Technology is your friend

Most of us have different friends who fulfil different roles in our life – we don’t ask everything of one friend. And with some friends, it’s always a good idea to have a backup plan.

That’s about as far as I want to go with the “technology is your friend” analogy… but my point is, having great technology at our disposal can be a great ‘enabler’, but it needs to be used with common-sense, and an understanding of the underlying principles. All the greatest ‘tricks’ and techniques are useless if the situation completely changes all of a sudden, and the particular trick or technique you had in mind is no longer available.

Furniture designer Anton Gerner

Speaking of friends, this morning I did a shoot for furniture designer Anton Gerner. Anton and I have known each other since we were kids, so when we work together, it’s an opportunity to experiment with tools and techniques that I might not try with a new client.

Today I was able to combine some tools I’ve been using for a good while, with a couple of newer tricks, to good effect. Actually, ‘effect’ probably isn’t the right word here, since the photograph we made is quite straightforward and very free of effects. The important part was the way in which we achieved it, from brief through to delivery.

Anton is having a new web site built for his business, and the designer asked for a portrait in a very specific size and shape. In the bad old days, when we were ‘shooting to layout’ for a magazine cover or advertisement, it was a rather clumsy process. There were the black “L” croppers we used on Polaroids, and there was the overhead transparency film which had been drawn on with a fine marker pen (or put through a laser printer if you were really high-tech) and then placed on the viewfinder ground glass as a reference.

Today, I just entered the proportions into Lightroom, and since I was shooting with the camera tethered to my laptop, I was able to apply that setting across all the photographs as I was shooting, to instantly see the exact crop and make sure we were shooting an image which would sit well within that frame.

The second benefit of shooting tethered (apart from all the usual ones, like being able to check focus and exposure with complete accuracy), was that once we had our ‘hero’ shot, I was able to immediately upload it to my Photoshelter account, using the Personal Hotspot on my iPhone. Once uploaded, I put it into a gallery and e-mailed the link to Anton, for him to forward to his designer. Within minutes of having made our photograph, the designer was able to check it over from their office.

This may not seem like that big of a deal these days, but there’s nothing worse than packing everything up and then getting a call to say that some thing or other was unsuitable in the photograph. Particularly in cases where the client is located in a different city and unable to send a representative to the shoot, it provides terrific peace of mind (to all parties) that everything is perfect.

My final trick was to raise an invoice on the spot from my iPhone. I use the Xero online accounting system, and thanks to their new Xero Touch app, I was able to send an invoice before I had even left the building.

…and thus I was able to go off and enjoy a Warm French Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese at my lunch meeting, smug in the knowledge that the job was complete, with not a thing more to be done.

The Hipsta look is not for everyone

…but you’re not everyone, are you? 🙂

Lately I’ve been having a blast with the Hipstamatic App on my iPhone. And I’m not the only one. This thing has become quite a craze amongst photographers, amateur and professional, all over the world.

For me, it all started a few months ago, when a friend gave me their superseded iPhone 3G to ‘look after’. I had previously been, if not anti-iPhone, a bit underwhelmed. Couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. Within a week, I was hooked! The thing is an absolute joy to use, and useful in ways that are hard to imagine (even if you’ve used a ‘smartphone’ before, as I had).

Hipstamatic was one of the first things I downloaded, having seen the interesting results it was capable of producing.

There are a couple of things about Hipstamatic that explain its appeal. Firstly, it’s dead simple – deceptively so. It’s up to the photographer to make good pictures with it. Of course that’s true of any camera, but the point is, there are no bells and whistles to distract, and there’s no technology to hide behind if your picture is not a strong one in the first place.

Hipstamatic – Images by Steven Pam

You see, just as some airline pilots find that their job can take the lustre off flying – until they get back into a little “stick and rudder” plane and really feel why they started flying in the first place, we pro photographers can get a bit jaded, too. Since I got the iPhone and Hipstamatic, I’ve really gone back to my photographic roots of photographing little details of life that catch my eye – just like I did the first time I picked up my Mum’s Kodak 110 Instamatic when I was about 7 years old.

Of course Hipstamatic has its limitations, but that’s the very charm of it. It forces you to think about your photography very differently.

Anyway…the point I’m trying to get to here, is that I thought it would make sense to start offering this style of work to select clients. This is definitely not a look that would work for everyone, but it might be a perfect fit for certain organizations.

I’ve made some of my favourite Hipstamatic shots available for licensing in my stock library, and if you’d like to commission something specific for your own needs (maybe even some framed prints for the office?), I’d love to hear from you.

Please let me know your thoughts in the comments.

That didn’t hurt a bit!

So, I had been using CMSimple as the platform for the smartshots website for several years. It pretty much does what it promises, i.e. it’s a simple content management system – and although it has served me well, it was a little rudimentary for where I wanted to go with the site. Well, a lot rudimentary, actually 🙂

WordPress is pretty much the de facto blogging / content management platform these days, thanks to its ease of installation and use, and its extensive customizability and extensibility. Plus there is some integration with Photoshelter, the home all of the images that I deliver to clients, as well as my nascent stock image collection – so I can easily do stuff like dropping in slideshows or individual images, like this:


I can even blog from on location – although usually there’s no time for that because I’m busy, like, taking photographs! I guess that’s what Twitter is for – you can follow smartshots, (although I don’t post from that account too often), or if you’re game, my personal account, stevenpam.

The new site has been in the works for some time; but all my other projects, and the daily demands of photo shoots and just running the business, all seem to have got in the way of the launch. But we got there in the end (we being me and my friend Brent Danley of Saco Bay New Media. Do let me know what you think. Oh, and if you use a feed reader, point it at to get new posts as I add them.

Anyway, enough of the geeky tech ramblings… we’re here to talk photography, right? My own little brand of commercial photography, more specifically. So here’s a glimpse of some topics I may have in the works (let me know in the comments if you’re curious about any of them in particular)

  • My expedition to Tasmania in which almost all of my favourite shots were from my point-n-shoot pocket camera
  • Taking photos in the dark, with earplugs
  • My dalliance with being a food photographer
  • What I’ve learnt from teaching photography to 8 year-olds

Insert Lame Pun Here

OK, I guess we should pick this thing up where we left off…

Since I haven’t written a post here since September, I thought I’d thought I start off with something different, and not force you to endure one of my silly puns as the post title.

I won’t mix things up too much, though – still plenty of pictures! But I won’t try and fit everything that’s been happening into one post. A bit at a time. More fun for all of us that way, don’t you think?

25 Sep 2008: Australian Anthill Cool Company Awards

Australian Anthill Cool Company Awards 2008

Always a fun night… and, like many corporate awards events, always a bit of a b**ch to shoot thanks to the low light levels. But with some fast glass and a steady hand, good results are possible.

26 Sep: Veggie Fun with Matt & Monica

Long-time clients and all around fun people Matt and Monica have a book out. The “muscle” version of the cover was a bit too scary for some, so we shot this alternative version as well.

Matt and Monica... with vegetables

Nice and non-threatening, don’t you think?

And finally (for now)… 

25 Oct: Bentley Stylez

I went all hip-hop and photographed this guy with just a hint of strobist action:

Bentley Stylez

That’s enough for now… join me next time (soon, hopefully!) and I’ll see if I can find a few more pictures worthy of your attention.

Never lie to an x-ray technician

Never lie to an x-ray technician… they can see right through you.

As you can see, I thought it was about time I revived the lame jokes… I actually considered recycling a couple I’ve used before, they were that bad.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense… on with the photography stuff. I just wanted to tell you quickly about a company that I’ve been working with that I’m very impressed by…

Client Success Story #273

So, I recently went to see long-time clients Starfish Ventures to do a few shots of their team, for use on their web site and also to accompany any media stories:

Starfish Ventures

This is a company that seems to have gone from strength to strength since I started working with them. That they take seriously the image they present to the world is no doubt a factor. Which got me thinking…

Ten or even five years ago, you could kind of “get away” with having a crappy website. Nowadays, everyone does their research on the web. And that’s often where they get their first impression of you. So… what are you doing to make sure your organisation looks its best?

One more thing – “event season” is pretty much upon us. Christmas parties, annual awards dinners, conferences, it’s all happening. Things can get a bit hectic. So if you do have any photography coming up, I suggest you book it in, like, now. Our operators are standing by for your call (well, OK, it’s just me, but you get the idea…).

Catch you next time.

Life is like riding a bicycle

Albert Einstein is reported to have said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving”.

Not one to turn down the advice of someone of Einstein’s intellect, I’ve decided to move Smartshots WHQ (World Headquarters) once again.

WHQ in Richmond has served me well for two years, but a number of factors have converged to make right now the perfect time to move my business back to the kitchen table at home in Preston:

  • Landlord and co-tenant D&D Global Group have shut their business down.
  • The vast majority of my work is on location – having a swanky studio is nice, but I really can’t justify the overhead
  • Working from home massively reduces my carbon footprint on non-shooting days

How does this affect you?

Well, it doesn’t, really. It’s business as usual. My contact details remain the same, apart from the land line telephone. It’s usually best to call me on my mobile (0412 206 437), or you can skype me, if you’re that way inclined.

If you have a job for which we need a studio, there are a number of excellent hire studios around Melbourne.

And for those important production meetings, I’m happy to come to you – or your favourite cafe 🙂

If you have any questions about all this, please drop me a line.

The best summer holidays in the world ever

Well, the last week of January is here, so you’re probably back at work by now, doing stuff like this:


I thought it would be a good time to reflect on 2007, talk about a few nice things that happened over the holidays, and start thinking about how you and I can have a ‘bumper’ 2008 together!

First and foremost – thanks for everything in 2007. It was awesome working with you all… I had a blast! Particularly memorable highlights:

  • Serving on the board of ACMP (Australia’s industry association for commercial photographers)
  • “The Sopranos” influenced shoot for Centurion Metering Technologies
  • Meeting and photographing MYOB co-founder Craig Winkler
  • Flying to the Coonawarra and Mildura to shoot the Katnook Estate and Deakin Estate wineries
  • Traveling to England to visit my daughter Louise
  • Going for a ride in not one, but two King Airs

The ‘Holiday Season’

  • I kicked off the holidays by starting (another) website! It’s called “Woop Guy” and it’s completely pointless but I enjoy it. Try and stop me 🙂
  • We spent Christmas at home for once, and our families trekked in from Canberra, Sydney, and Adelaide.
  • After all that we were ready to escape the heat in Melbourne and take a quiet relaxing family holiday. We spent a week in beautiful Inverloch, where as well as getting plenty of beach time, we got together as a family and wrote down our goals for the year (see also this article by my lovely bride Jen for more about new year goals).
  • As if that wasn’t enough holidaying, Jen and I managed to sneak away to Coffs Harbour for a few days without the kids. A friend was getting married and twisted my arm (very hard) into shooting the wedding. Who could resist staying at a resort right on the beach?
  • And to top it off I went for a ride in a Tiger Moth last Sunday, including some aerobatics! Jen had bought me the ride for my birthday back in November, and I finally got to take it.

Let’s have a bumper year, you and me

Is 2008 going to be your big year? My objective is to help your wildest dreams come true (seriously!) by providing you with outstanding, engaging photography that helps you meet your goals. I hope we get to work together soon. Happy new year!

Hot news: Picture tells way more words than previously thought!

We’ve all heard the old adage that “a picture tells a thousand words”. And of course it’s one that we photographers in particular love.

But it turns out that far from telling a measly 1,000 words, a picture tells nearly eighty thousand!

How do I know this?

Small Business Marketing blogger John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing told me so with his link to this picture of his book.

But seriously… It does go to show that the right photograph can make a big difference to your message! Contact me to discuss how we could work together to make yours more effective.

Sideways All India Radio James O'Loghlin

PR photography

PR shoots are fun. The challenge often is getting a newsworthy story out of something which doesn’t initially appear to be that exciting.

On Monday afternoon I did this shoot at an old house which has just been thoroughly renovated, with careful attention to energy and water saving features.

Solar panels Builder & Plumber
Builder & Plumber Pool

To add to the fun, construction was not finished, so we had to work around that.

Fortunately we had perfect weather (again), so that was one less thing to worry about.

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Welcome back; and building facade number 943

Oh – hello again!

You know… I’ve been meaning to ‘revive’ this blog from it’s dormant state for a long time now (like, 5 months), and I’ve been agonizing for the last little while about how I’m gonna start it up again and get you up to date with all the interesting shoots I’ve been doing.

But* you know what? Today I decided I was done with agonizing, and I would just continue blogging as if I had never stopped.

So today I’m going to tell you about the shoot I did this afternoon – and if I have some quiet patches coming up, then I can use them to tell you about some of the other shoots I’ve done going back a few months. So there.

Anyway, welcome back… I hope you find something here of use, whether you’re a commercial user of photography; professional or student photographer; or just arrived here by accident 🙂

*I’ll start my sentences with conjunctions if I feel like it – it’s ‘conversational’.

Building facade number 943

Sensient Technologies Australia

Well, I’m not sure if I’ve shot that many…. maybe it’s less, maybe it’s more! (who’s counting, anyway?)

The client phoned me yesterday afternoon. They had received an unexpected request from their head office in the US for a high-quality image of the front of their building, to go in a book about the company history.

– And they needed it, like, yesterday.

Fortunately Melbourne’s autumn weather was kind to us, and the site was fairly tidy. I shot a couple of dozen frames; set up my laptop in a spare office inside, and got to work on the shots. In the end I selected half a dozen, tidied up a few little things, and delivered them to the client on the spot.

That’s a wrap!

Plain, overcast skies can create quite a challenge when there are no other options about when the shot can be obtained. I’m sure I’ll have a story to tell you about that another time!

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