Phone photography for small businesses

Managing a small business means taking on all sorts of roles that larger companies can assume will be carried out by whole teams of people. Book-keeping, marketing, and PR, procurement and more fill a sole-trader’s time. Love it or loath it, managing your social media presence is no exception and it makes demands on nearly all businesses, one way or another.

We live in an image-saturated world and ensuring you have a steady stream of photographs can end up being prohibitively expensive if you have to employ photographers while on a limited budget. Fortunately, the latest smart-phone models make taking photographs an incredibly democratic process – nearly everyone can capture suitable images, provided they follow a few basic guidelines. That doesn’t mean you can do without professionals, and there will certainly be times when it really matters that you commission someone to create high quality images for your website and offline promotional material. But, far from photography being over, as some high profile photo-people have claimed, photography and moving-image content are flourishing. Even so, it’s quite amazing how many truly dreadful photographs there are out there, sometimes being used as business content, which is completely unnecessary in this day and age.

Thankfully, just a few simple rules can help those lacking in confidence or experience. I offer workshops to people who are looking to make the most of their phones, and have helped artists, business owners, teachers and students see the photographic value in their multi-tasking pocket computers. We will cover topics such as harnessing the light, composition, what apps to use or avoid, if and when to use filters, when to use a professional, personal taste, social-media case-studies and a brief introduction to the ethics of people photography. Workshops can be delivered as one-off sessions or over several weeks.

Please get in touch to find out more at 07581 694934 or via hello@sarahfurniss.com

Group photography

I’ve been employed to do some group photographs for a couple of clients recently. There are challenges to groups, especially if you’re the sort of photographer, as I am, that aims to capture documentary-style candid shots and tends to avoid set-ups like the plague! One of my biggest influences is photographer Shirley Baker who insisted her photographs were never posed, saying that she shot around the people in her images. What’s more, in everyday life, I tend to find it easier to relate to one or two people at a time rather than large numbers. However, group shots can be fun and families, especially, love to have them for – but they take a little planning. Things to consider might be, can everyone be seen and lit, is there enough space, is it possible to create variety of heights? If not, how can these challenges be overcome?

A friend of mine sent me a picture he’d taken on a school trip. In it, you can see about 20 or so 11-year-olds sitting on a wall and the steps in front of a church. Plenty of space! They are separated into smaller groups. Sometimes hands and arms are linked. Other times, individuals lean nonchalantly against the wall. Various levels were achieved. It was taken on his phone on cloudy day so the lighting is even and just right for the shot. Different characters emerge from the various ways in which each child has been captured and yet they’re a clear collective. It’s a wonderful photograph because there is a freedom in it that can be tricky for paid photographers to capture. I must let my friend know how much I like that picture – he’d be pleased!

In preparation, as well as thinking about amateur shots I like, I have also been revisiting famous photographers. Of course, Annie Leibowitz springs to mind, and you can see her group work analysed here, which is helpful, although one risks being bogged down. While Leibowitz’s covers for Vanity Fair have become iconic and she’s definitely a good reference point, it’s important to recall that she shoots the whole picture over several days, capturing two or three subjects at a time, and then stitches them together with the rest of the crowd in Photoshop. I once read someone describe her style as fascistic… which isn’t quite what most families are after, although I can think of one or two corporate clients who might like that kind of thing. Either way, I think I prefer to look at Irving Penn’s groups shots. His photograph of famous New York cartoonists and another of famous photographers (all male, unfortunately) are great to study if you’re planning a group shot of your own.

I’ll have my work cut out for me at my next job where I’ll be required to capture about fifteen very large group shots in a relatively short space of time with minimal lighting! Let’s hope I’ll be channeling Irving Penn on the day, but I shan’t forget to recall the super shot my friend shared with me either. In the meantime, here’s one I took several years ago during a family shoot that I’ve always really liked.

A favourite – an impromptu family group shot I took a few years ago. (c)SFurniss (Formerly Sarah-Jane Field)

Headshots – for promotional material

Creating headshots that look informal and ‘un-corporate’, yet professional can be a challenge. However, both my client and I were really pleased with this image. I love that it was picked, as it captures a sense of playfulness in a way that most corporate headshots seem to miss out on. Of course, all this depends on what sort of business you’re promoting – a light touch might be completely wrong! Nevertheless, in this case, it was great to make the most of the window, a lovely reflection and a super smile.

Do get in touch to discuss the sort of image your business would benefit from at hello@sarahfurniss.com or check out my website http://www.sarahfurniss.co.uk.

Promotional portrait for Lisa Askem, yoga teacher and business woman. (c)SFurniss2021

Photography business

Today is one of my photography days and it’s going to be a busy one. But I’m feeling pleased with myself, having finished off some vital admin this morning, and it’s not even half past 9! No rest for me though, as I must complete some editing for a recent job, and to end the day, I am looking forward to a shoot this afternoon with a lovely repeat client. In many ways, things might still feel tenuous out there, but businesses do seem to be picking up and I am definitely open! So do get in touch if you are planning to update your website and looking for new photography.

In the meantime, here is an image I look last week when I was off for a few days and we visited the coast – I’ll admit, I could have spent way more time down there!

Headshots – Corporate

When I recently changed my business name I wrote to all my previous clients to inform them. Happily, getting in touch with people again, and perhaps especially as we come out of a period of repeated lockdowns, led to a few bookings and here are the results of one of them. As I said in my previous blog, I love people-photography more than most other forms, and it was especially fun spending time with an old friend and client who needed new headshots for her job. She has yet to make her choices from a large selection of images, but here are a couple that sprung out while I was working on them.

If you’re re-entering the job market, starting a new business, or just fancy refreshing your profile images, do get in touch. Visit http://www.sarahfurniss.co.uk for more information.

(c)SFurniss2021

Portraits – Young male

I have been reading a book by an art critic, who, while conjuring up a thought experiment, contrives to remove all people from all photography. And at the end of a protracted passage where he eradicates everything he professes to be disinterested in in photography, he arrives at images of blank paper on a desk as the only worthwhile consideration. (In fact, the work he refers to ultimately is intriguing and intelligent, and has had a significant impact on the way I think about photography).

I have not mentioned the writer’s name, nor the photographer he highlights as worthy because, while they both matter in certain aspects of my life, what is critical here is that people photography, and in particular portrait photography, is my favourite kind. If I were to do the same thought exercise as the aforementioned critic, I’d get rid of landscapes and still life, and maybe even journalistic images with people running this way or that – and only ever take portraits; the sort where one person and I get together and spend a bit of time with my camera, and not much else. No props, no lights – just the ambient light, perhaps a stool, and the ‘field’ – the space between the subject and me. It will come as no surprise that I very much enjoyed photographing the young man below last week. I hope he also enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to more portrait shoots soon!

(c)SFurniss2021 (formerly SJField)

A Wedding at the County Arms in Wandsworth

I know I am in a similar boat to many other photographers who have endured a year and a half of barely any events to photograph! However, I am happy to say that work is beginning to trickle back. And what better way to reintroduce myself to the wedding scene than to share this beautiful occasion. Liz and Bayly are a wonderfully thoughtful, kind couple who went out of their way to hire local contractors and make their intimate wedding an opportunity to support local business, as well as celebrate their vows with close family and friends. Thank you to both of them for sharing their day with me and allowing me to share it with you. Below are a handful of moments from the event, some of which I’ll definitely be adding to my website.

In the meantime, do enjoy these pictures of this lovely family having a wonderful wedding in Wandsworth!






All images ©SFurniss2021 (formerly SJField)

New name, refreshed blog, and a bit of an explanation…

One of my favourites from the early days of my photography adventures (2014)

Some readers of this blog may have forgotten it ever existed! To be honest, I’ve ignored it for a while. I started it several years ago and routinely made an entry, almost every week to begin with. In 2016, however, I slowed down. Several momentous things happened that year (you may remember), which made me think that wittering on about my photography seemed silly and pointless when so much awfulness was taking place across the globe – and although I tried, I couldn’t find a way to reconcile my disquiet. I gradually stopped writing the blog altogether and just shared images as and when they came, on Facebook and Instagram. But lately I have felt that a blog might have something to offer again, although I’m not sure I’ll be writing quite as often, nor as personally. 

I have also recently finished a second degree (currently awaiting results) and am hoping to begin an MA in September. So there is a natural hiatus and it could be the right time to abandon a blog altogether! On the other hand, as we emerge from Covid lockdowns and life gets back to normal, there may be some life left in it yet. The journey I have travelled on my studies has been quite adventurous and the work I ended up making at the end of my degree, and will continue into further studies, is very different to what I made at the start of the course. Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? To explore. But it’s not quite what is expected of a commercial photographer.

Some of you may have noticed a name change at the top of this blog. Because of the wildly different work I have developed, after lots of to-ing and fro-ing and wondering and pondering, I have decided to separate the names that head up my commercial work and my more experimental meanderings. I will continue to be the same photographer but I will keep these two different strands of my work completely separate. 

Therefore if you are after headshots, family portraits or event photography, please follow Sarah Furniss at www.sarahfurniss.co.uk on Instagram and Facebook

If you’re interested in the multi-disciplinary ramblings of my on-going inquiry into systems change and its relationship with media, as well as some occasional documentary photography, then please do follow Sarah-Jane Field at www. sarahjanefield.com on Instagram and Twitter. 

I’ve no idea what to do with LinkedIn! I’ve never understood it, but maybe in time it will make sense to me. 


Thanks, SF (SJF) x

Personal Photography

Last week I headed down to Hampshire with my kids and spent a lovely evening having fun, despite the bloody weather, which switched from gorgeously sunny to heavy rain in moments. After a year and a half with barely any socialising, we were determined to keep going and that’s exactly what we did.

Here’s a selection of shots from the day.

Do get in touch about family photography shoots and head over to http://www.sarahfurniss.co.uk to see more examples of my work.