I Do It All For The…

I have to admit that I’m feeling a little schizophrenic today.

I spent the last weekend of July donating time and skills working at Cleveland GiveCamp, working in support of non-profit organizations getting some much needed technical assistance.  As the Chief Photo Editor and Lead Photographer, my role was to make the official non-profit group portraits and to make artistic and editorial choices for the Cleveland GiveCamp website.

Me at work on group portraits. Photograph by Katrina Blatt

I know that my team and I (Kevin Dutkiewicz, Katrina Blatt, and Kevin F. Smith) knocked the photographic ball out of the park this year with some wonderful and creative images and video.  These images along with the working talents of our volunteer web professionals present one of the most dynamic and innovative GiveCamps anywhere in the country.

All of the photographs submitted for use are beautiful, strong, compelling and people enjoy looking at them.   This is evident to me because I’m seeing photographs that we created on Facebook, blog posts and cell phones being shared with friends, family and work associates.

Today I also got news that one of my photographs entered into Picture Perfect Weddings Photo Contest on Viewbug.com, is one of the contest finalists.

Cleveland Wedding Photographer-20
Contest Finalist Picture


This is the third time in the last three months that I’ve made it to a major contest award or final.  Earlier this summer, I received the Rising Star Award for my first three entries at Pixoto.com and a finalist honorable mention for my entry in the Food Lovers Photo Contest at Viewbug.com.

Here is where the schizophrenia comes in.  I good feel about donating my time and creating fantastic images for non-profits doing amazing work, and the fact that my team’s work is being appreciated and shared by lots of people, but it’s all done anonymously, no credit, no acknowledgment of the original creator saddens me.  At the same time, I’m on a little bit of a high, because other photographers have voted me to be among the best of the best of thousands of entries.  You see, it’s all about getting the deserved credit.  Artists create because we feel inspired to make something that is seen and appreciated.  Often times for photographers, that appreciation comes in the form of money, almost everytime in the form of credit for their work.  The circle is completed when the appreciation itch that we all seek is scratched; we feel good about what we’ve done, and voila inspiration strikes again!

Bottom line: if you enjoy art, show your appreciation, become a client, patron or sponsor.  Most importantly give credit some work that you think is good enough to share with others.

2016 Cleveland GiveCamp Photography Team

Health is a staircase, not a doorway

Tim Smith smiling

Tim Smith and Kim
Tim and Kim look over the flavor intense sprouts. Various sprouts provide a new year around crop for CGP. Soon sprouts will be available to restaurants and the general public.
Zoning laws in Cleveland allow chicken aiding CGP in becoming a multi-opportunity urban farm
Zoning laws in Cleveland allow chicken aiding CGP in becoming a multi-opportunity urban farm
Tim Smith and his chicken
Celebrating a healthier and thinner Tim!

The guy in the photograph above is Tim Smith, and one of the reasons he might look so happy is that he’s changed his life for the better.  For years, Tim has been promoting healthy eating through his urban farm initiative Community Greenhouse Partners, (CGP) in Cleveland’s St. Clair – Superior district.  Now, Tim isn’t just talking about healthy eating, he’s become a living example of health by losing more than 80 pounds since the fall of 2015.

As the face of CGP, Tim’s two-pronged approach of educating the public about the importance and viability of locally grown food, as well as producing products for market, took a lot of effort.  The CGP campaign also took a toll on Tim’s health; as a Type I diabetic and weighing more than 330 pounds, health problems would often hospitalize him or have him recovering for extended periods of time.

After health screening and clearance in the fall of 2015, Tim underwent one of the most extreme elective body modification surgeries, a Roux-en-Y laparoscopic gastric bypass.  Now, Tim is physically limited to the amount of food he can consume, because surgery has reduced his stomach to the size of an egg. This food restriction, coupled with regular exercise, puts Tim well on his way to next weight loss goal, losing 100 pounds.


The Headshot, Your Personal Logo

Friendly head shot with a smilePersonal brands have become more important than ever, with the acceptance of social media in all aspects of our personal and business lives. The idea of a personal brand comes from the idea that we are the culmination of our ability, knowledge and connections. Through networking, new opportunities are born from the personal brand that we created for ourselves. Networking opportunities have little to do with the company we might represent since that may change over time. We know companies by their unique brand logo, an image that serves as shorthand to the community for what that company is all about. As individuals, we too have a unique image identifier and in social media it’s represented by our headshot.

Male Actor Head ShotBeing visually oriented is part of our culture and conditioning from an early age. How often do we recognize a face before we can remember a name? Descriptions of people often include observations like, “kind eyes”, “strong jawline” or “warm smile”. The uncomfortable truth is that as humans, we make unconscious judgements based on these visual, facial cues. The question then becomes, how do we work with those facial cues to support and bolster our “brand”? The headshot becomes the shorthand that sums up our resume, reputation and personality for your network to use for identification.

The old saying of ‘putting your best foot forward’ is truer in today’s age of social media networking. Your brand needs a strong image that goes along with and supports the value that you bring to your network. Unless you’re a skiing, diving or suntanning instructor, replace those vacation pictures occupying your headshot space. It’s nice to be the “fun” person, but your headshot should also say you can get things done. The same banishment goes for group shots, awkwardly cropped photos and blurred pictures as headshots as well. This removal is not to say there isn’t a place for these in social media, just not as your personal logo.

Bad blurry shot
This would be a terrible choice for a headshot

When using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or some other social media site, it’s common to network and create friendships online, in advance of a meeting in person. This new networking model makes your brand more important than ever. Through careful use of posing, lighting, color and the approximately 43 muscles in the face, we can create and support a brand. Want your network to see you as professional, responsive, trustworthy or intuitive? Let your headshot say it first.

In upcoming weeks, we will take a deeper look at how to make strong headshots. It doesn’t matter if you’re hiring an experienced, professional photographer or you’re an enlightened do-it-yourselfer, make your headshot memorable to your network for the right reasons.