Journal

Happy New Year and 7 Things to Achieve in 2015

Christmas may have been last week but a belated Merry Christmas to all those that celebrate it and a happy, prosperous and, above all, healthy 2015.

I’ve not really blogged since February (not here anyway) as this year has been focussed building my new business Mitingu from the ground up. It has been a busy year building a product from scratch as well as raising the necessary capital to bootstrap the idea.

Shameless plug

Mitingu is an event registration and engagement platform with a focus both on business events and delivering first class experience to event delegates. So if you are running an event this year check Mitingu out. If you are running any business conferences, workshops, training etc as our specific focus makes us more suited than something like Eventbrite, for example. Our early big users include The Body Shop, Lush Cosmetics and Wildlife Trusts.

Check Out Mitingu

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2014

I just wanted to wish you all a happy Christmas and good health and happiness for 2014. Thank you for your support in 2013. I’ll be back in the new year with a new illustration for you.

I’ve been teaching myself animation over the last week with the view to bringing a few of my designs and illustrations to life in the future. My first attempt is taking these Christmas berry inspired baubles and turning them into a Newton’s Cradle.

Newton's Baubles

Newton’s Baubles, Animated Gif, 2013

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My creative direction for 2013/2014

It has been a good 10 months since I last posted an update on here, so firstly please accept my apologies for the unannounced break. Heavy work commitments and generally being busy sucked all ability to think creatively. On the occasions I have had a bit of time to breathe again, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the creative direction of my personal projects.

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The Life and Decline of Cover Art

With our new willingness to digitise everything we are loosing a major part of our culture. A whole art form is dying as we trade the convenience of downloading the bestselling novel to our kindle, our favourite album to our iPhones and the latest blockbuster to our AppleTV. You may not care, but I think you should. It has produced many great visual works in it’s past that stand up in their own right.

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Why you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one social network’s basket

If you are promoting your work, business or brand online then you probably already have a Facebook page, Twitter account, Flickr profile, etc. I do, and use them all regularly. I use them as a communication channel, to update users on each particular network, interested in my work. What I don’t do is use them as a home or base for my work or brand.

We need to see our social network profiles as business premises we can trade from but don’t own. In most cases these outlets are free to use, which means we get cosy, feel at home, decorate and quickly forget they don’t belong to us. We invest time increasing the number of followers our twitter account has, or promoting our Facebook page to get more likes. This is good, more people to hear our message but we have to be careful investing too much time with any one network and making it our home, as sooner or later the landlord may come along and put up the rent.

Take Facebook for instant, they recently announced that they were investigating charging page owners to make their status updates more visible. In a way, this is a helpful service to businesses to ensure their messages are visible in the crowd. There is an issue however, I have already noticed that I don’t see all the updates that my friends post on Facebook. It is not that I miss them, they are simply not on my timeline. There are already rumours that Facebook pages will not now be seen by all of the page’s likers unless your pay for the update. I don’t personally think this is true yet as all the pages I like are still all showing up in my timeline, but this isn’t the point. Many people I follow online have made one or other of their social network profiles their home, driving traffic from the other networks, even their own website, to this one profile motivated by the follower or liker number. I am worried this is a mistake.

For me my home is my blog, a website that I have 100% control over. I decide the layout, the design and how my work and message is presented, I choose what is and isn’t visible. I see it like this; my blog is the hub of all my online activities and social networks are the spokes that hopefully channel visitors back to this site. That is the goal, the only metric I am concerned about is whether I am creating content that is of value and easy to find for those that want to see it.

I would love to know your thoughts on this, so feel free to comment below.

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  • and you will also find me posting links back to each article, as I write them here, on all my social networks (listed in the sidebar)
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First impressions of Photoshop CS6

Late last week Adobe released the public beta of Photoshop CS6 to the world. I have now had a chance to create an image from start to finish and wanted to share my thoughts.

Overall, I love the new Photoshop. The darker interface is much easier on the eye, allowing you to focus on your work. Not only that the interface is more compact. The adjustment layers pallet now opens as needed, allowing for the side bar to be narrower. Many of the big headline grabbing features work as expected but to be honest, I have hardly used them. This is mainly as I have an established workflow which doesn’t include these tools yet, I am sure this will change in time.

So for me and what I do, the best of the new features are as follows:

  • The new Camera RAW is a huge advancement on the last and the sliders now make much more sense. Though it is a shame it is still in the old light grey.
  • Mini bridge is now really well integrated, gone is the old Air powered pop-out and you can now view all the resources you are working with at the bottom of the screen and simply drag and drop them straight into the image. For a compositor this is a welcome addition.
  • The new crop tool makes more sense and works a treat.
  • The patch tool, which when you put the tool into content aware mode, acts like content aware fill but allows you to choose the source. In the few cases I used it, it did a great job, better than content-aware fill.
  • The Liquify tool has a simpler interface, still unfortunately in light grey, but does seem quicker

For me though it is the subtle new features that make Photoshop CS6 a must buy, in particular, being able to modify multiple layers at once as well as little things to help tab through layers when re-naming them.

You can download Photoshop and use it for free until Adobe release the official release. Although Adobe has done this before with Lightroom 3 and 4, this is the first time I am aware of them doing a public beta of Photoshop in their Adobe Labs. This is a great move by Adobe and not only that, they are welcoming feedback in the Photoshop forum which shows they are listening to their users.

You can download Photoshop CS6 Beta here
You can provide feedback to Adobe here
You can see my image I created in CS6 here

 

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A lesson in staying true to yourself

Last weekend my friend Dan and I headed off to photograph seven models in an old Stuart period house in Liskeard (imaginatively called Stuart House). It was a great day and everyone was lovely which helped make the day really enjoyable. I learnt a lot, both technically as well as working with professional models, but I also learnt a far more important lesson.

Erinx in the stairway

Erinx

Before the event I had a lot of ideas for concept shots that I wanted to create on the day, but unfortunately I was not able to pull them off. My first reaction was to blame the location “In future, I need to scout the location first”, but this isn’t the main reason they didn’t work.

The real reason these didn’t work, was that as the event approached I convinced myself I needed to work on my portraits skills. If I am honest, I think that lately I have been drawn to the success and attention Dan’s work is getting and lost sight of my own direction. Dan is well on the way to becoming an excellent wedding and portrait photographer but this isn’t me. I have no intention of becoming a professional photographer, I love my day job, for me photography is a creative release. My work isn’t mainstream so it isn’t going to be as popular, but that isn’t why I create it. Obviously, we would all love recognition for what we do, but in regards to my own photography, I know I haven’t earn’t that yet.

Roswell Ivory #1

Roswell Ivory

I did a lot of thinking last week about my direction, why I love photography and what I really what to do with it. I have come to the conclusion that when there is a narrative or meaning in my work, it is stronger and more enjoyable for me to create. This meaning doesn’t have to be overly deep and complex, for example my Orchid series was simply about my wife’s growing orchid obsession collection.

The images here were taken on the day and while I think they have come out really well, they don’t fit what I have been doing so far.

You can see my Orchid Series here.

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Starting to work with models…

I want to get a more human touch into my images. I love photographing people and a lot of the ideas I have for my surreal personal projects involve a person or people in the image. A hurdle, that I have wanted to cross, is working with professional models. I get a little anxious as I want to approach the situation with confidence and a clear vision of what I want to achieve, without wasting anyone’s time. Getting over this barrier, will open up a lot of opportunities to do more interesting projects.

My first experience of working with a model was with Sophie Hennessy (featured above). We did a group shoot on the beach with some other local photographers. Everyone was cross guiding/posing Sophie which didn’t put her at ease and we tended to get in each other’s way. It was a good experience but I didn’t learn all that I had hoped. You can see some of the images I took here.

This weekend will be my second attempt. Dan and I are heading up to Liskeard on Sunday to join a group of 6 other photographers and 7 beautiful models at a great venue. Dan and I are sharing a slot as the event sold out in 4 hours and we got in on the reserve list, but this time we are doing things differently. Dan and I have a different shooting style Dan will be perfecting his style and I want to try to get some more concept, surreal fashion, type shots. Inspired mainly by Tim Walker, Guy Bourdin and Miss Aniela (incidentally, I am doing a workshop with Miss Aniela in London next month – more on that in a future post). We have decided to split our one hour time slot with each model into 30 minutes each. This will allow us to get the shots we want, albeit in limited time, and while one of us shoots, the other will assist.

It is pretty much all natural light so we will bring reflectors and flashes but I think we will mainly work with the available lighting. Posing is something that I have little experience of, but having watched Sue Bryce’s excellent Creative Live last weekend, I think I have a good grasp of some basic techniques to help me. Other than a few interesting props we should be good to go.

What are other’s experiences of working with models for the first time? I would love to hear your stories and tips.

You can checkout my images of Sophie at Crantock here
You can checkout Dan Ward’s work here, oh and be sure to join his Facebook page if you like his work and would like to receive large amounts of love and gratitude from Dan.

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Flickr releases a major update tomorrow but they still don’t get social networking

Flickr are releasing a major overhaul to their platform tomorrow centred around improving how photos from your friends are displayed. The problem is their whole approach to friends needs an overhaul, not just a facelift.

I love Flickr and have discovered many inspirational and highly talented photographers through their site, but they don’t make it easy for me. Yes, they do have groups and Explore ( I have made my opinion clear several times before on the latter and other algorithms, so won’t again now).  The problem for me, is that the team at Flickr seem to fail to understand (or refuse to acknowledge) even the most fundamental principles of social networking.

Social Networking, at its core, is about friendships and personal connections. Although this update is an improvement to this area, it is still hugely underplayed and Flickr are missing out on a huge potential. I know Flickr is not a social network, it came along before all of that, but it’s core purpose is to share photos. Flickr’s whole approach to sharing, is about self promotion. This is too user centred and they need to make it easier for you to share other’s photos. This is the very reason why Flickr photos don’t go viral on Flickr. There is no mechanism for images to propagate.

Here is what I believe Flickr should focus on and why:

1. Friend feed

The friends that we connect with on Flickr are either photographers we like or “real life” friends, so it is not unreasonable to think we might be interested not only in what they upload but also the photographs that they like and comment on. Flickr should do away with the current activity feed that has limited purpose and focus more on your friends activity. This will benefit users, as it helps build relationships and networks as well as discover new images through our friends. Flickr also benefits as it increases engagement and user interaction on the site and in turn Flickr’s value to its users.

 

2. Facebook and Twitter integration

Currently Flickr would consider itself integrated with Facebook, which is designed around you uploading pictures and Flickr announcing this to your friends. It would be far more socially interactive, if it also shared photos we favourite and/or comment on. There are some great photos out there and if we chose to favourite or comment on them, there is a good chance that our friends on Facebook and Twitter will like them too. This benefits Flickr’s users again by increasing the network value of the platform. Flickr benefit massively, as it brings extra traffic to their site.

 

3. Better User profiles

The current user profiles are okay but it would be great to have more prominence on photo and stream pages. If we like a photograph, we often want to know who it is by. We may want to find out if they have a blog, Facebook or twitter account that we can follow  or if we have any friends in common. This would help users find new friends. Flickr can only benefit from this increased engagement on the site.

 

4. Clearer and easier user to user messaging

You may be shocked to know that Flickr already has user to user messaging. They do, honestly, it is just well hidden. It would be better if this was clearer on all profile pages and then re-organised so that messages show the full transcript. The current messaging in Flickr is so poor that I often resort to email or Facebook. Better messaging would prevent users leaving the site when they want to message each other and once again increase engagement. Win all round.

 

5.  Password protected sets

Sharing pictures to a select group of friends of family is not easy without making those pictures public. You can create a private set, but it involves setting all the images in that set to private and then finding the share URL that allows anyone with the URL to see the set. A far simpler and elegant solution would be for Flickr to allow users to password protect a set. That set could then be accessed by anyone with the password and you have the option of revoking access by changing the password. This would make Flickr more attractive to professionals that need to securely and privately share images with their clients.

 

6. Print Fulfilment

A lot of photographers would love to be able to sell their work directly from their Flickr page. Both users and Flickr could benefit from this financially and this also incentivises the user to market their own Flickr pages, bringing more fresh users to Flickr.

 

I am sure there are people at Flickr that recognise the potential that features like this could add. I don’t suspect we will see any big changes soon but at least tomorrow’s update is a step (albeit small) in the right direction.

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