

It's usual for the photographer to retain the copyright for the images but to grant you full business usage.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!



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How professional commercial photography can give a boost your business


A picture can be worth a thousand words ...or can even bring you new business as it did for chimney sweep, Simon Barton. Simon spotted an opportunity to sweep aside the competition when he realized that no local chimney sweeps featured photographs on their websites. He decided to get some pictures of himself at work cleaning a domestic chimney, aiming to clearly demonstrate his emphasis on cleanliness. "Clients are very worried about soot getting everywhere and I wanted to show how my system completely seals the fireplace so that not even a speck of dirt can escape", Simon explained to me before the shoot. He even wears blue shoe covers to avoid bringing in dirt from outside.

I took a series of photographs of Simon as he set about cleaning a chimney and conducting a smoke test. Since posting the pictures on his website he has seen a significant increase in business, with new customers mentioning that they picked him because they liked the way he worked, having seen his website. "I'm really glad I had the photographs done as it's had a real impact on my business" Simon commented. "Jane found a great venue and made the whole shoot feel very relaxed and easy. I just got on with my job!"

Prospective clients can often be wary about what to expect when they book a new service - seeing images of you at work can help to remove their concerns and make them pick you and not the competition.

The small investment you make in professional photography can reap great rewards, so get in touch. My commercial photography rates start at just £125.00.

Thanks to Simon Barton for his great testimony.

By Jane Burkinshaw. Share this post by clicking on one of the Share buttons on the right hand side. I'd love to hear your comments too!
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