Minal meets Jeanette Lendon, Jet Black Squares
How often do you wish you could have beautiful photos for your marketing that don’t cost the earth? Me too!
There is a way and it sits in your pocket/hand/bag… it’s your smartphone. That’s right! You can have lovely photos you can use in your everyday marketing, and you can use your smartphone to get them.
In this Minal meets, I talk to Jeanette Lendon of Jet Black Squares about how we can all learn to use the cameras we carry around with us. Settle in – Jeanette has fabulous tips to share!
Minal: Tell me a bit about your business. What do you specialise in?
Jeanette: Thank you so much for having me. My name is Jeanette (or Jet to most people), the founder of Jet Black Squares., We run Smartphone Photography Masterclasses for large corporations through to SMEs, as well as personal sessions too. Our masterclasses can take the form of a virtual live-stream, in-person, away day activities or 1:1. They are primarily around London, Hertfordshire, Newcastle and Durham at the moment, with plans to expand further afield soon.
We are not trying to replace the ‘big’ camera – or put photographers out of business. We show you how to work alongside the professional shots you have for your day-to-day photography needs for social media, press releases or last-minute shots you may need.
Minal: When and why did you start your business?
Jeanette: I started my working life as a teacher in the East End of London many (many!) moons ago. After having my own children I decided to follow my first love of photography. I retrained and ended up running my corporate and commercial photography business for 13 years. During the latter part of this, I realised that the camera technology in phones was getting better and better, as well as the professional photography business become more and more cutthroat. I decided to run smartphone photography masterclasses alongside my corporate business for around 4 years. I finally took the plunge on 1st April 2020 to rebrand and focus solely on smartphone photography when Jet Black Squares was born. Since then. we have expanded up north, with plans to have a lot more Jet Black Squares all over the country very soon. During lockdown, we successfully ran lots of Covid compliant virtual sessions. The largest audience was 125 people in Saudi Arabia whilst I was live-streaming from Brick Lane in the East End of London. Now, we are back running in-person sessions for individuals, families, events, as well as virtual sessions for clients all over the world.
Let’s talk smartphone photography
Minal: When did you start using your smartphone for photography?
Jeanette: It was the ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ advertising campaign in 2015 that really made me stop and think about the camera in my pocket. The fact that photos, taken on a phone, were on billboards across the world made people – and the mobile phone industry – stop and look. Since then the technology has gone stratospheric, with the newer phones rivalling some of the more professional cameras in terms of quality. There is still, however, the sticking point of the zoom being totally rubbish – no matter what the manufacturers say!
Minal: How much equipment do you really need to take decent photos?
Jeanette: In terms of equipment, you just need a phone with a camera on it. In terms of what will help you take a great photo, then you need a good eye in order to ‘see’ the image you want to get, learn how to work with the light you have, look at how to compose your images to get the best impact and how to edit them afterwards. All of which cost nothing!
Minal: What’s the minimum specification you can get away with to take decent images?
Jeanette: It really depends on what you want to do with the photos at the end of the day. If you are using them just for your social media or website, they any make or model of phone will be great (if you know how to use it properly). However, if you want to blow them up to billboard size, then the newer phones will have a better specification.
Minal: In your opinion, which is THE best smartphone for shooting pictures?
Jeanette: As the famous photographer, Chase Jarvis said “the best camera is the one you have with you.” I seriously can’t say which one is best as every time a new upgrade comes out – for any make – it leapfrogs the competition making that the best one! If you are wedded to Apple products, then anything from the iPhone X and up is great (I have the iPhone 11 Pro). However, I would say all the Android phones are excellent too. Again, any camera is fantastic as long as you know how to use it properly.
Minal: What are your tips for staging product shots?
Jeanette: Light, light, and light. Use natural daylight wherever possible. Also, don’t stress too much. If you aren’t a natural photographer or stylist, then don’t overcomplicate it. Sometimes the most simple of shots are the best.
Minal: What type of images would you recommend service-based businesses use?
Jeanette: It’s really tricky to try and be creative when you aren’t in a creative industry. For these type of businesses I say to focus on the everyday, e.g. a photo of a lovely coffee with the caption “ready to start the day”, or “lovely to meet my first client of the day in this lovely cafe”. Think outside the box – it doesn’t always have to be about what you do, and it also injects a bit of human element into your business too.
Tips and tricks to help you get started
Minal: What set up tips and tricks can you share to help us get great shots?
Jeanette: There are several things I recommend people do.
- Look at where the light falls in the room you want to use at different times of the day and try to avoid harsh sunlight wherever possible. Move your shooting area so it is near a window and if it is too harsh, put some voile up to soften it (or stick some translucent paper on the window if easier).
- Make sure you look at the whole photo before you press the button. Do you need to move the bin out of the shot, or has the cat has wandered in, or is there is washing on the radiator! These are all things you may not necessarily notice if you are focussing on your shot. Look out for shadows on a sunny day – especially your own. Try and leave some ‘negative space’ (ie empty space) in your photos which is handy for putting text or your logo on. This means you aren’t covering the main part of your image and nothing is lost.
- If you want to add a bit of ‘fill’ light, then cover a cereal box in tin foil and use that as a reflector. Angle it so it reflects the light where you want it.
- Create different backdrops for flay-lays by getting wallpaper samples, or a box of floor tiles from your local DIY store and keep these in a handy place to use when you need to. These are cheap (or free) and means you can change them easily enough.
- Edit every photo you put out to make sure it is the best it can be (see below for App recommendations). Try to get it right first off, so your editing becomes a slight tweak, rather than a complete restyle in editing.
Minal: How about editing photos? Can you do that easily for smartphone images?
Jeanette: Most definitely! The best App for editing is Snapseed which is excellent – and totally free. It is also great for non-photographers as it is so intuitive. There are short videos within the app that show you how to use it to full effect, and I can’t recommend it enough. I would also recommend PhotoRoom, which is great for removing backgrounds and doing social media posts. Again, this is free, with some paid for items – I’ve never found the need to pay for any of the upgrades though.