Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Spring 2023 Newsletter


Hey everyone! Happy little-bit-closer-to-patio-season! It has been great seeing people in person again, at photo shoots, of course, but also at various functions, networking events, entertainment events, improv (what?) classes, etc.

BTW, as I look at my profile portrait at the top of this newsletter I am reminded of the importance of keeping these up to date. Might be time for me to do a new one. You’ll see what I look like now below in my book cover project.

For those not on my e-mail list here is a copy of my January 2023 newsletter. Please e-mail me if you'd like to receive my (approximately) quarterly newsletter in your InBox.


First: CORPORATEPORTRAITS.CA a wee bit of a marketing fail

A little while ago I attended a networking thing where we shared “epic fails” in our businesses and what we learned etc.

I didn’t think of this at the time but I think it would count!

So here’s a funny, extremely short story which I’ll start off with a question. Who do you think owns the domain name I do! Do you know how long I’ve owned it? Years. I have owned “” for literally years. And how many people have I told? Well, whoever is reading this right now, you are whom I have told (plus, very recently, my network on LinkedIn).

Yes, quite a while back I thought it would be a good idea to have an easy to remember website address that spoke to what I do (a lot of) and wasn’t my name, in case people didn’t know it, or forgot. And then I paid for it year after year waiting for I’m not sure what. I think I thought it may sound too limited in scope, but I hung onto it. Luckily, I am a way better photographer than marketer. In fact you could take this as a reassuring indication of how focused I am on what I actually do (ie. corporate and portrait photography). Anyway, I’m telling you now.

Thank-you to everyone who does remember my name. For everyone else when you need corporate photography just try to remember CORPORATEPORTRAITS.CA!


Another Toronto/Vancouver Annual Report Challenge


For a recent annual report project we had a number of creative and logistical problems to solve in support of creating an elegant, cohesive document. 

The challenge:

1.    Photograph featured staff on gray seamless, and add Vancouver individuals into the Toronto group shots so they look as if they were photographed together.

2.    Photograph a second set of featured individuals in a way that shows them on site in busy, populated areas to illustrate a theme of being “back together” in a style that would tie together the Vancouver shots with the Toronto shots, and visually tie all of them together with the formal portraits on gray.

In order to facilitate challenge 1 we simply had to make sure the subjects in Vancouver were photographed as if they were photographed here in Toronto. So, we shot the larger groups in Toronto first, then sent instructions and sample photos to Vancouver so our photographer there could position their subjects accordingly and match the lighting as well as possible, paying attention to the need to capture the shadows on the floor as well. RAW files were sent to Toronto for processing and retouching to match the Toronto files, and were then inserted into their appropriate groups.

Left: One subject in Vancouver shot standing camera left. Right: Three of the four, in Toronto.

The final shot of this particular group

For the student shots, the solution was to have each student stand in front of a small gray seamless background. Logistically this presented a number of challenges. Right off the bat we decided from tests that the standard size small seamless looked too wide, so we had to cut down a 36 foot roll of paper (one in Toronto and one in Vancouver). Perry used a saw. I used an xacto knife. Perry’s method was faster!


Although we used the same seamlesses for every shot, we knew the gray background would look different in every photo because the colour temperature of light, in this case the combined flash and ambient light (which would inevitably be different in every shot), affects neutral gray much more noticeably than it does strong colours.


Left: before and after post-production. Right: the background file (from the staff shots) which was composited into the backgrounds in the student shots.


We also knew the seamless backdrops would not hang neatly (ie; wrinkle free) the way we decided to hang them to match their appearance from one shot to the next, but that was OK because it was the plan all along to digitally replace the main section of each background with a shot of the background taken earlier during the formal portraits to create consistency between both sets of shots.



In order to look consistent (other than seamless colour) we made sure ahead of time that the background stands in Vancouver and Toronto would match, (ie. same brand, style and colour) and we measured the Toronto set-up meticulously so it could be reproduced for subsequent shots here and in Vancouver. Having to fit this set-up into the locations made finding suitable spots to shoot a big challenge. Shout out to Perry Danforth for overcoming great obstacles to find five workable spots!



Another big obstacle was timing. For a number of the shots we had to shoot at times when the availability of background people was extremely limited. As a result, once again we had to shoot with post-production in mind, photographing the featured subject and background people separately to combine them later. It sounds like a simple thing to do but it required careful execution and the use of a sturdy tripod and focus locking to ensure elements aligned properly in the final images.


In one case we couldn’t even capture the subject and background people on the same day. When we returned we had to re-set-up the gray seamless and the lighting, and had the added stress of having to clean the floor constantly as students tracked in wet footprints from a snow fall. More retouching for me as it was impossible to keep on top of that. 


Left: The original shot from which we used only the person (in this case). Right: The final shot combining three separately shot elements -- the person, the background in situ, and the gray background (from the staff shots) shown earlier in this article.

This short description makes this project sound less complicated than it was but I don’t to bore you with the minutia! The point is that we had a difficult set of problems to solve in order to create a cohesive and high quality set of images under challenging circumstances and we did!


I love a challenge, and love having the opportunity to collaborate with creative clients who have high expectations! If you’d like to see the whole AR e-mail me and I’ll send you a link. And if you need a super experienced branding and design firm for your organization I’d be happy to connect you.


And of course if your organization needs help with photography please reach out.



IABC PIC The Buzz September 2022. The Weeks Effect: PIC members find inspiration for growing their businesses


The first tip I posted. (The 30+tips were posted in random order.)

Many readers will know that I spent a chunk of 2022 creating a series of tips on how to prepare for and get the most out of your next professional portrait session which I posted on LinkedIn and on my blog.

The inspiration for this exercise came from media trainer Warren Weeks as explained in this article by Brent Artemchuk:


Once I completed the series I compiled them into an ebook which is free and downloadable here:   Business Portrait Tips by Kathryn Hollinrake 2nd Ed.


The guidelines in this series were gleaned from many years of encountering issues people had with being photographed, and issues I had to deal with as a result of clients just not knowing “best practices” for portrait subjects, and why would they? It’s my job to know this stuff and I’m excited to be able to pass it on to future subjects so readers’ experiences being photographed and the outcomes of those experiences will be the best they can be.



IABC PIC Personality January 2023

In another minute of publicity I was also featured as the PIC (Professional Independent Communicators) Personality in the January 2023 issue of their newsletter The Buzz:


I’m sure most people reading my newsletter know the IABC and some are already members. I joined this great and very active organization in 2022. I should have joined years ago. In June 2023 Toronto is hosting the IABC World Conference at the Sheraton:  I’ll be there in the Headshot* Lounge. Come and see me!


*Anyone who knows me knows I avoid the word “headshot” like the plague (for reasons I won’t get into here), but in this situation, I will actually be shooting very quick headshots.



Kathryn's Fake Book Cover Project



I have spent a lot of time over the past few years focusing on messaging to

corporate clients, in 2022 dressing up as a “business woman” for my

series of portrait Tips referenced above.

Recently, in a bit of a twist I re-imagined myself as a bunch of imaginary authors,

to illustrate some of the (sometimes) more creative ways an author may want to show

up on a book cover or jacket flap. These were all shot in my studio. I have been posting one a week on LinkedIn with the tagline “In between photographing actual authors…”


To see all eight covers and a few notes on them please click here:


These were so fun to do. One friend and client commented that I am “such a chameleon” but the point I’d make is that art direction, lighting, posing, Photoshop etc. can make anyone look very different from one shot to another. That’s what we professional photographers do!


So if you are an author or know an author, or anyone else who wants a more creative portrait I’m here, ready to collaborate!


Yay Us! Testimonials 


A couple of testimonials received in recent months:

"I absolutely love the pictures! You did a superb job considering what you had to work with. I look wonderful, if I may say so myself."

"...our client raved about her experience with you as well! She said you are a true artist who loves what you do."

And this just in:

"Kathryn is a total professional, and produced the best business portrait of my career. Her attention to detail and care and ensuring that I was happy with the result were shining factors. Kathryn helped me select the right outfit that would photograph well, made sure my hair and make-up were correct, and all the while cheerfully explained every move we were making to get that perfect shot. The final photo has depth, and conveyed my personality beautifully. The feedback I've received has been overwhelmingly positive. Highly recommend."

Tracy Shea-Porter, CEO and Co-Founder, Yes Unlimited

Final thought

As always, I'm here to help you plan and problem solve your next photo shoot, whether it’s where to shoot, what your options are, what to wear, etc. I look forward to seeing old clients again as we all navigate the new normal-for-now, and to meeting new ones! Let me know how I can help, or reach out and I'll let you know how I can help!

Thanks so much for reading!

Friday, February 24, 2023

January 2023 Newsletter

For those not on my e-mail list here is a copy of my January 2023 newsletter. Please e-mail me if you'd like to receive my (approximately) quarterly newsletter in your InBox. 


Happy New Year! Who is as excited as I am to have left 2022 behind?!

As we all know it is coming up on three years since everything slammed to a halt. While I have already had the pleasure of reconnecting with some people in person, others I look forward to seeing for the first time in a while, in 2023, now that business is back to sort of normal…


...Although, for many people the issue of where they'll be working -- in office or at home or both -- is still in flux. This continues to make in-office photo shoots more of a challenge to organize, although I'm thinking in some cases it may make reserving those busy, often previously booked up boardrooms a little easier. Here's hoping!


If you work in an office I am curious to know your circumstances and would love to hear from you.

Photographing dogs who help humans: the CAMH Therapy Dog Calendar

Above: Gracie

Our set

In the summer I was thrilled to get the chance to work once again with CAMH's therapy dog program on their annual calendar project. The calendars sold out quickly so hopefully next year's print run will be even bigger, raising more funds for a great cause and bringing more awareness to a fantastic program.


Before working with CAMH I had worked on many a dog photo shoot, but this job had its own particular challenges. By this stage, our fourth go around, we had established once and for all that we needed to shoot inside. This way we wouldn't be worrying about weather, or construction, or squirrels, or any other distractions. However, this year, we definitely wanted the dogs to look as if there were outside (as we did two years ago). So once again I donated a bit of extra time make this happen.

Knowing from experience that it can be easier to have a dog stand on a platform to limit their wandering (as long as they are willing to get on it!) we first built a portable barn board table with folding legs. Once I did a preliminary scout for suitable locations I then returned with the table which I dragged around on a wheelie cart to photograph in situ. I didn't actually need the shots of the table; I needed the background behind and around it from a camera angle that would make sense when compositing in the shots of the dogs on the table. Preparing this way made the compositing much easier than it might have been.

Yes, people looked at me weirdly. And hilarously, one little park denizen hopped up to eat its breakfast while I was shooting. It loved my table.



My little photo assistant/model


The shots worked out so well I added several of my favourites to my portfolio here:



I still love authors!

Dahlia Lithwick's new book Lady Justice available everywhere! 

In my previous newsletter I mentioned photographing this particular author prior to her book coming out in the fall. Now that it's out and I've got a copy I have the never-gets-old satisfaction of seeing my work in print while also getting to read a fascinating, informative and inspiring book I may never have known of (by someone I now know personally) had I not been given the opportunity to photograph her. (And holy cow what a nice inscription I found inside the jacket!) I can tell you now I've finished reading it...highly recommend.

As many readers will know I have photographed a number of authors over the years some of whose portraits you can see here.

I am just going to throw this out there: I used to be hired directly by publishers but these days more often than not authors are tasked with finding their own photographers, so if you know any authors or you are one, I'd love to help!


30+ Tips on how to prepare for and get the most out of your next professional portrait session

Back in the spring of 2022 I started posting on LinkedIn a weekly series of tips on how to prepare for and get the most out of your next professional portrait session. Over many years of portrait shoots I have seen so many things that compromise both the experience and the product, and that I figured might be easy to fix if people only knew. If you follow me on LinkedIn you may have seen them. I posted the (almost) final one of the series in December.  In case you missed them I plan to share some of my favourites in my newsletter going forward.


Update: I have now compiled the whole set of tips into an ebook downloadable here.

Today I am going to share the final ones, Tips #34 and #33 in reverse order, because these are really good ones to start with if you are responsible for organizing a shoot for yourself or for people you support.

Rough example of an ideal space to shoot

Tip #34 How much space do you need for a portrait shoot?

Are you ever unsure about what kind of space a photographer needs to do a business portrait shoot?

Here is a link to my recommendation (scroll all the way to the bottom of this very long post):


Tip #33 Pick up the phone.

Another important element is communication.

I know that many people responsible for planning (corporate) portrait photo shoots for others or for themselves have a lot on their plates, one small morsel of which may involve, on occasion, hiring a photographer. So I understand the desire for the process from the first outreach to receipt of final files to be simple, quick and painless. I also get that there can be a need for several reasons, to make sure everything is in writing and everyone on the communications team (if there is one) is in the loop and on the same page. This is easily accomplished by copying everyone on the e-mail that is sent after the initial conversation between the main point of contact and the photographer. 


What is there to discuss? Once again I'll direct the reader to my blog post to read my thoughts. Please see the link above, and again, scroll almost all the way to the bottom.

And very briefly, a shout out to the PIC (Professional Independent Communicators) special interest group of IABC Toronto (International Association of Business Communicators), of which I am a member, for mentioning my Tips series in the September issue of their monthly online magazine The Buzz . Thank-you PIC! Check it out!



One more calendar and a little bit of art

Every year for the past bunch of years I have produced a mini desk calendar with the help of my friends Martin Finesilver of Finesilver Design and Mark Smith (formerly of Finesilver) principal at Rhyme Design. It gives me an excuse once a year to play around and make some mini art with a small 'a'. I say mini, because anyone who gets my calendar knows it's a wee little thing measuring less than four inches per side. So the challenge is always to produce a set of six images that read well at this very small scale.

This year's theme was wabi-sabi, which has been interpreted and explained in different ways by different people but which for me reflected the idea of the beauty in decay.

Using specialized fibre optic macro lighting with macro focus enhancing and extending software I was able to capture sharply focused, precisely and dramatically lit images of small pieces of flora and foliage in a way that portrayed their decomposition as art.

Don't ask me why I didn't do this before we went to print, maybe because the printed pictures were going to be so small, but later, I decided to add a subtle, distressed antique texture (from my archive) to some of them, which only enhanced their wabi-sabi-ness. These I uploaded to my website/portfolio at

Special Offer: To the first few readers who contact me, if you don't already have one I have a few remaining calendars so please let me know if you'd like one. I will send you one free of charge.

Yay Us! Testimonials


From another happy client as I wrapped up 2022:

"Thank-you for your amazing work...!"

And I don't recall who said these but in a binder I found a scrap of paper with notes I'd made so I wouldn't forget what people said after one particular shoot, so I thought I'd share:

"That was fun."

"That was painless."

"I have never looked so good."

"Can you follow me around every day and make me feel this good?"

"This is the best picture of me I have ever seen."

Final thought

As always, I'm here to help you plan and problem solve your next photo shoot, whether it’s where to shoot, what your options are, what to wear, etc. I look forward to seeing old clients again as the world gets back into gear, and to meeting new ones! Let me know how I can help, or reach out and I'll let you know how I can help!

Thanks so much for reading!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Pandemic Lockdown Portrait Shoot

 Sub-title: Shooting against a green screen in a back yard in the middle of winter

Malene's final selected file, comp'ed into an outdoor background (photographer's version)


January 2021. It has been a mighty tough time for so many people and not great for photographers of people. As I write this we are in a lockdown that for the most part precludes shooting, for obvious reasons. However, recently an old friend and colleague called to ask if there might be a way to do a headshot as her new career launch schedule had just accelerated somewhat unexpectedly and she had to have a professional portrait pretty quickly. She said that she wanted an outdoors shot which would fit well with her 'personal brand' (my words), and would allow us to shoot at a time when visits to indoor locations for any unessential purpose are forbidden/discouraged/not cool. So we chose her back yard as our studio.

I can tell you that as a photographer who has frequently pushed back at the idea of shooting outside unless there is a really good reason to do so due to the many and varied potential drawbacks, but who was also dying to be shooting again, I leaped at the opportunity to make it happen with the caveat that there would be a few necessary compromises that we'd need to discuss and understand ahead of time. Things like my not being able to bring an assistant which meant my lighting would be a pared down version of what I'd normally do. And it would be cold, which would make it tough for her to look relaxed and happy. And I probably wouldn't be able to style her properly. So we set out secure in the knowledge that we might not actually succeed.

Before I go on I want to note that the image above is the one I optimized to a level that I felt satisfied with. Malene felt very strongly that her likeness should not be enhanced in any way as in her profession as a psychotherapist authenticity is crucial. So for her version I had to stop short of what I'd normally do.

Here's the above portrait right out of the camera:

The sun kept going in and out meaning that the contrast ramped up, ie. the shadows got darker than I wanted every time the sun went behind the clouds.

And here's the version Malene approved for her purposes:


The version Malene approved is less retouched than my final version.


So how did we do this? The first thing we did was choose a date based on both the weather forecast and her availability. Of course the day before the shoot date the weather forecast changed and the pre-shoot day swapped weather with the shoot we had sun on the pre-shoot day and clouds with snow in the forecast for the shoot day. Excellent! But we didn't want to postpone because temperatures were slated to drop by the following week, so we went ahead. Believe it or not I actually brought a fan, because Malene has fine hair which is longer than usual due to salons being closed and I knew a bit of a breeze in her hair would give it some volume and life. As it happened there was an actual wind so we didn't need to create one. Thankfully, periodically, it came from the right direction!  In between it did things like this:

Obviously the goal was to shoot when the wind caught her hair perfectly, just enough to give it a little volume and life (not like this).

We knew we weren't gong to use stands for the green background as we needed to keep gear to a minimum and didn't want unmanned stands holding up what would effectively be a sail in the wind, so we tacked the green screen to the one fence that faced away from the ever-changing light (sun going in and out) and was tall enough to fill the frame behind a standing subject. Thanks to 36Pix's brilliant green screen knockout software the fact that the screen was not lit perfectly or stretched perfectly didn't really matter.

How uninspired does this scene look?! The hero shot at the top was taken when it was overcast like this.

As I mentioned above one of the most important things when doing portraits is to make the subject comfortable. A profile portrait shoot is not like a fashion shoot where models get paid a bunch of money have to suck it up and look warm in summer wear during between season shoots. There was no way Malene was going to be comfortable wearing a t-shirt outside in just above zero degree weather, but she was willing to power through it. And I knew I was going to have to retouch out some nose and eye redness. When the sun did come out spasmodically, the slight increase in warmth was hugely welcome, for Malene anyway. And aesthetically it was nice, throwing lovely backlit highlights onto her hair.


An alternate version, not retouched at Malene's request, with different hair, sunny highlights and a different background.

Other compromises included using a far smaller light modifier than I normally would, and using only one light, resulting in harsher shadows on Malene's face which I had to mitigate during retouching. I am a big believer in getting the exposure as close to perfect as possible in camera rather than having to "fix it in post", but this time I had to work with what I got. And I knew I captured enough to ultimately get what we wanted.

It's an important step to be able to review captures with the client prior to wrapping, if at all possible, so as to ensure that we've really captured the magic (ie. shots the client loves). (If we haven't we shoot more.) But during Covid we have to do this at a distance, so I attached an external monitor to my laptop and she took that inside with the door cracked open so we could hear each other speak while I stayed outside. 

Left: Moving my laptop closer to the house. Right: Setting up an external monitor for Malene to take inside to review the images. Photo credit: Malene Johansen

Do I recommend shooting business portraits outside in winter, or ever? Well, let me summarize why we may question shooting outside:

  • Can't control the weather 
  • so shoot dates may have to change last minute
  • may have to deal with changing light (eg. as sun moves), or not ideal light
  • may have limited control in terms of the direction of available light/sunlight relative to background and subject ie. the best available, most appealing background may not line up with the best light for the subject
  • lighting may be compromised unless extra crew is hired to man lights and appropriate modifier(s)
  • subject may be cold or hot (ie. not comfortable or relaxed)
  • may not be able to keep hair styled, or make-up perfect

Unless a specific outdoor location is significant or meaningful to the portrait or the subject will be interacting with it...for example sitting on outdoor furniture or leaning on a tree, one might ask what the benefits would be to introducing al these variables into the equation when you can shoot indoors on green screen and put in one of the many backgrounds your photographer has collected in her "outdoor portrait backgrounds" archive. ;)

That said, it can be done! In October 2020 in between lockdowns when it made slightly more sense, and I do mean slightly more, to be outside, we did a huge multi-day people shoot outside on green screens, and in that case there was no "maybe"; the shots had to be great. I'll write about it in an upcoming blog.)

Hopefully soon the world will open back up, and I look forward to working in close proximity to people again then! In the meantime if I may be of any assistance please do not hesitate to reach out. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Video Conferencing Package Set-up and Tips

Photo fabric backdrop #6 on stand. (Actual colour may vary.)

This post contains a set of instructions for clients who have bought my Executive Video Conferencing Package - Basic, and will be setting it up themselves rather than having me do an in-person set-up and consultation. 

Before we begin I'd like to thank you for buying a kit, and congratulate you on taking this step towards levelling up your video conferencing presence!

In an ideal world I would be able to physically see the space in which you are going to set up, so as to be able to offer guidance specifically geared to you, but hopefully with the following instructions and suggestions, and a video call if you choose to schedule one with me, you will still be able to significantly improve your video conferencing without my actually being there. So here we go!

In your kit (if you bought the Basic Kit) you will have received a photo fabric background, a t-shape background stand kit including 4 clamps, a daylight balanced desk lamp, and a small piece of foam core.

T-shape background kit (T-shape referring to the shape formed by one five foot long pole mounted on one height adjustable stand) includes carrying case, fixed length pole in 2 segments with connector piece, height adjustable stand and 4 clamps.
What the background stand kit looks like assembled (minus the clamps)

To put the stand together:

First loosen the knob at the top of the legs of the stand by turning counter clockwise.

Then pull out the legs.

Once the legs are fully opened re-tighten the knob, finger tight need to reef on it! The struts that hold out the legs should be parallel to the ground for greatest stability. If you would prefer a smaller footprint you can leave the legs only partly extended. Just remember that the stand will be less stable.

Once you have the legs extended you can extend the segmented centre poles by turning the knobs counter clockwise and pulling up on each segment, then lightly retightening the knobs.The height is adjustable and ultimately should be set to that the backdrop, once hung from it, fills the frame of your web cam.

Next, assemble the fixed length horizontal pole. Start by attaching the short silver connector to one of the long black segments. Align the button on the connector with the hole in the pole, push down on the button and slide the connector into the pole segment until the button pops up through the hole.

Do the same to attach the other pole segment to the connector.

Once the fixed length pole is assembled it's time to mount it on top of the stand. First remove the wing screw and the washer.

Then line up the hole in the middle of the fixed length pole and insert onto the threaded part of the top of the stand. Replace the washer and wing screw.

Now the t-shaped stand is ready to take the background! The background should fit almost perfectly across the length of the pole, so start with a clamp at one end, put the second clamp at the other end, and then place the final two clamps spaced evenly along the pole between the end clamps. Please note that these little clamps are very tight, so be careful to hold firmly when deploying them. In order for the backdrop to hang neatly, I recommend placing the fabric so that it is even with the top of the pole and attaching the clamps on an angle, rather than straight up and down, so that they rest firmly against the horizontal pole and can't move. In this position they are more stable and less likely to pop off.

Please note that this image shows the old fabric which has been replaced with opaque rubber backed fabric.

The final step once the background is hung is to steam it to take out the wrinkles if there are any (only if your backdrop is on non-rubber backed any backdrops shipped pre-spring of 2021). *Please note that as of this update in the spring of 2021 the old jersey fabric is no longer available. Backgrounds are now printed in Canada (yay!) on a black rubber backed fabric that holds it shape better and is also opaque to light. It doesn't wrinkle easily but if wrinkles occur they can be relaxed out by using a blow drier to apply some heat to the rubber backing once the backdrop is hung. Helpful hint: another way to get rid of any kinks or wrinkles is to store the backdrop by wrapping it around the cardboard mailing tube instead of putting it inside the tube.

Now for positioning. Your very small backdrop and stand are designed to take up as little space as possible, so you will find that in order for the backdrop to fill your camera frame from edge to edge they will need to be placed quite close to your web cam. Usually this would mean placing it pretty much right behind the chair you'll be sitting on to make your video calls. The distance between your web cam and the background should not be much more than  around 3.5 feet (less than 4 feet). (Helpful hint ...if you are having issues with setting a workable distance between your laptop, webcam (whether separate or internal), chair and backdrop there are software programs you can buy to zoom in on yourself and your backdrop. For Mac I recommend iGlasses and for PC try ManyCam, or if you have a Logitech webcam on PC download Logitech's free Camera Settings software. They can give you a bit more flexibility in terms of where you sit relative to your backdrop, if you really need it.)

The guidelines for setting your webcam position are the same for real rooms and for a fabric backdrop. Your web cam doesn't know the difference.

Your set-up will look best if your camera is set pretty much straight at you, not tilted. If you tilt the camera either backward or forward, or left or right, any vertical lines in your background, such as window frames, will be distorted or tilted and distracting. Disclaimer: the stand provided in this kit is obviously not professional quality photo gear because there is no need for it to be and pro quality gear would cost much more. As such, you may find your stand does not hold your backdrop totally straight. If that happens, first make sure the wing nut is tight, and if that doesn't fix it, either gently push down on one side of the horizontal pole to try to straighten it out, or you can shim your laptop slightly with a piece of cardboard or something so your web cam and backdrop align. (Please don't use your stand for anything other than light fabric or paper backgrounds as it won't hold up much weight.)

Helpful hint: Some people need to be able to type while on video calls
meaning your internal web cam may initially be positioned lower, to facilitate comfortable access to your keyboard, than it should be to capture you and your background (real or fabric) in a flattering way. The best solution is to acquire a separate keyboard which can be placed at a normal, comfortable typing level, allowing you to raise the laptop, and webcam.



Importantly, once an external webcam is positioned at eye level, the laptop needs to be raised as well, so when you look at the screen you aren't looking down.


And finally the light. During the summer season many people are able to make use of natural and readily available daylight for their video calls, unless their window is behind or beside them (ie. not illuminating the face) in which case a light directed at the face should always be used. Regardless, as the days get shorter, windows are not going to provide the light you need, so you need to be ready to turn on a flattering, daylight balanced light. The light I selected for the kit after some research, and which I use myself, is this one:

Credit to for the photo showing the three colour settings. I find the middle setting most pleasing not the the orangy warm one, and not the cool blue one.
To power this light you can either connect by USB to your computer (you may need an adapter if you have a laptop such as a newer Macbook that has only the Thunderbolt ports), or you can use the block included to plug into an AC outlet. 

In the kit I provide a small piece of foam core to which you can attach the lamp's clamp if you don't have anything on which to clip the clamp and/or want more flexibility. I use this technique myself and just place the foam core and lamp behind my laptop/webcam with the light shining towards my face.

You can also attach it to your laptop. If you are not typing during your calls I suggest you put your laptop on a book or small box and clip the clamp to the free edge of the base of the laptop. The overhang accommodates the clamp so laptop doesn't sit unevenly. 

Disclaimer: on my little sell sheet I mention that I may not be able to get the particular light I advertise. Please understand that due to Covid I saw an opportunity to help people solve a problem...this is not a big business as part of the solution I sourced a light from Amazon that had the basic features I was looking for, and would be cheap but do the job. It's not always available as it sells out repeatedly and I am not in a position to carry stock. This is why I say it may not be the same light in every kit. But any light I do provide will have two key features: it will have a daylight balance setting, and it will be a soft light source (ie. flattering on faces). It may or may not have the clamp on the bottom. I actually don't love the clamp on the one that I chose for the original kit, but I loved the other features and was willing to live with the clamp. Some lamps I ship may have a standing base, which in some ways I might actually prefer. 

Screen grab of me using backdrop #6.

A final word on light...your backdrop will look best if the only or at least the brightest light falling on it is coming from the front. If it is lit from the side, for example by a window next to your set-up, that lighting will highlight and exacerbate any wrinkles. And if the backdrop is backlit, ie. light is hitting it from behind, it will look see-through, and you'll see the stand (right through it). So, as much as possible, cover up or turn down any light that is not falling directly on you and your backdrop from the front.

As for storage, in between video calls, the easiest thing to do, particularly if you are on calls frequently is just move it aside and leave it assembled so all you have to do next time you have call is put it in place behind your chair. You may never have to tidy the room again! (Caveat: you may find that over time the fabric does start to stretch a bit if left mounted for an extended period, so it may help to give it an opportunity to 'rest' and reset every now and then by rolling it around the mailing tube for a spell. Note: Do not use tape on the rubber backing...removal of the tape will peel the backing off the fabric.) If that doesn't work for you, though, you can remove the horizontal pole from the stand and collapse the stand (and the pole if you want), roll up the backdrop and stow them out of the way. You may have to allow some hang time or apply a little blow drier heat if the background gets wrinkled. 

And that's about it. You should be all set! If there is a anything I've missed, or you have any questions about setting up the kit, please get in touch so I can help, and so I know to add that info here. Enjoy your great new set-up!
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