Let’s Talk About Social Media Influencers

There’s no denying that this new “occupation” is growing strong, and everyday we see more and more “influencer” hit the internet and social medias. Almost all of the portray the same image to the general public: they are very famous, got a lot of followers, living a great life, travel places, getting their hands on every single new gadget/product released, their words are assurance of quality that you can trust and so on. It’s hard to avoid, as people become more and more addicted to social media, spending most of their times surfing Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc., they start to follow (or even worship?) these influencers. People starts to think that these influencers just get free stuffs from people, review them and earn money, and get all the fames and likes without much of the hard work required. In the end, a lot of people (especially youngsters) are pursuing to become an influencer too.

I had never really followed a lot of influencers myself as I don’t really have good impression on most of them. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not dismissing them all together. I must say there are really people who genuinely purchase their stuff and gave honest and unbias review through social media platform. Some may receive review sample from companies, but they will still test the product thoroughly and share his/her experience of using it with the rest of the world. There’s a lot of hardwork putting all together, it’s not as easy and as simple as what most of us thought it would be. Behind the scene, you’ll need equipment to record the picture/video, you’ll need content (script or write-up), you’ll need to think through from various angles and aspects before presenting your view, you need to understand your audience and cater for their interest, you’ll need to stay in touch with your audience, you’ll need to build up connections with companies and even other influencers, you need to spend time in doing marketing and branding and so on.

Of course, there will always be the rotten ones among them all. Those that just praise whatever products that are being sponsored to them, those that plagiarise on others’ work, those who gave false information and mislead people and so on. Not to mentioned there are those who simply “use their fame” to ask for free stuff from companies (like free hotel stay, free food, free products), post a bad review if they don’t get free stuff that they asked for, get sponsorship and commission work based upon plagiarised work that’s stolen from others, spread negativities, earn a share from every product sold through their fake reviews and so on. We ourselves need to be vigilant and don’t simply accept everything that’s being thrown on us. Think, digest and perhaps make some comparison of the same topic against others before making a judgement. This way, we should be able to fend off those low quality “influencers” and only keeping those that really bring values to the community.

Here I would like to just share a few of the people I followed to get information and perhaps inspiration at times. I get to know them via YouTube, as it is probably the only place I’m spending my time more often. I don’t really use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other social media platform that often, as I find that usually there are more “fake” content in these other platforms. They are a little niche, but hope you’ll find any of them useful to you, in any case. Till then.

Thomas Heaton – Landscape Photography

Dave 2D – Tech and Gadget

Bo Ismono – Bags and Travel Gears

Beauty in the banal

Often when we face photography burned out, we will be giving reasons such as “There’s nothing exciting to shoot about from my daily life”. The very same can be said to those vloggers who crunch out videos from their daily life on regular basis. One must be thinking that the vloggers need to have fantastic daily life of soaring the sky or diving into the deepest abyss in order to have interesting content.

I beg to differ. A lot of times, what’s interest me of a photograph is not about the location or the content, but more so on the moments or emotions it carries, and also the technical aspects of it such as composition, colours and etc. Same goes to video, it’s more on the story rather than the location that will attract my attention. And a lot of times these photos and videos were created in a very mundane setting, or “banal” as stated in my title.

I learned about this phrase during a photography sharing session a few years back. The photographer mentioned that it’s certainly much easier for one to go to epic location and take a picture and get a lot of buzz out of it. But you can’t be heading out to epic location constantly (unless you are really rich or being paid to do so I guess), so if you want to create good works constantly, you will need the ability to “see” the beauty in the banal.

To see what others don’t, from the daily ordinary things.

This is actually quite true when you think about street photography. It’s all about looking for that “ah-ha” moment within the routines. As with what some vloggers did, they try to look for and create a story out from their daily routines. Is this moments and stories that will captivate viewers, as they joint the dots and connect the photographer/vloggers to their viewers.

I’m certainly not a good moment seeker and storyteller for now. To me, what’s important now is to slowly learn to “see”, to plan, to think and to act accordingly. Hopefully all of us will be able to see beauty in every mundane in our life, and the world will be a better place to live in by then. Till then.

Advice from Sara Lando

This article from PetaPixel which talks about the author, Neil Ta, reviewing his photo series with Sara Lando had caught my eye. The article talks about what have been discussed through their conversation when reviewing the photo series, and some of the topics discussed really triggered me to think deep on it’s meaning.

First, a disclaimer. I got no idea who is this Neil Ta, nor I got any idea who is Sara Lando. They could be some famous photographer, or just anyone. But that’s okay, as I had always been into the artistry side of photography than the photographers themselves.

A few questions and remarks from Sara to Neil really hit the mark and should really be something for us to stop and think awhile before we pick up our camera. And these advises are really helpful for you to improve further in photography.

Shoot with intent

Sara asked a series of question to Neil when he showed her his photo series in Cuba.
“Why did you take this photo?”
”What are you trying to say with this photo?”
“Why were you in Cuba in the first place”
“What is it about Cuba that interests you?”

These questions essentially questioned him about the purpose and intent when he took the pictures. Shoot with intent, that was something I had discussed in another post previously. Think about what it is that you want to capture and what story your are trying to tell before you go out and hit the shutter. When you want to create photo series, projects or assignments, this is perhaps the best way to keep you focus and in check. You don’t end up coming back with a bunch of pictures and then only trying to force a story out of them.

There must be something that you would like to say through your photography

“Photography is a language. To most of us it’s a foreign language we are learning how to speak, but even if you are fluent in shutter speed and aperture, even if you know everything about bouncing flash and own the best camera on the market, the thing is if you don’t have something to say, then you’re pretty screwed.”

This was another strong remark from Sara to Neil. Photography is a language, is this the first time I hear this saying? Probably. But it certainly is an interesting analogy. You try to learn the basic, master the technique, and ultimately you would like to be able to speak fluently, and also getting your message across… in this regard, photography does work like a language, and it’s a common language across for everyone, allowing us the freedom to express ourselves in equal terms.

Don’t try to be someone else. Be yourself.

“Your images are more intimate and relatable when you’re not trying to be someone else.”

The last learning point I managed to grasp from the article is that one should shoot for yourself, don’t try too hard in copying others or mimicking others. You are truly you, hence you should follow your heart and shoot with your own style, tell your own stories, and just be yourself. When you try to copy others, you are deviating yourself from the true you, hence your photograph will not resonate with you.

It may sounds pretty fancy, but as with many other artistry work, one can hardly improve, be great and shine if one does not listen to his heart and letting his voice to be heard. Hope these tips help you in some way. Till then.

Coffee Brewing Seminar at Starbucks

Recently I joined a small workshop organized by Starbucks. The “Starbucks Coffee Seminar” was held at Starbucks Waterboat House with a nice and cozy atmosphere. The seminar started off by introducing the participants with the basic on coffee tasting, followed by demonstration of different brewing methods and ended up with hands on session for you to try and brew your own coffee.

Iced Pour Over

The brewing methods discussed during the seminar were chemex, pour over, cold brew and french press. The instructor explained to us the differences between each brewing method and how they affect the taste of coffee, including acidity, body, aroma and flavour. There’s also brief sharing of information on food pairing with different types of coffee.

Chemex

The hands on session was fun, as we get to try all the different methods and get a feel of it. All the methods shared are easy to be replicated at home, so you can brew good coffee at the comfort of your home. Last but not least, all participants were given a pack of coffee beans and voucher to purchase the necessary brewing equipment, giving you a push to kickstart your brewing journey.

French Press

It was a very fun and enjoyable event. As a newbie to coffee drinking, I learned a lot from this seminar and hopefully I’ll get to brew my very first cup of coffee soon. Till then.

Style vs Spec

Day after day, more and more products are gearing towards “lifestyle” products that are essentially blend into your life, making it apart of your routine, something that you can’t live without, something that resembles you, something in style that fits your personality, look and character. It’s not hard to see these products are getting more attention and sales as compared to “traditional” products that compete with specifications and reliability.

An easy example that can be drawn will be Apple. Apple had never produced any products that are superior in terms of specification. However, people used to say “it just work” on Apple products, and that their design aesthetics adhered to what they are looking for: simple and minimalist. Apple has a huge crowd of followers, and I’m one of those who purchase their product, though I don’t classified myself as their cult follower as I don’t appreciate every single thing they produced.

In the world of photography, it has always been a race of superiority in terms of specifications. With every product launch, you will only hear about how many stops of dynamic range, how many frames per second, how large is the buffer, how fast the camera auto focuses and so on. There was once a megapixel war, followed by mirrorless versus DSLR war and so on. Much of it still revolves around the technical aspect of the product. Well, it’s hard to deny that as we are actually talking about a rather technically engineered product here.

However, there were those who seek to breakthrough and go the other way. Leica was one of them. Their camera has never been “the best” in any class of specification that you can think of, unless you are saying highest price is one of the attribute you are looking at. But still, Leica managed to develop a cult of followers that believes in their philosophy and approach in photography, hence they are able to continue to survive until today. Moderate specification that command premium price tag and yet still able to sell. They are selling “feeling” and “lifestyle” more than anything else.

Another company that kind of follow this approach was none other than Fujifilm. Their camera has long been accused of copying Leica’s rangefinder design. Seriously, looking at the X100 series and the X-Pro series, it’s hard for people to say they are not. Fujifilm has never been the “best” in any of their specification. They were late in the digital camera business, they were late in the mirrorless craze, but yet, they managed to develop a group of cult followers that believed in their “passion for photography”.

My point of view is, Fujifilm has been pretty successful is differentiating themselves and building their own group of followers. They started off with retro design on their camera bodies, differentiating their camera with “X-Trans” sensor technology, adding in dials that provide tactile control resembling those from the film cameras and so on. They did gathered quite a lot of interest, but in order to continue to grow further, apparently it’s not enough.

Sony on the other hand has always been a company that focus only on specifications over form and functions. Sony cameras in particular has always been leading the edge in some key development areas, particularly those surrounding the imaging sensor. A7 has revolutionized the mirrorless camera line by bringing full frame sensors with it, followed by the recent launch of A9 which wiped out most of the advantages that DSLR holds against mirrorless. Their camera has never been a looker, but their performance will keep you wanting to go back for more.

It’s been pretty clear that lately Fujifilm has emphasized more on specs lately and started to detour themselves away from their retro-ness. They started to adopt top plate LCD, they talk more about specification than anything else, they started to venture into videography business for their X-series camera line-up and so on. It does make business sense for these decisions. However, the current state of of products from Fujifilm makes me feel that they are not sure where to go. The GFX and X-H1, to some extent are good initiatives from Fujifilm to grow their product lines. But the fact that they tried to innovate but at the same time still kind of afraid to let go of their retro styling, makes the GFX and X-H1 look just weird. I believe they could have just gone all out with both of these camera and ditched all the dials if they were to incorporate the top plate LCD, just make them with futuristic design to differentiate from the existing retro styled offering. I believe they had built a strong enough cult followers for their retro cameras, is time to move on with something more modern that opens up a new market segment for them.

It seems to be that all manufacturer has bowed to specification over style. Even Leica has been busy with a slew of “modernized” camera like the SL, CL, TL and Q. It remains the be seen whether this will be the way moving forward. I would really want to see if any manufacturer can strike the balance of the two (the Hasselblad X1D is pretty close in my opinion, but I have yet to see or try one in person for myself to comment). Anyway, I’m just contemplating on this while I’m thinking about where should I move on next in terms of my photography gear. Style or spec? Let’s wait and see what else 2018 has to offer for us. Till then.