May 202014

In a meeting the oinstagramNYCther day with a (ahem… older) colleague I was asked why anyone would ever want to do an InstaMeet. InstaMeets are events during which Instagram photographers go to the same location, take photographs, and post over the same time period. They represent a unique moment captured from many different perspectives – an intersection of the digital and the physical plane. Or, just a chance for a bunch of people who are photography enthusiast to meet each other and do something they love, together.

It got me thinking about what successful digital marketing is in a world with so much technology aimed at humans – who in essence crave the same things we’ve wanted for thousands of years: connection, communication and community.

We desired to be able to capture and record our thoughts – to connect with other at a later time and place. So, we invented writing (oh yah, and we wanted to tax people… also an age old human need).  Over millennia we went from cuneiform to messages delivered in an instant around the world.  We needed to communicate with each other across vast distances. So carrier pigeons evolved into cell phones and now we can speak any time, to almost anyone – instantaneously. We formed nomadic tribes to fulfill common goals and needs. Eventually these became the virtual communities of today, formed around every interest and passion under the sun. current technological tools answer needs we as a civilization identified thousands of years ago. In millennia, those needs haven’t changed. Understanding the essence of human nature has been and will always be at the heart of marketing.  As we look forward to the next big thing we must also look inward and understand who we are: as humans, as a civilization, as a community, and as a tribe.  InstaMeets work because they combine passion, connection, community and technology.

Finding the intersection of the human soul and that perfect communication tool – new, old or a combination of virtual and physical isn’t easy. It requires truly understanding your business needs, your audience / consumers, and your options. Sometimes it means turning away the bright and shiny to use a technology that seems outdated. Sometimes it means capital investment and taking a risk. It always requires research and soul searching.

Still, for as long as we’ve craved the same, simple things, humans are complex and there isn’t a single simple formula. But with diligence, research and insight, we as marketers can hunt and gather our way to solutions that make sense and truly feed our digital tribes. Oh, and sell stuff.

By Fawn Kazati, Director Content Strategy, Saatchi & Saatchi LA
Twitter: @fawnforce

Hear from Fawn and her colleague Kayla Green during their BC2 session on Bringing Brands to Life Through Digital Marketing. Learn  how you can leverage basic human insights to determine appropriate tools, and then build a narrative across your digital marketing ecosystem (website, mobile, apps, social, search, PR) that creates a meaningful connection between your business, your brand and your audience.

May 092013
Czech Republic

Little town in the Czech Republic

Everyone should tilt-shift at least once. It’s easy. You see people doing it on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter—and, of course, Instagram, where it’s practically de rigueur for selfies. But don’t be scared off by the weird name; tilt-shift is not another impossible contortion conjured up by your Lululemon-wearing, Ashtanga Yoga instructor. No “Namaste” required here. Rather, it’s a really cool photo technique that will make your already great photos shine, and has the potential to re-make your somewhat lame photos into something memorable.

Simply put, tilt-shift is a post-production technique that defines an area of focus within your photo, while applying blur to other areas of the image. This sort of selective focusing produces interesting—and sometimes surprising—results. In the extreme, it gives photos a miniaturizing effect. This works best if you shoot down at your subject, from high to low. You can see an example of this in the photo I took from an archer’s turret in the castle ramparts above a little town in the Czech Republic. Boosting the saturation, as I did here, adds to the deception.

But you don’t have to shoot from extreme heights to make use of this tool. For images shot on a plane, more or less, level with your subject, tilt-shift adds a dreamy, atmospheric feel to images. In the iPhone shot of my kids running through a sprinkler, I love the way the band of focus that runs through their faces and on the water spray contrasts with the blurry band at the edges of the photo. It was an incredibly hot day, but that didn’t really come through in the original photo. Adding blur caused the trees and fence to shimmer and glow the way things do on a scorching summer day. For me, this gave the shot an idyllic, “endless summer” kind of quality that you wouldn’t get without tilt-shift.

kids and sprinkler

My kids running through a sprinkler

Tilt-shift can also be used to focus directly on a specific person or element within your photo. Applying a circle of focus around a subject in a busy shot, with lots of competing elements, directs attention to the portion you want to highlight. In the shot of the boy in the swim cap (below, also an iPhone shot), the swimmers in the foreground and background are blurred, but the boy is in sharp focus. The image is now about the anticipation he’s experiencing while waiting to be called for his race. It becomes a powerful moment caught in time.

Boy swimmer

Photo of young swimmer by Max Berkowitz

But tilt-shift is not all fun and games. It can add solemnity to an event or location. The shot I snapped at the Vietnam War Memorial in DC of the sky and trees reflected in the wall (see below) was decent but didn’t capture the emotion of being there in person. With the tilt-shift technique applied, the focus is now on a small sampling of names in the center of the wall, which helps to personalize the experience. The wall blurs into the background, as if it goes on forever. So many names… which is precisely how you feel standing at the wall.

So how do you do it? The good news is that this is all ridiculously easy to do. I use the tilt-shift tool in the free Photoshop Express app for iPhone. There are also versions for Android, and for desktop computers (see list below). Some are free; some are .99 cents, or a bit more. Instagram recently added a tilt-shift tool. They all work more or less the same way. Here’s the basic workflow: open your tilt-shift app, select a photo, use a slider or your finger to adjust the degree of blur, maybe increase the saturation, and hit save. That’s it. The better apps let you move and expand the band of focus and the degree of blurriness.

Vietnam War Memorial

Vietnam War Memorial

Full disclosure: I know there will be some photo geeks—I’m one of them—out there who are saying, “That’s not real tilt-shift.” And that’s true. This is fake tilt-shift. Real tilt-shift can only be accomplished by using an expensive tilt-shift lens. Unless you’re a purist, the fake tilt-shift will do.

Lastly, a word of caution: like any photo technique, overusing tilt-shift will quickly cast it and your photos into cliché status. Avoid that: use it sparingly and only when you want to achieve a specific result. Do that, and I think you’ll find that tilt-shift is a brilliantly easy-to-use tool that can add value to your shots.

Apps for iPhone:
Photoshop Express 
TiltShift Generator
Tilt Shift Focus

Apps for Android:
Photoshop Express 
Awesome Miniature

Apps for Desktop:
Photoshop CS6
Tilt Shift Focus App for Mac Desktop