Tag Archives: Photography

Little Girl’s Perfect Little Story Will Make You Smile

Bella Ortega, flowers, sunflowers, kid, child, girl, garden, gardening, happy, smile, story elements, perfect little story

Bella blossoms along with her flowers. Click to make bigger.

Here’s a short story that can help all writers in our search for content.

My friend Evelyn Amaya Ortega posted this photo of her 8-year-old, Bella, on Instagram and Facebook with the following caption.

She planted the seeds. She waited patiently all summer as the plants grew… And grew… Getting taller and taller. This week, the flowers bloomed. #Happy

More than 140 people liked the photo on Facebook, including writer Karen Rosen who astutely noted, “That is a perfect 24-word story with illustration. It should be in a magazine.”

I agree. Evelyn’s short tale contains all the elements of a narrative. Character, location, conflict, rising action, climax — even a sweet denouement.

The next time someone tells you they don’t have enough material or space to craft a story, show him this.

In business writing, the same holds true under the content-marketing definition of story. The image and text are compelling, engaging and emotional. They could hold the interest of customers looking to buy flowers, seeds, tickets to a summer camp or even in a Public Service Announcement about good parenting and spending time with your kids.

Look at that face! That smile!

That’s a story, by any definition.

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Are You an Instagram Cliche?

instagram, cliches, photos, snapshots, pictures, pets, dogs

I don’t even have a pet, but I couldn’t resist posting this pic of me with my friend’s little buddy, Dexter. Great dog.

Ever scroll through Instagram and notice that a lot of the photos seem familiar?

Your old roommate’s beautifully topped latte?

Your sister’s airplane-wing-through-the-window?

Well, the good people at Mashable did. And they’ve decided to help us all be more original, I suppose, by sharing their list of the 12 most clichéd Instagram pics. For me, Instagram is just a source of fun and another way to stay in touch with friends and see what interesting strangers and brands are doing.  I love the creative shots along with those that have a certain familiarity.

But as a writer and editor, I hate clichés. So I scrolled through my Instagram feed to see how many transgressions I’d committed there against Instagram’s dirty dozen.

1. Toes in the Sand. GUILTY

Instagram, cliche, photos, photography, snapshots, vacation, toes in the sand

On vacation in Barcelona. Lazy pic? Sure… lazy day.

2. Clouds. GUILTY

instagram, cliche, pictures, photos, images, how to take better pictures, miami, south beach, airplane, palm trees

Blue skies smiling at me in South Beach.

3. Food Porn. GUILTY

instagram, yeah burger, atlanta, cliche, food porn

Food porn? You bet! Can’t get enough of Yeah! Burger in Atlanta.

4. Nail Art (fingernails did up). INNOCENT! 

5. Inspiration Quotes. GUILTY

instagram, inspirational quote, putt-putt, cliche

Putt-putt wisdom, but wisdom nonetheless.

6. Tall Buildings Shot from the Ground. INNOCENT! (Surprisingly)

7. Latte Art. INNOCENT! (Surprisingly again…)

8. SMS Conversations. INNOCENT!

9. Airplane Wings. INNOCENT!

10. Bathroom Mirror Selfies. INNOCENT!

11. Circle of Feet. GUILTY

My sisters, nieces and I got our toenails painted. Nice family outing. (I'm the one with the hairy toes on the left.) Wait -- does this count as Nail Art, too?

My sisters, nieces and I got our toenails painted. Nice family outing. (I’m the one with the hairy toes on the left.) Wait — does this count as Nail Art, too?

12. Sunsets. GUILTY

Instagram, pics, photos, cliche, photographs, snapshots, Atlanta, sunset

Not your typical sunset pic, but a sunset pic all the same. Down North Avenue in Atlanta.

Six out of 12, maybe seven if you count the toenails thing twice. Is that good? Bad? I don’t know… But I’m not sure any of this is such a terrible thing, as suspicious as I remain of clichés in text. And I think Mashable missed a few. From my feed, I would add:

1. Blooming flowers.


2. Geometric shapes of hallways, portals, etc.

photo 1

3. Completely pointless selfies.

photoAre they overused and lazy — or part of the point,  the sharing of sights that catch your eye, little moments of your life? It depends on why you use Instagram, I suppose. Are you simply sharing, or are you trying to attract people and motivate an audience toward some action?

It also depends on how much effort you’re willing to make to get a more distinctive image. My friend and professional photographer Ben Gray offers some easy tips here.

What do you think? Have any Instagram cliches of your own? Let me hear from you, and follow my Instagram account here.

3 Easy Tips from the Pros for Taking Better Photos with Your Phone

If everyone’s a writer in the Internet age, then it’s doubly true that everyone’s a photographer.

We all take a lot of pictures, mostly on our phones. It’s fun, it’s easy and — unlike in the prehistoric days when we had to develop film — it’s a source of cheap and instant gratification.

But are you doing it right?

If you’re like me, you might not even notice that sometimes you’re taking pictures that will show telephone poles growing out of someone’s head … or you might look at the photo later and say, It really wasn’t that dark in there.

I’m no expert. But I’ve had the privilege of working with great professional photographers and designers over the years. And they’ve been kind enough to share pointers that are so basic and simple, even I have benefitted from using them.

So try these out next time you’re taking selfies or shots of the family, the dogs or even landscapes.

And shoot a LOT. It’s digital!

1. The Rule of Thirds. You know how Instagram puts a tic-tac-toe board over your screen? It’s to help you compose the image so that the subject is where it should be. And most of the time, it’s at one of the four intersection points. Use this with any camera, any time. Just divide the screen into thirds horizontally and thirds vertically, and put the main subject at one of the points where the lines cross.

2. Look at the entire screen. What is behind the subject and what’s filling the rest of the image area? If you’re taking a photo of mom in the living room, is there a giant floral arrangement behind her that will make her look like an alien peacock? Is the wallpaper so loud it competes with her Christmas sweater?

3. It’s all about the lighting. Be sure to touch the screen on the main subject — mom’s face, for instance — so your phone or camera adjusts to light her. Be careful of putting people in front of windows or other bright light — it can make them appear so dark that you can’t see them in the photo.

THE BAD (mine)

photography tips, iPhone, how to take better photos, Georgia Tech, GA Tech, undergraduates, North Avenue, Atlanta

What’s wrong with this picture? A lot! (I can say that because I took it.) My friend Pete Cross, who is a sensational photographer, pointed out that I have a telephone pole growing out of one of the guy’s heads AND a ‘Do Not Enter’ sign on his ear. Also, the shadows are unfortunate. I could’ve just moved around them a bit to get a better shot.

THE GOOD (a pro’s)

Ben Gray, photos, photography, iphone photos, how to take better pictures, Atlanta, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ben Gray liked the image of nature overcoming the sign, and he added to it by following the Rule of Thirds down the right side. He also waited for a little action in the background. Ben says adding a little activity, or something different in another plane, adds to the shot.

MORE BEN GRAY:  His #runography project

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When the Photographer Started Running, What Did He Get? #Runography, of Course

We all long for a career doing something we love.

Ben Gray, Atlanta, Journal-Constitution, AJC, running, runner, ultra distance, ultra-marathon, marathon, people who run crazy distances, instagram, runography, belt line

He carries a little tripod for the occasional selfie.

Some of us find passion in a hobby.

Ben Gray has both – and a way to combine them in a new creative project on social media.

Five days a week, Ben, 43, wraps his iPhone in a plastic baggie and tucks it into the inside-waistband pocket of his running shorts. Then Ben – an award-winning photojournalist and an ultra-marathon runner — hits the streets, trails and backroads of Atlanta for runs that can last several hours.

Along the way, when he spots something that would make a good photo, he stops, takes out the iPhone, gets a quick shot – and uploads it to his Instagram account with the #runography hashtag.

Ben Gray, Atlanta, Journal-Constitution, AJC, running, runner, ultra distance, ultra-marathon, marathon, people who run crazy distances, instagram, runographyThen he keeps on running.

Ben estimates he’ll log 2,000 miles this year. He’s burned 163,000 calories so far in 2014. This year, he ran his first 100-mile race. And he only started four years ago (not counting high school track).

At age 39, Ben had covered the Peachtree Road Race for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years. He always thought it looked like fun, so he decided to start training for the 10K.

“I hated it when I started,” he says now. “The turning point was when I could go a distance and actually get somewhere. I could find different routes and check out different neighborhoods.”

Soon he was running from the AJC’s Dunwoody office to the Lindbergh MARTA station. His wife and two kids would drive from their Southwest Atlanta home to their Decatur church 11 miles away, and he’d meet them there on foot.

The Peachtree led to his first marathon, then first 50K, 50-miler, 100K and onward.

That takes a lot of training, but a photographer’s eyes are never blind to what he’s passing. The iPhone is easy to carry and Ben likes the constraints of it and posting the shots immediately. No fuss, no filters, no slowing the heart rate — and no treating it like an assignment for work.

He’s growing a following on Instagram and considering ways to take #runography to another level.

“It’s really about what I like and what I’m seeing,” he says. “And hopefully, other people like it, too.”

Follow Ben on Instagram 

Click here for 3 easy tips for better pics

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