On the fine art of being funny

Today, I received a fine epistle penned by the creative folks at Victors & Spoils. E-epistle to be exact (it was an email). One thing that struck me deep while reading this opus magnum – I am sure the people who created this text (quoted below) meant well and just wanted to be funny. It’s just knowing when to stop is something that they haven’t mastered yet. There is a fine line between being outgoing and funny and being phony and disrespectful. As the old saying goes, “too much good is no good”…

The aforementioned opus follows:

{quote begins}

Congratulations. You are smarter than a baby.

Thank you for joining the Creative Department at Victors & Spoils. And kudos to you. Because you are smarter than most infants.

Now it’s not that we have anything against babies, really. But we know a smart person when we see one. And we’d like you to feel good about yourself. So let’s look at the facts. You know how to work a computer. You somehow found our website. You can negotiate pull-downs, click on crap, type within the tricky confines of tiny text fields, paste links to your work. And glory on high, you can also press send.

Can some slobbery baby do that? No way. They can’t even hold in their urine. But man are we glad you can. Because as we continue to grow, and as the creative opportunities at V&S become more numerous and juicy, the more we’ll be reaching out to you for your creative genius. And we’d rather you didn’t pee on us when we do.

So for now, be sure to confirm your membership and stay tuned for further correspondence from us once we have a choice new brief for which we think you’d be right. While you’re hanging tight check out the projects we currently have available at victorsandspoils.com, they’re projects open to all, and we’d love to see what you could do.

Confirm your account by clicking this link – Confirm my account


Victors & Spoils

{quote ends}


On business, intelligence and spy games

Until today, I used to think that “business intelligence” is yet another biz buzzword aimed to glorify all those pie charts, diagrams that go only up and never down and all those other games that “them suits” play.

That was until today. Exhibit one – picture on the left. Me being ignorant of the obvious fact hidden in the plain sight: in the phrase “business intelligence” the key word is “intelligence”, as is in “intelligent” and also as in those paperback spy novels you can buy at any airport for under $10 apiece.

Today, I tried to do what seemed to be a very simple if tedious task – put together a rough list of California-based companies that may be interested in my services as a photographer. Wikipedia gave me a rough list broken down by the industry and being naive and ignorant (see the illustration), I thought it was going to be a smooth sailing. Soon, I found that it was far more absorbing and challenging job than most online games and not unlike gathering the spy data in those novels.

Consider the following: in most cases, there is no single source of information you can turn to to get this type of data. Plus, people are not exactly eager to share that stuff either. For example, let’s say we are after a company “A”, which manufactures say pewter trinkets, which appeal to me both aesthetically and photographically. Naturally, I want to find out who is in charge of marketing and creative decisions in company “A” and contact them. Easy, right?

First, I jump into the Agency Access database, only to learn that company “A” is not listed. Knowing that the company is large enough to hit the Agency radar, I proceed to Google the company name. That usually turns up boatloads of shopping links plus a few references to LinkedIn, an expensive equivalent of Facebook of the business world. Quick search in LinkedIn reveals that yes, the company in question does have a creative director and a few marketing people but their names are hidden. Still, at this point I already know what I’m hunting for. And the hunt it is. Jumping between LinkedIn, Facebook, Google, blogs, stolen bicycle reports and TwitterPics allows me to cross reference and zero in on people who are otherwise completely hidden. I feel almost like playing spy games: a freelance graphics designer who posted some blog say, four years ago, leads me to the name of then art director, which by now left the company but a couple of years ago, he posted a picture of another guy, who now is the person in question. Now, I know the name and need to turn it into a contact. Yet another round of Google, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. Then another. Trying to cross reference with a different person. Hit. We have a contact. I feel victorious. Move onto the next one.

A few years ago, I overheard one rather well known guy saying “I love all that marketing stuff!”. He was really enthusiastic. Back then, I could not fathom how anyone could like that stuff. Now, I’m getting the taste of it. It’s just like one big spy game!


Studio Photography: Lightbox setup "on the go"

Every now and then, I get to shoot a translucent (or somewhat translucent) object that looks a lot better with the light shining through it – be it a fragrance bottle, slice of food or just some autumn leaves. Here I would like to share a quick and easy setup for this kind of shoots – I have learned it from David Turner and did some minor tweaking to it to make it more “portable”. I like this setup because it is very simple and forgiving, does not require a lot of precise measuring and literally “foolproof”.

Our objective is to get the light shine through the shooting surface (and the object placed on it) into the lens and to make sure it does not cause lens glare and is as even across the field as possible. The trick is to use bounced light (portrait people often call this technique “skipping” or “skip”) – instead of turning the lights towards the camera, we turn them towards some reflective surface and use the bounce as the main light source.

These are the steps to set it up:

  • Find a large enough reflective surface – it could be a piece of white fabric, white cardboard or foamcore (this is what I like to use) or anything that is large enough and bright enough to reflect the light. Avoid shiny surfaces – we are looking for soft diffused light
  • Set up two light – one on each side of the surface at about the same distance from it and at about the same height on the stand. Point the lights “criss-cross” (as pictured) so that each light points roughly to the opposite edge of the shooting area. This will allow us to avoid the “hot spot” in the center and make the illumination more even across the field. Put the lights at the same power level setting
  • Take light reading in the center and closer to one of the corners – if the difference is more than 1/2 stop then it is likely that the lights are too close – pull the lights back a bit, readjust and take another reading.
  • And that’s really all to it – enjoy your shoot!


The image on the left is just one example of what could be done in about 10 minutes flat – I’m sure you will find many other ways to use this setup creatively 🙂

Happy shooting!