Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

4 posts from August 2016

30 August 2016

Tips on taking photographs for your business

Pictures speak a thousand words, or so the saying goes. And now that virtually everyone has a camera in their pocket on their smartphone, there’s no excuse these days for not using as many photos as possible within your business, whether it is for record shots, editorial on your website, social media content or PR. Could you imagine a website without photos or images?

Of course businesses have a myriad of photo requirements and a photography budget ranging from less than zero to thousands of pounds. So whilst hiring a professional is a great idea with a pretty clear quality outcome, almost everything can be done in-house using the most basic of equipment and it can still look good. Just a little knowledge can go a long way, so here are a few ideas:

1. Headshots and people photos

Do you ever get invited to connect on LinkedIn by a mysterious white silhouette - or followed on Twitter by a white egg on a coloured background? Does that instil confidence in their professionalism?

Sam Lane, portrait shots examples

People buy from people and therefore they want to see real people. “About you” sections on your website, profile pictures in the company brochure, even snaps on ID badges play a crucial part in the identity of your business. Here are some tips to get it right:

  • Make direct eye contact with the subject – this engenders trust and conveys empathy
  • Depending on the image you want to portray, I think smiling is as important as eye contact in building rapport
  • Posing makes a difference too: posing your subject with shoulders at slight angle is more flattering for anyone than front on (aka prisoner-style) photos
  • Plain backgrounds will help the subject to stand out
  • Get in quite close, especially when you consider the size the image may be viewed at e.g. a full page in an A4 magazine or a thumbnail on a smart phone?

2. Lifestyle shots

If you have a business where you need people to do something in your photos, you’ll need to build a brief that will drive the creative approach – the more planning you do the better. Consider location, whether indoors or out, props and models, styling, make up and actions. Having a clear idea of the sort of images you are looking for can avoid spending unnecessary time setting up a studio using models, when you can simply ask your friend to pose instead if you require something more informal. Planning is key.

Sam Lane, lifestyle shots examples

3. Still life products

You may need to take photos for an e-commerce site to sell your products or need imagery for a retail magazine. White backgrounds are usually the norm, with or without shadow; and some element of post-production (e.g. using Photoshop) may be necessary to ensure consistency in shine, shadows and backgrounds. Mastering the light makes all the difference too – even using a white sheet draped over a chair and an angle-poised lamp can get you started.

Sam Lane, still life products example photography

4. Food photography

A lot of fakery can go into making the sumptuously delicious-looking and mouth-watering food images used in advertising. From using hairspray and glue, to photo-shopping in fake steam - I’ve seen it all! However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Many restaurants and cafes have really mastered their food photography, especially for social media, and the trick is creating a look and feel that is right for you, your business and your market. Quirky close ups taken on a smartphone, plus filter is perfect for tagging on Instagram or sharing on Twitter. You can create a style for your images by asking yourself ‘what do I want to portray?’ – Piping hot eating on the go? Do you want the food to be sliced or whole, on its own or with other food items, with or without cutlery, napkins or drinks? Once you’ve created a style, be consistent and keep updating and social channels and your website to ensure your images are as fresh as your food.

Sam Lane, food photography examples

5. Buildings and interiors

It can be tricky to take photos in, or of, architecture – you quite often get a lens distortion, which our eyes correct to a certain extent, but can come out very strangely on an image (see comparison shots below). Of course you can embrace this style, it’s not uncommon, but moving as far away as possible so you are face-on to the building means that distortion is minimised. Photo editing tools such as aperture or ‘Lightroom’ can help correct this.

For interiors – such as hotel rooms - you’ll want to get as much of the space in the shot as possible. Using a wide-angle lens can help. Get as tight into a corner as you can capture as much of the room in as you can. Use a tripod or steady surface and a timer or remote ‘on’ switch so that you can put the ISO down as low as possible (e.g. 100 or 200), the aperture as wide as possible (e.g. f22) and the shutter speed as slow as possible (e.g. 1/30’). This all helps to get the maximum amount of light and space in the best possible focus.

Sam Lane, buildings and interiors photography example - St Pancras Hotel, London

6. Animals and children

If your business involves either or both of the above, congratulations! I think these are the hardest subjects to capture.

Model release forms will be important if you are featuring children and/or members of the public and simple templates can be found online. Most people don’t mind if you ask them before you take their photo. Whilst it is not actually illegal to take a photo of a person if they are in a public space, I believe it is always better to ask permission.

For both animals and children, getting down to their level is a good start to avoid weird distortions or odd angles. Giving them something to do, such as play with a ball or run, will keep them focused and also help bring out their character and personality. And ensuring they are in a place where they will be relaxed and happy will certainly help to get the right shots. Above all, patience is key.

Sam Lane, Animals and children photography examples

7. Final considerations

Whatever the type of photography you need for your business, there are some general things to consider:

  • Where/how are the photos going to be used? This affects decisions on dimensions as well as file size. Your customers don’t want to wait for a minute while a large file downloads on a web page
  • Back up – keep the originals somewhere safe as it is heartbreaking to lose images and there are plenty of free and paid online cloud services available.
  • Don’t forget to share your photos on social media sites where you can engage with your clients and other prospects.
  • And remember, ‘the best camera is the one you have with you’ – always keep taking photos!

About Sam Lane

Samlane Limited is a photography services company providing a full range of commercial and social photography. Owner and Director, Sam Lane, brings over 20 years of marketing communications experience to the business and enjoys the challenge of working with clients to develop briefs and deliver images that showcase their brand, products or services in the best possible light. Sam has worked with the British Library on several projects and has attended events and workshops in the Business & IP Centre to continue to develop her skills as a business owner.

15 August 2016

Waste not, want not. The business of turning discarded food into delicious chutney

We caught up with Jenny Dawson Costa, founder and CEO, of relish range Rubies in the Rubble. But Rubies is much more than just a range of yummy relishes – the business is built on sustainable values turning surplus fruit and veg into something tasty rather than wasting it. Their range of relishes is inspired by home-cooked recipes they started making in their kitchen. Now they’re stocked in major retailers throughout the UK and the business continues to grow day-by-day.


When was Rubies in the Rubble set up and what was it that inspired the business?

The idea for Rubies in the Rubble came after a very early morning visit to a wholesale fruit and veg market on my bike one frosty day in November 2010.

I fell in love with the market - such a diverse range of people living by night and sleeping by day; a world of farmers, wholesalers, restaurant owners and market sellers trading anything from durians to brussel sprouts.

But just along from the bustle of the traders were the piles of unwanted fruit and veg - mange tout from Kenya, mangos from the Philippines, tomatoes from Turkey, cranberries for California which bypassed the bustle of traders and headed straight for the bin! And what really saddened me was that much of these, though potentially with a short shelf life, were perfectly edible!

It got me thinking about the impossibility of matching supply and demand when you have unpredictable weather, unpredictable humans and supermarkets that provide everything in plentiful piles throughout the year.

I then buried myself in researching food waste and realising its scale and implications – both environmentally and financially. However, it was a simple fact that compelled me to act: we are wasting 1/3 of all the food we produce, whilst 1bn people go to bed hungry. I’m not saying I know the solution but there are improvements that we can make to the current system.

And then it came to me: a premium food brand making delicious products from fruit and vegetables that would otherwise be discarded.

What challenges have you faced along the way?

There seems to be a never-ending array of new challenges each day which keeps life interesting!

Initially the challenges were mainly around educating people about why waste or surplus existed and the need to value our supply chain. However, our greatest challenges now are around scaling up our production and winning new customers.

What has been the business’s biggest achievement so far?

The most exciting was being on the BBC News. They sent a car just 5 mins after calling me about the interview. I was in a hoody, looking pretty much the worse for wear, with no knowledge of the news story but off I went and had an amazing live interview on food waste in the UK.

But my proudest moment was a letter from the Queen. I’m a big fan of hers so I wrote to her asking what her favourite chutney was as I wanted to make her one for the Jubilee. She probably thought I was 10 years old, but wrote back with a lovely letter saying she couldn’t tell me her favourites but would love to try my chutney - so I sent her the range and she loved them!


What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

I would advise them to really test their business out on a small scale first. Talk to lots of people, know how you are going to make your product and get it into the hands of the consumer to see where the challenges might lie.  

Then, when you know there is a market for your product and how you are going to make it, just go for it whole-heartedly – give it your best shot and hope for the best.

How has the Innovating for Growth programme helped you?

It was great to have some time out from the day-to-day business and focus on the big picture and plan for growth. Reminding us that you can’t do everything at once and you need to concentrate on getting what you’re currently doing right before moving on to the next thing.

Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Rubies in the Rubble?

We’re really excited for the future and our next steps. We have been focused on making sure we nail it before we scale it for the last 3 years at Rubies and we are now confident that we have a valued brand and robust plan to really go for it. We are now developing new products with the hope of becoming an umbrella brand of great tasting foods made with the same ethos.

Watch this space!


Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like Rubies? Innovating for Growth is a fully funded three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the way to help your business achieve its growth ambitions.

Find out more and apply now 



11 August 2016

How we amped-up our business strategy and our trading firm took off

Amplify are a trading firm that provide training and expertise for those interested in moving into the financial markets to become a trader. They have pioneered a new training programme, raising the industry standard for trading talent. We asked them about their unique approach to trading and how they have established their high-regarded reputation in the industry.

Will and Piers

When was Amplify set up and what was it that inspired you to start the business?

We started Amplify in 2009 as a small trading firm in Canary Wharf. As we grew our team we wanted to create a new and better way to develop our new traders. Rather than relying on out-of-date models and theory, we wanted to revolutionise the way economics and finance were taught, using technology and experiential learning to make their training relevant to the markets today.

What challenges has the business faced along the way?

The industry is incredibly competitive and at first it was hard to make our mark. Reputation is everything, so we always tried to treat every person that has ever come into contact with Amplify with the upmost care and consideration.  This has meant growth has perhaps been slower than it could have been, but as we enter into our eighth year the hard work in building a reputation of quality and integrity is starting to pay off.

What has been the business’s biggest achievement so far?

Many of the world’s largest financial institutions, and some of the world’s most prestigious academic institutions, use our technology to perform better and this is great justification of the value of what we do.  It’s also excellent to see candidates that we have worked with landing some of the best roles in the industry, from central banks to hedge funds and investment banks. Receiving their feedback and seeing how well they have done is incredibly rewarding.


What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

As soon as you can, hire an employee to manage the operation that you have built so you can get on with helping it grow.

You were successful applicants on our Innovating for Growth programme – how has it helped you?

The sessions during the three-month programme gave us an invaluable reminder to refocus on the bigger picture, along with giving us the necessary tools to create value from that focus.  For us the most useful elements were redefining our business strategy and implementation; making sure the whole team is aware of the business objectives and core values of the firm, and that all involved are on board in helping to achieve those objectives.

Finally, what’s next on the horizon for Amplify?

Since the Innovating for Growth programme we have made our first hire abroad with our office in New York officially opening in September.  The co-founders have moved away from the London trading floor to be based in a separate location so we can be physically removed from the day-to-day running and focus on the growth objectives of the firm.  After New York opens in September, we start a road show in Hong Kong and Singapore this November.


Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like Amplify? Innovating for Growth is a fully funded three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the way to help your business achieve its growth ambitions.

Find out more and apply now 



The programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.

10 August 2016

How I took my business from a small start-up to a super success

Arit Eminue started her business because she was passionate about giving young people opportunities to achieve their dreams no matter what their background, social class, gender or ethnicity.

Her business, DiVA, matches young talent with outstanding employers through government backed apprenticeships, giving people the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’ and help businesses gain the skills they need to remain competitive.

Since the launch of the business in January 2011, DiVA have provided apprenticeships to over 200 creative youngsters with employers like 20th Century Fox, UK Music, Universal, Southbank Centre, Sadlers Wells, Crossrail and many more.

We caught up with founder and Director, Arit, to find out how she’s done it.

Arit Eminue 15

Hi Arit! Where did the idea for your business come from?

We started delivering apprenticeships in 2011.  Before this, I had secured grant funding to provide a wage subsidy to film businesses hiring graduate talent.   At the time the entry route to the industry was through unpaid work placements, which the sector was trying to combat.  Our graduate programme addressed this issue, and was incredibly successful with a high number of graduates gaining full-time employment post-internship.

Low-cost recruitment worked, but the grant funding dried up.  Apprenticeships in the creative sector launched, essentially allowing businesses to recruit and train employees at a budget they could afford.  I enjoyed playing the “Fairy Job Mother”, matching the right candidates to the best role for them, so I switched focus to apprenticeship recruitment and training. We started with six apprentices and now have 150 young people currently engaged in apprenticeships, carrying out many jobs businesses depend on such as; general administrators, social media assistants, marketing assistants, HR administrators, receptionists and finance assistants.

What challenges did you face in the early stages?

Changing perceptions.  Apprenticeships were viewed as a poor alternative to a degree.  Employers had such low expectations of non-graduate talent, and thought hiring an apprentice was too complicated and it would take too long for an apprentice to get up to speed.  Having recruited graduate and non-graduate talent I can say with surety having a degree does not guarantee you’re work ready.

In addition to changing perceptions about apprenticeships, running a small business gives me an understanding of the pressures employers are under, so my team and I work hard to make their lives easier.  We take the headache out of recruitment by providing a full service. We submit grant funding applications and have all paperwork and training schedules issued up front so there are no surprises.    We’re also at the other end of a phone throughout the process and beyond. 

What has been DiVA’s biggest achievement so far?

Still being in business five years down the line - with not a grey hair in sight!  Also we have a very high conversion rate from an apprenticeship into full-time employment and each time this happens I’m reminded that apprenticeships do work.  

Resource award winners 2014

You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?

The Innovating for Growth programme helped me to develop my team in line with my plans for growth.  The programme also helped increase our client base.  I had previously focussed on creative companies as opposed to creative occupations (e.g. marketing and communications), which are in any sector.  Being encouraged to shift my thinking in this regard helped broaden our reach and attract non-creative businesses such as the CBI, Hackney Council, Greenwich Council and JJ Roofing. 

What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?

Scheduling one day per week to work on the business (rather than just in it) was the best piece of advice I was given, so it seems only fair to share it.  Admittedly, it wasn’t an easy habit to adopt. However, forcing myself to do it has paid dividends. Also, apply for Innovating for Growth and let experts give you the help you need to succeed – it doesn’t cost you or your business anything other than your time.


Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice

Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like DiVA? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.

Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the process.

Find out more and apply now 



The programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.