Tuesday, August 30, 2011

No Longer a Commodities Market, Rather a Experiential Market

Steven Johnson speaks about concepts in his book "Where Good Ideas Come From."  Here is his speaking to the TED conference. I learned from Steven that the coffee shop came along in Europe at a time when most folks drank wine or beer with everything. He joked about how the sobering up around the time of Benjamin Franklin helped as well as brought folks together for dialogue. Actually he said Sotherby's was first a coffee shop that grew into a insurance company.

I just got to spend two days with some of the coolest experts on marketing. Here are some of the folks I met and links to their works.

Barry Schwartz, author of Practical Wisdom and The Paradox of Choice. He spoke to the group about how too many choices can be a bad thing and not enough choices is also bad. 
After hearing a few of the speakers there were some conflicts, but the past couple of days was very mind stretching.  These would not have been people I would normally sought out to listen to and this is one of the reasons I love what I do.  People pay me to cover their events where I get the added bonus of hearing people outside my normal interests that stretch me.

Julie Ask is the VP and Principle Analyst for Forrester Research.  Julie talked about the key consumer and mobile technology trends, highlighting the opportunities to engage our customers and explore an approach to developing and deploying a mobile strategy that supports business and marketing objectives and delivers value to our customers.

Julie Ask made the statement that mobile is quickly becoming a major player in the market.  At this point only about 23% of phone users are using their smart phones for most of their computer needs.  She sees this number growing.
Aiden Tracey is the CEO of Mosaic Sales Solutions, one of the fastest growing and leading privately held agencies in North America.  He talked about how old rules of marketing get re-written by new technology and empowered consumers, it is critical for marketers to take a close look at their current go-to-market strategies to evaluate the approaches that truly deliver ROI. 

Aiden Tracey showed where the technology introduction moments changed how we do marketing and business.  This graph he used here shows when radio, TV, Cable and the web all were introduced and the resulting impact.
Tom Asker, Author and Brand Strategist, talked about unlocking the hearts and minds in today's idea economy.  At the core of his thesis is there are doors, invisible metaphysical doors, to people's hearts and minds.  And more importantly, there are specific keys and designs which will unlock these doors.

All the speakers were addressing the idea that we no longer live in a commodities market.  We live in a experiential market.  While some even talked about how the entire Walt Disney World is an experience and not so much a commodity they pointed to more and more things that today drive higher sales growth are linked directly to an experience the company provides.  A good example of this is Starbucks.  One presenter commented that he heard the CEO of Maxwell house just say how nothing knew had happened to coffee in the last 15 years.  The CEO was still thinking about the commodity of the coffee itself and not the experience that Starbucks had done to the industry.
David Butler, VP Global Design, The Coca-Cola Company, talked about how design is used to create competitive advantage. He used the example of how kids need to brush their teeth for 2 minutes and they found a product that played a 2 minute song that his daughters would use to time their brushing. A creative solution that was a system that addressed an issue.  Coke new 100 plus flavor fountains is something Coke has created to help create a system that offers variety for the customer.

Take what your company does that ends in ING and make a list of it.  Things like roast-ing, or cook-ing and then think of new words that you have not even thought about your company and make up a new word with ING.  I might write photographing, capturing and things related to taking pictures.  Then I would create new words like "storying," "vizwording," and so on.  This is how I see myself helping folks tell their stories by combining words and visuals.
You can tell from the expressions of the attendees at the conference that this was an enjoyable experience.

If you want to be the next Starbucks, Google, or Facebook business success--study them and you will discover they are all creating experiences and not just a commodity.  What kind of an experience are you creating for your customers?
Everyone was eager to collaborate and interact with each other.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Photographer's Étude

Looking for the light and how it naturally appears is a way photographers train their eyes.

An étude (a French word meaning study, French pronunciation: [eˈtyd], English pronunciation: / ˈeɪtjuːd /), is an instrumental musical composition, most commonly of considerable difficulty, usually designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular technical skill.  --Wikipedia

I grew up playing trumpet and after learning your scales I learned études.  Each one worked on a particular skill and as they became more difficult I thought they were just a way to torture a musician, but they were like tongue twisters for the musician.

Every trumpet player will at some point acquire the famous Arban book. The Arban Method is a complete pedagogical method for students of trumpet, cornet, and other brass instruments. The original edition was published by Jean-Baptiste Arban in 1864 and it has never been out of print since. It contains hundreds of exercises, ranging enormously in difficulty. The method begins with fairly basic exercises and progresses to very advanced compositions, including the famous arrangement of Carnival of Venice.
For me certain light patterns and objects help create a mood. Reading the Sunday Paper with a cup of coffee sets a mood for me. Does it do something for you?
While professional musicians practice every day for 6 to 12 hours so too must professional photographers.  They must learn to see.  They may not use a camera all the time, but they must learn to see with an inquisitive eye.
A shaft of light was coming through an opening in the trees on our back porch.  The branches created a pattern where the whole scene was not being lit up.  When light is not so even it draws your attention to the highlights.

I love a cross light.  It brings out texture and gives depth to a scene. 

You need to practice seeing in order to be able to do like a musician does when they perform.  They pull upon all their practices to play the music with such artistry that the nuances are there even tho they had never seen the music.  But in reality they had in a way seen the music.  All those scales and études along with other performances are being drawn upon.  Their well is deep because of all the time they put into their practicing.

I love the back lit clouds at sunset.
Most all the movies and TV shows music isn't practiced before it is recorded. That would just be too expensive to play through the music a few times with professional studio musicians.  They know how to play the music as written and with their experience can bring it alive.

The professional photographer doesn't practice a few times taking your portrait and then says OK this is for real.  No they perform right away.

If you photos are not that great--have you considered you might not have practiced? I know my trumpet teacher would ask how much I practiced when they heard me play--it was a good sign I wasn't doing it right if he asked me that question.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Some subjects are difficult to photograph

When two subjects of different lightness and darkness are in the same photo (Bride and Groom) you will notice the details don't show up equally.  You can see the texture of the white duck and not in the black duck. [ISO 200, f/8, & 1/40 sec]

Which do you expose for in a wedding photo?  Do you show the detail of the bride's white dress or the detail in the groom's black tuxedo? This was the old joke wedding photographers used and the punch line long ago was the bride, because the parents were paying for the photos.

In available light this is still a very difficult shot to pull off. 
Setup for the first photo

Now the simplist way to correct for this situation is to add some light.
By adding flash on the right side of the photo to light primarily the black duck I was able to add some detail to the photo. [ISO 200, f/8, & 1/40 sec]
While you might think you only need this to help out in those situations to be sure both subjects look good--it makes a difference even in individual photos.
You can see that I just added a flash up high at a 45 degree angle to the subject. 

Black Subject with no flash to fill in the shadows
What the camera sees is the duck without a flash. When the human eye looks at the duck it scans the subject and adjusts to show the different tones so you can see detail like you do with the flash assistance in the next photo. 

Black subject with the flash to fill in the shadows giving an apparent increased tonal value.

White Subject available light

White Subject with flash at 45 degree to the right and 45 degrees above the eyes.

When you add flash to a subject that has a dynamic range greater than the camera can record you are in essence bringing the values closer to the range the camera can record and therefore mimicking what the eye actually is seeing.

If you want people to talk about how great your photos are, then you need to capture the scene as close as possible to the human eye and to do that you may have to add some light.


When you use flash you are putting the subject into the color space that renders the highest dynamic range.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tribal Communications is hot while Mass Communications is diminishing

In 2008 Seth Godin published his book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us.  

One of the concepts in the book is creating a tighter tribe and/or "transforming the shared interest into a passionate goal and desire for change" usually leads to much more impact than trying to make a tribe bigger. I now see this as more about niche markets are where people are going today rather than the mass market communications.

Just today I visited with a missionary couple who are raising their first support to go into missions full time. They had been on staff of a missionary organization that helped "missionaries" with their presentations to churches and their supporters when they came home on furlough every few years.

While these "missionaries" were not doing what we might term mass communications they were mainly using the older mass communication model of communications done at certain times.  America would tune into the news on TV for a very long time at 6 pm and watch one of three networks before the Cable Networks came along.  While CNN was the first to give us round the clock new cast it for the most part was more of the same network news rebroadcast throughout the day.

Since the 1995 when Mosaic popularized the World Wide Web and helped what started out to be the instantaneous news cycle.  February 2004 Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook and then we were all able to create our communities with our "friends." We could talk with and follow our friends. We shared tips and what we were finding on the web.

Two years later July 2006 Jack Dorsey launched Twitter. The tipping point for Twitter's popularity was the 2007 South by Southwest (SXSW) festival. During the event, Twitter usage increased from 20,000 tweets per day to 60,000. "The Twitter people cleverly placed two 60-inch plasma screens in the conference hallways, exclusively streaming Twitter messages," remarked Newsweek's Steven Levy. "Hundreds of conference-goers kept tabs on each other via constant twitters. Panelists and speakers mentioned the service, and the bloggers in attendance touted it."

Today the ability of any person to reach out and create content that others with similar interest might be interested in has created a new communications platform for not just the professional communications expert, but anyone who wants to get on a soapbox.

What's the big difference?

Today people want ongoing communications when they want it and where they are located.  The mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are now creating more demand.

While the mass communication channels are still working the audience for them has shrunk considerable. Meanwhile more specialized magazines exist today than ever.  Authors are self publishing because of e-Books. Bloggers are sitting in their bathrobes in their homes and connecting with the world.


If you are needing to communicate with a constituency, you need to be communicating more often.  Blogging three times a week, putting out a newsletter, tweeting are not something of a fad--this is how your audience is getting their messages daily with things they are interested in. For those missionaries who used to come home every four years and give a slide show to their church and sending out quarterly newsletters they snail mailed are finding their support dwindling.  Those who are connecting with their supporters on a regular basis are flourishing.

Business can do the same things as these missionaries I met with today--telling their stories to keep their customers.

The missionaries noticed something new they didn't see years ago from their traditional communication--responses. Their supporters are responding immediately when they get an eNewsletter.  They mention what they are doing and the people are excited and want to know when they are doing something so they can pray for them right then.

Businesses are also discovering a raving fan. Their customers are creating blogs about their products and trying to get the scoop on what the company is doing next.

The bottom line is mass communication which was one way communication is being replaced by a dialogue.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Need Visual Inspiration -- Get Really Close

Fabric on our patio chairs

Sometimes photographers suffer from a "visual block."  It is very similar to the "writers block."

What do you do to get some inspiration.  This is one of many techniques I use.

  1. Pick a macro lens or use your point and shoot on the macro (flower) setting. 
  2. Set the lens to the closest focus setting.  
  3. Set the f/stop on f/8 or greater.  Very important if using a macro lens on DSLR
  4. Get as close as you can without refocusing, but you getting the photo in focus by just getting closer or further back to keep the object in focus.
A screw in our deck

As you hunt for different things to photograph this close, you will notice you will often cast a shadow on the objects--be careful not to do that.  If you want to make this more fun then use a small compact mirror (ladies have them in their purses) and bounce some light where you are casting a shadow.  You can also just use a 3x5 white index card and that will work just as well.
Glaze finish on our kitchen cabinets

A photographer who needed to go back and get something and left his intern to watch the equipment at a photo shoot. They were in the middle of no where. Just a car there in the field.  When the photographer returned he asked the intern what he got and he said nothing--there is nothing to shoot.  The photographer then took the camera and shot about a dozen or so images in just a few moments and handed back to the intern.

They were all spectacular.  Jay Maisel was that photographer.  The intern got an incredible lesson that day, the images are all around you.  The creative photographer will find them.

Water on our deck where you can see the reflection of the sky

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Themed portraits









When you create portraits that will run together you can create a "feel" for the portraits.  One way is to use a traditional formal portrait where the backgrounds are identical.  Another way is to use a similar style.

a  b  c

The last three photos are more traditional.  But when used together they are not very good as a theme.  What you need on a company website or organizations website is consistency of portraits.  My recommendation is to find a theme and then have all the portraits done the same.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Today clear skies, a low of 68° and high of 91°

I love the low angle, use of flash off camera and great expressions
Today is one of those days that you have got to get outside in Atlanta.  Clear skies and most of the day in the 80's.  During the morning before it got warmer, I enjoyed capturing these moments at a local college. 

Low angle to pick up on the blue sky and the architecture in the background

We didn't have to go and find students and bring them outside for us to photograph them, no they were everywhere today.  Laptops were out in the sun, which isn't that easy to see them in, just to enjoy this weather.

Fill flash and great expression makes the photo for me

I believe that the reason we were getting great shots is the weather actually brings out the best in folks. When it rains I don't see bright smiles, but gloomy expressions.  They match the weather to me. When there is snow on the ground people bundle up and cover the faces with scarfs.
Back-lit will help rim light the subject and then using flash off the camera to the right of the subjects helps you see those great expressive moments between friends.

Clothing can make or break a shot.  I think the dental school students just look great in their bright blue outfits with all the green landscaping around them.
Back-lit creates that wonderful rim lighting and the flash off to the side helps again fill the shadows so you can see their expressions which helps you understand how these are good friends

I cannot take these type of photos you see here without a photo assistant.  I call them "voice activated light stands."  They know where to point the lights and help them move along with the subjects as in these photos of people walking towards me. 
Every business uses signage to help in branding them. I like to tie their people to their brand as I have done here.

Clayton State University found out this year that research shows they are competing with Georgia State University for their students primarily.  Georgia State University is an inner city school, so Clayton State University is going to play up their beautiful green lush campus.  When high school seniors are looking at those college brochures, they want them to see how they are different.
You don't just take one photo, you take lots of photos.  Which photo would you use this one or the one above?

With cooler days of the fall starting to creep up on us, get outside on these days and take photos.  Better yet give me a call and I will make them for you.
Compare this photos that uses flash to the one below without the flash.

I put these two photos to show how when you don't use a flash on a sunny day about noon time you will make people become like a number rather than a person.  This is because they are most often in shadows.  Compare these two photos.  Both are strong visually, but they say something different.
Here the person who is silhouetted becomes symbolic to me where the photo above the person is someone.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Street Photography at The Citadel in Charleston, SC

T J Fischer, Bravo Company Commander, talks with some of his staff during a light moment when Knobs are checking in at The Citadel on the first day.
From Wikipedia: Street photography is a type of documentary photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places such as streets, parks, beaches, malls, political conventions and other settings.
Street photography uses the techniques of straight photography in that it shows a pure vision of something, like holding up a mirror to society. Street photography often tends to be ironic and can be distanced from its subject matter, and often concentrates on a single human moment, caught at a decisive or poignant moment. On the other hand, much street photography takes the opposite approach and provides a very literal and extremely personal rendering of the subject matter, giving the audience a more visceral experience of walks of life they might only be passingly familiar with.

The "Red Sash" is what the Cadre wear at the Citadel.  Cadre members are cadets who train the incoming fourth-class cadets and are considered to be in high standing academically and militarily.
I love "Street Photography" because you are just capturing those moments when people are so caught up in doing life they forget about you. The best photos I find is when people are with their closest friends and family.

One of the places I have enjoyed shooting the most has been The Citadel these past four years.  Our son graduated in May, but we were vacationing nearby in Isle of Palms and went by for Matriculation Day. Dorie, my wife, enjoys volunteering. 

Alpha parents wait with their Knobs things as they check in with the Cadre.  The light blue shirt is for those Citadel parents who are volunteering.  Their cadets have already been through their Knob year.
The volunteers are parents of current and former cadets at The Citadel. They remember so well dropping their sons and daughters off for that first time. The Knobs, what the call the freshmen at The Citadel, will go through right away what they call "Hell Week."  As compared to the other service academies The Citadel "fourth class system" is longer than all the others. 

Sue Reigerix talks with her daughter Rachelle Reigerix, Athletic Cadre Commander, on Matriculation Day 2011 at The Citadel.
Now with a graduate I can see much better with my 20/20 hindsight. I believe that the higher the commitment of anything a person does, the more involved their friends and family become with them in their endeavor. 

We are now into the next stage of being the family of a military officer. Already I am seeing how families all bond in ways that graduates that go into civilian life just don't experience in the same way.

Knob is checking in for the first time.  I love seeing the eyes look around.  He will soon learn to do this using peripheral vision.
While street photography for me is fun the photos reveal more about folks than I ever thought possible.  I think in these few photos you see a bit of life in just a few frames.

My favorite thing is also sharing these moments with those in the photos.

Remember to get these "Street Photography" images, you have to have your camera with you. The photo that got away is the time you don't have your camera.