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.

Tell your brand story in pictures and stand out

I did a photoshoot for a client recently that gave me pause for thought and helped me to resolve a problem I'd been struggling with for a while. I knew I wanted to take my photography business in a slightly different direction but was finding it difficult to shape into a clear story.

In my head and, importantly, in my heart it's crystal clear. I want to work with people who are their brand - passionate individuals who have built up their businesses based on their love for what it is they do and out of values that guide them in their lives. I've made some progress already steering my business in this direction, working with artisan bakers, artists and florists, photographing not only their products but also their work place and them as the heart and soul behind the business. 

This is Emma, the driving force behind the Cheshire Flower School.

And this is Jenny of Parsley Pie Art Club Hale
(read more in my blog about this shoot)

These photographs can all be classed as commercial or business portraits but they are actually much more than that, incorporating clear signs of what the person does and also an insight into their personality.

When Naomi of Branching Out Online asked me to do a series of photographs of her that she could use throughout her marketing materials I was delighted. I know Naomi really well and am a big admirer of her ability to maximise businesses' online presence.

Naomi doesn't sell products that I could photograph beautifully for her, she sells her skill, knowledge, experience and passion for online marketing. She's certainly not alone in offering these services but she does stand out in how she "puts herself out there": she is her brand. She is bright, bubbly, friendly, open and insanely enthusiastic about what she does. That's her point of difference.

One of Naomi's trademarks is her use of vibrant colours and she put a lot of thought into how to make this come through in the photo shoot. All the way through we used props and colours that reinforced her branding and her vibrant personality.

Having a great online presence using apps like Snapchat, Facebook Live and Periscope.

Using appropriate props to allow you to get maximum use out of the images. This is how Naomi is using the images on social media.

Naomi also employs positive messages as a way to motivate and make images talk and I loved the props we used to convey this.

We were also very conscious of leaving space in the images to put marketing messages.

If I go back to the "light bulb" moment I had when I worked my way through these images, it was that I knew that I wanted to be more than a commercial photographer taking head shots for LinkedIn profiles... I want to tell people's story in pictures, capture what makes them and their business unique. Naomi knows the power of telling her story and uses it to build trust and loyalty, to make a powerful emotional connection with her target customer base.

She isn't afraid of sharing the low points as well as the highs and 2016 was a very tough year personally. We did some shots that reflected that and will allow her to share how she turned things around and has moved forward in a very positive way.

Have you thought about your brand story? It gives your brand a very powerful voice, makes it stand out, makes people want to connect with YOU. Why do you do what you do? If you can communicate this in words and then in pictures there'll be no stopping you!

If you are interested in booking your own photo shoot to tell your story get in touch


A taste of Spain in Cheshire (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Lamb stuffed aubergines with manchego cheese
Had a fab foodie and photography day yesterday in the Cheshire countryside. I've wanted to go on a cookery course for ages and the opportunity came out of the blue when I got the chance to bid for a ticket for the charity C.R.Y for Matthew via Redshift Radio founder, Liz Southall. Liz was also on the course along with Jamie, who is the "go to guy" if you have a problem with potholes! I bet he's kept busy!

Anyhow. we all had a fabulous day away from our normal day jobs (although Liz and I couldn't quite resist combining cooking with promoting and photographing respectively!). The course was held at Cheshire Cooks, Lakeside Barn close to Oulton Park. The venue is spectacular, purpose built for running cookery courses, as well as offering optional luxury accommodation with spa facilities.

Our course was "A Taste of Spain" and we cooked an astonishing 14 courses, including lots of tapas dishes, speciality bread, meringues and desserts. We were expertly guided by Philip Martin, who effortlessly had us kneading, rolling, chopping, stirring, mixing and laughing a lot! Lunch was, of course, delicious, as we ate some of what we had cooked so far, but there was far too much to scoff during the day so we left with very generous doggy bags (a crate full).

Few further words are required as I hope the photographs show what a fabulous time we all had.

Getting stuck in with bread making and baking

Learning lots of new skills

Reaping the rewards of our labours

Philip and James of Cheshire Cooks


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.


So you've had a lovely new D-SLR camera for Christmas - what now? By Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw

Santa has been very generous and has given you your first digital SLR camera for Christmas. You've taken it out of its box, charged the battery, inserted a memory card and attached the strap - all pretty straight forward so far. You've even worked out how to set the time, date and language. Then you've turned to the next section in the manual and probably lost the will to live after about 5 minutes! Do the manufacturers not realise that manuals are mainly read by relative beginners who don't yet know their f-stops from their focal lengths?! The manual goes back in the box (with the CDs containing some software stuff that you don't think you need) and you switch the camera to the familiar green Auto setting. You take some pictures that seem to turn out all right - isn't it nice to have no delay when you take a photo and to be using something that feels like a proper camera.

However, after a little while you get frustrated. Some of your pictures are blurred and the flash fires when you don't always want it to. You had thought that by getting a decent camera you would be able to take much better pictures. You know that you're not using it to its full capability, settling instead for the "safe" Auto setting. You also think you might need another lens too, as the one you have doesn't zoom very far, but you don't know where to start and worry that you could make an expensive mistake.

Well, don't despair, as you are far from alone and help is at hand! The quickest way by far to get to grips with your new camera is to book on a course. You don't need to embark on a year long evening course, a half day or full day workshop will get you off to a great start and you can always book another at a later stage as you progress. There are lots of courses available now and you just need to shop around a bit to find one local to you, at the right level and concentrating on the right photographic subject.

If you live in the Northwest of England then look no further! I've got a full programme of courses for 2014, including courses for parents, bloggers, flower enthusiasts, as well as general beginners. I also offer bespoke sessions tailored to your skills level, camera type and preferred area of photography. I offer advice on what kit you need and what you don't! Although the magic is made in camera, you also need to know how to edit your pictures and I can share my expertise on that too.

You can also learn a great deal from reading books and browsing the internet. Personally I've found that this is only really useful once you've done a course to understand the basics, as many books and blogs assume you already understand apertures, shutter speeds, focal lengths etc.

In the meantime, whilst you decide what is best for you, here are my top tips on how to get started with your new camera:

  • Shoot in natural daylight as much as possible - it's much nicer than flash. If indoors, open blinds & curtains and sit people so they are facing the window light.
  • Use the P (Program setting) instead of fully automatic, as it still does all the important stuff for you, but won't fire the flash automatically.
  • Look up in the manual how to see how fast your shutter speed is. To avoid blurred pictures it should be at least 1/125th of a second.
  • If it's slower than this then all you need to do is increase the ISO number. Look up how to do this in the manual and then increase it until it gives you the shutter speed you need.
  • If you have to use your flash then make sure you are no closer than 1 metre to your subject and no further away than 3 metres. Don't use the red eye setting, fix it later in a free editing programme like Picasa.
  • Have your camera out and ready to use all the time so that you get in to the habit of taking lots of pictures. And do take lots at this stage, as you will learn from your mistakes.
  • Look at other people's photographs  - in books, magazines and on forums like Flickr and Pinterest. Don't be afraid to copy their ideas in order to learn.
Good luck with your new gadget - with a bit of practise it will soon become your new best friend!

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!

50/50 project #34/50 Bad laundry day (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 34 Bad laundry day
50 days with a 50mm lens
Call me sad but I love this cheap little laundry dryer. It makes hanging out socks and smalls so much easier - less bending down to the peg bag must be better for my poor aching back!

This pic also gives me chance to "air" one of my grievances - people who tumble dry all year round and don't ever peg out laundry outside, even on sunny days. What wanton wastefulness and idleness!! I just can't understand it and don't believe that being supposedly time poor or not wanting stiff towels are valid excuses. Even when I'm in a hurry, the sight and scent of freshly washed clothes hanging in orderly rows lifts my spirits.

Folding warm washing fresh from the tumble dryer is a pleasure I save for wet days like today.

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!

50/50 Project. #32/50. Summer stripes (by Cheshire Photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 32. Summer stripes
50 days with a 50mm lens

The best summer in years is drawing to a close and one of the things I'll miss about it the most is lying in dappled shade in my hammock, swaying gently whilst looking out over the garden, reading or snoozing.

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!

50/50 Project: #3/50 Rainbow Sharpies (by Cheshire photographer Jane Burkinshaw)

Day 3. Rainbow Sharpies

50 days with a 50mm lens
Technical stuff: Canon 350d, Shutter speed 1/15, f/1.8, ISO 100. Aperture priority

As ever I had to play around a bit before I got the final shot. I did lots of different angles but found it hard to fill the frame with a long thin line of pens. This final angle has allowed me to capture every pen with no empty space in the frame. I've put a few of the rejects at the end of this post.

Working with the fixed 50mm lens is certainly making me work. With a zoom lens it would have been easier to just zoom in to fill the frame. But I would not have got this incredibly shallow depth of field with only 2 pens in focus.

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!


How to take great summer photos - Tip 5

The Pier in Naples, Florida

Sunsets have a magical power over us, making us stop we are doing and just gaze at the sky, feeling calm, romantic (?) and at peace with the world. We want to freeze and keep that moment forever so we get our cameras out - but often the pictures never seem to capture what we saw with our eyes and what we felt.

Sunsets are tricky - the bright orb in the sky fools the camera sensor, often making the foreground too dark as it over compensates for the bright sky. Or if we focus on something dark in the foreground the sky comes out too bright on our photograph. Ideally you should master things like Exposure Lock or Manual Exposure to get the picture you want but if you haven't got to grips with the techie stuff or your camera doesn't offer them, then there are some easy ways to still get a hot shot!
  • Use the sunset scene mode - it uses the appropriate settings and will enhance the colours of the sky and the wispy clouds. Try a shot with and without it to see the difference.
  • Wait until the sun is quite low in the sky otherwise it's just too bright. And then be quick as it sinks really quickly!
  • Often the best colours appear in the sky when it's just gone below the horizon so don't stop shooting.
  • Remember the rule of thirds for your composition (see Tip 4) and get your horizon straight.
Shot at Pickmere Lake Cheshire with sunset mode on a compact camera
  • To create a silhouette make sure you're focusing on a bright area in the sky - this is when ideally you need to know a bit more about things like Exposure Lock to really control the results but you can get lucky.
  • Silhouettes can give your sunset a story or a point of focus too. In the shot above, I was waiting for the water skier to come into the shot, when the dog ran up and paused for a second to watch - thank you, doggy!
  • Don't be afraid to play with your photos in simple editing programmes  to increase contrast and warm up your shot like I did with the one below:
Arnside, South Lakes - photographers' dream
And sometimes it's nice to put the camera down and just watch the sun set with a G&T!

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!


Learn how to take great photographs for your blog, Pinterest and online shops (photography course Cheshire)

Calling all bloggers...and eBay and Etsy sellers, in fact anyone who regularly posts pictures of their products online and can't call on the services of a professional photographer every day, for obvious reasons. Are you taking your own photographs but getting frustrated and a bit embarrassed because they don't do your yummy product justice?!

I knitted these gorgeous hats for my newborn photography shoots and decided to photograph them for the website. I didn't use any fancy kit - just an entry level SLR and natural daylight  - oh and I used some simple photography basics to get a really nice shot:

I made sure that it was an overcast day - bright sunlight would have killed this shot.

I knew that diagonals make a nice strong composition. And I'd spotted a similar shot in a knitting book which "inspired me".

And I used a zoom lens to make the background nice and blurred.

And that was more or less it, apart from a few simple tweaks on the computer to crop the shot and saturate the colours to make the hats really stand out.

Of course practice makes perfect and I have taken a fair few pictures in my time! But you could do this too, with some simple and practical tips and probably with your existing camera. I offer photography classes on an hourly basis, tailored to your requirements and experience. I'll work with you at your place of work, using your camera and show you how to dramatically improve your photographs.

I charge £40 for the first hour and then £25 for every hour thereafter. This rate includes:
  • A telephone consultation to find out what you are looking to gain from the tuition.
  • A proposed schedule for the session.
  • Travel to and from the your home or another location*.
  • Follow up notes from our session.
There's no truer saying than "A picture is worth a thousand words" and it's well worth investing in a little help to make your products stand out from the crowd.

* I am based in Cheshire and my fee includes travel within 30 miles of CW9. Any distance in excess of this would be charged at 40p per mile.

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!


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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