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

How to Dress for a Portrait

KEEP IT SIMPLE FOR A GREAT-LOOKING HEADSHOT


It’s the most common question we hear: What should I wear for my photo shoot? Is this color good? How about my tie? Should I double-up on the makeup? The short answer is this: keep it simple and dress conservatively, like you might for a job interview. Read on for more specific suggestions regarding how to dress for a portrait session. 

 

 

MAKEUP
Stay with what works. Whatever your daily preferences in eyeshadow, lipstick and concealer, don’t change it up just for the purpose of the portrait. Gone are the days when heavier makeup was needed to make features visible for the camera. Today’s cameras are capable of such high definition that you should feel confident with your usual makeup routine. That said, if you sometimes do wear makeup but sometimes don’t, do wear it for your portrait. The ability to smooth skin tones and minimize shine are two of the primary benefits, whether or not you prefer blush, lipstick, eye shadow or more. 

GROOMING
For short hairstyles, in particular, try to schedule a haircut a week in advance of the session to avoid the freshly scalped look. Those who have a five o’clock shadow by lunchtime should consider scheduling portraits in the morning hours (in truth, most of us look better in the a.m. and drift downhill as the day progresses) or bring a razor to shave prior to the portrait. For long or curly hair, minimize flyaways as much as possible with product or hairspray. And pray that it doesn’t rain. 

JEWELRY
Like so many things in life, less is more. That doesn’t mean no jewelry, but rather accessorizing with an eye toward subtlety. Anything overly large or eye-catching is not ideal, as we want the focus to be on your beautiful face. Avoid statement jewelry unless it’s part of your personal brand. (See below for the same principle at work with neckties.)

GLASSES
Q: “Should I wear my glasses in my picture?”
A: “Do you want to look a little older? Do you want to look a little smarter? Do people know you as someone who primarily wears glasses?” 
What you likely suspected turns out to be true. Your glasses do tend to make you look older. But they make you look smarter, too! So for those who sometimes wear them and sometimes don’t, we suggest thinking about how most people know you—with glasses or without—and deferring to that look. Unless, of course, you’re no fan of how you look in glasses, in which case take them off! It’s your picture, after all. But don’t remove them because you're worried about glare. Any self-respecting professional should be able to light your portrait in such a way as to flatter the subject and minimize unwanted reflections on glasses. 

NECKTIE
So many of these guidelines are about minimizing distractions and flattering the form. With neckties, anything eye-catching is usually less than ideal. Look at what presidential candidates wear during debates: simple red and blue “power ties” are hard to beat, though there’s no rule that says one color is superior to any other. What always looks great is a simple, distinct, thick stripe tie. Patterns can be fine too, though the finer the pattern the more likely it is to disappear. If you’re thinking of a bowtie, think twice. Not because they’re bad, but because they definitely make a statement. If you’re known around the office as “the bowtie guy” then you have our permission to wear your favorite bowtie for your portrait. Otherwise, stick with the long tie. When in doubt, bring a couple of options and we’ll help you decide on the most flattering choice. (And if you’re not great at tying a knot, look here for some helpful hints. The knot is crucial if you’re hoping for a promotion.) And if you're in a more casual or creative industry, consider wearing a jacket but skipping the tie.

JACKET
The jacket is the linchpin for the professional portrait ensemble. It’s the area that presents the most opportunity to look great, as well as your biggest chance to really screw it up. (Remember that time President Obama wore a tan suit and everyone lost their mind? Same thing here.) If you heed no other part of this advice, do this one simple thing: Wear a well-fitting, dark toned jacket with minimal pattern. The darker the jacket, the more professional the look—though that doesn’t mean black is best. In fact, we’d suggest navy blue as the king of the hill, followed by dark gray, black and potentially brown. A fine pattern is acceptable, but if you’re crossing over into zoot suit territory it better be because it’s integral to your brand. For the rest of us, simple and conservative simply photographs better and will make you happier with the look of your portrait. Men, it may be a warm summer day and your seersucker suit looks snazzy, but you are guaranteed to be unhappy with it in your portrait in the longterm. Women, your jackets tend to come in more color and pattern options, so do take care to choose something dark and simple for your most professional look. Only wear that bright jacket or patterned blazer if, and only if, it is by far your best looking outfit in which you will feel the most confident. If it’s even close, defer to the conservative option. 
Oh, and if your question is “Should I wear a jacket for my photo?” The answer is almost always yes. Whether you’re a ditch digger one month from retirement or the next in line to be CEO, a jacket looks more professional and almost always makes a headshot look better. The v-shape of the lapels, for instance, is particularly flattering on most people, as is the slimming quality of a dark color and a well-fitted single-breasted jacket. 
Most of all, give priority to a jacket that fits.

SHIRT
If it’s going under a jacket, it can be almost any color you like—as long as it’s white, off-white or light blue. Do think about minimizing the pattern if at all possible. And if you’re not planning to wear a jacket, see the item above before making that decision and then consider a darker, non-white shirt. Without a jacket, white looks very stark. And if you’re considering a sleeveless blouse, reconsider that as well. Based on the way most portraits are cropped, bare shoulders are rarely flattering even on the most fit of portrait subjects. Another reason to prefer jackets, too. 

TURTLENECK COLLARS
Nah.

FIVE TIPS TO DRESS FOR A SLIMMING EFFECT: 
1. Wear a dark color
2. Wear a solid color
3. Wear a suit rather than separates for a solid color head to toe
4. If your shirt, sweater or jacket has lines, they’d better be vertical 
5. Make sure your clothes fit well, neither too baggy or too tight

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Making Upgrades to Our Studio

FIRST A BRICK WALL BACKGROUND, NOW A CYC WALL.


When you want to make a head-to-toe portrait on a bright white background, there's nothing better than a cyc wall.

 

 

This curved white wall features a seamless transition from wall to floor that, when lit, completely disappears. It's a great way to create the "infinity" look in a photo or video. We recently installed our own cyc wall in our shooting space, and we couldn't be happier.

 

 

We worked with materials from Cyc Wall Systems, a New York manufacturer of a unique system for building and installing your own permanent cyc wall. 

 

 

The process isn't pretty, but in the end it's worth it. The picture below shows the nearly finished wall, just in need of a bit of finishing and a couple coats of white paint to produce the seamless wall shown in the first picture above. 

 

 

Don't forget that you can rent our studio for your next photo or video shoot. Our rates are affordable and we've got the expertise to help ensure your production goes off without a hitch. Got any questions? Get in touch!

Google Says Quality Photos Enhance Business Listings

WELL DUH.


Google research has officially confirmed what we photographers already know: that websites and business listings that use great photos are more appealing to customers.

In particular, Google says that in-store photos are especially helpful on Google Business listings because they help customers know what to expect in a store—highlighting what a store has to offer and giving them a virtual peek inside the store before they visit. 

To that end, Google has produced this lovely little video that offers some nice tips from a professional photographer for how to take better photos—even with a smartphone—to highlight your business. A few of those tips include: 

- Natural light, and in particular daylight, tends to look best. 
- Make a list of the most important, best representative items and areas of your space, then be sure to photograph them. 
- De-clutter the background prior to taking pictures. 
- Shoot a lot and post a variety of photos to your listing. The more the better. 
- Get close, then get even closer. 

To this list, of course, I might add one more thing: if you've got a tricky space to photograph, or if you've got high standards but don't have the photography skills to match, or if you just don't feel like DIY-ing it yourself, consider hiring a professional to do it for you. If you don't know who to call... call us!

Check Out this Visual Treat in... an Elevator?

THE FANCY NEW ELEVATORS OF 1 WTC


The elevators in New York's 1 World Trade Center building offer a virtual trip through time as they take visitors up from ground level to the observation deck. And the return trip is even cooler.

Reminiscent of the flying glass elevator from Willie Wonka's Chocolate Factory, three walls of the elevator are covered with video screens that deliver an animation that attempts to convince riders that they're leaving the building and flying around the southern tip of Manhattan before returning inside the structure for the bottom few floors. It's a really amazing use of technology to take something utterly mundane and even challenging into an utter joy. I can't believe one of the things I've just added to my bucket list is "ride those elevators" but as this video from The Times shows, it’s a pretty impressive trip.

More Data Proves the Power of Social Media Video

AS IF YOU DIDN'T ALREADY KNOW VIDEO IS DOMINATING SOCIAL MEDIA...


New data from Facebook video montage-maker Animoto reinforces the idea that marketing in the 21st century is, at least so far, all about video. In a survey of 1,000 consumers and 500 marketers, the company learned just how important video is. For instance: 

- Nearly two-thirds of consumers say they watched a marketing video on Facebook within the last month, and it influenced their purchasing decision.
- 92% of marketers are making videos out of assets they already have--like photos and graphs and information they've collected for other purposes. (Seems like maybe this is disproportionate, and for something so important to consumers, marketers might want to actually create new assets for these promotions. But maybe that's just our bias showing.) 

- Mobile is crucial. 81% of marketers say they're optimizing videos for social sharing, including square and vertical videos. 
- Platform matters. YouTube, of course, is a great way to reach consumers, and may even be considered industry standard. But Facebook is also one of the highest ranking platforms when it comes to a marketer's confidence about actually reaching their target viewer. The top three channels are Facebook, Instagram and SnapChat. 

For more details, check out the full infographic at Animoto's blog. Then call us about producing your next video for social media. 

Hey St. Louis: Video Marketing is More Important Than Ever!

STATISTICS SHOW YOU SHOULD BUILD YOUR BRAND WITH VIDEO


Two short years from now, in 2019, more than three quarters of all web traffic will be watching video. That's according to research from Hubspot recently featured in Forbes magazine. Video traffic will still include everything from YouTube cat videos to gifs of people embarrassing themselves on social media, but it will also increasingly include brand-centric promo films that live on company websites and short, mobile-friendly clips that humanize faceless corporations and big brands alike. These videos are all but preordained to take over social media. Time and again society has proven we just can't consume enough media, and the media we love most is video. Nom nom nom. 

All of this bodes well if, like us, you produce marketing videos.

More stats from Forbes: 

- Adding video to email marketing efforts boosts clickthrough rates by a whopping 200% to 300%
- Nine out of ten consumers say videos help them make purchasing decisions
- YouTube says mobile video views double each year
- One digital marketing expert says that a single minute of online video is equal to nearly 2 million words

If I haven't yet convinced you of the importance of adding video to your marketing efforts, I don't know what will. (Maybe go back and read it again, but slower this time? Or consider reading the whole article at Forbes for a more fully-formed picture of just how profound this situation is.) 

The implication from Forbes, if I may read between the lines, is that if you haven't yet called us to produce video for your marketing efforts, you're missing the boat. 

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. 

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