Author Archives: Sincerely, Gracie

Becoming An Online Publisher

Sincerely, Gracie:

This semester we have had the unique opportunity to cultivate an online presence and build a digital space to inhabit. From the first class in September to the final class in December, my website has done a full one-eighty. Starting as a lifestyle blog, Sincerely, Gracie has overcome confusion and creative block to evolve into its destined form- a photography blog. My website is a creative outlet; a place for me to express myself through photos, refine my craft and showcase my work. The concept of my blog was inspired by Joe Mcnally Photography. Joe Mcnally, a professional photographer and photo blogger, explains the creative process of his photos and writes to support his creative vision. Sincerely, Gracie incorporates the same idea. 

Website Design and Content:

With no experience in website building, using WordPress was a learning curve. Needless to say, designing my website was a process of trial and error. When making design decisions, I worked from the premise that readers’ experience of a text is not only shaped by the words themselves, but also the context, format, provenance, and design. With this in mind, I put great emphasis on choosing the right website theme. Knowing that my content is image-heavy, I chose a simple theme so nothing would distract from the photos, the focus point of my website. My goal to design a straightforward and easily navigable site was largely influenced by this article that discusses affordances and how the best designs are those with direct perception of possibilities for action. With this information, I was very conscious in making sure my website design features gave visitors a clear understanding of what to expect from Sincerely, Gracie.

The blog section of my website is separated into four categories: Big Love Ball Photo Series, Capture and Write, Photography Skills, and Videos. Under the category Big Love Ball Photo Series, I photograph the Big Love Ball in places that I “love”. It was fun to shoot in different locations and write about my favourite places. Creating content for the Capture and Write category is when I felt most creatively inspired. This section showcases photos that tell a story, share an idea, or make a statement. One of my favourite blog posts, “My Picture, My Story”, is featured in this category. I photographed my grandma holding up one of her old photos, then I wrote a piece about the story behind that image. The Photography Skills category is an opportunity for me to share my photography knowledge and improve my skills. So far, this section features posts on shutter speed, prop styling, and photo editing. I was inspired to incorporate a Videos category, by watching Thoraya Maronesy on Youtube. Her channel is “dedicated to interactive projects with strangers.” Drawing inspiration from Thoraya’s insightful films, I asked people questions and filmed their responses. 

My Audience- Real and Imagined:

My intended audience for Sincerely, Gracie is people who are looking to be inspired by creative storytelling through photos, those interested in learning about photography, and clients who will visit my Portfolio section and contact me to shoot. However, analyzing data from Google Analytics has taught me that I have not been reaching my imagined following. Google Analytics Acquisition Report gives me insight as to where my users came from, and the results of this data suggest my current audience remains limited to my publishing peers. This information is not surprising as I haven’t been blogging for long nor have I made a significant effort to promote my website. In hopes of generating a larger audience of photography lovers and inspired minds alike, my goal is to continue creating content and expand Sincerely, Gracie’s presence past the web.

Learning From Challenges:

While I am proud of my website and the content I have produced, unfortunately, the process to achieve the end result was nothing like I had hoped it would be. I enrolled in PUB 101 because I was excited by the idea of developing a website and watching my online presence progress throughout the semester. When it is said and done, my blogging experience was not a thirteen-week progression, but rather a three-week development of digital content. This rush to produce content occurred because I changed my website premise so late into the semester. I equate the second-guessing and last-minute work to my constant desire for perfection. This article insightfully describes the correlation between perfectionism and procrastination, stating, “Because perfectionists fear being unable to complete a task perfectly, they put it off as long as possible.” In most areas of my life, fear of failing to be “perfect”, stifles the development and enjoyment of the work.

Looking back, the semester started on the wrong foot when by week-three, I was already having second thoughts about my website. At this point in the course, Sincerely, Gracie was a lifestyle blog dedicated to travel, health, and fashion. I was no longer inspired to post content in the lifestyle realm, and I knew I wasn’t using my digital voice to the best of my ability. Creatively stuck and frustrated by the quality of my posts, I stopped creating content altogether. I had concluded that if my website couldn’t reflect my best, most innovative, and inspired ideas, I shouldn’t post at all. For the next several weeks, I pondered how to break out of this unproductive cycle, and in week 10, I made the decision to re-invent my online presence altogether. Shifting my website premise to photography was the best decision I made. It is much easier and much more enjoyable to create content when you are inspired, motivated and passionate about the subject. There were still moments of insecurity and self-doubt about failing to meet the high expectations I set for myself, but I did my best to remain confident in my vision of execution. If I have learnt one thing from the process, it’s that the voice in my head that wants everything to be “perfect”, is the very thing holding me back. If you don’t take that first step for fear of failure, you’ve already failed.

The Overall Experience:

Coming into this course, I intended to build a website that reflects my passions and brings value to those who interact with it. However the journey might have been to get here, I feel as though I have accomplished my goals. At the begging of the semester, Professor Suzanne Norman said, “becoming an online publisher is a deeply personal experience”. When she said it then, it didn’t resonate much with me. However, reflecting on it now, I understand the truth to this statement. Becoming an online publisher reintroduced me to my passion for photography and writing, and forced me to acknowledge the internal struggle that prevents me from achieving my goals. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to cultivate an online presence, with insight from teachers and classmates who have helped my website grow. This isn’t the end of my publishing journey, and I am excited to continue creatively expressing myself through photos and validating my artistic vision with words.


References:

Joe McNally Photography

https://blog.joemcnally.com

Kaptelinin, Victor. (n.d). Affordances.

https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/book/the-encyclopedia-of-human-computer-interaction-2nd-ed/affordances

Maronesy, Thoraya. (n.d). YouTube- Thoraya Maronesy- About

https://www.youtube.com/c/ThorayaMaronesy/about

Kucheriavy, Andrew. (n.d). Google Analytics Acquisition and Channel Reports

https://www.intechnic.com/blog/google-analytics-acquisition-and-channel-reports/

Jacobs, Denise. (2014, May 20). Breaking the Perfectionism–Procrastination Infinite Loop

https://webstandardssherpa.com/reviews/breaking-the-perfectionism-procrastination-infinite-loop.html

Week 12: Keeping Comments Constructive

Online comments are a powerful mechanism of communication that gives users the freedom to express themselves. Unfortunately, comment sections have the potential to turn hateful quickly. In a digital world, haters hide behind anonymity and the security of a screen. Creating community guidelines can monitor these negative comments by enforcing a template for how users are expected to act and behave.

As my website stands, I do not have a comment section for users to interact with. My main focus this semester was to inhabit an online space, not so much to connect with my users. That being said, I plan on continuing this blog beyond PUB 101, and in the future I will be ready to focus my efforts on user engagement. This means adding a comment section that opens the door to public opinion. 

Here is how I plan to keep my comment section a constructive space…

1. Create Community Guidelines to be displayed on the homepage of my website. These rules will indicate that hateful and prejudice comments will not be tolerated. This is a safe place for all.

2. Monitor the comment section. Go through the comments and delete all remarks that don’t coincide with the Community Guidelines. 

3. Respond to positive comments. If I want to cultivate a constructive comment section on my site, I need to acknowledge those who have taken the time to comment something positive. This is my way of connecting with my audience and encouraging kindness.

4. Respond to constructive feedback. I respect the fact that my visitors have a right to voice their opinions and give feedback about my site. As long as these comments aren’t hateful or rude, I am all for receiving constructive criticism that will help me improve my site. To encourage my users to share their constructive thoughts about my content, I will make a point of thanking those who do leave helpful feedback.


Featured Image: https://www.rawpixel.com/image/403240/premium-illustration-vector-woman-gossip

Graffiti: Art or Vandalism?

Imagine you drive past a building covered in graffiti paint. Would your first thought be, “That’s a great piece of art.”, or are you more inclined to think, “That building has been vandalized.” Graffiti art sparks the debate between artistic expression and public destruction. 

The word “graffiti” itself, is associated with negative connotations. According to Oxford Languages, graffiti is defined as, “writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place.” Simply googling the word gives one permission to accept graffiti as vandalism. This article explains that some see graffiti as evidence of social breakdown, as “an element of “Broken Windows Theory” – the idea that even small signs of disorder in a community lead to more disorder, which eventually escalates into gang warfare and breakdown of law and order.” The thinking is, if the police turn a blind eye to graffiti on public property, they will permit a culture of lawlessness. When this mentality is adopted, graffiti serves as an open invitation for chaos and destruction.

Venice Beach Los Angelos, California

Against the belief that graffiti is vandalism, are those who see graffiti as a form of art that deserves its place on the streets. This article states that “like every other form of expression and speech, graffiti is also a powerful medium for people to bring forth their ideas and opinions.” Some see graffiti as a benefit to society, serving as a valuable form of self-expression and bringing art to the public. This article points out that graffiti is seen as a sign of criminal disorder, yet some graffiti contributes to gentrification and the appeal of certain neighbourhoods. 

The artist in me has always been drawn to graffiti and the creativity it offers in photos. Graffiti is one of my favourite things to shoot because the photos tell a story of self-expression. Overtaken by the unique wonders of graffiti, I have never stopped to consider that it might be vandalism. Reflecting now, I understand the controversy on this subject. After researching the topic, my opinion stands that graffiti when sprayed on public property without permission, is vandalism. Legally, one’s right to freedom of expression cannot be considered when it interferes with another person’s property rights- therefore graffiti has no justification against vandalism on the backbone of freedom of expression. However, I cannot that graffiti is a wonderful art form. While it may be controversial, there is no denying that graffiti can be an artistic medium for voices of change and protest. Plus, it makes for great photoshoots! I want to make it clear that accepting graffiti is vandalism, does not mean I’m against the art form. In fact, I’m all for it! As long as it’s not on MY property, I will forever be intrigued and inspired to photograph the art.

References:

Vans. Is Graffiti Art or Vandalism?

https://www.vans.co.uk/thewall/art/is-graffiti-art-or-vandalism.html

Bahsin, Gursifath. (2016, July 25). Graffiti- Art or Vandalism?

https://medium.com/@Bhasingursifath/graffiti-art-or-vandalism-4ecda1f780ab

Ferro, Shaunacy. (2014, January 27). Can Graffiti Be Good For Cities?

https://www.fastcompany.com/3022524/can-graffiti-be-good-for-cities

Trying Different Photo Edits

Photo editing is an important skill in photography. Editing an image can enhance or completely change the original photograph to convey a different mood or theme.


1. Black and White

*Edited in iPhoto

I took this photo of a Joshua tree in Palm Springs, California. I decided to edit this photo in black in white to add more drama to the already intriguing tree. One of my favourite parts of the original photo is the harsh contrast of the dark blue sky above and the light blue sky below. Editing this image in black and white accentuated this contrast.

2. Vintage

*Edited in Final Cut Pro

I took this photo of my brother on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. I edited this image to create a vintage vibe. In Final Cut Pro, I added a camera recorder filter because it looks like my brother is reaching to cover the camera lens. I also chose the Vintage Grain preset to mute the colours with a brown and orange tint. Most people think that Final Cut Pro is limited to its video editing capabilities, it is in fact equipped to edit photos as well.

3. Saturated

*Edited in iPhoto

I took this photo of a colourful surfer van in Santa Monica, California. Although the original image is already colourful, I put an emphasis on saturation with this edit to really make the colours pop. By increasing the saturation and contrast levels, the end result is much more vibrant. Most notably, the sky is now a blue colour, as appose to a grey shade in the original image.

4. Retouch

*Edited in Fotor Photo Editor

This is a portrait of my brother, Jett. In the original image, he has some noticeable blemishes on his face. I was able to get rid of the blemishes, eye bags, and red marks by using the retouch tool in Fotor Photo Editor. This is a great editing technique to achieve airbrushed skin for portrait photography.

The Snapshot GIF

The word ” GIF’ stands for Graphics Interchange Formats, a file that supports both static and animated images. I am notorious for using GIFS in text messages because sometimes that’s the best way to express myself! While I use GIFS almost on the daily, I have no experience in making them. Luckily imgflip helped make this process easy.

The concept of my GIF is a behind the scenes look at taking a photo. I set up my tripod and camera, pressed record, and counted down from three before taking a flash photo with my disposable film camera. I edited the video in Final Cut Pro, speeding up the first clip, and joining it with the second clip. Overall, it was a really fun activity and I am happy with how it turned out!

My Picture, My Story- Darlene Nordstrom

Everyone has a story, and a picture says a thousand words.

Pictured is my grandma, Darlene Nordstrom, holding up a photo from 1930, of the barn on her family farm in Leduc, Alberta. When my grandma was ten years old, her family inherited the farm from her grandpa. Life on the farm was dedicated to labour, food, and family.

At the tender age of ten, Darlene was milking cows, riding tractors, plowing the grain, and skinning chickens for meat. My grandma admits that the thought of this happening today is absurd, but as she says, “All I knew was life on the farm. I didn’t know any different.” During the harvest, the time to gather ripened crop to sell for profit, Darlene would stay home from school for weeks at a time, to help. She would be in the kitchen all day, cooking for her dad and neighbours who were working in the field. My grandma’s responsibilities on the farm instilled in her a strong work ethic and determination that she carries with her today.

On the farm, Darlene and her family lived off the land. Their food was obtained through harvesting grain, gardening, milking cows, and butchering animals. My grandma ate freshly baked bread from harvested grain, cheese and yogurt from cows’ milk, vegetables from the garden, and meat from the cows, chicken, and geese. This lifestyle has greatly influenced my grandmas cooking today, in her selection of non-processed, organic, whole foods.

The most notable difference from Darlene’s childhood to now is that she grew up with no cellphones. My grandma wouldn’t have wished it to be any different though, saying, “We weren’t distracted by cellphones or electronics, so it allowed for more connection with family.” Having to work together to manage the farm, put food on the table, and generate heat in a house with no electricity, brought the family and their efforts together.

Darlene’s oldest brother, Denis, inherited the farm after their parents died in 2007. This makes it three-generation owned. This photo of the barn and memories of life on the farm are near and dear to my grandma’s heart. One look at this photo and she is brought back to riding a horse and buggy to school, catching pigeons in the barn rafters, and drinking milk straight from a cow’s utter. Although her present life resembles nothing of her past, Darlene still carries life lessons of hard work, eating good food to live good, self-sufficiency, and the strength in working together.

The Prop Styling Experience With Robin Zachary

If you have ever flipped through the pages of a magazine and been enticed to buy a product solely by how aesthetic the image is, you can thank the prop stylist. This seemingly perfect job of sourcing, shopping, and styling props to create the ideal photo, was explained to me in the workshop, “Styling Beyond Instagram”, with Robin Zachary. It was a great introduction into the business and creativity of prop styling. To learn more about my experience and the complex world of prop styling, keep reading!

Robin Zachary

The workshop was taught by Robin Zachary, a New York City based professional prop stylist. Robin has experiencing prop styling for tabletop, craft, still life, food, fashion, events, weddings, and editorial. As the Creative Director for Bridal Guide Magazine for 10 years, Robin had “the opportunity to style and direct hundreds of fashion and still life shoots around the world.” More currently, she works as the Contributing Home Editor of Bridal Magazine, and has clients in corporate product brands, national magazines, e-commerce, and social media. In 2015, Robin created a prop styling workshop, The Prop Styling Experience, where she “shares the knowledge culled from over 20 years as a highly sought-out professional stylist and creative director in an easy-to-understand and engaging way.” 

Pre-Covid, most of Robin’s workshops were offered in an intimate salon style setting from her NYC Styling Studio. Today, all of her classes are offered online via Zoom at https://www.thepropstylingexperience.com

Robin’s Work:

The Workshop: Styling Beyond Instagram

When I discovered Robin and her workshops, I knew it would be a great opportunity to learn from a professional in the businesses. This introductory class was offered to beginner stylists, FREE of charge, and covered all the prop styling basics. I have always been interested in creative directing and prop photography, so it was great to have Robin walk me through the many creative possibilities that come with this career.

What does a prop stylist do?

Prop styling is one of those jobs that you don’t really know exists, but their work is showcased everywhere in our daily lives. As a prop stylist, your job description is flexible to suit your expertise.

Generally, prop stylists…

– Source (rent/buy/make) props

– Organize, haul, and transport props

– Work with a team of professionals to create an image (example: on a food magazine shoot you have the chef, prop stylist, and photographer)

– Style all of then details necessary to create a “look”, tell a story, set a mood, evoke an emotion.

Sometimes, prop stylists…

– Make the product being photographed (example: someone with experience in the kitchen might be hired to bake a cake and style the props on a food magazine shoot)

– Photograph the product

Can I specialize without being too niche?

There are many different genres of prop styling: food, fashion, still life, wild life, craft, tabletop, etc. Most prop stylists specify in a particular category. Robin Zachary for instance, focuses on fashion and table top, however within table top, she has opportunities to style food, still life and craft.

Robin’s Work:

Within your niche styling genre, Robin stresses the importance of broadening your portfolio to include different colours, lighting, and aesthetics. If you are too niche and only work to create dark and moody shots, you are alienating customers who want you to style a bright and colourful photo. The key is to be diverse, within an area of expertise.

How can I become a prop stylist?

1. Create a website

Building an online brand to showcase your portfolio is a great way to bring in customers and establish yourself as a prop stylist. In order to create a portfolio, you might need to plan “test shoots”, shoots strictly for portfolios (no one gets paid). If you only want to be a prop stylist and not a prop stylist/ photographer, hiring a photographer for a test shoot is inevitable in creating a portfolio.

2. Assist a freelance stylist

Working alongside a freelance stylist allows you to get paid while gaining invaluable experience from someone who is already working in the business. As a freelance stylist’s assistant, you are booked per the job and paid per the day. Usually, stylists require assistants for prep days and shoot days. Prep days entail getting ready for the shoot; sourcing and shopping for props, packing up props, backdrops and any necessary equipment for the photoshoot. Shoot days involve transporting props and equipment to and from the photoshoot location, unpacking and re-packing these items, and being on call to fulfill any of the stylists demands. While this career doesn’t always give you full creative control, it is a great way to make connections with photographers, creative directors, and other stylists. These relationships are key when branching out on you own as a prop stylist. Another notable upside to assisting a freelance stylist is that you are exposed to a variety of styling jobs. You may have to work for food, fashion, still life, wildlife, tabletop, and craft stylists. Experience with different genres of prop styling will only strengthen your resume.

What are the career options for a prop stylist?

There are several avenues you can work in as a prop stylist, ranging from big brands to smaller companies, from film and tv, to commercial and advertising. Some people do it all as freelance stylists, while others choose to specialize. Another common route for a prop stylist is to teach their craft. Like Robin, many prop stylists hold workshops and classes to share their knowledge with others.

Experimenting with Prop Styling

I left the “Styling Beyond Instagram” workshop feeling so inspired and creatively energized, that I decided to give it a go myself.

Over this quarantine, my mom and I have been setting up a styling studio in the garage, so this is where I conducted my photoshoot. We are both vintage junkies, so I had all the necessary props and dish-ware at my fingertips.

Photo #1:

To create this photo, I used a black bristle board as the backdrop, and the back of a metal crate to act as the table top. I selected a dark plate, so the dessert would stand out, and I paired it with a vintage utensil to add to the concept that that dessert was about to be eaten. In the workshop, Robin shared how she will often use dated silverware because it reflects less of a shine/glare in photos. I took this advice, and it worked out great. The napkin in this photo is actually a table cloth, but I folded in a way to resemble a napkin. I really like the look of the linen and how it breaks up the harsh black. My favourite part of this photo however, is the milk glass in the background. I love how it adds height and dimension to this image. The blur effect in the backdrop was created using by setting my aperture setting, f-stop, to a low number. This keeps the dessert frozen sharp, and the milk glass out of focus.

Photo #2:

Same idea as the first photo except I choose a wide angle. I also used a larger depth of field (bigger f-stop), because there was nothing in the background to blur, and I wanted to capture the plate in its entirety. I like that the fork is a focal point in this photo, giving the image height and creating the illusion that the dessert is about the be eaten.

Photo #3:

In this shot, I used black bristle board as the backdrop and the back of a wood crate to act as the tabletop. I was going for an earthy vibe, and I think that the wood and the flowers really add to the organic vision. The ribbon underneath the cookie tray may not be a practical element, but certainly brings flow and dimension to the photo. Overall, I like the styling of this image, however, I am not happy with the photography. I was shooting with minimal natural light (no flash or studio lights), so I had to raise my ISO which resulted in a grainy photo. I also feel as though there is too much of a disconnect from the backdrop to the table top. This could have been based by creating a smaller depth of field, using a smaller f-stop, to blur the background. These are all valuable learning points to improve on in the future!

More Photos:

Shutter Speed

This week, I researched and experimented with the shutter speed camera setting. To inform my learning, I watched videos and read articles about this topic. For reference, check out these helpful resources:

https://photographylife.com/iso-shutter-speed-and-aperture-for-beginners

https://www.karltayloreducation.com/photography-course/shutter-speeds/


What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed refers to the length of time the camera shutter is open. A camera’s shutter speed controls the amount of time that we can capture light. Depending on the amount of light exposed to the camera sensor, your camera can freeze a subject, or create a motion blur effect.


What is the difference in Shutter Speeds?

Slow Shutter Speed (camera still): When the camera is still, a slow shutter speed will not be able to freeze a moving subject, causing the subject to be blurry.

Slow Shutter Speed (camera moves): If the camera focusses on the moving subject and moves with it, a slow shutter speed will create a blur effect in the background, while keeping the subject frozen sharp.

Fast Shutter Speed: A fast shutter speed will freeze a moving action and will not create a background blur effect. This setting produces a motionless looking image.


How does the shutter speed effect exposure?

Slow Shutter Speed: If you use a slow shutter speed, your camera shutter is open for longer. This allows your camera sensor to gather more light, resulting in a bright photo.

Fast Shutter Speed: When using a fast shutter speed, your camera shutter is open for a short amount of time. This results in a darker photo because the camera sensor is exposed to a small fraction of light.


How do I compensate for overexposed and underexposed images?

In photography, light is controlled by the exposure triangle: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. It is a balancing act between these three camera settings to determine exposure. 

The majority of cameras today have a scale that indicates the exposure. This tool can be helpful in determining what settings need to be changed to achieve the ideal exposure.


ISO: ISO refers to a camera setting that will brighten or darken an image. The ISO number determines how sensitive the camera sensor is to light. A higher ISO number will produce a brighter photo, and a lower ISO number will produce a darker photo. 

*Note: The higher the ISO number, the more grainy the photo will appear. While this is not ideal, it may be necessary when you cannot adjust shutter speed and aperture settings.

Fast Shutter Speed: When minimal light is captured due to a fast shutter speed, raising the ISO number will brighten the image.

Slow Shutter Speed: When too much light is gathered due to a slow shutter speed, lowering the ISO number will darken the image.

*Tip: To avoid unnecessary noise in photos, leave your ISO number at 100 (the lowest), and adjust it LAST, after you have set the shutter speed and aperture settings. If your photo depends on a fast shutter speed and large aperture, you will need to fix exposure through raising the ISO. If your photo only depends on a fast shutter speed, correct the exposure through lowering the f-stop number, and set the ISO as low as possible.


Aperture: Aperture can be described as a hole within the lens that allows light to travel into the camera. By increasing or decreasing the size of the hole, you are are allowing more or less light to reach the camera sensor- and therefore changing the brightness of an image.

f-stop: The aperture of the lens is determined by the f-stop. A larger f-stop number will capture less light, as the hole decreases. A smaller f-stop number will gather more light, as the hole expands. 

Fast Shutter Speed: When minimal light is gathered due to a fast shutter speed, raising the f-stop number will brighten the image.

Slow Shutter Speed: By selecting a slower shutter speed, you are allowing more light to reach the camera, therefore you will need to lower 


When do I adjust Shutter Speed?

1. To capture moving subjects or actions

*Fast shutter speed

2. To adjust exposure (working with ISO and aperture)

– overexposed= fast shutter speed for less light

– underexposed= slow shutter speed for more light