Monday, 24 June 2013

How to Get the Most Swagger Out of Your Internship

Summertime is beautiful; the sweet air, the sun glorifying your every step, the weekends with friends you’ll never forget (unintentional rhyme, but I’m keeping it).

But if you’re an upper-class college student exhausting the last bit of ambition you can muster up, you’re probably working as an intern. Although they feel tedious, internships can be one of the most influential steps a budding worker can take. I should know, I’m in one.

Over the course of my internship here at Swagger Media, I can positively say that I’m sad it is so short-term (6 weeks). But while I’m here, I should make the most of it. But how is an intern supposed to exploit all the potential of a short-term internship?  If you’re anything like me (shy, inexperienced, etc.), it’s not easy. But here are some things that can help.

Be confident.

OK, can I be more vague? Allow me to explain. It’s all right to be incredibly under-qualified as an intern. I’m pretty sure that’s in an intern’s DNA.  I have been assigned to compile ad traffic and create graphs showing the relationship between ads and website visits, and it’s really a whole new experience for me. The point is, you’re not supposed to know the ins and outs of a company’s business model. You can’t possibly understand what it means to vertically integrate (keep all parts of the production/distribution process in-house) or establish a large network effect (the value of a product increases as more people use it).  Although I just shamelessly boasted my economic knowledge, I still don’t know anything about how companies are actually run. And you know what the best part of the situation is?


You’re there to learn, so be confident in knowing that now is the time to make mistakes and grow in your knowledge. The word intern literally means, “set within prescribed limits” or “restricted.” I’m purely bragging at this point (it comes with the confidence), but know that the world won’t end if you don’t know everything about everything already.

Ask questions.

Once you get enough confidence, ask as many questions as you can. Employers love to talk about how much they know. They like the idea of having a protégé, regardless if you fit the bill or not. At Swagger, my employers know a lot, and just overhearing their conversations helps me understand how things get done in a work environment. But if something isn’t clear, it won’t hurt to pick your employer’s brain. Once again, now is the time to fill your head with all of the stuff that will be useful in the future.

Now, Now, Now!

Keep an open mind to all the tasks you do.

Is it not obvious I’m making this up as I go? But seriously, opportunity is waiting behind every odd job, every small task that you’ve been assigned. It’s like an unfed puppy waiting to be loved. Clearly I need to work on my similes. But rhetorical devices aside, find the hidden (sometimes very hidden) values within your daily duties.  Since I have been throwing around ad traffic, I’ve learned even more about Excel. I’ve also learned how to manage my time more wisely when other tasks arise.

If you look for character-building qualities within the job, you’ll find them. And it’ll only help you in the future. This type of positive mindset will make everything a learning experience. Be like a sponge and absorb every trick of the trade you can. You see? This task has helped me improve my similes.

Mastering the Simile.
Be a human.

I’m not talking about evolution. I’m talking about being an enthusiastic social being within the work environment. This is perhaps the most important thing to consider: people want to be around other people. That is, if you get you’re work done but don’t interact with anybody else, you aren’t learning as much about a firm as you can. I try to be as friendly as I can in the office (which to normal people is probably as friendly as a rabid dog), and this helps everyone’s days go by so much smoother.

People run firms; therefore, the workplace is a social setting. Ask about people’s days, ask if anybody needs help with anything, and establish relationships that could be mutually beneficial for both parties. If they wanted a drone, they would’ve hired one. OK, maybe not for another hundred years, but you get the point.

As long as you do your job and are enthusiastic about it, perfection isn’t necessary. Just make sure you’re willing to learn, to seize opportunities, and to become an excellent future employee  (or employer, if you’re lucky). 

 What do you think is the key to a successful internship? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday, 17 June 2013

4 Simple Steps Toward Becoming a "Real" Photographer

I can’t say that I’ve always loved photography because that’s definitely not the case. I’ve grown up with cameras my entire life, but it was barely four years ago that I actually got serious about learning how to take photographs and not just point my camera and press buttons. I bought my first DSLR, read books, browsed forums, took classes, and learned from anyone who was willing to teach. The transition proved to be a difficult one as it was very much a situation in which I discovered I didn’t really know anything about photography. For at least eight years now I’ve called myself a ‘photographer’ but only more recently than you might imagine did I begin to really wonder what made a photographer different from someone who takes snapshots at birthdays and on holidays. Is there a difference?

I really believe that everyone can be a good photographer, regardless of experience, training, or even equipment. I’ve seen awful photos taken with $6000 cameras and absolutely phenomenal photos taken with an iPhone. What it all comes down to is how well you understand the art of taking a photo, and as it turns out there really are only a few things that are absolutely essential. I’m not saying reading this post is going to launch your National Geographic career or anything, but it certainly could make your photos stand out amongst a sea of drab images that flood Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

1. Don’t Center Your Subjects: Our eyes don’t naturally go to the center of a picture when we first look at it, they scan the thirds of the images. Let’s look at two different pictures:


Did you find one picture more interesting that the other? You may or may not have noticed that in the first picture the only real content is the couple at the bottom, which is nice, but over half of the picture is a blurry background. The photographer could have used a smaller aperture to bring the background into focus (we’ll have to save that lesson for another time) or he simply could have recomposed his shot to include more of the couple. In the second photo we can see that each different element falls nicely into a third of the composition. The clothesline literally forms a dissecting line in the upper third.

Simply by placing the main focus of your picture in one of these areas you can drastically improve the quality of your photograph. It’s really that simple. It’s not magic or trickery or anything fancy like that, just put someone’s eyes in the upper third of a photo the next time you take their picture. You’re welcome, I’ll bill you later.

2. Stop Using Unnecessary Flash: We’ve all seen footage of large stadium events (concerts, sports, etc.) in which the seating looks like thousands of blinking stars. We’ve also all probably been guilty once or twice of being one of those blinking stars. Now just think with me here for a moment: if you had a flashlight and pointed it at a truck that was driving away from you, how far do you think the truck would drive before the flashlight no longer illuminated the back of the truck? 10ft? 100ft? Either way, we can all acknowledge that eventually the truck would be too far away for the flashlight to illuminate it properly. The flash on your camera is actually really similar, except that unlike a flashlight it’s meant to flood a relatively small area with a lot of light, whereas a flashlight usually covers a much greater distance with a narrow beam of light. So next time you’re more than 20ft away from whatever you’re taking a picture of, think for a second about whether or not your flash is actually going to help. This is important because if the camera fires the flash it will assume that whatever you were aiming at was lit by the flash, leaving you with underexposed (dark) photos if your subject was too far away.

3. Read Your Camera’s Manual: It’s amazing how often I buy some sort of new electronic appliance and think to myself “Why would I read the manual for my new blender? I mean, it’s a blender.” Well that’s the short story of how I set off a fire alarm and ended up with milkshake all over my dorm room floor. Now let me tell you, chances are your camera is a whole heck of a lot more complicated than a blender. Well, maybe not that super complicated, possesed blender I bought, but still, I’d bet good money that you might have skimmed the manual before you put it back in the box, or worse, straight into the trash (shame on you)! The point is that as simple as a camera is (light is focused by the lens on a sensor, which records the information) the software that operates the camera usually has dozens of controls and strange names for operations. This is true if you’re using anything better than a cell phone, and even more true if you’re using a DSLR.

If you did throw yours away, or lost it somewhere amongst countless other manuals that you never read, don’t panic; pretty much any manual for anything ever can be found online, usually on the manufacturer’s website. Just go ahead and google the exact name of your camera and you’ll probably find all kinds of interesting information. The task may seem daunting but try to look at it as a learning opportunity. A learning opportunity that will help you take better cat photos than all of your friends.

4. Most Importantly: Don’t ever let other people tell you how to take your pictures! Oh man, don’t you feel like you just wasted five minutes reading this whole thing?! Don’t worry though, what I mean is that taking pictures should be fun above all else. The tips I provided to you above are good tips that were given to me and have helped my photography improve a great deal over the years. That being said, however, I’d never take advice or implement practices that made photography feel less enjoyable. At the end of the day you may have a bunch of photos that no one really likes except for you, and that‘s ok. As long as you have fun doing what you’re doing and are happy with your photos then who really cares what anyone else thinks.

I mean, you know, unless you’re trying to get paid.

So, we're interested- have you read your camera's manual? If so, did you find it useful? If not, why not? What other fundamentals would you suggest to a novice photographer? Leave your comments below or tweet at us @swagger_media!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

A Look Inside: The New Adobe Premiere and After Effects

On June 17th, Adobe will release its highly anticipated software update to the Creative Suite. From Premiere to After Effects, Photoshop to Illustrator, all of our favorite apps are getting just a little better and those of us at Swagger Post can’t wait. Today we are going to focus on two of Adobe’s top Post Production Apps, Adobe Premiere and After Effects.

Before we dive deep into our favorite new features, I want to first point out that for the first time ever, Adobe will be getting rid of the software box. Yep, that’s right, the latest release of Adobe Software will only be available through their Creative Cloud. Cloud software not only allows for lower cost software, but more frequent updates that are easily accessible.

The update I’m most looking forward to is Adobe After Effects CC. A few months ago we started utilizing Cinema 4D for all of our 3D Animation, and oh boy, it’s been amazing. We often combine elements from After Effects and C4D in our work. Before, this collaboration was only made possible through a plugin... until now.  With the latest version of After Effects you can work directly with objects and scenes from Cinema 4D.

So what are the benefits of a C4D/AE Integration:

-  Round-tripping between programs - make a change in C4D and it automatically updates the scene or object in AE without rendering first.

-  Work natively in a 3D space in After Effects (finally)

-  Simplify your animation/motion graphics workflow

-  AE now comes with a lite version of Cinema 4D (which means 3D possibilities for everyone)

Other additions to the software (to name a few) include:

-  Improved Warp Stabilizer - adds the ability to choose which items in the clip get stabilized.

-  Refine Edge Tool - allows you to maintain the details when separating foreground elements from complex backgrounds.

-  Global Performance Cache - allows your previews to be saved even if you close your project and open it again later.

-  Pixel Motion Blur – allows you to add motion blur in live scenes as well as rendered scenes. You also have the ability to control the amount of motion blur, which I’m super stoked about.

First, I have to admit transitioning to Adobe Premiere was a little harder than we anticipated.  The multi-cam editing, inability to have more than one project open simultaneously, and lack of good audio controls, frustrated us enough to put it to the side. With the recent updates, I’m looking forward to giving Premiere another shot.

My favorite new feature with this update is simple link to locate. Offline clips are bound to happen, with the rapid pace of most post houses, content tends to get spread across multiple drives. This feature is long overdue, but will save us a lot of time.

Other features include:

-  Mezzanine Codec Support - For the Pro Res and DnxHD fans out there, Adobe has finally included native support for both formats.

-  Sync Settings - We all have our own set of settings and now with Creative Cloud, those settings can go with you, wherever you go.

-  Precise Audio Control - Now you have the ability to adjust audio clips independently of each other.

-  Editing Finesse - Paste Attributes (finally), ability to see duplicate clips in timeline, and  track targeting to name a few.

-  Lumetri Deep Color Engine - You now have the ability to use preset color grades for simple, quick, color grading.

My advice: if you haven’t purchased a Creative Cloud Membership yet, do it now. You don’t want to miss out on this awesome update.

What Creative Suite updates are you most looking forward to? What do you think they are overlooking? I’m interested to check out your thoughts in the comments below!