How to Enjoy Having Your Photo Taken. Yes, Even You!

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Many people feel a genuine dread when the cameras come out, but having your picture taken is almost inevitable in life. Either at social functions, family get-togethers or business pictures at the office, eventually someone is going to take a photo of you.

A large percentage of my clients begin their photography session by saying “I hate having my photo taken”. They quickly follow with some disparaging remark about themselves. “I look awful in every picture.” “I’m not photogenic at all.” Not one of those statements is true…

The reason people (I’ve really loathed some bad shots taken of me too, believe me) think they look terrible in photographs, is because they think they look terrible in photographs. No, not a typo. Thinking you look unattractive, automatically affects your posture, your body language, your facial expression and the look in your eyes.

Of course there are times when your photo is taken at the exact wrong moment, when your mouth is half open, your eyes are in mid-blink and you’re doing something blurry and odd looking with your hands. But that has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with poor timing on the part of the photographer. They just snap a shot almost randomly and don’t think about what they’re doing.  We all have friends and family members who take really bad photos of people. That’s about their lack of skill, not about how we actually look.

Getting past your photo-phobia:

The first step: Remember that taking a good picture of someone, is a two-person effort. If you’ve got someone in your life who takes many unflattering shots of you, you can quite easily ‘train’ them to do a better job. Either ask them to count to three first, or simply ask them to wait until you’re ready. If they don’t, then turn away from the camera. You’re not obligated to let them take a bad photo of you!

The second step:  Re-think the way you physically react when you’re in front of a camera. If you hunch your body, tense your muscles and get a glazed, stiff look on your face, then of course you’re going to look awful. So make yourself relax. Breathe. Seriously, focus on taking deep, slow breaths. Your posture will instantly improve and your facial expression will be natural and calm.

The third step: Don’t think you have to smile, because you don’t. There is nothing worse than an obviously false, frozen smile. It makes most people look completely insincere at best and slightly insane at worst. That said, don’t hold a smile back either. Trust me, you have a beautiful smile. Everyone does. Everyone. Do you ever look at a photo of someone really smiling and think ‘They look hideous.’? Of course you don’t. And nobody will think that about you either.

The fourth step: If or when a professional photographer is taking your photo, trust them. We know what we’re doing. Help us. Help us to help you! Instead of feeling resentful and insecure, think about the fact that a huge part of our job, is to make you look good. We’re going to do our best to get the most flattering photos possible. When you trust us, we’re able to make you look wonderful.

The fifth, final, and most important step: Be in the moment, not in the photo. Sounds counter-intuitive, but it makes all the difference in the world. Stop thinking ‘my picture is being taken, my picture is being taken’, and instead think about where you are and who you’re with.

  • A family reunion? Think about how much you love (at least some of) the people around you.
  • A wedding? Think about how happy you are for the married couple. If that doesn’t work, think about how happy you are to get free food and beverages.
  • On a trip? Don’t think ‘This is me posing in front of the Eiffel Tower’. Do think ‘I’m in Paris! Right this moment, I’m in Paris!’

In all my years of being a photographer, not once have I taken a terrible photo of someone who is in the moment, relaxed, breathing and smiling naturally. We look good when we feel good. It’s a cliche because it’s true.

Tamea Burd is a Vancouver photographer who specializes in portraits, headshots, corporate and wedding photography.

5 Tips for Your Family Portrait Photography Session

Tamea Burd is a professional photographer based in Vancouver, BC. She specializes in family portraits, portraits, headshots, corporate headshots and wedding photography. Her website: Tamea Burd Photography

When you’ve hired a professional photographer to take family portraits, it’s important that everyone has a good time and enjoys the experience of having their photos taken. The happier everyone feels, the better your photos will be.

Here are five simple things you can do to make sure your family portrait session is a really good one…

1 - Communicate beforehand. Sounds obvious, but it isn’t always something people remember to do before a photo session. Because your photos are going to be shared with everyone in your family, its a good idea to be really clear on exactly what everyone’s requests, requirements and expectations will be.

2 -  Make a list in advance, of all the different combinations of photos you’d like to have. (For example: Grandparents with grandkids, cousins together, siblings together, etc.) Especially for bigger families, this is a must. Be sure to have the list with you at your session.

3 -  Do a little bit of co-ordination about clothing choices before-hand.  Unless you want to, nobody has to match, but you generally don’t want just one or two people wearing really bright colors if everyone else is in more muted tones or if everyone else is wearing black or white.

So it’s best that either everyone wears bright colors, or nobody does. Also, everyone should avoid clothing with really bold patterns or logos, as those really distract from everyone else in the photo.

4 -  If your portrait session is at a location away from your home, be sure to bring some supplies.  Water or juice to drink, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, hand-wipes, and any makeup or hairstyling tools you might need.

5 -  When planning your location, always be sure to have a back-up choice in case of weather. Many family portrait sessions take place to commemorate a special occasion or a reunion. Which means that rescheduling isn’t always an option. So just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate, always have an indoor choice as well as an outdoor one.

One final bit of advice… Have fun! Truly, getting your family all together for pictures is a happy event. There’s really no need to stress or feel uncomfortable about it, just relax, trust your photographer, enjoy yourselves and your pictures will turn out beautifully.

Why you’ll never see a Facebook ‘Like’ button or a Google +1 button on my website…

Anyone who maintains (or even owns) a business website, knows that having social media buttons on their home page, is an increasingly important factor in page ranking and search engine results.

Meaning that the more Facebook ‘likes’ and Google +1 clicks your website has, the more likely it is to show up on the first few pages of search results. Which is crucial to the survival of most businesses these days.

I get that, believe me. And I realize that choosing not to have either of those options on my website, is having a fairly negative effect on my website’s search engine rankings. But crucial thought it may be, I still won’t add those damn buttons and never will. Call me old fashioned, I firmly believe that benefiting myself at the expense of others is very, very wrong.

How does a simple thing like a social media button equate to a complete breakdown of ethics, basic human decency and respect for our fellow humans?

Here’s how…

As has been clearly and repeatedly documented, visiting any website that has a Facebook ‘Like’ button, automatically sends your browsing activity information TO Facebook. Yep, even if you didn’t click their disingenuous little button. Simply visiting a page that has it on there, instantly violates your privacy. Nope, you don’t even need to be signed in to Facebook at the time.

That seemingly innocuous little button, all blue and white and friendly looking, with the happy little ‘thumbs up’ logo, is in fact, a total bastard.

As is the brightly colored, peppy looking Google +1 button. For the very same reasons.

When business owners, artists, writers, photographers, etc. choose to put a Facebook ‘Like’ button or a Google +1 button on our websites, we’re complicit in giving away the privacy of every single person who views our web pages. Those cute little buttons allow those not-so-cute little companies to track each person who visits our site. Even if the person doesn’t have Facebook or Google+ accounts.

When you go to a website that has those buttons in place, sneaky little tracking cookies invisibly start working in your browser. Those cookies are essentially spying on your internet activity, by telling ‘Big Cyber Twin Brothers’ about pretty much every website and web page you visit, your physical location at the time, what kind of computer you’re using, what web-browser you use, how long you were on each page of each website and even what links you clicked on each site.

All of this is done in most cases, without your knowledge or consent.

You might be thinking ‘I don’t have anything to hide about my internet habits, so why should I care?’ Here’s why…

Because privacy of all kinds is a basic and essential human right. It’s been valued and respected in all cultures since the dawn of human-kind. Yet millions of us are throwing it away every time we use the internet.

If we were being followed closely by a shady stranger every time we left the house, and we saw that stranger taking our photo and writing notes about the places we went, the movies we watched, the books we read, the friends we visited and the things we bought, we’d call the police, right?

How much more violated would we feel, if we found out that the notes and photos the stranger took of us, were being sold to corporations who were using that information to A: barrage us with ‘personalized’ advertising and B: occasionally use our likeness to sell their products to our friends and acquaintances?

All without our permission, our awareness, or any compensation whatsoever for the use of our personal information or the photos of our adorable little faces.

If that were happening in ‘real-life’, the shady stranger following us, would be arrested on sight. Most likely after getting the ass-kicking they would rightfully deserve. Then they’d be sued six ways to Sunday for all of the laws they’d broken and for the ‘emotional distress’ they’d caused by stalking and spying on us.

Yet here we are, blithely giving Facebook and Google the rights to do the same things that an actual person would be arrested, beaten up, sued and jailed for doing. How messed up is that?

As a business owner, I do have to use Google and Facebook to some degree. I have a Facebook page for my business and I make sure my website is up-to-date with Google’s SEO standards. I grudgingly accept this as inevitable fact. But with that understanding, I also do my best to minimize their intrusion in every possible way.

Instead of having their candy-coated poisonous little buttons on my site, I simply have an html link in my code, that directs you to my Facebook page. No cookies, no tracking, no heinous violations of your privacy simply to improve the visibility of my business.

Sure, it’s not the most savvy or progressive way to generate business for myself, but as I still do have the choice, I choose not to let Facebook and Google turn me into a colluding asshole drone in their world domination agenda.

That, my friends, is why you’ll never see a ‘Like’ button or ‘+1′ button on my website.

Tamea Burd is a Vancouver photographer who specializes in portraits, headshots, corporate and wedding photography.

The cost of professional photography. It isn’t cheap. Deal with it…

It never fails to astound me when people inquiring about professional photography (wedding photography in particular), are shocked that the rate is much more than they’d expected.

It’s not as though the cost to hire a professional photographer has suddenly skyrocketed. It’s not an inexpensive service, it never has been. Pretty much since the invention of the camera, professional photographers have had to charge a within a certain range.

This pricing is to cover the costs of our equipment, our experience, our time and our operating costs, as well as all of the work required to process the images and deliver them to our clients. As with any specialized profession, minimum wage is not an option.

Even after years of being in this business, I’m always amazed when people don’t realize what I assume is a commonly known fact. Professional photography isn’t cheap. Never was, never will be…

But let’s say most people don’t realize that. OK. But when I’m looking online to hire any kind of service provider or even just shopping online, the first thing I check is the price. Doesn’t everybody? And I – as most professional photographers do – list my starting prices on my website, on a very easy to find page called ‘services’.

You can almost always find a list of photography prices on the photographer’s website. If it’s not on a page called ‘services’, it will be on a page called ‘rates’, ‘pricing’, or ‘investment’.

If it’s so easy and simple to find this information, then why are so many photography clients taken completely aback by the cost?  Apparently they don’t bother to look at the pricing information available to them, they don’t comparison shop, they’ve done no research and they’ve already arbitrarily placed an unrealistically low value on this service before they begin making inquiries.

This drives me utterly bonkers. It’s lazy, it’s uninformed and it wastes everyone’s time. If you have no idea what something costs, take five or ten minutes to look it up PRIOR to contacting professional service providers with your inquiry.

Here’s the thing. A conscientious photographer will always give a detailed response to an inquiry. Whether it’s on the phone or by email, the average inquiry takes at least twenty minutes to reply to. And the issue of price rarely comes up at the beginning. It’s not something we generally start off with, because there are several things we need to know before we can give you an accurate quote.

Maybe twenty minutes doesn’t seem like that much time, but when we’re responding to several inquiries a day, or a week, it adds up. So when we’ve given our time and energy to you (for free) to answer your questions, to get your details and to describe our services, it’s incredibly frustrating and irritating to be told ‘Oh, that’s much more than I expected’ when we do tell you our rates.

Photography is always a collaboration between the photographer and the person (or people) being photographed. Good communication and a sense of comfort and compatibility are crucial elements to getting the best possible results.

So here are two simple ways to avoid annoying your potential photographers…

1- Do some research before-hand. If you’re getting married, before you contact wedding photographers, take the time to educate yourself about what to expect. Ask married friends what they paid. Read wedding blogs, wedding magazines, wedding boards… If you do, you’ll quickly realize that a wedding photography budget of less than $1000 is wildly unrealistic, as is expecting to hire a photographer for two hours or less.

If you’re hiring a portrait, headshot or corporate photographer, take the time to comparison shop online. Check at least four or five local photographer’s websites and take note of the starting prices. They’ll generally all be within the same range and no, it’s not going to be as cheap as Sears Portrait Studio.

2- Always check the ‘rates’ or ‘services’ or ‘investment’ page BEFORE contacting a professional photographer. This will prevent you from wasting your time (and the photographer’s) if their rates are too far out of your price range.

If you find that all of the good photographers are ‘too expensive’, then you need to realize that you’re underestimating what professional photography is worth, and you’ll have to readjust your assessment of its value.

Finally, here is a breakdown of what it costs to hire a professional photographer…

As with most things, photography prices do vary. There are basically three tiers:

Tier one - The ridiculously low prices of hobby or amateur photographers: If someone is charging less than $200 to $300 per hour, or under $1000 for wedding photography, they are NOT a professional photographer. No grey area here, it’s that black and white.

I’ve written before about the many, many reasons why hiring an amateur or hobbyist photographer is almost inevitably a choice you will regret. I’ll not belabor the point again, as it should be obvious that hiring a bargain basement photographer, will result in very poor quality equipment, poor quality services and poor quality images. When you hire the cheapest photographer you can find, you’re wasting your money instead of investing it. But I digress…

Tier two - The average price of professional photographers in most major cities across North America: For portraits, headshots and corporate photography, rates range between $200 and $400 per hour.

For professional wedding photography, the average starting range is between $1500 and $2000. That’s for six hours or less. For anything above six hours, you’re looking at between $3000 and $4000.

Tier three – The high end prices of status photographers: These are the very well established professional photographers who are almost celebrities within their field or their local area. They can and do charge double and triple the price.

This is because there will always be people who want to pay a squillion dollars to wear designer labels. Those same people want to pay exorbitant prices to hire a status photographer. Starting prices for weddings are usually at least $8000. Portrait and headshot sessions are usually at least $800.

So there you have it. Professional photography isn’t cheap. Deal with it.

Why you need to use a professional image for your online business profiles.

It’s a commonly known fact, that the internet generates an enormous percentage of new clients, new contacts and new customers for today’s professional. Regardless of the type of business or service you or your company provide, chances are, people will be checking your online presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and on your company website.

The quality of your profile photo can quite literally make all the difference to whether or not your potential clients and contacts will choose to hire or work with you. It may be shallow, but we humans base a lot of our choices on visual information.

Here are a few tips that will help you to ensure that your online profile photos generate the right response from the people who view them…

1 – Hire a professional to look professional:

If you’re presenting yourself as someone with expertise or qualifications of any kind, your online photos need to reflect that. There really is only one right way to do this. Use an image taken by a professional photographer who specializes in business and/or headshot photography.

2 – The kinds of photos you do NOT want to use:

  • Candid photos taken at a social event.
  • Arm’s length self portraits.
  • Webcam shots.
  • Professional photos that are clearly over 5 years old.
  • Photos that you think look convincingly professional, but in reality, were taken with by a family member or friend who was using an automatic point and shoot camera.

Here’s why not… Would you hire or want to work with someone who gave you a first impression that they don’t make much of an effort, even in how they present themselves?

3- Why it’s worth investing in a professional photographer:

When someone is considering either hiring you or working with you, they want to know that you’re a skilled, talented, successful person who offers something of quality. Someone with a good professional profile image is much more likely to be seen as a person with something of value to offer their contacts and clients.

Yes, hiring a professional photographer does come with a bit of a cost, but when you consider the benefits, and the fact that you can use those images for up to five years, it’s an investment that absolutely will be worth it.

Tamea Burd is a Vancouver portrait, wedding, corporate and headshot photographer. Her website: www.tameaburdphotography.com