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Top 10 Before & After Tips

This article was originally written for and published by Liz Campbell over at Makeup Media Marketing. - Master Wordsmith, Editor, and Author of the book 'WOW:  Words on the Web'...  Enjoy!

Top Ten Tips for Maximum Credibility and Impact with Before and After Photos.

You may have noticed images out there in the world of fitness, health/ wellbeing, hair/ make up…  Anything where there has been some sort of transformation.

They are the obligatory ‘Before and After’ images meant to make us cringe and then feel instant relief that our problems as a consumer can be solved through the techniques, potions and methods applied by the professionals.

You may have also noticed that these Before and After images are rarely an honest representation of the actual results which may vary*.

Why is that?  Well maybe the product or process on offer doesn’t actually live up to it’s promises…  But maybe it’s just a case of sloppy Before/ After photo techniques which inadvertently diminishes the impact of the staggering results your product or process provides.

Take back the power of the Before and After images and put them to work for you instead against you with these top 10 tips and tricks from a professional portrait photographer.  No confusing jargon.  No technical training needed.  Just simple to use advice from a pro.


LIGHTS

1.  Make sure the lighting is the exact same for both images.  This is probably the least understood and most critical factor.

The best light is always window light.  But only when the sun isn’t shining directly in through the window.  As long as a person isn’t standing in a beam of sunlight, find the absolute biggest window you can and position them as close to it as possible.

Exactly how you position them depends on a few things.  

Are you trying to show specific texture like skin or muscle tone?  You will want the light to come from the side so position the subject perpendicular to the window (or facing along the glass from one side to the other.

If you are trying to show more general qualities, it’s better to position the subject facing directly towards the window.  This means the photographer will have their back to the window, so be careful not to block the beautiful window light and cast a shadow on the subject.  This is generally the more flattering light for any age and gender.


CAMERA

2.  Make sure you use the same camera for both images.  The more you keep uniform, the more credibility your images have.

If you shoot one with a phone, do them all on the same phone.  Even the difference between an iPhone 4 and 6 is drastically different; not to mention across brands…

3.  Keep the camera at the exact same height.  The relative position of the camera to the subject will accentuate or diminish certain features.  We don’t need to go into the specifics here.  Use something like a tripod and if you don’t have one, even propping it on the back of the same chair/ counter, etc… every time.

4.  Use the same lens/ zoom (or no zoom) every time.  This also has accentuating and diminishing effects on a subject.  On a phone I recommend no zoom which gives you better quality.  On an SLR, use the exact same lens and the exact same zoom.

5.  Be careful with filters.  If you’re using a phone or camera with built in filters, make sure you at least use the same on every time.  I recommend no filter.  It gives the images more credibility because they look more raw and real.

6.  Background.  You guessed it.  Use the same background for both images.  Ideally, you can find a blank or clutter free background with no distractions.


ACTION

7.  To smile or not to smile?  This one can be tricky…  A smile evokes a certain feeling in the viewer.  Showing the Before with no smile and the After with a smile seems a bit manipulative.  Again, I would recommend doing the same thing each time.  And personally, I say no smile!  Let your results speak for themselves if they are truly remarkable.

8.  Posing is the same.  For example… slumpy, rounded shoulders in the Before and powerful attitude in the After can seem misleading.


BONUS TRACKS

9.  Cropping.  This is another very strong factor that influences our perception.  Keep it exactly the same for both and you don’t need to worry about losing credibility.

10.  GIF.  This is the single most powerful tool to use in your Before and After tool kit.  

Since you have meticulously followed all of the above directions you are ready to move onto the big time.

Side by side comparison for our little monkey brains are super challenging to see any subtle differences.  But the way to overcome this is to use a GIF.  It is a single frame which animates or “flips” from one to the other and back again.  For our purposes, showing Before and After, over and over, allows customers and clients to compare the difference without making them work for it.

Try something like http://makeagif.com or similar free services.


There you go!  You’re ready to go forth and dominate your industry with amazing Before and After examples of the wonders your product or process delivers.

Just keep everything exactly the same for each and the results of your images will be beyond reproach, maintaining maximum credibility and giving you a powerful tool to advertise your work.

...Not Good at Everything...

Just a quickie...

I got a very cool write up in a blog post...

http://chrisrichter.com.au/ok-im-good-everything/

Chris helps develop the early careers of singer/ songwriters and this one is about not trying to do everything yourself.  Sticking to what you're best at doing and finding others to bring their best to the party...

It's a great reminder to anyone out there creating something for themselves... and a crucial realisation for the people out there trying to create something exceptional by themselves.

The Plague of 'Personal Branding'

As lifetime consumers of media, our tastes are constantly refining. 

These days, if it feels like you’re trying to tell me something, it makes me feel like you’re trying to sell me something.  And I immediately begin to detach.

I first noticed when I was dabbling with video that people would “present” to the camera.  I’d stop them and ask them to tell me what they were about to say and it would happen in the most natural tone… a conversation…  rather than presentation (effectively advertisement). 

Well I don’t go near video anymore, but my point is the same.  The second we approach portraits from a place where you’re trying to tell me something you’ve lost my respect as a viewer of that image. 

This is why I believe ‘personal branding’ is a disconnected plague of insincerity.

Your ‘branding’ is a fabricated extension of you and what your business represents.  It’s important, of course, because it helps us define your product.  But at best it’s a very rough approximation.  

You, however, are a complete person with a unique story.  And you are much deeper with far more context and relevance than ‘personal branding’ could ever hope to convey.

‘Personal branding’ generally presents itself as a smiling head facing a camera.  Is this the degree of depth we are willing to expect from a portrait or headshot? 

Looking at portraits, I want to be presented with a message from the very core.  A message that resonates with me as a complex person, full of preferences and conflict and experiences.  That is what we should expect from head shots and portraits… not a fraction less.  

And it’s possible.  For real people.  Every time.

When I get the feeling from a portrait that you have something to say you get my attention and that is the biggest commodity of all.  That’s what all businesses are reaching for.  

Our brains are evolved to look for a challenge.  Something unique… unexpected.  We know very well that the familiar and obvious fades into the background very quickly.  It is precisely one of the things our brain does best.  Unfortunately, familiar and obvious is what most photographers deliver.

If the most important thing in business is to approach your audience (your potential clients) with them in mind, then most photographers are really missing the point.  But when it’s done well, we frame the story the viewers tell themselves about who they see.

You see, a photo is not a one way street.  That’s the real magic of photography (and the aspect most photographers ignore).  It is not a passive experience to the viewer.  We can’t avoid putting the face in front of us through the matrix of human, emotional interpretation.  

The same applies when you’re in a room with someone.  You are either building rapport based on some sort of familiar recognition… or you’re not.  There’s rarely anything in between.

If you’re telling me something - like telling me ‘smiling’ - I am left with no way to engage with the image.  If it requires no interpretation it will not demand the viewers’ attention.  

Opportunity lost.  And how many opportunities can anyone afford to lose, really?

This is all fleeting.  The reactions we have to images are instantaneous.  Forget seven seconds!  We process way faster than that because we are forced to.  I’m not sure where this whole seven seconds thing even comes from, but if you think you have someone’s attention for SEVEN WHOLE SECONDS in order to make an impression, you are completely deluded.  

Go ahead.  Do it right now.  It even feels absurd to suggest…  Look at anything in the room and count… 1-1000, 2-1000, 3-1000…  It’s a freaking eternity.

Often, our images get a glance at best.  But that’s all we need.  These days we are wired to accept or reject in a moment.  So we need a headshot or portrait that delivers instantaneous impact.

The only way ‘telling smiling’ is going to have any impact is if the viewer happens to be smiling in the moment they encounter your image.  I’m not willing to gamble on those odds.  Are you?

Go try that little experiment.  I dare you.  

Go and sit in a room full of strangers with a big fake smile plastered to your face and see if it resonates.  It might if someone else is sitting there smiling too because one of the ways we build rapport is mirroring each other.  

Otherwise, you are ‘that’ person on the train or in the waiting room that people move away from… often clutching their bags - or their children - just a little bit closer.

And what is your Portrait or Headshot?  It is you when you can’t be in the room.  It works the same way.  Who do you choose to put in the room?

Your portrait is an opportunity for deeper interaction with you and your story.  And according to the finest business minds out there, that is how we build business these days.

How much more vital to share something deeper?  

This is not merely facial recognition.  Computers can do that.  I’m talking about a true recognition of values and intention… something fundamental.  One of those aspects that only we - the incredibly refined, blunt objects called ‘humans’ - are capable of recognising in each another.

We don’t need to see your face or your ‘personal branding’We need to see you.  All of you… with all the sincerity, power, experience and intention that makes you, you

Sounds daunting?  I know.  But a great portrait photographer will help you get there with proper coaching in front of the camera.  And the closer you get, the more inspired you are to push further… Ultimately creating images of yourself you never thought possible.  

Not the fabricated mask that is the ‘person’.  And not even simply who you are…  When done well, you begin to uncover - visually - who you know your best self to be… and who you hope to become.

That is the magic possible in every portrait session. 

...And anything less is a crime.

 

7 minutes on 'How to Be in Front of the Camera'

Yesterday I shared a few tips on how I prepare everyone that steps in front of my camera.  

It was a great lunch, presenting to just over 40 women at the Your Corporate Lifestyle event held at the new Gambaro Hotel.

Essentially, there are 3 things that must be present in a portrait if it is going to be meaningful.

Power  |  Connection  |  Intension

And then I discuss a few basic techniques that help to achieve those outcomes in an image.

You can listen to the recording here.  **When people are laughing and you don't hear my voice, it's because I'm demonstrating faces we put on for the camera...**

It's just 3MB, but sometimes on slower internet (cough*-australia!*-cough*) the audio window below takes a moment to load...

The funniest thing is that I had only just found out about the event the day before...  AND 45 minutes before I stepped on stage, I had just had my first (ever) tooth filling.  So half my face was numb as I stepped up on stage.  

...Nothing like a good challenge to make you lift your game...

Lean in!

Back in Church... But Different.

The gang over at Surge Media really like pushing boundaries and having some fun in the process...  And I love making their ideas come to life.

This is a sneaky little shoot we did a few months ago with the 2 principles over at Surge...  Aegir and Ben.  

I'm not exactly sure what kind of trouble we could get in (after the fact) for shenanigans like this...  So I'll say that we definitely did not go out on the Storey Bridge and shoot this one summer Sunday morning at 5am...  

But if we had it most certainly would have been far trickier than any of us anticipated...  Since even at 5am, there is a steady flow of traffic - I imagine.  

When they asked me to come in and help them create the Church of Surge, I couldn't wait. You see, their offices are in a little old church over in Wooloongabba.  So they decided to take advantage of their special location.

A few cheap costumes and some outrageously expensive video equipment was all it took to pull it off.  As well as buckets of sweat.

It was one of the hottest days we had seen here in Brisbane and the old circuits at the church couldn't handle the 1000's watts of juice the film lights were using; all my flashes (yes, we still had to light it - even with the film lights); AND the air conditioning...  So in the interest of art, we sacrificed the A/C.

People have been asking me if it is a composite... pieced together using different moments and multiple exposures.  But it is 100% captured in camera.  

Here's the Before and After...  Obviously some effects were added after the fact...  But it's really all there.  

Honestly, that's the most fun for me.  I know I can take components from a zillion different sources and make something completely new...  But I love the challenge of doing it all for real. 

The Ladies are in Town!

Emma and Bridget - the amazing women from Women's Property Panel - are hosting an outstanding workshop this month over at Portside in Brisbane...

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I had the privilege of photographing them a couple months ago and got to see some of their magic, first hand.  In a word... contagious.

They have an event on International Women's Day with some pretty impressive speakers (not to mention a room full of awesome ladies, super passionate about property).

Here's the link to the event page on Facebook...

Come along and get your learn on!

I'll be there photographing the day...  See you there!

Tearsheets... Finally!

It's taken a while to compile some of the work I've done in the actual habitats in which they have been used...  But it's finally here. 

The 'Tearsheets' section of my website is up for your enjoyment.

It's funny, but seeing the work in real world context has a much more powerful effect on the viewer...

Above, the portraits and the product images are from the Strut Stuff campaign... 

And here is some of the great stuff that we shot in Western Australia for Oxfam's Close the Gap campaign.  

There's a few more over at my website, so swing by and have a look! 

 

Different Looks, Same Spot.

I love shooting on location (as I've mentioned before) because there's so much to work with.   

This is a recent shoot for a financial-corporate-type-guy who needed something really powerful and something very approachable.

Shayne 001a.jpg

I've been eyeballing this spot for a few months, waiting for the right shoot to use it.  It's a sweet little corner of the Convention Centre that could easily be overlooked.  Unless, of course, you're me... constantly looking for light and lines.  

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And my brain is always thinking multi-use...  So you get the clean portrait plus lots of space for copy in case you're on the cover of a trade mag, brochure, etc.

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Early Morning Magic...​

One of the most brilliant 'connectors' I've ever met asked me to make some portraits for her.  

She has just started a new solo enterprise and needed some images to show the magic she naturally, effortlessly brings to a room.

So, how do you show magic?

Well, first I had to get her to stop talking.  The ideas almost never stop flowing so I figured I had to engineer some quiet moments by giving very specific instructions but keeping them open enough for her to interpret on her own terms.  'Cause that's Jenny...  on her own terms.  

But, of course, I also had to capture that electricity that surrounds her... because every moment, you're sharing her constant eruption of inspiration.

She said her favorite place to think is on the swings.    So that's where we went.

I've found that if you get into the space people feel best, you often get a much higher degree of unguarded honesty.  That's why I love shooting on location. 

It's relevant.  It means something.  It's personal... and it matters.   

...And so do the people I photograph

A Double Truck Surprise...

Just a Quickie!

 Double Truck Story Lead... 

Double Truck Story Lead... 

Men's Fitness (October 2013) just ran a bunch of my images for an article on the Big Red Run - a 250km Ultra Marathon in the Simpson Desert (a gig I wrote about in my last newsletter that you can read here).

But the exciting surprise was finding one of my images running Double Truck for the story lead!  Too cool!

It's a 6 page article and my images are all over 5 of them...

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That's a great way to start your day.

 

New Fun with Outcast Performing Arts

It's been a while, so I figured I'd take a chance to share some of the fun stuff I've been working on...

This was a great project I shot a couple of months ago for Outcast Performing Arts.

I was given a handful of insanely talented dancers, singers and musicians...  A half day in the QUT film studio... and complete creative freedom.

Since there were no expectations for the outcome I decided to make something a little different for them.

Normally, the Outcast 'look' is very dark and menacing.   But with the Creative Director's blessing I went in the complete opposite direction.  I wanted ghostly and ethereal.  So I decided to try something I've never attempted.

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Crazy, fast motion is normally something you try to freeze and capture in all its detailed glory.  But these are 2 second exposures!  Pretty cool, huh?  The combination of ambient, shutter speed, motion and flash gave me all the sweet details as well as all the blur in the same shot.

It's always a blast working with this crew which I've written about here.

The top composite is my own interpretation of what we captured, but the pieces they used were made a bit darker for the website which you can see here.

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I think the most important point to make is that this didn't spring from my mind when I showed up for the shoot.  Yes, it was an untested experiment (which is a bit crazy) but 2 things worked in my favor.

1. Outcast is super experimental, always trying to push the boundaries of what we expect from live performance – so it fit their ethos.

2. I had spent hours considering the concept and technical details.

Of course, I had a back up plan ready to go if the hybrid didn’t work out.  But good planning and conceptualizing is the real reason this worked.

Let's get that People's Choice Award!

Hello everyone!

I have entered a huge photo comp and it's time to cast your votes for People's Choice!

I've entered some of my favorite work from the past year and I think it's one sexy entry.

So pop on over to see for yourself.  If you agree click the vote button at the top of the page...

Thanks!

http://jasonmalouin.see.me/onelife2013

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Wandering in the Queensland Forest with Oxfam...

I just wrapped up another epic 48 hour journey with Oxfam’s Trailwalker

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Some of you may remember the Sydney Trailwalker I shot a couple years ago which I wrote about here

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It’s such an incredible event raising millions of dollars for amazing projects in countries all over the world and I love participating with my camera.

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Personally, I don’t stay out the full 48 hours with the participants…  But I do like to capture the full range of excitement and emotion, which translates to 16 hour days…

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All the dramatic Highs and Lows…

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By the end, most teams (if they are even still in a team of 4) stagger across the finish line and all but collapse.  The fastest teams, however, finished the full 100km together in just over 13 hours!

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If you’re interested in participating or just want to see more of my shots on the Oxfam blog, you cancheck it out here.  Melbourne and Brisbane are finished for this year, but Sydney and Perth are still to come!

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Exposing Myself at Bus Stops...

Oxfam’s Shadow Report went out to the government a few weeks ago.  Hopefully my images all over it will help secure the funding they need to continue the amazing work folks are doing to Close the Gap…

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(The two girls’ t-shirts required some work…  The kisses shirt originally read “I’m bringing sexy back” and beneath OMG it said “Over it!”)  I ‘heart’ Photoshop.

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These were all captured while I was in Western Australia a few months ago with the video crew from Red Hat Films that produced the official video (plus my behind the scenes footage which I wrote about here…)

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And it’s almost time for Trailwalker!  My images have been popping up all over the place…  Posters, bus stop ads…

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If you and 3 companions are interested in an epic race for a good cause, then check it out here on Oxfam’s site…

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Today, bus stops… Tomorrow, the WORLD!!!

A Little Bit of Video…

Here's a neat little surprise I found in my inbox today...

The fab crew at Red Hat Films who produce the Close the Gap film every year (which I've written about before, here) threw a few moments from my 'behind the scenes' footage into the final edit of an interview with Dan Sultan immediately after Rock for Recognition in Perth.

Ahh, India

Well it has been an amazing start to 2013!

We spent almost a month shooting a documentary in India called Devout Warrior which you can find out more about here.

I was along for the ride shooting the production stills and behind the scenes which was absolutely epic.

I'll leave the productions stills for another time...  These are just some of the spontaneous moments that happen all around you in India.  

...Eye contact from complete strangers that our little western minds can barely comprehend...

...Unabashed honesty in a gaze

Everything everyone tries to tell you about India is true.  But it all just pales in comparison to the actual intensity of the place.

I'm ready to go back.

...Dodgeball!

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Oxfam's annual Dodgeball fundraiser for the Grow Campaign was a blast!

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This was the second year I shot the event.  Last year I made all the standard images, covering the event.  So there was certainly no need to reproduce all the same stuff...  This year I decided to just make portraits of the players.

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I decided to shoot super wide (around 16mm for all the individual portraits) giving an extra exaggerated and dramatic vibe to the quirky folks that came along to support the cause.  

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...John Butler at Home

We just spent 7 days with Oxfam shooting the Close the Gap campaign in Western Australia.  It was a fantastic trip full of highlights…  Shooting portraits from Bunbury to Mt. Magnet (which is officially in the Outback!)

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Photographing John Butler at his home in Freemantle, WA was definitely a high point of our trip…

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He is a big proponent of Indigenous Equality in general – and more specifically, Close the Gap.  So he invited us to his home where we filmed and photographed for about 4 hours.  He spoke very eloquently about the need for equality and a true ‘fair go for all’.  Here’s a little behind the scenes video I shot, edited by the phenomenal crew at Red Hat Films who have made the Close the Gap video for the past 4 years.  http://youtu.be/wMwhU8LBjOE

I had loads of ideas for cool portraits when I arrived, but after we spent about 40 minutes with him – shooting all natural light just using a reflector – I knew I had it nailed.

Oxfam requires a very specific look that they use for their visual communication.  So once I knew I had the ‘right’ shots in the bag, I started experimenting a little bit for a portfolio piece.  The above shot is exactly the quiet, contemplative character John seems to be…

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And as a little bonus, since his whole family was there when we arrived, I offered to do a family portrait since there was a perfect spot in their dining room.  Their chicken is basically a full-fledged member of the family so I thought we could create something extra special if they would be willing to put the chicken on the table…  They totally went for it!

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Score!