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A Branding Shoot with yarn and fibre designer, Rachael Prest from Cat & Sparrow

A Branding Shoot with yarn and fibre designer, Rachael Prest from Cat & Sparrow

When Rachael contacted me to talk about brand photography for her yarn and fibre business Cat & Sparrow, I took one look at her website and realised that this was a woman who loved colour and creativity and that we definitely needed to work together.

A client match made in colour heaven!

Rachael has been running Cat & Sparrow for a few years, initially with a business partner when she lived in Australia, and now she runs the British and European arm of the brand.

The colours and quality of the yarn that Rachael designs are exquisite, and she has an amazing stash of beautiful raw material wool that she dyes in her home studio.

She lives and breathes creativity, and part of the brand shoot was dedicated to showcasing her skills in knitting, spinning, weaving, dyeing.

Another part of the shoot was to capture a slightly different aspect of Rachael’s life; her other life as a proofreader and technical editor. She needed photos that came across as fun and professional for the different style of client that came to her proofreading website.

My goal was to capture Rachael as someone creative, artistic and colourful, but not in the standard rote poses that do the rounds. Her beautiful yarns and time-honoured passions were central to the brand, so I decided to take more of a documentary approach with minimal direction, allowing Rachael to feel completely comfortable and capturing every image that she needed to share her business with the world.

Rachael Prest holds a selecton of coloured fibres for spinning. Photo by Gemma Regalado Bristol Brand photographer
Brand Shoot of Yarn designer Rachael Prest
Yarn dye bottles from Rachael Prest's stash. Bristol Brand photoshoot with Gemma Regalado
Rachael Prest showcases her knitting
Rachael Prest for Cat & Sparrow. Branding shoot in Bristol
Yarn and Fibre designer branding photoshoot Bristol. Rachael Prest wears a Yarnicorn t-shirt
Rachael Prest shows me her yar dyes. Cat and Sparrow wool and yarn brand shoot by Gemma Shoots People
Coronavirus guidelines for Gemma Shoots People (aka the most 2020 update I have written to date)

Coronavirus guidelines for Gemma Shoots People (aka the most 2020 update I have written to date)

What a tres 2020 titled blog post, hey?

Fact is, Covid-19 has impacted, and continues to impact, every one of us. Here are the guidelines that I’m adhering to in order to keep my clients (and me) as safe as possible.

Let’s start here:

  1. I expect all of my clients to adhere to UK government guidelines, just as I am
  2. The health and safety of me and my clients is of the utmost importanc

So what does this actually mean?

Well, there’s a whole heap of different things I need to be mindful of above and beyond just having a good shot list and a funky moodboard.

All clients will now have to read and agree to the Covid Guidelines Agreement on the day of shoots. Basically it says that you aren’t ill with the ‘rona, haven’t been in direct contact with a ‘rona-infected person for the last 14 days, haven’t travelled from another country on the UK ‘rona quarantine list within the last fortnight, and if you get the ‘rona within 14 days of the shoot, you’ll let me know. Seems fair!

To limit contact with people outside of our own homes and bubbles, meetings, consultations and any appointment that can be made online will be available online via Zoom.

For in-person appointments and shoots, we will plan as much outdoors as possible.

Brand shoots that require an indoors venue can still take place, but must have enough space to ensure physical distancing of 2m between me and the subject. I’ll bring a good zoom lens to make sure that I can capture everything I need!

Sorry! No hugs or handshakes (and I’m not really into that elbow thing, to be honest), but I’m here for an awkward wave and an overly enthusiastic “hiiii!”

I will wear a face covering, and before and during the meetings, I will liberally apply enough 70% alcohol hand gel to make my eyes water. All of my camera equipment will be cleaned using rubbing alcohol between shoots.

Normally, I let clients flick through the images on the back of my camera, but sadly I can’t allow that at the moment. What I can do is bring my laptop and set up a slideshow if you really want to see some of the images before they get edited, but note this will only be available where I have space to set that up, so won’t be suitable for every shoot especially if we’re out and about in a busy city centre. I can set up a quick-flick image gallery for you once I’m home and have uploaded the images if you’re desperate to see what we got!

Some shots might not be possible for me to capture (think super up-close-and-personal-next-to-your-face), but I’ll help you workshop different ideas (a flat lay of your favourite earrings, for example, instead of a camera lens millimetres from your earlobe!)

I’ll be directing you from afar. Often I would be directly on hand to help “pose” you, or flatten an overly-puffed-up sleeve, or shunt an errant bag out of the way. Instead, I’ll talk you through what I want, or get you to mirror me where necessary. To be honest, as my style is quite natural, I never get you to stay in a pose for long. Photos look so much better when you’re comfortable and moving naturally.

If there’s anything on this list that you feel I haven’t covered, drop me an email at hey@gemmashootspeople.com and I can help put your mind at ease.

Stop using tribe in your marketing

Stop using tribe in your marketing

I will preface this by saying I am a white woman, and what I am telling you is due to education I have gratefully received from black, brown and indigenous folx. I am not here to speak for BIPOC, there are many people who have spoken at length about this subject who you should seek out and listen to.

I am addressing white people in business in particular: stop using the term “tribe” to mean your fucking email list.

What you think you’re using it for: A cute buzzword for a close-knit community of like-minded people.

But it doesn’t mean that. It’s a term to describe a familial, cultural, and historical group who often live close together.

If we think of how we started hearing the term “tribe” in context as children at school, I’d be lying if I didn’t say my immediate connection would be to African tribes or to Native American nations.

And I bet you’d be lying as well.

And, unless you’re talking about a political faction from the Roman Empire, or a specific tribe of people, you’re using “tribe” wrongly

So how is it easy for us as white people to take a word that we know has racial connotations and make it about us and our marketing? When we use this term, we are effectively profiting from cultural appropriation.

It’s your fucking email list, not The Maasai.

This is white privilege in action.

Stop using this term.

Other terms you could use?

Team. Friends. Chums. Community. Collective. Club. Society. Union. Alliance. There’s THOUSANDS of neutral terms that would fit so much better. Use a thesaurus.

I am still learning. I have made mistakes, and am willing to be called out for the mistakes I will probably continue to make in my journey to unlearn inherent racism. You are not a bad person for using “tribe” in your marketing. You are a questionable person if you continue to ignore it despite reading this.

Further Reading

Using “Tribe” and “Tribalism: to Misunderstand African Societies – David Wiley 2013

Is using the word ‘tribe’ or ‘spirit animal’ offensive to Native Americans? – Curated by Dr. Kiona, 2018

Why you might want to rethink using the word ‘tribe’ for your business community – Eli Trier, 2019

The Trouble With Tribe – Chris Lowe, 2001

 

I have two big loves of my life (bar my family and dog and wheels of Brie). Business and gymnastics.

I’m not amazing at either, truth be known, but there’s plenty I’ve learned about both over the years I’ve been doing them.

I was only able to start doing my favourite gymnastic move, handstands, again after a two year break.

1. You need to prepare before you do handstands

As much as I love chucking my legs up over my head (fnarr), you don’t want to go I’m without a little prep.

As someone with history of a damaged wrist, it’s even more important that I

How to look better in selfies

How to look better in selfies

Remember the meme of that kid that looked like a thumb that caused viral hilarity on the interwebs several years ago?

This was a person whose plight I FULLY empathised with. I’ve always looked like a thumb when I’ve switched that selfie mode on my phone. No amount of angling down or up or tilting my head seems to do anything for my face, and I boiled it down to the conclusion that I just thought I was better looking in my head that I actually was IRL, and that I was horrendously unphotogenic.

I was destined to be the person who looked awful in photos – hey, you saw the photos I sent you last week, right? Not even my husband could make me look nice.

Honestly, for YEARS I hated photos of myself, and it is actually much more stressful than you realise, because over the last couple of decades, having your photo taken has been more and more common.

Everyone has a powerful camera at their fingertips, ready to document the fuck out of shit, from their meals to their bowel movements (true story: I once had an ex who used to swap photos of his morning shits with his housemate, and on nights out, they would bluetooth it to random people in the pub – before the days that you had to accept a bluetooth connection request. How we lasted 11 months is frightening. I would also like to state that I was not his housemate.)

Facebook became a “thing” when I was in my mid-20s, so I escaped lightly, but there were still some photos of me that just looked… awful. But, when I’d checked myself out in the mirror before I’d left? I mean, I felt pretty good, the mirror-version of me was looking decent, what gives?

So, I started doing several things

a) avoiding the camera where possible, b) using other people as my shield, c) only allowing my photo to be taken when HIDEOUSLY DRUNK and thus not caring until the next day, and d) immediately gurning, because if the picture was going to look shit anyway, I might as well go all-in on that vibe.

The next day, I’d wake to a few tags in photos, none of them wildly appealing if I’m honest, like this one taken on my hen do (yes, I’m even gurning in the photo of me ON THE TOP I’M WEARING. META AF).

Sure, I couldn’t totally escape the odd marauding friends’ phone, or when my dad bought a proper camera about 10 years ago. But there’s one type of photo you will RARELY see me in, and that’s a selfie.

I refused to believe I was the only one that felt like that selfie mode was some kind of personal attack on my self-esteem, and I set to figure out WHY.

It’s science that makes you look cack in selfies

Damn and blast that pesky science *shakes fist*, BUT I’ve broken it all down here, with three quick fixes to go from gurn to grin, so you don’t need to be scared of your phone camera anymore.

1. Your phone camera is a wide-angle lens.

That might not mean a lot to you, but essentially, your phone lens is designed to grab as MUCH of the environment as possible.

However, in order to see the entire frame captured on your phone screen, the image creates a kind of fish-eye effect, even if ever so slightly.

So, let’s say you’re in the middle of the photo, your nose will look bigger and more pronounced, but the extremities of your face curve back into the background.

As soon as you start using a camera with a specific portrait lens, a lens with a narrow focal length, this starts to change significantly.

The best way to explain this effect is to see it, and this gif by Dan Vojtech (via Peta Pixel) shows just how drastic that change is. Dan photographed his subject using a selection different lens focal lengths. The photos taken on a lens with a focal length of 20 – 24mm? That’s about where your phone is. The sweet spot? Somewhere around 100mm.

via GIPHY

There’s a couple of ways to solve this in a selfie: first, hold your phone *just* above your eyeline, frame your face in the top two-thirds of the screen, and tilt the phone angle down ever so slightly. Next, once you’ve taken your photo, you can check out my IGTV all about how to correct lens distortion. Works on everything from flatlays to portraits, and I use it on all of my professional work.

2. You’re too used to what you see in the mirror.

You know when you leave post in one place all the time to sort through later, and that later becomes weeks or months later, and it’s gets to the point you know it’s there, but you can just easily ignore it?

That’s what happens with us when we look in the mirror.

You and I both know that our faces aren’t symmetrical, but it’s easy to get used to seeing our faces when the only way we see them is in the mirror.

As soon as we see ourselves in a photo, as everyone else sees us, it’s a bit of a shock; “My nose tilts to one side! my face is about a foot wider on the left! How hasn’t anyone pointed this out to me?!” You forget that everyone is used to seeing your face this way round, and unless it’s a deeply unflattering grimace, you probably look totally fine.

To counteract the unbalanced face, you need to figure out your best side – and it’s normally your left.

Once you’ve figured that out, you can always remember to move your face to take photos from that side, instead of front-on, which is flattering for only the lucky few, especially when you’re working with a wide-angle selfie lens. 

4. You’re not smiling properly

There’s a special kind of name for a genuine smile; It’s called a “Duchenne Smile” (Yeah, I didn’t realise it either until I found it on Wikipedia ).

Whenever I work with clients, my main focus is on making them feel relaxed, so that they stop doing this 😬 and start doing this 😄 (or this 😁. Or even this 😂).

Basically, if you rock up to your selfie camera (or professional photoshoot) with The Fear, you’re going to grimace. To smile naturally, you need to imagine that feeling when you see a really good chum, and all you talk about is That Holiday, and knob gags.

A natural smile is one that also uses the muscles around your eyes as well as around your mouth, but it’s much easier to feel a natural smile before you try to force it. So imagine something or someone that makes you feel happy, and imagine you’re smiling at that (or at them).

I promise you, these little tips will up your selfie game.

And if all else fails? There’s always a Snapchat filter.