Food Photography – Behind The Scenes

Frank comes home from a long week of corporating and I ask him can you help me with a video shoot on the weekend and he just drives me around town all Saturday and rents me a trailer and loads it for me and the question if I deserve all of it doesn’t even cross his mind while it’s the prominent and permanent one on mine.

And on Sunday I hand him a camera and I ask: Can you film like this. Handheld and lots of rack-focusing and shallow depth of field. And he says I don’t know but I can try. And on Monday, I check his footage and I laugh. Cause it’s all handheld and lots of rack-focusing and shallow depth of field. And then it’s so much more than that and I just feel helplessly overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.

And my friend Laura. I text her, can you be my model. It’s a video shoot and it’s kind of totally last minute. And she replies immediately. When should I be where and don’t you worry and I’ll get a hand treatment. And then this: Oh, I am so excited. And she shows up and just gets to work and carries me.

What is it with this beautiful world? Seriously: How is it this kind and beautiful and this full of love?

Here is a little trailer:

What is Storytelling?

What-Is-Storytelling
Really, what does it mean? Telling a story with a picture, a video, a paragraph of text, a website?

The difference is feelings. Touching hearts. The recognition of humanness: I am part of this and this is part of me. I get it! Or: They get me! Energy. Imagination. Feeling connected and less alone. Braver, maybe. Part of something bigger.

Authenticity, imperfection. Genuine, unstaged and unscripted. Moments. Messy and real and human and honest. Soul. That’s the difference. Created from a place of truth and courage. And people can’t help but recognize it and be drawn to it.

There are two donut shops on my way to work. Both have a signpost. One reads: Berkeley’s best donuts. The other one: Donuts: The juiciest sin of your day.

Storytelling.

It’s a pair of worn, aged, muddy work boots next to a pair of tiny pink ballerina flats standing by the entrance door. It’s a tray of cookies fresh from the oven, one missing, and a little hand sneaking in… The genuine smile of a happy moment versus the empty smile in a posed portrait.

The Patagonia mission statement: “Committed to Uncommon Culture. We prefer the human scale to the corporate, vagabonding to tourism, the quirky and lively to the toned-down and flattened out.”

Storytelling.

(Comparison. The Exxon Mobile mission statement reads: “Continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of busin…”) Did you fall asleep? Yeah. Me too.

The opposite of storytelling: Unsurprising, uninspired, unimaginative. Empty. Expected. Playing it safe. Business jargon. Perfection, sterility, façade, machine-made, conformism.

It’s why I’m so certain that we need stories: They help us remember that we are human. That we’re in this together. And that we’re so much more alike than we are different.

At Home in the World

Of rainy days and cold nights and loved people and a journey home. Of sparkly lights and gratitude and longing. Of friendship, more than anything. Of feeling lost and of suddenly and unexpectedly and all-encompassingly, feeling at home in the world.

 

Made with Love

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time making and taking pictures of food. I started because I needed to build my portfolio and then I got crazy passionate (=obsessed) about practicing and getting better.

The pictures below are my favorite ones from these past few months. A lot of the dishes are Vegan, all of them are dairy-free and gluten-free and made without refined sugar. Kind food. Made with love. Made to help us feel loved and made to help us heal. If you’re curious about the recipes, I posted a l lot of them on my Instagram feed. A few of them have also been published on The FeedFeed. Or just ask me and I will happily and proudly let you know how something was made.

And so, as I wrap up this chapter, I wish you this: I wish you food made with love and I wish you time to savor it. Most importantly, I wish you absolute certainty in knowing that you are worthy of both. <3

 

Photography – A Checklist

Photography-Checklist

Do you get stuck when you take pictures, because the photo doesn’t look as amazing as you would like it to? I do. All the time. To figure out what I need to change, I go through a checklist in my head. I thought I’d share that list with you, hoping it gives you a system for analyzing your pictures and figuring out what aspects need more work.

Object/Subject/Scene:
Photography starts with seeing. When we can see the beauty of an object, a scene or a person, we’re half-way there. Conversely, if we try to take a picture of something that we can’t see the beauty of, taking an amazing picture is somewhere between difficult and impossible. So: We have to see beauty first.

Composition:
Shapes, arrangement, angles, scale, proportions, distribution, crop. Camera position, camera angle, focal length, focal point, depth of field, motion blur. Textures. Background to object/subject ratio. Background to object/subject contrast.

Color:
Tonal range, gradient, complementary colors, color ratio, color pattern, interrupting color, dominant color, color blocks, color chaos, black and white.

Light:
Number of light sources, daylight or studio light, number and position of reflectors/flashes, light temperature, light intensity, light direction, contrast, highlight intensity, shadow intensity, exposure.

Story:
Soul, human-ness, authenticity, imperfection, history, association/reference, a wink, a hidden smile, inspiration, emotion.

Post Production:
Adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation and individual colors to communicate a specific mood.

I could work on this list for weeks and it would still get more exhaustive and cohesive, but I think it’s a good start. I would absolutely LOVE to hear what you would add, challenge or change. Please let me know if something needs more explanation, too.

Wishing you good light, always.

Launch: Barr Necessities

It’s been a labor of love: A storytelling website built for my client-turned-friend Natalia Barr and her (gluten-free, all-organic, low-glycemic, whole-foods) patisserie- and catering company “Barr Necessities.”

We started from scratch: Customer surveys, research, business soul-searching. The result: A (re)defined brand identity. Within this framework, the rest was easy. And so much fun: Lots of baking and almost as much eating, a two-day photo shoot with champagne and music, texts and emails full of ideas and love and inspiration, creative meetings fueled by coffee and laughter, a new logo, design iterations, writing, coding, launching.

And here is the new site. We went for a simple, clean and focused structure. A rustic and natural feel; hand-made, craftsmanship. Chic. A little playful and a touch of vintage. The site is optimized for speed, for all screen sizes and browsers and for Search Engines. Most importantly though, it’s optimized for people. The guiding light throughout was to create a site people could love. Delight and inspiration and smiles.

Go check it out. We’re both so proud of it:  http://www.Barr-Necessities.com

Barr Necessities Website

Logo Design – Barr Necessities

Businesses, so very often, are started in a living room or spare bedroom, a garage or a home kitchen. Managing the hundreds of tasks that come with the new (ad)venture, branding, by necessity, is often a second thought. A friend with mad design skills creates a logo and packaging, a neighbor with WordPress experience builds the first website, and a former colleague with photography experience generously agrees to shoot portraits and product pictures. It’s the universe rising up to meet and support courage and determination.

When the business takes off and grows bigger, there is often a need and an opportunity to dedicate resources to intentionally building a brand. That brand-building process starts with some serious business soul-searching, research and customer feedback, and ends with a clearly defined identity that is the basis for everything that is created to visualize and communicate the brand to the world: Logo, website, photography, videos, slogan, copy, social media- and blog posts, packaging, collateral, display- and/or store design, email newsletter… Everything.

When we finished the brand-building process for Barr Necessities, we realized that the new identity called for a new logo. On top of the playfulness and sweetness the old logo communicated, we wanted the new one to stand for the other brand aspects we had determined: Health, nature and sustainability, courage and confidence, youth and simplicity, and the fierce determination to make an impact on the world by changing the food industry.

Below are the two logos. Old and New. Do you recognize the additional aspects we wanted the new logo to communicate?

old:

new:

Storytelling: Start Here

Storytelling-Start-Here

Define the gift that your company offers to your customers.
Find out what that gift means to them.
Create authentic conversation around that meaning.

Make sure all communication is created for people: Connecting, inspiring, giving, entertaining.

Focus: Brevity. Simplicity. Structure.

Tools: Design. Photography. Writing. Video. (Motion)-Graphics. Beauty helps!

If you get stuck, listen to your heart. It’s the best marketing consultant you never paid for.

Denali – The Great One

North. Wilderness. Expedition.

Remote. Elements. Cold.

Tundra. Ice. Glaciers.

Survival. Danger. Edge. Fear. Exposure.

Solitude. And peace.

Curiosity. Freedom.

Feeling alive. An intense, clean feeling of being alive. Every single cell. Soul and body and universe aligned completely.

Bitter disappointment. Growth, in the end. Love.

And beauty more than anything. Incomprehensible, unspeakable, haunting beauty that is absolutely and completely beyond words.

Kintsukuroi


Kintsukuroi
It’s not the new and shiny that tells stories. It’s not the perfect, the cookie-cutter, the predictable. It’s not the straight road. Not the easy, not the painless.

You find stories in the cracks. In the light that gets in. In the gold that fills them. Mends them. They talk about sweat and tears, those cracks. About gritted teeth, hard work and courage. About the refusal to give up. They talk about detours and getting lost.

They talk about trust and faith and grace. Acceptance. Forgiveness. Gratitude. About learning and growing, and about the strength that is vulnerability.

Hope, mostly. Beauty, of course. And love. It always comes back to love. Showing the cracks takes courage. But here’s the thing: It’s the only story worth telling.

Family Portrait: Ranchers and Farmers

When my friend Susanne asked me to take pictures of her beautiful family, I spontaneously and immediately loved the idea. I haven’t done much people photography in the busy-ness of the last few years and I had started to really miss it.

We all fell in love with the idea of a ranch setting: California land, rolling hills, golden grass, a winding trail, weathered wooden fences and a winter sunset.

Susanne and her husband Tom picked the most adorable outfits and prepared their kids, Liam and Annika, by telling them they were going to be Ranchers and Farmers for the day.

The ice broke because cattle kept walking into our picture, because we laughed about avoiding the piles of cow poop, because the little ones watched the horizon through spy glasses and because Liam got to pull his sister up and down the trail in a wooden wagon. When it all started to feel like a big outdoor family adventure, we got these pictures:

Architectural Renderings – Comparing Finishes

Our client, Suffolk Construction, is building an apartment complex in San Francisco’s Mission Bay. Future buyers of the apartment units can choose between three different styles of finishes. Suffolk asked us to visualize these three styles with architectural renderings. Below are two views of a sample unit, each showing the three different finishes. We added furniture to emphasize the differences, add personality and spark imagination in potential buyers:

Architectural Rendering Comparing Finishes

Architectural Rendering

Farewell

I was named after her first-born daughter, who passed away not even a year old. She never called me by that name, though. ‘Kindchen’ is what she called me. A loving expression for ‘little child’ in the German of her generation.

She wasn’t like the grandmas in story books. She wasn’t the soft, motherly, cookie-baking type. This morning, lying awake in the dark hours before dawn, I was suddenly able to name the gift she gave me instead: She was an example of strength. Of courage, resilience and independence, of self-respect, pride and tenacity.

She was whip-smart. A savvy businesswoman. A matriarch. Loud, heated conversations about politics over whiskey and cigars were part of every holiday dinner at her house around the heavy, antique oak table in her majestic living room. It sounded like they were fighting, but even as a kid I could sense how much she was loving these debates with her three sons.

I believe to know that she loved life. Her laugh came straight from her heart. She skied, a woman born in 1912. She loved dogs. She loved the mountains, too. We always agreed that going up is much easier than going down. During air raids in World War II, she did not go into the shelter like they were instructed to. She wanted to die outside, not buried in a basement.

When I was a little girl, I was terrified of thunderstorms. One summer night, I must have been about five years old, the sky went dark while we were having dinner around the barbecue in my family’s backyard. Everything was rushed inside the house as the rain started pouring and thunder and lightning began raging. I was hiding in the darkest corner of the checkroom when my grandma’s calm voice reached my terrified mind. She asked if I could be very brave for just one minute and I was curious enough to follow her outside. She sat me down on the porch in a chair next to her. Sheltered by the eaves, but just inches away from the pouring rain. A shaking little girl, covering her eyes in fear. And then she presented the lightshow. She searched and pointed. She held her breath. She marveled at the beauty, the color, the shape of each lightning strike. The more strikes, the louder the thunder, the greater her excitement. I forgot to be scared. There was simply no room for fear. I wanted to sit there with her forever.

The intervals became longer, then the storm was gone. She gave me at least two gifts that night: She gave me storms. And she taught me an invaluable lesson about fear…

She died yesterday, 101 years old. Thousands of miles away, I did not get to say goodbye. I didn’t get a chance to thank her, either. I would have loved to tell her that she’ll always be with me. Every storm I weather, every mountain I climb. She’ll be there.

While I am starting to understand that she is gone, I hope she has made it safely to her next destination. I hope she has met up with the ones who went before her: Her husband and her beloved sister. Her daughter, her dog Ingo and all the others who shared her journey here. I hope they’re all sitting around a big table, drinking Underberg and playing a deck of Rommé. I hope they’re laughing and debating. Talking about the wild ride they had. And I hope that when it’s my time to go, they make a little room at that table. I just want to sit with them. Just sit, listen to their stories and hear her say my name. Kindchen.

Marketing Goals

Marketing-Goals

If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.
~Lawrence J. Peter

When you start building your Marketing Strategy, please feel free to use the example goals below to determine your organization’s goals. I’m hoping this work will help you spend your marketing resources (time and money) wisely and more efficiently:

 
 

    1. BUSINESS GOALS:
      1. Increasing revenue
      2. Increasing profit
      3. Increasing profitability (ratio of profit to revenue)
      4. Increasing Return on Investment (ROI)
      5. Growth
      6. Triple Bottom Line (People, Planet, Profit)
        1. Increasing contribution to society
        2. Investing in sustainable business practices
        3. Improving employee benefits, happiness, comfort, salaries…
      7. Increasing market share
      8. Developing new markets
      9. Optimizing service portfolio structure
        (creating opportunities to offer specific products/services)
      10. Optimizing pricing structure
        (creating opportunities to charge a certain price)
      11. Optimizing distribution structure
        (creating opportunities to use or expand specific distribution channels)

 

    1. PRIMARY MARKETING GOALS:
      1. Increasing brand awareness
      2. Increasing brand recognition
      3. Conveying benefits
      4. Cultivating preference
      5. Lead generation
      6. Image change
      7. Increasing conversion rate
      8. Increasing customer value
      9. Customer retention
      10. Deepening brand loyalty
      11. Differentiation
      12. Collecting customer feedback
      13. Increasing intensity or frequency of use

 

  1. SECONDARY MARKETING GOALS:
    1. Getting permission for continuous contact
      (Facebook, Twitter, email newsletter)
    2. Upgrading permission
      (Twitter follower to email newsletter subscriber)
    3. Building brand ambassadors
    4. Collecting public endorsements
    5. Increasing website traffic
    6. Extending website visit time
    7. Reducing website bounce rate
    8. Increasing Search Engine Ranking
    9. Improving Organic Search Engine results
    10. Increasing number of blog subscribers
      (total or number of target group subscribers)
    11. Increasing number of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, Google+ connections…
    12. Receiving more comments on a company blog
      (or more high quality comments or more comments from target audience members)
    13. Receiving more incoming links
      (or more incoming links from high quality sources)
    14. Getting people to interact with content more
      (sharing, commenting, tweeting, pinning, liking…)

Why People Share Ideas

Why-People-Share-Ideas

I attended an online seminar by marketing legend Seth Godin a few years back. I have used the following part of his advice in my work ever since and I hope you will find it as eye-opening and helpful as me:

In the Digital Age, the success of your marketing (and ultimately your business) depends on people spreading your story. Knowing this, it’s a great idea to think about the actual reasons people spread ideas: What motivates them to share something with their network? What moves them to talk about you? Once you know this, you can craft your stories and create your content in a way that makes them share-worthy for people.

Here are the reasons people share ideas:

  • Because your idea says something that they have trouble saying directly
  • Because sharing your idea makes them feel smart
  • Because the idea is funny, and they don’t want to laugh by themselves
  • Because they feel lonely, and sharing an idea makes them feel less lonely
  • Because they are angry and want to share that anger
  • Because they want to connect people to one-another
  • Because they want to be generous
  • Because they want to help people by providing them with valuable information and insight
  • Because they want you to succeed
  • Because they have no choice
  • Because there is a financial benefit
  • Because they want their network to avoid an external threat
  • Because they have no other way of re-paying you for the work that you do other than to share it
  • Because if everyone knew what they know, they would be happier
  • Because they want to amaze and entertain their friends
  • Because they want to reveal aspects of their true selves to friends to build stronger relationships

If you can think of more reasons, please share them with in the comment section.

And as always: Thank you for reading!

Business Plan, Marketing Strategy and Communication Strategy

Marketing-Strategy

I have a thing for logic. I cannot work or be at peace with or even memorize information that has flawed logic.

When I started studying marketing, I couldn’t find a comprehensive model of a marketing strategy that combined all the seemingly complex marketing terms into a logical order of how they relate to one-another. So I built my own from the information I could find in books and publications. I refined, restructured and extended the model with the experience of building marketing strategies for companies in real life in the Digital Age.

Please feel free use the model below to help you develop a Marketing Strategy for your own company. It will take more time upfront to use a systematic approach, but you will have a chance at actually building a consistent, recognizable brand with measurable results from your marketing efforts. Let me know if there is anything I can do to help or explain.

 
 

    1. BUSINESS PLAN:
      1. Business Description
      2. Business Goals
      3. Business Organization/ -Structure
      4. Financial Projections
        1. Business Calculations
        2. Cost Calculations
        3. Revenue Projections
        4. Projected Service/Product Unit Cost
        5. Profit- and Loss Projection (Bottom Line. Income Statement.)
        6. Cash Flow Projection (Money in versus money out.)
        7. Projected Balance Sheet (Needed resources and funding.)
        8. Breakeven Analysis (Marks the beginning of profit-making.)

 

    1. MARKETING STRATEGY:
      1. Market Analysis
        1. Rich description of 2-3 major competitors: Service portfolio, distribution- & pricing model, USP, UVP, UAP
        2. Market size. Market trends. Market segmentation.
      2. Keyword research:
        1. Commonly used words
        2. Words used by target audience
        3. Search volume
        4. Rankings of competitors for keywords (page-/domain-) authority
      3. Target Market
      4. Target Audience (3-7 Marketing Personas)
      5. Distribution Model
      6. Product-/ Service Portfolio
      7. Unique Product-/ Service Style
      8. Pricing Model
      9. Marketing Goals
      10. Positioning
        1. History
        2. Story
        3. Unique Selling Proposition
        4. Unique Value Proposition
        5. Unique Advertising Proposition
        6. Brand Gift
        7. Proof Of Benefit
        8. Brand Identity
          1. Mission
          2. Brand Archetype
          3. Brand Personality
          4. Tonality
          5. Corporate Design

 

  1. COMMUNICATION STRATEGY
    1. Communication Goals
    2. Budget | ROI Calculations
    3. Media Mix
      1. Website
      2. Search Engine Optimization
      3. Social Media Platforms
      4. Online Advertising
      5. Offline Promotions
    4. Content Strategy
    5. Tracking | Analysis | Optimization

Virtual Design and Construction (VDC)

Virtual Design and –Construction is a fundamental change in the construction industry. Traditional processes are replaced with a data-centric approach that increases the efficiency of the building process.

Major changes in business processes and -procedures are known to cause fear. People are afraid to leave familiar territory, get left behind or become obsolete. A natural reaction to ignore, stall and ostracize the change, which can cost a company business opportunities, a competitive edge and reputation.

We created this video for our client Webcor Builders as an internal and external marketing tool to help replace that fear of Virtual Design and –Construction with understanding, excitement and hope.

Many people have helped with the creation of this video. I want to thank each one of you for your hard work and dedication, for your creativity, passion and ideas, and for your spirit of making things happen and doing remarkable work. I appreciate you:

Michael Brown, Alan A. Chun, Juani Fernandez, Joanne Filipas, Kurt Forsegren, Rich Gangitano, Frank Haase, Christian Hedberg, Blair Hinojosa, David Hungerford, Clay Kempf, Duston Leary, Todd Mercer, Anne Merics, Jocelyn Mezofenyi, Pete Rainier, Peter Sosnowski, Jansen Tredway, Sven Van der Sluis, Roy Wanguhu and Matt Zwetzig.

Virtual Construction on the Transbay Transit Center

Webcor’s Virtual Building Team under the direction of Frank Haase uses Virtual Construction on the Transbay Transit Center in downtown San Francisco to provide unprecedented planning- and management capabilities to all project stakeholders for efficient, fact-based decision-making.

For the production of this movie, special thanks go to Christian Hedberg for setting up the most sophisticated render farm I know of and to Blair Hinojosa and Juani Fernandez for your comprehensive plan to organize endless export files and for your other tireless, skillful and supportive work on this project. Special thanks also go to Frank Haase for your vision, direction and leadership and for your much admired talent to always see both the forest and the trees.

Talking Heads Video

A ‘Talking Heads’ video production for our client Tasha Beauchamp with “Elder Pages Online.”

The team spirit, professionalism, skills and kindness every single one of you brought to this project has made the job and the day on set special and unforgettable for me. Thank you all: Darren Angus, Tasha Beauchamp, Doug Boyd, Laurel Garwin, Lori Grbac, Frank Haase, Karen Kahn, Ray MedVed, Chris Morrell, Kris Ravetto, Charlie Rowland, Chaya Rowland, Cynthia Seats and Anne Stark-Robertson.

Helping is the New Selling

Helping-is-the-New-Selling

When you sell, everything you say is about YOU. When you help, everything you say is about THEM.

Here’s how a “sales meeting” is different when your objective is helping, instead of selling:

  • You spend more time listening, understanding and advising than posturing, pitching, and bragging.
  • You don’t waste anybody’s time by telling them things about you that don’t apply to them.
  • When you understand their problem, you offer a solution.
  • The solution you suggest is designed to optimize their bottom line, not yours.
  • You occasionally say: “I don’t know and I’ll find out.”
  • You also occasionally say: “For this part of the job, I know people better than me, and I’ll bring them on board.”
  • It’s a conversation more than a presentation, although you may be showing the same material.

When you walk away, you leave behind a feeling of honesty and sincerity. They have confidence in your ability to solve their problem. They feel understood because you listened. And you walk away with something that’s more valuable than everything else: Trust.

How’s that for a successful sales meeting?

P.S.: The New Sales Person is not the one with the thickest smoke and the shiniest mirrors…