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The Mighty Macro

OK, so here’s a secret. I’m a trekkie. Have been ever since my family borrowed Star Trek III on VHS from the library, circa 1985. If you looked at my Christmas tree last month, you would see it festooned with ornaments resembling Star Trek starships (nothing says “Seasons Greetings” like a miniature Klingon Bird of Prey!).

Speaking of the holidays, I got a cool little gift from my wife — a clip-on macro lens for my iPhone’s camera. I immediately started taking shots of the aforementioned tree ornaments. But then I thought about how helpful this little lens would be for product shots, and how they’re a great affordable option for shooting product on a budget.

The beauty of Macro photography is how it allows your clients or customers to see product details that would otherwise be difficult to capture using a standard smartphone lens.



A macro lens for a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera will run you a cool $300 on the low-end. That’s on top of the cost of the camera itself, which can range from $500 to the thousands. And then you have to learn how to use the setup.

For entrepreneurs with a limited budget and even more limited time, however, consider dropping a few bucks on this cool little lens you can clip onto most any smartphone.

Here’s an affiliate link where you can buy your own macro lens for your phone. Note: we get a very small commission if you do but that doesn’t mean it isn’t awesome.

Woodworkers- want to emphasize that loving detail in a hand-carved reliquary, or maybe you want to accentuate the natural beauty of wood grain? Snap a photo using your macro lens and upload it directly to your website or Facebook page.

Bakers- want to show off your artistic skills in molding fondant onto a custom cake? Macro lens.

Florists- want to post an Instagram pic of the details of a really cool arrangement? Macro lens.

PHOTO OF GUITAR HEADSTOCK W/REGULAR LENS (NOTE THE TUNING PEGS):

CLOSE-UP OF HEADSTOCK’S TUNING PEG WITH A MACRO LENS:



Tips and tricks

  • Clip the macro lens attachment over your camera’s built-in lens and start experimenting with different angles. Shoot overhead, high, low, etc.
  • Make sure your product is in the best possible shape, polished and dusted if applicable. Macro is all about detail, and so any imperfections your product may have are gonna pop.
  • Word to the wise: any object placed in front of your camera’s lens — even a transparent object like another, clear lens — reduces the amount of light the image sensor receives. This in turn means your camera needs fire at a slower shutter speed to allow more light. So be sure you’re shooting in a well-lit area to improve the clarity of your photo.
  • Also, think about investing in a mini-tripod to attach to your phone. This will help reduce camera-shake and result in better-focused photos.
  • If you get a kit with multiple smart phone lenses, try the macro lens with a wide angle lens for even more flexibility in your product shoots. These were taken with a combo wide angle and macro:

Finally, have fun with it, because macro lenses open a new world of angles and possibilities!



The Revolution Will Be On Video

I’m on video not because I’m vain but because that’s where things area headed. We can learn a lot from video’s less intimidating predecessor: photos.

When I began my website, a fellow blogger (after seeing a picture of me on Facebook) told me I should add my photo to the sidebar of my blog. She reasoned that I was attractive and it could only help for people to see me. (For context, in case you don’t know me, I am no great beauty. I’m not the kind of person who would cause a traffic accident or inspire Train would write a whiny song. My brand of attractiveness is soccer mom/Tylenol commercial, which honestly is just fine with me.)

It’s probably hilarious for you to hear a story about someone suggesting someone else upload a photo of themselves (and me not just doing it immediately), but this was kind of novel. Back in 2007, not many people had their pictures on their websites. And even parts of the internet you would actually associate with having pictures (ex: real estate listings) had a limited amount. For example, in 2009, the Maine MLS data feed fetched tenish photos at a time. I remember because the real estate agent wanted 25 photos but since they weren’t in the feed, we had to custom program the page to display the ten photos from the feed plus additional ones.

In 2015, can you think of even a low end real estate listing with only ten pictures? I feel like I see 25 photos of some peoples’ breakfasts sometimes.

I looked for a graph supporting my observations and thought this was a pretty good one (originally on The Atlantic- click over to see other fun graphs!)

photosonplatforms

Anyway, photos were a new frontier and having them made you cutting edge. In 2007-2008.

In an age of Instagram, Facebook albums, and phone cameras, we now get to be clever with photos. They are not novel but expected. Now taking better photos is important, which is why we have a workshop about taking photos with your smartphone happening this week at our business.

Video is now the novelty.

As I try to coax clients to be in videos (because we always want to be ahead of the curve), there is more resistance then there was when I was begging them for headshots. It does feel more personal for someone to see your facial expressions, hear your voice, and see your unfiltered face (though some video software, like Google Hangout, lets you do some flattering edits if you take time to figure it out). Video also feels like a bigger deal to do. You want a tripod, lighting, a non crappy background, perhaps a microphone or a non-echoy room. There is just more to consider.

Because of this additional consideration, there never seems a time you feel ‘ready’ to make a video. Every time I think of making a video for Anchorspace, for example, I am usually not wearing makeup or otherwise feel not suited for the camera. So two weeks ago, I decided to do a voiceover with photos and stick it on Facebook as an initial video. I spent about two hours on it after I finished cleaning the Anchorspace bathrooms and kitchen. (I really want to set this up as glamourous as it was.) The resulting video was kind of low budget but under 1 minute and got through my main marketing messages.

For comparison, I’ve been posting still photos of the inside of Anchorspace as well. Let’s look at the stats for this somewhat crappy photo:

facebookanchorspace-imagestatsNow here are the stats for my similarly crappy video:

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.30.59 PM

Yes there are more views but honestly, the impressive thing is how many more times it was clicked on. And that some people watched the whole thing (5% but still).

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 12.25.13 PM

For the final version of this experiment, I should do a real video (me on camera talking at least part of the time) but this just to show you even a crappy video will get you more attention than a photo, probably because novelty. So don’t be afraid of making something and putting it out there.

Now if you think this was my cop out, I assure you you can see more of us on video on our Google+/Youtube channel: https://plus.google.com/+BreakingEvenInc/posts  And yes, every time I see a video of myself, I always think ‘Is my face that round?’ and ‘Why do I move my hands so much?’ But despite my lack of perfection, I am more than willing to be ahead of the curve and in 2015 that means with a camera rolling in a video sense.

I urge you all to consider video… because I bet you can expect where a graph of video uploads between 2013 and 2018 is going to be trending when it exists. Be ahead of the curve and get out from behind the lens. You may be surprised who watches.

What Coke’s New Campaign Reminded Me About Marketing

shareacokeYou may have noticed that recently, Coke has been putting peoples’ names on bottles. The campaign is called ‘Share a Coke’. Simple, like many great ideas before it.

This is, of course, genius on a couple levels:

1) People are on the lookout for their own name so subconsciously, when they see a Coke label, they have some delight as they flip it around and look for their name. (P.S. The Michael bottle recall is not legit.)
2) Names are relatable and because of this, quite viral. Several people I know have been sharing photos to their friend’s walls when they see a bottle with the friend’s name on it or tagging other friends in their post to virtually share a Coke. (Also Coke had a few universal ones like ‘Friends’ and ‘Dad’.)
3) The campaign is in 50 countries so we can see unusual names on Coke bottles as people use international networks like Instagram and Pinterest.
4) It has a memorable and easy hashtag: #shareacoke (and the spinoff #shareacokewith). Over 300,000 shares on Instagram alone:

shareacokeinstagram



And you know your campaign is successful when a few jokes have spun out from it. Check out the ‘nativity’ scene with (‘Maria’ and ‘Angel’ among others) and the ‘still can’t find my name’ posts on Pinterest:

shareacokefunpinterest
It’s one thing to be kind of clever and market to a niche of people but it’s another to make an idea that’s simple enough for people to get and individual enough for people to personalize. Great job, Coke! *slow clap for Coke!

slowclapjoker

Instagram And Your Business

Did you know people can ‘tag’ your business on Instagram and upload pictures about it?

Don’t worry, people, that’s what I’m here for.

Now if you want to use Instagram for your business, here’s a quick guide for creating an account (with screenshots) someone else wrote.

But if you’re sitting there thinking ‘How can I see what people are posting about my business?’ that’s what I’m going to tackle here.

First of all, you need 1) a smartphone and 2) an Instagram account.

Sorry, you just do.

Now let’s assume you have both these things. The easiest way for me to see  my business stuff is to take a photo and upload it tagging my business. (There might be other ways to do this, this is just my way):

1) Take a photo:

takeiphonepictureinstagram

1a) You can pick a filter/crop it a bit:

applyfilterinstagram

2) Add some information in the caption (I tagged Derrick, my man friend, in this case since he transplanted this for me.)

instagramshareimagelocation

3) Click ‘Name this location’ and add yours. (Aside: Instagram pulls in map data from a bunch of different sources like TomTom and Yelp so if you aren’t coming up, get your business datamapped!)

instagramlocationpicked

4) Click ‘Share’ on the bottom.

Once your listing is uploaded, you can click on the writing in blue…

taggedlocationininstagramfeed

And see who else has uploaded photos.

Since my business is tiny, I took screenshots of another business (in this case Side Street Cafe) to let you see some cool stuff:

instagramsidestreet

So don’t assume because you don’t use Instagram that people who come to your business aren’t. (Classic mistake to think everyone is like you… and one I make almost daily.)

What Your ‘About’ Picture Says About You

One of the first unsolicited pieces of advice I ever got was from Meg Wolff, a big deal author and food expert who lives in Maine. I had sent her something in my early internet days (I wanted to be like her, still do.) and she wrote back something to the effect of: “You’re pretty, you should put your picture on your website.”

I was skeptical. At the time, I was in my mid twenties but looked younger. Who would take me seriously?

Still I decided to listen to her and slapped my photo in the sidebar of my blog.

I noticed people contacting me increased. They were more likely to book consults. I even got ‘recognized’ at the grocery store as ‘the girl from the internet’ in a way that was equally flattering and disturbing.

Since starting this business, I have not gone the way of a lot of my website making/marketing counterparts and refused to use stock photography in favor of what I (and anyone I work with) actually look like.

I have done this not because I think myself a reputed beauty but because I want people to trust me. And it seems to have worked. (Evil laugh)

As an aside, when I see people using stock photography, I feel like they either 1) want to hide who is involved with the company for some reason or 2) can’t get their act together enough for at least the senior level people to get headshots. Here are two such cases that made me laugh:

samestockphoto

 

Now either the Texas School of Languages and Affinity Auto Transport have the same staff or there is some stock photography going on. (And Texas School of Language has an actual Instagram account, meaning they are trying to take more pictures- come on people!)

But in all seriousness, websites with photos on them tend to have a higher conversion, which is why people will resort to stock photography over nothing in most cases. Like Version A below got 64% more mortgage applications. (More cool studies here, including one where stock photography backfires. This is why testing is important!)

websiteswithfaceshigherconversion

Since my sheepish debut in 2008, many people seem to have gotten the message that faces are important and have put them on their website.

Let’s look at a few photos and see if we can learn anything about the kinds of photos we should be using on our about pages:

David-ThomsonThomson Reuters
http://thomsonreuters.com/about-us/board-of-directors/

While serious, everyone on this pages looks like they are being active (well as active as a board of directors can be) but a photo showing you doing something shows you are action oriented. Choosing this non-traditional kind of shot makes me think the company is progressive.

conner_1208

Boeing
http://www.boeing.com/boeing/companyoffices/aboutus

Typical corporate headshot. If you are a real estate agent, lawyer, or some other professional that has some sort of photo expectations placed on you, this is totally acceptable to me.

 

Bill StrathmannNetworkForGood
http://www1.networkforgood.org/about-us/staff

As a non-profit and a fundraising entity, trust is super important to this company. Everyone from the CEO down is looking at the camera smiling. Trustworthy, approachable. When in doubt, I tell people to do this.

big-willeThinkGeek
http://www.thinkgeek.com/about-us/

If you are a ‘creative’, you can get away with posting zanier stuff, like of yourself as a child or in a Halloween costume.  Just be aware that people might not ‘get’ it.

As you see you can be a bit more creative than you probably expected with a simple about picture. I will say this though. The largest one I saw was maybe 200 pixels so if you don’t have a professional headshot yet, don’t worry about it. You can take a picture of this resolution with your phone or webcam.

If you are in a position where people are listening to you for advice or dealing with you on a fairly personal level (you’re a health coach, massage therapist, hairdresser, personal chef, business consultant, etc.), please post a photo of yourself looking at the camera and at least slightly smiling. I went to ten websites and found these photos to show you what I mean.

aboutmepics

(If you have a picture of yourself with Oprah, this is where you whip it out.)

I hope I have now convinced you to put some photo of yourself on your website. If you do it, please leave the link to your about page in the comments so I can check it out!

When Your Post Goes Viral

One of my colleagues is Jim LeClair, who runs the Maine Coast Welcome Center. He’s a mapping specialist who gets businesses listed in GPS units, etc.

I got a call from him last week, asking if I’d mind looking at his Facebook stats.

Because they seemed low? Nope, because they were really really high.

A simple thank you got around 30,000 shares (the photo was reposted and got 1,000 more shares from that). Even Jim, the guy who made it, is shocked.

A simple thank you got around 30,000 shares (the photo was reposted and got 1,000 more shares from that). Even Jim, the guy who made it, is shocked.

Jim thought it might be fun to post a picture thanking the plow people. He didn’t use Photoshop or do anything fancy; it literally took him five minutes. What happened next shocked him.

Over 100,000 people were ‘talking about’ his photo on Facebook and in 48 hours it got thousands and thousands of shares.

“How do I capitalize on this?” he asked.

“Did people like your page from it?” I asked.

He said about 400 people liked his page from the photo.

Sadly that’s the only way to follow up with people is if they like your page. Could Jim take out a Facebook ad with this picture and probably eek out a few more fans? I’m sure but those 30,000 fans will not hang on his every word from now on. And that’s ok.

A few takeaways from this situation:

1) Being positive will get you way farther than being negative. 
This photo generated some discussion, including some back and forth about plow drivers being overpaid. At first Jim was going to delete the negative but then he decided to just let the discussion be discussion. But his positive sentiment thanking plow drivers got him way more traction then being whiny.

2) You can’t plan viral.
Would Jim have made this photo different if he know hundreds of thousands would see it? Probably. But does it matter? This idea that you can plan for something to ‘go viral’ is ridiculous. Things online have a life of their own and you have to embrace that.

3) Some fame will linger in the way of fans who stick around… but a lot won’t.
This is why when things happen, you enjoy the exposure. Some new fans will stick around but not a majority (400 out of 30,000 in this case). And that’s ok.

Jim is enjoying the paparazzi not being outside his door (kidding), it was a pretty cool experience I’m happy one of my friends has had.

Have your own ‘going viral’ stories? How did it change your business? What did you learn?