Engagement Pics

Recipe for Awesome Engagement Photos

It’s been almost 1 whole year since my husband and I got hitched! It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long though – in fact I often still slip up and refer to him as my boyfriend! When I was growing up, I was never one to dream about what my wedding would be like. I think that was a good thing because I didn’t have preset expectations on how our wedding should have been. Everything was new and fresh and exciting.

I have to admit though – ever since we started planning for our wedding I found out that I have a secret obsession. I’ve tried to hide it but my husband has walked in on me several times… I’m addicted to looking at wedding dresses online. I don’t know how or why but somehow if I ever have a spare moment I’ll find myself googling Maggie Sottero, or Dessy… And it doesn’t end there. I also can’t stop looking at other people’s engagement and wedding photos. I love it! It’s the perfect combination of artistry, romanticism and voyeurism.

If you’re about to get married and haven’t had engagement photos done, I strongly encourage you to have them taken. Aside from it being a great way to preserve the happy memories (while everything is still perky and no sagging has occurred) it’s also great practice for your wedding photos! Keeping in mind that I studied film and lighting for years and worked as a model, I’ve compiled some tips on how to get the most out of your engagement photo session.

  1. Find Examples: Go online and look at photos that you like the look of. Find out what characteristics you like and show this to your photographer so they know what you want to get out of the shoot. Are you looking for a quirky style, or maybe the classic black&white or sepia photos that remind you of Paris… Do you like photos where the couple is posing or when they are just sort of caught in the act of being in love…
  2. Pick a Suitable Photographer: Suitable photographer does not necessarily mean the cheapest photographer! Yes – you can find excellent student photographers or friends who have nice cameras but make sure that they understand what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for some classic style photos, you may not want to select a photographer that specializes in S&M…catch my drift? If you’re looking for a good place to start check out Jen’s site (I went to elementary school with her and now stalk her work on facebook all the time!). Also Marlen is great too – she’s located in Toronto and is super talented and down to earth…Just watch out for her because she tries to get her clients naked (jk) as she is also an acclaimed boudoir photographer!
  3. Scout Locations: Don’t rely on your photographer to come up with the perfect location for your photos. If you have a friend with a gorgeous backyard near a babbling brook that you think would be perfect for your photos then ask them. Your photographer is a great resource, but be proactive! Also, remember that for shooting in public places you may need to contact the city to get a permit. The last thing you want is to be chased off in the middle of your photoshoot and be running from the cops.
  4. Prepare for your Shoot: Contrary to what you may think, successful models don’t just roll out of bed and go to a shoot. They buff and polish and wax and moisturize first.  Now, this may sound a little extreme but its true. You need to prepare yourself for the shoot. Make sure you have lots of sleep the night before, drink lots of liquid so your skin glows and invest in a face mask to rejuvenate your pores. If you know that your hair usually looks better the day after you wash it, then plan ahead. Make sure you have your wardrobe picked out and whatever needs to be ironed is. Also, make sure you eat and have scheduled enough time for the shoot.
  5. Makeup/Hair: While I’m not saying that you need to get your hair and makeup professionally done, it may be a nice treat for you. Professional makeup artists and hairstylists know how to make things look a million times better on camera. These are your engagement photos afterall – you don‘t want to fade away into the background. Also, you may be surprised at how affordable makeup artists/hairstylists are! Many are trained to do both and they will meet you at your location. Some will even stick around to do “touch ups” – this can include makeup fixes or getting rid of those annoying fly away hairs that tend to muck up every photo. If you’re in the Toronto area and need some suggestions gimme a shout. I was super impressed with Sherry who I worked with on another shoot. Within minutes of meeting her I felt so at ease. She’s great with hair too! Within minutes she transformed my messy tangley locks into something that looked like it should be on a Pantene commercial!
  6. Have Fun: Don’t be uptight about things and try not to over think things. The point of engagement photos is to capture the love and the essence of you and your partner just being together and in love. Most of the time the best photos are the ones where the couple just stops caring and noticing the photographer, and just has fun with their loved one. If you’re a goofy couple – don’t fight it. Release your inner goofballs for the shoot! If you’re a couple that loves to go out dancing together, then consider having that caught on camera.

So there you go – in a nut shell! I hope you take these tips and words of wisdom and go out into the world and take awesome pics! Make sure to tag me in them because you know how much I love wedding and engagement pics!!


Bye Bye Websites?

Bye Bye Websites?

Recently, I came across a discussion that proposed the following: websites are a thing of the past for businesses. They are outdated and don’t really offer any added value to the brand. It’s an added expense that doesn’t improve your ROI (I know – I’m using these nice fancy acronyms now! It means Return on Investment).

Baloney! I strongly disagree! At the risk of sounding like a snob I can’t help but think that this notion of websites being obsolete comes from a bunch of people who just don’t understand where the internet and social media is heading.

I PARTLY agree though – the traditional old school website isn’t enough to engage and capture the wallets loyalty of most of your consumers. The challenge is now to find ways to make your website more engaging. I’ll post some of my own personal tips on how to engage consumers and potential clients later on.

Kitty on Computer

An interesting question comes up… A lot of companies have the “consolidation mentality”.  What I mean by this is that they strive to make people and processes more efficient.  Slashing costs and getting rid of the unnecessary. It was only a matter of time before someone started to ask “can we get away with only have social media profiles?” I would recommend against this. Here are my top arguments for why websites are still vital for your company and your brand.

  1. Available 24/7 : Websites generally experience a lot less traffic than most social media platforms. How many times have you visited twitter and received that “sorry, we’re experiencing a high volume of traffic right now” Websites may be regarded as more of a stable method of communication. Also, most of the technical maintenance and “downtime” can be scheduled when traffic is lighter.
  2. Content Ownership: On your website YOU own your content. If people subscribe to your newsletter, you have their info. With social media, you don’t necessarily have that privileged. If Facebook were to disappear tomorrow, then your contacts would disappear with it.
  3. Open Access: Anyone, anywhere can access your website. They don’t have to be a member of a certain social network to help you build your brand.
  4. Adds credibility – its like the formal resume. It helps seal the deal. After meeting with a potential vendor, I always google their company to see what kind of dirt I can dig up on them. Should I trust them? For whatever reason when I see a well put together website, it calms my soul. It allows me to have faith in the company and it reinforces my decision to do business with them.
  5. Search Engines: Metatags help your site appear when people do related searches using search engines, like Google. You can use metatags with social media, but often the first couple of results that appear with search engines are actual websites and not social media web results.

Groupon – Missing the Mark

Why Groupon is Missing the Mark

I’m a member of Groupon and have been for a few weeks now, but I have to say I have come very close to unsubscribing 8 times so far (yes – I keep track of these things). If you’re not familiar with how Groupon works, never fear. It’s actually quite simple. Simple is usually good.

  1. Each day they feature something (in your area)cool to do at a great price. (like a hot yoga class for 10% off)
  2. You only get it if enough people join that day… so you have to invite your friends
  3. Repeat the next day, and then the next and then the next, etc.

It’s great for businesses because you get your name and brand out there. Also, there is a section for reviews so you’re able to build up your credibility. Another point for Groupon!

My beef is that with all of the options  out there to be able to target their offers, they are choosing not to.  From the last 10 invitations that I’ve received from Groupon, only 2 were appealing to me. So essentially – I received 8 junk emails from Groupon. I know that I signed up for the service, but as a consumer, if the message doesn’t interest me I consider it junk. Social media and the internet gives consumers (like me) the right to choose.

So, what’s the root of the issue here? I have a few suspicions:

  1. Groupon has made a conscious decision not to target, perhaps they think that diluting the options will allow more consumers to come across a certain brand. While this may be true, I do feel that it will result in higher unsubscribe rates.
  2. Not enough businesses have signed up to support the variety of demands from different tastes. According to Groupon’s CEO Andrew Mason “Interest in Groupon is so high we can only feature one out of eight businesses that contact us.” If you read more of that linked article, it makes it seem like specialization is in the works for Groupon. I just find it a little strange that it took them so long for them to start thinking about it (they’ve been around since 2008). In the world of social media that’s like a decade.
  3. Just haven’t gotten around to do that yet…

My magic number for Groupon is 10. If I receive 10 “junk” emails from them I’m going to unsubscribe. Usually my magic number is 3 for most places (I am a patient Canadian afterall, eh!) so Groupon must be doing something right.

If Groupon truly wants to engage me, they will offer me the options of choosing what types of offers I would like to be sent. Entertainment, restaurants, fitness, beauty, electronics, children’s apparel, etc. If Groupon respects me as a consumer, they will allow me to opt outof receiving email offers about Agoo’s clothing line for tots or the newest powder to treat jock itch. I would even go so far as to recommend that Groupon takes a page out of Hautelook’s book and send out a weekly teaser email about what hot deals are in store for the next week.

All in all – it’s not too late for them yet. They’ve done a great job of peaking my interest and getting me to join. Now, its up to Groupon to keep me happy by offering things that I want. PS: If you send me any more deals relating to kids that’s a dealbreaker! I don’t have any and most of those ads with kids in them freak me out.

Viral Media Dog

Kirpal and Viral Media

The first time that I can remember coming across a piece of viral media was back in 1995 when a friend of mine sent me  a link in an email. I know…it was ground breaking! Just thinking about how cool a hyperlinked text line in a message really floats my boat.

The link took me to a certain Flash animation where we meet Kirpal. You can check it out below. Besides the fact that it was super cool to be able to actually play any kind of media on my ancient computer at the time, it was a monumental step in making the computer and the internet cool. It was the first time that I stopped and said to myself “you know Sarah, there’s way more to this interweb than just chat rooms”.

Kirpal made us laugh and cry. The animation tugged at our heart strings and made us run out and adopt puppies so no dog would ever have to be kicked again. Kirpal changed the internet and what we expect to find online. Well, it was probably more so the creator of Kirpal (Joseph Engebretson) but we don’t know what ever happened to him.

But I’m getting off topic here. Think back to the first time you remember receiving or seeing a piece of viral media. What was it? When was it? I’m actually very curious about this – post your comments. Today’s young generation is getting to learn about things like double rainbows and rapists in Lincoln Park…while us ‘old timers’ were taught never to kick dogs or talk back to Pakistanis. All in all, I think we can learn something very important here. Although the method has changed (flash animation to youtube), the messages have remained very similar in nature. Its like old school SNL meets the internet – kind of mentality. Humour that is edgy, yet approachable and although it comes close to crossing the line it (most of the time) doesn’t. That’s viral media in a nutsackshell.

What am I worth?

Adventures of an SBO

Look at me -I’m already using the lingo!!  SBO= Small Business Owner

Oh wait – according to wikipedia it could also mean Small Bowel Obstruction. Hmm…  for this blog post I’m going to write about the Small Business Owner meaning, but maybe I’ll save the small bowel obstruction topic for a later post…

So, this process is so overwhelming and confusing and exciting at the same time. I’ve received lots of tips and support from friends that have taken the plunge…My girl LoveStats has been awesome with sending me lots of much needed help! Plus I’ve been chatting with a bunch of people working out some strategies on partnering up our services and networking even more.

But now I’m in a tough spot. Its time for me to finalize my pricing structure and this is scary! It’s like I officially have to take a stand and say I am worth THIS MANY DOLLARS. If I price too high no one will want me, if I price too low I’ll be devaluing myself. So what do I do?I feel kind of sleazy telling people that I will give them custom quotes based on their needs and their requirements but this is essentially what I have to do.

When I meet with a potential client, its kind of like Rich Bride, Poor Bride where they meet with the wedding planner and discuss what their vision is…So based on what comes out of this meeting, I write up a list of what resources (people, places or things) are needed and cost that out.

Then, I estimate how much of my time will be needed. Now – we have two options:

  1. charge per project
  2. charge per hour

Ideally, I’ll give the client the option to choose which they prefer. But I still have that problem with what to charge hourly… I’ve been chatting with friends/colleagues/strangers on the street asking them WHAT AM I WORTH? Aside from some strange looks, $1.25 in Canadian Tire Money, I still don’t have any concrete answers.

I went on LinkedIn and surprisingly enough someone had recently posted that same question – what is the average hourly rate for (insert specialization) media professionals? My problem is – do I trust this? Also, keeping in mind how markets differ and supply/demand how do I come up with a rate that is both fair and competitive?

Oh media and pricing gods – please help!!

Millionaire Matchmaker…you know you watch it too!

Patti Patti Patti….

Besides, the fact that you look like you could be a drag queen and whenever I hear you speak some of my brain cells turn to mush – I can’t stop watching your show!! It’s my newest guilty pleasure. You’ve replaced Janice Dickinson in a way.

So what is it about the Millionaire Matchmaker that makes it so appealing?

Love to Hate Patti: On her show she’s compared herself to Gandhi and Oprah!!  Everyone just wants to put Patti in her place. There have been a few disgruntled women that have tried to fight back but Patti doesn’t have any of it.

Air Head/Plastic Boobie Overload: Ok, so not all girls with fake boobs are dumb. BUT this show really makes it hard to disprove this stereotype! Today, we’re always so careful not to fall into the “stereotype mindset”. In fact – we go out of our way to disprove these. Example -Pam Beesley in the episode called Diversity Day (The Office, NBC). Millionaire Matchmaker plays the Devil’s Advocate. You know in your head that girls with gi-normous boobs aren’t necessarily dumb, but this show makes us question these fundaMENTAL beliefs! In their defense though I think it may have to do with the hot weather in LA…making the plastic and silicon melt…I think it may affect their air supply to their brains. Really, its not their faults.

‘Pretty Woman’ Complex: Say what you will, but I truly believe that atleast 8 out of 10 women have wondered what it would be like to be Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. Sigh….wouldn’t it be nice for some cute dreamy rich man to try and purchase us as their very own personal GPS/hookercompanion?…oh wait don’t forget about the shopping on Rodeo Drive!!!…

Rich Men Suck: The average guy doesn’t have a tonne of money, but that may be a good thing! Most of the millionaire men that Patti sets up are in love with themselves and have major relationship flaws. Lesson is – your average Joe may be broke but atleast he doesn’t sleep around and go to the spa everyday. Sometimes money is a bad thing. It can buy a lot of things…but can it buy you happiness?

Creeper: We’re all a bunch of creepers… The only thing better than creeping on FB or reading a friend’s diary is seeing a “blind date” go horribly wrong.  One of my personal favorites is the episode where we meet Jimmy D (again) and he goes on a date with Angel who ends up showing up drunk, throwing up before dinner, and asks to keep Jimmy money from the gambling lesson that he gave her…yeah…classy…

Zappin ma eyes!

Glasses

So, I finally gathered up my courage and went in to Yonge Eglinton Laser Center for one of their free consultations for laser eye surgery (or Lasik as it is commonly referred to).

The whole process took about 3 hours and they did a few tests on my eyes (ie. pressure test, vision test, etc.). It was pretty cool and the people were very nice…mind you they should be since they are trying to get me to part with  a fair bit of $$$!

They said that I was the ideal candidate for Lasik because I had nice thick corneas! (Better add that one on to the resumé!) I think I just may end up going through with it! Apparently the healing process is super fast (a couple of days) and the surgery is actually only about 15 mins/eye. I can’t even imagine not having to wear my glasses all the time!…I get giddy every time I think about it being a real possibility!

Anyone else have this done? Where did you go? Would you do it again if you had the choice?

Stop Squishing my Muffin!!!

For the last few months,  I’ve been getting to the office at an ungodly hour!! So, on my way downtown, I usually stop off at Tim Hortons and grab a tea (large orange pekoe +2 milks + 2 sugars) and a muffin.

Now – I’m one of those mental people who have a routine…and if certain things don’t happen then I go A-wall! Kind of like Andy from The Office (when Jim put his calculator in Jello). I usually save my muffin for when I get to work. For the last 3 weeks my muffin has been squished! WTF? My favorite part of my muffin is the very top layer and its been all crumbly and destroyed. It led to several very crummy days (yes – pun intended!)

So, I’m going to do some reconnaissance work and find out who is squishing my damn muffin!!! Wish me luck!…I’ll see you on the other side…“Don’t push me, cuz I’m close to the edge…I’m trying not to lose my head..”

Muffin (Pre-Squishing)

Muffin (Pre-Squishing)

Storyboarding – is it a thing of the past?

Videographers and filmmakers are among some of the most creative people that you will ever meet! I can say that – because I am one of them.

But being creative can really suck sometimes, because it makes doing “admin”  work that much more unbearable! You want an essay – I’ll give you a song. You ask for a road map – I’ll make you a flash sequence with directions.

My point is that we don’t get excited when we need to work on the pre-production paperwork.  We know that it’s required, and no big company is going to throw buckets of money at us without it but plain and simple – it’s no fun.

Now camera setups and location permits are useful aspects of the production bible, but what the heck is up with storyboarding? I’ve always been forced to do it but I never stick to what I’ve actually storyboarded. In fact – if I did stick to it I wouldn’t have ended up with half of the cool stuff that I’ve produced. I like to get lost in the moment and absorb my environment because that’s when the magic happens. I start noticing all of these crazy angles and awesome lighting that I just have to work in. What that means when I’m editing is that I end up cutting the scene completely differently because of the addition of these jewels.

With this in mind – is storyboarding still essential? For something that takes so much time and is rarely adhered to – is it worth it?

New Coffee Machine = New Attitude

So, yesterday the office got this brand new spankin coffee machine for us to “test” for a couple of days. It’s a new Van Houtte machine and it makes all of these fancy (extra fattening) drinks. It even grinds the beans for your special cup of coffee…or hot cocoa…or latte…etc. WOW – what a change to the mud crust we had before!

I tell you – if this keeps up my productivity is actually going to go through the roof! I actually decided to stay in the office today during lunch and continue working instead of going out for lunch…Don’t worry – that won’t last long though. They are scheduled to remove the machine on Thursday…until then I promise to be an example employee.

I can’t promise anything about my state of mind on Friday…I may have to call in sick from going through withdrawal…

Oh and did I mention that they even use fair trade coffee? Nice…

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