BARLOW PROSE

The official blog of St. Louis-based photography and video production studio Barlow Productions. Updated like clockwork every 100 days or so.

How to Pick the Perfect Portrait

A MAGAZINE SAID IT SO IT MUST BE TRUE


I was sitting in the barber shop the other day (technically a salon, but I didn't want to sound pretentious and weird) waiting to get my ears lowered when I found the article pictured below in Entrepreneur magazine. It's all about how to pick the perfect headshot for your LinkedIn profile, and it makes some great points. Namely, how important it is to have a natural smile, which is a smile you can see in the eyes. A "squinch," they call it. 

They also ran some photos through a neat online app that will provide insights into which portrait sends which message. Concerned that you look overly casual or not competent enough? PhotoFeeler will help you suss out which of your portraits you should use. Next time you're trying to select a portrait from a batch of proofs, this could come in pretty handy. 

Read the Entrepreneur article online here

Photographing the Awesome Kids of Camp Rainbow

A PLACE WHERE KIDS CAN BE KIDS


Since 2010, we’ve been honored to partner with Flashes of Hope, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating powerful, uplifting portraits of children fighting cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. 


A few weeks ago we joined them at Camp Rainbow, a free, week-long summer camp for kids undergoing treatment for cancer and blood diseases. At Camp Rainbow, kids are able to set aside the everyday stresses caused by their illnesses.
 

 


The camp really is a life-changing event, helping kids to build self-esteem, create positive memories, and of course make lots of new friends. Through Flashes of Hope, we provide portraits of each child to their families at no charge. It’s an opportunity for us to spend the day with some great people and work closely with some very inspiring children. 


If you’d like to learn more about volunteering for Flashes of Hope, visit their website at flashesofhope.org. They’re in 55 cities across the country, and they photograph more than 7,000 kids each year. (Or, as they like to say it, every year they make more than 7,000 kids with cancer smile.) If you’re in the St. Louis area and you’d like to volunteer with Camp Rainbow, visit their website at camprainbow.com.

We've Always Been Fashion Forward

REVISITING A BARLOW FASHION SHOOT FROM THE ROARING 1980s


Over lunch today the topic of fashion photography came up. Some of our clients may be surprised to learn that we've done our fair share of fashion assignments over the years. From editorial shoots for publications large and small to advertising jobs for designers and retailers alike. For much of the 1980s, readers of the JC Penney catalog, as well as many magazines and newspapers, regularly saw Ron Barlow's work in advertisements and editorial spreads. It's hard not to love this shot he made on the Landing in downtown St. Louis sometime in the mid 1980s. 

 

 

I'm guessing this was somewhere around 1986. I think I had those same glasses! 

While the outfits are quintessentially dated—how about those great boat shoes and the high-waisted, crisply pressed jeans—it's still a great shot, even 30 years later. 

Just out of curiosity, though, I wonder: why does that guy have a trumpet?

How to Dress for Business Portraits

SUGGESTIONS FOR ATTIRE AND ACCESSORIES TO LOOK YOUR BEST


Everyone wants to know how best to dress for a portrait session. We think it boils down to the KISS principle: keep it simple, stupid. But for more nuanced advice on attire, keep reading. 

Start by thinking about the image you want to project. What's your brand. Do you need to appear friendly and creative, or serious and confident? Either way, the key is to dress accordingly. When in doubt, it's hard to go wrong with "professional," in which case business attire is a great place to start. 

 

For a traditional, conservative business portrait, we suggest avoiding extremes: no all-black or all-white ensembles. Avoid that khaki suit, or the searsucker ensemble you love. Instead, choose deep colors such as navy blue, gray and brown for jackets and sportcoats. Best of all, these deep colors are slimming too.

Busy is bad, be it a jacket, shirt or tie. Avoid patterns and overly bright colors. Anything that distracts the viewer is a bad idea, so that means avoiding flashy jewelry and too many accessories, too. 

Men, if you'll be wearing a tie, it's hard to go wrong with a solid color or a simple striped tie in red or blue. A minimal pattern will always look better than a busy tie. In this case, think like a politician; presidential candidates usually choose ideal ties. 

For dress shirts, avoid bright white when possible. A little color—even an off white or light blue shirt—often looks better on camera, especially if you're not wearing a jacket. If you are wearing a jacket, you can get away with a plain white shirt. 

To dress for a slimming effect: 
- Darker colors are slimming, light colors are not.
- Solid colors are slimming, bold patterns are not. 
- A single color from head to toe (i.e. a suit) is slimming. 
- Vertical lines are slimming, horizontal lines are not. This can apply to pleats as well as prints. 
- The v-neck shape is slimming. This is achieved by the cut of a sportcoat or the v-shaped collar opening of a dress shirt or sweater. 
- Single-breasted jackets are more slimming than double-breasted or three-button suits. 
- If you'll be standing for a full-length portrait, high heels are slimming—as are clothes that are well tailored rather than too loose or too tight. 

Finding a Future Movie Star

HOW RON BARLOW DISCOVERED ACTRESS KATE CAPSHAW IN A ST. LOUIS GROCERY STORE



Around my house, there’s no one more popular than Indiana Jones—at least according to my kids. So while we were recently re-watching the second film in the series (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) for the hundredth time, I began recounting one of my favorite stories (for the hundredth time) about how my boss, Ron Barlow, discovered the movie’s co-star—the one who eventually went on to marry the film's famous director. 


Here’s how Commerce Magazine told the story ten years later. 

“Starring in the hit movie, ‘Indiana Jones,’ is just one of St. Louisan Kate Capshaw’s many achievements. And Commerce played a role in starting her on the way to a successful career. 
Back in 1974, when she was Kathy Nail and a junior at Mizzou, Photographer Ron Barlow persuaded her to pose in nautical garb on the deck of a sailboat for the cover of the June issue of Commerce
That led to more modeling assignments here and in New York, acting lessons, off-Broadway roles, parts in TV soap operas, and—at length—a meeting with director/producer Steven Spielberg.
Kate’s beautiful face was on a recent cover of Life Magazine, a pinnacle few can ever hope to reach. 
Kate reached it because, among other things, she accepted Ron Barlow’s business card when he approached her in a St. Louis County supermarket with a classic line: ‘I’m looking for a model for a photo assignment. Would you be interested?’
Kate was naturally skeptical, but she checked Ron out, thought it over, and a few days later called Ron to say okay. The rest is history.” 

The rest, indeed, is history. We wish you well, Ms. Capshaw. Stop by and say hi the next time you're in town. 

An Evening with Willie Nelson

PHOTOGRAPHING, AND SOCIALIZING WITH, A MUSIC ICON


Back in August of 1989, Ron met and photographed Willie Nelson when the country superstar performed for a benefit at the Sheldon Concert Hall. Ron met lots of artists and musicians at the Sheldon; he was the official photographer there for about 15 years. 

Willie Nelson on his tour bus

Getting a glimpse behind the scenes is one of the best benefits of being a photographer. Being invited onto Willie Nelson's tour bus by the man himself is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. 

Sally with Willie Nelson

Here is Ron's wife, Sally, with Willie. Ron says Willie invited them both to stick around and hang out on his tour bus for a bit of relaxation after the show. 

Photographing a Great Day in St. Louis Baseball History

THE DAY THE CARDINALS HIRED A LEGEND


Today is not the best of days for St. Louis sports fans. But that’s inspired us to look back to a much happier time—specifically June 9th, 1980. That’s the day Ron Barlow was summoned to “the Big House” at Grant’s Farm, where on the back porch August A. “Gussie” Busch, Jr. would be announcing the new manager he’d just hired to run his baseball team. 

 

 

Ron captured the tremendous chemistry between a beloved team owner and his new hire, future hall of famer Whitey Herzog. Gussie and Whitey shared a beer, and clearly hit it off in an instant—as Ron’s photos show. 

“I have an owner who’s the greatest man in the world,” Whitey would say later, “and I want to win a world championship for him.” 


This image, of Gussie and Whitey toasting to their mutual good fortune, has graced our studio wall for years. But Ron made several other fine photos that day. The portrait of Whitey above is dripping with good ol’ boy charm, and the shot of Whitey holding forth—no doubt on baseball and beer—is practically perfect as well. 

St Louis Cardinals Manager Whitey Herzog


According to Ron, at one point that day Gussie disappeared into the house for what Ron assumed was more beer. In fact the boss of the world’s biggest brewery returned with a quart of Jack Daniels, which the group commenced to polishing off—the photographer included. 


We're Celebrating our 50th Anniversary!

LOOKING BACK AT 50 YEARS IN BUSINESS


Happy new year! 2016 is a big one for us because it marks the 50th anniversary of Barlow Productions. In honor of our golden anniversary we're planning to celebrate all year long.

In 1963 young Ron Barlow left his job as a photographer in the public relations department at Monsanto to go to work for Todd Studios in downtown St. Louis. Then in 1966 Ron set out on his own, purchasing a converted house at 1125 South Brentwood Blvd. in Richmond Heights and opening Barlow Photography, as it was then known. Multiple expansions over the years grew the property to include a studio and editing suite in order to accommodate a move into video production in the late 1970s. When the St. Louis Galleria expanded in 1991, Ron took the opportunity to build a new studio at our present location, 1115 Olivette Executive Parkway, which has happily remained "the Olivette Campus of the North American Headquarters of Barlow Productions" for the past 25 years. 

Obviously what makes Barlow Productions special is much more than our studio. It's our people. We've been fortunate to work with lots of amazing and talented people over the last five decades. Many industry professionals got their start here, and we've been blessed to have great salesmen, office managers, interns, assistants, producers, editors and photographers on staff throughout the years. Today, Ron still comes into the office every day. His son Patrick runs the company and heads the video department, while Bill Sawalich has lead the photography department for 15 years. (Five more and he'll become a Third Degree honorary Barlow.) We regularly work with a force of about 20 very talented freelancers—almost all of whom have been with us for a decade or more—to round out the Barlow team. To everyone who has had a hand in our longevity, we offer our sincerest thanks. 

While looking back at the many things we've seen and done over the years, we were inspired to take a closer look at our archives. So our plan for 2016 is to pull out some of the most interesting, notable and unique photos and videos we've made over the years and publish a new image here on the blog every week, along with a little bit about why it holds a special place in our collective Barlow hearts. 

Richard Nixon at Washington University in St. Louis, photograph by Barlow Productions

To kick things off, this week's image is one of the oldest in our collection—and certainly one of our favorites. For years it's hung in the lobby within a group of portraits that greets visitors to the studio. It's an image Ron made of Richard Nixon back in 1968 when the presidential candidate was speaking to an audience of students and faculty at Washington University in St. Louis. We love the relaxed confidence in the soon-to-be President's pose, along with those upturned hands ("What? Me worry?") particularly given what would later befall this most powerful man in the world. But what we mostly love about this picture are the hairstyles. Plus all of those serious faces sitting so politely in the background. Can you imagine any audience behaving so well today?

Nixon's not the only politician we've photographed. Presidents Ford, Reagan and Obama (the latter while campaigning too) have fallen under our gaze, as have Missouri Governors Nixon, Blunt, Carnahan and Ashcroft, and countless more state representatives and candidates for positions from St. Louis City Alderman to Governor of the state. There are plenty of familiar celebrity faces in our archive as well... But for those you'll have to come back again in the coming weeks.  

So until next time, thanks for reading and for being part of the extended Barlow family of friends, clients and colleagues. We wish you all a healthy and prosperous new year! 

5 Tips for Taking a Good LinkedIn Profile Pic

ANY OLD HEADSHOT JUST WON'T DO.


Patrick Barlow pointed me to a helpful web post the other day. It was in some silly fashion magazine (you know how much Patrick loves his Seventeen) and it was a collection of tips for taking a great portrait for your LInkedIn profile picture. Such a noble idea! The tips weren’t bad either, but the author really lost me when I checked her own LinkedIn account only to find that she’d not followed any of her own advice and selected a terrible profile photo. So here, without further ado, is my own list of things you can do to make the most of your LinkedIn portrait photo. 

1. Keep it simple. Some might argue you need to use a white background, but I’d say that any background that’s simple, not distracting, will do just fine. In the studio white or black or any other solid color is a good choice, simply because it drives the focus to where it should be: the subject’s face. In the natural world, that might be an out of focus background of a park or other lovely scene. Though bear in mind that an outdoor portrait will inherently come off as more casual, less stuffy and traditional. This might be a good thing (are you an author, or some other creative type?) or a terrible idea (I’m talking to you, lawyers and doctors and accountants). When in doubt, just ask your photographer to keep it simple. 

2. Dress appropriately. See #1. Busy, flashy, wild-patterns and tons of jewelry and accessories do NOT make for a simple portrait. Nor do they often send the most professional and businesslike message—which is likely what you want since this is for LinkedIn, after all. Aside from not dressing like you’re going out clubbing (unless, of course, your job is about going out clubbing), you want to avoid clothes that are too much of a distraction, or clothes that send the wrong message. If you want to look young and hip and like a party animal, by all means dress that way. And if you want to look older, smarter and more professional, you need to dress the part in business attire. (Eyeglasses never hurt either, when it comes to looking older and wiser.) Bottom line, think about your brand identity, and dress to reinforce it, but do your best to resist flashy attire in any case. 

3. Don’t use a selfie. Just don’t do it. Seriously.

4. Choose a close-up… within reason. Bearing in mind that LinkedIn photos are viewed at super-tiny sizes, you’re going to want to ensure that the shot you choose is relatively close-up—like a head-and-shoulders portrait, typically. The more body we see, the less face we’ll be able to recognize. (If you’re in the witness protection program, use this information to your advantage.) Beware of cropping too close, though. Remember that the LinkedIn avatar gets cropped square, so if your portrait starts off as a frame-filling facial closeup, you’re going to end up nothing more than eyes and a nose and maybe a mouth once the portrait’s been cropped. When in doubt, default to head and shoulders. 

5. Be yourself… as long as yourself represents your brand. Remember when I talked about dressing appropriately for who you are and what you do? Same goes for your pose and expression. Squared shoulders and staring straight stone faced into the camera a’la your passport photo is going to send a whole different (possibly psychotic) brand vibe than, say, a shot of you seated at your cluttered desk, looking up from your work and smiling naturally into the camera. Maybe your brand benefits from a bit of energy and movement in the frame, and from a broad grin and a mischievous glimmer in your eye. Or perhaps the look you need is simply all business all the time. That’s okay, but don’t get confused that “no smile” equates to “I’m serious about business.” In my experience, it usually means “I’m uncomfortable with my smile” and sends the message that the subject isn’t even able to smile like a normal human being in their portrait. Don’t want a big toothy grin? Fine by me. That’s not what I’m advocating. But a pleasant demeanor—usually typified by a smile, with or without showing teeth—is almost always a positive. I’m sure there are exceptions that prove this rule, but I’ve encountered very few people who really are best served by a photo that says “I’m a difficult badass.” If that’s your brand, well then hey, we know what to do. 

Barlow Video Crew Demo Reel

A SHORT EXAMPLE OF THE FINE WORK PRODUCED BY OUR VIDEO CREWS. 


We recently needed to send a prospective client some samples of the kind of work our video crews produce, so we put together this brief demo reel to highlight their talents. Have a look!

 

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