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

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!

 

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

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