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

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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 coordination about clothing choices beforehand.  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.

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

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.

Professional Photography: Cheap or Good. You Can’t Have Both.

Since the invention of the camera, professional photographers have had to charge a certain base amount in order to run a business. This is to cover the expenses of our equipment, our experience, our time and our operating costs. It also covers the days and weeks of work involved in editing and processing the images we deliver to our clients. As with any specialized profession (particularly one that’s expensive to run and maintain) minimum wage pricing is not an option.

Professional photography isn’t cheap. It never has been. But for what should be a commonly known fact, a surprising number of people arbitrarily place an unrealistically low value on it. “Well, I thought a two hour portrait session would be around $75.” Or, “I’m getting married and my photography budget is $300 for the whole day.”

You can sometimes find information about a photographer’s rates on their website. If not on a page called ‘pricing’, it will be on a page called ‘rates’, ‘services’, or ‘investment’. Often however, a photographer will prefer that you contact them directly, as quotes can vary depending on the services you require.

If you do contact a photographer and don’t get a straightforward listing of their rates, that can mean that there are hidden costs and ‘extra’ fees involved. However, most photographers who provide wedding, business or personal images, will give you a clear breakdown (either on their website or in a customized quote) as to the prices you can expect.

In this world of short attention spans and information overload, most people just barely skim the details available to them. Which ironically, often results in wasting time, not saving it. It’s just logical that if you have no idea what something costs, you should take a few minutes to compare prices before contacting service providers.

To save yourself some effort, time and sticker-shock:

  • Do some research first. If you’re getting married, before you contact wedding photographers, educate yourself about what to expect. Ask married friends what they paid. Read wedding blogs, wedding magazines, wedding boards… When you do, you’ll quickly realize that a wedding photography budget of less than $1500 (minimum) is completely 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 websites and take note of the starting prices. They will most likely be within a similar range, although the included services will vary.
  • Check the pricing information available to you before contacting any photographers. This will prevent you from wasting your time (and the photographer’s) if their rates are too far out of your budget.

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 fifteen minutes to reply to. The issue of price rarely comes up at the beginning, because there are several things we need to know before we can give you an accurate quote.

Maybe fifteen minutes doesn’t seem like much, but when we’re responding to several inquiries a day, or a week, it adds up. We aren’t paid for that time. So when photographers answer your questions, get your details and describe our services, it’s incredibly frustrating and irritating to be told ‘Oh, that’s a lot more than I expected’ when we do give you a price.

What does it cost to hire a professional photographer?

As with most things, costs vary to some degree. One of the main factors in this, is geographic location. The cost-of-living in your particular area. But wherever you are, there are basically three tiers for photography prices. (Note: these prices are based on professional experience and painstaking, extensive research. Although this blog post remains as is, the prices do get updated once a year.)

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.

Hiring an amateur or hobbyist photographer is almost always a choice you’ll regret.  They’ll have poor quality equipment, poor quality services and you’ll get poor quality images. And – this is crucial – they don’t understand how to take the types of photos you need. Just because someone knows how to use their camera, it doesn’t mean they have the knowledge and skill involved in how to frame shots, how to light them, how to pose people or interact with people professionally, etc.

When you hire the cheapest photographer you can find, you’re wasting your money instead of investing it.

Tier two – The average price of professional photographers in most major cities across North America:

For portraits, headshots and corporate photography, rates range between $275 and $400 per hour. If a corporate photographer charges per person, average rates are between $65 and $150 per.

For professional wedding photography, the average starting range is between $1500 and $2500 for a half-day or less. For an eight hour wedding day, rates are between $3000 and $5000. Keep in mind that you aren’t just paying for the day your photographer shoots your wedding.  Depending on the length and size or your wedding, professional photographers spend between another 40 to 80 hours of work to sort, edit and retouch your images.

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 happily 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.

Something to consider:

When you’re looking to hire someone for your portraits, headshots or wedding and you find that all the good photographers are ‘too expensive’,  there’s only one reason for that. You’re underestimating the value and worth of having your photos done properly and well. When it comes to professional photography, you can have cheap, or you can have good. You can’t have both.

Why to hire a professional photographer for your corporate and business headshots.

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As we all know, the internet generates an enormous percentage of new clients, new contacts and new customers. 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 corporate 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

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 headshot 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 it’s a business expense which is generally tax deductible. When you consider the all of 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 photographer, who has been providing professional corporate headshots for ten years. Her website: www.tameaburdphotography.com