Showcase: H.B.Fleming Inc.

 

Portland Maine

 

Sometimes, the best way to get a storytelling image is to get up high.   I’ve worked with South Portland-based construction company H.B. Fleming for a few years, documenting some of their impressive projects throughout Maine and New Hampshire.   The scope and scale of much of the work they do—building massive retaining walls and cofferdams, for example—are most apparent when viewed from above.  In 2020 Fitzgerald Photo became a FAA-certified commercial drone operator.  We’ve since been using drones for photography and video production for clients throughout New England.   I’m happy to share some images from recent H.B. Fleming projects.    

 

Construction Workers

Want better portraits? Work on your backgrounds.

Boxing Coach
Portland Boxing Club owner and head coach Bob Russo.  © Brian Fitzgerald

 

To most photographers—those whose focus is on people and portraits, certainly, but also those who specialize in structures, food and products on location—the subject is the star of the show.  

Location-based photographers know that the unsung hero of any successful portrait is the environment behind and around the subjects.   Often, the environment offers clues and context that tells the story better than the subject themselves can.  

In short, your backgrounds matter more than just as a place to put behind your subject.  

Give thought to the environment around your subjects as deeply as you think about your subjects.  Make sure that anything that shows in the frame is there for a reason.  

 

Five photography tips for content marketers

Editor’s Note: The following is a reprint from a peice written for a Maine Public Relations Council (MPRC) newsletter. It’s practical tips, relevant for all content creators, whether photographers or marketers.

 

One of my favorite photography-related quotes is from National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson. “If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.”

Richardson stood in front of plenty of interesting stuff during his long career.

With a decent digital camera (or an iPhone), standing shoulder to shoulder with Richardson—say, on one of his trips to Cuba, photographing a wedding—you and I both would come away with something we’d want to hang on our walls.

The problem is, most of the time, we’re not in Cuba. Instead, we’re working an awards ceremony in a dimly-lit ballroom. Rather than capturing a portrait of a campesino standing in a sugar cane field, we’re snagging a headshot of an unfortunate new hire in the spare conference room.

Your work may never end up on the pages of National Geographic. That doesn’t mean you can’t elevate your images to something you’re proud represents you and your brand. Here are a few tips that can help you improve your images, today, with the gear you already have.

 

Watch your backgrounds

Before clicking, do a visual check of your background. Is there a pole back there, looking like it’s growing out of your subject’s head? Analyze your backgrounds and then position yourself in order to clean them up.

Simple backgrounds keep the focus where it belongs: on your subject.

 

Lose the horizon

Examine your images. Does the horizon line —the line separating the ground from the sky—appear right across the middle of your frame? Get rid of it by squatting down low and photographing at an upward angle. Or, get up on a chair and angle the lens down, until only the floor fills your frame. This trick can make your background simpler and cleaner and result in more interesting images.

american Flag
Angling your camera up or down will result in a cleaner, more interesting composition.

 

Use the Rule of Thirds

Divide your frame into a grid of nine squares. Place your dominant subject in one of the the top, bottom or sides squares, creating visual tension and interest.

Racing Pigeons
Utilize the Rule of Thirds by placing your primary subject into the left or right third of the frame.

 

Go Outside

Make outdoor images during the “Golden Hour”—the magical time just after sunrise or before sunset—when the sun is low and the light horizontal. This warm-toned light will flatter any subject.

Maine Fisherman
The low angle of light early in the morning offers pleasing tones and angles.


Turn off your Flash

Turn off your built-in camera flash. Find a location with sufficient ambient light, and use that light instead. Even after color-correction, your portraits will immediately look a thousand times better, I promise.

Flash looks great when it is used to emulate or enhance available light.

Headshot portraits with intent

Headshot portraits are deceptively simple. A head-and-shoulder portrait done in a studio is a staple need for businesses small and large, for entrepreneurs, service professionals and actors, to name a few.

Lights, camera, background, subject.

Simple.

On the way to creating that perfect portrait—the one that represents your company, your brand or, simply, YOU—are intentional choices that ensure success, or failure.

Good is a given.

It’s not enough to have a great, high-quality headshot. Your portrait has to align with your goals, your industry and must take consideration of your client and audience expectations.

It’s about your face.

Specificaly, it’s about your mood, your energy and your vibe and how your eyes and face express that.

Great headshots convey a mood, a feeling, a sense of the person, in an instant. No distracting elements. This takes a proper mindset, some time, and a purposeful interaction with the camera as guided by a photographer.

That’s the hard, most critical part; but it’s not enough:

Background

Backgrounds should be simple as possible, so as to keep attention where it belongs: your face. Unlike an editorial or environmental portrait, the background doesn’t have to do any heavy lifting by providing contextual clues or storytelling elements. It just has to stay out of the way and allow you to be the star of the show.

Wardrobe

It’s not a clothing or product shoot, so keep your clothing simple and make sure it flatters your face instead of distracts from it. Simple lines, jewel tone colors. Stay away from patterns and trendy looks (unless, of course, that IS your brand). Keep it classic, keep it cool.

Lighting

Headshot lighting needs to be purposeful. Going for a commercial, fresh vibe? Perhaps something more dramatic? How about low-key and reflective? Lighting will get you there. Now, Lighting is a bit of a Diva and loves to call attention to itself with its flashy tricks.  Don’t let it take over the process; it’s a support player here.   Lighting is there to keep the focus on you, rather than on the super special cool lighting techniques. As with your backdround and wardrobe choices, lighitng must serve the story without becoming the story.

And the story, quite simply, is you.

 

 

 

The truth behind the moment

Tired Soldier

We all know how it is to be judged by our worst moments. Our lowest, most vulnerable, or most unattractive times. We all have them, but they are not the sum of our experience.  I think back to many things I’ve said—flippant comments, ignorant statements, off-the cuff remarks. Things I’m ashamed of, yet they don’t represent who I truly am. To be judged forever by that worst moment, frozen in time, like in a single photograph—that’s not truth. It’s a sentence.

We all deserve to be seen as whole beings: the accumulation of experience that make us unique. Evolving, fallible, prone to making mistakes and failure but with the capacity to grow, learn and do better.

We live in a visual culture. We’re bombarded with thousands of images a day. We usually don’t stop to think about the source of these images, or the motivations behind them.

It’s why I love the impactful power of the single image yet take seriously the responsibility the fallacy of presenting a single image as a final, eternal truth.

So today look beneath the visual clutter. Resist the urge to pass judgement. Question the motives of those who are presenting the images, and view it all in greater context.

Bring Your Vision: Hammond Lumber

 

Lumberman

I’m happy to share some of the work I’ve been doing over the past year for the Hammond Lumber Company, based in Belgrade, Maine. This is a sprawling, Maine-wide sawmill and lumber operation involving three generations of the Hammond family.

It’s a busy, hardworking, growing Maine company with a great reputation and deep relationships. That served them well during the pandemic especially, when rising demand, supply chain challenges and other restraints kept them on their toes.

The project encompassed lifestyle photography shoots at multiple locations across the state as well as a short video piece (not yet published) that showcase Hammond’s connection to the state and its customers. Their customer-centric theme of “Bring Your Vision” was a theme through all of the shoots.

 

 

Lumber Man

 

Maine Construction Workers

Cancer Today Magazine

If the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we are in this together.

We all could use a strong, supportive community that helps when times get tough. Nothing for me epitomizes the power of community to do good like Man Up To Cancer, a cancer support group for men started by my friend Trevor Maxwell.

Man Up To Cancer

Trevor and I have known each other since our newspaper days, but reconnected during the pandemic to work on a couple of creative projects. I’m proud and happy to share the results of our latest collaboration: a current cover feature on Trevor for Cancer Today magazine. You can read the digital version here.

In the article, Trevor talks about surviving stage IV cancer and his decision to reach out to other men who struggle with the disease. Men like him, who need support but find it difficult to reach out to others and ask for the help they need.

His community and podcast is two years old now. Cancer survivors around the country sport hats or shirts with the Man Up To Cancer ‘howling wolf’ logo. Trevor has turned a personally difficult, potentially tragic, situation into something that positively impacts others.

Or, as Trevor puts it: “When life gets hard, we all need our wolfpacks.”

 

 

 

 

Want Headshots and Portraits for your Brand? Consider This.

Headshot treatment for Ecommerce marketing agency iBec Creative: bringing personality to the standard head-and-shoulder portrait.

 

You’ve long suspected that your company’s staff portraits are in need of updating (Ted’s skinny tie has gone in and out of fashion since his portrait was taken. Twice).   Your biggest competitors on LinkedIn, have amazing portraits (is that a tiger in the backround?) and between the shame and the frustration, you’re determined to hire a photographer, now.

Hold on just a second.

If you’ve waited this long, it’s worth pausing a moment to reflect.  ‘Everyone else is doing it’ is not a good enough reason.  A well-done portrait is an investment in time and money. Chances are you’ll be using those portraits for years (or until Ted’s tie goes in and out of style one more time).  So it’s worth considering what your goals are.

When to get new headshots

The single most important question to ask when contemplating a new headshot project is, simply, ‘are my current portraits working for me?’ Your brand portraits aren’t just a nice-to-have. As a business tool you should expect them to do some heavy lifting representing your brand to potential clients, around the clock.  Your portrait, in effect, should work harder than you do.   If your existing portraits are obviously outdated, are wildly inconsistent, or just have a style that doesn’t fit your brand (cool ‘tech’ style portraits wouldn’t inspire confidence if used for the staff of a venerable investment bank, but they may be a good fit for an online banking startup that offers services exclusively through mobile apps) then your portraits are actually working against you.

Branding Portraits

What makes a ‘good’ headshot

Your company portraits must be consistent in style and professionally executed in terms of lighting, of course. They also need to be purposefully thought out so that they reflect your industry and your brand in particular.

A professional photographer can help come up with appropriate and creative looks for your brand.

It’s true, a great portrait can help your brand communicate the message you want to your audience.  But poorly-done and poorly-conceived portraits will absolutely hurt your brand.

What makes your headshots successful

Beyond hiring a professional photographer you ‘click’ with and who understands your brand,   you need to have buy-in within your company.   Everyone needs to be on board.  Don’t attempt a headshot redo unless you can count on everyone to participate.  Give yourself adequate time to do the portraits right—a two-minute assembly line approach will result in headshots, but they won’t be anything special.  Set the tone that these portraits are a critically important component of your company’s image that you are invested in doing right.  For many employees, having their portraits taken is a challenging or even downright scary proposition. Communicating why youre have them done, and giving them plenty of time to prepare, tells them that you care about their experience and want the best results.

Formal headshot vs. Environmental portraits

Formal headshots—i.e., a more typical head-and-shoulders portrait with a backdrop—is a traditional approach that still has its place.  They are especially useful on platforms like LinkedIn, where seeing the person’s face (and not getting distracted by a background) can make them stand out.

Environmental portraits are those that are typically done in a way as to show elements of an office or other location in the background as a way of conveying contextual information or a certain mood. They may appear more visually interesting and can look less ‘formal’ and thus more approachable than a more formal headshot portrait.

Your photographer should work with you to suggest the best approach for your brand. Sometimes my clients will opt for both, so they have options that may work best for different uses.

In the end, portraits are a necessary part of doing business in an internet-connected world. Approach them as an opportunity to extend your brand and send a consistent message, and you’ll find the investment is a solid one.

 

 

Showcase: Rwanda Bean Coffee Company

Rwanda Bean Coffee

I’m happy to share an image I took for the cover of Down East Magazine‘s August 2021 Food & Drink section.  This was part of a feature on Maine’s Rwanda Bean Company, which operates three locations including the newest on Portland’s Thompson’s Point.    

I was envisioning rich dark coffee beans softly lit with warm early morning window light. Unfortunately, my assignment was scheduled just after noon on a gloomy, cloudy day.  The only way I could get the image that I most wanted was to create an early-morning sun look, using lights placed outside the shop, shining through the windows with warming gels attached.  You’d never know that it was threatening to rain outside.   Sometimes as a photographer, you need a little morning to go with your coffee.

 

Ben and Danielle Graffius at the newly-opened Rwanda Bean Roastery and Espresso Bar at Thompson’s Point in Portland, ME. The two are business partners with founder Mike Mwendata.

Showcase: Mad Patti Hat Co.

Mad Patti Hat Co

A couple of months ago, just as the weather was warming up and widespread vaccinations were becoming the norm, I met and photographed Meg Patti, owner of Mad Patti Hat Company, at her studio in Brunswick, ME for the June issue of Down East Magazine.

Meg is a hat maker, which is kind of like saying Tesla is involved in the transportation business. While true, it doesn’t capture the detailed craftsmanship or the unique, one-of-a-kind hats that Patti hand-makes and ships to clients throughout the United States.

Part of her unique process is to ‘age’ each hat, giving each–as she says–their own stories. Lucky for me, that process involves at one stage the strategic application of fire to burn off the wool peach fuzz and create other effects that, once applied, make each hat a one-off instance of wearable art.

The profile is featured in the June, 2021 edition of Down East Magazine. Watch the video below to hear Patti talk about her creative process.

 

Hatmaker
Hatmaker
Hatmaker