PBlog 7: Product Review

This is a first for me, I have been asked to write a product review for a Photo Book from Saal Digital,
@saal.digital.uk” (on Facebook)
@saal_digital (Instagram)
#saaldigital (Twitter).

I chose to order a 28×19 landscape book with 26 pages and a glossy, padded cover.

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Downloading the software ( from http://www.saal-digital.co.uk/ ) was an easy process, I did run into a problem installing it when my MacBook told me I didn’t have an updated version of Adobe AIR but a quick google search sorted that out (not sure if this would only affect me but I thought it best to include it just in case).
Once you have the software up and running the process is very easy, just import the pics you want in your book and you choose exactly how it’s going to look and how many pages you have in it. The costing of the book updates in real time so you know exactly how much you are paying before you start.
There are a huge amount of options for the layout of the book but not too much that you would be overwhelmed by them and get put off. There are a number of layout options for each page ( I chose the plain layout so i could place the pictures anywhere I wanted).  You can have pics and text or just pics, its up to you.  You can also resize and edit each pic once its on the page and the indicator will tell you straight away if the quality is good enough for that size.  You can also change the colour and design of the background to further enhance your pics ( I opted to try out different designs and colours for each page and it didn’t cost any extra).   I placed a panoramic pic on the centre pages and I think it looks great even though I didn’t go for a ‘lay flat’option.

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All the pages are laid out and numbered at the bottom of the page so its easy to keep up with what you are producing and you can add or subtract pages depending on your preferred design.  There is even a quick option of automatically filling the book with your uploaded pics and then you can just buy it or do some edits to get it the way you want it.

Once you’re done it’s through to the purchase page which offers different payment methods, including PayPal, and different postage methods ( I chose standard delivery and it was with me within the week).

The book was well packaged and arrived in perfect condition, I checked for any discrepancies and couldn’t find any,  I have also been slightly over-bending it and its still not damaged so I guess its going to keep its shape quite well.

So in terms of value for money I would highly recommend this photo book as ideal for keepsakes or even showcasing an amateur portfolio, it’s simple and straightforward design software is safe to download and I’m certain you won’t be disappointed with the end result.

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Phoblog 6 

Theoretically you can now use a smartphone for photography in place of a DSLR, I have indeed taken many a photo on my iPhone which has produced great results: 

(The above was taken at the Swan Pond in the grounds of Culzean Castle).

I have even theorised that a smartphone could be used on a professional shoot with similar striking results although I suspect that if you showed up to be paid for your work that you would be soundly booted out if you pulled out a phone instead of a ‘big camera’.  Recently I found myself with a decision to make; hassle myself with lugging a portion of my gear on holiday with me or leaving it behind and relying on my phone.  I chose the latter.  So, after flying off to Spain feeling like I’d lost a limb, I was determined to see if I could make a reality out of the theory.  I couldn’t.  The camera quality on the phone is outstanding I can’t deny that but the phone fits in my pocket, and stays there.  I saw the photo opportunities but I didn’t have the same desire to whip the phone out, it was a hassle I could do without and although I wanted to be having a relaxing holiday I knew that if I had brought my trusty K3 and a couple of decent lenses I’d have been more inclined to ‘get the shot’, a personal opinion, I know, but it was a bit of an eye opener for me and I, momentarily, regretted not taking it with me. I did have one laugh at myself, while deciding whether to take my camera I toyed with the idea of getting a action camera or at least a waterproof one but I opted instead to buy a waterproof camera case which promised 30 metres of waterproofness.  It took me 5 days to pluck up the courage to try it out and after a successful tissue test I bounded off for the pool hoping for a shoot that would make Shawn Heinrichs jealous.  I got to the pool, inserted my precious phone into the case and checked and double checked the seal (the seal on the case, there wasn’t a seal in the pool), you may be guessing where this is going but you’d be wrong.  The case was great and kept my phone completely dry and safe, the problem was, I can’t blooming see underwater 😳. Sure I can open my eyes and negotiate my way through the pool when I’m swimming but can I see enough to set up a shot? Can I see where the button is to take said shot?, the answer is no, no I cannot.  I emerged defeated from the watery pit, looking more like Wendy Craig than Daniel Craig but at least my phone was perfectly dry and safe.  I’ll need to see if I can me some prescription goggles for my next holiday. 

Phoblography 5

A year and half between blogs isn’t too bad, is it?  What can I say I’ve been busy lol, even when I stared the blogs I was going through things I wasn’t ready to share but so far it’s worked out great.  I split up with my wife and eventually met someone else, we got on well, she already had 2 kids so we went slow for 6 months or so as we felt it wouldn’t be fair on the kids to meet me if I wasn’t going to be hanging around. And now we’re married, yay. 

So who does a photographer get to photograph their wedding? I admit I did consider doing it myself with a remote but that was a (very) fleeting thought so I turned to my friend Paul, I knew he had a similar style to mine and similar misgivings about ability but given that neither my new wife or I are particularly eager to get our photo taken (in fact, despite 3 years together, our wedding was the first time we had been photographed together), we knew we could trust Paul to do a great job and we would never be disappointed with the outcome. So it was a great day and we loved the pictures and it really gave me an insight into what my clients expect from me. It’s a huge responsibility and one that has to last longer than anything else on the day (except of course for the actual marriage, lol), flowers die, cars go away, the dinner and buffet are polished off, the dj packs up and goes home, the hotel checks you out and wishes you luck and the dress gets hung up in the wardrobe (or closet if this is being read in America) all that’s left are memories and it’s the photographers job to deliver these memories in an acceptable format, we hopefully get it right first time but usually there’s no problem making small adjustments if your clients want something a wee bit different, that black white one you love so much, for example, might just be better in colour for the client, its their day so of course it’s no problem providing both formats.  Usually I’ll make up a few different copies which can be printed at different sizes without the dreaded heads-cut-off scenario I’ve seen too often but I let my clients know I’m on the end of the phone or by email if they need any help. 

That’s another blog done.  Hope you enjoy and I’ll be back soon.

Love B xx

Phoblography 4

Just looking on Facebook and there’s a current trend of posting a first ever profile pic which got me thinking of other first evers, I have a shot from Braemar, if I knew anything about blogging a could probably post it in this article but as I don’t I’ll move on, it’s the first pic I took on my first DSLR after many happy years with a point and shoot Samsung NV3, so I thought about my first outing with the NV3 and I’m now cringing with embarrassment at the memory that has gushed back into my head. About 10 years ago The daughter of a friend of my ex’s had an engagement party so I photographed it and made her a wee video with a music soundtrack, she absolutely loved it and a few months later decided it was enough to appoint me as her wedding Videographer let me repeat that, a bunch of photographs played over a take that soundtrack gave someone the confidence to ask me to VIDEO their wedding. First problem? I don’t have a video camera. Second problem? I am not a videographer. Kind of the only two problems you need in this situation really. So to cut a long story short the outcome was surprisingly better than I expected, the biggest downfall was the bride wanted the vows part of the ceremony caught on microphone which was impossible given that the camera (she arranged for me to get) did not work on the battery and had to be continuously plugged into power about 75 feet from the alter. Then the thing happened, that’s only recently occurred to me. When I was editing the video I asked them to give me some pointers on what music they liked, I was told the groom liked the Godfather and I set about creating a noir style intro to the video in black and white with intercutting scenes of people entering the church and little snippets of guests talking as they went in, I was rather proud of it as a piece of artful filmmaking especially as it was among my first but it’s now dawning on me that the godfather is a long movie and in that movie there are people and some of those people get married 😊 and yes I now realise that the music the groom was referring too was the happy wedding music and not the dark horse-head-in-bed creepy theme music I had attached to the opening of the video. Suffice it to say I have never done or attempted videography again, hopefully I won’t encounter any similar rebound memories from my photography outings but if I do you’ll be the first to know.

B xx

Phoblography 3

Having had only one paid job last year and one booked for this year (so far), I’m still motivated, I’m lucky enough to have a full time job that doesn’t rely on getting clients booking me, which is quite good given that my marketing techniques are about as effective as a paper hose in a fire. I’m a great believer in what’s for you won’t go by you and if I’m destined for full time photography it will come in it’s own time and I’ll enjoy every step. It wasn’t hard to notice that the date of my last blog was 2 days before ‘the fire’ which tried, and failed, to claim my own life. We had an incident at my main job which took up all of my time for the best part of 3 months and even now we are still playing catch up, thankfully there were no fatalities or casualties (a testament to an amazing staff group) and we managed to minimise disruption as much as possible, taking photographs was the furthest thing from my mind though so I have now taken time to review my price packages and am looking forward to honing my skills as much as I can, I’ve still been out and about and taken many shots to be proud of and, of course, I’m still feeling lucky to be alive.
Marketing seems to be the elusive part of my plan, I’m not the best photographer out there but I’m not the worst either and potential clients can always be assured they will get the best of me on whichever project they hire me for, I just need to figure out how to let them know I’m here 😊 there’s a lot of good opportunities out there so I’ll concentrate on how to get involved and let my name be known, I offered to do an Anti Bullying shoot in November, a local model wanted to give people of all ages the chance to unite and stand up against bullying so I got involved because it was something I’d never done before, there was also a hairdresser and make up artist on site to ensure everyone looked their best, it was a great experience and taught me a lot about portrait photography. I have in mind a list of things I’m aiming to add to my equipment this year but most of all I’m concentrating on the things money can’t buy like dedication, commitment, professionalism and reputation.

Phoblography 2

With a subject/subjects in front of you you need nerves of steel or at least the ability to give the impression of nerves of steel. It’s all too easy to assume that a photographer just points and clicks but have a look at the gazillions of web pages dedicated to photography and you have an idea of the intricacies involved. Of course, your photographer will be experienced and professional enough to have you believe he/she is simply pointing and clicking and they would never ask you to spare a thought for the knots in their gut as they go about their work. 

Everything and anything can make you nervous but this is me and this is my phoblog so I’m focussing (get it?) on photography.  The reason I mention nerves is that I wanted to share a short summary of my first professional job as a photographer.  There are a few definitions of what makes a professional so for me I chose to think of myself as a professional the first time I was paid for a job.  It was an 80th birthday party and I was the back up guy as the original photographer cancelled at the last minute, my first mistake was not checking out the venue first and just turning up on the night, if I wondered why the first guy cancelled I soon found out, in the words of Ben Kenobi “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy”. The venue (I won’t name it) staff decided a photographer was not worthy of civility and I was instructed to wait outside until the party guests arrived, at the time my equipment was few but expensive nonetheless and the looks of ‘how much is THAT worth?’ from the passing off licence customers only made me wrap my bag strap tighter round my leg as I attempted the nonchalant look. The party soon started and to be fair the paying customer was very nice and we were able to discuss the feel of how the night should go and I requested payment before I got started, there weren’t a lot of posed shots requested but they happened on a kind of ad hoc basis which suited me as I was still panicking slightly at the thought of being paid for my ‘hobby’.  Let’s get one thing straight, this ends in disaster but as a testament to the professionalism I have learned in other work no one even knew the disaster was taking place right before their eyes.  So my first hurdle was when a party couple plonked their toddler in front of me and ordered me to take pictures of him. On the floor. In a pub. A dark pub. With disco lights.  “Aye mate, here’s ur perfect pictures of ur wean”, I didn’t say.  So it went on similar to, but thankfully not worse, than that.  My time was from 7-10pm and as the end neared I was approached and asked if I could stay till the birthday girl had cut the cake, of course I could, no problem. By 20 past 10 the cake was still nowhere near being cut but I remained composed, a tap on the shoulder was a request from one of the party couples for a nice portrait shot for their album, so I posed them, got ready to shoot, clicked the camera and nothing happened, clicked again, nothing. I had read up on the basic rookie mistakes, one of which was not having a spare battery so I made sure I had 5 spare batteries, changed the battery, nothing happened.  The camera had just died, I thought my insides were going to make a guest appearance and for a small moment I considered getting my iPhone out to finish off the last few shots and the impending cake cut.  I was panicking inside but managed to hide it and my only get out clause was the fact I was already over my time so I took a stand and informed my customer that I could wait no longer on the cake cut and it wasn’t my fault they had taken so long to get to it.  I packed up as quickly as I could because I could see they were scurrying to try and get the cake cut ready and I bolted out the door.  On hindsight it was a good learning curve, If I want to be a professional I need to experience the bad with the good.  

The camera was, in fact, dead and needed to be replaced so at least I can take comfort knowing there was nothing could do and the thought of the same thing happening when I eventually moved up to weddings was horrible so soon after I invested in a back up camera. 

Thankfully, I’ve not experienced anything to curb my enthusiasm for photography and as the time goes on I’m still learning and still loving it.

thats another phoblog out the way, until next time. 

B xx

Phoblography?

As if photographing someones big day wasn’t stressful enough, I then discover that the latest tool of keeping current and reaching an audience is blogging. really? if i wanted to write i’d be a writer, please, can i just take photos? No? Ok, well I am writing this now so I’m definitely current, I don’t know what potential clients would be looking for reading the blog of a photographer but if i must i can assure them (you?) that your booking with me is guaranteed to give you a photographer who will do his best, to work hard and long hours to make sure you are completely satisfied with the end results. But then don’t all photographers offer that?, i have yet to see an advert stating “book us for your wedding/portraits/christening/engagement etc and we might turn up, if we like you we will check we have a card in the camera before we start, we will miss all the important shots, eat way too much of your buffet and upset one or both sets of families.”

Photographers should have an air of mystery about them so I’ll try and be careful about how much i give away on here, i assume part of the ‘keeping current’ is letting the good folk know what we are up to, so I am a full time care home manager and part time photographer, its become an almost obsessive hobby of which i am fiercely proud. I have taken to going out every weekend and trying to get new and interesting shots, occasionally revisiting different places at different times and checking on my own improvements, I do have a website, Facebook page, Google+ page and various other outlets to showcase my work and try and encourage paying clients to chance me the opportunity to impress the hell out of them but i am lucky enough that I don’t need to rely on it, part of me wants to be full time as a tog but i doubt it would ever be stress free so I’m happy to carry on as I am for now.

so I think I’m done. First Phoblog out the way and not even thinking what I will write for the next one, maybe start a little series of ‘shots of the week’ or something.
Thanks for sticking around if you made it this far and i hope you check out all my other pages and website etc.

Love, B.