Bon Voyage 2011!

posted on: December 12, 2011

This year has been huge.

In one way or another, almost everyone I know has gone through some kind of major shift in their life this year. Some pleasant, some not. What was 2011 like for you? I really want to see YOUR reflections on 2011, so please leave me a comment or link to your blog where I can learn about your journey from this year.
San Fransico Anne

For me, 2011 took me on a whirl-wind tour across the country to do some speaking, workshops, and coaching for creative entrepreneurs in San Fransisco, CA; Houston, TX; Orlando, FL; and Detroit, MI. This year was also filled with fun in San Diego, CA, then Las Vegas, NV and even more fun in Austin, TX during SXSW. I took fewer weddings and more corporate jobs and still ended up meeting my goals and then some. 2011 was also one of the best birthdays I've had as an adult thanks to some awesome friends who helped me get away from it all in Loon Mountain, NH. I also got to spend more time with family and friends this year than I have in MANY years.

I'm so grateful that I've been able to reach a healthy balancing point between work and play.


Smarter Business Workshop Orlando

This year I also took a lot of risks that I'd been considering for a while. Some worked out- like the coaching tour, while others did not, which is totally OK because it would have been physically impossible to do it all! The important part was that I gave a few things a solid try so I wouldn't regret it later. I had wanted to start a local magazine focusing on the arts and culture of Lowell and even had some awesome people to help make it happen, but in the end, the timing just wasn't right for everyone involved (including me) so we shelved it. The groundwork was laid and if there's another opportunity in the future, I'm sure something good will come of what we've already started (in fact, I just got word that one of the super big projects I've been trying to move forward is gaining ground with a few key players while I'm gone!) I also had started shopping for a new studio space to maximize and expand my services along with some other photographers, but again, the market timing wasn't right so I ended up moving out of my studio to be better prepared for a future opportunity or collaboration, and to save up some cash for some awesome things happening in 2012. On the personal front, two of my favorite fur babies died this year- Misty and Bailey. Both had longer lives than the average pooch and they brought so much joy to the lives of everyone who knew them. They were great companions for working from home when I needed to get out of the house for some fresh air. They kept me in touch with always being fully present to each moment.

Bailey Blonde Labrador Retriever

After the rain, keep your eye out for rainbows.

I was able to conquer some big long term goals in 2011 that I've been working on for a while. Goals like finishing a Music Education degree I started many years ago but never really used as a photographer- which I don't regret, even with the outstanding student loans, because I learned a lot about teaching, became a better musician, and met my super awesome husband. Speaking of super awesome husband, together we've also made some great progress chunking away at a pretty significant portion of our credit card debt. While it was not the total amount I'd hoped for at the beginning of the year, we still managed to make significant progress while having tons of fun, enjoying a great lifestyle, and doing plenty of traveling together. We made a few healthy sacrifices too, and those are paying off in more than financial gains.

Whitewater Rafting on Concord River

If you're still reading... thank you. Thank you so much for caring and staying in touch with me even when I've taken extended time outs from social media. What I'm going to tell you next may come as a shock, but I've been wanting to share it for quite a while. My break from social media has been very deliberate. As you know, if you want to grow your business, you must "always be marketing." Likewise, if you want to slow your business down, all you need to do is take a step back and stop putting yourself out there- which is what I've been doing. Are you freaking out yet? Are you on the edge of your seat? Before this gets too out of control, let me assure you that I'm still planning to be a photographer in one capacity or another. However, I will be getting VERY exclusive about who I work with and for what reasons.

I've been a professional photographer for nearly 7 years now and in the last couple years, the work that has excited me the most has been the work I've done in coaching and consulting other people toward achieving their goals and dreams. I always told myself that if I ever stopped falling in love with my work behind the camera, I would take a step back before something I loved turned into something I loathed. I'm sure you've met a photographer or two who seems to hate showing up to a wedding and would rather get a drink than grab one more photo of the party on the dance floor. I never want to be that person, EVER, so I plan to get more exclusive and only work with people I really enjoy so that I can avoid becoming THAT photographer.

I believe in doing what you love, every single day, and if what you love starts pulling you toward something other than what you're doing right now, than it's time to follow your heart into another phase of growth and self-realization.


For me, that's spending less time on photography, and more time on helping others realize their dreams. If you think you're too old to switch careers or start something new, my girl Marie Forleo has some inspirational advice for you:


I've been testing the waters with a few different methods and styles of coaching and consulting, and at this point I still consider myself to be learning and refining my style. I've identified that I'm really good at honing in on what is uniquely valuable about each person and finding the hurdles that are holding people back from being their fullest self. I believe it takes at least two years of full time practice to develop a level of mastery in any given area, so I fully expect that I will continue to learn and grow into this role for at least another year or more. Initially I had considered going the life coaching route as many entrepreneurs do, however, one of my other big scary goals has been to get a masters degree in order to leave the door open to a possible doctoral degree. Getting a graduate degree was something I had planned on doing while starting a family, but since that hasn't happened and the timing feels good now to start changing gears, I'm planning to start working on a masters next fall that will help me refine and hone my ability to help others. Applying to grad school wasn't even on my radar at the beginning of the year. So yeah, this year has been huge for change.

How could next year even begin to top the transformations of 2011?

How about by spending the entire Winter and Spring in Australia, followed by an entire Summer traveling Europe!?! Seriously? Seriously. It's going to be the adventure of a lifetime and I can't wait to share it with you!! I also can't wait to work on my surfing skills, which I just started learning when I was in Australia last year...

Surfing Anne

Union Studio Yoga Photography | Andover, MA

posted on: April 17, 2011

Union Studio Yoga, Andover, MA

Take a deep breath...

Union Studio Yoga, Andover, MA

I'm always amazed when serendipity becomes connection. Recently, a local yoga instructor, Jen, found a blog post I'd written about her from a year ago when I didn't know her name. That blog post led to us reconnecting, getting to know each other, and working together on this project for Union Studio Yoga.

The owner of the studio was looking for something that would feel dramatic, deep, and personal. Keeping with the flow of their current website, we went with black & white processing, but to give it the dramatic feeling, I made sure to include a lot of shadows by using only one light at a time. To make it feel more intimate, I kept the light close and focused for the posed images to create the heavy vignette, which forms the sense of an individual bubble around each pose and eliminates the sense of space in the room. To help it feel more personal, I turned each teacher's attention away from the camera so that the viewer could observe each teacher enjoying their own personal moment instead of engaging head on or directly with each teacher.

Union Studio Yoga, Andover, MA

Here's Jen- who just exudes light everywhere she goes. My life has already been enriched just by knowing her. She makes things which are incredibly difficult look effortless and graceful, and that's what makes her amazing...

Union Studio Yoga, Andover, MA

Remember when...

posted on: April 12, 2011

... your wedding ring was brand new?
Shiny without a scratch.
Foreign to the finger.
Catching the corner of your eye.
Reminding of one who loves you.
Remember when your wedding ring was brand new?

Three's a crowd

posted on: April 6, 2011

not a big girl

I'll be out of town until Monday with limited access to email.
If you need a faster response, please call me: 888-678-2663.
For information about Wedding Photography, please visit http://anneruthmann.com
For information about Workshops, please visit http://fisheyeconnect.com

Studio Open House & Anne-iversary Party!

posted on: March 27, 2011

You're invited to join me in celebrating my 2nd year at Western Ave Studios and my 6th year in business as a full time photographer! The last year has brought great balance and peace to my life, and I can't wait to share that with you. For the first time since I started my business, I have FINALLY been in the same city for more than 2 years!! There's so much that goes into those first two years of opening a business or starting in a new city that I'm soooo glad to finally be in a place where I can experience the fruits of building a great team of people to work with! So....

Let's Get Our Party On!

Where: Anne Ruthmann Photography - Studio 302, 122 Western Ave, Lowell, MA 01851
When: Saturday April 2nd, 2011. 12-5pm Studio Open House, 5pm - 9pm Stay & Party with Glen David Andrews Band
RSVP & Map: So I can have enough gifts for all guests http://on.fb.me/anne411
(Don't live near me? I might be visiting your area soon!! For cities and dates, [CLICK HERE]!)

Studio Open House & Anne-iversary Party 2011

PS. The idea for the "Anne-iversary" came from my dear friends & photography colleagues Rich & Ashley Pizzuti, who also helped with the image above. They celebrated their "Anne-iversary" as the day we first met and I "helped them get their heads out of their @$$" by inviting them to get more connected with the local community of photographers. We've become such good friends since that first meeting and I really admire how quickly they've grown since then!

SXSW 2011 Adventure

posted on: March 18, 2011

I'd heard about SXSW (South by Southwest) for the last few years and it always sounded amazing- so I vowed that I would find a way to make it work as soon as I could! This year it just so happened to line up with my husband's spring break from teaching, his birthday, and St. Patrick's day. Could the timing be any more perfect?! So- I proposed the idea of a super awesome birthday week in Austin, TX- but since we're still on our "Smarter Spending" mission to pay off debt, we needed to do it in a way that wouldn't kill our financial goals.

Just got shot in @the_magbooth @Etsy #SXW

Over the holidays Alex's step-brother had offered to let us stay with him if we ever came to visit Austin - so we took him up on it and saved big time on the hotel costs. Next big cost is getting there. We've done our share of driving over the years and it's not our favorite way to travel, so we decided to finally cash in on some airline miles that we'd accumulated from lots of international travel- so our flight was FREE- wahoo! To save even more money, we decided not to get a badge for SXSW and just check out as much as we could without a badge- which turned out to be a great idea! We did end up renting a car and paying for some super tasty meals, but we totally lucked out on at least half of our meals, drinks, and entertainment because SXSW offered so many free opportunities to party! Yeeeeah baby!

SmileBooth.com Photo from @FreshBooks Party

The free parties were mostly due to the SXSWi (interactive) crowd seeking promotion and attention getting opportunities with full open bars and appetizers sponsored by tech and media companies. We met a lot of tech entrepreneurs and start-up geeks, sat next to venture capitalists and record producers in cafes, and got the insider scoop on many more free events around the city. The energy and level of connection that people wanted to have with each other was amazing and unmatched by any other festival I've ever been to. What we didn't get to experience without a badge was any of the films- since those venues were all limited seating and were sold out with badge holders. We also didn't attend the panels, but we heard mixed reviews from people who did attend. The tradeshow sounded awesome, but with so many startups hosting parties elsewhere- we didn't feel like we missed out. We were leaving just as the music festival portion started kicking into gear with even more people filling the city. One record label dude was telling me that SXSW has pretty much become the largest music festival in the WORLD. I have a hard time believing that, but the sheer number of musicians filling every nook and cranny, as well as pop-up stages built just for the event is nothing short of amazing. I seriously cannot think of a better way to spend a spring break if you're over 21+ and a tech or music geek! Yes, it was epic.

Peeps: "you don't have to eat them, you can light them on fire & stick them to people" #SXSW
"Peeps, you don't have to eat them, you can light them on fire and stick them to people!"

While we were there to check out SXSW, for me it was also an opportunity to see why the city of Austin, TX has adopted the motto of "Keep it Weird." Between the trailer food parks, eclectic city neighborhoods, fearless local style, and fascination with novelty - the city did not disappoint in visual interestingness. Honestly, it was impossible to take it all in during one trip, but what an amazingly vibrant and creative city to live in!! No holds barred on creativity in Austin- which is why it's officially now my favorite city in Texas. ;-)

She's my cherry pie @piefixeseverything #SXSW

I decided to instagr.am the whole adventure with my iphone and put it on Flickr (does it get any geekier?) Here's a photo slideshow of the complete adventure- mishaps and all. For caption detail, click on the images to open in Flickr and go one by :

Announcing: Smarter Business Workshop

posted on: March 8, 2011

Smarter Business Workshop Header

I've presented for many different conferences and organizations, and have received great feedback on what I have to offer and how I can really help move people forward in a workshop format. However, what has frustrated me with the conference format is that I always want more time than what I'm given. One or two hours isn't really enough for me to do anything more than give a few solid tips, a dose of inspiration, or focus on just one topic. Sometime's that all you need to get started, but most often it just leaves you with some ideas and not really a plan for implementing them. It's like buying a pretty day planner for the inspirational quotes but never actually using it to plan your life.

Since I've been doing more one-on-one consulting for photographers and other creative businesses, I've really honed in on how to get to the core of where changes need to be made in someone's business and how they can move forward without abandoning ship. Most often this seems to involve a financial or a marketing shift- which often cause changes in other aspects of the business as well.

The key is that we can't throw out everything you've been doing in the past - we have to take where you are now to build on your successes and knock down the road blocks that prevent you from moving forward.


I'm not saying I have all the answers- I don't believe anyone does- but I do believe I can help people find the right answers for themselves. In fact, the biggest thing I've learned through consulting is that you already know what you need to be more successful than you are right now- that's not the problem- the problem is that the path to get there is cluttered with a bunch of other people's ideas about what you should be doing and how you should be doing it.

I believe the solutions to your problems are already within yourself and all you need is a little help finding ways to implement them.


So, that's why I've decided to do the Smarter Business Workshop, and why I've decided to do this workshop as bare bones as possible in order to make it as affordable as possible. I will not be renting a fancy bus or RV, I will not be renting a an expensive conference room, I will not be selling you extra materials or a monthly membership, and I will not be using this workshop to fund a down payment on a new home. I just want to help you run a smarter business- for your own sake, for the sake of our industry, and for the sake of our society in the pursuit of freedom and happiness. You can even attend the first evening for free (but you may not get into the full workshop day if you haven't registered in advance.)

If you're ready for an experience like this, learn more at http://smarterbusinessworkshop.com, or by clicking below:

Smarter Business Workshop Buttons


If you're not ready, you can always learn more for free online at http://photolovecat.com or in person at your local PUG Meetings. Our Boston PUG is meeting TONIGHT- and you're welcome to join: http://facebook.com/bostonpug

Coming to a City Near You! ... and tracking my carbon trail

posted on: March 7, 2011

Ever since my friend TimCo. told me about Dopplr and using it to track my upcoming trips and share my travel schedule with friends, I've been hooked.
Not only because it helps keep my friends and family in the loop, add upcoming trips automatically to my blog widget, and update my facebook page for me- but also because it tracks my carbon trail and helps me stay aware of the impact I have on the environment. Now, it doesn't always make me feel warm & fuzzy when I look at the carbon trail I'm leaving behind, but it does help me have a basis on which to calculate and be aware of my impact. It also provides me with reports that are both beautiful and useful concerning my travel and carbon impact:
Dopplr Report 2009 First Half

Another service I used to use a lot, but haven't used in a long time because they were a little slow to get plugged into other social media outlets, was Virtual Tourist. It's more about building a social travel guide, kind of like Yelp, but with more opportunities for discussions about certain things to do and places to see. Dopplr also offers an opportunity to add discovered content, but what I like most is knowing when my travel is going to coincide with friends. So - where can we meet up? Are you already on Dooplr? Let's connect! http://www.dopplr.com/traveller/AnneRuthmann

Best of The Knot & Wedding Wire 2011

posted on: February 27, 2011

Best of Weddings on The Knot
2011 Bride's Choice Awards | Best Wedding Photographers, Wedding Dresses, Wedding Cakes, Wedding Florists, Wedding Planners & MoreMy sincerest thanks to my clients, whose reviews of my work and service have honored me with The Knot's Best of Weddings 2011 Pick and WeddingWire's Bride's Choice Award 2011. I have to admit that I used to think these awards were only given to people who paid to advertise with the companies offering them (since there are quite a few companies where that IS the case even though they don't tell anyone), but since I don't have paid advertising with either site, I can officially get behind what an honor it is to receive these awards. There are HUNDREDS of wedding photographers in the Boston area, and only a handful of companies receive even one of these awards each year so I'm very grateful to be one of the select few to be honored by both for 2011!!  There are times when I feel like I should be blogging more or networking more, but I'll always take a step back from marketing if I need to spend more time serving my clients so that they'll have an awesome experience.  These awards are confirmation for me that all of that hard work does pay off in the end, and is ultimately the most important part of what we do.

I also received notification that The Knot's Ultimate Wedding Lookbook, which has been in the works for the last two years, has finally gone to print and I'm happy to share that you'll find some of my work featured in the book.  The editors sent me a sneak peek of a spread where an image of mine is featured - the flaming chef in the food collage below is from a wedding I photographed a few years ago.  I'm grateful that The Knot editorial team has continued to invite me to submit images from my client's beautiful and unique weddings for publication, especially since they are such a joy to work with- which is amazing when you consider how many images they look at every day!  I look forward to sharing more of my client's weddings with them in the future (with client permission, of course!)

Gratitude Journal #6 - Obstacles as Opportunities

posted on: February 26, 2011

I wake up and post to facebook, the first thing that comes to my mind, as if a message from a dream:

"Lucky people see obstacles as opportunities"

At that VERY moment, the universe responded with a very silent and cunning, "Oh yeah? Let's test that theory," and then dumped a big pile of Murphy's Law on my day.

I get out to my car and my steering won't work. It's so frozen tight I can't even begin to move it. Obstacle #1- an opportunity to take Alex's car instead. I get in Alex's car and text that my car isn't working- he may need to take the shuttle today. I start driving his car and the brakes give out. Like, completely give out. I'm not even a quarter mile from home and I have to turn around in morning rush hour without brakes just to get the vehicle back home safely. I coast into our parking spot just barely not hitting the brick wall of the building. Obstacle #2- an opportunity to test the public transportation. I talk to the people who drive shuttles and see the city buses pass by all the time. They point me to the bus stop and I go to wait. Thankfully I have some cash on me that I'd taken out the night before so that I can pay for the bus. As I'm waiting for an unusually long time- I text the people I'm meeting in Boston and tell them my situation and that I'm going to be there as soon as I can, but I will definitely be late.

I finally see the bus, only it's driving on the other side of the street and it's not stopping. There are no bus signs in this neighborhood so there's no way for me to even know where the bus usually stops- which is why I asked a shuttle driver. The bus has passed me by and I can't afford to wait another 20+ minutes for it to come around again. Obstacle #3 - an opportunity to call a cab. I call a cab and they arrive within a few minutes to take me to the commuter rail station so I can train into Boston. I had only planned to spend $1 on the bus, and end up spending $9 on the cab. The cab pulls into the commuter rail station just as the train is pulling away- and I think... if I'd called the cab instead of waiting for the bus, I would have made the train- lesson learned. The next train leaves in an hour. I don't have enough money left to buy a round trip ticket, so I have to use the ATM and pay an extra fee for my commuter rail pass. At least there's a Dunkin Donuts in the station so I can eat breakfast after a crazy start to my morning. I order my regular Iced Latte and they tell me that they don't make lattes at this location. Obstacle #4 - an opportunity to try the iced coffee. The iced coffee isn't nearly as good, but it's all I'm going to get this morning as I tackle everything else life is throwing at me. At this point- the entire morning is a complete wash, but rather than give up, I keep moving forward toward the obligations and commitments I've made rather than give up in pitiful despair that my day has been ruined every step of the way. I'll spare you the rest of the details, but just know that the day did not get any better or easier.

Everything was an obstacle- like I was on the biggest friggin' obstacle course of my life.


While the obstacles certainly didn't feel like opportunities that day- the challenges I faced and pushed myself through actually became beneficial to me later on. I learned how to navigate the public transportation system into Boston and to the school I was visiting. I learned that buses in Boston aren't nearly as scary as buses in other cities with less public transportation. I learned that commuting by rail is much more pleasant than commuting by car. I learned that when you're lost in Boston on public transport, there's always someone willing to be gracious and help you out. I learned that I can use my iphone to help me navigate closer to my destination via bus. I learned that there was a subway stop closer to the theatres than I had realized. I learned that WiFi on the train allows me to have a productive commute into Boston. I learned that sometimes WiFi on the train isn't available and it's better just to sleep. I learned that riding public transportation makes life more interesting and has many more people watching opportunities. I learned that I need to bring my own water and not rely on others to have it in their water coolers. I learned that I can make better Iced Coffees at home and bring them with me. I learned that my husband is willing to go out of his way to make at least one of our cars work. I learned that I can survive the worst obstacle course I've ever been on and that cheese & wine with friends is the best way to end such a "lucky" day.  I learned that if you laugh at the ridiculous comedy of errors, your day goes a lot better than if you begrudge everything that went wrong.

While obstacles rarely ever feel like gifts or opportunities- they are put in our life to help us learn and grow in ways that we normally wouldn't without them- and that makes them a gift worth being grateful for. If we aren't grateful for an obstacle and the opportunity to work through it the first time, it will keep showing up in our life over and over until we learn to accept it as a lesson and spend time learning how to conquer it.

Success comes from picking ourselves up over and over and over again and never giving up on our journey.

{If you appreciated this post, please join me in my journey to have a greater positive impact on the world by writing your own gratitude journal and sharing it or a link to it in the comments below. I would love to read your moments of gratitude and share them with others!}

Awesome People of 2010

posted on: February 9, 2011

One of the best parts of my job is that I get to meet amazing people every time someone steps in front of my camera. I do admit that I tend to fall in love with people as I'm photographing them- they become more and more beautiful as I study each little reflection of light filtering through my lenses. I've come to realize that everyone has something amazing to offer the world, and in each person lives more beauty than a camera will ever be able to capture. I'm just lucky that I get the full in-person experience, even if it's just for a few moments. Here is just a sample of some of those amazing people that make this the best job in the whole wide world...

Thank You For Being Awesome in 2010

My Dream For Lowell: Smith Baker Center [Anne-alysis]

posted on: February 7, 2011

Ever since I moved to Lowell, I've felt an intense energy to create change in the city and on a large scale. However, I am only one person and am limited in my personal resources. What I do have is vision; a vision so intense and so real that sometimes it's scary. When people hear me talk about all of my ideas, they are often overwhelmed, but when I lay them out visually and with clear examples of successful models already working, suddenly it all seems more possible and much less scary. So, here I share my vision with with you- with whomever the universe it calling to see this...

The Smith Baker Center becomes a Community Performing Arts Center






Current State:
This building is already owned by the city and is in grave need of roof repairs before the leaks do any further structural damage to the inside of the gorgeous craftsmanship of this building. It's an amazing acoustic space, thought by many in the city to be one of the finest acoustic spaces in the area, partially due to a unique grooved ceiling that allows the sound to only reverberate in necessary areas. The current seating has allegedly accommodated former Parker Lectures, New England Orchestra Performances, Community Theatre Productions, and even a national touring Cambodian Opera. The Lowell Plan showed me that they had created a vision for this space, but I have yet to see any financial backing or successful partnerships happen for this space.





My Vision:
The wood seating needs to be removed and updated for modern accessibility. The theatre seats and pews, which are uniquely curved, handcrafted, and made from gorgeous woods, could be auctioned off to providing funding for updating the seating options.  There's a beautiful set of organ pipes which I've been told are disconnected and is likely to be worth more sold as parts to get a new sound system, than repaired. Youth Build could invest time and energy into cleaning the place up and helping with some of the repairs that they are capable of doing. Music Business students at UMass Lowell could invest time in creating feasibility studies for the usage and marketability of the space and maybe even take on event management internships of the space with a dedicated managing supervisor. The UMass Lowell Off Broadway Players are also an amazing college student run and managed group that are quickly outgrowing their 500 seat Comley-Lane Theatre, and would make fabulous use of the opportunities afforded by a more inviting, innovative, and publicly available space.

Fantasies Fairytales 540
The former classrooms on the lower level under the stage area could be outfitted for sound insulation and used as private music teaching rooms rentable by the hour and the larger community music/theatre rehearsal space could be used for rehearsals to save energy when the larger space isn't needed. It might be an ideal place for cabaret performances, like those put on by The Miracle Providers Northeast and for film screenings, like those put on by Lowell Film Collaborative.

The larger space is ideal for folk and acoustic performances which would allow the Lowell Summer Music Series to become a year round folk music series and a place to hear local bands without needing to buy a beer or be 21+.


If you're interested in learning more about the opportunities involved with this space, please contact paul_marion @ uml.edu or lznunn @ lowellma.gov

Superbowl Sunday Artistic & Ad Review [Anne-alysis]

To preface this "Anne-alysis" with some street cred- I was once a marketing girl by study and by profession, as well as a professional musician and music educator (among many other things.) Through these experiences, I've come to despise manipulation in ads when it's done in a way that makes people feel inferior or inadequate in order to boost sales, however I equally enjoy cleverly done humor and artistically or emotionally inspiring ads. Even though everyone looks forward to the Super Bowl Commercials - I haven't been all too impressed in the past with the advertiser attempts to appeal to the lowest common denominator- as if all SuperBowl watchers are mindless meat-heads. Because of past experiences, I've always preferred the Oscar commercials more because they are designed to appeal to a more creative mind- those of filmmakers, producers, directors, and appreciators of the visual arts.

However, this year the Super Bowl ads stepped it up a BIG notch. Maybe it was a reduced budget for the luxury brands that made it important for them to create a commercial which could be sold at both the Super Bowl AND at the Oscars- but there were quite a few very artistic commercials in the mix that were complete surprises in between the meat-head spots. I welcome this smarter use of resources and I'll test my theory by seeing if some of the same ads get replayed at the Oscars. After watching the entire series of national spots, I have two stand out favorites and I'll tell you why:

DORITOS:


WIN #1: Highlighting a unique product experience
The Doritos cheese dust is a unique experience to Doritos and any mention of it will make the ad memorable- both reminding previous consumers what their prior experience is like and informing new consumers of what they can expect from their experience with the product.

WIN #2: Making a negative experience a desirable one
If you've ever had even one Doritos chip, you probably remember that it's no so convenient to do anything else with your fingers after holding onto a chip, unless you have a regular supply of napkins nearby. Most people have associated this dust as a messy and unnecessary feature of a Doritos chip, so to create an ad that takes this often "inconvenient" trait of the product and makes it something desirable, is clever and brilliant, and exactly what marketing SHOULD do.

WIN #3: Socially unexpected and shocking behavior
In order for an ad to be effective, it must be memorable, directly connected to the uniqueness of the product, and create added desire for the product. Since we've already covered the uniqueness and desire part - that leaves only a memorable hook. With ads for erectile dysfunction permeating even our dentist waiting lobby, it's hard to shock Americans anymore... except when you enter the business office realm where we're all supposed to uphold a certain level of professionalism. Enter: unexpected and shocking behavior for the win. What makes it super awesome is that we don't know if the guy is gay or straight and it doesn't even matter- only that he LOVES Doritos dust and will break the unspoken laws of social grace to get it. Bravo. Seriously, truly, brilliant.

CHRYSLER:


WIN #1: The American Dream
As Americans, we love promoting our American brands and we have pride in helping those who are struggling- this ad taps into feelings of inspiring Americans to achieve and reclaim the same greatness and luxury we once had. Being born in Detroit, and having most of my family still in the area, I know what a bad rap the city has on a national level, yet how amazing it is if you actually take the time to discover all of the luxury hidden and preserved within the historic buildings- most of which stemmed directly from the auto industry turning the United States into one of the most innovative and powerful countries in the world during the 1900s. That's no small feat and no small history for a city full of profound luxury built by the sweat of blue collar workers.

WIN #2: Motor City Born
Chrysler is a Detroit born brand, and has been a Detroit (area) based and made product for its entire life. When I lived in Rochester Hills (a northern suburb), I would regularly see test cars painted in matte black with tape on the headlights and grill to cover up which model Chrysler was testing on the public streets at any given time. Considering the movement and souring of the American auto industry, it's refreshing to see a product taking that negative vibe and turning it into a point of pride. This sells a reason to support Chrysler products for the money they will keep in the American economy, in a time when so much of what we own is produced elsewhere.

WIN #3: Unexpected Combinations
The first two take care of unique and desire, but we still need something to make it memorable and stand out against many of the other car ads played during the Super Bowl. By juxtaposing the negative visions of Detroit against the luxurious locations, artisan craftsmanship, and fine arts that Detroit has to offer, they present a vision that American cars aren't just for the working class- they're actually for luxury owners as well. That, combined with the recognition of a well-known Detroit native millionaire who basically rose up from the ashes of old and broken Detroit neighborhoods to a life of luxury and power, makes this a memorable and inspiring commercial that instills desire for the American brand. Total win.

Now - the music...
While I'm not excited by seeing people smash their heads into each other, I do appreciate that this huge publicly watched American spectacle supports the arts in some small way. From the camera crew on the field, to the painters of the field, to the fashion designers of the uniforms, and the sound production team needed to support a combination of field and newscaster noise in a balanced and audibly pleasing way. Let's not forget the musicians, dancers, designers, and choreographers for the entertainment aspects of the pre-game and half-time show as well. Now that I've shown my appreciation for how they support the arts and all of the artistic effort that goes into it, let's move on.

So, Christina Aguilera missed some lyrics in the National Anthem. This is obviously not the first time she's done the National Anthem at a public sports event, so it was just a mistake. Having sung the National Anthem myself in front of a HUGE crowd of people, I can tell you that this is not an easy thing. It is a song designed to be done WITHOUT accompaniment and the vocal range required to pull it off successfully is quite difficult and a bit of a mind-game when you're in the middle of singing it - determining whether you've got the guts to go for some high notes or improvisation opportunities. Because of that, I totally understand how she could have fudged up the lyrics. She still has a great voice and at least she didn't slaughter the music itself. The sad part is, I'm sure most Americans wouldn't have even noticed the missed lyrics if it weren't for social media.



Dear American public - can we please stop insisting that studio musicians perform live without a recorded vocal track? I actually enjoy the Black Eyed Peas as entertainers and how creative their music production team has been with renewing old pop and rock tunes through various sound recording and mixing techniques, but this live performance suffered greatly from the fact that the sound was being mixed and produced live as it was happening. In all likelihood, they didn't have enough rehearsal time to work out the kinks of being in that space and setting everything up on the spot to create a professional performance in like 15 minutes or less. If it's OK for Glee- a TV show which could be recorded with choreography and multiple rehearsals- to allow lip-sycing over their own recorded tracks - why isn't it OK for the performers with limited time at the Super Bowl? These aren't improvised performances or true concerts - these are very planned, crafted, and highly choreographed events designed to fill a very specific time slot that is being broadcast to millions of people at once. Seriously, I'm over the need for a live performance - unless it's a musician who is actually a live musician at heart with a sound that doesn't need to be overproduced just to sound good. Thanks, but no thanks. There were a lot of great and amazing things about that halftime show- but all I'll remember is how bad the sound was, and that's unfortunate.

What do you think? Did anything stand out for you? Feel free to disagree with me - it makes life more interesting. ;-)

20 For 20% More in 2011 - Are you ready?

posted on: January 29, 2011

Over the last year I've been doing quite a bit of individual consulting for other photographers and I've really enjoyed the process. However, I believe there's a better way to do this. A way that's more affordable and provides a support network that doesn't have to always involve me and the premium for my time. As much as I love helping other photographers, I really love working on my own business and being behind the camera just a little bit more... no offense. ;-) So, I'm launching a new program to help make this consulting thing more streamlined, effective, collaborative, and supportive. However, I also know my limits in the time that I can offer, which is why I have to limit this to 20 people. What does it cost, you say? A $20 donation to ThirstRelief.org. Crazy expensive, right? Actually, the expensive part is in the time that we'll be putting in to help each other out- and that's not to be taken lightly. You will be expected to help others, and if you don't, you will be booted out of the program. It's not personal, it's tough love. So- if I haven't scared you away, and you're interested in collaborating on earning 20% more in revenue this year, fill out the form below and let's see where it goes! PS. This is not just for photographers - anyone who owns a small business can apply!! Maybe you know of someone who could benefit from this? Feel free to share the love!

(Note: the form below is hosted on wufoo and your responses will NOT appear on this blog without your permission! The info is all on the down-low, I just wanted to make it easy to fill out right here.)



Greater Lowell Empty Bowls Fundraiser

posted on: January 27, 2011

When I come across an event that supports a mission I believe in and care deeply about, my first thought is always, "How can I help?" I have hands and a heart like everyone else, but this gift of photography seems to be a unique talent that I can offer to help tell a story through imagery, so I volunteer it whenever I really believe it will help make a difference.


In the case of Greater Lowell Empty Bowls, I knew that because this was the first year, it would need to be thoroughly documented in order to provide a sense of the overall experience for people who've never been. Being able to see what the event is like in advance can help people feel comfortable knowing what to expect, which reduces the anxiety of going to a new event where you may not know anyone.


The "empty bowls" were donated by many different people- some were handmade by artists, some were bowls that had never been used from someone's home, some were cute, some were funky, some were simple, and some were crazy. The most unique bowls were definitely the first to be selected and taken home.



I think my favorite part was looking at the bowls people had selected for themselves and wondering what it might have meant to them. ;-)






Once the bowls were selected, people camped out at tables throughout the room and enjoyed unlimited cups of gourmet soups donated by local businesses and organizations specializing in culinary arts. Most people stayed for nearly two hours, meeting other people at a shared table, or just sharing some quality time with family.












Additional funds were raised through a "Chinese Auction" where raffle tickets were sold and buyers could place raffle tickets in bags for items that they wanted. Raffle winners were selected for each item by pulling a ticket from the bag. In the past, I've donated a gift certificate for my services for this kind of auction, but I still have yet to hear from anyone who "won" me, so I decided that my services are best donated by actually documenting the event itself. However, for things like Spinners game tickets, or a jewelry piece, it seems to be a great way to "win" something wonderful.



In the end, all of the money and efforts were going to a great cause - Living Waters Lowell and the Hunger/Homeless Commission of Lowell.




The entire event was made possible because ONE person named Patti, thought it would be a great fundraiser to help strengthen and educate the community about the needs of others within our community. Her effort, combined with the support of a few friends and businesses, made the entire event possible. It's amazing what we can do if we simply decide that we can, and we put in the effort to make it happen. Thank you to everyone who put in the effort and time to help strengthen our community by giving back to those in need.




In the future I hope to spend more time documenting how these funds are used and to tell the stories of those who are helped by efforts like these.

(Technical notes, because these images are being hosted on facebook, some image quality and brightness may be reduced from the original images. To see more from the event, simply click on an image.)

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