Monthly Archives: September 2011

Social Media in Practice

Turns out that my Social Media post from last weekend came just at the right time! I have just come across a wonderful example how NOT to do SM. And even better – it comes courtesy one of the largest camera manufacturers in the world, Nikon.
Laudably, Nikon has a very active SM stream on FB. Their use of the social network is commendable: They post on a regular basis, i.e. once a day. Their posts are written in a conversational, almost personal style, avoiding too much tech-speak and therefore managing to be inclusive across the amateur-pro divide. They try to be topical, i.e. referring to current events, holidays and seasons. And they always phrase their status updates in such a way that they engage the readers either by posing questions or by sparking discussions. However, the poor PR person is who is responsible for the Nikon FB updates produced a major slip-up yesterday (click here if you want to read the whole of the 2300 comments!).
A lesson in how to alienate your readers by trying a little bit too hard to push a product while creating a brand-community. Because the issue is clear: A photographer is NOT as good as his or her equipment. If you had top gear and a rather bad eye for composition and motif, you’d still produce crap. And similarly, you can still produce great photography even if you haven’t got the money to buy top glass. Photography is NOT about the hardware. If it were, we could send robots out to take photographs and to produce art. The lenses and the cameras and the filters and the post-production effects are tools but not necessarily prerequisite to producing great images.
To get back to the SM aspect of this storm in a waterglass: As you can see from the screenshot, Nikon’s FB subscribers were very quick to come back with critical feedback. That’s what SM is about – it is a channel for quick, easy and barrier-free communication with clients/users/fans/customers. Administrators of a FB fanpage need to be conscious of that at all times – SM can easily turn against you. And will spread a negative message faster all across the internet than a positive one. Cos, let’s face it, everyone loves a little schadenfreude or a measure of gossip. 
The update has received 2300 comments and 810 shares – take a guess how many of those were positive? You could argue that any PR is good PR. But a SM post like Nikon’s there, even though it doesn’t concern me in the slightest (Canon girl through and through), reinforces my prejudices or the way I perceive the rival brand to my preferred camera manufacturer. 
So… sorry to say this, but I remain unimpressed with Nikon!

UPDATE: Nikon eventually released an apology via their FB stream. Just goes to show the power of Social Media. At least Nikon is clever enough to understand that. Here’s their apology:

We know some of you took offense to the last post, and we apologize, as it was not our aim to insult any of our friends. Our statement was meant to be interpreted that the right equipment can help you capture amazing images. We appreciate the passion you have for photography and your gear, and know that a great picture is possible anytime and anywhere.
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New Social Media Project

This is the Queen of Social Media speaking. You may look up from your curtseys and bows now, subjects, and listen to the profound pronouncements your Queen is about to make. Social Media is my realm. Seriously, years ago, in my previous incarnation as an employee of a large, American corporation, I had to do personality test and it turned out that I am a “communicator”. Well, really??? Not that this chatterbox hadn’t known this herself… I love interacting with others, communicating, socialising, discussing, negotiating, informing, distracting…
Anyhow, social media is somewhat my expertise. I write about social media in my daily work and I use it extensively in my private life. (And may I take the opportunity and apologize to my FB friends here – I know, I am a bit too talkative…) But when it comes to photography, Facebook had increasingly become a mishmash of my private “snaps” and my more serious attempts at photography. Therefore, I figured, the time had come to separate the pleasure private from the duty professional and I have started a Facebook page for my photographic persona. I just don’t want my more serious photographic endeavours like my fashion shoot from Tuesday to sit beside some jokey snapshot of myself beside a wax sculpture of Qui-Gon Jinn.
Joanne
And so I am shamelessly plugging my FB-page here. What’s the point of all my SM knowledge, if I don’t use it to my own advantage? However, I am not only a communicator but also a “multiplyer” – that means I enjoy sharing knowledge, passing on what I know to others, and creating a pool of knowledge. So here are my top five tips on Social Media for Photographers:
1. Choose your platform wisely
Twitter, Facebook, Flickr or Blog? Social Media for photographers takes many shapes and forms. Ask yourself what your primary goal is – do you want communicate about your photography business? Do you want to comments? Do you mainly want to show your images? Or do you want to share thoughts and insights about photography? All four platforms have their particular strengths and weaknesses. For feedback on photographs, Flickr (or any other photography community) is ideal as you can post your images in groups and receive proper feedback from other photographers. If you really want to share more than just photos, a blog might be a better platform as you can add your ideas and thoughts in it. And now that Twitter has enabled photo-upload, the short messaging service is nearly as good as Facebook at creating a platform where you can both post your images and also share thoughts, promotions or insights into your business.
2. Post regularly
There is nothing more frustrating than subscribing to a page which is updated irregularly. Readers like to know that there is a constant presence of the administrator of the fanpage, so post at regular intervals. Your subscribers will come to look forward to your postings. However…
3. Don’t overdo it
Post regularly but do not spam your readers. Two or three posts per day max! Everything else is too much and will make your subscribers resent the amount of info that is pushed their way.
4. Illustrate what you are posting
If you are a photographer, you are a visual person and you like being stimulated by images that explain or illustrate a text. A good image draws the attention of your readers. It also often says more than a thousand words.
5. Establish dialogue
In order to grow your business or your page stats you need to make readers engage with you. Ask real questions, throw in a competition or two, and ask for comments. Likewise, always reply to comments. And do so asap. 
That was SM for photographers in a nutshell – I could elaborate on each and every point, but I’d be violating rule 3 if I did that in this post. There is enough here already. Let me know what you think about this – or if you have other experiences with SM. I would be interested to know.

Fashion Victim

Actually, I am not. A fashion victim. Rather the opposite – I am never too sure what is on trend and what isn’t. And that is one of the reasons why I was never particularly interested in fashion photography. Just like couture, I always thought it wasn’t for me. Until I started assisting on fashion shoots with my fellow diploma-students Cristian Turcan and Eilish McCormick. I realised that fashion photography is by no means all pouts-frocks-and-white-background but can be a mini-narrative in one shot. And so I finally pushed myself to try a fashion shoot myself.
I will admit that the opportunity for this shoot fell into my lap, really. I was assisting my friend Karl Burke last week. Jeeez, sorry, is this turning into a name-dropping post? Well, then wait for the next piece of info… Our model was the stunning Joanne who has been one of the final 13 on Britain & Ireland’s Next Top-Model. She is looking to complete her portfolio and suggested we do a little shoot together. Guess who jumped at the chance…
To make things easy for ourselves, we made this a two-women-show. Joanne did the styling and make-up herself, I organised lighting and location. And off we went. We shot for about three hours one evening, trying to squeeze as many different set-ups out of my living room and drawing room as we could. I tried to keep the lighting simple – one softbox did the trick, occasionally only supported by a backlight onto the backdrop to get rid of shadows.
There is still a lot to learn for me, but mainly, we had fun on this shoot – trying different backgrounds and clothes and how they worked together. Joanne is a total pro – offering poses without prompting, moving and looking natural, suggesting set-ups and backgrounds. Nonetheless a shoot always takes a toll and I only noticed after we had called it a night, how mentally exhausting the process of creating an editorial is. Concentration on lighting, background, styling, poses, facial expression. Releasing the shutter is the smallest part, really. I could get into it – if I always had great sitters like Joanne.

Nude Awakenings

Nudes have always interested me. Hold on, hold on. Before you get the wrong impression: I am talking about the most classical of all subject matters, the human shape in its basic, unclothed form, the naked body. The shapes, the hills and valleys, the soft lines and the hazy glow of skin – it all translates so beautifully into photography. I daresay the nude is most perfectly represented in photography – more so than in painting and sculpture. Because it is immediate, true and real.
f4 and 1/80 but at ISO 6400 – night time, it was…
However, apart from viewing nudes in books and galleries, I have no further experience with this artform. Until last week that was. A good friend of mine is currently working on wet plate processed photographs. A wonderful, but lengthy process that produces beautiful once-off images. He is putting a massive amount of care and preparation into this project – much to my benefit because that meant he was in need of an assistant. And his subject matter is the female form – hence my exposure to the aesthetic nude.
Observing the models we worked with, I not only have to commend them for being so uninhibited (in the best possible sense of the word) and natural in front of a lens and two pairs of strangers’ eyes. But I also could not help but wonder whether posing nude is the most honest and also the scariest of modelling of all. Not the slightest, sheerest piece of cloth to hide behind, all lines and bumps and bruises exposed (not that our models had any of those – they were perfect). Self in its purest?
Or maybe it is not the person reduced to its most essential part. However much skin is visible, that is not a guarantee for exposing the soul of the sitter. Some of Alfred Stieglitz’s images of Georgia O’Keeffe come to mind: He took nude photographs of his wife, and yet she is strangely absent from the images, because she insisted not to have her head, hands and feet shown in them. The limbs and torso are hers, and she never disputed that. But the photograph is still not of her.
Essentially, even when having everything you could possibly hide behind, taken away from you, you are still (just) posing. And that can include taking on a different attitude or even persona for the shot. On some level, I think, this is something a photographer ought to experiment with him- or herself. Not necessarily in the nip – any kind of modelling is probably revelatory for a photographer. Giving up the control over image and “image”/representation is scary and difficult. And a hundred times more so when you have also given up your clothes. But even if you have to lock away the results of such an experiment securely – it might be worth while checking it out. I suspect the remote release and a mirror could be great companions…

A New Beginning

Shoot, that didn’t help at all! Just back from my info meeting in college. Yes, it’s time to get back into the swing of things. I could feel every single day of the last four months in my tender buttocks muscles (let’s keep this clean, Sonja!) when I swung back onto the bike tonight. And boy, what an evening to brave the roads and cycle those two kilometers over to Griffith. Hurricane Katia was playing with us. There were a few gusts of wind here that caught me side-on and I had to hold on to dear life… or rather: my bike in order to stay upright and not end up under a bus. Anyway, that’s beside the point – the info evening is.
I had gone in thinking that my preliminary choices would be confirmed. Well, here is the deal: One last year in college, two semesters, four elective subjects to choose from. The list consists of Action Photography, People Photography, Large Format Photography and Video Production. My initial reaction was: “F*ck off action photography – that’s got to be sports pictures. Boring, don’t want that, don’t like that.” Great, one choice less on the list. People photography? Bah, have done that often enough. Don’t really want any more projects of that sort. Unless they teach more lighting stuff in this. But nah, not interested. Large Format? Yes, pleeeeeeeeease – probably my one and only chance to ever get my hands on a large format camera and play with it. I love the crafty aspect of film photography and can’t wait to do some chemical stuff again ;-). Plus, all very good for slowing down and getting the picture right with just one shot. There is an architectural photography project I have up my sleeve that would suit this. And even my current Revisiting Dubliners project might benefit from some large format attention.
Capel Street 1996 – 2011
Video Production? Honestly: not my cup of tea. BUT: I do happen to have a camera, that is increasingly being used in the film industry to shoot parts of films. Marky Mark was used for scenes in “Captain America”. Heck, they even filmed a whole episode of “House” with it. And why am I subscribed to Philip Bloom, anyway??? Yes, it would push me (I can see a nightmare scenario involving editing software…), but then anything non-pushy is booooring. In short: I had it sussed in my head: Large Format and Video Production – something analog and unusual, and something challenging and practical.
Anyhow, those were my preliminary deliberations. And the meeting actually resulted in the opposite of the desired outcome. I am less clear on what I want to do than ever. It turns out that both terms Action and People Photography are used very broadly:
People photography may include any project as long as it has people in it. Studio, outdoor, street, portrait, photo essay, what ever shape or form you want your project to take. A self-portrait will be one graded excercise. It’s been a year since I last experimented with my own form (apart from that day when I cut my own hair. But *um*, that probably doesn’t belong in this context…), so I wouldn’t mind some self-centred, egotistical exploration of self and image (ah, am getting into the discourse of photography already…)
Action photography, on the other hand, is also not confined to sports. Here it is any movement. Band shots, dance companies. But also street photography. And most annoyingly: light trails and night photography. *G-raaaaaaaaaaaaaaah* I groaned inwardly when I heard that. These are ideas I have been working on over the summer. As early as March I had been thinking about catching plane trails. In June I did some experiments with slow shutter speeds while driving in a car, catching the passing lights etc. And now it turns out that these projects could possibly be done in that elective subject???
What am I confused for, you ask? Well, the class is taught by one of my favourite lecturers. But he expects a lot. A LOT! “Pushy” is not even near! However, that is also a guarantee that I will learn lots in this class. Plus, he is promising to also go over the use of fill flash etc. in this module. And I so need that.
I really can’t make up my mind. Will you help me? Come on – if you have made it this far, you might as well click on the following poll and cast your vote. Pur-lease!!
Which electives would you choose if you were me? (Please pick two from the following.)
Action Photography
Large Format Photography
People Photography
Video Production

Free poll maker

Ok, would be lovely to gauge your thoughts on this. I have to make my decision by October 4th. Any thoughts? All welcome!!

PS: *um* – does this poll thing actually work? Have a nasty feeling it comes up as a “bad request”. Go on, you dirty thing, don’t be bad, be good! In that case, maybe this link works? My poll.

Working

Twenty to 9 am on a weekend morning. I am sitting in a car park outside a suburban Dublin shopping centre. What in anyone’s right mind would bring them out that early and to such a desolate place??? Work – is the only answer.


Today I am doing a paid for photography job. It’s only the second time I am doing one of those. I have assisted countless times at this stage – but those were always goodwill jobs for friends. Not that I mind – it is always fun to do photography, being paid for it is only a bonus.

However, here I have bagged a real job that is paid. The only problem: It has less to do with photography than I thought. I am one of two photographers who take part in a promotion roadshow for a large toothpaste manufacturer. Supposedly we are ahooting smiles for them. Smiles, teeth, photos, see? All very well and I can use some people photography skills. But it turns out that photography here consists of placing our willing victims, basically unsuspecting shoppers in this mall, in front of a green screen and then doing a mouseclick on a laptop. We are shooting tethered. And the camera ( a Canon 550d) is mounted on tripod and set to automatic… Well, no further comment.

It’ll be a long day, 8 hours on my feet, so I guess that will be my biggest challenge. Right, I better go now and see what the day will bring. Keep smiling, Sonja, it increases your face value!

Location:Fonthill Rd,,Ireland

Patterns

I am thinking about patterns at the moment. The reason being that my favourite user-generated magazine, deinblick, has just put on another photo competition again. If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may have heard of that mag before, because I regularly read, contribute and help with the mag myself. The idea is really simple: A topic is chosen by the editors for every edition. Readers are then asked to submit articles, artwork and photographs that are related to the topic. You can see for yourself here.
Anyhow, patterns is the current topic. I have already sent in a couple of pics and am currently looking through my archive for more stuff that would suit the theme.
Here is a surreal one. Seriously, the longer I look at this, the more my head is spinning. The perspective really sucks you in, doesn’t it? There is a slight Escher’esque quality to this, or maybe more Victor Vasarely, with those dark blocks sitting slightly beside the lighter ones. Can you guess what this is?
You won’t know the place but you probably have figured out that this is a row of columns seen from under a colonnade. Or rather, it is the shadow of the columns against the wall of a temple. It was the afternoon and the sun was kind of low. The temple is the “Walhalla”, a kind of 19th century rock’n’roll hall of fame in the South of Germany. Inside it contains the busts of such luminaries as Copernicus, the original drummer of famous band “The Ptolemaics”, punk producer Wolfgang “Godless” Mozart, Peter Paul Rubens (pop art painter, most famous for his “rude nudes”), Otto von Bismarck (promoter and impresario of world-famous metal heavy-weights “Dreadnought William “), and Albert Einstein, who rocked the industry with his revolutionary amplifier EMC2 in 1911) among others.
Don’t quote me on this, though.
Anyhow – I’d love to see the deinblick competition flourish, so please go check out their upload page  or their Facebook fanpage and submit something of your own. And if you do, please let me know you did – leave me a comment with a link to your image or something like that. Good luck with that!