Picture Perfect Phone Photos

Memorial Day weekend has left us eagerly awaiting one thing, summer! And not just the season, but also our guest contributor this month, Summer Saunders! Both a friend and fellow alum, Summer graduated from UNCW majoring in Communication Studies and International Studies. Well known for her skills behind the camera in college, now post graduate, Summer works as a full time portrait and wedding photographer. This month she gives us some of her tips on how to improve your own photography skills.

Picture Perfect Phone Photos

Photographs are everywhere you look and a part of everything you do! When you wake up in the morning the first thing you do is look at pictures as you scroll through Instagram, Facebook, or catch up on the news. You see photographs on every eye-catching advertisement. You even have pictures hanging in your house, framed at your desk, and have at least one or two favorites as your computer background! Everyone loves a good photograph, and chances are you are quick to notice when someone posts or displays a bad one.

When I was asked to contribute to the blog, I began thinking of helpful tips that anyone and everyone could learn from. Photos are such an important part of our lives and if you utilize these three tips, I promise you will be more satisfied with your overall outcome—whether it’s for advertisement, blogging, social media, or just for yourself!

To keep it simple, I’m going to give tips based solely on smart phone photography. Smart phone graphics are continuously improving and camera pixels and features often let you edit your photos before and after the shot. While I personally use an iPhone, for Android users, this article by CNET applauded the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

Not to mention, whether it’s Apple or Android, nearly everyone has a smart phone. What if you work at an agency and your boss asks you to find and snap the best advertisements you’ve seen in town? What if you’re a reporter and quickly need to capture footage? Or simply, what if the professional equipment you are using fails? More than likely you’re going to pull out your trusty smart phone, so why not make those pictures as sharp as possible?

1. Lighting is everything! When using a smart phone camera, be careful to not have your subject directly backlit. This means you do not want the main source of light where you are to be behind your subject. Most of the time this will make your subject extremely dark and silhouetted if you focus on the background, or if focused on the subject the entire background will be blown out and very bright! Try and have the light hitting the focal point of your picture.

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I said it before, but I will say it over and over, lighting is everything. And this picture is a great example. See how the sunlight is creating contrast between the brown limbs of the tree and the green foliage in the background without over-shadowing or over-illuminating either one.

2. Speaking of focal points, look at your background space too! Say you want to post a really cool photo of your pina colada on the beach while you’re on vacation. You know what will ruin that photo? The big hairy man on vacation walking by in the background! Maybe you are using social media to advertise an event or product—make sure you don’t leave objects such as trashcans or a dirty room visible behind your subject. It is always okay to reposition items or politely ask people to move for a photo.

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Take this picture for example, what you do see is a cute tucked away chapel; what you don’t see is the dirt and trash lying in front of the picket fence.

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Here is another great example of how being aware of focal points can make for a great shot, and in this case, one made by using the symmetry naturally presented in the background.

3. Lastly, smile! Don’t always get used to being behind the camera, sometimes you have to get in front of it too! This might sound incredibly cheesy but it is probably the best piece of advice I can give. You don’t want to have to explain to your boss why you’re holding up a peace sign in every photo you’re in from a conference, or have to explain to your children someday why your tongue was out in every photo of you from college!

Remember, the first picture is rarely the best, take multiple! Don’t be afraid of trying different angles or positioning. If you’re shooting items or products, more often than not the best picture isn’t going to be the one where you are hovering above the table shooting down, it’s going to the one where you’ve squatted down and are eye level with the product.

Have fun while you photograph, but just be conscious as well! Knowing how to photograph well is a great skill set any employer would be happy to have in an employee and a skill you never know when you might need. If you are interested in learning more about photography either via your smart phone or a DSLR camera, or if you have any specific questions, leave a comment or contact Summer via the social media links below!

Summer Saunders


Summer currently operates her own photography business, S3 Photography, and wedding photographer at The Story Creative.

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Make your attendance count: how to choose and afford conferences

Development opportunities, such as conferences, are vital to the success of young professionals. Not only do they allow you to bring new skills back to your job, but they help you grow your network and professional self.

There are conferences and conventions for nearly everything imaginable; deciding where to go can be an overwhelming decision at first. Something to consider is looking at the pros and cons of large vs. small conferences.

The high volume of attendees at larger scale conferences is both an advantage and disadvantage. In order to accommodate the larger numbers, schedules and itineraries tend to be tightly packed. However, because of the greater monetary resources, large conferences offer more workshop choices and more training sessions. With a broader selection of options, you can easily find education subsets that directly appeal to your goals and needs. Additionally, larger conferences will be able to bring in more esteemed speakers and guests. The drawback, however, is that because of the bustling schedule, you will have little or no time to interact with them outside of their presentations.

Smaller conferences equally have just as many advantages and disadvantages. A main selling point of attending smaller and regional conferences is that they are more affordable via cheaper registration fees, travel expenses, and accommodations. Smaller conferences also have the advantage of fostering more intimacy that may make it easier to forge connections, ask questions, and interact with guests and presenters overall. However, if growth or expansion is a primary goal of your company, either with products, services, or the company itself, you may miss some of the opportunities afforded from the national reach and the workshop selections of a large conference.

Regardless of what type you attend, the networking opportunities are the pivotal selling point. Conferences have a way of bringing together people who wouldn’t normally speak and the advantages such meetings could bring to your company are limitless – conferences can put you in contact with clients, customers, and competitors. Attendance is a great way to obtain market research via feedback from a target audience in a live setting, as well as in terms of finding out strengths and weaknesses of your competitors.

In sum, conferences are a great opportunities for growth by:

Building your knowledge base

Learn about the newest cutting edge technology, stay up to date with the latest trends and platforms, and even learn about organizational and leadership development.

Building your professional network

Whether it’s through the simple exchange of a business card, or through a lively conversation at a social function, conferences can forge relationships with people locally, nationally, and even internationally.

Building your resources

Conferences are an exchange of information; they are full of people promoting new ideas, vendors selling new products, and consultants teaching new methodologies.

Are you interested in attending but not sure which one to go to, or where to start? Michael Brenner from B2B Marketing Insider has posted his list of the Best Marketing Conferences of 2015. While you can surely search for conferences that are more specific, the ones on his list include a variety of communication topics such as digital strategy, social media, content marketing, tech, and leadership. The list is organized by starting date and includes what city/region each takes place along with a summary of the event. Another helpful list is by Siege Media. Their page provides a price guide, links to more information, and lets you filter results by region.

The only downside to such events are cost. With travel, hotel expenses, and registration fees, conferences can easily total a couple of thousands of dollars. One way to offset the expense is by getting your organization or company to help pay.

Young professionals do not hesitate to ask your boss or company to financially contribute to these opportunities – the worst that can happen is they say no. In fact, some larger companies might include professional growth opportunities in your employee contract. The American Chemical Society Career Navigator says to go back to your offer letter/contract to check if such benefits are included. If so, be sure to tactfully bring up the company’s obligation when you pitch the conference to your boss.

Here are a couple of things to have handy when you sit down to speak with your boss.

  • Have all the details about the conference and expenses printed out and ready to show them. This will help them quickly assess if the conference can fit in the budget they have.
  • Tell them what skills you will be developing. IT consultant Brent Ozar says to print out a list of sessions you plan on attending, that way you can quickly tell your boss how each one will benefit the company. This also shows you are serious, not just trying to find a way to get out of the office for a couple of days.
  • Tell them why their company or organization needs to be in attendance. One reason people attend conferences is to network. Remind your boss of the great exposure the company can get by you attending and wearing a company t-shirt. Mention you will share your conference experience via social media or email write-ups to fellow employees. “By being part of the conference buzz, we get our names out there and get a slice of that coveted thought leadership pie,” says Janine Popick. Sharing that company employees are participating in learning opportunities also gives off a progressive and employee-oriented image, something that could make a company stand out to potential customers, business partners and current stakeholders.

After you have finished your pitch, leave your boss the printed materials to review. If they come back with a no, don’t freak out. Go back and try to negotiate. If they didn’t give you a reason with their no, sit down with them again and reiterate your interest. Let them know you are willing to pay for some of the expenses. Below are three different asking levels. I would always start with number one and work down to not paid.

  1. Fully Paid (meals, travel, hotel, registration)
  2. Partially Paid (you pay for meals and travel, company pays for hotel and registration)
  3. Not paid (you pay full expenses, but DO NOT use vacation days)

If you are attending a professional conference that aligns closely with your job position, the least an organization can do is give you the time to go, especially if you are paying out of pocket. If you are still tight for money, but really want to go, check out Carrie Smith’s article “8 Ways to Attend a Business Conference for Free”, she offers some money saving tips and creative ways in which to lower attendance cost.

We encourage all of our readers to take advantage of these opportunities. Not only do they help you grow your network and skills, but they also are creatively stimulating and refreshing. If you are a blog reader located in the triangle or southeastern part of the state, you may be interested in the upcoming IMC Conference 2015: Creating Spaces of Engagement. Hosted by UNC Wilmington’s Communication Studies Department, the goal of the three-day event is to explore how integrated marketing communication (IMC), as grounded in the communication discipline, enables community engagement. This year’s conference dates are May 28th – 30th with registration closing this Friday, May 22nd. To find out more about the conference events, check out the website, view the schedule, or contact conference planner, Dr. Jeanne Persuit.

What conferences have you attended lately? Let us know why you decided to attend, how you learned about it, and how it was beneficial.

– Caroline Robinson and Savannah Valade

Live-streaming – the new outlet of broadcasting?

It has been a while since that last big social media breakthrough. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (all steadily active platforms) seemed to be sitting pretty, until two new social, live video-streaming apps were launched earlier this year.

While easy-to-create-and-share live-streaming networks seem like the next logical step, with this new evolution also comes new territory. By furthering consumers’ ability to capture and share, also comes the task of figuring out what and how to restrict – and if such a thing is even possible in today’s society.

Even though Meerkat and Periscope are only a couple of months old, many people are jumping onto the new technology. As the platforms grow, so does the need to make a presence. Brands know that in order to stay relevant, they must figure out how to appropriate the latest social trends. A simple hashtag search of “Periscope” or “Meerkat” on Twitter results in thousands of tweets promoting streams. A query this morning yielded results from Oprah, The Weather Channel, Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, and the Backstreet Boys.

Many are figuring out innovative ways to resource the function – special performances, interviews, news coverage, looks from behind the scenes, and so on. Reporter Stephanie Wei decided to utilize the Periscope app during her reporting of the Phoenix Open. She live streamed professional golfers Matt Jones and Jordan Speith during practice rounds, fielding them questions from people watching the streams.

While we applaud her use of the app, the PGA Tour did not. Two days after her Monday interviews, Wei was told her credentials were revoked. The tour’s head of communications and chief marketing officer Ty Votaw went as far as to say “she’s stealing.”

“It’s not that the PGA Tour hates Periscope. They just want to make sure you’re watching their Periscope account,” noted an article discussing Wei’s consequences. A claim that seems fairly supported when on Wednesday the tour fed its own streams – a move that many are calling hypocritical.

But it’s not just golf, as a whole the lucrative world of sports broadcasting is pushing hard against live streaming.

The NHL has banned the use of live-streaming apps and warned reporters of punishment. Why? The new live-streaming apps infringe on broadcasting deals. In 2013 the NHL signed a 12-year contract with Rogers Communications, a Canadian cable company, for 4.9 billion dollars. The deal gave Rogers exclusive Canadian broadcast rights for all NHL games including Stanley Cup playoffs and final. Combining this with the 2 billion dollar, 10-year deal they signed with NBC Sports Group (US broadcasting rights), the NHL will walk away with roughly $7 million.

In fact, many sports programming rights annually total billions. Figures that don’t even take into account the revenue those leagues have begun to generate from advertising, sponsorship, and ticket sales.


The allowance of live-streaming apps at big sporting events would devalue the worth of broadcasting deals and ultimately the relationship between cable, TV networks, and advertising.

The networks (i.e., ESPN, Fox Sports, etc.) that pay the leagues for broadcasting rights make money through advertisers and paying cable customers. Cecilia Kang from the Washington Post reports expensive sports broadcasting deals have and will make the price of cable TV rise steadily over the next decade. It may seem small, $2 – $5 more a month, but in another 10 years that could mean your TV bill will be $240-$600 more than what you pay now.

If consumers are able to view free live-feeds of the events, then they have no need to pay the high-priced cable fee.

Sports radio host, Joe Ovies provides an eloquent analogy of the relationship between the live-streaming apps and sports broadcasting, “Periscope and Meerkat are to the television industry what Napster and LimeWire were to the music industry 15 years ago. They’re disruptive forces to well established content providers.”

Another example – last week’s major sporting event, the fight between Mayweather and Pacquiao. This highly anticipated and talked about fight was only viewable through a $100 Pay-Per-View paywall; a price many paid, but also one that many skirted around. Illegal Periscope and Meerkat streams popped up throughout the night, with thousands tuning in. You could even get a ringside view thanks to an attendee who streamed live from a pricey seat in the arena.

While many felt underwhelmed with the fight, Twitter CEO, Dick Costolo announced a winner, Periscope.

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The issue at hand? Copyright infringement. Who and how are you going to stop users who can simply open that app and point and shoot?

While in compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Twitter (who owns Periscope) responded by killing reported streams, yet reliance is placed on users to report copyright infringement material. Such accountability begs the question, are users actively reporting content if it’s something they want to see? A second issue arises in the nature of the platform itself. Even if content is reported, streams can end or be pulled by the time tech teams even become aware of them.

“In general, we feel developers should have tools which proactively prevent mass copyright infringement from occurring on their apps and not be solely reliant upon notifications,” HBO said in a statement regarding Periscope recordings of its show Game of Thrones.

“The company is going to need to figure out a better way to combat piracy on the fly,” offered Andrew Wallenstein, in his piece on Periscope piracy. “Periscope may require something like Google’s Content ID system, technology capable of identifying forbidden streams in an instant, and maybe even converting them to transactional opportunities for legal alternatives to the content in question.”

This potential threat is not only relevant to sports, but to any live event. Why buy tickets to a concert or play, entrance to a museum, or almost anything else imaginable if you can simply watch it live through your phone? If consumers decide live-streaming is here to stay, it can only be fought for so long before eventually it just has to be embraced. An interview with Katy Perry revealed those in the music industry aren’t scared. Perry commented, “I’m with it. I think that when you see a phone, that is like the new applause.”

There is no doubt some of the feeds on Periscope and Meerkat capture and will continue to share copyrighted content, but enforcing copyright law will prove to be a difficult task. The most important issue for those in IMC related fields – do these new platforms change the traditional cable, TV, advertiser dynamic?

-Savannah Valade & Caroline Robinson

A Year Into Post Grad Life

May is a busy month for most – Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and for students, most importantly, graduation day. As our Alma Mater prepares for the end of the finals and the beginning of the ceremonies, Caroline and I have two main thoughts – first, “Has it already been a year since that was us?!” and secondly, “What have we done this year?”

This week we want to reflect on our first year post grad and talk about the worries, triumphs, revelations, and different paths that young professionals take.


When graduating as a communication studies major, the world seems like your oyster. Every year the “ability to communicate” is high on the list of graduate skills wanted by employers. (This year Forbes lists communication skills as number 3 out of 10.) But when you’re a communication professional looking for a job — where you are expected to be able to communicate with not only your colleagues and clients, but audiences and target markets — having that skill does not make you stand out.

During my senior year I applied to some reputable agency intern programs. I was extremely excited when I heard back and interviewed with both, and then extremely disappointed when I found out they chose the other candidate. That left me graduating without a plan, something I was not accustomed to.

So I spent a majority of my summer sitting on my parents couch looking for job openings at agencies and firms (which is especially hard when you do not have prior agency experience), doing exactly what I swore I would never do — come back, live with my parents, and work in my hometown.

At the end of July I was offered a position helping a nonprofit organization I once interned with sell sponsorships. I knew selling wasn’t my ideal job, but I had a lot of respect for the organization and liked the idea of a challenge, plus it would put some money in my pocket. Without even realizing it, I became a boomerang kid. Last year the NY Times reported that of those in their 20’s and early 30’s, one out of five still live at home with their parents and 60 percent of (whatever they define as) young adults receive monetary support.


Damon Casarez documented the ‘Boomerang Kids’. Boomerang kids are young adults who live with their parents.

From September to February I focused on sponsorship sales and went back to working as a part-time server at a chain restaurant. During this time, I was given the opportunity to work as a marketing and communications freelancer, this included some design work and social media execution. From this experience, I learned how to price my own professional worth, and even taught myself how to work with social planning software, such as Hootsuite (well at least the free version). I also attended a professional conference, where my organization won an award for social media execution.

Knowing I had worked on the social media that helped the organization win best festival social restored my confidence, teaching me to not dwell on what I haven’t done and to focus on my accomplishments.

Now, it’s May… again. It is hard to believe a whole year has flown by, and although I feel I am in the same position, a recent graduate looking for a job, I feel a lot more prepared as I search for my next step in life. I have discovered that I am most motivated when working with organizations that help and inform others, and I enjoy working in jobs where I can explore and bring news ideas to the table.

New graduates know that your first year will probably be a struggle. Don’t let the fact that your friends and classmates already have jobs lined up keep you down because entering the real world means you have to stop comparing yourself to others and start your own journey with its own timeline.


While graduation day was the proudest moment in my life, it was also the most bittersweet. I genuinely have always enjoyed school and after cumulatively going for 17 years, it’s strange to have the day come where that routine is finished. Unlike many of my peers, as senior year dwindled down, I was not frantically sending out resumes or worrying about interviews. After consistently having worked thirty-hour weeks since high school, along with juggling two majors, extracurriculars, and sometimes a social life, I simply needed a break. “Just one more summer to relax. It’s my graduation present to myself,” I justified.

So as I happily sat in my beach chair last summer, the salt and the sand stirred up a few revelations for me. The first being, this is where I am happy. Not very profound, since friends, teachers, even mere acquaintances could have told you that about me. But what I did realize is that leaving the coastal lifestyle would truly make me unhappy, working in a city with beltlines and angry commuters would make me unhappy, and being stuck in a corporate cubicle, would definitely make me unhappy. However, what I would like to do in my career – a muse of advertising, branding, and politics – is something that most of the time requires the city life, the subsequent larger markets, and unfortunately the aforementioned points. What I am left with then, is the question of, how do foster my career in the market I want to be in?

This question isn’t just because I’m one hundred percent stuck on staying in Wilmington, but the other places I would consider moving to such as Charleston or Savannah, all roughly have the same market size and therein the same limitations. Advertising openings often come in the form of coveted positions at boutique agencies that generally require a decent level of experience and/or a very diverse skill set.

So how does a recent graduate still trying to gain experience land a job? This is also something that I wish would have been communicated more when I was in school, either by instructors, advisors, even guest speakers… Just because you want to work in advertising doesn’t mean you have to work at an ad agency. Most of the time I felt, as is my department placed emphasis on outside marketing communications agencies, yet all sorts of companies have in house marketing departments. My best friend just began working as a social media and content manager at a roofing company. If you want to work in marketing but are moving or wishing to stay in a smaller market such as myself, don’t dismiss the opportunities you may not even realize some of the local businesses offer.

The second revelation that occurred to me was that while my education, and what I do with it is, and always has been, hugely important to me, what I get to do with and in my life is also. Do I want to begin years of working 9-5 where I will eventually earn two weeks of vacation? Honestly, no, not at all. While I realize such distain is probably coming from the months of freedom that came with education calendars, the inevitable monotony left me pondering where does my career fit into the grand scheme of what I want to accomplish in life, and what is it that I want to do? Honestly, I want to travel. So I have spent the past year saving and planning to make that happen. Next month I will embark on 3-4 month solo adventure in, around, and through Europe. There’s too much I want do and see than a two week vacation would allow each year. So why not go now?

I do want a career; I just don’t want that right now. And that’s okay! Even though I am taking a hiatus, I am still educating myself about trends and current events – I avidly read, I write the blog each week, and I’m working on a second language. Don’t be worried if your post graduation life isn’t going as “planned”. You get to decide what your plan is, and it may be different from your family and friends. As you can see from this post, Caroline and I have two wildly different directions but we are each setting goals and striving for our own ambitions.

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We hope this post has opened up some conversation about the struggles of being a brand new professional. However, we are only two experiences in this world and we would love for other young professionals to share their experiences and advice with us.

– Caroline Robinson and Savannah Valade