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

Hide Your Psychopathy...


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...


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


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

Welcome to the New


Well, it's finally here. No, not the new year—although we are excited for what 2015 has in store. I'm talking about something that's already arrived: our new web site. After many months of work, and the help of some great designers and developers, we're proud to announce that the new is up and running.

Have a look at the new site. We've worked to put the most important information—namely, our work—front and center. With regular updates and featured projects from our video and photography departments, as well as a growing gallery of sample projects and still photos, the site should remain fresh and interesting moving forward. That's our plan, anyway.

We hope you enjoy exploring our new site as much as we do. If you have any feedback, or any questions about the site or our services, don't hesitate to get in touch. Looks like 2015 is off to a good start. 

The Importance of Pictures in the Making of Memories

Our brains see in pictures. Not text, not video, not colors. Pictures. So says science writer and memory expert Joshua Foer, who learned of a memory improvement technique and then employed that technique to win a memory competition. (Who knew there were such things?)

The technique involves equating a visual image with an important bit of information. This is not news to advertisers, who for generations have played on the general public’s proclivity for associating images with memories in order to sell their wares. But it’s a good reminder for the rest of us who may forget the simple power of a picture.

The gist, according to photography blogger Warren Toda, is that photography is as powerful and important as ever. “Photography is the number one way for a company to get attention,” he says, “to build trust and enhance corporate image. Photographs can help create and preserve memories and influence opinion.”

Amen. (We can help with that, by the way.) 

Read more at Warren Toda’s Lines of Sight blog

Rollin’ on the River


Long time no post. Seems like that’s how all my blogs begin. Sorry for the long absence, but it just means it’s busy around here, and busy is good.

I’ve had this little item sitting on my desk literally for months, reminding me to write about it here. And so today I’m finally going to do that.

Way back last fall, when the weather was only slightly warmer than it is today (or so it seems), I was fortunate to accompany the fine folks of Anheuser Busch on another one of their great Mississippi River cleanups. (You can read more about them here and here. And I encourage you to participate. They really are fun events and you feel really good about making a tangible improvement on the river.)

Toward the end of the day, while walking back along a vast sand bar that had formed along the shore for a good mile or more of river, my walking partner and I were fascinated by these little black chunks we were seeing in the sand.

They looked like river rocks that were worn smooth by the water. But they were light. Very light. So light, in fact, that they seemed more like burned wood. Almost like someone had sawn a sapling into disks and burned them into charcoal. This should’ve been a clue, but I was a little too dense to pick up on it.

We kept seeing these things every few paces along the sand bar. The mystery was riveting.

It wasn’t until we were joined by another person, clearly much smarter than me, that we figured it out. Actually he figured it out, and without too much trouble at all.

“Look at these things. They’re like rocks but lighter, like wood but clearly not.”

He stopped, knelt down and picked one up.

“It’s coal,” he said.

Well duh. Why didn’t I think of that?

Of course it’s coal. Barges loaded full of coal travel up and down the river all day and night. The coal is piled high on the barges and, clearly, is occasionally washed off into the river, where it floats along–or tumbles along, more likely–until it washes up onto the sand and is embedded, where it will remain to puzzle dense photographers who should know better.

Ultimately I thought this was simply a neat way to come into direct contact with a lot of things I never really think about–from the fuel we use to power our electrical grid to the river that transports that fuel, along with all the products that power our economy–day and night right here under our noses.

And I meant to put this lump of coal in my wife’s stocking at Christmas, but I totally forgot. Maybe next year.

The Video Business Portrait


For more than four decades, Barlow Productions has provided St. Louis and national clients with high-quality commercial photography and video production services. Thanks to recent technological advances, the worlds of photography and video production are beginning to merge even more. As such, we’re now able to offer high-quality, professional, high-definition video production at a fraction of the cost of a large-scale video shoot. We call this service the “Video Business Portrait,” and it’s an economical way to produce professional videos for your business.

An ideal vehicle for attorneys, accountants, marketing professionals and public relations specialists to introduce themselves in a personal way, the Video Business Portrait is a complete turn-key solution. Here’s how it works.

  1. Contact us to schedule your video shoot in studio or on location at your office. Plan for a 30- to 60-minute session. Dress professionally, without flashy or extravagant accessories.
  2. Sit down with us for a conversational interview in which you describe your services and credentials–or any other information that you’d like to convey in a relaxed, easygoing manner.
  3. We will edit the footage to a concise 30- to 90-second video clip, utilizing the best takes and harnessing the ideal information you’re striving to convey. We will incorporate your company logo, as well as basic graphics for titles and contact information, to fully brand your video.
  4. You view our rough edit and tell us any changes you’d like to make. We then make those changes and output a finished high-definition video file that’s custom-tailored to meet your needs. We can deliver that clip online, on a disc, or we can even upload it directly to YouTube or your web site.
  5. Of course, the entire process is fully customizable, so just let us know how we can make the Video Business Portrait a perfect fit for your needs.

The Barlow Productions Video Business Portrait starts at $675, complete, for an in-studio recording session. For a shoot at your office or another location, the total cost is $1050.

If you’d like to discuss your video needs in more detail, or to set up a time for your video shoot, please don’t hesitate to contact Bill Sawalich or Patrick Barlow at 314-994-9990, or email us at 

At Barlow Productions, we’re working to make professional video really easy, and really affordable.

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