On August 2, 2012, I attended the first ever BLOGRAPHER hosted by Adorama, an event focusing on photography education, creative tips & techniques and strategies for a successful partnership between photography and blogging. From checking in on foursquare, to posting instagram photos of the event to tweeting my notes with the #blographer hastag, I must say, I had such a great time learning about blogging, photography, business, and branding while infusing social media into the mix.
The program was broken up into three session with some of the top photo bloggers in the industry and between each session there were numerous giveaways that included prizes such as ONA and Kelly Moore bags, cameras, lens, and more. In addition to the wonderful giveaways, there were also goodie bags and a pleasant surprise from Adorama…anyone who paid to attend were given a gift card to Adorama for the price of the ticket. Let me share with you my notes and what I learned. (All my notes were done via twitter with the hastag #blographer.)
SESSION TWO: The Power of Visual Storytelling
“Of all of our inventions for mass communications, pictures still speak the most universally understood language. ” ~ Walt Disney
Amanda & Rachel opened their session talking about stats, sponsors and brand ambassadors as it related to the growth of their blog through photography. That was all nice and dandy but not neccessarily my cup of tea. What I liked was their suggestions on taking your blog and photography to the next level. For example, if you are a food blogger, expand your story. Don’t just take pictures of your food. Take pictures of your kitchen or your trip to the farmer’s market. Or if you’re a fashion photography, take your readers on a photo journey of you shopping. Don’t just take pictures of a dress or a runway. Get creative while still staying consistent to your brand.
Rachel also emphasized that your photos should focus more on “Visual Storytelling” versus a posts of simple snapshots. She stated, “If you take away anything from this, it’s PURPOSE. Purposeful shooting.” In regards to identifying what works while framing your shot, we were all told to “Learn what to leave out. Simplify!”
“The soul never thinks without a mental image” ~ Aristotle
“Take a deep breath. It’s just pictures.” ~ Rachel Devine
Next Rachel and Amanda revealed their ABCD’s of Visual Storytelling.
A – Action. This is your purpose & your message. What’s happening in your image?
B – Background. This is YOUR background. You can’t separate yourself from your pictures.
C – Content. This has to do with focus & frame. And sometimes on what you should take out & leave out.
D – Development. You are telling a story. Who are your photographic characters? Who is the protagonist?
As they wrapped up their ABCD’s, Amanda dropped a few comments. “Before you even get into editing, take the BEST photo that you can with your camera.” I agree with this wholeheartedly. I don’t particular prefer the editing process, therefore I’ve made a habit of trying to take the exact photo that I intend to take. I’d rather take a few moments to get the setting right on my camera before I take a picture than to spend moments in photoshop adjusting white balance and composition. Amanda was also quoted as saying, “Exposure matters. If you’re not controlling it, your camera will.” That’s pretty much the truth for all things regarding your camera. If you’re taking your photos on auto….really, you’re camera is taking your photos.
“Words & pictures can work together to communicate more powerfully than either can alone.” ~ William Alber Allard
Here are a few other tips that were shared with the group.
- To get the the most in aperture, think about the distance from you to your subject & your subject to the background, even at f4.
- Know that a 70/200 can take great portraits. In the words of Amanda, “Move away, zoom in, then focus.”
- Composition and Perspective matter when taking photos. When it comes to composition, fill the frame and/or look for natural frames. Alter positions. Change ur point of view. Think of rule of thirds. Look for leading lines. Allow Negative Space.
- Know what NOT to do. Such as, “Tilt gone wild.” Does your subject look like they’re about to fall out of the photo. If so, just stop doing that. As Amanda says, “Tilt with reason. Tilt with purpose.”
During session two, Rachel propositioned us with a challenge, “The Two Roll Challenge” The goal is to shoot an entire session with only 72 frames which is pretty much the equivalent of two rolls of film. We aren’t allowed to delete any of the photos or look at them on the DSLR frame. The purpose of the challenge is to teach us to be careful and more purposeful with our photography. We are to slow down. Take a photo walk. Explore. And use the two roll challenge as a priority in improving our photography.
One of the things I appreciated about Amanda’s take on photography was the correlation she saw between writing. She even referred to Anne Lamott’s book on writing, “Bird by Bird.” I swear by that book. A few things to note according to Amanda.
- If you’re more purposeful with the shots you take, it also cuts down on the editing process.
- Consider the “Final Draft” for your pictures. Just like you edit your writing, spell check it & change words around, do the same with your photographs.
- An author edits typos & story lines & adds in proclamations & adverbs. A photographer edits images to make them come to life. Creative Effects should be used in small doses & keep them in line with your style.
Amanda was speaking on such a wide range on photographic issues that she even spoke on basic editing workflow and file management, in addition to the importance of resizing and sharpening your images for the web. Did you know that resizing your images takes some of the strain off of your host server?
During the Q&A portion, Amanda and Rachel were asked their opinions on watermarking images. Amanda says she watermarks her images because “People are bad about stealing traumatic images to gain sympathy.” On the flip side, Rachel said that she “hates watermarking. You can’t read the photo with distracting copyrights on them.” She went on to say that, “If you want to make money off your images, do not watermark them. Let them go free in the world.” Not everyone agreed with her sentiment to which she followed it up by saying, “If you’re putting a watermark on your photo to bring traffic back to your blog, then do it. But ultimately, people will steal your images. Watermarks won’t prevent people from stealing.” While watermarking won’t prevent people from stealing, Rachel did inform us about Digimarc and emphasis that all of her photos are federally copyrighted. Most photographers don’t do this. Its expensive but Rachel has managed to have a very successful, lucrative career in photography. I think she might know what she’s talking about.
By the end of session two, a resounding sound bite kept circling my brain. Even as it relates to photography, “TELL YOUR STORY.” Your experience is important. Share it.