Category: Good

Ten things I wish I knew about food photography before I started

Our new designer (Lindsay Garrett) recently finished up a food photography project on behalf of one of our newest clients – Meals On Wheels. We asked her to share a few tips with our fans and followers – and with her fellow employees. Today she kindly obliges us.

Welcome Lindsay – the blog is yours!

Thanks and hello to everyone!

So you’ve decided to upgrade your Instagram shots of food and explore food photography more in depth? Perhaps you’ve decided your blog requires more mouth-watering photos to better represent the amazing dishes you share with readers. Or maybe you just want to document the incredible beauty of food and the memories, flavors, and stories that accompany it.

I’ve shot thousands of photos of food and had my work published in two cookbooks, including Made With Love, the Meals On Wheels Family Cookbook. Food photography is challenging and rewarding, but usually quite tasty. Below are the top ten things I figured out the hard way, but now you can be ten steps ahead. Go forth and be brilliant.

  1. Use the sun. Your best tool for food photography is a big, bright window. It’s better to have indirect sunlight to avoid casting harsh shadows, an easy way to diffuse the light is to tape up white paper. Daylight makes it easy to produce softly lit, naturally color balanced photos.
  2. Backlight. If your food is primarily backlit, the delicious textures that you are aiming to portray show up delightfully. The subject is likely to flatten out and lose detail when lit from the front. Don’t be tempted to use your flash, use reflectors or side lighting if you need more light.
  3. Undercook your food. Meat looks juicier, vegetables retain more water, shape, and color, and grains look fuller. You can fully cook breads and cakes though, those need to be done. You can use a broiler or blow torch to selectively brown food to give the crisp look we love to savor.
  4. Smaller plates mean bigger food. Size does matter. Smaller plates will make your food look bigger, providing the benefit that you don’t have to work with as much. Generous looking portions are the way to go! I’ve been known to give food a boost by putting folded paper towels under it or an upside down mug in a bowl of stew.
  5. Tell a story. Your photo will be more engaging if the viewer can imagine where they’d be if they could eat that delicious peach cobbler. Food is a central part of our life, we associate memories with it and break bread with loved ones around the table together. Connect to your audience by showing them not just the delicious food, but the great time they could have consuming it.
  6. Get creative. While deciding what story your photos will tell, your may find you need to add props to enhance it. I have created story lines by concocting beer out of apple cider vinegar and dish detergent bubbles and sprinkled crumbs around half eaten cookies next to a glass of milk and a coloring project. I have even seen food stylists whip up fresh delicious whipped cream to dollop over a wad of newspaper stuffed in a mug to emulate hot chocolate.
    The important part is that these creative concoctions were never the focus of the shot, they were always background elements that added interest.
  7. Oil works wonders. Everything looks sexier when oiled up: like green beans, chicken breasts, blueberries, even carrots. Oil gives you a sheen that allows you more time to take the photo. It also lends the feeling of fresh cooked, fresh washed, or just moist and delicious.
  8. Crop tightly. This applies to most photography. Make sure you frame your shot with care. Getting close to your subject provides more texture, detail, and eliminates distractions such as unrelated backgrounds or tablecloths.
  9. Use a tripod whenever possible. This ensures that your photo is crisp and clean. I was taught to go so far as to use a timer or remote to prevent any bump when the finger releases the shutter. Of course that teacher also told me to hold my breath during the 30 second exposure while I was standing 5 feet away.
  10. Don’t be afraid to change your angles. We have a tendency to photograph food from the 45 degree angle we are about to eat it from. Sometimes you want to get on the same level to show the flaky layers of a pastry or from above to show to beautiful designs on a cake. I usually start off on a tripod and then having captures the shots I need, I move around the food, freeing myself to find interesting angles.

In the end it’s all about experimenting for yourself and creating mouthwatering shots. So what are you waiting for? Happy shooting!

Happy +1, Us!

Almost exactly eight years ago I was sitting in my basement with a space heater blasting on my bare feet as I went through a stack of mail. It was mostly bills as I recall. But one plump envelope contained a notice from our friendly government saying that Stokefire Consulting Group, Inc. was officially incorporated. Oh, and also that we should start paying taxes and stuff.

The effective date for Stokefire’s incorporation was January 13, 2005, so we’re just past the start of a new year.

Since incorporation a whole lot has happened. Our clients have enabled us to develop outstanding and often award-winning work. We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations and many of the world’s best known brands, including Charles Schwab, Discovery Communications, Google, Heinz, Motorola, the US Department of Defense, and the United States Congress. At the start I couldn’t have imagined landing any one of them, but over the years I slowly got better at going after business that seemed improbable or impossible to win.

Since Stokefire hired its first employee in 2006 I’d struggled to find a way to teach employees how to bring in business. It never worked. I could show them how I did it, but it didn’t work for anyone else. On the plus side, it continued to work for me. We landed major projects, pulled business from agencies more than a thousand times our size, and for a while were nearly bulletproof in pitches, landing better than 90% of the work we went after. But nearly eight years in, my fingers on the keyboard and face in front of the prospective client was the only way it happened.

I write “nearly eight years” because two days before our eighth year in business I lost the right to claim sole ownership of the sales channel.  On her seventh day of employment, Lindsay (the newest member of our design team) got us a signed contract with a new client. I wasn’t even on the call. (Is it possible for me to retire from selling via blog post? Because that would be awesome.)

Congrats to Lindsay for giving Stokefire even more momentum as we blaze past eight years in business, and many thanks to all of our clients, employees, and partners who make it possible to keep doing what we’re good at and love to do. Without all of you I’d still be sitting barefoot in the basement.

And… For decency’s sake let’s just agree I’d at least be wearing PJs.

Our Favorite Award, Ever

Posted by:
Tate Linden

We don’t spend much time pulling together entries for stuff like ADDYs and OBIEs. As a small shop we just don’t have the manpower, and most award programs don’t seem to factor in the impact of the work on the business or industry. We’ve been humbled on more than one occasion (and not in a good way) by having a campaign that earned tens of millions of dollars for our client pushed aside as the award-giving panel instead honored creative use of props and 3D techniques that resulted in… pretty much nothing as far as we could tell.

Heck, our most significant awards have come from client-submitted entries. At this point we’ve pretty much given up submitting our own stuff.

So it was a bit of a surprise when a heavy box arrived via FedEx from Canada yesterday.

Inside was an ornately wrapped 4×6… chunk of engineered wood. Affixed to the front of the unquestionably cool and creatively presented log is a colorfully inscribed explanation:

PEER RECOGNITION AWARD
for your outstanding contribution
to construction marketing

The inscription went on to list our firm’s name and our work for the Portland Cement Association as the recipient of the award.

This was already pretty cool, but since we couldn’t remember applying for the award we were thankful that a letter was also provided. Here’s the text:

OBJECT: Construction Marketing Peer Recognition Award

Greetings,

We feel the remarkable branding work your agency has done for the Portland Cement Association – think harder. concrete. – has gone well beyond the scope of a simple client assignment.

The brilliant concept, extensive work on the typography and flawless execution show exceptional creativity. The brand’s “making of” video shows that an extraordinary amount of effort and commitment was required to turn what may seem at first like a simple signature into truly exceptional work.

In recognition of your outstanding contribution to the field of Construction Marketing, I am pleased to award you with the very first Peer Recognition Award. May your work inspire other agencies and designers to search for innovation as you have.

The letter was signed by the Principal of Domicile Experts, a marketing and communications firm in Quebec.

It feels genuine, heartfelt, and more meaningful than any award we or our clients have ever received for our work. While we’re not humbled by it, we are unquestionably honored. And we’re pleased that we produced something that not only worked for our clients, but got some talented folks up North motivated enough to compellingly tell us that they appreciate and recognize good work.

Thanks to Phil and team for making this holiday season a bit more special for us. What a great way to wrap up the year!

The next time anyone from Domicile Experts is in the DC area the first pint is on us. Seriously.

Stokefire Welcomes… Truth.

Woe betide anyone visiting Stokefire HQ on a day (like today) that there’s client-involved brainstorming to be had. If you do our boss may also betide you a bunch of cheap beer and takeout food. You’ve been warned. No… that’s not quite right.

YOOOOOOOU’VE BEEEEEEEEN WAAAAAAAAAAAAARNED!

Better.

And yes, this really is on the big sign in our lobby.

Today's Welcome Sign at Stokefire

A Concrete Win for PCA and Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency

Sorry to all for not posting this great Portland Cement Association PR on our site earlier. Was a bit of a flurry yesterday. Here’s the official release: A Concrete Win for PCA and Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency. It looks pretty spiffy in PRWeb’s format – or you can see it awkwardly formatted below.

DC-area agency makes concrete front-page news and earns client top honors from 2011 CWA Marketing Communications Awards.

This billboard was viewed by hundreds of thousands of frustrated commuters during asphalt repaving.

A Billboard from PCA’s Award-Winning Campaign

“Forty-eight hours after the billboard posted, concrete was on the front page of the region’s major newspapers.”

Alexandria, VA (PRWEB) October 05, 2011

Stokefire Branding & Advertising Agency today announced that its work on behalf of the Portland Cement Association (PCA) has won the 2011 BEST OVERALL Marketing Communications Award as judged by the Construction Writers Association (CWA). This marks the first time a non-profit industry association has earned top honors in a contest typically dominated by commercial industry titans. PCA will receive the award at CWA’s Grand Awards Dinner in San Antonio, Texas on October 25, 2011.

“We are honored by CWA’s recognition and excited that the concrete brand and campaign developed by Stokefire’s creative team served the needs of our membership so well,” said Bruce McIntosh, PCA’s Vice President of Communications. “This campaign quickly allowed us to become part of critical infrastructure conversations, and ultimately led to new concrete and cement projects for our members.”

“PCA needed to provoke a change in behavior,” said Tate Linden, Stokefire’s President and Chief Creative. “Politely knocking at the door of opportunity hadn’t opened it, so we gave the industry another way through. PCA’s top-notch team delivered in a big way once the door was opened, converting opportunity into tangible results.”

CWA’s judges lauded the multifaceted national effort targeting wide-ranging audiences including public works officials, consulting engineers, city and county officials, and even taxpayers and the motoring public. Stokefire delivered campaign strategy and creative execution across print, web, outdoor, clothing, and trade-show elements. In awarding top honors to PCA, judges cited the all-around strength of the campaign, from the design detail and copywriting effectiveness to the broader strategic approach and key media placement.

A strategically placed billboard component above an asphalt repaving project received specific praise from the panel. Forty-eight hours after the billboard posted, concrete was on the front page of the region’s major newspapers, had earned favorable stories on CBS TV News and Public Radio, and had generated buzz on blogs, bulletin boards and Twitter. More importantly, PCA’s leaders were granted access to key infrastructure decision-makers, leading to the true measure of the campaign’s success – tangible new business.

About Stokefire Branding & Advertising:

Stokefire has secretly branded and advertised stuff from its hideout in the Washington DC metro area since 2005. The Stokefire team develops award-winning strategic brands and advertising campaigns that change behavior and get results. The agency has quietly established a diverse client list that includes Heinz, Charles Schwab, Discovery Communications and the US Department of Defense.

About the Portland Cement Association:

Based in Skokie, Ill., the Portland Cement Association represents cement companies in the United States and Canada. It conducts market development, engineering, research, education, and public affairs programs. More information on PCA programs is available at http://www.cement.org.

About the CWA Marketing Communications Awards:

For over a decade the Construction Writers Association has recognized the top marketing and communications work from around the globe. Previous CWA Marketing Communications awards have honored work for megabrands like Caterpillar, Bobcat, John Deere, and Volvo. The CWA, founded in 1958, is a non-profit, non-partisan, international organization that provides a forum for journalism, photography, marketing, and communications professionals in all segments of the construction industry.

###

That’s it!

Congrats to PCA on the 2011 CWA BEST OVERALL Marketing award. Many, many, thanks to Bruce, Patti, Doug, Brian and the rest of the PCA team for giving us the opportunity, for giving our strategists and creatives great information to work with, and for executing flawlessly after the campaign launched. Without every ounce of opportunity, trust, and execution none of this would’ve happened.

Our PCA Work Named “Best Overall” by Construction Industry

Yep. The Portland Cement Association received top honors in the industry for our strategic and creative work on their Hey Asphalt campaign that included the advertisement above amongst other elements such as billboards, trade ads, and websites. How cool is that?

No, wait. Don’t answer that. Allow me.

Ahem. It’s VERY FREAKING COOL! Fist-bumps all around!

Our own press release will hit in the next day or so, but until then you can chew on CWA’s broad release:

CWA Names Winners of 2011 Marketing Communications and Website & Electronic Communications Awards

Thu Sep 29, 2011 7:30am EDT

CHICAGO, IL, Sep 29 (MARKET WIRE) —

The Construction Writers Association (CWA) announces the 2011 winners of
its annual Marketing Communications Awards and Website & Electronic
Communications Awards. The awards will be presented at a grand awards
dinner on October 25 during the 2011 CWA Annual Conference, CONNECTED
2011, in San Antonio.

The annual awards spotlight superior communications efforts by
construction-related individuals, corporations, associations, advertising
agency/PR firms and publications. The Marketing Communications Awards are
evaluated on editorial content, graphic design and effectiveness in
achieving stated goals. 

"The CWA Marketing Communications Award honorees are selected from a
highly competitive pool of submissions from talented professionals across
the country," said Aaron Chusid, chairman of the Marketing Communications
Awards committee.

    The 2011 CWA Marketing Communications Awards winners are:

--  Portland Cement Association, Best Overall-Other
--  Performance Marketing, Best Print-Ad
--  ARTBA, Best Radio-Ad Campaign
--  WSP Flack & Kurtz, Direct Mail Campaign, Best Corporate
    Communication
--  Marketing Strategies & Solutions, Best PR-Special Event

The Website & Electronic Communications Awards are evaluated on
content, design, effective technology aspects and meeting stated
objectives. 

"Effective websites and electronic communications continue to increase in
importance for manufacturers, dealers, contractors, associations and
publications in the construction industry," said Patti Flesher,
chairwoman of the Website and Electronic Communications Awards committee.
"The CWA awards provide industry-wide recognition for work that
successfully engages an online audience."

    The 2011 CWA Website & Electronic Communications Awards winner is:

--  HardHatChat.com, Blog Category

The Construction Writers Association (CWA), founded in 1958, is a
non-profit, non-partisan, international organization that provides a
forum for journalism, photography, marketing, and communications
professionals in all segments of the construction industry to connect
with other professionals and enhance skills through education. Visit our
website at www.constructionwriters.org. Join us on LinkedIn, Facebook,
and Twitter.

For more information contact:
Deborah Hodges
Construction Writers Association
1-773-687-8726
info@constructionwriters.org 

Copyright 2011, Market Wire, All rights reserved.

-0-

Congrats to Bruce, Patti, Brian, Doug, Aris and the rest of the PCA team. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have an appointment with some bubbly.

Design is an Opportunity to… Turn Around Please…

Posted by
Tate Linden

Design is an Opportunity to Continue Telling the Story, Not Just To Sum Everything Up.

Seems that these words are at least as meaningful to others as they are to me.

This picture just came across twitter:

Design is an opportunity to continue telling the story, not just to sum everything up

Via @LordLeonMachi

Whoa.

I wish I’d had that on my bucket list because “say something tattoo-worthy” would be a really cool one to cross off.

NAMERS – YOU NEED THIS BOOK – The Soul of the Corporation

I’ve been sent perhaps a dozen free books on branding and marketing in the year and change I’ve been blogging. I’ve never written about them – mostly because there’s rarely anything about naming or verbal branding in them.

This book doesn’t have that disconnect…

The Soul of the Corporation by Hamid Bouchikhi and John R. Kimberly is an impressive book. And it is almost entirely related to what I do for a living. I’d suggest that it’s one of the more advanced books on the concept of corporate identity, and it is backed by a slew of research (and the Wharton School.) While I didn’t read it cover to cover yet, I did read the chapters that discuss the role of identity in situations that matter to naming – such as mergers, acquisitions, the beginning of new brands, and such. All of ‘em were spot on – or a least headed in the right direction.

As an example – the book identifies the ingredients of Successful identity Change as:

  1. Vision
  2. Effective Communication
  3. Consistency
  4. Leadership Continuity
  5. Luck and Positive Signals

While Stokefire’s number one ingredient is missing (leadership involvement!) the list is one that is worth spending time to understand. It is clear that without any one of the five items a project will likely fail. They’ve at least provided a good starting point to work with.

Other interesting tidbits:

  • An analysis of evolutionary vs. revolutionary change
  • The difference between organizational and brand identity
  • The downside(s) of branding (narcissism, id conflict, drift, & fragmentation)
  • How to handle mergers, spin-offs, joint ventures, and more.
  • Four leaders who’ve managed identity well, and four who haven’t.
  • Transitioning from a single brand to a portfolio…

If these topics don’t get you motivated to read the book then chances are excellent you’re not in the naming field. Or, as a former SecDef might say, “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

Perhaps most refreshing was the near total lack of talking-heads from major branding firms that typically populate books like these. We get to see things through the eyes of employees, stakeholders, and customers – not the guys that developed (and are defending) the brand. Who cares what we, the creators of the identity, think. If the people who live the brand don’t say it then it ain’t real.

Bravo!

Many thanks to Wharton School Publishing for the comp. I’ve dog-eared so many pages that it’s beginning to look like there’s been trouble at the printer (since most of the upper-outside corners appear to be missing.)

Say Hello to Sustainable Technical Development. (Our latest client launch!)

No. We did not name a company “Sustainable Technical Development”, though you have to admit that the acronym would be catchy… catching…


Bada-bing.


We did help our good friends living in the wilds of New Hampshire figure out how to name their business concept – a friendly, common-sense approach to technical stuff (like web programming) that just so happens to be run from an office powered by solar.


And though the sustainable development angle was philosophically important to them, it also was practical. Living in the very literal wilds of New Hampshire there are often power outages lasting days. Last year the power was out for a cumulative two weeks.


So, what do you name a company running off-grid with two friendly, approachable, calm, and capable leaders at the helm? Well, if you’re us… you name it:


webmeadow.gif


(Know what else they do at webmeadow? They raise ducks! How’s that for a perk?)


Welcome to the world webmeadow! Looking forward to reading your blog and hearing your success stories as they happen.


Want proof that the brand has the power to attract green-sensitive businesses? Look no further than Stokefire. We were so impressed with what they’re doing that we’re having the webmeadow team develop our new Web presence – due out late next month.


We’re sure there’s some witty thing we can put here that would losely tie in with those old Remington advertisements, but it’s the end of the day and it’s time to go home and play with TJ to recharge the batteries for tomorrow. Perhaps a bit more wit will be available in the AM.


Kudos A&E!

Dems Make a Wrong Turn.

Unbe-infixing-lievable.


I just read on POPwink (a couple days too late) that the Dems are looking to come up with a new bumper sticker. I had no idea.


You should read Michael’s post over there, and I must agree that his judgement (that the ones they’ve come up with are “hideous”) is spot on.


The choices they’ve laid out for us are:

  • W IS OUT – Send the Right Wing with Him
  • NO REPUBLICANS LEFT BEHIND IN D.C.
  • What Have Republicans Done For You Lately?
  • 2006 Was Just the Beginning. More Dems in ’08

Ouch. Y’all already know I dislike naming contest and such, so I won’t go into that here.


Is the left wing in such a state that they have to recycle old concepts? Two of the four are just reworking old slogans “No Child Left Behind” and “What Have You Done For Me Lately.” One uses a visual key to link W (as in Bush) to Wing (as in right) but seems to ignore the fact that the left has a wing too. The last option seems to endorse doing whatever we did in ’06… but somehow doing it better.


None of them seem catchy. None of ‘em seem smart. None of ‘em speak to me (as one of the centrists that typically decide elections.) None of them take advantage of the location of the message (a bumper.) None of them are memorable (without having to recall either right wing rhetoric or bad pop songs.) These are conversation enders rather than conversation starters.


But what if you could fix that? What if you had a phrase that sounded catchy, implied at least a bit of intellect, could speak to disaffected centrists, used language that mixed well with the bumper medium, and could be used by talking heads as a conversation starter?


I think it’s possible.


Something like “The Right Turn Is Left” ™(sm)(c)(etc…) above a contextualizing message such as “Democrats for ___________” (where the blank is a platform cause) or “Vote Democtratic in ’08” seems to fit the bill.


It throws wordplay, logic, message, direction, context, mnemonics and all sorts of good stuff (like the fact that this is a “Googlenope” as I write this) at the reader without preaching about “W” or gloating about 2006…


…and you can almost hear people chanting it at the Democratic Convention if you listen hard enough.


(Added bonus – the logical Republican response “The Right Turn is Right” or “The Left Turn Is Left” loses all of the power and wit that the use of the conflicting statement brings. It’s a hard slogan to fight effectively.)


Anyone else think there’s a better option?



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