Saturday, January 30, 2010

What the iPad Means to Our Business

by Gregory Bertolini
With Steve Jobs' announcement of the new Apple iPad, we could be on the verge of a new way of conducting business:

The iPad will change the business of photography, styling, writing and publishing. Up until now, the electronic tablets have been more of a novelty for the gadget inclined. If Apple is able to push the iPad as they have the iPod, the world of the printed image and book-catalog publishing will be forever changed. The iPod changed how music is sold, distributed, marketed, and even how it is recorded (musicians now record their songs in their own home recording studios and no "hard copy" such as a disc is needed).

The same could happen with the printed word and photographs. There may be BIG changes for us still photographers: Think that people viewing the iPad with its high resolution color screen, and the capacity of playing moving images, will be happy viewing a still or static image? I see that in the near future, still photography may become a small player.

Think about it. Want to look up a recipe? You open up an electronic cookbook or subscribe to a food magazine on your iPad. In front of you on the screen, is the recipe. Hit a button and a lovely voice reads you the recipe at a speed that allows you to prepare the dish. An image of the dish appears, the camera moves around the dish, giving you a 360 degree view. Need help understanding a food handling technique? Press a button and up comes a video that shows you how that technique is done. Want more information? Press an icon and a mini documentary about where the ingredients for the recipe come from and how they are harvested appears. Hear the chef explain the recipe or technique, listen as the dish sizzles on the stove; hear the liquids being poured and the clinking sounds of the kitchen preparation.

Or go shopping for some new clothing through a catalog; stroll through an exotic island paradise while local music plays in the background. A model enters the scene, turns, moves, bends. The viewer not only gets to see the clothing, but also experience how it moves and drapes in different conditions. What will happen to the standard printed catalog verses the electronic catalog? No mailing or printing fees for the company-the largest part of a catalog's expense, plus being able to instantly change the e-catalog if the product's style or color changes or sells out. Why view a product from a single angle when you can entice the viewer with movement and sound? Simple tools for 360 degree product viewing already are in use, but in the near future when we set-up a fashion, product, or food photo shoot, how important will the background or location be if it can move and interact (sell) with the product?

I find this all to be exciting, but it also makes me nervous. There are lots of questions that we need to ask ourselves, and new industry standards will need to be invented. Who will lead, who will follow and who will fade away? Can still photography compete with or complement the interactive or liquid image? Will printers, who are already being squeezed in a tight market, disappear? Will 'hot lights' replace strobes in the studio? Will food stylists also have to be 'hand models' because techniques can be filmed live? Will the standard photo shoot now include sound technicians, a lighting crew, and a producer and director? How do you dress a set, make-up a model, prop clothing, or style food if the camera will pan around, over and even under the product? (I think we need to study the film industry for this.) And will the standard still advertising/catalog photography studios be replaced by video production companies? What will happen to our fees?

The web is notorious for its low fees, but the iPad is not just the web. It is also a magazine, a book and a catalog. How do we use our businesses to cross all these platforms? And if more skills and larger crews are needed will the cost of producing an electronic advertisement, article, brochure or book go up? Or will clients expect a 'one-man-band' someone who can shoot, style, compose sound, and even appear 'on camera'? Will their costs saved in mailing and printing be off-set by the added expense of production? And is the 'standard' once-a-month, 12 magazines with 12 covers and 12 feature stories per year gone? With electronic, publishers can add new articles every day. Companies could update catalogs and add merchandise instantly (putting an end to the standard spring-summer-fall-winter catalog format). Does this mean more work for us in the future and what about us independents and small businesses? Will the work go in-house because 'instant' turn-around times will be required?

I have lots of questions, as I know many of you do. I want to invite all of you, as professionals, to add, remark and discuss together, where we think our industries are going, what were doing about these changes, and the lessons we learn.

Gregory Bertolini Photography

Gregory is a food photographer based in New York and part of the Photo Styling Workshops team, teaching food photography in our live workshops. The next Food Styling & Photography Workshop will be held in Chicago, IL June 5-6, 2010.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Prop Shopping for Public Enemies

When we watched the DVD of the Johnny Depp movie about John Dillinger, Public Enemies, I remembered that Beth Reiners who teaches at Photo Styling Workshops had mentioned prop styling for the film. I asked her for more details and she told me about the project.
“I helped the LA Prop stylist pick out all the props for the scene shot right here in Crown Point, Indiana! It's the jail scene (it is the actual jail Dillinger escaped from as well) where he escapes and steals the sheriff's car. We went to all the local antique stores and found anything that pertained to the jail and to a later scene in downstate Illinois at the prison; old buckets, old irons and ironing boards, old stools, old keys, paintings, brooms, tables and benches, etc.”

What a fun and fascinating job! Frequently a set stylist will call on a local stylist to help with prop shopping. We know all the best places to shop, the thrift stores, and antique stores that will rent or sell us just the right, obscure item. We drive them around and follow the creative trail to the props that are needed.

After Beth described the scene she helped to style, we re-watched the film. In the jail scene I could see a few of the props she helped to track down. But just a few – that’s the way it works with props. You need to bring many options to provide a few select items for the shot. You can’t have any attachment to the others and can’t expect that everything will be chosen. Beth’s props helped to make a perfect scene, in my opinion.

Beth Reiners teaches the 4-week, online course Prop Styling 101 at Photo Styling Workshops. Next session begins March 16, 2010.

Monday, January 18, 2010

7.5 Ounce Coke Cans

What a great idea! I have to hand it to Coca-Cola for coming up with these handy cans. While I found several blog reporters who hated them, resenting the fact that they cost the same as an 8 ounce short can and may not help dieters, I think they’re kind of neat. They seem more tech-y, more European to me. They’re just the right size for a bag lunch and just as much Coke as I want to drink. The cans seem to be lighter too, meaning less aluminum used. On the other hand they do come in 8-packs with the plastic holder that is harmful to sea life. One of the little things in life (one that probably involved months of work for the researchers, public relations people, can manufacturers, and designers behind the scenes).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Café Press Customer Service

I recently had a great customer service experience from Café Press, the on-demand T-shirt print service and host of online stores. I have two stores on Café Press where I have baby T-shirts and other products based on my hand-drawn illustrations of vintage toys. (Some of them weren’t vintage yet when I drew them but that’s the nature of time.)

Last weekend I went to my own store, Linnet Baby to buy a onesie for friend Raquel in San Pedro, CA, who was having a baby shower and I ordered this one to be sent to her. But I forgot to enter the recipient’s address until I hit the button completing the purchase. So I emailed Café Press customer service. I got the nicest email back on Monday saying “I do apologize for any inconvenience. I have taken a look into your account information and notice your order has already shipped. Therefore, I have processed a replacement order for you at no additional charge. … There is no need for a return! Please go ahead and keep the original order as our way of saying thanks for shopping at!” Isn’t that nice? I am using the extra shirt as a blog story about the thrill of good customer service.

You can visit my online stores at and

Friday, January 8, 2010


I didn't expect to like Facebook so much and resisted joining. This blog seemed like enough of a venture into social networking. I thought Facebook would either (a.) be boring or (b.) take too much of my time. But I did it for Photo Styling Workshops, to set up a fan page and generate more interest in our online classes and workshops. Well, I do really like it; (a.) it's not boring, getting glimpses of news and daily events from the 128 people I know there. But (b.) it really does take a lot of my time, checking in to see what's new - in the last five minutes!

I think you have to be very careful to post nice and neutral material. I've been telling the story of a sweet potato plant I've been growing and posting images of its progress. That's nice. And I've reconnected with some old firends and relatives I had lost track of. I've been sharing new media I am doing artwork in with artist friends and seeing how my daughter feels every day, before her regular phone call.

And to follow my original objective, I have a FAN PAGE for Photo Styling Workshops with 36 loyal followers. If you're a Facebook follower please become a fan.

Images shown, the sweet potato (commonly known as App) on Thanksgiving day and December 28, 2009.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas in New York

Sounds romantic, doesn't it? Our weeklong trip was just OK, since I got a cold the day after arriving and gave it to Gary for a Christmas gift. When we visit our friend Anita near Woodstock, New York the main focus is the Italian tradition of seven fish dishes on Christmas eve. Which always evolves into 17 different dishes. So that's what you do on the day before Christmas - cook.

We deveined shrimp, cleaned clam shells, prepared mussels, crab legs, and calimari. Fried the calamari and fried bread with anchovies inside. We had a baked scallop dish, a salmon dish, and a cod dish. Made sauce, of course, and broccoli rabe. Someone else brought a huge pot of cioppino!

Fortunately the table was set days ahead. Above is a real-life, unstyled, all-American dining table for 18. Anita, Gary, and I actually didn't eat much. And fortunately someone else washed the dishes. So that's the tradition. Is it worth it? I guess so.

Image at top: View of snowy sculpture garden at MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, a trip highlight!