A referral letter from Southside Dodge that made me blush!

I recently received the most glowing referral letter of my photography career from a long-time client. It was so well crafted and spoke so highly of my business that I was actually embarrassed when I first read it.

“I can’t use this, it’s too perfect!” This was my first thought. How can I possibly live up to these words? Well, after thinking on this for over a week I realized this referral didn’t come from just a single event, its actually a referral based on over 10 years of service to this company, so their words must be accurate, even if I have a hard time accepting the compliment.

I can remember the first time I met the marketing director for Southside Dodge back in 2005, a woman named Terri Ryan. I had just taken over the Traptow Photography business, and I guess Terri wanted to make sure I was delivering the same quality of imagery that Rod was delivering before my arrival. Every salesman and manager that joined Southside Dodge required a professional headshot, and they had to dress a certain way, in certain colours. After the portrait session Terri would drive from the dealership all the way to our old studio down on 55 Street just to choose the final image that would be edited and used in Southside Dodge marketing materials!

After going through this experience a number of times over the course of a year I braved a conversation with Terri and said, “Terri, you keep driving all the way down here to pick one image, and almost every time I have already chosen that same image before you got here. I think we are on the same page, why don’t you save your time and let me do up the best image right away, and if you are not satisfied when it arrives you can pick a different image?”

I know I had been delivering a good product up to there, but I wanted to make sure Terri trusted me completely before having this conversation, as it could have messed up a great client relationship. I realized that the referral letter I received from the current marketing director, Jen Sparks, who I have been working with the last few years, is based upon a true relationship. And that is my goal in all my corporate sessions – developing relationship.

Jen is truly a delight to work with, she has a quick wit and is considerate of my time as well. Coordinating multiple sales guys and management team members who have a variety of schedules is always a challenge. However, we have established a routine that delivers a consistent product no matter what day I show up. The lighting style, background and cropping are the same each and every time, which translates into a consistent marketing image for all the business cards and other materials.

I just want to say a special “Thank-you!” to Jen for her kind words, I will endeavour to live up to them in each and every client experience I have going forward.

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Five make up tips for great headshots

Meet Jamie Lavoie. She is a little spit fire with a contagious laugh. You just can’t help but like her when you meet her. These are obviously great personaility traits for someone who often meets people for the first time in their own home. You see, Jamie operates a mobile esthitician service offering to come to your home or location and perform manicures, pedicures, a variety of waxing services, and professional make up enhancements for weddings and special events. You can follow Jamie on Twitter at @jamielee23 or see more of her work on Facebook at Angel Faces Make up Artistry.

The following list comes from Jamie’s creative mind and years of experience. As a professional photographer I can not tell you how many times I wished my clients had hired a make-up artist for their session, but I will save those horror stories for another post! Just know that I have Jamie on speed dial and that her rates for make-up services for headshot portraits are very reasonable. Without further ado, here is Jamie’s list.

Top 5 Reasons for Hiring a Makeup Artist for your Headshots

1. – Pictures require a little more makeup than you’re used to on a daily basis. You still want to keep the look neutral, just more enhanced.
2. – Men – Lucky for you, full makeup is not needed. However, a dusting of powder can help keep the shine off and even out skin tone.
3. – A makeup artist can ensure skin tones are even and foundation is blended properly.
4. – If makeup has already been applied, a makeup artist can help touch it up and/or do more enhancing if needed.
5. – In some cases, lashes may be required to enhance the eyes and should be applied by a makeup artist to ensure they look natural.

So there ya go. Simple, straightforward – and important. It’s amazing how professional make up can take a good portrait to great. Jamie has been kind enough (and brave enough, haha) to share some before and after selfies of make up application on herself. It is obvious how the eyes come alive but the make up is not excessive, or even distracting, it just enhances.

Jamie laughed when I asked for these images, including a selfie she uses on social media, and I promised I wouldn’t mock her. I am just going to get her to commit to getting in front of my camera the next time we work together, and we will be able to show you how great make up can help us CREATE A HEADSHOT THAT SELLS YOU!

Call me today about updating your corporate and social media imagery, I am blessed to work with a great team of professionals who desire to get you looking your best. I can be reached at (403) 346-3573 or on Twitter at @JonElhard I have been sharing a lot of samples on Instagram lately if you want to see more of our headshot work, just check us out here, @traptowphoto

Talk to you soon!

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Headshot portraits for Dow Chemicals by Red Deer photographer

I recently spent some time with the site manager from the Dow Chemicals plant north east of Red Deer, and a number of his staff. Shu Hui moved to Canada last fall to become the Site Manager after spending a number of years with Dow Chemicals in China. Along with his wife, and young son, Shu Hui is enjoying his time in Canada and the learning experiences and challenges that come with the position. During our conversation he compared the environment of his homeland to that of Texas, which I thought was very interesting. Having never visited China, this comparison helped me draw some mental images as I have traveled from one end of Texas to the other. In fact, I drove from San Antonio to Las Cruces, New Mexico, a distance of 680 miles, in one day. Did I mention I was pulling a travel trailer while doing 80 miles an hour and out running a storm? Ahh, good times, love you Texas!

My visit to the Dow Chemicals site started and finished with a stop in the Security shack. I was required to watch a video on safety procedures and sign off on my education before being allowed on site. Being a caffeine junkie I asked the young man working security what the coffee was like in the office. With one hand raised, fingers spread and palm facing down, he waggled his hand much like a Cessna going through turbulence. I took a risk, poured a cup, doctored it up appropriately and settled into the movie. As long as the facility does not go through any major overhauls I am cleared to enter for the next six months.

Rozanna, Shu Hui’s assistant, got me settled in the board room where I was to do the session. After everything was set up she sat for a quick light test and we were off to the races. My first victim of the day was Sam. He has a pretty quick smile, laughs easy and was fairly confident in front of the camera. However, Ragen, the only lady to have headshots done that day, came in right after Sam finished his session. He was wearing a t-shirt underneath his open collared shirt. Ragen wasn’t sure if it looked professional enough, but Sam assured her it was a necessary evil as it kept the chest hair at bay!

Since this event I have also met and photographed a young man’s family for his grad portraits. Both of his parents are engineers working at the Dow facility as well. While not everyone at Dow is an engineer that line of education ranks very high within their walls. I am reminded of a story that a gentleman told me one time. He was a former rocket scientist, an actual engineer with the NASA space program. He liked to joke that he became an engineer because he did not have the personality to be a mortician. Thankfully, the folks I photographed at Dow had ready smiles and great personalities and it was a pleasure meeting them all.

If you or your team are looking to update your corporate image getting professional headshots is a great place to start. I would be happy to answer any questions you might have and provide a quote. Do not hesitate to contact me through this blog, or directly at (403) 346-3573.



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Headshot photography for Royal Lepage Network Realty Corp. in Red Deer, Alberta

I have had the privilege of working with Norm Jensen and many members of his Royal Lepage real estate team over the years. Norm’s daughter, Tammy, recently moved back to Red Deer and joined the family business. She got her feet wet in the Edmonton real estate market before moving back to Red Deer, so she came to see me at my home studio for her first head shot. We kept in touch and when she moved back to Red Deer she presented an opportunity to the entire team to have me come into the office and create a consistent look and upgrade on a number of headshots for the team.

Headshot photography, or business portraits, has long had certain rules, about vertical orientation versus horizontal, how much of the torso should be seen versus just the head space and how the images should be cropped. A lot of the standards were created based upon the camera styles of the day. Most medium format cameras produced square images, or 4×5 ratios (which is why the 8×10 print size is so common). The switch to 35 mm, or 4×6, changed the rules again as it allowed for an obvious vertical orientation to an image and not just square. Now we live in a Social Media world where the profile picture on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn has taken us back to the square format.

When photographing Norm, Tammy and the rest of the fine folks pictured here, I did use my 35 mm format digital camera and I provided them finished digital files in the vertical format. If you want to see how Tammy uses her image, you can check out her website here, but for the sake of educating future clients I have displayed the images in the new (or is it old?) square format. What I like about the square or horizontal format for business portraits is that I feel free to crop off the top of peoples heads! For years I was doing this in family and graduation portraits, and I would always joke, “I just cut the top of your head off, you don’t mind, do you? There’s nothing really going on up there, is there?” and I could usually get a fresh smile out of the client. I have always liked tighter cropped images, I feel it brings the focus onto the eyes, which is where the real story is told.

Let me know what you think, what’s your style and how can I help you create it?



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Red Deer photographer goes back to his roots

This photographic journey I have been on began 17 years ago, and I didn’t even know what I was doing. What I was doing was studying Print Journalism at Lethbridge Community College, which included training on all the day to day activities involved in running a community newspaper. Photography was a necessary skill for small town newspaper reporters, but it certainly was not the focus of the program I was in. In fact, I was in college during what I call the digital revolution, where all design work on the newspapers were done in a program called Quark, but all the pictures were still captured on film. I learned how to process black and white film in the dark room and carried that skill set to my first (and only) weekly newspaper job.

All the photography I did during my 55 weeks on the job (I worked there just long enough to earn my holiday pay before I quit, but I digress) was shot on film. The images were processed then turned into tiny little dots of black ink and displayed on what I think is the equivalent of wet Kleenex for all the world to see. Or, more accurately, maybe 2500 people from the town I worked in who might have, maybe, sort of seen it. It wasn’t long however, when feedback started to come my way that the community members liked what I was doing with the photography and the creativity I was putting into the image creation. You see, i was willing to try different things than my predecessors had attempted, but I also had to get the image “right”. It couldn’t be too bright or the faces disappeared, it couldn’t be too dark or the faces disappeared, it had to be right. Back in the late 90’s you didn’t just Photoshop a newspaper image, you had to get it right. I was getting it right, and people noticed.

People started showing up at the newspaper office and asking if I could do some family pictures for them, or Grad pictures for the Playschool kids and all of a sudden I was a business owner. I left my regular pay cheque to pursue a opportunity in photography. And boy was I in over my head! I went straight to the deep end a flailed around but I didn’t quit. What I did do was start asking people much smarted than myself for help. I had the privilege of studying with some of the best photographers in Alberta and across Canada, and it wasn’t long before the business took off and over the next four years the business doubled each and every year. What more than doubled was my confidence and desire to be better and better at business and photography.

In 2005 a series of events and contacts altered my photography career in a big way. An opportunity to take over Red Deer’s premier portrait photography studio presented itself. After much careful consideration my wife, Denise and I decided to move into Red Deer and take over Traptow Photography. We are now in our tenth year and the business continually evolves. This blog is part of the process. I will be showcasing our corporate clients here, not only to display our corporate headshot photography, but to bring attention to their business and the benefits it has to offer to central Alberta. I am going back to my writing roots, and I hope you join me here for their stories. Oh, and their pictures, definitely their pictures!

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