Happy New Year! I can’t believe it’s 2018 already. I’m so excited that I launched my new site that I don’t have a lot of other news right now. I’ve been steadily adding projects to my portfolio for the last month, and I’m proud to say I’m finally almost done.
Adding new projects to my portfolio is not as simple as I wish it was. It’s not just a matter of grabbing your project, snapping a few photos, writing a simple description, and throwing it together on a page. When I finally complete a project, I have to think about how I’d like to photograph it, and often I prefer to style the photos to add more visual interest and supplement the project itself. Each project is different, and it is much easier to style wedding projects than other print work in general, because it makes sense to add florals, beads, or other items to a wedding invitation design, but less so for an informational booklet for a university. I’m still collecting items for styling my projects, and sometimes I’m disappointed when I can’t find the right things to fit certain projects until after I’ve taken all of my shots. One of my goals this year is to collect more photo styling objects (ideally purchased with coupons or given to me for free).
When I first started photographing my projects, I decided that it would be best to photograph them on a neutral white backdrop. I purchased a cloth backdrop from Amazon, hung it over my work table, and photographed all of my work on it. I did not realize that this lovely cloth backdrop wrinkled very easily, and very often. Even though I left the cloth undisturbed most days, I still had to iron it between projects, and even after ironing it, it wouldn’t be quite perfectly smooth. I was getting frustrated with the upkeep of my little photo studio, so last month I overhauled it. I swapped my previous art desk with my folding art desk, got a new reflector and softbox, and decided to roll the backdrop up to prevent it from wrinkling. So far, so good.
I have a new wedding project to photograph this weekend, so I’m going to unroll the backdrop and pray there aren’t any new wrinkles in it. I haven’t decided how I’m going to style it, but I still need to add calligraphy to a few envelopes to add to the shoot. The wedding invitation is a one color letterpress with hand drawn thistles and filigree elements, and the wedding colors are navy and gray. I’ll have to see what materials I have on hand that would work to style the photograph. Usually a photo shoot happens like this: I have a finished project, I set it on my table, and then I try to figure out how to style it. I take a handful of random objects from my prop boxes, try a few lay outs, then hopefully have something ready to go while the light is still good. If it’s a wedding project, I have to use a previously finished envelope, or I have to get my pen nib and ink out and write one or two out. Once I hopefully have it set up the way I like, I put my Canon Rebel T3i on my tripod and take a lot of photos from different angles. It’s not always easy to tell if the photos are perfect when I look at the display on the camera, since the screen is brightened, it makes all photos look like there is more light in them than there actually is. After I take a ton of photos, I upload them to my computer, then begin editing. Most of the time, I’m upset because they don’t look quite as good as they did on the camera screen, or there was a wrinkle or shadow I didn’t see initially, or some other perfectionist reason. It takes me a while to edit photos, and it takes me a while to write a project description, so those two parts end up taking much more time than I ever budget. Once everything is ready to upload, I make a new portfolio entry, add the description, upload the photos, and hope for the best. Believe it or not, this is a vast improvement on how the process used to be on my old site, because I had to do all of those things, PLUS code and design a new web page for each project. I’m so glad I switched to WordPress – now I just throw everything on my new portfolio entry page, and voila!
So my new planner this year was Ink & Volt’s 2018 Planner. I saw it listed on another website as a great planner, and when I investigated the link and saw its beautiful design, layout, and prompts, I thought it would be perfect. I started writing in it on January 1st. One of the prompts was: “My theme this year is…” and that got me thinking. I’d never “themed” a year before. I know that’s like a thing people do, but I always thought it sounded nonsensical. But, in the spirit of the new planner, I did it. I decided my “theme” would be transformation. I’m not sure exactly why. I think I am at a stage in my career where I want to become a more independent freelancer, and personally I want to transform from my previously unwell and disordered self into a more healthy and balanced person. I have other transformations in mind as well.
And, the planner asked, what are my goals for this year? This is what I’ve listed so far:
“Get a raise or promotion by April”
“Continue studying French and Chinese”
“Teach one watercolor workshop”
“Travel to at least one new place”
“Develop a healthier exercise routine”
“Read more books”
I know I’ll have more goals, but this is what I have so far. I’ve already practiced Chinese every day, started doing Pilates and yoga, planned a watercolor workshop through my chapter of the AIGA, and I’ve checked out several books from my library (and I’ve read several too!). So these are some of my goals this year. What are you goals for 2018? Do you have a “theme” for the year? Does anyone besides me still use physical planners?-A.K.