Is Virtual Art the Future of Creativity?

Is Virtual Art the Future of Creativity?

Have You Experienced Virtual Art?

Every art piece demands a certain level of immersion and engagement from its viewers, but art experienced via VR googles takes things to an entirely different level. Virtual art, VR art or virtual reality art are all terms we use to describe the virtualization of art, made with the technical tools developed in recent decades. The development of computers and other tools such as “visualization casks, stereoscopic spectacles and screens, digital painting and sculpture, generators of three-dimensional sound, position sensors, tactile and power feed-back systems transforms artwork into a virtual universe and allows viewers to get in and edit. This deep level of immersion and personal involvement and the application of specific technical tools are the main characteristics of what we refer to as virtual art.

Unlike many other art forms, virtual art cannot exist without the observer, but at the same time, it erases the difference between the viewer, the creator and the artwork itself. It merges all three in one by letting the viewers control their surrounding with gesture and movement, by giving them different paths of exploring the artwork and by integrating the participants into the piece itself (sometimes through breathing, speech or video clips, other times through virtual representation of the participant aka the avatar).

A Milestone Event

Recently, a blockchain crypto-art rose titled "Forever Rose" has been sold to a collective of investors for cryptocurrencies with a value equivalent to $1,000,000 USD. The collective is composed of 10 investors, each of whom contributed an equal amount toward the digital rose. The artwork is based on Kevin Abosch's photograph of a rose and was created by Abosch and GIFTO, a decentralized universal gifting protocol. Blockchain technology is behind cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and rights management platforms like KODAKOne. The tech can also be used for art, as demonstrated by Abosch with "Forever Rose." Abosch previously sold an image of a potato titled "Potato #345" in 2016 for more than $1 million.

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Forever Rose is believed to currently be the most valuable virtual artwork in the world. The buyers can choose to hold onto their rose tokens, sell them, or give them away. Abosch and GIFTO will donate the sale proceeds to The CoderDojo Foundation, which provides kids around the world with the opportunity to learn coding skills for free.

What is the Future of Virtual Art?

The future of Virtual Art will in many ways depend on the development of components that will be available to future art-makers. The first wave came instantly and gained immediate attention around the globe. But shortly after, virtual art began to fade a bit, since the possibilities of the latest equipment was quickly exhausted. But technological progress continues, and now you can make paintings, sculptures, even murals by using VR tools but still there’s a long way to go, and developers know it. With its ability to simultaneously occupy all our senses, transcend time and space and present the work from numerous perspectives, virtual art offers something that no other art genre does: the complete and impeccable substitute for reality. 

Let us know your thoughts or your experiences with virtual art… and as always, keep creating!

In 2018, Image Means More Than Ever

In 2018, Image Means More Than Ever

So if you thought one way when you read the title of this post, we’re hear to tell you that it’s truly a “two-fold issue" as far as how our creative team looks at it. As part of a group of creative companies, FIRM NAME and it’s people believe that the “visual image" we capture for you and your company directly impacts how your “brand image” is perceived out there in the world, be it on packaging in a supermarket, on social media, or as part of an editorial spread in a newspaper or magazine.

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Humans are visual creatures hence what others see has an undeniable impact on our success. Images transcend language and words and allow for a greater understanding of whatever is being discussed. Since first impressions are formed within seconds and since most of the information we consume and interpret is visual, quality design can make your site and your brand stick in the viewer’s mind as professional and credible.

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It’s simple: the more professional, compelling and enticing your imagery is, the more business you’ll conduct over time. We’re not just talking about pretty pictures, we’re talking about a way to visualize information in a way that makes sense to your end user. Using high quality imagery of your products and services will help you market to a much larger audience. Imagery opens your content up to a whole new audience by giving visitors the chance to share your imagery with friends and family… and as a bonus: shared images are basically free advertising.

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Using great design and imaginative, high quality imagery is a necessity in today’s visual world. Great creative should convey a message in an easy, simple way, transcend language barriers, provide a good summary of information, support and break down complex concepts, and take a fraction of a second to understand. Yes, that’s a tall order, but it’s one that we fulfill for our clients on a daily basis. 

Our Look At Top Super Bowl Spots

Our Look At Top Super Bowl Spots

For this week’s post, our team thought it would be fun to recap the public AND professional reactions to this year’s crop of Super Bowl commercials. We examined what major publications as well as various social media channels were talking about… both good AND bad.

Humor Trumps Politics

Last year’s Super Bowl featured several ads that were political in nature. This year, companies focused more on humor and nostalgia. Many industry experts saw this as a direct reaction to the fractured climate that exists among Americans as gridlock continues in Washington. 

Some of the most talked-about commercials include:

As the Super Bowl headed into its final quarter, the ads fluctuated between funny and somber. The N.F.L.’s own ad featuring the New York Giants’ Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. re-enacting the climactic dance scene from “Dirty Dancing” was a huge hit, as was Amazon’s “Alexa Loses Her Voice” spot.

“There’s definitely a humanitarian theme that is running through the spots,” said Margaret Johnson, chief creative officer of the agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners, which created the Doritos-Mountain Dew ad. “That and humor seem to be the two themes of the night.”
While there were no commercials connected to the #MeToo movement, some still saw progress when it came to the role of gender in Super Bowl ads. “In a culture and a climate where it’s hard to find any kind of positive news out there at the moment, it felt like something we wanted to really lean into and take on a very different message,” said Andrew McKechnie, Verizon’s chief creative officer.

Social media blew up about the Dodge Ram truck commercial, which utilized a voice-over of a speech from Martin Luther King, Jr. And while the reaction to this ad was quite negative and generated much discussion, it appears that social media was in agreement that the “Alexa” and “Dirty Dancing” ads topped this year’s list of “best in show”.

And while “product sales” were still the mainstay throughout the game, more and more we’re seeing extravagant productions for everything from movies and TV network shows, to tourism promotion for Australia.

Watch The Ads Again!

If you’d like to check out any of the commercials again, here’s a link to the world famous USA Today “Ad Meter” that is compiled through a nationwide group of reviews in real time. (Once the new browser window opens, scroll to the bottom of the report to see the reel of all 64 spots).

NOTE: Special thanks to the New York Times, Ad Age and USA TODAY for their links and commentary.

New Tech from CES 2018

New Tech from CES 2018

CES, the world's biggest technology show, recently wrapped up its 2018 edition in Las Vegas. The giant electronics trade show is a yearly showcase of the latest gadgets. It’s also a chance for companies to demonstrate some of their crazier concepts, which may never actually be developed. Below is a brief look at some of the highlights from this year’s show.

Televisions

At CES, the TV reigns supreme. So far, 2018 is proving to be no exception to this unwritten rule. Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic have lugged their premium screens to Vegas and OLED is the flavor of the show – as well as overwhelmingly large screens.

So far, LG has led the way with its prototype of a 65-inch rollable OLED screen. It has also announced its future TVs will incorporate voice assistants and captured early headlines by announcing an 8K TV.

Samsung has debuted what it is calling a modular TV. Called 'The Wall' the 146-inch display is made up of micro LEDs and the firm claims "consumers can customize their television sizes and shapes to suit their needs". Samsung also says in the second half of 2018 it will be releasing an 8K QLED TV that uses artificial intelligence to adjust the screen resolution based on what is being shown.

Elsewhere Sony has launched the Bravia A8F. The TV has a virtually bezel-less screen and comes in 55 and 65-inch versions. When put on sale later this year it will support 4K, HDR and Dolby Vision. Panasonic added two 4K OLEDs, the FZ800 and FZ950, to its lineup.

Laptops & Tablets

Despite their dominance, CES isn't just about TVs. Ahead of the show, Dell announced its new XPS 13 laptop, which comes with three USB ports, one of Intel's latest generation process and the possibility of a 4K screen. Not to be outdone, LG also pre-announced its new line of LG Gram laptops in three different screen sizes.

Meanwhile, Samsung has revamped its Notebook 9 and Notebook 7 Spin. And Acer has also refreshed its Swift 7 laptop, which it claims to be the thinnest in the world, at 8.98mm.

Asus is updating a couple of its laptops, including the ZenBook 13, which is claimed will have a 15-hour battery life. Also being announced is the ASUS X507, a portable gaming laptop with an Intel Core i7 CPU. Outside of the laptop world, Asus also announced the Chromebox 3, a tiny desktop PC that runs Chrome OS.

Dell's latest laptop, the XPS 2-in-1, now comes in a 15-inch size and has a keyboard that utilizes magnets. Using the resistance of the magnets, the firm says it can control the feel of typing. It has also announced a new app that allows notifications from iOS and Android phones to be shown on its laptops.

Google Appears At CES

For the first time, Google has a public presence at CES. It usually sends along an army of staff to explore what's being shown and conduct business meetings behind the scenes but this year it's stepped out of the shadows. In part this is because of its hardware push – launching the Google Home, Pixel 2 and Pixelbook in recent months – but mostly because of its Google Assistant being integrated into other products.

Google continues its push into VR. Partnering with Lenovo and Yi, the companies announced standalone VR headsets. These don't require a mobile phone to run, include head movement tracking and work on Google's Daydream VR platform.

Elsewhere, Android Pay and Google Wallet have been merged into one system, Google Pay, and it has also introduced its Assistant to Android Auto.

The web giant also announced that Google Assistant will work on home assistant devices with screens. This allows a Google-powered Echo Show to be created. But Google hasn't made one of these devices itself (yet), but Lenovo has launched one.

What About Cameras?

Despite the world's media descending on the Las Vegas Convention Center, however, the photographic industry has decided to keep a very low profile this year. The one big announcement has been Panasonic's Lumix GH5S hybrid mirrorless camera, while Nikon paraded an exotic super-telephoto 180-400mm zoom lens that costs about the same as a decent used car.

We perhaps shouldn't overlook the Lenovo Mirage and Yi Technology DayDream VR180 cameras, although while they certainly look fun they don't quite stir the photographer inside us. And that's been about it in terms of new technology.

But it didn't always used to be like this. It was only a few years ago that our inbox would get clogged up with a multitude of CES camera announcements, while those on the ground at the Convention Center would spend our time dashing round trying to make sure we saw everything and everyone they needed to see.

Admittedly, many of these camera announcements were entry-level compacts, but CES has also seen some big camera launches in recent years. Nikon has used the show to announce the likes of the D3300, D5500, D4, D500 and D5, while Canon unveiled the PowerShot G9 X Mark II, Fujifilm the X-Pro1 and X100S and Sony the Alpha A5000.

From a photography perspective though, CES has been on a bit of a slide in recent years. The writing was on the wall when the Photo Marketing Association's (PMA) imaging technology trade show (which was also held in Las Vegas) was incorporated into CES and rebranded as PMA@CES starting 2012.

While the big guns like Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Sony and Samsung would show off their latest cameras at their vast stands in the Convention Center, others would opt for small booths and meeting rooms instead, while the PMA itself was tucked away at the nearby Venetian hotel. But 2015 was the last PMA@CES, and now the event has disappeared completely, getting swallowed up by the juggernaut that is CES.

Factor in how the photo market has shifted in recent years, from everyone having a smartphone, a multitude of high-volume, low-cost compacts as well as more premium models with longer life cycles, and it makes sense that there's now a distinct lack of "camera news" at CES.

Trends for 2018 (3rd in a series)

Trends for 2018 (3rd in a series)

The start of a new year is an excellent time to look ahead to major trends affecting your industry and seek out new opportunities to grow your business. As part of our series of trends our teams sees in various aspects of marketing/advertising, here are 5 marketing trends that business leaders should take into consideration as they plan for 2018:

The need for content marketing distribution has never been greater.

As brands and marketers increasingly rely on content marketing as a major part of their marketing strategies and produce more content of their own (as they should), it's becoming harder to cut through the noise and grab your audience's attention before your competitors do.

The solution to that problem isn't to create content at an even faster pace. Instead, you've got to think about how you can distribute your content better than anyone else in your space. This goes beyond social shares, especially as Facebook's organic reach is dropping significantly. Particularly in 2018, it’s going to be crucial to put together a comprehensive content distribution strategy to get your message to the right people when they need it most.

Video content is here to stay.

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a hundred times: Video isn’t going anywhere. 55% of people consume video content thoroughly, and by 2020, online videos will account for more than 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic. Bringing video content into your marketing strategy might seem like a big undertaking, but you can (and probably should) start small. It doesn’t have to be the sole focus of your budget or even the biggest portion of it to be valuable.

Public relations and content marketing are aligning.

In the past, PR and content marketing would have been separate departments with separate budgets based on different goals. If you read some of the recent content marketing books, you'll see that brands are starting to realize that they share goals between the two, and they're making PR and marketing alignment a major objective.

Voice search is on the rise.

Hey, Siri: Is it true that typing a search query is becoming a thing of the past? As a matter of fact, more consumers are going off-screen and relying on voice-activated personal assistants to search for information, with some analysts estimating that as much as 50 percent of all searches will be conducted through voice by 2020. Your marketing messages need to be crafted with voice search in mind, which means targeting long-tail keywords and featured snippets.

Chatbots are emerging to help brands in all industries.

The great news about chatbots is they’re not directing users away from the social platforms they’re already on, such as Facebook Messenger. This enables marketers to meet their audience where they are already consuming content. In fact, brands in different spaces, from National Geographic to Whole Foods, are already implementing this. Plus, the barrier to entry here is low, so consider testing a chatbot with your own team. There are some free tools out there to help you get started, and you can obviously put some budget dollars behind other tools for different experiences. This simple investment can help you quickly engage your audience and nurture a more personalized relationship that keeps them coming back.

In Summary:

As the menu of marketing tactics becomes longer and more diverse, marketers are challenged to consider their budget and strategy from every angle. With these trends in mind, there’s no doubt 2018 will be one of the most interesting years for marketing yet. What new developments have affected your budget for 2018? Let me know your thoughts on the trends that are on your radar.

TRENDS FOR 2018 (2ND IN A SERIES)

TRENDS FOR 2018 (2ND IN A SERIES)

In the 2nd post of our series on trends that will influence and impact the creative, advertising and marketing space in 2018, we're looking at trends in "photography".

As with most things “marketing”, the category of “photography” sees change each year… in both technology & equipment as well as how creative pros execute their ideas. Below are some of the trends our research shows will be dominant in the field of photography in 2018.

Real Images (i.e. “unfiltered")

Again, in a world where you can easily fix flaws using filters, people have wanted to trigger their capabilities by doing clean photos that are not filtered, and this is a trend that will show up in 2018 as more photographers look for ways to produce real images that are not passed through editing apps to make adjustments. Doing photos inspired by filters makes many feel as if their capabilities are below par or not within the required standards to guarantee the production of high quality photos, and that’s why photographers are shifting to investing in quality equipment that will help them come up with good raw photos so they will not need to pass them through apps to add filters.

Natural Design

The contrast between digital and real has continued to pick pace, and natural looks are offsetting tech-inspired styles. Many are clamoring for authentic natural design, which comes raw and made with no sharp tech-driven edges. Expect to see more rich patterns that are timeless, including things like tree rings and marble swirls. There is a lot of focus on nature and expressing it as it is through photography.

White Texture

The clamor for this kind of photography has seen an increase of searches by 482 percent since early last year. When a 3D-effect is added to the trend, it can be sharp and intricate, reflecting the patterns seen most in nature. It comes as the embodiment of minimalism and offers us a bold backdrop to other designs. It comes as a useful way to add calm backgrounds while creating interfaces that require less noise both in the background and on other task areas.

Vivid Color

Vivid color is as well expected to make a significant comeback. Early signs have shown a shift in photography to focus on smartphone photography that comes with photo editing software. It is now easier to use different filters while personalizing snapshots. Expect bold and colorful tones laced with high contrast in 2018.

Global View

With the world getting more connected, it has become smaller and now people can share and borrow ideas from each other regardless of where they are situated across the world. Content creators can now capture scenes and share with a wider audience, and this has seen the networking among photographers across the world broaden. It is expected this trend will proceed to offer a wider allowance for up-and-coming photographers to have expert mentoring more than ever before, which could lead to a huge improvement in quality as more people will readily access the support they need to polish their skills at the art of photography.

Trends for 2018 (1st in a series)

Trends for 2018 (1st in a series)

As we start a new year, our team has been researching trends that will influence and impact the creative, advertising and marketing space in 2018. In the coming weeks, we'll introduce these trends in a series of blog posts.

In the first post of this series, we're looking at trends in "design and graphics".

Trends in Design & Graphics

In the era of digital art, graphic design trends can evaporate as quickly as they emerged. What has been modern for the past few years may look entirely outdated in 2018. While some trends have stood the test of time, others have vanished in the blink of an eye only to make room for new, more modern looks. So let’s take a look at what some are saying will be the hottest graphic design trends in 2018.

The “Glitch” Effect

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The corrupted image, i.e. the glitch effect, has been one of the most popular trends in the digital world lately. Apparently, what was once annoying for the viewer has now been turned into a truly wanted effect. Obviously, horror movie fans have been familiar with this one for ages.

The “Ruined” Effect

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As far as we can tell, contemporary graphic designers have been obsessed with the “art of destroying”. Everything that includes splashing, scratching, ripping off, breaking or any other form of ruining the aesthetics of a composition is considered modern for 2018.

“Color Channels” Effects

Playing with color channels has been widely popular among designers. The technique allows designers to create great illusional effects. A holograph, a hallucination, a distorted reality... all of these are highly influential on the viewer which makes “color channels” one of the top graphic design trends in 2018. The holographic design trend, which has been a huge hit for several years, is now falling behind in comparison with the other futuristic trends. While it’s still glamorous and mesmerizing, we’ll see less of holographic designs in 2018.

Double Exposure

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Double exposure has been a thing for several years now. Despite the fact that some designers have put this technique aside for a while, we definitely see a rise of double exposure designs which amaze the viewer. Variations include "Double Exposure Duotone” and "Double Light”.

Cropped Typography

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Cropped typography was a hot trend for 2017 and is still hot for 2018. The art of erasing parts of the letters while still keeping their readability requires a lot of creativity and professionalism. The effect is 100% worth the effort.

Negative Space Designs

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We named negative space a positive trend not because negative and positive attract each other in physics, but because in graphic aesthetics negative space techniques evoke quite positive emotions. In its nature negative space is an “empty” space in the design which forms a certain distinctive shape. The technique is one of the most popular ones lately and it still holds the leading positions.

Colorful 3D Substance

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Bright colors plus a 3D composition is an absolute winning combo for 2018. With so many graphic design trends fighting for the leading positions in 2018, bright colors are certainly on the top of the charts. And how can they not be when all clients say is “Make it pop!” And yes, bright colors can certainly make a design pop. In our opinion this will be one of the strongest graphic design trends for 2018. 

Metallic Elements

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As an addition to bright colors, metallic elements enter the world of graphic design to create the “Wow” effect. Often combined with other hot trends such as 3D compositions and creative typography, this trend brings the effect of a real-life composition.

Color Transitions & Gradients

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When Instagram changed its logo back in 2016 into a colorful gradient, nobody thought this trend was going to become so huge. It was just the beginning of its rise. Despite the fact that many weren’t sure about this design technique, we are seeing more and more of these colorful gradients.

 

Stay tuned for the next in this series, appearing on our blog soon!

KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR THE RIGHT WAY!

KICK OFF THE NEW YEAR THE RIGHT WAY!

As corny as this may sound, a new year can really be the start of a brand new you (or a fresh, new look for your brand!). Nothing feels as fresh as starting the new year with a new attitude. That being said, as we embark headlong into 2018, we wanted to take the time to encourage our clients and associates to enter the new year with an open mind when it comes to their visual content creation.

The new year is not only a time for personal resolutions, but also for professional ones. One of the most important aspects to focus on is how you can attract new customers and keep your existing ones loyal to your brand. This is best achieved by a solid visual content strategy, which means that NOW is the perfect time to consider ways to improve those efforts.

What's Important to You & Your Business in 2018?

It’s always a great exercise at the start of a new year to give thoughtful examination to the business year that just finished, and to assess how to improve and what directional changes (if any) to make. Here are some questions to ask yourself about the year we just ended:

  • Which social media platforms and/or websites brought the most visitors to your site?
  • Did we make sure that our website is optimized for mobile so as to not lose rankings in Google?
  • What content received the most consumer interactions? Was it text, image or video?
  • Do you have a plan to deliver visual content to your audience on a regular basis?

Finding out answers to these questions will allow you to decide on a course of action for 2018 so you can maximize efforts to work on the visual content strategies that will be the most fruitful. At FoodPhotoStudio.com, we have helped clients solve challenges ranging from branding and packaging to visual content marketing.

Work On Your Brand

We are bombarded by content from so many different online and offline platforms these days, that customers have a hard time recalling the individual messages that they see from various companies. The brands that have been able to cut through the clutter are the ones that are able to regularly tell a single story, thereby creating a consistent brand image.

This is not a simple effort to undertake, and it requires reviewing your website content, social media posts, advertising, press releases, packaging and other visual content to make sure there is a consistent “image” being portrayed, and that all are relaying the same message.

In Closing

An effort like reworking your visual content strategy is never a simple undertaking. But with some planning, collaboration among your team, and a truly honest assessment of past successes and failures, you can elevate your brand even higher and develop paths to increased sales and revenue. We’re always excited to discuss visual content strategies with our clients and associates alike, so don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a chat!

Fun Christmas Tree Facts

Fun Christmas Tree Facts

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Great Moments in Christmas Tree History

  • The first decorated Christmas tree was in Riga, Latvia in 1510.
  • The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.
  • Using small candles to light a Christmas tree dates back to the middle of the 17th century.
  • Thomas Edison's assistant, Edward Johnson, came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882. Christmas tree lights were first mass-produced in 1890.
  • In 1900, large stores started to erect big illuminated Christmas trees.
  • The tradition of an official Chicago Christmas tree was initiated in 1913 when one was first lit by Mayor Carter H. Harrison in Grant Park.
  • The official Christmas tree tradition at Rockefeller Center began in 1933. Since 2004 the tree has been topped with a 550-pound Swarovski Crystal star. And since 2007, the tree has been lit with 30,000 energy-efficient LED's which are powered by solar panels.
  • Every year since 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster, England. The gift is an expression of good will and gratitude for Britain's help to Norway during World War II.
  • Since 1971, the Province of Nova Scotia has presented the Boston Christmas tree to the people of Boston, in gratitude for the relief supplies received from the citizens of Boston after a ship exploded in 1917 following a collision in the Halifax, Nova Scotia Harbor. Part of the city was leveled, killing and injuring thousands.
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Presidential Christmas Trees

  • In 1856 Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, was the first President to place a Christmas tree in the White House.
  • President Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the White House lawn in 1923.
  • Teddy Roosevelt banned the Christmas tree from the White House for environmental reasons.
  • From 1948 to 1951, President Truman spent Christmas at his home in Independence, Missouri, and lit the National Community Christmas Tree by remote control. Truman agreed to stay at the White House for Christmas 1952, and personally lit the tree.
  • In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22nd, because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.
  • Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family for display in the Blue Room.
  • In 1979, the National Christmas Tree was not lit except for the top ornament. This was done to honor the American hostages in Iran.
  • In 1984, the National Christmas tree was lit on December 13th with temperatures in the 70's, making it one of the warmest tree lightings in history.
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Christmas Tree Growth

  • 98 percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms, while only 2% are cut from the wild.
  • To ensure enough trees for harvest, growers plant one to three seedlings for every tree harvested.
  • In 2015, 46 million Christmas tree seedlings were planted by U.S. growers.
  • More than 2,000 trees are usually planted per acre. On average 1,000-1,500 of these trees will survive. In the northern part of the country, perhaps 750 trees will remain.
  • Almost all trees require shearing to attain the Christmas tree shape. At six to seven feet, trees are ready for harvest.
  • It takes six to ten years of fighting heavy rain, wind, hail and drought to get a mature tree.
  • Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet. It is important to keep them watered thoroughly when they reach your home. In the first week, a Christmas tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.
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Real or Artificial?

  • Artificial Christmas trees were developed in Germany during the 19th century and later became popular in the United States. These "trees" were made using goose feathers that were dyed green and attached to wire branches. The wire branches were then wrapped around a central dowel rod that acted as the trunk.
  • In 1930 the U.S.-based Addis Brush Company created the first artificial Christmas tree made from brush bristles. The company used the same machinery that it used to manufacture toilet brushes, but they were dyed green.
  • Artificial Christmas trees made largely from aluminum were manufactured in the United States, first in Chicago in 1958.
  • Today, most artificial Christmas trees are made from PVC plastic. PVC trees are fire-retardant but not fire-resistant. Eighty percent of artificial trees worldwide are manufactured in China.
  • 10.9 million artificial trees were purchased in the United States in 2015.
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Getting Trees To Market

  • Live Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since about 1850.
  • The first Christmas tree retail lot in the United States was started by Mark Carr in New York, in 1851.
  • From 1887-1933 a fishing schooner called the "Christmas Ship" would tie up at the Clark Street Bridge in Chicago and sell spruce trees from Michigan to Chicagoans.
  • In 2015, 35% of real Christmas trees sold were from chain stores or garden centers/nursery, 24% from cut and harvest farms, 15% from retail tree lots, and 15% from non-profit groups.
  • In 2015, 85% of the Christmas trees purchased were pre-cut, and 14% were cut-your-own.
  • An estimated 175,000 real Christmas trees are sold via e-commerce or catalogue and shipped mail order.
  • The most popular Christmas trees are: Scotch pine, Douglas fir, noble fir, Fraser fir, balsam fir, Virginia pine and white pine.

We hope that you've enjoyed these fun facts about a staple of American (and international) holiday celebrations... all the best to you for a wonderful 2018!

Sources: National Christmas Tree Association, USDA Census of Agriculture, PolitiFact.com, Christmas Tree Farm Network, Christmas Trees Magazine, Forestry.about.com, Facts about Treecycling, U.S. Commerce Dept., NFPA Fire Analysis and Research.

Putting Marketing in Motion!

Putting Marketing in Motion!

Video is no longer optional for savvy digital marketers. B2B and B2C audiences are begging for more video. This trend toward video has been happening for a while now, but it has only recently reached the point where if you are not including video in your digital marketing strategy you could be derailing your efforts while at the same time leaving your audience uninspired.

I have been delivering “marketing in motion" to my clients for years. You name it, I’ve shot it at some point! What's different about our new focus on “motion” and the process to properly execute these projects is that it’s less focused on supplementing your content marketing strategy with an occasional video, but rather using video to drive results across all channels making high quality video a key component of social, web, email and nurturing campaigns.

Examples of how we’re putting it all in motion include:

Let’s examine some key data points:

  • Social media buttons on mobile video ads increase engagement 36%
  • Over half of consumers are more confident in an online purchase when there is a product video
  • Video in email can boost open rates by 20% and increase click-through rates 2X
  • Email subject lines that have the word “Video” in them have 19% more opens and 65% more click-throughs
  • 75% of consumers (and 65% of executives!) visit a website after watching a video
  • An increase of 20% in conversion rates on home pages that feature a video

Finally, 70% of marketers say video converts better than any other content they use. That last point is key into why we are providing greater emphasis on putting “marketing in motion” and executing these projects to be better, faster, bolder, more fun and more creative – it’s what will make our clients more successful and profitable.

We’d love to hear from you! How are you putting your marketing “in motion"? What challenges are you facing? What successes have you had? Let’s get together and figure out how to make your video content marketing tactics amazing. Contact us today!

Little Known Facts About Thanksgiving!

Little Known Facts About Thanksgiving!

As friends and family will gather this week to give thanks and relax, we take a moment to share 5 facts that you can talk about around the dinner table on Thanksgiving!

Pigskin tradition

The tradition of football games on Thanksgiving dates back to 1934, when the Detroit Lions played the Chicago Bears in the first NFL game broadcast nationally. George A. Richards, a radio executive and owner of the Detroit Lions team, wanted to gain the attention of fans with a Thanksgiving Day game. His idea worked, and all 26,000 tickets sold out two weeks before kickoff. The Lions have hosted a Thanksgiving game each year since. The Dallas Cowboys also began hosting on Thanksgiving in 1966, and a third game was added with rotating matchups in 2006.

Americans really, really like turkey

The National Turkey Foundation (NTF) estimates that around 88 percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving, and about 46 million turkeys were consumed on the holiday in 2015. Turkey has become a bigger part of the American diet recently, with consumption nearly doubling over the past 25 years, according to the NTF.

Busy day for plumbers

The day after Thanksgiving is the busiest day for plumbers, according to Roto-Rooter. Meal prep and cleanup can clog drains and garbage disposals, and guests requiring “additional clothes washing, showers, and toilet flushes put a strain on household plumbing,” the company says. It experiences a 21 percent increase in calls over the four-day weekend than any other Thursday to Sunday period in the year.

This state is all about turkey

Minnesota produces more turkeys than any other state in the U.S., raising close to 46 million last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Presidential pardon

The first official presidential pardon of a turkey occurred much more recently than most might think: President George H.W. Bush did it in 1989, and it’s since become an annual tradition. Stories of unofficial pardons, however, go further back - perhaps even to President Lincoln’s days, when he supposedly pardoned a turkey after an impassioned plea from his son Tad for the bird’s right to live.

Why Great Photography is Important for Your Online Business

Why Great Photography is Important for Your Online Business

I was reading an interesting article the other day, exploring how you get improved sales from your website. Not surprisingly, the key takeaway was the importance of high quality photos and videos contributing to the success of your online venture.

Humans are visual creatures hence what others see has an undeniable impact on our success. Images transcend language and words and allow for a greater understanding of whatever is being discussed. Since first impressions are formed within seconds and since most of the information we consume and interpret is visual, quality design can make your site and your brand stick in the viewer’s mind as professional and credible.

A professional, modern looking website can immediately build trust and guide visitors to take action. When it comes to web copy, people rarely read a piece of content word for word. On the other hand, images stick with readers longer and are more likely to give you a greater return on your content investment. The design of a website is significant because it affects how quickly visitors can find what they are looking for. If navigating the website is difficult or frustrating, the visitor will leave and try on another site, resulting in a lost opportunity.  A good design will be easy to understand and navigate, helping potential customers find what they need and taking you one step closer to making a sale or getting in touch.

Professional images capture authenticity. Photographs not only show the visitor what you offer, but can also make them want to act. People no longer just want to browse a website, they want to experience it. The restaurant website www.portillos.com is full of quality, tasty images of their varied product selection. The tantalizing photos make one want to rush over and eat… a lot! The simplicity and consistency of the images speaks to the quality of the product.

It’s simple: the more professional, compelling and enticing your site’s photography is, the more business you’ll conduct over time. We’re not just talking about pretty pictures, we’re talking about a way to visualize information in a simple way that makes sense to the client. Using good photography of your products and services will help you market to a much larger audience. Photos open your content up to a whole new audience through giving visitors the chance to share your imagery with friends and family. Bonus: shared images are basically free advertising. Professional photos can make your visitor understand your product or service more.

Most clothing websites already offer images of outfits that you can rotate and zoom in and pan across the product. The 360 degree rotation style seems very popular with shoes and handbag retailers.

Rikki Hunt, director of Nine Fashion, was quoted as saying “It's worth investing in quality photography. We employ local models and a professional photographer for EVERY new product range.”

The addition of video has created some interesting changes, not simply boosting sales, but reducing returns – the curse of any online retailer. In the article, Mark Newton-Jones, CEO of Littlewoods says “We've seen benefits in terms of customer engagement, improved conversion rates and higher sales.”

If you are striving to be professional and knowledgeable in the workplace, then your website needs to reflect that. Using great design and quality photography is a necessity in this visual world. Great design should convey a message in an easy, simple way, transcend language barriers, provide a good summary of information, support and break down complex concepts, and take a fraction of a second to understand.
 

Halloween Fun Facts!

Halloween Fun Facts!

With yet another holiday upon us, we take time this weekend to celebrate some of the spooky, kooky facts around the upcoming Halloween celebration.

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Historical Facts About Halloween

Trick-or-treating harks back to the Middle Ages and All Souls’ Day, when poor people in Britain would beg for soul cakes, a sweet-bread treat, and pray for dead relatives in return.

When trick-or-treating first became popular in the United States in the 1800s, more children played mischievous pranks than asked for candy. By the 1950s, though, the focus had switched to good old family fun, with sugar-hyped children dressed in costumes.

The candy-collecting tradition has spread from the United States to Canada, Australia, and Western Europe, where more and more little goblins now trick-or-treat. In parts of England, children carry lanterns called punkies (which look like jack-o’-lanterns) and parade through their towns on the last Thursday of October. In Ireland, rural neighborhoods light bonfires, and children play snap apple, in which they try to take a bite from apples that are hung by strings from a tree or a door frame.

Chocolate makes up about three-quarters of a trick-or-treater’s loot, according to the National Confectioners Association.

Tips For Saving Candy

In the event that the candy isn't scarfed down that first night, separate chocolate out and keep it in a cool, dark, dry place. Milk chocolate is good for no more than 8 to 10 months, while dark chocolate lasts up to two years. Hard candy will also stay fresh in a cool, dry place for about a year. Make sure to store any soft candies in a covered dish away from direct heat and light. Enjoy them within six months.

If you find yourself with more candy than you know what you do with, put your leftover sweets to good use by sharing them with neighbors or coworkers.

Fun Facts About Candy Corn

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  • Candy corn has been made with the same recipe by the Jelly Belly Candy Company since around 1900.
  • What's in that recipe, exactly? Sugar, corn syrup, and marshmallow.
  • One serving (about 30 pieces) has 140 calories, the equivalent of three miniature Hershey bars.
  • The National Confectioners Association reports that more than 35 million pounds were manufactured in 2015, amounting to almost 9 billion kernels.
     

Why Food Photo Studio? Let's Take a Look!

Why Food Photo Studio? Let's Take a Look!

At Food Photo Studio, we pride ourselves on operating a diverse business model that allows for us to be nimble, cost effective and extremely efficient for our clients. But since we’re often asked “why Food Photo Studio?” when talking to prospective clients, we decided to put together a series of blog posts in recent months that talk about some of the key attributes that make our studio stand out… you can read these posts through the links below:

WE’RE NOT JUST PHOTOGRAPHERS:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2vik4oY

OUR SUBURBAN LOCATION:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2vtGT5x

THE IMPORTANCE OF PROPPING:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2sULKhS

PUTTING FOOD IN MOTION:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2vJCRHx

USING TECHNOLOGY:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2xvDkNm

WORKING WITH AGENCIES:

ARTICLE LINK: http://bit.ly/2yEyWzw

We know that choosing the right studio and a visual content creation team is critical to the success of your business, and we hope these articles help outline for you “why” we feel we’d be a great fit to help your future success… let’s talk and discuss your challenges and the ways that we could help!

"Agencies Love Us" (6th in a series of "why")

"Agencies Love Us" (6th in a series of "why")

Key highlights:

How agencies use us:

Agencies think of us as true partners… an extension of their firm! We help them grow their business through introductions to companies that we know, while also helping them build their clients’ businesses through the development of outstanding visual content.

Why we enjoy working with agencies:

We are flexible, we know we can’t do ALL the work, and that’s okay… we think of the long view of the relationship in terms of helping our agencies succeed and build lasting client relationships that in turn drives repeat work to our studio.

Things to think about when looking for a visual content creation provider:

Find a studio that’s flexible, can accommodate multiple client shoots at once, and that can potentially deliver to you introductions to build new client relationships!

 Our full service kitchen...

Our full service kitchen...

Several of our clients are Creative Agencies and Marketing Agencies who don’t specialize in visual content creation, but who do want to provide this for their clients when it is appropriate.  We basically become their own personal Visual Content Department!

Working with an agency is great fun, we get to know the team and they get to know and trust us.  But what are the top reasons agencies keep coming back to us?

Profit Margin

Everyone is in business to make a living of some sort, and we understand that your profit margin is one of the key needs of every agency who decides to outsource part of their business.  Because of the repeat business we develop with agencies we are able to reduce our own rates, and make further savings by overlapping production resources.

Complete Discretion

Being discreet is essential.  When we start to work with an agency we become part of your team, and we go to lengths to ensure that your client believes nothing else.  We often meet with an agency’s clients, and always refer to ourselves as part of your team. 

Your Own Portfolio

Sometimes when you are pushing for new business it helps to show the client other similar work you have successfully completed.  This is often the case when the agencies we work with are suggesting different types of visual content.  To help with this we can create a “portfolio” specifically designed for the pitch or industry.

Creative Collaboration and Flexibility

We frequently brain storm creative ideas and execution.  With our complete knowledge of visual content creation and production we can make suggestions and give fast estimates on queries.  We also support new ideas and ‘out of the box’ thinking – from cutting edge techniques to basic services. On the other hand, we love agencies with their own clear creative ideas, which are often incredibly refreshing and unique.  Some agencies will have members of their staff who will art direct the shoot and all we are needed for is to provide the smooth running production operations.

Full Service in All Areas

One of our greatest assets is that we are experienced in all aspects of visual content.  So you can confidently say ‘yes’ to any visual ideas that your client may come up with, or that may be raised in your meetings.

Total Trust

One of the reasons we form long lasting relationships with our agencies is that we are completely trustworthy.  Even when your client may have needs outside of the marketing arena we still refer any queries to you.

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? Click on each title below to check out these recent posts:

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” FoodPhotoStudio.com is THE place in Chicagoland for highly creative, cost effective imagery!

Google Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8 Plus - Comparing Cameras

Google Pixel 2 vs. iPhone 8 Plus - Comparing Cameras

We often take a look at ways “technology” is impacting the photography landscape, both at the professional and the personal level. In this post, our Chief Creative Officer and avid smartphone techie @CurtisNewborn,  examines details on testing done by DxO Labs dealing with the cameras on two of the hottest smartphones on the market:

The new Google Pixel 2 has bumped the iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 off the number one spot to become the top-performing smartphone camera in DxO Labs' mobile photography tests. 

Just a day after Samsung's latest device matched Apple's largest iPhone 8 handset with an overall DxOMark score of 94, Google's newly launched Pixel 2 has now beaten both dual-lens devices with a score of 98, despite despite its rear-mounted single-camera design.
 

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Its top scores in most of our traditional photo and video categories put it ahead of our previous (tied) leaders, the Apple iPhone 8 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, despite the Pixel 2 coming in lower in the new Zoom and Bokeh categories. The Pixel 2 is also a major step forward from the Pixel, moving from 90 to 98.

The lab’s reviewers praised the Pixel 2 for excellent video performance, scene reproduction, color rendering, and fast and accurate autofocus, highlighting in particular its "amazing" ability to render detail in both the bright and dark areas of difficult scenes. 

One weak spot for the Pixel 2 was said to be exposure in very low light images, which show increased noise in high dynamic range scenes, although excellent exposure and highlight preservation is still in evidence.

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Despite performing very well for a single camera phone, the Pixel 2 couldn't outscore the zoom capability of the dual-lens Apple iPhone 8 Plus. The Pixel 2 also sometimes displayed aliasing and moiré artifacts in medium- and long-range zooms. 

The lab’s reviewers concluded that for just about any photo or video use case, the Pixel 2 recommends itself as the phone camera with the best image quality, with the exception of zoom and bokeh (including Depth and Portrait) that dual-camera smartphones such as the Apple iPhone 8 Plus and Galaxy Note 8 can provide. The Google handset was especially recommended for videographers, since it achieved the highest video score (96) for any device tested by DxO Labs. 

They concluded their research report by saying that their scoring system has "plenty of headroom" to go beyond 100, so we'll have to wait and see if Apple's iPhone X can break that ceiling when it's released in November.

The "Golden Hour" or What's the Best Time for Your Location Shoot

The "Golden Hour" or What's the Best Time for Your Location Shoot

Every once in awhile we step out of our usual “what’s going on at the studio” kind of content and examine something unique, different or fun. As Fall sets upon us, I thought it would be a great time to revisit a subject that we’ve discussed often with certain clients, and that’s the “Golden Hour”.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, the "Golden Hour" is the time just before sunset when the sun is close to going down, but still in the sky. Why do photographers like this time?  The reasons are plentiful, but here’s seven to start with:

1) All the lighting is rich and warm - golden indeed.
2) You do not need to squint into the sunlight or wear sunglasses.
3) The direction of the light and long shadows is so much nicer than overhead light and "raccoon eyes".
4) On hot days the weather has cooled down enough that we can all enjoy the session without sweating running down our faces.
5) On a good day we can get some creative light flairs.
6) We can get some artistic silhouette images as the sun gets lower in the sky.
7) You have some lovely warm skies, with great coloured clouds or sunsets.

Now, we can't promise all of those just because the time is right, the weather does it's own things, but it really does increase our chances when dealing with subject matter that’s being shot outside, on location.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this post, and that you’ve learned something new related to photography. 

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 blog post.
 

How to Have a Relaxing Photo Shoot

How to Have a Relaxing Photo Shoot

Most of the stress around a studio session is typically preparing for the day. So we always offer up some helpful tips for first-time clients so that they can be better prepared as well as more relaxed while on set.

Below is a quick outline of some of the key points to consider, once you’ve booked the date for your shoot:

A Week Ahead

Schedule a pre-production meeting, or at the very least a phone call to discuss the shoots, including layouts they’ll be used in, or any other medium that they’ll be tied to. This goes a long way to make sure both client and studio are on the same page, and lends itself to a time-efficient shooting day.

One Day Ahead

The client should pack up any products, along with specific propping being supplied by the client (but keep in mind we have a massive prop department that can solve those needs for you) Make sure your team that’s attending the shoot knows where they are going, and confirm the timing of your arrival. We have a great document that we can provide that includes driving directions to the studio, please tips on area restaurants and attractions.

On the Way Over

Allow yourself a few minutes extra traveling time, just so you are relaxed about the journey. You don't need to be a half hour early, but five minutes early is always great. Our team will greet your arrival with open arms and a big smile every time!.

At the Shoot

If someone is getting thirsty or hungry, we always have quick snacks and hot & cold beverages available. Additionally, we have a conference area where you can set up, spread out and maintain contact with your office as needed using our high-speed WiFi and our calling room. 

In Summary

While we know the prospect of being in a studio and working to get all the necessary shots done in a day can be daunting, with a little preparation and the help of our knowledgeable staff, you’ll walk away at the end of the day feeling great about the final product and excited to get your new visual content in play!

WHY USE OUR VISUAL CONTENT CREATION STUDIO? BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY

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WHY USE OUR VISUAL CONTENT CREATION STUDIO? BECAUSE WE UNDERSTAND TECHNOLOGY

KEY HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Let’s step back and examine “technology”
  • Our technology, and how we use it
  • How our methodology sets us apart

I’ve have for years said that the best camera to use is the one that’s with you in that moment. And I still firmly believe that, and it’s a premise I’ve tried to reinforce in people I’ve mentored in recent years who seem to get so caught up in the technological evolution and how it’s impacted the visual content creation industry.

Technology has brought us some great things… faster processing, larger chips in our cameras, streamlined workflow, the ability to create anywhere… but it’s also important to know that “technology” in and of itself does not make a top flight agency or studio.

At Food Photo Studio, as part of the Obscura Companies family, we never invest in new technology just for the sake of it, but rather, we examine how it will benefit us, and in turn our clients, in terms of improved quality, efficiency and cost-effectiveness. No matter what we visual content are creating on behalf of our clients, we make sure at the outset that the technology we employ as a part of that process is best suited to deliver the finest possible end result. 

I could offer up a big list of all of the types of equipment we utilize, from cameras to lighting to computers and cloud services, but that to me misses the point. It’s not just about “what” technology you’re using, but more importantly “how” you’re using it to maximize your creativity and improve the overall process of content creation, thereby delivering a stellar end product for your clients… one that helps them overcome their greatest challenges, and in the end, grows their business.

I’d love to hear how you’re using technology in your everyday life, be it from a personal or a professional standpoint. Post your comments and feedback below, and most of all, never stop creating!

 

ABOUT US...
 

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? Click the title to check out these recent posts on “propping”, “our location”, “visual content” & “motion”. 

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World Photography Day!

World Photography Day!

Today is "World Photography Day", so we thought we'd pass on 10 very cool "photography related facts" to everyone... enjoy!

1. The first device made to project an image on a surface was the camera obscura, or “dark room” in Latin. The principle was first recorded by Mozi, a Chinese philosopher. (ca. 470 to ca. 391 BC). It was the basis for what we know as a pinhole camera. (as a side note, this is why we named our parent corporation, "Obscura, Inc.")

2. The first camera capable of recording an image used a process invented by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. The complex process was named for the inventor as “Daguerreotype”.

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3. Daguerre's process was used in what's said to be the world's oldest camera, built by French firm Susse Freres. The camera, thought to have been made before 1839, was found in an attic in Germany. The camera sold to an online bidder for $792,33 at a Vienna auction, which also makes it the world's most expensive camera!

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4. The oldest known surviving photograph is View from the Window at Le Gras, taken by Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827. It took about 8 hours to develop! 

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5. The world's first color photo, pictured below, was made in 1861 from 3 separate photographs taken through red, green and blue filters, then projected onto a photosensitive plate with corresponding filters. This method was suggested in1861 by Thomas Sutton.

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6. The first photograph of a total solar eclipse was taken by made by Julius Berkowski on July 28, 1851. To learn how to capture it this week, click here for our Eclipse Shooter's Guide on our blog.

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7. Digital imaging is good for the environment! Many darkroom chemicals are toxic and dangerous to handle. Disposing of them by pouring them down the drain or other conventional means is polluting. Pat yourself on the back next time you open your processing software!

8. There are 12 Hasselblad cameras on the surface of the moon. They were left there to leave room for the moon rocks brought back to Earth. The film magazines, of course, made the return flight.

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9. Steve Sasson of Eastman Kodak invented the digital camera in 1975. It weighed eight pounds, recorded the image on a cassette tape and took 23 seconds to “snap” a picture. Oh, and the resolution? 0.01 megapixels!

10. The concept of HDR images isn't new. Photographers have always needed to overcome the limited dynamic range of photographic media. Gustave Le Gray, a photographer in the 1800's was known to combine two separate images (water and sky) to better capture the wide luminosity range.

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We hope you've enjoyed these 10 fun facts about photography... keep shooting and enjoy your creative endeavors!