Articles by: Heather Mariano
To everything there is a season…
(Turn! Turn! Turn! by Pete Seeger, and from Ecclesiastes 3)
It has been an incredible season for me at Go Media. When I started as Project Manager way back in February of 2008, I knew almost nothing about the graphic design and web development industry. The amount of knowledge I’ve gained from working here and learning from our team is not quantifiable and for that I am grateful. I’ve spent the last 5 years getting to know each person here and I’ve made some great friendships. During my time here I grew professionally as a project manager and I grew personally – I met my (now) husband, we became friends, started dating several months later and were married in 2010. We are now expecting our first baby in early February.
As the first woman pregnant at Go Media, I wasn’t sure how everyone would react, but the team has been wonderful opening doors for me, carrying boxes, not letting me climb those treacherous stairs more than necessary… the list goes on. With this big change, came the all important decision of how to continue working or not working here after the baby is born. Like many new mothers I have made the decision to stay home with my little guy and watch him grow. I will have my hands full I’m sure, but I also plan to grow my portrait photography business, Heather Mariano Photography.
I will miss the days of Go Media antics – Cedar Point trips, our annual day long Christmas party (this Wednesday!), random one-liners from Jeff, Dave the developer quotes, chats with Marissa & Liz, and the list just goes on and on… but I know I will be back to visit, everyone has to meet the little man!
ISO is one aspect of photography that is not exactly the same in the film and digital realms, but they are related. In film, ISO referred to the films light sensitivity or speed. This meant shooting 100 film would allow for a finer grain than shooting with 800 film. Typically the recommendation or guideline I followed was to shoot with 100 film in daylight and 400 film inside or in lower light (evening) like the image below.
In the digital age, ISO is still related to light sensitivity, but since you are not dealing with film it is the image sensor that is sensitive to light. The numbers mean the same thing in digital as they do in film, so the higher the number, the more grainy the image. Not too confusing once you start experimenting and comparing the images with different ISO settings. Many photographers don’t recommend going over 1600 unless you are purposely going for the grainy look. When photographing families and kids as I enjoy doing on evenings and weekends, I aim to keep my ISO between 100-400. If I’m shooting indoors, I’ll bump it up to 500-800 if needed.
This article does a great job explaining ISO as well.
Aperture is possibly one of my favorite settings to play with when I take proper time between shots because it can impact an image in dramatic ways. Aperture refers to the size of the lens opening which dictates how much light reaches the film (SLR) or image sensor (DSLR). Aperture does not impact an image on its own, it works in combination with shutter speed. Shutter speed is another very important component because it governs how long the shutter stays open, exposing light to the film or image sensor. When I studied film photography in high school and college, the general rule of thumb for shooting without a tripod was to not go below 1/60 for your shutter speed (1/60 refers to 1/60 of a second). Anything below 1/60 could be blurry from camera shake, you know since we’re human and all. Currently I don’t shoot with that low of a shutter speed when photographing kids, have you noticed how fast they can move? Staying higher than 1/100 is usually a good bet for me. I don’t mind some good motion blur, but if I’m going for a focused shot I don’t want that blur on every image.
Back to Aperture… Once you have your shutter speed determined, you can go about setting your aperture or vice versa if you’re shooting in aperture priority, the A setting. I tend to shoot in aperture priority mode when photographing kids because I like to make sure that the my depth of field is exactly as I want it for my subject. Depth of field is directly related to aperture – the lower the aperture, the shallower your depth of field, the higher your aperture, the deeper your depth of field. The following image is an example of a wide depth of field.
In simple terms, when your aperture or f-stop is low (f-stop 1.8, 2.2, 2.8) the items in the background are blurry, and when your aperture is high (f-stop 11, 16, 22) the items in your foreground and background are both in focus. For example, this photograph of a newborn was shot with a low aperture setting to ensure that anything in the background would not distract from the main focus, the baby’s head and hair.
When I’m shooting a group or a family, I will often increase the aperture so that one person is not out of focus and another person is in focus. I’ll often ramp up that aperture if the background will add more interest to the image as well.
So there it is, a crash course on ISO, Aperture, depth of field, and shutter speed. What part has confused you the most since you picked up your SLR or DSLR camera? What is your favorite setting to lead with ISO, aperture, shutter speed? Are any of these settings still a mystery?
A little bit of background
If you’re into design, you may have an interest in photography at least on a basic level or if you’re like me, you love photography (I specialize in family portrait photography). Some of you may have started a passion for photography when film was still the most popular medium. Some may have just picked up photography in the last year or so now that digital is the predominant medium. Either way, there will be some helpful tips in this post for you.
We live in the era of Photoshop which makes it easy to think we don’t have to worry about what the image looks like in our camera, but that does take some level of satisfaction out of the process. If you’re interested in challenging yourself in the photography arena, I recommend learning to love your images SOOC (straight out of camera). Others may disagree on this, especially anyone who is extremely proficient with Photoshop photo editing, so this is purely one photographer’s opinion. Feel free to decide what is best for you, but for the purposes of this post I will be sharing tips to create the best image SOOC. Cool?
1st tip – Read your manual
Seems obvious, doesn’t it? Your camera comes with a manual, so perhaps it contains some helpful information? Yet, for some reason it took me quite a while to actually crack that sucker open. Why? It might have something to do with my tendency to avoid directions of any kind. If something looks simple enough I will try to put it together on my own or I will try to figure it out without consulting the directions (and no, I am not a dude).
Here are some important basics that you can learn in your manual (I will talk about these items in additional posts):
- Aperture, f-stop settings
- Shutter speed
- White balance
- Focal points
Each of these items can really help you get to a place where you are satisfied with your SOOC images.
In my case, much of what I had learned when shooting with film transferred over to digital. However, my figure it out ability reached its limit and I couldn’t learn anymore just by playing with my DSLR. I decided it was time to turn to my manual to discover the best way to white balance my images (this is one area that is very different in digital v. film). Once I spent the time learning how my specific camera handles white balancing, I was once again excited to see what she (my Canon 50D) could do. In my experience, this was one important step in the process of being happy with my SOOC images. When you get to that point with your images, any post processing is minimal. The images I included here were shot in full sunlight with the ISO set at 200 and the f-stop set at 18. The white balance and exposure were spot on, so the only post processing I performed was slight hue/saturation and curves adjustment and increased sharpness. We’ll discuss ISO and Aperture more in the next post, so bring on the questions!
What have you done to improve your knowledge of your camera? Is your manual your best friend? Or are you still trying to figure out how to get out of auto mode? Let’s chat!
Jeff spoke to one of our clients, Lauren at Disciple Clothing, and asked some questions about her experience running an apparel company. Here are her responses, enjoy!
Can you tell our readers about Disciple, how it started?
Disciple started with a vision to bring faith based designs into mainstream fashion.
What are you working on currently?
I just finished up an entire children’s line ranging from sizes 6m-youth sizes. I have been branching out into retail establishments and selling wholesale to expand marketing the line. I revamped my website to include some lifestyle shots, so that people could envision themselves wearing the clothing. I recently participated in a fashion show here in NJ and have another one coming up June 1st that is set to travel around the country to other major cities!
As an entrepreneur/business owner, what do you think about the role that design plays in your business? When did you start paying attention to design and when did you feel like you needed to hire a designer?
Design has been at the forefront of Disciple. What sets a brand above another is the artwork, quality of the product, and branding behind it. Today the market is flooded with so many clothing brands that you need something to set yourself apart from everyone else, which is the design and finishes that are used to make them.
You started a clothing line in the era when everyone seems to have a clothing line, has this been a burden or has it helped?
It can be challenging at times, but I am confident that I bring the highest quality to my customers and bring the most up to date fashion trends to the marketplace. I really can’t pay attention to what everyone else is doing otherwise I find it gets distracting. The one good thing about it is that blanks are becoming more readily available and in a wide variety of colors and fabrics which is nice!
Any advice for folks either wanting to start a clothing line or those that already have one and how they can make it better?
I think people have to be realistic when starting a clothing company. It takes money to do it. I have had people who want to start a line, but don’t want to put out money to do it. With the competition out there it will be difficult to start a company and be profitable considering the costs are SO high for printing small quantities of shirts. For existing business, I always find it helpful to really talk to my customers and get their feedback and make adjustments based off of that. Otherwise, I would say to stay true to your brand and not try to chase after every new thing out there.
What has your experience been working with other designers?
I have been very blessed to work with a lot of great designers. I always look at portfolios of different designers. For my line, I like different looks, so I use different designers based on their style of work.
What do you like/dislike about working with other designers? What are things that you think could improve the process?
I think the most important thing is for designers to understand the brand they are designing for. This helps with a lot of design issues. For the most part I love giving a designer a concept and then see what their interpretation of it is! Sometimes it can be frustrating when you are communicating a design and it’s not exactly what you expected, but for the most part I’ve been very happy with all the design work I have contracted out. One final thought is taking a design to actual print can sometimes be a challenge! It can look great on a mock up, but when the printer looks at the design sometimes it cannot be printed like you are thinking due to size, print location, etc…so I feel it is important for the designers to have an understanding of what type of media the design will be going on and design accordingly.
What are your plans for the future of Disciple?
In the future, I plan to branch out more into the wholesale markets to get Disciple’s brand awareness out in the retail markets. I also plan to do more social media advertising and continue to do grass roots marketing as I have done already. I am working on some new accessories and a denim line to complete what Disciple has to offer to it’s customers. Above all else, I strive to provide the latest fashion trends along with the highest quality!
We recently had a chance to talk with one of our clients, Textile Republic, about their business and their experience with web design. We thought you might like to read their responses…
Tell us about the history of Textile Republic and how it was started?
The concept came about from Kim’s merchandise development experience. She kept running into a lack of unique and bold fabrics. Most lines had become stale and more corporate in style. Brian recommended a platform for inviting textile designers to join a community to connect the textile designers to the merchandise. The new printing technology took about two years to be developed. It now allows TR to create products on demand, and the client is able to customize the product with a unique pattern and make it their own.
At what point did you decide that good design could help TR?
Since we are a consumer facing business, and the business revolves around design, we needed a website that communicated our commitment to design. We also needed experts to help make the user process very friendly and easy to use. ‘Good design is everything’ – Kim Osborne Milstein.
How did you select your design firm?
We specifically researched design firms located in Cleveland. We randomly came across a website that we really liked and wondered who designed it – that’s how we found Go Media.
What has your experience been working with designers?
You either have it or you don’t. Designers who stay up with trends, understand what’s happening in the marketplace, those are the designers who impress us. A bad design process can be like banging your head against the wall. Good designers can bring new ideas to the table. Go Media is very good at getting up to speed and knowing what we want even when we’re not sure what we want. Understanding the concept, delivering a solution that fits our vision, that’s what makes the process a great one.
How has good design aided you in your business?
We’ve received a lot of great feedback about the website. If a customer has hesitation about purchasing from a start-up like ours, when they come onto our site they can tell immediately that this is a professional company and they like what TR is about. The site doesn’t deter potential customers. It’s the first impression online and we have to have a solid impact.
How did the design or development process shift your goals for TR?
The process didn’t shift our goals, but rather it helped focus our goals and vision.
What are the future plans for TR?
TR is always looking for emerging talent to build on the existing base of talented designers we partner with. We have some great products in the pipeline that we will be adding in the near future. Our goal is to keep a focus on the artists and give credit where credit is due. We’re exploring the idea of rolling out a retail location as well.