AR is Here… Try These Apps on Your iPhone

AR is Here… Try These Apps on Your iPhone

Each month, we examine what's being talked about across the online universe to look for a "tech topic" that would be of interest to a wide array of folks who follow us and read our blog. Here's the latest offering, compiled by Curtis Newborn, our Chief Creative Officer. You can follow him @CurtisNewborn on Twitter.

AR is Coming of Age

Augmented Reality (AR), which has been around the edges of popular consciousness for many years, is all about what you see and under what circumstances you see it. Unlike virtual reality (VR) where you are transported into another world, AR is still the real world, with an extra added something within your view.

AR iOS apps use your camera and location data to capture or project virtual objects and information directly onto the phone or tablet for entertainment, information, or even business uses. While there are many apps out there, below are details on some of the most popular among tech bloggers and imaginative creators of content.

Google Translate

If you’re traveling abroad, you can use Google Translate (free) for its text translation of 103 languages. It reads typed input, as well as signs, menus, posters, and anything with text via the Google Neural Machine Translation system, designed to translate sentences in context as opposed to merely word for word. This artificial intelligence component helps the app deliver relevant, more conceptual translations, while at the same time offering a more human, grammatical delivery.

Today, 52 languages can undergo translation without an internet connection; 30 languages can be translated via text by pointing your camera; 37 languages can be translated via the actual smartphone camera image. You can also use audio to translate bilingual conversations in 32 languages, draw text characters in 93 languages, and save translated words in all supported languages for future reference.

Transparent Earth

The Earth is round, so what is underneath our feet, on the other side of the globe? Transparent Earth (free), a 3D AR app, attempts to answer that question with a camera overlay that calculates the position of major localities in direct reverse of your current position. So what you see, in various degrees of opacity, is a reversed landscape, including cities, continents, and oceans. The app lets you position yourself anywhere in the world, regardless of where you actually are. Transparent Earth is for entertainment purposes, and compass accuracy may be affected by nearby metallic objects or other electronic gear.

Quiver

An altogether charming and absorbing AR coloring app for kids (and adults who never outgrew their crayon obsession), gives you that old fashioned experience of coloring on paper, and then tops it off with a brand new, utterly rewarding interactive experience. It takes a bit of prep, but the results are worth it. First, you print out a coloring page from the website, which contains a token that works with the app. Some sponsored coloring packs are free, while others are available as in-app purchases. Quiver offers its own free picture pack to get you started.

When a fully colored page is ready, you can watch it come to life through the app with an animation that you can view at every angle. You can even interact with and play games with the characters by touching the screen as well as zoom, play and pause, and capture photos and videos of your creations to share. Sound effects are built into each picture.

Amikasa

It’s time to redecorate and you’re not taking any chances. The Amikasa (free) 3D floor planner employs AR to help you place commercially branded furniture in all the rooms of your home—living room, dining room, bedroom, office, bathroom are included. The app lets you choose your new couch or dining set and play around with different upholstery and pillow patterns and then view how your home looks with the new pieces in place. Sellers can add products to Amikasa with direct links to their website. Not only can you design and view your new home, you can share your floor plan with friends and buy your favorite pieces from within the app.

InkHunter

If you’ve ever contemplated placing permanent ink on your body, you know it’s not for the faint of heart. Tattoos, unlike love or democracy, are forever. InkHunter (free) uses virtual tattoo designs to let you sample what a tattoo would look like on your skin. Just use a pen to draw a square smiley face on any part of your body to mark the spot and the app reads that marker to place your chosen tattoo pattern. You do have to use a pen to draw on your skin, but come on, you’re considering a tattoo, right?

InkHunter offers a gallery of positively stunning professional designs in both monochrome and color, but you can also use the app to try on your own design or search the web for different ones.

Star Walk

Even if you don’t know much about stars and constellations, Star Walk (free) will lure you into its drop dead gorgeous stargazing guide to the night sky. Whether you’re strolling around your campsite, street, or patio, Star Walk delivers a heavenly view in real time with more than 200,000 celestial bodies and information about them.

After launching the app, you can see stars, planets, satellites, and constellations correctly positioned from your location, and you can watch everything refresh and update as you move around. Tapping the AR icon superimposes the sky view on whatever your camera is focused on. Various view modes include Gamma Ray, X-Ray, Night, Visible, Infrared, and Microwave. You can even go backwards and forwards in time. This app also works with Apple Watch.

Wikitude

Think of Wikitude (free) as an AR-infused city guide that shows you a multitude of services, restaurants, parks, and areas of interest wherever you are. Just launch the app, and it will calculate your location and present a choice of featured entries: Wikipedia for the sights and TripAdvisor for the local hot spots.

Once you choose a search category, such as a restaurant—markers representing those vendors appear on screen. Companies can offer search codes that will guide users to an AR experience. A routing feature can map your route to any place found in the app. You can also use Wikitude as a tool to experience special AR content, ad campaigns, promotions, and games.

Dinosaurs Everywhere

This AR app puts some gigantic pre-historic beasts right next to you in real time and in life size, floating them around the room, walking on top of the TV, making fearsome dino noises, and even fighting each other on occasion.

Just hold your iOS device as if you were taking a photo, observe what’s happening in the room, and keep your ears open. There’s no need for any special equipment. The app starts off with five dino species; a paid upgrade gets you five more. Tap the screen to learn fun facts about your dino friends.

We hope you'll check out some of these apps and see how the world of "Augmented Reality" can bring you some useful information, and even some fun!

Why We're Located In The Suburbs

Why We're Located In The Suburbs

"WHY FOODPHOTOSTUDIO.COM?" 2ND IN A SERIES: LOCATION

Key highlights:
•Easy access from all directions
•Amazing restaurants and entertainment
•So easy to shop for props, food and supplies last-minute

Many times we’ve been asked by prospective clients why we’re not located in a downtown Chicago studio space. It’s always been an interesting question to have asked, because there’s not a simple answer. While downtown Chicago offers many things for photographers and studios, because we’ve work in both environs, we feel like we’re well-prepared to answer this for our prospects.

As many Chicagoans know, the entire area is one, big mass of humanity… of diverse peoples, cultures, types of businesses, and as things change in this “Millennial Era”, it is not a cut & dried solution for a company to simply be “downtown… where the action is”… because frankly, the action is everywhere! 

Our studio and corporate office are located in Schaumburg in the Remington Tech Center. This provides an optimal spot for our group of companies, as we have FoodPhotoStudio.com, CurtisNewbornPhotographic.com, and ObscuraCompanies.com, all located under one roof. Our brands in total provide a complete, turnkey solution for visual imagery and marketing execution, and the services that we provide go well beyond photography. 

Would you like to learn even more about the advantages of working with us? Check out this recent post about “propping”.

So as I close this post, all I can say is that if you’re thinking about food photography, give us a look… and check our blog each month for more about “why” FooodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective imagery!

Unifest on the River - Chicago Summer Event!

Unifest on the River - Chicago Summer Event!

We love being a Chicagoland company, and being involved in this amazing place we call home. As part of our commitment to promoting the area, we'll from time to time share news and links to cool events and happenings around town.

Unifest on the River

A look at just one part of this amazing walkway...

A look at just one part of this amazing walkway...

Unifest on the River kicks off Thursday, July 13 from 4:30 to 8:30pm on the Riverwalk between Wells and Franklin Streets, with weekly festivals planned every Thursday through August 17. Each event will feature a DJ spinning music from a different country; international beer, wine and spirits; and foreign cuisine. You'll be able to sit by the water and munch on Italian mortadella sandwiches, Swedish meatballs, Chinese chilled noodles, Greek baklava and more.

Click here to see the full lineup of Unifest events, and make your plans to join the fun! 

10 Interesting Facts About The 4th of July

10 Interesting Facts About The 4th of July

The 4th of July holiday commemorates our country’s birthday. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, adopting the final draft of the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming our sovereignty from Great Britain.

There are so many ways Americans commonly choose to celebrate this holiday – from family-friendly festivals, fireworks and parades to feasting on traditional foods like hot dogs and barbecue... but we thought we'd share some fun tidbits that you can share with friends and family during your celebration of this important holiday!

Here are 10 interesting things you may or may not already know about the 4th of July:

1. Initially adopted by Congress on July 2, 1776, the revised version of the Declaration of Independence was not adopted until two days later.

2. The Declaration of Independence was penned by Thomas Jefferson and signed by 56 men representing 13 colonies. The average age of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence was 45. Benjamin Franklin was the oldest at age 70, and Edward Rutledge was the youngest at age 26.

3. Three U.S. Presidents, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe, died on July 4th; Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826 while Monroe died in 1831.

4. In July 1776, the estimated number of people living in the newly independent nation was 2.5 million. According to the U.S. and World Population Clock, the nation’s estimated population in July 2017 will be 325.3 million.

5. The country’s 30th president, Calvin Coolidge, was born on Independence Day in 1872.

6. Americans consume about 155 million hot dogs on Independence Day alone; it is the biggest hot dog holiday of the year.

7. Americans began observing the Fourth of July as early as 1777, when the first-ever major celebration in Philadelphia included a parade and a thirteen-shot cannon salute and fireworks.

8. To avoid cracking it, the Liberty Bell has not been rung since 1846. To mark the quintessential day, every fourth of July it is symbolically tapped 13 times.

9. Eight of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were born in Britain.

10. The American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) estimates that more than 14,000 professional firework displays light up the skies in the United States each 4th of July.

The entire FoodPhotoStudio.com team wishes you the best for a safe & relaxing holiday!

Why we have a full prop room (and why it is so important to clients)

Why we have a full prop room (and why it is so important to clients)

"Why FoodPhotoStudio.com?" First In A Series: PROPS

Key Highlights:

  • Prop rental is expensive
  • Prop stylists charge to select items and return them
  • Sometimes product arrives & it’s not the size or color expected, so you need a plan B, C and D!

How often have you seen a photo of some kind of food, and immediately wanted to take a bite? The importance of portraying “food” in its most delectable form is critical to the success of that product, whether it be for packaging, an advertisement, or even on a menu. But it’s so much more than just properly cooking or preparing the food. The real key to how great a “food photo” looks is the propping. 

In this first in a series of “Why FoodPhotoStudio.com”, we’re taking a look at “propping” and “why” there is such a difference in not only “how” it’s done, but also the most efficient, cost-effective way to go about it.

At FoodPhotoStudio.com, we’re different from most studios in that we have literally thousands of props dedicated to “food photography”, all available to our clients at no additional charge. Why do we do it? Because prop rental can be very expensive, and we’ve found that by providing this vast collection of propping to our clients for free, they reap the benefit of having everything they need, even if there is a last-minute “change of plans” for a shot, plus their photography projects become much more cost effective and time efficient… no running to stores to look for props, or searching online and waiting for props to arrive in the mail for a shoot.

For 40 years we have purchased props and kept half of them to add to the arsenal…giving you more options to select on set.

Plus, we find that clients (art directors, designers, etc.) will come and “shop” our prop room when they are in the planning stages for their shoot. They’ll browse our over 1,500 square foot showroom and get ideas for the propping, and then we can catalog and tag the items we’ll need come “shooting day”, which cuts down on the downtime in studio for our clients. 

And if by chance there is a truly unique prop that you need, and we don’t have it, our team will do the research and shopping for the prop. And by charging a nominal fee for this service, it saves the client time, and then that prop gets added to our collection so that it’s available for them (as well as other clients) for any shoots down the road.

So, if you’re thinking about food photography, give us a look… and check back here each month on our blog for more creative ideas about “why” FooodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective imagery! Contact us for your no-obligation tour.

Tripods - How To Pick The Right One!

Tripods - How To Pick The Right One!

Our Chief Creative Officer, Curtis Newborn, compiled great details that you can use when shopping for a tripod... read on:

Yes, you need a tripod. Whether you shoot digital, film or video, you need a tripod. That slight blurriness that you sometimes get from your zoom lens (or even from your long-range-zoom compact camera) is not the fault of your camera, it’s the fault of "camera shake". Why do you think shake reduction has become a standard feature on almost every camera or lens these days? Shake reduction is awesome, but only up to a point. Add to your mix a tripod and you have the original—and still most reliable—way to eliminate shaky shots.

Tripods are also great for shooting available-light scenes without a flash, as well as seamless panoramas, fireworks, family portraits (with you in the picture, for a change!), shots of the stars or moon, and dozens of other situations that require long exposures. You’ll also get better, sharper close-up images if you use a tripod, because you can use a smaller aperture and a slower shutter speed without the fear of camera movement.

There are literally hundreds (if not thousands) of tripods out there on the market for still and video photography. So how do you narrow down the choice to just what you want? Let’s dive in and take a look at the components that make up a tripod.

Understanding Tripods

There are seven components that make up all tripods:

  • Collapsed size
  • Size
  • Load capacity
  • Head type
  • Feet
  • Leg locks
  • Common material

The more you know about each, the easier it will be to buy the perfect tripod for your picture-taking needs, so read on to better understand the makeup of a tripod:

Collapsed Size – Collapsed Size is how long the tripod measures with everything folded up. This is important especially if you are traveling and need to pack the tripod in a bag. This number will let you know if it’ll fit.

Size – Maximum Height Extension is how tall the tripod will stand when every leg, along with the center post is raised as far as it will go.

Load Capacity – Don’t confuse weight with Maximum Load Capacity. The weight is how much the tripod weighs. The Maximum Load Capacity is the heaviest camera and lens combination the tripod will handle. If you put a camera that’s heavier than the Maximum Load Capacity on a tripod, you run the risk of a piece collapsing, causing damage to both the tripod and the camera. So, it’s very important to know how much your camera weighs with its heaviest lens and flash attached, and then you buy a tripod that is rated to handle that amount of weight.

Head Type – Most tripods come with a head, but it may not be the ideal one for your purposes. The head sits atop the center column, a tube in the center of the tripod’s construction that can be raised and lowered either with a hand crank or via a locking collar.

Feet – Feet come in rubber non-slip (used for most indoor and some outdoor shooting); spike (best for outdoor shooting, the spikes hold the tripod firmly in the ground); and custom (which could be anything, including ball-bearings).

Leg Locks – Leg locks are available in Twist (twist the leg to pull it out, twist it in reverse to lock it in position), Lever (open a lever to pull a leg out, close it to lock it) and custom options.

Common Material – (Which is what most of the tripod is made of) is either plastic (the least expensive, but not very durable), aluminum (inexpensive and most commonly used, but in heavy-duty tripods can add a lot of weight), carbon fiber (a relatively new material for tripods, it’s durable, lightweight, and flexible–ideal for most uses–but it’s expensive), and wood (typically used by nature photographers who don’t mind toting large-format cameras).

So what is the best tripod for you?

While there are many different kinds of tripods, we can divide them into five basic groups: Pocket, Tabletop, Portable, Medium Duty, and Studio Grade. The category names suggest their primary applications. 

Types of Tripods

Pocket Tripods: These can be a real life saver when you’re trying to shoot that impromptu family group picture and want to include yourself in it. Typically measuring less than five inches collapsed, pocket ‘pods slip easily into a bag or waist-pack and are very handy at parties, restaurants, and other places where you may not want lug something bigger. They’ll support the weight of a compact digital camera (be careful not to overload them!). Look for one that has some sort of adjustable head, even if it’s primitive. There are even small tripods that will hold your cell phone camera steady!

Best used for:

  • Self-portraits

  • Group shots

  • Party pictures–with you in them

  • Small, light cameras


Tabletop Tripods: These are excellent for group pictures and other situations where the camera can be positioned on a flat surface other than the ground. They’re light, small, and easy to pack so they’re perfect for travel. Put it on a table, set the self-timer, and you can include yourself in the shot. Or, turn your tabletop tripod sideways and place it against a wall to give you more stability when shooting. And since they hold the camera no more than 12 inches off the ground, they’re great for down-to-earth subjects, including close-up flower photography.

Best used for:

  • Self-portraits

  • Group shots

  • Macro/close-up/nature

  • Small cameras


Travel Tripods: These help raise your camera well off the ground, but collapse to an easy-to-carry size. They’re are great for hiking, biking, and that casual stroll through the nature center. These will support a DSLR with a kit lens, or even a modest zoom lens. Compact video cameras can also be used on these tripods. But be cautious if you use a long zoom, especially if it’s front heavy, as this could cause the camera to tip. Most of these elevate to just below eye-level, but the trade-off is their wonderful portability.

Best used for:

  • Nature

  • Travel

  • Sports

  • Amateur video

  • Small DSLRs

  • Compact cameras


Medium Duty Tripods: This type of tripod fills the gap between lightweight portable jobs and heavyweight studio tripods. They can be used for nature photography (if you have a strong back), portable portrait set-ups, and yes, studio work. The advantage over portable pods is that most models raise to eye level or higher, they are heavier and therefore sturdier. While many come with heads, you can buy some models without a head and then create a custom configuration by buying the head separately.

Best used for:

  • Nature

  • Birding/Wildlife photos

  • Sports

  • Weddings and events

  • Location portraits

  • Macro/close-up photography

  • Medium-format cameras


Studio Grade Tripods: These tripods are exactly that... "pro line" quality and strength. This is the domain of professional photographers who generally buy a specific type of tripod to fit a specific need. They are big, sometimes immovable and nearly always used with a specialized head. They are designed to handle medium- and large-format cameras. But in today's digital era, these tripods are becoming less common.

 

Best used for:

  • Studio photography

  • Advertising

  • Still life

  • Medium-format cameras

  • Large-format cameras


In Conclusion...

The characteristics listed above are meant to guide you to the right category, thus speeding up your research and shortening the buying process. Additionally, of course, there’s the matter of price… but please don’t let that be your only guide, as a really good tripod will last you a lifetime and deliver you great results.  Good luck, and happy shooting!

The Portillo's Lemon Cake Odyssey

The Portillo's Lemon Cake Odyssey

As a photography partner to Portillo's, the team at FoodPhotoStudio was thrilled to play a small role in the recent "reveal" of their famous "Lemon Cake".  For those of you who may not have heard, a big Portillo's fan launched an Internet campaign recently where he was willing to pay a "bounty" for the recipe to this fables dessert.

We had the awesome chance to be the team that photographed the unveiled dessert treat, and loved seeing this creation splashed all over Chicago area media this week as the announcement by Portillo's was made official.

Portillo's delicious lemon cake!

Portillo's delicious lemon cake!

If you'd like to see Portillo's video and read about the cake, check out their Twitter page. Thanks to the entire crew at Portillo's for continuing to partner with FoodPhotoStudio.com!

Food Photography... Not All Delectable Images Are Created Equal!

Food Photography... Not All Delectable Images Are Created Equal!

Visit any bookstore and check out the cookbook section and you’ll be overwhelmed by the array of books filled with delectable recipes that are accompanied by wonderful photography of the meals that you can prepare.

Colorful stacks of vegetables drizzled with rich sauces on a clean white plate with glistening table settings – you know the shots I'm talking about. Sometimes the photography is almost the true focus of the book, while the recipes take a back seat. But how do someone take photos of food and get such great results? Here's some of the things our team looks at when preparing for any food shoot:

Lighting

We treat the food we're photographing as we would any other still life subject and ensure that it is well lit. Many of the poor examples of food photography that I’ve come across over the years could have been drastically improved with adequate lighting. One place to photograph food is by a window where there is plenty of natural light – perhaps supported with flash bounced off a ceiling or wall to give more balanced lighting that cuts out the shadows. This daylight helps to keep the food looking much more natural.

Props

Pay attention not only to the arrangement of the food itself but to the context that you put it in including the plate or bowl and any table settings around it. Don’t clutter the photo with a full table setting but consider one or two extra elements such as a glass, fork, flower or napkin. These elements can often be placed in secondary positions in the foreground or background of your shot to add just the right amount of flair.

You Must Be Quick

Food doesn’t keep it’s appetizing looks for long so as a photographer we need to be well prepared and able to shoot quickly after it’s been cooked before it melts, collapses, wilts and/or changes color. This means being prepared and knowing what we want to achieve before the food arrives. One strategy that we use is to have the shot completely set up with props before the food is ready and then substitute a stand-in plate to get your exposure right. Then when the food is ready you just switch the stand-in plate with the real thing and you’re ready to start shooting.

Style it

The way food is set out on the plate is as important as the way we photograph it. We pay attention to the balance of food in a shot (color, shapes etc) and leave a way into the shot (using leading lines and the rule of thirds to help guide our viewer’s eye into the dish). 

Enhance it

One tip that we use is to have some vegetable oil on hand and we brush it over food to make it glisten in our shots.

Get Down Low

A mistake that many beginner food photographers make is taking shots that look down on a plate from directly above. While this can work in some circumstances, such as recipe videos or sheets – in most cases you’ll get a more better shot by shooting from down close to plate level, or slightly above it.

Use Macro

Really focusing in upon just one part of the dish can be an effective way of highlighting the different elements of it.

Make it Steam

Having steam rising off your food can give it a ‘just cooked’ feel which some food photographers like. Of course this can be difficult to achieve naturally. I spoke with one food stylist a few years back who told me that they added steam with a number of artificial strategies including microwaving water soaked cotton balls and placing them behind food. This is probably a little advance for most of us – however it was an interesting trick so I thought I’d include it.

Yes... You Can Print HQ Photos from your Smartphone.

Yes... You Can Print HQ Photos from your Smartphone.

There’s something special about a printed photo. Sure, you can share thousands of photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, but none of them will ever be as special as the one photo you hang on the wall in your living room or bedroom.

Today's smartphones have great cameras, and they get better with every generation upgrade. With no tweaking, you’re normally able to print a high-res image that is over a foot wide. With a bit of Photoshop work, you can easily double that, and if you’re prepared to sacrifice some quality, there is really no limit as to how big you can make them. That’s why Apple’s recent “Shot on iPhone” billboard campaign looks so great. Almost every major smartphone comes with a high quality camera, but if you want to print one of those photos, how big can you blow it up? Here are some tips to get the right print for your needs.

WHAT HIGH QUALITY PRINTING MEANS

As anyone who’s tried to print an image they’ve downloaded from Facebook has discovered, not every photo will print nicely. What looks good on your screen might look blurry or pixelated when blown up to wall size. The problem here is resolution. Every image has a resolution. It’s simply the number of pixels it is wide multiplied by the number of pixels it is tall. The image below is 650 pixels wide and 433 pixels tall; that’s 281,450 pixels in total or 0.28 megapixels (a megapixel is a million pixels). While it looks good on screen, if you tried to print a high-res copy, it would be a whopping two inches wide. This is because high-res printing is done at 300 pixels per inch (PPI).

HOW TO CALCULATE THE MAXIMUM HIGH-RES PRINT SIZE FOR A PHOTO

To find the maximum high-res print size of the images from your smartphone, divide the horizontal and vertical pixel counts by 300. So for example, my iPhone has a 12 megapixel camera. That means any photo taken with it, like the one above, will be 4032 px by 3024 px (provided you’re using the original photo and not one that’s been shrunk or “optimized” for a cloud service). Divide those numbers by 300 and you get 13.44 inches wide by 10.08 inches tall. That’s a pretty decent size canvas!

WHAT ABOUT PRINTING BIGGER IMAGES?

Now, that rule only applies to smaller photos. Once you get bigger, PPI stops mattering as much. As I explained in my guide to buying your first high quality camera, megapixels don’t really matter when it comes to cameras, because once you get above about 10 megapixels, you can comfortably print a billboard. At 300 pixels per inch, you can put your nose against a print and it will still look good. For small images, this is really important. People want to get close to see everything. For larger images, however, if you get too close, you can’t see everything. Instead, you need to step back. No one (who is sane, that is) tries to put their nose against a billboard to see what it says. You can get away with having a much lower PPI. So if you want to print a bigger image, you have two options: lower the PPI on the print, or artificially increase the image size.

  • OPTION ONE: LOWER THE PPI

    • Lowering the PPI is the option most printers will take if you ask them to print a large canvas. At 200 PPI, you can print a 12 MP image on a 20.16 inch by 15.12 inch canvas. If you send them a 12 MP photo and ask them to print it on a 20 inch wide canvas, all they will do is print each pixel a little larger. Everything will look good from a few feet away; you just won’t be able to stand as close.

 

  • OPTION TWO: INCREASE THE PHOTO’S RESOLUTION

    • While you can just let the printer do their thing, it’s normally better to take matters into your own hands. Why let some stranger make decisions about your images? With Photoshop (or another good image editor), you can increase the size of any image; we’ve looked at how to do it in detail before. Photoshop uses the pixels that are already there to calculate what new pixels should go where. It’s not perfect, but it does a really good job.

IN CONCLUSION

I’ve found you can safely double the horizontal and vertical resolution (so quadruple the size of the image) of a good quality file without too much loss of quality. With my iPhone, that gives me prints that are over two feet wide that look good when viewed up close.

The Fun World of Food Photography Terminology

The Fun World of Food Photography Terminology

A Little Context About This Post:

Every industry has its own set of language that makes no sense to those who are unfamiliar. Food photography is no different. There’s all kinds of interesting & unique food photography terms. Some make sense when you think about it. Others, not so much.

Some of Our Most Often Used Food Photography Terminology:

"Stand In Food":  Stand in food is food that you just throw on a plate to rough in your camera angle, your set, your props, and your lighting.  When you have food that will wilt quickly, this is a must.  You can’t rush your set up.  Get everything sorted out with your stand in food.  This term is also used for actors when the huge, famous celebrity isn’t really necessary for the shot.

"Hero Food":  Hero food is the final dish, the perfectly styled dish that will be used as our final shot and given to the client.  When shooting with clients, after the “stand in” is used to set up the shot, we get the “hero” shot done first, and only then do variations if requested, and only if there is time so that we can keep to the schedule.  If you have 6 shots in one day, then you have to break those 6 shots down in your 10-hour day.  Our hero food is also called the “beauty dish” or “beauty shot”.

"Mark The Plate":  There might be other terms for this, but I’ve always told my crew to “mark the plate” before moving anything so that when they take our plate off set, then we will know EXACTLY where it needs to go when it’s brought back in.  You mark your plates with wood blocks or something that will show you where you plate needs to go when you bring it back into the same set. This saves so much time. 

"Spritz It":  When working with food, it’s so important to make sure that no matter what it is, that it doesn’t dry out while it’s on set. Depending on what the food is, it might need a light spray of water from a tiny bottle, or have some oil painted on with a brush.  Either way, the whole idea is to make sure that the food looks fresh, or juicy, or whatever to say it’s fresh.  If it’s a steak, I might say, “Hose it down!”.  Animal proteins really soak up moisture so you really have to make sure you have tons of oil/water on it to keep it looking juicy.

"The Crown & The Heel":  Clients will have their own words for food products.  A common set of food terms for many burger clients is to call the top burger bun the “Crown” and the bottom burger bun  the “Heel”, as it’s much faster to say those words instead of, “get me a new burger bun top”.  The stylist preps the crowns and heels differently depending on how they will be seen in the shot.

"Food Rigging":  Many times with food photography, our food is not doing what we want it to do.  This may require some sort of rigging behind the food or even inside the food to make it stay in the position we want it to be in.  A tiny move one way or another, and unfortunately you can see my rigging, so placement is critical.

"The Martini Shot":  Usually the favorite shot of the day. The martini shot is the last shot of the day or shoot.  Many agencies really expect a dog and pony show.  I always say it’s like a 12-hour party. We make sure that everyone has everything they need throughout the day. This includes food and drinks and there’s always great music playing. We celebrate our martini shot with a drink.  Beer, wine, booze, I make sure we have it there.  It’s a great end to a our shooting day.

To Wrap It Up:

So there you have it!  Terminology that we use in the food photo studio when shooting a variety of projects for clients.  There are many more than what I’ve listed here.  Please leave your comments below with some that you use!

Social Media Is Changing How & Why We Take Photos

Social Media Is Changing How & Why We Take Photos

It's common sense to not post pictures on social media that may convey an irresponsible lifestyle to current or future employers. But there's a subtler dynamic at play we should consider before we upload that beautiful sunset or skyline image. What if the pictures we post that show us in a positive light are damaging in their own right?

A group of German researchers has published a study called "Envy on Facebook: A Hidden Threat to Users' Life Satisfaction?" It found that one out of three people experienced feelings of jealousy and depression after viewing other people's Facebook pictures. The greatest culprit that bummed out the most people? Vacation shots. For single people in their 30s, happy family pictures made them sad. For women, attractive pics of their female peers made them feel inadequate and invidious.

Posting pictures online is a form of status display. Each says, "Look at how fit and fortunate I am." We never downgrade our status and post pictures of our miserable selves with captions like "Here's me eating a can of tuna fish because I'm broke," or "Here's me alone on my birthday." The worlds of Facebook and other social networks are humble and not-so-humble brag fests of beautifully composed and filtered moments of perfection, a curated hyper reality that true reality has trouble keeping up with.

Our photographic status updates are almost always a way to raise our standing in the eyes of our friends and co-workers, which always means raising our status relative to theirs or even above theirs. It's a form of sharing that excludes. After all, you can only admire the beautiful meal at the three star-restaurant. You can never have a taste. And on some level, the poster is communicating exactly that message to you and inviting your "I hate you so much!" comments.

I believe that all of this is part of a larger and more troubling crisis in our culture—a crisis of happiness. The problem with our hypercompetitive culture is that human happiness risks being reduced to just one aspect of well-being: achievement. When we eat that delicious meal, we need to win at eating that delicious meal and post our achievement online. When we go to Machu Picchu, instead of embracing that trip as a life-enhancing experience, we spend much our time seeing ancient ruins through a camera on our smartphones. Our relationships and parties and concerts are badges to be displayed to our less fortunate peers. Even our charity work and involvement in causes are now ways to publicly display our moral achievements.

When pictures become nothing but badge value and the public exhibition of our personal brand it's not a coincidence that envy and negativity from others will follow. In the end, perhaps the greatest lesson for us, as viewers of other people's photos, is to allow ourselves to truly share in the happiness of the people who count us among their friends, at least nominally. Why not delight in the vacations, family birthdays, personal beauty and culinary adventures of our peers? Why not let our employees share their lives with us, not as possible HR infractions or envy engines, but as evidence that our people are open about their lives, generous in sharing their lives through the creativity of photography and, just maybe, simply happy to be alive?

Combining 3 Great Brands Brings Growth & Expanded Capabilities

Combining 3 Great Brands Brings Growth & Expanded Capabilities

Curtis Newborn, Founder & Chief Creative Officer of Obscura Companies, with brands that include Curtis Newborn Photographic & Obscura Studios, announces the recent merger of FoodPhotoStudio.com into the family of Obscura brands.

“I believe that the combined resources and talent possessed by the team at FoodPhotoStudio.com strengthens and enhances the creative and marketing services that our company can offer to businesses throughout Chicagoland”, said Newborn.

Al MacDonald, the founder of FoodPhotoStudio.com, is bullish on the future of this growing group of companies. "We believe that pooling the expertise of our companies will greatly contribute toward expanding our product offerings and creative services”, stated MacDonald.

FoodPhotoStudio.com is a full service photo studio specializing in food + product photography. With studio space in Schaumburg, Illinois, they are conveniently located adjacent to Woodfield Mall and just off I-90. The 5,400 square foot space includes an office area, client lounge, conference area, massive prop room, studio space, plus a full kitchen and a set wall storage area. The studio space is one large bay capable of easily handling 4 sets. Access for props, sets and supplies is made easy via an overhead drive-in door at the rear of the studio.

The combined staff consists of Curtis Newborn, photographer; Al MacDonald, photographer; Renee Zomaya, Art Director, prop stylist and set designer, and Doug Benson, Sales & Marketing. Additionally, the Obscura Companies bring with it a fantastic partner network of talented food & prop stylists, assistants and set builders, as well as marketers and creative people.

FoodPhotoStudio.com specializes in digital food photography. Our photography team exemplifies the best of innovative visual problem solving, and values strong relationships with top stylists and writers. Our experience with diverse food + product clients gives us the ability to offer you full service capabilities, for both established businesses and new product concepts. FoodPhotoStudio.com is your one-stop source for a broad range of custom visual communications… everything from recipe development and video production, to design and sourcing of retail food packaging.

For more information or to schedule a studio tour, please contact us at info@foodphotostudio.com or call our studio line at 630-283-0038.

TIPS FOR FINDING A GREAT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER

TIPS FOR FINDING A GREAT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER

With the recent completion of our merger with Obscura, Inc., our Chief Creative Officer, @CurtisNewborn thought it would be a good time to post some thoughts about the best ways to source food photography. His post is below:

If you own or manage a food-related business like a restaurant, candy company, or even a bakery, sooner or later, you’re going to need some food photography for your marketing. And if you don’t mind your photos looking like every other item out there, you might be able to buy stock photography online. But if you want truly unique photos to promote your business, you’ll want to hire a high quality, professional food photographer.

Hiring a food photographer can be an expensive endeavor and if you haven’t done it before, the process can be a bit daunting. Being a photographer, I’ve seen this process a hundred times, only from the “other side”. That’s why I’m taking the time here to share my experience. I’m hoping that I can help educate you and maybe relieve the anxiety associated with buying food photography for the very first time.

There are several things to consider when hiring a food photographer. The main thing is, you want to understand the type of food photography you need and you want to find a photographer that actually does “food” and has a portfolio to show you. Additionally, there’s that pesky thing called a budget to consider.

TYPE OF FOOD PHOTOGRAPHS NEEDED

Before you get too far into your search, you’ll need to give some thought as to what kind of food photography you actually need. Do you need photos for a magazine spread, for a billboard, or maybe some photos for your menu or packaging? You will want to give this some thought because it will determine what kind of photographer you look for.

PHOTOGRAPHIC STYLE

If you haven’t hired a food photographer before, you may not realize that there are different types of shooters. Most food photographers are usually either editorial shooters or advertising specialists. While some food shooters will be able to create photos of different styles, you might want to look for someone that naturally shoots in the style you’re looking for. You will be able to tell a lot by looking at the photographer’s portfolio. For example, if you’re looking to do some packaging photography and all you see on the photographer’s site, are “directly overhead" photos, maybe they are not the best person to shoot your packages. That particular photographer might shoot mostly magazine spreads, but wouldn’t have the first clue about shooting for advertising purposes.

FOOD SHOOTER’S CAPABILITIES

If you need to shoot at your restaurant or at some location, any food photographer that has the style you need, might do, but if you need to shoot in a studio, you’ll need a photographer that has a studio. Sounds pretty obvious, but that’s something to consider.

USING THE INTERNET TO FIND A FOOD PHOTOGRAPHER

Just because you “Google”, “food photographer Chicago”, doesn’t mean you’re going see a list of the best photographers that shoot food in the Chicago area. What you will find is a ranking of the photographers with the best SEO in the city. It will give you a way to find related web pages, and will give you a good place to start, but I have an even better suggestion for you to make your search time more efficient. Go ahead and Google that same phrase, but instead of looking through all those websites, click on the “images” option at the top of Google’s returns. Since food photography is a “visual” thing, you will be able to see hundreds of food photographer’s images. Simply click on the photos you think best match your needs, and that will take you to the photographer’s webpage, where you will be able to see more pics. It’s a really good shortcut.

MAKING CONTACT

Once you find the food photographer that best suites your needs, you’ll want to contact them and discuss your project. A little warning here. You’re going to want a price of some kind, but the photographer is going to need the answers to a lot of questions. Most food shooters end up charging for their time, in one way or another, so the photographer will want to determine how long the shoot will take to complete. Besides time, there may be other expenses involved that may sway the price quite a bit. Here are some of the questions you may need to answer:

* How many and what type of food photos do you need?

* What type of backgrounds and props will you need?

* Will there need to be a food stylist involved in the shoot?

* How will the photos be used?

* Where will the photography take place?

* Do you have a budget number you need to work within?

* How soon would you like to shoot this?

* Who will supply the food?

* Will there be an Art Director?

* Are there any existing layouts?

These are just a few of the questions that a quality food photographer will have for you. Because of these variables, most food photographers do not have a set “per shot” price, so each individual estimate will be different and based on your specific needs.

IN SUMMARY

Finding the right photographer for your food photo needs is not going to be an easy task, but with a little patience and a little hard work, you should be able to find someone that’s a great fit for your project. If by chance you’d like to chat, drop me a quick note.

5 MUST-FOLLOW FOOD BLOGS

5 MUST-FOLLOW FOOD BLOGS

Choosing which food blogs to follow can be overwhelming. Scrolling through all those recipes and mouthwatering photos would take eons. And deciphering nutrition fact from fiction and personal anecdotes from expert-backed advice is no easy task. That's why in today's blog post I'm highlighted some of the most helpful, beautiful, and professional-level sources on the Web.

As a food photographer, I often find myself researching trends and new dishes as a means of guiding clients when planning a shoot. But these blogs can also be helpful in making us healthier, which in turn can lead to personal and professional happiness. The blogs that I've linked to below contain out-of-this-world recipes, insightful posts on nutritional trends, and realistic, easy-to-use tips to help you eat smarter—whether you're vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or just happen to love food.

So here’s a look at some of the top blogs out there that foodies will find delightful:

MY NEW ROOTS

A self-taught cook, Sarah Britton started blogging in 2007 to share her knowledge of holistic nutrition. (She attended the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Toronto.) She's passionate about whole and vegan food—and creates mouthwatering recipes that prove it. You'll find everything from chunky chocolate buckwheat granola to sweet potato noodle soup. I love that you can also pick recipes by season.

MINIMALIST BAKER

Few things are more disappointing than finding what seems like the perfect recipe only to click and learn that it has more than 20 ingredients, several of which you've never heard of. True to its name, Minimalist Baker keeps things simple by sticking to 10 ingredients or less and limiting cooking time to 30 minutes at the most. And a BIG bonus is that the recipes are anything but boring! From General Tso's tofu stir fry to spicy buffalo chickpea wraps to toasted coconut pancakes, this culinary duo really knows how to pack tons of flavor into simple and oh-so-delicious dishes.

THE FULL HELPING

In 2015, Gena Hamshaw changed the name of her blog from Choosing Raw to The Full Helping. Now she posts recipes that are less extreme, although she is still inspired by her raw food background. Check out her gluten-free plum and blackberry crisp or her totally addictive creamy cashew carrot dressing and quinoa bowl. She's a certified nutritionist, and brings lots of nutritional wisdom to the kitchen. She is also candid about being in recovery from anorexia and orthorexia and uses her site to encourage others to heal their broken relationship with food (often through plant-based diets).

RUNNING ON REAL FOOD

Raw almond chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin spice latte granola, vegan tofu and cashew fried rice—workout fuel has never looked so good. Written by an avid triathlete and certified trainer, Running on Real Food covers nutritionally dense foods and fitness in a relatable way. Best of all, the author's healthy-eating philosophy is an open door: "There's no right or wrong way to eat healthy... We're all different with different nutritional requirements; however we all need to eat whole, nutritious foods. Start there," states the author. I couldn't have said it better myself.

SASSY KITCHEN

Julia Gartland combined her passion for photography with a quest to heal her health on her blog Sassy Kitchen. Due to digestive issues, she experimented with raw and vegan diets before landing on one that was gluten-free. Now she's on the lookout for gluten-free versions of everything, like this raspberry cornmeal muffin recipe. We love that you can search her recipes by diet needs (there are dairy-free, gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options), as well as meal type and season.

Let me know if you have any favorite food blogs out there... post a comment here or tweet me @CurtisNewborn

PHOTOGRAPHY & IMAGERY... IMAGINED FOR THE 22ND CENTURY

PHOTOGRAPHY & IMAGERY... IMAGINED FOR THE 22ND CENTURY

Take a look at yourself in the mirror and notice how your eye fixates on the mirrored image of yourself? Now stop looking at yourself and look at the glass because this is the future! Photography has come a long way and through its many developments one thing has always stayed true – the camera... but what would happen if the camera was taken away? Would you still call it photography?

I believe in the future there will be a decline for the need for a photographic print. As technology increases and the tech savvy teens of the future rely on digital technology for everything, we may very well see the humble printed image appearing in another form. More on that later though,  let me take you to the future now…

THE 22ND CENTURY ABODE

Imagine a house in 100 years, compared to our existing hardened clay structures it would be far more advanced. Picture a house made of glass, not just any glass though. Imagine a glass house where the roof or walls would become see-through... and with a touch, gesture or voice command you could make an image appear from floor to ceiling, essentially creating a non-see-through wall. The one large panel (and entire house for that matter) would be touch sensitive, you could let your children write on the wall without causing any dramas. Everything would be linked to your universe (bigger and more connected than the current cloud) so whatever you share, write, touch or even record would be stored in your universe. You would even be able to change the texture, color and imagery which appeared on the wall without having to paint. There’s no doubt my house would include a feature wall of a slow-moving waterfall scene. What would yours feature?

WHAT'S THIS HAVE TO DO WITH PHOTOGRAPHY?

Okay so I got side tracked, what does this have to do with photography, you ask? Well, with all this surface space in our “future abode” our photos wouldn’t need to be carried around with us any longer. A human would only need to walk to a piece of glass (aka “a wall"), touch it or talk to it to sign in and presto, their digital life is literally in front of them. With current developments of Willow glass being produced by Corning, it seems it’s a stepping stone in this direction. Willow glass is so flexible it can be manufactured roll to roll, opening up quite a few new possibilities. Recently, a fascinating profile about the possibilities of this innovative material was published, and you can read it here.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

I love contemplating the future, and all that it holds in terms of challenges, innovations, and yes, fun… let me know your “future thoughts” on any subject, whether it be photography, marketing, design or simply how we’ll make our own fun in the 22nd century!

YES... YOU CAN TAKE A GREAT "VALENTINE'S DAY" PHOTO... HERE'S 5 TIPS!

YES... YOU CAN TAKE A GREAT "VALENTINE'S DAY" PHOTO... HERE'S 5 TIPS!

Valentine’s Day is this Tuesday and for many couples that means trying to come up with a special and cute way to express their love for one another. However, shooting the most romantic photos means you need to be prepared and have plenty of ideas beforehand. Let’s take a look at some Valentine’s Day themed ideas to think about when shooting romantic photos.

1. PICK SEVERAL LOCATIONS

One of the best places to shoot romantic photos is in the great outdoors. There are so many places that offer beautiful,  natural backdrops for your Valentine’s Day pictures. Romantic locations include areas with many large trees, near a body of water, in a field filled with wild flowers or on a rowboat in the middle of a pond. When shooting outside you will have plenty of natural light, however you will still want to use a fill flash to prevent any harsh shadows falling on the couple’s faces. An alternative to shooting outdoors is to go back to the studio and use soft lighting techniques. Have the couple sit at a table, on a couch or in an overstuffed chair together. Use a filter on either the light or the lens to add a soft feel to the photograph.

2. FOCUS ON POSITIONING

Consider where you want your subjects in comparison to the photo background. Try to use the rule of thirds whenever possible. This means dividing the frame into thirds vertically and horizontally, and aligning the couple along those imaginary lines to create a more interesting effect. Also, it is okay to have the background blurry. You want viewers to focus on the couple in the photograph, not the background.

3. SHOOT THE UNEXPECTED

The couple should relax and enjoy their time together. The two should act natural while you observe. Be prepared to capture any unexpected romantic moments, including affectionate gazes, hugging, holding hands, walking together and kissing. Let them get as close to each other as they want to be.

4. USE PROPS

Consider adding props, such as balloons, confetti or flowers, to your Valentine’s Day photos. These props can be used in a variety of ways. For example, you can have the couple looking at each other through a bunch of balloons or have the female batting her eyelashes at the male while her nose is buried in a bunch of roses. Another thought is to have the couple jumping in the air, holding hands while confetti falls over them.

5. GO OLD SCHOOL

Vintage looking photographs have a romantic feel of their own. Try shooting the couple in black and white or with a sepia tone to it. Encourage vintage clothing or props. This will make the picture appear even more vintage and the romance of the past can add a unique tone to a portrait. Valentine’s Day is the one time of year where you can be romantically creative when shooting couples. Use these tips to create the most romantic photographs possible. Before shooting the Valentine’s Day shots, sit down, talk to the couple and find out what they are looking for.

I hope these tips have been helpful "thought starts" for you as you consider how you might want to capture that special day come Tuesday... Happy Valentine's Day, everybody!

PHOTOGRAPHY TRENDS TAKING SHAPE IN 2017

PHOTOGRAPHY TRENDS TAKING SHAPE IN 2017

As we’re now getting settled into 2017, I thought it would be a great time to recap some of the interesting trends I’ve been seeing and reading about across the photographic landscape. As a business owner, and a creative professional, knowing the current trends in photography is crucial to staying on top of your game and helps when consulting with clients on developing compelling imagery.

Our professional AND our personal lives continue to merge with technology, which keeps evolving and transforming our society. We’re seeing that the top photography trends are all about creatives interacting with technology. Equally important, many of these trends seem to embrace a new, inclusive and global society. Concepts like diversity, gender roles, and age get coupled with the influence of social media and mobile photography, causing new territory to be developed and refined.

So if you or your creative team would like a glimpse of what kind of photos to produce this year, read on for a recap of what we’re seeing as the top trends for 2017 in the photography space.

TRENDS WE'RE SEEING:

NATURAL DESIGN

The contrast between real and digital continues, with natural looks offsetting tech-driven styles. The natural design trends are authentic and raw and directly oppose the exact, sharp-edged compositions of tech-driven design. The top components last year included:

  • Organic Texture: Rich and timeless patterns found in nature, from tree rings to marble swirls.
  • Tropical: A feel-good trend inspired by vivid colors, lush vegetation, and exotic fruit.
  • White Texture: Adding a 3D feel, this trend can be sharp or reflect the patterns found in nature. It is the embodiment of minimalism, offering a clean yet bold backdrop to any design.

VIVID COLOR

Vivid color is making a significant comeback. Thanks to advances in the past year to smart phone editing technology, it's become increasingly easy to apply filters to personalize snapshots. Introducing bold, colorful tones with a high contrast is sure to generate a shock factor, so let 2017 bring a splash of color to your work!

GLOBAL VIEW

The world is getting smaller every day. Technology and mobility enable content creators to capture scenes from all corners of the globe. Whether it’s everyday scenes from an idyllic farm in the countryside or vibrant moments from some exotic beach,  photographers around the globe are creative amazing perspectives of nature. 

EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

The controversy surrounding politics and government around the world has given rise to protests and millions of ordinary citizens have become outspoken advocates for equality and diversity. We expect to see even more of this interaction captured by photojournalists and creatives alike, and expect it to continue to impact how many of the world’s brands market themselves.

MACHINES AND CONNECTIVITY

We expect to see images of technology enabling all aspects of our lives, from self driving cars to smart refrigerators, to providing convenience and connectivity while on vacation in the most remote places of the world. 

DRONES FOR EVERYTHING

Drones are not new technology anymore, and we’ve seen them shooting movies, taking pictures, surveying agricultural fields and even providing wireless internet. The time when your pizza will be delivered by a drone and you won’t have to leave a tip is really close. We’re still wondering if they’ll ever be used for delivering newspapers. Now that would be interesting. Drone photography and virtual reality are creating a completely new view of nearly everything on the planet, and they are genuinely exciting. We can’t wait to see more.

WEARABLE TECH & THE INTERNET OF THINGS

Becoming increasingly cemented within popular culture with major brands releasing smart shoes and emotion sensing wearables. Home appliances also give way to voice recognition technology and instant connectivity from anywhere in the world. How these competing platforms and trends behave together will be the big question going forward.

VR

Over the past 12 months Virtual Reality devices have become a popular photographic influence. Most commonly used by gamers and entertainment geeks alike, technology and interaction now play a big part within content. This game-changing trend is one that is set to impact our social media platforms in the near future. 

 

TECHNOLOGY-DRIVEN GENERATION Z

The tech-savvy kids brought up in the age of social media certainly can’t imagine a world without technology. Generation Z can be defined as open minded, socially conscious and technology dependent. They’re the new target audience for many marketing campaigns yet to come. Looking forward to the future, it’s inevitable that they’re part of the new trends.

THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING...

I'd love to hear from you about what trends you're encountering, or perhaps even starting!  Share your comments here, or tweet me: @CurtisNewborn

MARKETING - A LOOK A CENTURY OUT

MARKETING - A LOOK A CENTURY OUT

While my main profession is "photographer", so much of our overall business revolves around a level of involvement in the "marketing" that our client's undertake. And so in order to be a truly productive partner to our clients, it's important for our team to stay on top of what's happening in terms of marketing and advertising trends.

So the other day, I asked myself what will “marketing” be like when it grows up. Kind of crazy to think about, right?

I remember, like it was yesterday– being asked to participate in the first advertising production meeting at my first employer.  "Print" was king, and how we shot product photography was driven by the specs of a particular print campaign. Fast forward to today, and "digital" has become the go-to suite of marketing tools, providing instant customization, delivery and greater cost effectiveness.

In the immediate future, viral sharing, workforce marketing, new social channels, use of big data and mobile are now top of mind for every smart marketer.  And, each and every marketer is trying to figure out how to make them work for their target audience and deliver on that all-important ROI.

We all know that what is cool today is likely going to be ho-hum tomorrow... trends in marketing are changing at a faster pace than ever before. Really if you think about all of this, it was only about a 100 years ago that the printing press, motion pictures and the phonograph were invented. And now in someways they are dinosaurs in terms of frequency of use.

So, where will technology take us over the next 100 years?

Will marketing become like a science fiction movie—reading customers thoughts through their mobile devices? It may already feel like that the way Facebook seems to know things I'm interested in so they instantly serve up ads that I'll like.  Big data is the marketers dream. But how far is too far, and when will it start to turn off our clients and customers? How will we communicate in the future... will we even use words? Will the other senses be included more in our everyday marketing communication? Tasting something via our mobile devices, having a virtual experience such as driving a new car happen right in our living room– with feel, sight, and sound a part of the experience... it may just happen... I'm excited for the future and I truly dig thinking about how it will impact us all... both personally and professionally.

So what do you think Marketing will look like in the next 100 years? And at the rate technology is changing, do you think we will start to see some of this really cool stuff in our lifetimes? Let me know on Twitter @CurtisNewborn

TIPS FOR FABULOUS PHOTOS USING PORTRAIT MODE ON IPHONE 7 PLUS

TIPS FOR FABULOUS PHOTOS USING PORTRAIT MODE ON IPHONE 7 PLUS

The iPhone 7 Plus has an amazing camera, arguably the best available in a smartphone. Part of the massive appeal is the new Portrait Mode, which attempts to mimic DSLR quality photos thanks to some hardware and software trickery. This mode adds a depth of field effect that blurs the background while keeping the subject in focus, much like you often see with pictures taken on a DSLR camera.

While Portrait Mode works delightfully well most of the time, it’s far from flawless. In fact, Apple has called it a beta and will likely be providing continual updates throughout 2017. So in order to minimize the chance of winding up disappointed with your photo, here are some tips for using your iPhone 7 Plus in Portrait Mode:

 

KEEP LIGHTING CONDITIONS AS BRIGHT AS POSSIBLE

The iPhone 7 Plus is a fantastic camera in low light — that is, until you try it in Portrait Mode. The camera, as you know, is actually two separate lenses: one wide-angle lens and one telephoto lens. The wide-angle has a generous f/1.8 aperture which is good for letting in a lot of light. The telephoto lens, meanwhile has an f/2.8 aperture which doesn’t perform as well in the dark. Because Portrait Mode requires using BOTH of these lenses, low-light results tend to be lackluster and filled with noise.

When in these low light situations, the software has a harder time figuring out what should be in focus and what shouldn’t. This ends up producing too much or too little blur. The Camera app will warn you ahead of time if you need more light to take a solid picture with depth effect, but sometimes you’ll have to use your own discretion as to how much is just right.

PHOTOGRAPH ONLY LARGE OBJECTS OR PEOPLE

Because Portrait Mode is still in beta, keep your subjects as simple as you can for optimal results. Narrow it down to two categories: large objects and also people. This new Portrait Mode has a hard time properly focusing on small objects, especially those with crazy edges and details on the perimeter. Keep your subjects large and minimalist. Naturally, Portrait Mode works best on people given the feature’s name. But it occasionally has shown me issues with outlining hair, but for the most part targeting people is your best bet in this setting.

TURN ON THE CAMERA GRID

This tip could very well apply to any camera usage, not just Portrait Mode, but I think it’s more important here. Turning on the camera grid in Settings gives you more control over subject alignment and straightening. It’s especially useful for portraits because you’re more likely trying to take a really high quality photo as opposed to quickly snapping something meaningless. If you have a nice straight portrait photo with the subject centered and fully in frame, chances are you also have a photo good enough to print. To turn on the camera grid, go to the Photos & Camera settings and switch on Grid.

AVOID FROM WINDOWS AND MIRRORS

I’m not sure why this is and I’m mostly going just on personal experience for this one, but keep mirrors and windows out of your shots. For whatever reason, testing has found that Portrait Mode gets confused with the depth of field when these are in the background. The reflection from the mirror and the transparency of the window often create more or less blur than what’s necessary, messing up your end result.

IN CONCLUSION

So I hope that these tips help you produce some very cool shots using the new Portrait Mode… experiment, try each of the suggestions above, and of course, HAVE FUN!

7 TIPS FOR CAPTURING AMAZING HOLIDAY PHOTOS

7 TIPS FOR CAPTURING AMAZING HOLIDAY PHOTOS

The holidays are such an amazing time for photos, and for creating lasting memories with friends and family alike. Many of my favorite photos to look back on from my childhood have been those taken over the holidays. While having the right equipment helps, what is even more important is thinking about what we’re doing, what story we’re trying to tell before we push that trigger. After all, family photography is creating a legacy, telling our story in a way that can be passed on to future generations, and is appreciated even more as time passes. Here are tips for making these magical times extra special.

TIP #1 - USE THE GEAR YOU HAVE

You don’t need expensive professional gear to take amazing photos. We can take almost any camera and make it work. The holidays are a fantastic time to pull out a fixed prime lens like the 50mm f/1.8. Shooting “wide open” will allow for so much more light, and with the shallow depth of field we can get some delicious bokeh from all the twinkling lights and the surroundings. These photos have a lot of color and depth and are really fun to edit to bring out and highlight the story you want to tell.

TIP #2 - TAKE THE LIGHT AS IT COMES

Shooting inside or even in the low light of the winter nights can be challenging AND fun. I always recommend getting a flash with a head that can rotate, point and turn. In many cases, you’ll want to point it UP to avoid a harsh light. And don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be a name brand flash and you can pick one up for less than $50 if you look hard. Even if you don’t have a flash handy, it is okay to turn up the ISO on your camera. A well exposed grainy photo is far better than a dark one. Finally, be confident that you’ll be able to fix any photo afterwards, boosting the brightness and de-noising, using software.

TIP #3 - THINK LIKE A DIRECTOR

Holidays are a perfect time to tell the story of our lives and I’m a huge fan of having one or two images from a day characterize and tell the story of our lives. Composition plays a key role in this. By thinking of what we’re trying to achieve, we can create something that is more than what a security camera or simple snapshot camera can take. We become the director and the movie maker, but thankfully, we only need to preserve a split second in time. So, think like a director. If you want the person viewing the photo to feel close to your subject, to make the photo feel intimate, you’ll want to shoot at eye level.

TIP #4 - STEADY AS SHE GOES

Sometimes when the light is a bit darker, especially if we are shooting in auto mode, our cameras will drop their shutter speed too low and we end up with blurry photos. When my shutter speed drops too low, I either raise my ISO or open up my aperture to let more light in. However, sometimes, neither of those options are viable. So, if you don’t have a tripod handy (what?!), try a bag of rice. Sounds funny, but a bag of popcorn, rice, or beans makes for an incredibly flexible and cheap tripod while at home. I set my camera to a two second delay when shooting, so the lens doesn’t wiggle when I press the shutter, and I can create some totally fun things.

TIP # 5 - PRACTICE BEFOREHAND FOR THE 5-MINUTE RULE

I often will experiment with my settings one night without the kids, and figure out what works best for my gear and my home. The next night, I can quickly get the shot that I want without causing too much stress on the evening routine. I have a rule in my house that my kids really like. Camera is up to my eye for 5 minutes, and down for 20. In 5 minutes, I can tell a pretty good story, and then the next 20 minutes, I’m mom. They like it, and I do too. It lets people relax and feel like they don’t always have to be “on cue”.

TIP #6 - OH, THOSE BEAUTIFUL LIGHTS

If you want to get the tree lights looking all twinkly, you’ll need to use a longer exposure, so you’ll need something to stabilize the camera. Some lenses make the lights twinkle more than others, so you’ll have to play around with what you have to figure out what works best. I’ve found that the starburst effect starts to hit when you are around f/11 for your aperture. It is fun to think we can go from big giant balls of bokeh to twinkly stars of lights using the same gear and just changing a few settings.

TIP #7 - SIMPLIFYING BACKGROUNDS

With a big tree full of decorations, presents all around and a room full of people, it can be hard to create a simple, elegant background. One idea is to place kids in front of open windows with them looking out. The light from the window will be much stronger than the background as the fall off of light is so dramatic when they are close to a window. Shoot from the side, down the wall, not looking out. You'll catch some strong side lights on the kids, and it is very flattering. Another idea is to make simple background from a sheet and have kids pose in front of it.

IN CLOSING

Above all, remember that you are the director of your holiday memories, telling a story that will last for generations. Oh, and don’t forget, be sure to share on social media so everyone you know can enjoy your creative talents!