Archive for January, 2010

Assignment No. 2

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Here we go. Assignment No. 2:

Concept/theme: The NYTimes has called (not really, of course, but play along) and they want you to produce an image to run with this story on the mortgage crisis (which I have made into a PDF because that way there are no images to lead you).

Now, some of you have never had to approach a problem like this so I’ll give you a big hint: pick one concept or point in the story and try to show/illustrate that. You cannot possibly show everything so don’t even try to.

Oh, and try not to cheat: that is, don’t go researching other similar stories to see what others have done. Read the article, think on it, think about what images pop into your own head as you read it, and go on that instead.

There’s much more room to interpret here than may first appear. (sounds like something you’d see in a creative’s car’s side mirror…)

Remember, you need to make a new image for this– not find something in your files. The whole idea is to create.

Due Date: 27 February 2010, by 11:59PM (PT)

Email your jpegs (no larger than 1200px on largest dimension, 72ppi) and please include your last name in the file name.

One last thing: please share this with others. Let’s get more photographers (and illustrators or other creative pros, sure!) to participate. Thanks.

Can’t wait to see what you come up with!!

Note: By submitting, you are granting me a license to post the image to this blog; I will not use the image in any other way.

Free…briefly

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Okay people, no excuses… the newest Creative Lube is available and, for this episode only, it is free to everyone for the next week. After 8am PT, Feb 4, you’ll only be able to get it via subscription or individual purchase.

You can get the podcast here for now.

I hope you find it informative and valuable, and that you will subscribe for future episodes. Thanks!

More on fear

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

I wrote a little something on fear and how to get past it for ASMP. You can read it here.

Assignment No. 1 Results

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

First, thank you to those few of you who submitted. I have to say that I am really disappointed that so few people participated, but I’m hoping that is just a function of people not knowing/forgetting/and the crappy weather out here that made lots of lives difficult.

Below are each submission and a few comments by me. I encourage everyone, not just those who made these images but everyone, to think about the work and to comment. One rule: don’t be a jerk. If you have negative criticism, be kind with it. While it is important for artists to be able to hear the bad as well as the good, it doesn’t do anyone any good to say things like “Well he obviously sucks” or whatever. I want cogent, thought out comments. Be precise and informative. Offer ideas and solutions when you find problems.

As for the photographers whose work is below, be open to everything you get from others. Some may be hard to hear, some may be great to hear, but try to hear all of it and learn from it. And again, thank you all for putting your work, and yourselves, out to the world like this. Takes guts, and I admire that.

Oh, and there is no ranking of the images below–just because your pic is first or last in order doesn’t mean anything. Just random placement. And each image is larger if clicked on, btw.

Keith Barraclough made our first image. This is a “caught” image rather than a “manufactured” one– that is, I’m sure he didn’t set these people up but rather made the image as he saw the scene unfolding. Though with Keith, it’s sometimes hard to tell–lots of his advertising images really have that “honest” feel about them. I like the juxtaposition in this image and find it really interesting that the monks are the ones in the shadows. What does it mean for peace? It evoked questions in me, so yeah, it works.

Kathryn Wagner

Kathryn Wagner (please ignore the file name where I got her name wrong, bad me!) made this image of a great old Nash… one of my favorite old cars, so I have a natural soft spot for this  image. It’s a bit of a different interpretation of the peace theme, but it still works with the clouds, sky, and soft light. It could be read a bit darkly, if one was in that kind of mood, but does that preclude the “peace” part? I don’t think so. Ever hear of the calm before the storm? I get that kind of peace from it.

Ken WilderKen Wilder takes a darker turn with his image. Honestly, though, I had mentioned to a friend something about a grave and this theme, so I wasn’t shocked that someone went this way. Ken submitted a small image, so I can’t tell for sure but I think it’s a new grave, which adds to the slightly disturbing and yet still peaceful-ness of this image. It definitely has the light of someplace with a winter, even if there is no snow on the ground, and that light quality works here, at least for me. It’s a colder light, and breaking through the trees adds to the slight “disturbing” feel of this. But unquestioningly peaceful at the same time. I like that it walks that line.

Ryan McGeheeThis image by Ryan McGehee I think almost needs its title to make clear its connection to the theme: Angel. The ethereal feeling could definitely be read as peaceful without the words, but I think it could also be read as sci-fi creepy too. Of course, that is because of what I bring to the read– a long history of sci-fi movies in my brain.

This is an important thing to remember when creating an image for others: what you have in your brain and what the viewer has in theirs may not result in the same reading of the image. Neither one is right or wrong, but if you can keep that in mind then the next time a client “doesn’t get it” you can be more understanding and less defensive. You just have different brains.

Peace Peas I love visual puns and visual wordplay of any kind. It’s just one of my natural likes. We all have those tendencies. For example, I’m the perfect person to edit a book of kid images because I am not kid-friendly, so the image has to work for itself. On the other hand, when someone does something like this image made by Kelly Ng, I have to pay close attention to my inherent liking to be fair to the image as a whole.

Kelly is a wedding and portrait photographer so this is not her usual kind of work, but I think she did a good job particularly because of that background. So much of her “normal” work would have fit the theme, but instead she pushed herself to find a different solution and I really respect her for taking that risk. And, yes, it works. The only thing I would have done differently is entitled it “give peas a chance.” But I like bad jokes, did I mention that? 😉

Rodney Yardley

Rodney Yardley (for whom I can’t find a site, I’m sorry) went more traditional with this image of dogs. That is, I assume it is more than one dog or it is very curled up. Dogs, cats, and kids are popular solutions for a theme like “peace” but there is a reason for that: humans (mostly) respond to the work in exactly the way the photographer intends. A viewer can’t look at an image like this without at least a hint of the warm fuzzies, even if later the cynical brain kicks in and says “too easy” or “too soft” or whatever. Technically, the image is fine (and the beast is darn adorable and it definitely is peaceful), but I do have a more cynical brain and I’d like to see Rodney take a bigger risk with the next assignment. At the same time, many clients, especially the smaller and less creative ones, would definitely respond well to this. This is a good example of thinking about your goal– if Ryan wanted to get local clients, this would probably work, but for advertising targets, it wouldn’t.

Ryan GibsonRyan Gibson definitely took a non-traditional read on the theme, no question. Honestly, when I opened his email, I laughed. Now, not every client is going to want a solution like this so Ryan took a risk in his interpretation, but for the right client, it totally works.

Generally speaking, this image is is a good example of evoking an immediate, positive emotional response, which means it would be good for a promo (as long as the work on the photog’s site matches in vision–that’s important). You’ve got about 2 seconds to connect with your targets– if I were Ryan’s target, I would totally have clicked through to his site.

David Zaitz David Zaitz provides us the last of our entries. Now, full disclosure, David is a friend and I’ve been a fan of his work for a while. He definitely plays with the visual/verbal in his own work and whenever he can for clients.  That being said, he like others above took an individual turn on the theme and this is a Zaitzian image. If I got this image without identifying info, I would probably know it was his work– there are only a couple of photographers who might make something like this of their own accord. That means David has carved out his vision in my mind, and likely has done the same for his targets.

While this image’s impact isn’t as immediate as the Peace BBQ above, as soon as the viewer gets it, it works. I think that buyers would react well to this image on a website but maybe not as an email promo because of that slight delay in “get it” time (depends on how the image is used, too).

This is something everyone should think about when selecting images for different marketing purposes: for email promos or even print postcards, you need something that will smack the viewer immediately. You’ve got a very brief window to grab ’em so test your images to see what people think immediately upon viewing. Ask a few people “what did you feel when you saw this pic?” for example, before deciding to use it in your marketing.

Relatedly, if your portfolio images require you explaining them, they aren’t doing you any good. This is different than the images invoking questions in the viewer (that’s good when they ask questions, usually). But if people are just looking silently at your book and you chatter to fill the void, you need to rethink your selections. They may be too flat, average, blah and not showing the real thinking you.

Okay, enough of my babbling… your turn. What do you think?

Tick tick

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Assignment #1 is due in just over 24 hours…probably less by the time you read this. Have you sent in your “peace” image yet? Due by 11:59pm on Saturday the 23rd.

If you didn’t shoot for this project, commit to the next one. Details will be released shortly.

The impact of a piece of paper

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

…okay, two pieces if you count the envelope.

On Monday I had my first appointment with my new doctor. I was impressed by him, quite a bit actually, and felt good about my choice.

Today, Wednesday, I got this in my mail:

note from doc It is a hand-written “welcome to the practice/nice to meet you/thank you” note. It was on nice paper, with a hand-addressed envelope.

The doc wrote both. I know because I have compared the writing to the notes he gave me to take home after our meeting. He also referenced some of the non-medical things mentioned during our meeting. It was, in other words, a lovely, personal note.

When was the last time you had a doc send you a note like that? When was the last time any of your professional service providers did this?

More importantly, when was the last time you wrote such a note to one of your clients?

Social Media Faux Pas

Monday, January 18th, 2010

Social media has definitely changed the way we all reach out and connect with our targets. In many ways, this is a great thing. But some of us are not using the technology as well as we could. There are two main problems: under-connecting and over-connecting.

Under-connecting is an easier problem to fix. Simply put, post more. It’s not going to do you a lot of good to have a blog and you don’t blog, or a Facebook account and you don’t share, or if you are on LinkedIn and don’t make connections, you aren’t really using these tools.

You can’t be passive. You have to reach out. Of course you can’t post just anything (for example, don’t post to your full list about potty-training your children or your medical procedure–ew!), but there is so much information out there that if you can’t find something interesting to add to the community dialog on the subject of photography and/or design and/or art and/or advertising and/or publishing and/or…

…well, you get the point.

Over-connecting is the harder problem to fix. Over-connecting can be caused by integrating all your media so that every time you post one place, it shows up everywhere. Now, this sounds like a good idea, but it can result in multiple repeats for your receivers. This gets annoying really fast. There are some photographers who do this and because I am connected to them via Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn (at least) I’m getting everything at least 3 times, often more since a lot of my media is forwarded to my email. Ouch ouch.

Quick way to tick off your targets. Remember, buyers are busy people and one of the worst things you can do is hijack their time. Check your settings, ask your friends how many times they get your posts, try to manage it so that you are connecting once with any post (twice at the most, but once is better).

Another related issue is the request to fan your Facebook page. Here’s the rule for this: send an invitation no more than once every 6 months. A year may be better, but really, no more than once every 6 months. If someone doesn’t fan your page, leave them be!

That includes me, by the way. In fact, I don’t fan photographers’ FB pages at all. Why? Because I would be overwhelmed with posts/info if I did. I have hundreds (thousands?) of photographers and other creatives who want me to follow them. It would take up all my time to weed through their posts to get to the ones I actually need to see. I make note of the pages and I look at them at times, but I don’t want the information overload that would occur if I opened the floodgates.

Think about what your buyers must be facing in that realm. All those photogs and illos trying to sell to them! Ugh! So, if they ignore your invitation, respect them and leave them alone. Move to more passive nudges like mentioning in a “friend” post that you have posted something interesting over on your fan page, but that’s it. And if they do fan your page, take that as a very good sign. This is someone who is interested in you and your work!

Oh, and yeah, for the record, Burns Auto Parts does have a fan page, and I do post more often there–mostly quick links to industry info. You should check it out. 🙂

REMINDER Submissions due soon

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

For those of you planning on participating in the visual project/assignment I posted a couple of weeks ago, time is ticking. You must submit your images by 11:59pm next Saturday the 23rd.

Info here, and don’t forget to email the image(s) to me. Also, they don’t have to be huge–this is web-only, don’t forget.

C’mon people! Participate!

The future?

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

ASMP asked me to write about what I thought the future holds for its Strictly Business blog. You can read the post here.

Now with more participation

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Over the holidays I was thinking about how lucky I am to do what I do. But I was thinking about how there isn’t enough interaction with this blog. Sure, some of you post comments, and that’s great, but I’d like to generate more dialogue and participation. So, thought I, what can I do that would encourage participation & dialogue, while also helping you with your marketing. Then it came to me: assignments.

At least once a month, I’m going to post an assignment (like a theme or concept) and a due date. Your job, should you choose to accept it, will be to shoot something on that theme and to submit it before that due date. I’ll pick several and post them here for everyone to look at and talk about.

What I hope is that this will generate not only discussion among you photographers, but also spread to the other creatives, your targets, so that maybe there will be some connections made.

So, with that in mind, here is the first assignment:
Concept/theme: Peace
Due Date: 23 January 2010

EMAIL your jpegs (this is for web, so don’t make ’em huge).

Now get off your butts and show me what you’ve got!

***UPDATE*** I should have made this clear: you have to shoot something NEW for this. The point is to get you to think and shoot; not to find an image that fits, but to MAKE an image that fits. And be creative with the theme!