Friday, 30 January 2015

Photographic negatives!

Candidates' photographs are an emotional minefield and the cause of some of the most difficult exchanges of email. This year a full 70% of our female candidates "hate" their photograph and have asked me to use another. What I suspect this means is they want to send me one taken 15 years ago! Compare this figure with their male counterparts; not a single one of whom has even commented on their photo, let alone demanded a replacement!  Given all the photographs were taken by the same professional photographer, using the same camera, on the same day and in the same light, I am puzzled why all the photographs of women are obviously dreadful whilst all the ones of men are fine. Perhaps there are other factors at play here, which I, being a mere man, clearly fails to comprehend.

The main problem however is almost always the replacement photograph a candidate will submit is simply not sufficiently high quality to use. With high resolution printing on gloss paper comes all sorts of technical issues which most candidates neither appreciate or understand (and why should they?)  Explaining this without causing offence and appearing to be "unhelpful" can be tricky. 

Our photographer takes all photographs under carefully controlled lighting conditions and against a chroma green background. Here is an unedited example of Ben Walker, our candidate in Ditton.

The first thing people say is "oh, I hate the green." The reason we use 'chroma green' is it can easily be removed by PhotoShop leaving a perfect picture of a candidate against a transparent background, which can then be "slotted" into any leaflet. 

So here is the same photo of Ben after the chroma green had been removed and his image placed alongside his ward colleague Carol Gale, on their calling card. This is only possible thanks to consistency in the styling of our photography.


If Ben had arranged for traditional portrait photo to appear in a "frame" it would look like this:

which looks fine if used by itself (as above). But transfer that same photograph into the Calling Card design and it would sit on the page like this:

which looks dreadful - as if someone has removed his shoulder and left arm!

And that is why a photograph, which can look perfectly reasonable to a candidate, simply does not work and cannot be used in an election leaflet.

In recent years I have had photographs of candidates with tree branches growing out of their ears, telegraph poles poking out of their heads, in front of "way out" signs, with a rottweiler depositing a steaming poo directly behind them, and in one case standing on a busy high street directly in front of a sex shop.  

Even Tracey Crouch MP, who is more photogenic and image savvy than most, is not immune from mistakes, as this photo taken to celebrate "saving" a rural bus route shows. She may well be pointing happily at bus, but the poor Mayor looks as if he has a horn growing from the top of his head!

So if you call to say you "hate" your photograph and that you are asking your brother to "dig out a lovely one" you had taken at Windsor Castle a few years ago, please don't be offended if I don't sound enthusiastic, as almost always the photo I receive is simply not sufficiently high quality to be used. 

And if you're a 60 year old and have enjoyed life and your face shows a few too many laughter lines, then perhaps you should be proud and show your voters who you are - not who you were 30 years ago when that "Windsor Castle" photo was taken!  Imagine how horrified you would feel if you knocked on a door and the occupant said they had just received the leaflet, then asked if you were the candidate's mother!

Not that such a thing ever happened in West Kent......  my lips, of course, are sealed ;)

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