BIG DOG BLOG

Move Over Social Media; Here Comes Social Business

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In this wider scheme of things business networking (which is in reality as old as the hills) together with traditional ways of selling and marketing people, products and services, is adapting and is hugely augmented nowadays by all of the tricks and tools that 21st century technology brings to the party.

Cue LinkedIn and its unique platform for professionals. By way of a bit of background and as members are probably aware, LinkedIn reached a major milestone on 22nd March 2011: 100 million members, the site being used in over 200 countries and territories.

Linkedin Membership is continuing to grow at about a million a week – so at that rate it will have doubled in under 2 years, by spring of 2013.

 

“Despite the hype over Twitter and Facebook, LinkedIn offers the greatest opportunity for professionals to make connections that lead to business.” So says Ian Brodie. And for no reason other than he’s a fellow Brit and I’m feeling marginally patriotic, I’m going to kick off this list with his tips.

Please read and enjoy at your leisure, test them out and report back on their effectiveness if you like, and let me know if you have some to add!

  • Make your profile client focused – LinkedIn is for making connections – and for the majority of professionals that means clients and business partners, not recruiters.
  • You need to design your profile to have the impact you want on those connections. Treat it like your introduction at a networking meeting.
  • Get connecting – The more direct connections you have, the more opportunities you have to connect. However, there’s a catch…
  • Choose your connection strategy carefully – There are two very different strategies to connecting on LinkedIn: “Open Networking” and “Trusted Partner Networking”.Personally, I take a “middle way”…
  • Use Search to find potential clients and business partners – Many people get going on Linkedin but fail to use it to help their business.
  • Give testimonials
  • Have a helpful headline
  • Join LinkedIn Groups to connect and interact
  • Use Status Updates to subtly remind your contacts of what you do
  • Watch others’ status updates to initiate contact
  • Proactively link others together who you think may benefit – Don’t wait for others to initiate a request to be linked up to your other contacts.

  • Your photo – Always include a picture of you smiling in your profile. It humanizes you and makes you seem more approachable (an up-to-date photo may not portray you in as youthful/ attractive/ whatever light as you’d like but, hey, at least people you meet stand a decent chance of recognising the “now” you)
  • URL – Always customize the URL to be your name or something people can remember.
  • URL – If you don’t have your own blog or website, buy whateveryournameis.com and forward it to your LinkedIn profile.
  • Requesting Connections – Always customize your invitation when you ask people to join your network. Leaving this as the default says “You’re not important enough for me to customize this to you” or worse “You sent this to 200 people and are probably going to spam my network.”
  • Email address – If you’re going to use your work e-mail address, always put your personal e-mail address on there as backup just in case you leave a company and forget your password.
  • Export EVERYTHING – Monthly, export your entire profile and all your contacts so you have a hard copy backup. Email them to your Gmail account for double backup
  • Answers – Answer questions in your area of expertise
  • Questions – Ask questions of your network when you need help – and for bonus points, publish the answer on your blog for all to read

Connect with Malcolm here

with thanks to BirdsontheBlog

lens options for iPhone

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Remember Photojojo’s add-on iPhone camera lenses? The company has now refined the design by integrating all three lenses (the previously standalone wide angle, fisheye and telephoto) into a rotating dial attached to an aluminum iPhone case.

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Collectively called the iPhone Lens Dial, the case features two tripod mounts–one for each orientation—and runs about $250. While it seems a tad bulky, I’m guessing that if the glass is up to snuff it will be indispensable for the serious shooter looking to get the most out of the iPhone 4S’s killer camera.

For  $299 I’d prefer a proper camera but whatever floats your boat…?!

Kes

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Ken Loach’s masterpiece ‘Kes’ was recently shown at The Cornerhouse, Manchester.

This is probably up there with my all time favourite films – I’m not a big movie buff (Top Gun also being a favourite) but this is such a beautiful film that it was well worth spending a wet Wednesday evening there last week to see the digitally restored print version.

Loach, who celebrated his 75th birthday earlier this year, is probably one of Britain’s most celebrated (and controversial) directors.

In 1966 he made the influential docudrama Cathy Come Home portraying working class people affected by homelessness and unemployment, and presenting a powerful and influential critique of the workings of the Social Services. Soon afterwards with Poor Cow (1967) he started directing films for the cinema, and in 1969 made Kes, the story of a poor Yorkshire boy and his kestrel, based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines which he adapted for the screen with Hines and producer Tony Garnet.

The British Film Institute named it No 7 in its list of best British films of the twentieth century, published in 1999.

Why exactly it is so popular is a little hard to fathom – whether it’s because of the photography (way ahead of its time and beautifully shot), the storyline or the simple focus of the film I’m not sure, but I’d hazard a guess it’s a combination of all 3 with the casting and quality of acting thrown into the mix for good measure.

David Bradley was picked to play the part of Billy – he had previously only acted in a school pantomimewhen, at 14, he was picked for the lead, acting alongside many of his schoolmates.

Bradley spent several hours after each day’s filming training with the three kestrels used in the motion picture. Bradley says that he was told director Ken Loach would have to kill one of the birds for the final scene. Bradley was deeply upset by this revelation, and his emotional response in the film’s final scenes are indicative of how angry and depressed he was. Bradley told an interviewer that after shooting for these scenes ended, he rushed to the local farm where the kestrels were kept. He discovered that no birds had been killed after all (the filmmakers had used a kestrel which had died of natural causes).

Kes is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable films about education, or the lack of it, ever made. Its main theme is perhaps naive – that if you give a so-called dunce some kind of chance, the result can surprise him and certainly his teachers. The film’s incidentals are as good as its main thrust, which is never sentimentalised and maintains the right to be angry as well as touching and funny.

Kes is the kestrel found and trained by a young Barnsley boy from a broken home. The boy, Billy Casper, virtually refuses education at the local school, which, though inadequate, is never shown as wholly awful. Encouraged by a sympathetic teacher, he finds some sort of hope in his new interest, even though social deprivation is always likely to stamp it out.

What adds immeasurably to the film’s power are the incidental scenes of school life. There are two I’ll never forget. One has a tiny boy lining up outside the head’s study, probably for a beating, and crying his excuses as he had only been sent to the headmaster to deliver a message but ends up being bullied to hold cigarettes, subsequently receiving the cane. The tenderness displayed here mixes with hilarity in a way very few directors could even begin to achieve. The other has the teacher ex-wrestler Brian Glover (who sadly died of a brain tumour 3 years ago) as sports master taking his boys out on to the field and, to the strains of the BBC’s old Sports Night signature tune, acting out a football fantasy that has him behaving more like a child than his charges.

Barry Hines, himself a teacher at a Barnsley school, made the suggestion of Brian (then aged 34) for the role of bullying games teacher Mr Sugden.

His portrayal of the PE bully on a cold school football pitch (soaked with gallons of water and shot on a cold August day) will live forever. “I’m Bobby Charlton today, boys. Denis Law’s in the wash…” he announces pulling off his pristine tracksuit to reveal his Manchester United shirt, then goes on to be a combined striker, referee and TV Commentator flattening fifteen year olds in his wake.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3cayRMnVb8]

Another favourite is a scene in which Billy Casper is forced to dress for Gym in a pair of shorts made for a boy twice his size.  In this brief vignette the character experiences his most universal humiliation yet appears undeterred when he hangs from the goalposts to the disdain of Mr Sugden “Capser, what do you think you are, an ape..?”

Obviously the kestrel is a metaphor for liberty, as it flies free above the world and the harsh realities of the row houses and coal mines below. The depressing backdrop provides a constant reminder that, inspite of his protests, a life ‘down’t pit’ is all that Billy can expect from life.

The killing of Kes by his elder brother signifies the end of Billy’s hopes – a touching scene as he buries the dead bird under a tree is the final scene yet it’s not depressing, it’s an acceptance of fate and getting on with the hand that life as dealt you.

Brilliant film – thanks to the Cornerhouse.

Malcolm

Stephen Ferry Awarded First Tim Hetherington Grant

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A young girl passes the body of a man assassinated in Cucuta, Colombia.
© Stephen Ferry, USA, Tim Hetherington Grant
A young girl passes the body of a man assassinated in Cucuta, Colombia. The city has suffered a wave of killings at the hands of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC), a right-wing paramilitary group. The killings continued even months after the AUC supposedly disarmed in the Cucuta region as part of peace negotiations with the Colombian government. March 9, 2005.

Stephen Ferry has received the first-ever Tim Hetherington Grant, it was announced this morning. The grant was established to honor Hetherington, the photographer and filmmaker who was killed in Libya in April, 2011, and is administered by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch with the support of Hetherington’s parents.

Ferry received the grant €20,000 (US $27,500) in recognition of his longterm project “Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict,” which examines Colombia’s decades-long guerrilla war. After moving to Colombia and working for ten years, Ferry will now distribute the project via an exhibition, book publication, and by making certain chapters of the book available free of charge as PDF booklets.

Judges for the grant included Christopher Anderson, Magnum photographer; James Brabazon, journalist and documentary filmmaker; Veronica Matushaj, Human Rights Watch director of photography; Michiel Munneke, managing director World Press Photo; and Jamie Wellford, senior photo editor Newsweek. Adriaan Monshouwer, founder of Picture Inside, served as secretary during the selection process.

According to a statement by World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch, “the selection committee was looking for qualities that also defined Hetherington’s career: work that operates on multiple platforms and in a variety of formats; that crosses boundaries between breaking news and long-term investigation; and that demonstrates a consistent moral commitment to the lives and stories of the photographic subjects.”

“Ferry is not only committed to creating an important historical record,” the Judges commented, “He is also generating innovative approaches for disseminating that record within the community he documents, as well as to a worldwide audience.”

Ferry was selected for the grant from a pool of 222 applicants representing 56 nationalities.
With thanks to www.pdnonline.com

Farnborough

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Stumbled across this amazing structure in Farnborough this week – apparently it’s a balloon hangar but it’s got very Zen-like feel to it. Must have been a big balloon then?

The F Factor

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Social networking trends continue to race ahead, and as android based phones and tablets challenge the iconic iPhones & iPads for market share, marketeers are faced with a plethora of new opportunities to promote their products and encourage us to ‘like’ them, spreading the word to our friends and contact networks.

The F-FACTOR makes possible personalized products and services based on the activities and output of one’s social network:

  • Flipboard is an app that integrates tweets and updates into a single, personalized online magazine. Launched in July 2010, the free app automatically creates a magazine from the user’s social content, letting readers quickly flip through the latest stories, photos and updates from friends and trusted sources. Links and images are rendered right in the digital magazine, so users no longer have to scan long lists of posts and click on link after link; instead, they instantly see all the stories, comments and images in one place.
  • March 2011 saw the launch of LinkedIn Today, a socially curated news homepage for users that rounds up the stories and links that are being read, shared and discussed by a user’s network.
  • Newsle is a tool that launched in public beta in April 2011 that alerts users to public news articles about members of their social networks from Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • ‘Personal search engine’ Greplin launched publicly in February 2011. The search engine scans across a user’s personal and social accounts including: Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and Google Docs, enabling users to locate any desired information that may be scattered across their social media network, whenever they want it.
  • US based PostPost, launched in December 2010, is a free application that turns one’s Facebook page into a digital newspaper. Users connect the application via the PostPost site, which enables it to link to Facebook and create a presentation of their news feed in the traditional format of a newspaper.

Oh, and check out these very ‘sign of the times’ F-ME examples of consumers literally turning their friends and followers into actual physical products and services:

  • Twournal enables users of Twitter to transform their tweets and pictures into a real-life published journal. In addition to creating their own ‘books’, users can also buy and sell publications from other users.
  • US based CrowdedInk offers an app that allows users to generate mugs filled with pictures of their Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Users only need to enter their username and a preview of the mug is automatically generated in minutes.
  • Social Print Studio can provide the analogue equivalent to the online album. The site creates posters generated from Facebook friends’ profile pictures, Facebook photo albums, Twitter followers, and even Tumblr accounts.
  • Kunst Buzz, a Dutch art company has started producing Twitter art where users’ tweets make up their portrait.

With the F-FACTOR a growing force in the consumption arena, ultimately the only way for brands to succeed is to be liked (literally 😉 if not loved, and this liking and loving comes from superior performance. In that sense, the Perform or Perish theme is stronger than ever, and underscores that while the F-FACTOR is currently playing out in the online arena first and foremost, this is in the end about business at large.

The F-FACTOR is about being so exceptional that consumers will find and ultimately choose you, without you as a brand having to do anything extra. It’s not about bribing or even compelling people to “Like” your Facebook page. This is something of course, which brands that truly have the F-FACTOR don’t have to worry about.

So, for all ‘F-entrepreneurs’, this space is still wide open: simply come up with new tools and platforms that help consumers help each other to discover, discuss and buy the best of the best. For B2C brands, it’s time to deliver innovations, products, campaigns and experiences that truly have the F-FACTOR.

(thanks to trendwatching.com)

Behind the scenes

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Not much in the way of smoke & mirrors, but I thought I’d share a little ‘behind the scenes’ action, courtesy of a recent shoot for our office furniture client, Senator.

The brief was to create an office using a new range of wall storage, however, as often happens with new products, there was a limited quantity available, so the answer was to build & shoot one side, flip the set around and build & shoot the other side.

We’ve put together a little timelapse video showing how it all went together

[vimeo http://vimeo.com/31114731]

…strip the whole lot together, add a window scene in photoshop then tadaarrr….


The  clever stuff happens at the beginning when we created a matt for the image to overlay one set on top of the other to make sure everything was symmetrical and the perspective was bang tidy.

Nice one guys – and for our next trick…

Lytro camera released

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Further to my previous post about the Lytro ‘revolution’, the camera itself has just been released.

It’s not what you’d expect – not sure what you’d expect to be honest, but it’s a pretty ugly looking piece of kit in my opinion.

Maybe I’ve got used to Apple packaging or the look and feel of my Phase One or Canon gear, but surely Lytro, you’re not serious?

For starters, it’s not ergonomic – a square cylinder doesn’t exactly fit into the palm of your hand, then there’s the usability of the camera itself – hold the camera in your hand then touch the button on the top to shoot.

Rather than modeling the device on the expectations of a traditional camera (or any existing camera, for that matter), the designers at Lytro built the light field camera with simplicity and ease of use in mind. The camera uses a bright f/2.0, 8x optical zoom lens, and at just 1.61×1.61×4.41 inches in dimension and 8 ounces in weight, it looks more like a kaleidoscope or portable slide viewer than a camera. There are no mode dials to speak of — in fact, controls consist of just two buttons (power and shutter), a touch-activated zoom slider, plus the 1.46-inch touchscreen LCD viewfinder. Second, because the camera depends on computational processing to achieve focus at different points on the image, rather than a complex set of lenses, it doesn’t have the auto-focus mechanisms that slow down most digital cameras. This means no shutter lag (or, more accurately, auto-focus lag) to speak of and of course, less weight and complexity to the construction of the camera. Third, by capturing all available light in a scene with its f/2.0 lens, the Lytro camera inherently performs well in low light without a flash.

A hidden ‘zoom’ function is tucked neatly into the body, along with a nifty little usb slot.

A few downsides: The internal Lithium Ion battery is not user replaceable, nor is memory expandable (the camera comes in 8GB and 16GB versions that hold 350 and 750 images) and costs $399 and $499 respectively.

I still don’t think there’s a demand for this camera – most people are used to using their mobile phones (not the same quality I know but…) and obviously this little bag of tricks doesn’t offer the option of video so this is what it is, an expensive toy.

There’s no mention of software yet – presumably it’ll be Lytro’s own, but from what I can gather, the clever stuff (focusing on various parts of the image) all happens inside the camera itself via the touch screen on the back.

But, the technology and software that Lytro have developed is destined for much bigger things I’m sure – it will change the way cameras currently work, although whether Lytro’s claims to be ‘the future of photography’ will be fulfilled, we’ll have to wait and see!.

For more info see Lytro’s website or EnGadget’s review.

ShakeitPhoto

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Got to share this little app with you – my love of all things Polaroid is well known, but this is fantastic!

ShakeItPhoto is an app that mimics the action of the SX-70 camera, complete with whirring noise (yeah you’re right, boy’s toys!)

The print slides on to screen then clears slowly, just like they used to – you can give it a little shake but it doesn’t appear to make much difference (never used to anyway) but the print wobbles to keep you amused!

The developers, Banana Camera Co., have created curves that tweak the colours and contrast to match the old feel of SX-70 film, although you can also import the file into Photoshop too.

In addition to taking snaps with it, you can also apply ShakeIt to imported pics (depending on file size I assume) and pics taken with other apps like Hipstamatic (see above)

$1.99 off your hard earned cash from the Applestore

Life’s a beach!

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Last Thursday we were shooting at beautiful Ainsdale Beach, Southport. Algarve-esque skies and a very willing group of models and dogs!

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Yours truly getting down and dirty in the sand to capture a fab set of lifestyle shots for an international client, featuring in a new ad campaign later this year.

Thanks to Martin, Vin, Paula and the team at Clock Creative for a great shoot, and Dan ‘I know Southport like the back of my hand’ Kelly for a great set of ‘behind the scenes’ shots ;o)


Lytro cameras – gimmick or the future of photography?

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Deep in the heart of Silicon Valley, California, is a little company that, if all the hype is to believed, is set to revolutionise the world of photography.
Having just received a cool $50M investment, Lytro is developing cameras and software using light field technology. The technology behind the concept has been used by those clever people at NASA for some time, but essentially it uses light field technology to replace traditional methods of focus and image capture, using instead a light-field, or plenoptic camera. These cameras put an array of micro-lenses over the sensor. This lenticular array sits on the focal plane of the camera (where the light is focused by the lens — also known as the film plane), and the sensor sits slightly behind.

The camera not only records the color and intensity of the light, but also the direction. Using some heavy processing, this information can then be used to do the magic you see above. It also replaces much of a camera’s precision mechanics with software.
While this after-the-fact focus choice is the clear wow factor, there are other cool tricks the camera can do with this information. First is that the camera can shoot in much lower light. Second is that, as the sensor is recording direction information, you can peek “behind” the edges of the foreground objects.

Often perceived as the Holy Grail for photographers, the ability to alter the depth of field and focus plane in post production will open up a whole new array of possibilities and, with certain limitations, integration into the world of CGi and 3D imaging too.
Lytro’s trick is to get this technology into a camera that is small and affordable enough for consumers. In an interview with All Things D’s Ina Fried, MD Ren Ng promised a “competitively priced consumer product that fits in your pocket” later this year.

If that got you excited about Lytro’s potential, here’s a look at 5 of the coolest promises Lytro is making about its new cameras.
Focus Later
If you played with the image above, then you saw how an image taken with a Lytro camera will supposedly let you change the focus from a foreground object to a background one or vice versa. But based on the images in Lytro’s photo gallery, it appears the technology limits how many different points of focus you can choose by setting up clickable regions on your photo. It’s also not clear if Lytro can clean up an image that is fundamentally blurry (it happens!).
No Shutter Lag
Lytro says you can turn on its camera and be ready to take a picture in less than one second. Promised instant-on functionality would mean you’d never have to wait for the camera to turn on and open the shutter before getting your shot. Lytro says its cameras substitute “software for many of the internal parts of regular cameras,” but it’s not clear which physical camera components have been left out.
Low level light
Because the camera can record the entire light field in its range of view, Lytro says its cameras can take a better picture in low-light situations without the use of a flash. That’s an interesting claim, but I wouldn’t take that one to the bank until a third-party reviews the camera. Looking at the photo gallery, the outdoor shots look pretty good, but the many of the indoor shots appear less sharp.
However, these are online photos and they likely have a reduced resolution to improve page load times. So it’s hard to know how the online images would compare to full resolution Lytro shots sitting on your hard drive (no information yet on file sizes, colour space, etc)
2D or 3D
Lytro says its cameras can create 3D images with a single lens. Presumably, because it captures the entire light field, the image includes enough information so that focused objects can easily pop out of the background. Instant 3D would be an interesting feature, but there’s no word on what the resolution of these photos will be. So it’s not clear how impressive a Lytro 3D image would look when displayed on your big screen 3D HDTV.
Portability
Lytro says its cameras are portable, but it’s not clear if the device will be slim enough to just slip into your pocket or if it will require a bag. The first camera the company is launching will be of the point-and-shoot variety, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Lytro plans to release its first camera before the end of the year, but the company isn’t talking yet about camera pricing or specific dates for availability. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the company’s mailing list for more information. While you’re there make sure you play with the photo gallery to see Lytro’s technology in action.


You might think that this would produce unfeasibly large digital files, but Ng insists that the files will be roughly comparable to the average size of a digital photo today. The heavy lifting is being done by the camera’s on-board processors, he says. And because its light sensor is incredibly sensitive, you can capture low-light situations like restaurants a lot more easily — even without the flash.
Although the camera itself isn’t due out until late 2011, Lytro on Tuesday unveiled a carousel of demonstration snapshots — all of them embeddable, available in Flash for the web and HTML5 for your smartphone.
Remind you of Instagram‘s tilt-shift feature, perhaps? Similar, except when you realise that Instagram can only focus on one area of the screen at a time.
And the cost of this camera? Ng says it will be comparable to other consumer-priced digital cameras on the market. If the end result is anything like these demonstration photos, the $40 billion camera market could be about to meet a whole lot of disruption.
The quality of their promotional photography is dubious to say the least (styling & lighting?) and although I can see some advantages in being able to select the plane of focus in post production, I’d like to think that the ability to focus accurately and precisely is a given for any self-respecting photographer! Yes, I’m critical, but I don’t believe this new trickery is aimed at photographers, I think it’s looking to capture a huge audience of image creators who now use their smartphones to capture scenes or events that they want to share on facebook, etc. And therein lies the problem – will anyone be bothered enough to use it? We’ll see. $50M says they will, apparently.

Watch this space, Silicon Valley could get very hot this year!

with thanks to

Lytro
Digitaltrends.com

Location, location

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Stage and studio completed in June but I’ve spent virtually the whole of July on location!

Not that I’m complaining – we’ve been to some amazing venues recently, all part of a new brochure and ad campaign for Senator.


Thanks to Hattie at Lavish for her help and the guys at Senator for making everything happen!

Nadav Kander exhibition

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Ask any professional photographer who they’re inspired by and admire, I think most would include Nad Kander in their list.

He seems to have been around forever – moving to London in 1986, he’s worked on campaigns varying from Absolut Vodka to English National Ballet.

Every shot carefully crafted and uniquely Kander. His personal work is equally inspiring – ‘God’s Country’ is a collection of stunning images shot in USA, with Kander’s interpretation and perfect composition.

Not bad for a guy with only one eye! (he lost an eye in an accident when he was a child)

His exhibition of Selected Portraits is on at The Lowry – I’ve just come back from there and, even as a die hard Kander fan, I’m blown away.


There’s a space around the subjects (who include Boy George, Erin O’Connor and Cheryl Cole as a bunny) that Kander prefers. A certain distance from his subject, not seeking like Annie Leibovitz to do extensive research, but opting for riskier interaction on the spot. “I like to create a void between myself and the person I’m photographing, where anything can happen… I remain quite empty, so that whatever happens at first happens with the camera trained on them.”

Subjects perform for a portrait, but Kander works this to advantage, whether in Lily Allen’s simple turn of the head or the unexpected vulnerability in Eric Cantona’s hand.

Kander says: “To present people exactly how they are, or want to be, is a waste of time. Just showing positive, expected images of beauty and airbrushing away the conditions that make us human seems like deception to me.”

Nadav Kander: Selected Portraits, 1999-2011, is at The Lowry from 16 April to 4 September

Thanks to Nadav Kander & The Lowry

Hipstamatic in the wars

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The Hipstamatic app (see previous postings on this blog) for iPhone is a great favourite of mine, but I’ve just been reading that photographers shooting at the frontline of warzones in Afghanistan and Libya are now preferring to use the iPhone/Hipstamatic combo in preference to their trusty Nikons. Strange but true. But you can see the advantages – easy to transport, view the results easily (especially if you’re wearing goggles) and a lot more discreet, not to mention gps and email, etc.

Hungarian photographer Balazs Gardi says “..using an iPhone allowed me to move much more easily.” The lack of long lenses also helped as he was forced to get closer to his subjects. As a result, he and colleague Teru Kuwayama have created an unusually intimate set of portraits of Afghan civilians and US servicemen.

Tim Hetherington, tragically killed by a mortar shell in Libya earlier this year, had also used his iPhone to great effect. This is one of the last images taken of Tim before he left for Misrata in April.

Tim Hetherington & Balasz Gardi

Damon Winter, an American photojournalist, has had to fight against a tide of criticism from others who view images taken with the app as derogatory and anaesthetising war and, specifically, the art of photojournalism.

Damon Winter

“Some consider the use of the phone camera as a gimmick or as a way to aestheticize news photos. Those are fair arguments, but they have nothing to do with the content of the photos”.

It does strike me that these things are connected – the wave of technology that’s promoting a more social and connected world is also at the heart of both the ability to blog and the rise of apps like Hipstamatic. The argument that Hispstamatic is cheapening the art of photography (some say even destroying it) is crazy. New art forms have existed since art began – photography itself was feared when painters realised its potential and saw the threat to the livelihoods. What is clear is that there’s a demand for images like never before, and where there’s a demand there will be a supply.

I’m not going to get into a debate about war or the validity of using Hipstamatic in such situations, I’d prefer to stick to aesthetics personally. The results are gritty – exaggerated contrast and saturated colours evoke a feeling of realism far more so than B&W images in my opinion. It may also be that, especially for America, they are a reminder of early Kodachrome images. Perhaps even the Vietnam War. That may be a sobering thought.

Thanks to Balazs Gardi, Teru Kuwayama, Damon Winter and the late Tim Hetherington.

chip shop awards

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The awards representing irreverent perspectives on the world of advertising are out – looks like there’s a few creatives out there with far too much time on their hands, but it’s a great opportunity to let the creative juices flow free and enjoy an open brief without the confines of political correctness, etc!

My favourite and top of the ‘that’s SO not right’ pile is ‘father dear father’ from Steve Billington & Richard Shawcross at Rockfield Media, although Saatch & Saatchi x creatives Matt Chandler & Holly Whittaker deserve a mention too.

Well done guys – great work, look forward to seeing it on the billboards (I wish!)

Take a look at the awards here

Viddy

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I’m sure I don’t need to remind anyone that I’m a massive fan of the Hipstamatic app (now one of Top 5 downloaded apps worldwide) but now thanks to Jana Werner, there’s now a downloadable Photoshop action to achieve the same results on you Mac or PC – haven’t had a chance to use it yet as we’ve been too busy but it won’t be long before you see more Hipstamatic images here and in the folio section of the website!

Click here to visit Jana’s site for further info.

In the same kind of vein is a new app called ‘Viddy”. The concept behind this is that you can use video on your smart phone and share it straight away via facebook, etc.

Nice little app (it’s free too) but, like Hipstamatic, it also has a range of options for giving your clips a bit of ‘treatment’ including Hued, Vintage and, my favorite, Junkd.

A sliding scale means you can adjust the level of treatment before you share it with Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Foursquare and Tumblr.

Cracking little app that I think will really catch on – let me know what you think?!

sample Junkd video clip

www.viddy.co

the F-Factor

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Social networking trends continue to race ahead, and as android based phones and tablets challenge the iconic iPhones & iPads for market share, marketeers are faced with a plethora of new opportunities to promote their products and encourage us to ‘like’ them, spreading the word to our friends and contact networks.

The F-FACTOR makes possible personalized products and services based on the activities and output of one’s social network:

  • Flipboard is an app that integrates tweets and updates into a single, personalized online magazine. Launched in July 2010, the free app automatically creates a magazine from the user’s social content, letting readers quickly flip through the latest stories, photos and updates from friends and trusted sources. Links and images are rendered right in the digital magazine, so users no longer have to scan long lists of posts and click on link after link; instead, they instantly see all the stories, comments and images in one place.
  • March 2011 saw the launch of LinkedIn Today, a socially curated news homepage for users that rounds up the stories and links that are being read, shared and discussed by a user’s network.
  • Newsle is a tool that launched in public beta in April 2011 that alerts users to public news articles about members of their social networks from Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • ‘Personal search engine’ Greplin launched publicly in February 2011. The search engine scans across a user’s personal and social accounts including: Gmail, Facebook, Twitter and Google Docs, enabling users to locate any desired information that may be scattered across their social media network, whenever they want it.
  • US based PostPost, launched in December 2010, is a free application that turns one’s Facebook page into a digital newspaper. Users connect the application via the PostPost site, which enables it to link to Facebook and create a presentation of their news feed in the traditional format of a newspaper.

Oh, and check out these very ‘sign of the times’ F-ME examples of consumers literally turning their friends and followers into actual physical products and services:

  • Twournal enables users of Twitter to transform their tweets and pictures into a real-life published journal. In addition to creating their own ‘books’, users can also buy and sell publications from other users.
  • US based CrowdedInk offers an app that allows users to generate mugs filled with pictures of their Facebook friends or Twitter followers. Users only need to enter their username and a preview of the mug is automatically generated in minutes.
  • Social Print Studio can provide the analogue equivalent to the online album. The site creates posters generated from Facebook friends’ profile pictures, Facebook photo albums, Twitter followers, and even Tumblr accounts.
  • Kunst Buzz, a Dutch art company has started producing Twitter art where users’ tweets make up their portrait.

With the F-FACTOR a growing force in the consumption arena, ultimately the only way for brands to succeed is to be liked (literally 😉 if not loved, and this liking and loving comes from superior performance. In that sense, the Perform or Perish theme is stronger than ever, and underscores that while the F-FACTOR is currently playing out in the online arena first and foremost, this is in the end about business at large.

The F-FACTOR is about being so exceptional that consumers will find and ultimately choose you, without you as a brand having to do anything extra. It’s not about bribing or even compelling people to “Like” your Facebook page. This is something of course, which brands that truly have the F-FACTOR don’t have to worry about.

So, for all ‘F-entrepreneurs’, this space is still wide open: simply come up with new tools and platforms that help consumers help each other to discover, discuss and buy the best of the best. For B2C brands, it’s time to deliver innovations, products, campaigns and experiences that truly have the F-FACTOR.

(thanks to trendwatching.com)

training cats and dogs

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Always ready to accept a challenge, award winning agency Clock Creative gave us a brief to create lifestyle shots for a new range of products from Petsafe.

The creative team there know me well and also know that I love dogs, so a combination of talents seemed to fit the bill! What wasn’t quite so easy was convincing the animals that going through a catflap then having a load of lights flashed in your eyes was a good idea…! Through a little careful encouragement and perseverance (not to mention copious amounts of dog biscuits and treats!) we won in the end – all with exception of my cat, Daisy, who refused to perform and took refuge in the workshop!

Thanks to Sue for the beautiful dogs, especially your spaniels who were perfect!

We’re always up for a challenge so if you’ve got a tricky brief that needs an experienced hand, give us a shout!

Spanish trip

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Our client’s brief for sunshine and stunning backgrounds took us to Madrid – first time I’ve been there so after a couple of recce trips to see locations, we decided on 4 venues – first week in Avila, the second at 3 locations in Madrid.

Office furniture isn’t the easiest product to transport but fortunately for our client, Senator, it’s a walk in the park – we arrived at the location on the first day to find trailer & drag packed to the brim!

Hard work but great fun – big up to Sandra and JP who really pulled the stops out to make sure the shoot went smoothly, and to Steve, Paul and Andy who kept smiling even when asked to move the set a bit more to the left…and a bit more…no back a bit…again….!

If you’ve got a project that needs a location then drop us a line – we can arrange logistics, production and location sourcing too.

Kes.

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Ken Loach’s masterpiece ‘Kes’ was recently shown at The Cornerhouse, Manchester.

This is probably up there with my all time favourite films – I’m not a big movie buff (Top Gun also being a favourite) but this is such a beautiful film that it was well worth spending a wet Wednesday evening there last week to see the digitally restored print version.

Loach, who celebrated his 75th birthday earlier this year, is probably one of Britain’s most celebrated (and controversial) directors.

In 1966 he made the influential docudrama Cathy Come Home portraying working class people affected by homelessness and unemployment, and presenting a powerful and influential critique of the workings of the Social Services. Soon afterwards with Poor Cow (1967) he started directing films for the cinema, and in 1969 made Kes, the story of a poor Yorkshire boy and his kestrel, based on the novel A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines which he adapted for the screen with Hines and producer Tony Garnet.

The British Film Institute named it No 7 in its list of best British films of the twentieth century, published in 1999.

Why exactly it is so popular is a little hard to fathom – whether it’s because of the photography (way ahead of its time and beautifully shot), the storyline or the simple focus of the film I’m not sure, but I’d hazard a guess it’s a combination of all 3 with the casting and quality of acting thrown into the mix for good measure.

David Bradley was picked to play the part of Billy – he had previously only acted in a school pantomimewhen, at 14, he was picked for the lead, acting alongside many of his schoolmates.

Bradley spent several hours after each day’s filming training with the three kestrels used in the motion picture. Bradley says that he was told director Ken Loach would have to kill one of the birds for the final scene. Bradley was deeply upset by this revelation, and his emotional response in the film’s final scenes are indicative of how angry and depressed he was. Bradley told an interviewer that after shooting for these scenes ended, he rushed to the local farm where the kestrels were kept. He discovered that no birds had been killed after all (the filmmakers had used a kestrel which had died of natural causes).

Kes is undoubtedly one of the most remarkable films about education, or the lack of it, ever made. Its main theme is perhaps naive – that if you give a so-called dunce some kind of chance, the result can surprise him and certainly his teachers. The film’s incidentals are as good as its main thrust, which is never sentimentalised and maintains the right to be angry as well as touching and funny.

Kes is the kestrel found and trained by a young Barnsley boy from a broken home. The boy, Billy Casper, virtually refuses education at the local school, which, though inadequate, is never shown as wholly awful. Encouraged by a sympathetic teacher, he finds some sort of hope in his new interest, even though social deprivation is always likely to stamp it out.

What adds immeasurably to the film’s power are the incidental scenes of school life. There are two I’ll never forget. One has a tiny boy lining up outside the head’s study, probably for a beating, and crying his excuses as he had only been sent to the headmaster to deliver a message but ends up being bullied to hold cigarettes, subsequently receiving the cane. The tenderness displayed here mixes with hilarity in a way very few directors could even begin to achieve. The other has the teacher ex-wrestler Brian Glover (who sadly died of a brain tumour 3 years ago) as sports master taking his boys out on to the field and, to the strains of the BBC’s old Sports Night signature tune, acting out a football fantasy that has him behaving more like a child than his charges.

Barry Hines, himself a teacher at a Barnsley school, made the suggestion of Brian (then aged 34) for the role of bullying games teacher Mr Sugden.

His portrayal of the PE bully on a cold school football pitch (soaked with gallons of water and shot on a cold August day) will live forever. “I’m Bobby Charlton today, boys. Denis Law’s in the wash…” he announces pulling off his pristine tracksuit to reveal his Manchester United shirt, then goes on to be a combined striker, referee and TV Commentator flattening fifteen year olds in his wake.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3cayRMnVb8]

Another favourite is a scene in which Billy Casper is forced to dress for Gym in a pair of shorts made for a boy twice his size.  In this brief vignette the character experiences his most universal humiliation yet appears undeterred when he hangs from the goalposts to the disdain of Mr Sugden “Capser, what do you think you are, an ape..?”

Obviously the kestrel is a metaphor for liberty, as it flies free above the world and the harsh realities of the row houses and coal mines below. The depressing backdrop provides a constant reminder that, inspite of his protests, a life ‘down’t pit’ is all that Billy can expect from life.

The killing of Kes by his elder brother signifies the end of Billy’s hopes – a touching scene as he buries the dead bird under a tree is the final scene yet it’s not depressing, it’s an acceptance of fate and getting on with the hand that life as dealt you.

Brilliant film – thanks to the Cornerhouse.

Malcolm

smoke and mirrors

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The CGi team’s been so busy over the last couple of weeks, they’ve hardly had time to use facebook, but the results are looking great! Hours of painstaking work creating bespoke mesh models mean that the scenes they create are even more convincing. Add to that the atmospheric lighting that years of photography experience gives and it’s easy to see why set builders are worried! Drop us a line if you’re weighing up the pro’s and con’s of cgi v. setbuild and we’ll help you to decide.

We’re involved with several projects involving cgi to a greater or lesser extent, and it gives an additional option to our clients when designing sets or locations which wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Working with chromakey and retouching software, we can include photography and create video clips too. Drop us a line if you’d like to see our showreel.

Talking (or blogging perhaps?) of cgi, although it’s a couple of years old now,  Alex Roman’s film, The Third and the Seventh still looks brilliant with beautiful lighting effects and a soundtrack to match. Created mainly in CGi, it’s a slightly haunting view of an Orwellian (1984) kind of world that seems threatening but beautiful in equal amounts. Kick back and enjoy, it’s awesome.

hipstamaticmania!

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When mobile phones came out with a built in camera in 2005 (complete with a wopping great 2.5 megapixels!) they were a great novelty but nobody ever thought that they would become an art form. Did they?

Fast forward  5 years to the iPhone app ‘Hipstamatic’ and that’s exactly what has happened – it’s inspired a cult following inspired by the Hipstamatic toy camera from 1982 (worth a fortune now, incidentally) which had a random quality to it mainly due to light seeping in through the camera housing and the cheap plastic lens it had built in.

The Hipstamatic app shot to fame when New York Times photographer Damon Winter used it in 2010 to illustrate a front page story about the Afghanistan War.

The camera itself had sold less than 200 units, when the inventors, brothers Bruce and Winston Dorbowski, were tragically killed by a drunk driver in 1984. Then, in 1993, the family lost most of the brothers’ photos and work archives in a fire. The story would have ended there, except for Richard Dorbowski. In the summer of 2007 he set up a website memorializing his younger brothers and two years later two young web developers made him an offer for bringing Hipstamatic back as a digital application for Apple’s iPhone.

The iPhone app has had over 1.4m downloads to the point now where an exhibition was held at the Orange Dot Gallery, London showing, appropriately, 157 prints (there were only 157 Hipstamatic cameras sold) from iPhones using the app.

For those of you who were not fortunate enough to see the show, have a look through the images by clicking here.

Little self portrait of yours truly, Hipstamatic stylie!

Get the hipstamatic app here

Polaroid goes Gaga

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polaroid 54

I can’t remember the last time I pulled a Polaroid and rubbed it lovingly in my hands for 60 seconds before proudly presenting it to a client, telling him “…yes don’t worry, it’ll be ok on film”.

Obviously the whole digital era has caused the demise of Polaroid, but the company has, to its credit, diversified and tried to find new markets for new products.

And who better to promote the new products and take Polaroid into a new era than Lady Gaga? Edwin Land must be spinning in his grave.

Probably the worst presentation in the world.

Possibly the final nail in the coffin too.

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/11858492