BARLOW PROSE

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

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!

 

Nearly $1,000 of Cheese

A LOT OF CHEESE FOR A LOT OF CHEESE. 


A few years ago, our friends and colleagues at Anheuser Busch decided they wanted a unique photograph of their beverage lineup. One of their product managers had seen an image of fine wines photographed in a wine cellar, and that served as the inspiration for our photo shoot. We constructed the cellar set in our studio (using stair stringers, fence pickets and faux stone) and outfitted it with bread and cheese. At the time, the brewer was making a push to reposition its offerings in a more upscale light—a little less ballpark and a little more symphony. So we chose to accompany the bottles with some of the finer things, like artisanal breads and delicious aged cheeses. 

Product photography for Anheuser Busch, lineup of beers and cheese

 

Oh, the cheese! The brewmasters at A.B. helped us with the appropriate pairings, and we turned to The Wine Merchant to help us select the cheeses that would best complement our beverages. (My personal favorite was a five-year-aged Gouda. Each bite was bliss.) The final tally for that cheese was just over $900, and based on my extensive sampling it was worth every penny. In the end my team divvied up the cheeses and we each took home quite a haul of exquisite snacks—plus a few beverages that paired quite nicely. 

If you're thinking about your own photo or video shoot—with or without a decadent amount of food—don't hesitate to get in touch!

Hey Marketers, TV Commercials Are More Practical Than Ever

LOOKING FOR AN ADVERTISING ADVANTAGE? CONSIDER MAKING A TV COMMERCIAL. 


For the better part of a century there were two main kinds of advertising: print and broadcast. Print advertising was mostly in magazines and newspapers, and broadcast advertising meant radio and TV. But then the internet happened and the advertising world got turned on its head. Suddenly, vague methods of accounting for viewership were replaced by the very detailed data offered by web advertising, and the affordability and ubiquity of social media, content marketing and even paid search marketing suddenly meant that newspapers, magazines and broadcasting companies were seeing their advertising revenues plummet while almost anybody with a pulse and a web page could generate the clicks that translated into eyeballs that brought in their own advertising dollars—even if it was just a tenth of a penny at a time. 

For many companies looking to stand out in the crowd, this seismic shift has meant a comparable shift in marketing budgets—not just in terms of how much is being spent but how it's being allocated. And so most corporate marketing departments and advertising agencies are today spending vastly more time thinking about making the most of online resources. Many of them, in fact, have forgotten all about newspapers, magazines, radio and television. 

It turns out that people still read. They still listen to the radio in the car, and they definitely still crowd around the television by the millions every night. Sure, NBC does fine selling ads against Tonight Show clips that drive viewers to its web site, but without the late night broadcast it would be just another web video. And television, more than ever, has cache. 

 

 

There are some areas, in fact, where television totally and completely dominates the discussion. One of the most obvious, of course, is sports. Football, baseball, basketball and hockey viewers are counted in the tens of millions, and the vast majority of them are watching live TV, they're not skipping commercials, and they're a highly segmented, totally trackable viewing audience. That's the kind of thing marketers dream about, and it still exists in TV land. 

According to a recent article in Ad Age, technological advances in the way viewer engagement can be tracked are destined to drive down the cost of commercial airtime and present even more opportunities for creative advertisers to gain traction by airing the same commercials on television and online. What better place to view a viral video than during the TV show you watch religiously week after week?

 

 

With the increasing over saturation of visual imagery, television has never been more able to cut through the noise. As broadcast control becomes ever more democratized, the "old media" gatekeepers who remain become even more important. Together, all of this adds up to a perfect storm that makes great visual content, deployed where people will really pay attention, more relevant than ever. 

So if you're looking to make the most of every marketing dollar at your disposal, consider producing a television commercial that can do triple duty—targeting a specific audience on television, connecting to the message on the company web site, and reaching out to solidify new connections via social media. Couple that with the lower production costs and shrinking advertising rates that define the current climate, and the same marketing dollar goes three times as far. 

 

 

Yes, we produce television commercials. In fact, it's something we've been doing a lot more in recent years as marketers determine that quality TV production is more easily attainable than perhaps they'd thought, and that their TV commercials are more useful than ever. 

So if you'd like to talk to us about producing a television commercial in our St. Louis studio, or maybe having us bring the production on location literally anywhere across the country, please call or email today. Until then, if you'd like to learn more about our television production services, visit the video section of our web site. And take a look at a few recent commercials we've produced, which have been so conveniently peppered throughout this post. If you take nothing else from this column, remember this: TV commercials truly make more business sense than ever. 

You Need a Business Portrait

WE SHOOT HEADSHOTS AND EXECUTIVE PORTRAITS IN ST. LOUIS


Business portraits. Headshots. Corporate portraits. Executive profile pics. Whatever you may call them, these portraits are one of the most popular photography requests we get. That's because they're practically a business staple—like business cards or LinkedIn accounts. For lawyers and accountants especially, traditional formal portraits are de rigueur. But real estate agents, doctors, board members and executives of all types are also ideal candidates for business portraits. Artists, designers, authors and others in creative jobs regularly need portraits too, even if theirs should look a bit different. Ultimately, a business portrait is an extension of your brand, so it can be as staid and formal or as creative and casual as you'd like. Below are a few examples of traditional executive portraits we've made in studio and on location.   

A sampling of traditional business portraits

 

No matter what line of work you're in, you might want to consider investing in a business portrait. It's about the most affordable marketing tool you can buy. A headshot is perfect for use on social media, blogs, web sites and marketing materials of all kinds—and it's the ideal accompaniment to every press release a company sends out. (PR Pro Tip: if you want to get published, don't just send a written press release, send pictures too!)

A skilled photographer will make a great portrait. With enough experience, that photographer will also be able to help determine the right visual style for your image. Some industries all but require traditional portraits, while others hate the idea and want the exact opposite. It's important to determine what fits best in your field without compromising on the look that most suits your personal brand. For some it will be formal, for others it might be a more personalized, casual, creative portrait. Ultimately, an experienced professional photographer will do what we do: customize a portrait session to precisely meet your needs. 

Corporate portraits and headshots

 

If you’d like to learn more about business portraits—whether you’re in need of a single portrait for yourself or you want shots for the whole team, in our St. Louis studio or at your office anywhere in the country—contact us today. We’ll be happy to explain how portrait sessions commonly work, and how we can customize them to meet your exact needs. Until then, take a look at our portfolio for a few more examples of the kind of headshots we're often asked to make for our clients

New Commercial for Mosby Building Arts

FEATURING CARDINALS CENTER FIELDER JON JAY.

If you live in the St. Louis metro area and if, like 114.4-million other Americans, you watched Sunday's Super Bowl, you might have seen our newest commercial. Featuring Cardinals Center Fielder Jon Jay, this spot was produced for Mosby Building Arts just a few weeks ago, but we turned it around quickly in order to air in the prominent time slot. Take a look. 


For more information about our video production services, please visit our video page

 

Convention and Trade Show Photography

CONFERENCE PHOTOGRAPHY IN ST. LOUIS (AND ELSEWHERE!) 


Whether you're hosting a summit, a conference, a convention, an expo, trade show, extravaganza or an exhibition... Whatever you call it, we can photograph it. We've walked about a million miles of convention carpet over the years, and we know the ins and outs of more than just the hotels and conference venues in St. Louis. We've got the experience to know how to photograph your event and show it in its best light. Packed halls filled with smiling, engaged participants are our specialty. 

When a prospective client called today to request some samples of our convention and trade show coverage, the hard part was picking which pictures from what events. The samples below represent a drop in the bucket of the hundreds of thousands of images we've made for corporations and non-profits over the years. 

 

Corporate event photography samples from Barlow Productions in St. Louis

If you're planning a conference in St. Louis, or if (like some of our repeat clients) you'd like us to travel to your event in Las Vegas, Orlando, Denver, Philadelphia or almost anywhere else on the planet, get in touch and we'll be happy to discuss how we can showcase your event with professional photography and video

Hide Your Psychopathy...

...WITH A PROFESSIONAL PORTRAIT!


I've always felt a little uneasy about folks who fill their social media feeds with selfies. I'll be honest: self portraits kinda give me a creepy feeling. This is probably because I just assume they're a little too self-absorbed for their own good. The good news, at least for half of you, is that a new study shows that women who post lots of selfies are just narcissists. Yay! The bad news, unfortunately, is that it's been shown that men who posts lots of self portraits are statistically more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits. Oops. 

 

Girl on phone, photographed in studio


So we've decided to help you hide your psychopathy and your narcissism with a professional portrait. If you'd like a steady stream of new pictures of yourself to post online, our new "Hide Your Psychopathy" portrait package might be perfect for you. For $1,000 you'll receive a new portrait every month for a year. We can even use a cell phone to make sure its got that authentic "selfie" look! 

Check out the selfie/psychopathy study at Gizmodo hereAnd stick around our web site to have a look at our photography and video services.

Everybody Loves Your Portrait...

...SO WHY DON'T YOU?  SCIENCE.


Many people feel uncomfortable at the mere thought of having their picture taken. Sitting for a portrait can be nerve-wracking even for the most self-confident among us, and so at our studio we always work hard to put our subjects at ease and make portrait sessions as relaxed, conversational and comfortable as possible. In the end we produce better portraits because of it, and that makes our clients happy. Clients almost always love the pictures: it's the subjects who sometimes don't. 

When it's your face being photographed, sometimes you just know you're not going to like your picture. You've never liked one before, so why would you like this one today? No matter how much the photographer puts you at ease, no matter how much care is put into the lighting and the posing, some people simply don't like the way they look in pictures—even when the pictures are great. 

 

A black and white portrait of a woman in studio

 

No matter how many people may see your headshot and say how great it is, "It doesn't look like me" or "I look funny" can be fairly common complaints. For a long time I've chalked this up to the fact that we're each more likely to focus on our flaws—the things we least like about ourselves—whereas our friends and family just see our picture and think, "There's Kathy. She looks great!" She probably does look great, but to Kathy she looks nothing like herself. It turns out there's a scientific reason for this. 

Aside from issues of aging and weight gain (many of us are larger than we used to be, and we're all older than we used to be) there's a simple scientific explanation behind why our friends love our pictures and we don't: we're used to seeing our face reversed in a mirror. 

Part your hair on the left and in the mirror you'll see it on the right. The mirror image becomes the image we know as "the real me." So when we see our face in photographs, it looks backwards. Something's just not quite right about it, or so it seems. 

According to a recent article in Wired magazine, researchers have a name for this. It's called "mere-exposure," and it basically means that we react more favorably to things we've seen more often. We look at our face in the mirror every morning, so the portrait that "doesn't look like me" truly doesn't look like the me I'm used to seeing, so I'm less likely to like it. 

What's more, it turns out that we all think we're more attractive than we really are. Researchers tested this by merging a photo of a person's face with images of more attractive and less attractive faces. This group of a dozen images was then rearranged and when people were asked to find their own face they unfailing chose a more attractive version of themselves. 

 

Faces of photos 

When you combine these two effects, its a wonder anybody ever loves their own portrait. But it does happen. Some people, in fact, walk into the studio and proclaim, "I love having my picture taken!" These people are few and far between, but they're out there. Most folks, at best, are fine with it—even while spouses, friends and colleagues rave. 

When you're working with an experienced portrait photographer, we bring to bear all sorts of specific knowledge that's also scientifically proven to make you look better. We know about how to light different faces and how to pose different bodies in order to achieve the most flattering results. At Barlow Productions we do this with business portraits and headshots every day. If you've got questions about what to expect during your own portrait session, or for advice on how to increase your chances of loving your picture, please get in touch. We'll be happy to provide suggestions on everything from hair, makeup and jewelry options to selecting the clothes that look best in pictures. We can't promise you'll love your portrait—after all, it's scientifically impossible—but we can promise that practically everyone else will. And we'll make the experience as comfortable, quick and painless as possible. 

How to Dress for Pictures and Video

DRESS FOR THE JOB YOU WANT, NOT THE JOB YOU HAVE


No matter what look you're going for—casual and friendly or serious and professional—it's essential to dress the part. Use these tips to help you choose the most flattering attire for your portrait session. And if you still have questions afterward, don't hesitate to contact us

First, think about the image you want to project. Is it important that you come off as creative and hip? Or maybe conservative and reliable is more your speed. Make clothing choices that reinforce the narrative of your personal brand. When in doubt, it's hard to go wrong with professional business attire—especially for a business portrait. 

 

Man in casual business attire for a portrait session

 

For a conservative business portrait, we suggest avoiding extremes at all costs. In terms of tones, avoid all-black or all-white ensembles. Deep colors, like navy blue, gray and brown, are all great choices for jackets and suits. Deep colors are slimming too. 

Busy is bad—whether in a jacket, shirt, tie or jewelry choices. Avoid patterns and overly-bright colors. Anything that distracts the viewer is a bad idea. 

You have the right to bare arms… but unless you're a model, don’t do it. Crop sleeves and sleeveless shirts look very casual and typically don’t photograph well. 

 

Woman in tank top, which isn't ideal for portraits unless you're a model

 

For the most professional, conservative appearance, men should wear a jacket and tie. It's hard to go wrong with a solid color red or blue tie, or even a basic bold stripe. A minimal pattern always looks better than a busy tie. And unless you're known as "The Bow Tie Guy," you'll be better served by a long necktie. 

To dress for a slimming effect, remember that solid, dark colors are slimming, while light colors and patterns are not. Vertical lines are slimming, even in pleats; horizontal stripes are not. A solid color from head to toe (i.e. a suit rather than a sport coat and slacks) is slimming. Single-breasted jackets are more slimming than double-breasted, and a v-shaped neckline is more flattering than a curve. This shape is easily achieved with a buttoned jacket or an open-neck shirt. If you'll be standing for a full-length portrait, high heels are slimming—as are clothes that are well tailored rather than clothes that are bulky, baggy, wrinkled or too tight. The label may not matter, but the fit sure does.

 

A fine suit is ideal attire for a portrait

 

These same guidelines will serve you well for video too—with a few additional considerations. Avoid tight patterns and busy prints at all costs. Checks, houndstooth or pin stripes can cause optical illusions that look bad in video. Avoid pure black and pure white tops, as well as bright oranges and reds. These colors render poorly in video. If you do wear a white shirt, be sure to wear a darker jacket over it. Pay attention to sound as well, and watch out for jewelry that makes noise—like bangle bracelets. 

In the end, you'll want to dress in clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident, with a nod to these suggestions that will ensure that you look your best in photographs and videos. If you'd like our help with selecting attire for a photo or video shoot, don't hesitate to get in touch

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