Enthusiast to pro photographer – My first jobs

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By Rachel Riley

rachelriley2How time flies! It has been a fair few months since the tentative decision was made to start the journey to being a professional photographer. As it seems to have been with a lot of people, 2016 was not a good year, so development of the new business was more or less put on hold while efforts, energies and emotions were channeled in more pressing directions. That’s not to say there weren’t opportunities for photography, and it was at times an excellent way to escape some harsh realities.

Never one to do things by halves, the first job was quite Continue reading Enthusiast to pro photographer – My first jobs

Maria from Chio Photography shares her tips to take better pictures

ChioAs a freelance photographer I have had to learn marketing, accounts, admin and many other skills that are required to run a business and I think other freelancers and small businesses should consider photography as one of the main skills required to enhance their business’ professional look. If you are a business owner, think about how you are coming across to your customers, your images are your first impression.

A professional look isn’t that difficult to achieve. There are plenty of tutorials online and a wide range of cameras to suit everyone with any level of photography skills, so there is no excuse to having poor quality images to represent your business.

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to teach some workshops to young entrepreneurs on easy professional photography. I brought the Fujifilm X-A2 with me to show them how there is no need for big and expensive cameras that can be difficult to understand to achieve that professional look. The X-A2 is easy to operate and it is the perfect choice for those looking for professional results without complications. It is also ideal for on-the-go shoots thanks to its size and weight. One of my favourite features is the wireless file transfer, I love that I can instantly transfer any photo on to my phone and upload it straight to my Instagram; very handy for those interested in Social Media (who isn’t?).

So, with the X-A2 in one hand and a bunch of props in the other I was ready to show my students how to easily achieve professional looking images. Do you want to know how? Here we go:

Background

Many people don’t pay attention to what is behind the subject they are photographing. It is very important! It makes most of the picture. Your background can enhance or shrink your subject. Make sure there are no distractions, and if you can’t avoid them, then use your aperture to blur them out and focus in your subject.

An easy way of creating a DIY background for small objects or product photography is using wrapping paper. The good thing about this technique is that you can pick from the simplest and classic white background to any other print that you can find in the shop that will go well with the theme.

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Lighting

No one wants a photo that is too dark or too light to see anything. Having your camera in automatic is a save way of making sure your photo is going to be acceptable. I have always thought that using the preset profiles in cameras are nothing to be ashamed of, after all camera makers are great experts and will not adjust the presets to something that wouldn’t work.

On the other hand, if you have knowledge of aperture and shutter speed (and even if you don’t, just experiment!) don’t be afraid of switching to manual and adding a personal touch by playing with light. Sometimes breaking the rules and accidents make the most amazing pictures.

I personally like to use harsh lighting in my favour, for example, on those rare super sunny days where there are no clouds (that we are sometimes lucky enough to experience in the UK!) or in a situation where I have the light source opposite to me and not behind me, I like to create high contrast dramatic images.

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Composition

Find the best composition to enhance your subject. No one looks their best at every angle. Again, background and lighting affects the whole of the final image, and the angle where you are shooting from can change these two factors. You need to find the perfect combination. If your subject is surrounded by colour and contrast, the viewer might be distracted when looking at the image, crop distractions from the background. Also find the angle with the best lighting, if you want a dramatic effect, maybe shoot against the light source, if you want a softer and smoother effect, make sure the light is not directly behind the camera. Last but not least, if your subject has a more appealing side, then make sure you are shooting the right side!

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These are my 3 easy points to achieve professional looking images. Now go on and try it! Don’t forget to let me know how it goes.


For more of Maria’s work

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Product photography with the X-A2

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By LAURA HARVEY

Photos are super-important for anyone selling online – our customers aren’t able to pick up our products. They can’t get a feel for our cards, prints or mugs as they would in a traditional bricks and mortar shop.


Although we have stockists in the real world, we also sell our products online via our own website, as well as on marketplaces such as notonthehighstreet.com and etsy. These are ultra-competitive marketplaces, with a lot of products all shouting for attention. Type ‘birthday cards’ into etsy and you get 184,757 (and counting) results.

Having an eye-catching design and an appealing price can only take you so far. You need strong SEO and, just as importantly, professional-looking product shots.

This isn’t only important for catching a customer’s eye, but also for getting the attention of the people running these sites, who will promote products with superior photography.

That’s why we love using the X-A2.

I had been using an old DSLR, which did a job for us, but was a bit of a pain for my partner Jack, who has very little camera experience (he claims to have taken GCSE Photography many years ago, but you’d never know) to use on a day-to-day basis.

The X-A2 is far more intuitive, operating more like the compacts he’s used to from family holidays and so on.

Having a camera we can both use makes taking product shots – and promotional photos for our social media posts – a breeze.

We work from home, in a spare room converted into a store room for all our cards, packaging material, mug press, printers, blank mugs… you get the picture. Oh and this room also doubles as our photo studio. This means that when we need to photograph our products, we have to do a quick transformation of our designated packing area into a mini photo studio. The quicker we can do this, the better. So being able to stick the X-A2 on to our tripod and shoot away is a real bonus.

Of course, we’re not just limited to the studio and with the X-A2 being so lightweight and compact, it has joined us on our travels this summer, including a long-awaited visit to Wimbledon (on the hottest day of the year, no less) which meant I was able to get some great photos that I will treasure forever.


In a nutshell, here are our 10 favourite things about the X-A2

Image quality.

What can we say? When we want a bright, sharp image to show off our colourful designs the X-A2 does not let us down. This gives our customers the closest experience possible to actually picking up the products in their own hands.

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Reduced noise at a low ISO.

I knew that the photos I had taken with my DSLR had more noise on them than I’d like, even at ISO 100, but it wasn’t until I blew up an old image and one taken on the X-A2 side by side that I noticed just how grainy the old photos were in comparison. When your main selling tool is a product shot, quality is everything and could make a huge difference to the overall appearance of our online shop.

Selfies.

You can flip the screen over the top of the camera body and take a mean selfie (Jack particularly likes this feature. Boys…)

Exposure preview.

Being able to preview the exposure before shooting is really time-saving. Our studio doesn’t always have the best light, it’s natural and changes in seconds. With the X-A2 I can keep adjusting and previewing the exposure quickly and easily, which saves heaps of time.

Liveview.

The liveview screen is ultra clear, exceptionally responsive and tiltable. I hadn’t really fully appreciated the point of an tiltable liveview screen until I started using the X-A2. Our studio space-cum-photography studio is pretty pokey, with stacks of cards, boxes of envelopes and postage tubes all coming in and out all the time. Being able to tilt the screen rather than stand back and crouch down makes photography a pleasure rather than a chore.

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It ain’t heavy.

How can a camera packed with so much clever stuff be so lightweight? It must have come from the future. Going back to the DSLR after using this is like trying to pick up a Rottweiler when you’re used to a Pomeranian.

Hip to be square.

The square format mode is a big bonus for us. The standard photo format on our website and notonthehighstreet.com is square, so this not only saves us time in cropping, but also helps us to shoot specifically with these websites in mind. Seeing the crop in camera first, rather than having to imagine a square crop from a landscape or portrait image is a huge benefit for us.

Battery life.

We kicked the heck out of the battery, really going to town on what we thought would be real energy-sapping sessions of lengthy liveview use, but the X-A2 just kept on keeping on.

Wireless transfer.

Being able to zap the files straight over from the X-A2 to our computer, tablet or phone not only makes us feel a bit like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, but saves time and, teamed up with the square format, makes Instagram a doddle.

It looks cool.

Well, it does, doesn’t it?


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After a few weeks of launching new products – and mainly studio-based work, we’re keen to get the X-A2 out on the road to get some great new content for our blog. Watch this space…


Laura Harvey is the founder and designer at Paper Plane

Paperplanedesigns.co.uk | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


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