Friday, April 4, 2014

Compelling Image in the Age of Social Media: a Workshop

The number of workshops offered at this year's SxSW was greatly expanded. These hands-on sessions tended to span two or more time slots. It's hard enough to choose sessions, so to give up multiple time slots, a workshop needs to be pretty darn special. I was glad I gave up two and half hours of my first afternoon for Marty Coleman's photo mini-class.

The name of the session was a bit misleading. We talked very little about social media. It was actually a basic photography class using only smartphones.

The phone you carry around everyday has a better camera on it than any digital camera we had access to 10 years ago, but for some reason, many people don't trust their phone cameras. I don't know if early cell cameras tainted their view, or if they just haven't mastered holding the tiny panel still while tapping the screen.

In my office, we're already using our smartphones to capture a lot of the images we share on the Library's accounts. The intern team is particularly good at this. They'll see something interesting while they are walking into work, snap a photo with their phone and then upload when they get into the office. This workshop helped me realize that with a little instruction and a little motivation, all our employees could be contributing great images for our accounts.

If you've ever taken a basic photography class most of the lighting and composition techniques you learned will apply to smartphone images. Get good front lighting, look for interesting angles, and play attention to your composition.

We did a handful of quick photo exercises, but my favorite was looking for compelling images of empty spaces. If you've ever tried to put together a quote on photo, you'll appreciate this one. These popular social media postings work best when the majority of the picture provides a neutral canvas for your words.

Hashtags: #sxsw #compelling

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