On Wednesday, we will feature articles from some of the most inspiring personalities in various creative fields. Watch out for excellent posts by leaders in photography, business and social media marketing.
I’ve had the honor of talking shop with Nicole Young before, most recently during our Google+ hangout, and one thing is always clear: Nicole loves what she does. You may regularly see her stunning work on iStockphoto – the Photoshop expert is also a leading food photographer and blogger, whose latest book, Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots is not only an excellent visual tutorial, but also a treat for the foodie eye. In this post, Nicole takes us behind the scenes to her new loft to shoot a tasty stir fry. Learn a few pro tips for turning a delicious meal into a tantalizing photograph, and try to get too hungry while you read!
Post + Photos by Nicole S. Young.
I enjoy photographing food, mostly because I love food, cooking, and shopping for kitchen and dining accessories. The great thing about food is that I’ll never, ever run out of dishes to photograph, but sometimes I just lose my excitement about creating food photos. Maybe I get lazy, or I’m just overworked and can’t focus long enough on a solid idea to really wrap my brain around it. I’ll hit a wall, a “mini” wall, but I feel creatively drained and lose my motivation. It happens to all of us, but all it takes is a little motivation to boost that excitement and feel the need to create again.I’ve found myself at this mini-wall for the past month, and I needed some inspiration.
The other day I was out shopping at Crate and Barrel and found some accessories that were just gorgeous, yet very simple, yet also very elegant and perfect props for a photograph. Then I started to think about those soba noodles that were sitting in my cupboard, and the pieces started to fall into place. The next day I walked out to the market to pick up fresh veggies and seafood (another way I get inspired to photograph food), came home and cooked up a meal. It was perfect, and exactly what I was hoping for. I just needed a small dose of inspiration to get me back on track.To create this photograph I first set the stage with the dishes and props. I always set up the camera, dishes and lights, and also get my exposure in-camera before cooking the food. Food spoils and wilts quickly, so my goal is to always get the area prepped so that when the food is ready it is ready to be photographed immediately.
Next, I start cooking the food. All of the food I prepared for this meal is edible, but I do cook it a little differently when I know it will be photographed. For example, I blanched the green veggies before adding them to the stir-fry so they would be much brighter in color, and I set the noodles aside in a small amount of oil to keep them shiny and prevent them from sticking together.
Once the food was all cooked and ready to go I added it to the bowl and did a tiny bit of styling to make it look presentable. To ensure that the noodles wouldn’t sink too low in the bowl and look flat, I added a small upside-down bowl that would help bulk up the pasta. Next I placed the noodles in the bowl, used my fingers to help curl them and move them around, and then I added some of the other ingredients and placed them throughout the dish so that they were spaced evenly. Lastly, I put a beautiful juicy prawn on top to finish it off.
To light the dish, I used back-light (I have very large Northeast facing windows in my loft) and filled them with white foam board. I also softened the window-light a bit with a diffuser, and used a piece of black foam board directly behind the setup to cut down on reflections. Just before pressing the shutter I also added some fill-light to the front of the food to add a little bit more light and color to the photograph.
Of the endless stream of posts I see in my Twitter feed, Chris Brogan’s tweets always get my attention. A catchy title; a succinct commentary in 140 characters – I love his sharp, witty intellect, and his ability to present forward-thinking marketing concepts through personal narratives. In the following article, for instance, he gives an excellent insight into how being a successful brand is more than just being known for who you are. Rather, it is more important how you provide value to your targeted community. My favorite quote? “Don’t make the brand about you. Make it about the stories you can tell, adding your value and insight and passion, and then build on that. (This is where the business comes from, you know.)”
Follow Chris Brogan on Twitter.
Post By Chris Brogan
We’ve gone through a strange change, from people not realizing that they need to be their own brand, to people not realizing how being the brand impacts the way they do business. It’s interesting, really. Tom Peters was the first person I recall talking about it, back in the Alan Webber days of FastCompany (The Brand Called You). Back then, we were all cubicle farmers and beige employees of the cog-world (okay, not true, but that’s what it felt like). But now, we’re getting the opposite, where people have all the tools to make a brand and do so, but don’t really know how to leverage that brand into anything resembling a business. So, in some ways, there’s been a bit of a see-saw. We used to have people that would prosper by turning their wonderfulness into a personal brand.
We got there, kinda
In a way, lots of us have found our way to the tools that allow us to try and build a brand. I meet finance professionals with blogs. I know videobloggers who have a day job doing research for the research and quantification sector. We have access to the tools. Not everyone’s getting themselves to the promised land by blogging, but the tools are there. We CAN try and build personal brands and that’s something.
But what about business and personal branding?
The trick of being in a personal brand is that there’s a big difference between being known, being known for something, and also being able to turn that into business.
I’ve got a recognizable personal brand. It took years to build it. From that, it took years to figure out how best to make business from it. Because just being known doesn’t transform instantly into business.
I met Kathy Ireland a few months ago. She went from being a model into running a successful business with over $1 Billion in sales. Her speech at the Disney Social Media Moms event made no bones about the fact that it was hard going from being known for being beautiful into being respected for her business acumen. She told lots of stories about times when she and her business partner slept on the chairs in an airport to save money between business flights. The end point: no one just hands you money and business because they know you.
Your first takeaway: make sure you’re progressing from being known into being known for something you’ve done, and then work at finding a way to build a business from that. Your second takeaway: no one wants to hand you money just because people know who you are.
It’s still not about you
Being a personal brand isn’t all that useful to anyone else, if it’s just about you. It just doesn’t get people as fired up to be “supporters of Chris,” for instance. But instead, if you’re “human business workers,” all committed to improving relationship-minded sustainable human business practices, well, then I’ve got the sense that we’ll do a lot more.
As a personal brand, it’s really important to talk about everyone else as much as you can. It’s just too boring and unhelpful to tell everyone about you. It’s okay to “model the change you want to be,” or even let people learn from the lessons you’ve suffered through, but make sure you bring it back to them, and be helpful. It’s about the community you can touch and help succeed.
Be a value brand, not a name
I just had a great stay at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas a few days back. Every single staffer treated me like I was a friend, and like they were so happy I was part of their experience. They gave me such value. They had advice for where I could go. They knew some ins and outs I needed to know. It was pure value for me as a frequent traveler.
I try to be a value brand. I try to give everyone so much more than what I ask for, that you think, “wow, I really DO want to help Chris promote Invisible People, because he’s given me lots of actionable business ideas over the years.” That’s my angle, and it’s working really damned well. Be a value.
Story, story, story
Connect folks to the story that brings them passion. I wrote about a charter school I visited, and learned tons about people’s take on education in the US (and abroad). That’s a story I could bring via my brand, but then let go so that it found the people who are passionate about such matters. See? I become the elbow of every “deal,” where in this case, stories of meanings become the deal.
You can do that. Don’t make the brand about you. Make it about the stories you can tell, adding your value and insight and passion, and then build on that. (This is where the business comes from, you know.)
Think community every day
As a personal brand, it’s not YOUR community, but it’s a loosely joined group of people who feel affinity for some of your ideas or for the space you represent. In a way, I’m saying, “make sure you realize that it’s never your community; it’s a place you’re privileged to access.” People who throw “MY” around before the word “community” are often surprised when that community doesn’t march in the same order that you intend. Surprise! The trick of this is that you have to recognize that you’re in service of the community, not the other way around. You’re possibly a leader, or at least someone that’s known, but that doesn’t make you the important part of the equation. With me?
Brands need refreshing
Never rest on your laurels. Madonna never did. She changed up her game every year. Soda pop companies tidy up their brand all the time. Now, think of a few brands that don’t do that, who are still in the past. Where are they?
The same is true with your brand. You. Lord knows I work on my brand that way. You think I’m the social media guy? I’m building myself to be the human business guy. I used to be the podcamp guy. I used to be just a blogger. I’m always working on the angle of the brand. Now, it won’t be there for you yet, because I’m talking about my planning, not my current situation. But that’s the very point I’m making. This isn’t accidental, or it isn’t for people who use brand as part of their success.
Brand is only one asset
A brand is an asset. But it’s only ONE asset. You can’t feed your family on a personal brand. You have to deliver something of value. You have to have a product or a service or something else where you make the real money. The brand is just the powerful emotional flag that people can rally around. If you don’t have more assets, or aren’t developing the other assets, well… enjoy that flag.
What else did I miss? What else can I help you with on this? How have you put this into service?
‘I, Zack Arias, am part of the oversaturated market,’ proclaims the Atlanta-based music photographer. Always a sharp shooter, Zack is one of the loudest and most vibrant movers and shakers in the new generation of our industry. Having met him before at industry trade shows, I’ve gotten to know him better recently when he was our guest on TWiT Photo and a participant in my Google+ Hangout on copyright and photo-sharing. My admiration of Zack and his phenomenal music and street portraiture has only increased after learning more about him – and I’ve constantly looked to exceptional and honest educators such as himself for inspiration in my own career as an educator and photographer. Here, Zack muses on the complaint that our market is oversaturated and pleads guilty to being a part of it.
Follow Zack Arias on Twitter.
Post By Zack Arias
Everyone wants to be a photographer these days.
Let me warn you now that this blog post is currently in it’s third state of revisions. It’s a real rambler. If you’re up for it, I’m up for it. More after the jump.
If you hang out on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like enough you can “stumble upon” some trends without even trying to. Lately, I have seen a number of articles flying around about the over-saturation of the photography industry, the unsustainability of the microstock market, and the pros and cons of working for “free”. The “abuse” we photographers receive at the hands of our clients and totally absurd Craig’s List postings of people wanting work for free or photographers giving away the farm for nothing.
Here are a few of the articles that most people are talking about these days.
• Photo business guru John Harrington over at Black Star Rising talking about the 12 excuses for shooting for free. This article is the one that got me thinking about doing this blog post.
• David Hobby (Strobist) about working for free. Another must read.
• Rob Haggart (A Photo Editor) about the unsustainability of the micro stock industry. Canary in the coal mine?
Let’s start with the “over saturated” market premise.
I, Zack Arias, am part of the oversaturated market. I am one of the many who are filling the waters of this industry. Every job I take is a job off of the table of another photographer. I am a working photographer in large part due to the prevalence of affordable DSLRs, the expense of film and development being removed from my upfront overhead, and the Internet.
I’ll be so bold to say that if you have entered this industry in the last 10 years, then you too are part of the oversaturation equation. If you are thinking about becoming a pro photographer, whether part time or full time, then you are oversaturating the market as well. I would say the “standard saturation” photographers are the ones who have been in the game, full time, without gaps, for more than 10 years.
Let’s break this thing down.
In the days of Kodachrome and dinosaurs, there were some pretty set rules of engagement and paths of entrance into the photography industry. You usually started by going to photography school or you started working in a lab. You had to get your feet wet somewhere and school and photo labs were a good place to get started. Once you were ready to move forward you started assisting working photographers. Many times you would have done this for free. I have assisted and interned for free many times and I have met countless photographers who started by schlepping bags and fetching coffee for nothing or next to nothing in pay. It’s what you did. It’s how you got to see how a “real” photographer worked. It was called… get this… “paying your dues.”
These days those paths aren’t so clearly defined. You can go to school via blogs, workshops, YouTube, and DVD’s. You can upload pictures to flickr and suddenly get a message from an art director wanting you to shoot a job. You can be a kid from Canada, travel the world, shoot some bands and end up shooting campaigns for a company you aren’t even old enough to buy their product. You can be inspired by your own wedding photographer, buy a camera, a fast lens, and rise to the top of your zip code within a year. You can go to Wal Mart, buy a cheap DSLR, shoot your friends and family, shoot their friends and families, put a blog together, and start a business. There are so many easy entry points into the market now. There is an abundance of inexpensive cameras, free learning portals, and free advertising routes that allows just about anyone with a camera to get out there and make a little or a lot of money with it.
The worst part about all of this is you don’t even have to be all that good of a photographer to get into the game. That really is the worst part about it all but hang out at enough photography water coolers and you’ll hear stories from “back in the day” about the same damn things. Being a crappy photographer with a profitable business is nothing new. There were just more up front costs to deal with back then. Now it’s just easier to be a crappy “sucksessful” photographer. Add insult to injury… You can be a fairly mediocre photographer these days and have a workshop teaching others how to be just as mediocre as you are. Meh. Whatever. It is what it is.
Add to all of this the deteriorating morale in the corporate workplace, the need of many to make an extra $100 here and there, unemployment, the recession, blah blah blah, and the fact that a lot of people find it a whole lot cooler to say “I’m a photographer” at social gatherings instead of saying “I’m a systems analyst at a healthcare company.” Bring this all together into the perfect shit storm of an industry filled to the gills with Joe and Jane Photographers trying to do something cool with their lives AND make some money doing it. I mean, Quicken and Quickbooks didn’t really oversaturate the accounting market did it? Maybe I’m wrong.
I’m right here part of it all. I’m part of the oversaturated market. You’re part of the oversaturated market. Don’t bitch and moan and complain about it because you’re in it with the rest of us.
What do we do with that information? Here we all are. Up to our necks in each other. We watch 10 leave because they can’t take the pressure and 20 more take their place. It all gets just a little tighter around here. The last thing in the world you need to do is complain about the situation… unless of course, you’ve been at this for 20 or more years. In that case, my apologies to you. I know you’re feeling the pressure of all of us new kids in the pool but here we are and it’s the only pool in town for us. Complaining about us isn’t making us leave and don’t think for a second that I didn’t just notice the water around me get a lot warmer.
Blah blah blah. Metaphor upon metaphor.
So it’s competitive. Guess what? Photography has always been competitive. I don’t know of any other time in this industry when it wasn’t competitive. The nice thing about the industry these days is it seems that most of us are now open to share our experiences with others. Gone are the days of everyone playing with their cards close to their chests. If you are still trying to stay in this industry with that sort of attitude, your days are numbered. It’s a real hippy love fest around here these days and we young punk kids ain’t got no time for your old ways of doing things.
Us young punk kids actually really need you to stick around. We need the long established pros to help us out. I know you want us out of your pool, but that isn’t happening any time soon. The better you can adapt the better you can survive. Part of adapting is now requiring you to kind of be a lifeguard even though you would probably just be as happy to watch us all drown.
So. Yeah. Over saturated. Your attitude should shift from “This sucks.” to “So what?” Big Deal. More at the party, dude!
How can I run a business will all these $500 wedding photographers in my town?
That’s the next thing we are going to look at. I’ll let you in on this… I’m all for $500 wedding photographers. For many different and sometimes conflicting reasons. Then we’ll look at the micro stock situation. Is it the canary in the coal mine? Then let’s have a conversation about what it all means at the end of the day and will the industry adjust and what will that look like?
The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run*
*I actually like to listen to the song above as “The dark days are over” and the horses coming aren’t here for destruction.
When I was starting out as a photographer, I would always look up to the leaders of our field – not just for their mad technical mastery and fine artistic eye. Many of them are also educators, giving frequent talks and seminars, helping others to gain invaluable insights into their work and process. I thought then, what gave them the confidence to speak to hundreds, sometimes even thousands? Over the years, after having enjoyed speaking at many seminars, I’ve come to the same realization that stand-up comedian Chris Hardwick – also actor, writer, musician, podcaster and founder of The Nerdist blog. To have confidence, you have to do what you love – and sharing insights into something I love – photography – comes easily to me. Don’t forget to check out Chris’ other sharp-witted articles.
Follow Chris on Twitter.
Post by Chris Hardwick
I’ve been traveling an ungodly amount lately and when I’m unable to affix myself to the Webs I just drift off into random thought. Sometimes I think about things I have to do, other times I’ll re-live frustrating situations and get re-pissed about them and still other times I create fractious, hypothetical situations out of thin air wherein I mentally argue with made up people in public settings. Recently, however, I somehow fell into a constructive thought-river and started contemplating the concept of confidence. What is it REALLY? How do people get it? Why do some people crumble so easily while others persevere and succeed? Nothing original there, but I had an uncanny feeling that maybe there was more to it than what’s on the surface.
Then, while desperately trying to find a cab in another city, it hit me. Confidence in any scenario isn’t about trying to convince yourself, “Hey! I’m awesome-squared!” It’s about feeling like you have options. Whenever you have at least one other option in life, you feel relaxed, safe and cool because if the one thing doesn’t work out, you’re not going to die. Literally. It’s all that limbic system/survival mechanism shit. The brain is more like an onion than an apple. In other words, layers and layers of higher evolution still clamp down onto a primitive brain stem and the core of everything we do gets processed the way a lizard would.
Using the taxi example, if there were tons of them readily available I would take my time and casually grab whichever one happen to suit me. With only one or even an absence of them altogether, I feel desperate and needy. That one damned cab suddenly becomes very important because I believe it to be my only option for moving toward what I want. Next comes the “what if” game: What if I can’t find another one? What if I can’t get to where I’m going? The “what if” game is largely pointless and stems from panic & irrational fear, i.e., Lizard T. Brainworth. How many “what if” worst-case scenarios actually come true? My guess is almost none of them.
“Well how do I get options if they don’t seem apparent?” might be your next question if you bothered to read this far. It’s simple: Strive for excellence in something you love. When you commit yourself to a higher principle of excellence, that will always be at least one other option for you to fall back on. When you’re learning how to do something you enjoy and ultimately doing it well, that becomes mental currency that you can use as armor for a variety of seemingly unrelated situations, and therein lies the cool mind sorcery of it all: the options you create DO NOT have to relate to the situations in which you want to be confident. You don’t have to be an ace with the ladies to pick up more ladies—you can excel at something entirely different and still get the action you so richly deserve. The key is for you to feel safe and comfortable.
For me, when I have a run of particularly good stand-up shows I feel like I have that as a cushion no matter how else I get rejected anywhere else. The mere option of being able to do comedy fuels my confidence in virtually every other aspect of my life whether it be in professional or social situations.
Why is this important? Because the more confidence you are able to cram into your heart, the more you attract good stuff in life. It’s kind of a cold economy of Nature to reward those who don’t seem to need it. I think it stems from the idea that if an organism is strong, it’s worthy of passing on its genes. If said organism is desperate and needy, it must be flawed and its spreading must be limited.
So find a thing! Learn it, like it, live it. Give yourself the gift of options. Then bask in the warming cascade of feeling comfortable in your own skin and the good things that await you! Exclamation points!!!!