Great minds – creative photography from Shropshire to Paris

Wednesday 13th May 2015   by Andy Comber

So the saying goes, great minds think alike: the Daily Mail has published images created by the French artist Julien Knez, formed by holding up photographs taken during the liberation of Paris in 1944 against the same location today.

We used the same creative photography technique – we called it creating a window into history – to  superimpose Ironbridge 100 years ago, with Ironbridge of today. We called it ‘Creating Windows into Shropshire’s History’.

Knez originally created 50 images, published in 2014, which can can seen here.

Creative photography Telford Julien Knez

Creating windows into Shropshire's history

5 reasons why stock photography may NOT be a good idea

Wednesday 10th December 2014   by Stuart Bickerton

In an earlier post, I was extolling the virtues of using stock photographs in your marketing campaigns. I came up with five good reasons to use stock photography, available online, in promotional designs.

I said they are convenient – quick to access. They can be relatively inexpensive, so the price is good. There’s a huge choice. Quality is also pretty much as good as you want it to be. And there are lots of styles, so creativity is also a plus.

I promised also to share some downsides. So here are five of them:

Lack of exclusivity

If these images are available for you to download, they are for others too. A competitor could use the same image for their brochure, web project or poster.

If you want to be 100% fresh and exclusive, commission the photographer and control the content. You can obtain a licence to restrict the use of the image by others. But that will come at a price. I’ve paid over £1,400 for just one image in the past, to give our client a certain degree of exclusivity across the world.

It’s a few years old but this post from FairTradePhographer nails the point I’m trying to make here rather well.

Licence agreements

Always read the small print. Can you use the image across multiple formats? And in multiple countries? Can it be used for advertising, or for press only? You need to make sure the image licence covers your image for the use it’s intended.

Search time

If you are not sure what you are looking for, you may end up scrolling through pages and pages of images and an hour has passed before you know it.
A solution is to give a concise verbal brief to a designer, who has the expertise and experience to look for you. They will have a good idea of what image works best in the space available. It will cost you a little more in design time, but will could save a lot of frustration.

Apparently this woman from istock is "Gathering all the information she needs". A common scene in your offices I guess. COMP IMAGE for representation only - full image available from iStock

Apparently this woman from istock is “Gathering all the information she needs”. A common scene in your office I guess? COMP IMAGE for representation only – full image available from iStock


Not a technical term, I know. But some stock shots are cheesy, very, very cheesy. Some of the larger sites have improved dramatically in this respect, but approach with care – and maybe a knife, and some grapes.

Brand reflection

Without the individuality or care and attention a bespoke shot can achieve, it may be difficult to find images that consistently and accurately reflect what you want your brand to be all about. And compromise on brand may feel painful. It may also not make good business sense.

One of many images you can find if you search iStock for "Businesswoman cheering" - I've done the hard work for you here

One of many images you can find if you search iStock for “Businesswoman cheering” – I’ve done the hard work for you here


So, there you go. Stock photography can be excellent. But it also has its drawbacks.

Of course, you can choose stock or original photography on a case-by-case basis. Certainly depending on the level of importance you put on the particular campaign.

Five good reasons to use stock photography in promotional design

Friday 7th November 2014   by Stuart Bickerton

Should I, Shouldn’t I?

Images are extremely important element in the design process – it’s often the first element I’m asked for when presenting a job to our design team.
Today, stock photography is very big business and a very popular option for many designers. However, like many elements of design, there’s a number of pitfalls to avoid and simple rules to consider.

So, what are the pros for using stock photography – or stock shots, as they are known as?

Convenience You don’t need to move off your seat – you can search, select, pay and download from your tablet or computer. You may need to pop downstairs to grab your payment card, but that’s about it.

It’s not hard to find a selection of good quality image from these sites:

That’s just three of the more popular sites you may well have come across already.

Price While it’s not as cheap as it was a few years ago, sourcing from stock photography libraries can prove a very cost-effective way of securing appropriate images. It can take a fraction of the cost and time in arranging to take the shots yourself, or hiring in a photographer, model and dressing the shot with products and props.

Some charge according to photo useage, for example: where it will be shown (known as territory); how it will be used; and how many times it will be used. Others charge per pack of images (up to 5 images for £80 could be one approach). And some charge per image and by the quality of its resolution.

So what seems straightforward can be a little confusing at first. Not quite as bad as using TripAdvisor for planning a weekend away, but perplexing nonetheless.

Choice Type in your search terms in that box and … wow! You are presented with a huge number of images to choose from. Whether it’s a particular age of person, a textured close up or landscape, the chances are something relevant can be found within a few minutes on a stock photography website. If you’re in Shropshire looking for an American diner image, or Brazilian rainforest, these sites can help with both your time, wallet and carbon footprint.

Quality Maybe not so true a few years ago, but many stock photography sites have realised it’s all about the 3 Cs – content, content, content. Today, they have stricter requirements for quality – and not just resolution. Many will check images for lighting and colours. They have come to understand that quality = more downloads = more revenue.

Creativity More and more now, we are expected to try to stand out in the crowd. Stock photography providers know this. Want an image of something from an unusual angle, with a sense of humour, a little bit kooky? There’s a good chance you will find something close to what you have in your mind. It might not be exactly the same, but it should be close.

And that’s another positive thing – if you are looking for inspiration, and fresh ideas, a stock photography site is a good place to look. Even if you don’t use one of their images in the end.

So how much will stock photography cost?

Good question. Without a brief from a client, and a little time to search, it’s difficult to give an answer. But here’s my rule of thumb for stock photography shots:

  • Regular images (Essential from istock), from £20 + VAT each
  • Premium stock images (Signature from istock) from £50 + VAT each
  • Stock video clips, from £200 + VAT
  • Stock audio clips, from £20 + VAT

We can source more exclusive images for you, from larger and specialist photographic libraries, but these will probably cost quite a bit more. Prices for these exclusive images often come with more conditions, so they may depend on where you wish to use the image, how large, and in what territories.

Overall stock photography has an important place in design – it can save oodles of time and huge lumps of cash. But approach with care, keep the design at the heart of your search and don’t be afraid to let (and pay for) the designer to help you find appropriate images.

By saying that, I’m suggesting there are reasons why you might not want to use stock photography. There are some potential downsides. In my next post I’ll be sharing more advice on the negatives of stock photography (no pun intended), and how to make sure they don’t upset your marketing design project.

If, at this stage, you have already decided you need original images, we can help. We can project manage that process for you, from sourcing the photographer, providing the brief, attending the shoot, and carrying out post-production work on the images, including formatting.

Whichever option, please get in touch. We’re here to help.


Examples of an Essentials stock photo – istock


Example of a Signature stock photo – istock





Creative photography and graphic design – mixing old and new is catching on

Wednesday 21st May 2014   by Andy Comber

A series of images created by Halley Docherty has caught the eye of our designer Neil Dicken. The striking pictures, published in The Guardian, show current views of London, Paris and Berlin, with images from World War 2 overlaid.

It’s a highly effective technique we call ‘windows into the past’, combining photography and creative graphic design skills.

It’s a technique Neil used closer to home to great effect, with the help of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, in and around Ironbridge, to show how life has changed, or not changed, in the last 150 years. The resulting series of images have been used by the museum since as part of public displays and have been enjoyed by thousands of people.


Press release writing service success: Cornbrook Construction

Thursday 2nd May 2013   by Andy Comber

Here’s a press release we prepared for Shropshire construction company Cornbrook Construction about a tie-up with another Shropshire firm Quad-Lock. It was used as the business supplement lead by the Shropshire Star and several other publications.

Part of its appeal, I think, is the strong picture. Strong news media photography always helps when pitching a news story. I took the picture myself, saving the client the signficant cost of hiring a dedicated photographer. Another benefit of PR from matm!


Cornbrook Construction is hoping to create new construction jobs in Shropshire by teaming up with design and engineering firm Quad-Lock to build the UK’s most energy-efficient homes.

The innovative building system developed by Quad-Lock is known as Insulating Concrete Formwork (ICF), and involves creating hollow walls made from polystyrene, which are then filled with liquid concrete.

Cornbrook Construction, based in Cleobury Mortimer, Shropshire, is already project managing the construction of a £2 million luxury home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, using the system, and is in line to be the main contractor on future build projects.

Matt Breakwell, of Cornbrook Construction, left, with Peter Townend, of Charcon

The company’s managing director, Matt Breakwell, said: “This is an exciting opportunity for us. The system Quad-Lock has developed has immense qualities and, in my view, represents the future of building design and construction. The potential is huge.

“We already have the largest directly employed labour force of any construction company in South Shropshire – and if this partnership develops as we hope it will, we will be creating a significant number of new jobs in the next 12 months.”

Quad-Lock’s logistics operation has just moved to new, larger industrial premises in Shifnal, Shropshire, as it plans for expansion after distribution rights for the building system were awarded, in 2011, to the Charcon Construction Solutions Group, a joint venture with construction materials giant Aggregate Industries.

Charcon Distribution and Product Development Manager Peter Townend said: “We are pleased to be working with Cornbrook Construction at a time when we are seeing interest in ICF grow rapidly, largely due to the critical requirement, in the current economic climate, to control build times and manage costs.”

“On top of that, our system delivers industry-leading insulation performance, to the point that, to all intents and purposes, some finished buildings can be heated sufficiently simply through heat radiated by their occupants and electrical appliances.

“Cornbrook Construction had demonstrated that it has the particular skills, experience and the right attitude to innovation to embrace the opportunities our system creates. We expect them to be excellent partners as the technique is adopted by many more clients.”

Matt Breakwell said he expects Quad-Lock’s system to be particularly attractive to the self-build homes market across the Midlands. Last year, the Government launched a £30m three-year fund to boost the self-build market.

He added: “Only about 10 per cent of new-built homes are self-built. But the Government wants to double that proportion to 20% in the next decade as part of its plans to help the construction industry out of recession and encourage local, sustainable development.

“A key consideration for people wanting to design and build their own homes is the control of costs, speed of construction and the energy efficiency of the final building. In all these cases, Quad-Lock’s ICF system offers major advantages.”

According to Homebuilding and Renovation magazine, in 2012: 11,160 self-build homes were completed in the UK; just under one third of all new detached homes were self-build; and spend on construction materials in the self-build sector was £2.95 billion.

10 tips for taking great photographs that promote your business

Wednesday 24th April 2013   by Andy Comber

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words, if it is taken properly. With the latest digital cameras and image processing, it’s easier than ever to take a picture and prepare it for use in a press release, online or in promotional material. It doesn’t always have to be professional quality photography (shocking thing to say, but true), but it must meet certain standards.

A little while ago, I put together a 10 tips for a client to give to staff who have the opportunity to take a picture. Of course, there are times when it is essential to use a professional photographer. But if you follow these basic rules and use a decent camera, you may surprise yourself at how good a picture you can take.

Putting your business in the picture

Our top 10 tips for taking publicity photographs

We know we do a lot of great work for our customers. Where we can, we like to tell others about it, either on our website or in the news media, because this will help us to win more work and keep us busy and successful into the future.

Very often, an important part of telling the story is providing a picture to show how something was done or present the key people involved. This simple guide is designed to show how to take those pictures, so they look right when published in magazines, papers and online.

1. Quality counts

The quality of the picture, often called its ‘size’ or ‘resolution’, is very important. If possible, use a decent quality digital camera. However, some mobile devices now have good quality cameras. Set the camera to the highest possible resolution. A simple rule of thumb is – if the j-peg image the camera creates, when downloaded, is 1 megabyte or more in size, it should be alright.

2. Choose your location and background

Avoid taking pictures towards the sun. This results in darkened pictures. Avoid taking pictures that need flash. It is better to go outside and use natural light. Make sure the background is clean, uncluttered and appropriate. It should not show off other companies’ equipment or logos. It should not show unsafe practises. And it should not identify any person who has not given their permission to be in the picture.

3. Put our business in the picture

The story is about our business and what we do, so it makes sense to include the company name and logo in the picture. This can be done by placing a vehicle in the picture so a logo can be shown. In addition, logos on uniforms or other equipment should be prominently displayed.

4. Show us at our best

Make sure all members of staff look presentable and wear the correct, clean uniform, including safety clothing (PPE). Vehicles and equipment should also be the most up-to-date and best condition available. They should also be correctly displayed and clean.

5. Demonstrate best practice health and safety

Health and safety standards are critical to our work. To demonstrate this, pictures taken on operational sites should clearly show that proper health and safety procedures are being followed, so there can be no doubt in the minds of the reader or viewer.

6. Not too far away, not too close

When taking the picture, do not stand too far away, so the people and equipment in it look like dots on the horizon! Also, do not stand so close, that important elements of the story, such as the location, working conditions or equipment,  cannot be seen. Make sure key elements of the picture, for example people and equipment, are shown in their entirety, and not cropped at the edge of the image.

7. Create a focus

So the picture helps tell the story, it is important to pick out the key aspects and make them more prominent. For example, if the story is about the achievements of one or two people in a team, put those people in the foreground so they look bigger in the picture. If it is about a specific piece of equipment, display that more prominently too.

8. Show it off

A story may be about a specific piece of equipment. Or it may be about an employee winning an award, or the signing of an agreement. In such cases, where a ‘prop’ is available, make sure it is prominently and confidently displayed in the picture.

9. Look – and smile!

It is important that we create a professional and welcoming impression. Therefore, make sure everyone in the picture is looking at the camera. Make sure their eyes are open (closed eyes is a common mistake!). And make sure, that everyone has a confident, friendly smile. Of course, the exception is when the story is about something very serious, in which case a neutral expression is most appropriate.

10. If in doubt – ask!

If you have any concerns about how to take the picture, contact the marketing department for advice.

Tilt shift photography – we’re loving that!

Wednesday 22nd February 2012   by Neil Dicken

‘Tilt-shift photography’ is a unique, almost playful type of photography in which a camera is manipulated so that the real, life-sized subject look like miniature-scale models.

The phrase describes the use of camera movements on small and medium format cameras and also sometimes refers to the use of tilt for selective focus.

Sometimes the term is used when a shallow depth of field is simulated with digital postprocessing; the name may derive from the tilt-shift lens normally required when the effect is produced optically.

Why not have a go yourself if you have an Iphone:  Art&Mobile TiltShift Generator.

Below are a few of our favourite examples for you to have a look at. We’re loving that!


Creating windows into Shropshire’s history

Wednesday 21st September 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

We created these unusual images in August and September 2011 by carefully selecting photographs taken many years ago in the Ironbridge Gorge, then holding them up at the same location and taking a fresh picture.

By carefully matching the old with the new – the new photograph has the unnerving effect of inserting historical scenes directly into modern life. The ‘windows into history’ project is being displayed during celebrations to mark the 25th anniversary of Ironbridge Gorge becoming a World Heritage Site.

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust was so impressed with the 16 photographs taken by matm’s creative team, Neil Dicken and Jamie Doran, that it asked to use them to help in their anniversary celebrations.

Neil said: “The images create a real visual and mental double-take. The beauty of the approach is its simplicity, though the trick is to select the historical photograph that creates the most vivid match in the modern scene. “The photographs are up to 150 years old, so allow the viewer to visualise what some of the Ironbridge Gorge looked like – hopefully they have provided a glimpse into the past.”

Jamie said: “We took both internal and external images of buildings. It is fascinating to see just how much some buildings have changed and in other cases, just how little they have changed. I particularly like the images with people in them, especially where you can see people walking from the present day, seemingly into the past.

“We were inspired by a project called ‘Looking into the Past’ by American photographer Jason E Powell When we saw his images we realised straight away that the heritage of the Ironbridge Gorge here in Shropshire lends itself perfectly to a similar project.”

The Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust lent photographs from its collection for the project. The images can be viewed in the Iron Bridge Tollhouse at the World Heritage Festival in Ironbridge which takes place on Saturday 24th September.

Paul Gossage Director of Marketing & PR said: “I was thrilled to see matm using our historic collection of images in such an innovative way. Publishing the images is a great way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the World Heritage Site. I am sure they will be much enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.”

Details of the Festival are available at


Thanks also for the help of MarionBlockley Heritage Management

Would love to know what you think or share your links in the comments at the base of the full post …

Capture your world in 3D

Wednesday 4th May 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

I was browsing around and came across this site Photosynth, how cool is that.

Take a look at the court yard outside matm, this a quick one that I took out side earlier, best of all its a FREE iOS app. Hover over the image and drag around to take a look.

To view online you will need to have  Silverlight Installed

We’re loving that! Great design that’s a real eye opener.

Monday 21st March 2011   by Stuart Bickerton

We love amazing design – and you don’t have to look far to find it. In fact, why not just look into the eyes of the next person you meet? Here’s a stunning close up of an eye showcased in Bored Panda, the online magazine dedicated to the world’s most quirky artwork. You’ll find more here.

Amazing close-up of the human eye captured by Armenian physics teacher Suren Manvelyan


Mirror, Signal, Outmanoeuvre – matm client teams up with Audi

Thursday 11th November 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Which machine is the real star of this picture?

Audi R8 Spyder: 0 to 60 miles per hour in 3.6 seconds. Nationwide Platforms scissor lift: 0 to 10 metres (32 feet) in 55 seconds. Put them together and you have one of the most memorable advertisements of 2010.

matm PR client Nationwide Platforms played a key role in bringing to life Audi’s dramatic ‘Mirror, Signal, Outmanoeuvre’ TV ad for its new supercar. Rogue Films, the makers of the advert, hired a mixture of electric scissor lifts and booms for the shoot, which took place at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands.

We know through experience how important it is to have the correct equipment for video shoots and photoshoots and, the machines pictured above look perfect to support lighting rigs. We thought the image was striking enough to share with you – so come on – which machine is the real star of the picture?

Can paid-for news stories and features be value for money?

Tuesday 5th October 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

As with many public relations agencies, here at matm we receive a good number of offers from publications to place advertorials – often called colour separations or ‘seps’ – on behalf of our clients.

Colour separations are paid-for articles, usually accompanied by a picture (which is where the colour separation term comes from), writes Andy Comber, PR Manager at Shrophire-based marketing, design, web and design agency matm. They became increasingly common in the 1980s when advertising revenue fell sharply – and can also be called editorial reproductions, product insertions or digital profiles in web media.

These offers can be viewed by PR companies and clients alike with some degree of suspicion. Quite rightly, the client doesn’t want to spend money without considering the ROI.

PR professionals like to think they can generate stories that are so compelling that publications will jump at carrying them for no charge. And it doesn’t look good to keep asking clients to dip their hands in their pockets for every Tom, Dick and Harry media opportunity that comes along.

All that said, with the right degree of caution, colour seps can be useful elements of the PR mix.

They are an integral part of the marketing and revenue model for many publications. So paid-for stories may not mean the publication is poor quality or that readers don’t value the content. Also, a colour sep allows the public relations agency and client to exert control over content, image use and page placement in a publication aimed precisely at a desirable target audience.

As an example, matm recently secured for a client a two page feature with multiple pictures in a national building renovation title at a cost of £350. The article generated eight keen sales/information inquiries through the publication’s internal feedback system alone.

So here are some tips when using colour seps as a marketing tactic:

* If there is time, ask to be sent copies of the publication to assess suitability– and check web pages
* Be selective – make sure you are clear about the target audience you want and what is being offered
* Ask yourself if the publication is right for your brand in terms of style and quality
* Ask about readership and reach. Is the publication ABC audited?
* Don’t accept the first price offered – in most cases there is room to haggle
* If there’s no movement on price, negotiate on content, position on page and which page you are being offered, for example the right hand page and the outside edge of the page are favoured positions
* Check the size of any picture offered
* Make sure the article includes a call to action box or strap with contact details
* Be aware that most publications can offer online content as part of the mix
* Require copy and design proof approval
* Think twice about using a publication’s in-house writers. In most cases, they won’t understand your needs
* Don’t pay up front. If a publication doesn’t deliver all it promises, you can withhold payment or negotiate a lower price
* Use targeted advertorials as part of a coordinated marketing communications strategy, also involving web content, e-shots and social media
* Monitor the response. Did the article generate interest or sales inquiries?

Ultimately, the decision should focus on task and objective. Knowing clearly what you want to achieve and targeting marketing and PR spend accordingly should be the key test for whether to pay for publicity or not.

A picture tells many thousands of customers

Friday 10th September 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

As a journalist expected to write great copy, I often went out on particular stories knowing that if I didn’t come back with a photo in my pocket (this was when pictures were made of paper) I would have failed, and miserably, writes Andy Comber, PR manager at Shropshire PR specialist matm. Good photography can turn an okay story into a great one.

One of our recent projects is a good example. RS Miller Roofing in Dudley brought an 18th Century dovecote at Chillington Hall, near Brewood in Staffordshire, back to life in spectacular fashion. It was an impressive project. And the pictures taken for us by photographer Paul Watkins showed it off to the full. He uses a remote controlled helicopter or a telescopic mast to get excellent aerial shots.

Front page splash for RS Miller Roofing

Roofing Magazine gives RS Miller two page spread

We offered the story and pictures to Roofing Magazine, the industry’s No 1 publication and the first reaction was: “What great pictures!” So great, that the image was used on the July/August front page and more in the two page spread inside (and this was not an advertorial). I like to think the copy was great too, but getting the images right can make all the difference.

Unveiling the Toulouse

Thursday 2nd September 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Another fantastic masterpiece from bath specialist Victoria + Albert.

matm have been working on the new luxury brochure including this fabulous new bath

… more details soon but we thought we show you their new creation just after it’s official launch day.

Visit for further details

Shedding Light on Famous Royal Ceremony

Thursday 26th August 2010   by Stuart Bickerton

Guardsmen march under light directed from Panther powered access platforms - click to view full size

Matm’s lengthy experience of working at a wide range of events ensured we found the best possible photographer to support our client Panther, one of the UK’s leading suppliers of powered access. We knew this event was a bit different, especially when we were dealing directly with Adrian Beckett, the Colour Sergeant of the Band of the Welsh Guards.

It was clear there was a requirement to meet the very highest standards, in terms of technical performance and safety, expected at such a prestigious event. We made sure that our photographer was fully compliant with stringent security requirements and that he could gain access to all the areas needed – we hope you agree that he came back with a stunning shot?