Podcasts! Getting interviewed is…

…kinda awesome!  Podcasting– an ever-growing audio world that is exciting, fun, educational, insightful… and well, all of the above and so much more!  I’ve been interviewed for several podcasts about my approach to creativity and life as a professional photographer and figured I’d share the audio recordings here.  I can talk, and anyone who knows me will chuckle with a very knowing nod.  Just ask me a question and woah!  These wonderful people, Karen, Wayne and Chamira, are so very good at what they do they made being interviewed easy and the conversations are really good.  I hope you take the time to listen and enjoy!  Comments much appreciated!  🙂

This one is with Karen Poirier-Brode on The Creative Approach.  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

This one is with Wayne Cook on HotMix.  CLICK HERE TO LISTEN on SoundCloud.

This is with Chamira Young on Zenjoyable with more of a focus on the business end of being a professional photographer.   CLICK HERE TO LISTEN.

#iwitness and Visual Storytelling

4:44 pm on the dot.

Musings on a Monday afternoon…
#iwitness. I’ve been a witness with a camera, professionally, for decades.

In just a few weeks we launch into Music Circus Season 2017. I’ve been company photographer there since 2005 and these intensive summers have been some of the proudest and most fun of my entire photography life.

My first show in 2005 was Beauty and the Beast. At intermission I just remember the sweat on my face and finally getting to catch my breath. I was breathless and stunned at what had just happened in front of me! I had no idea what it was going to be like, though I’d seem many shows there as a patron. It’s not the same when you’re trying to capture the action of 20-30+ people on a small round stage all singing and dancing and leaping with a 360 degree perspective. With theatre-in-the-round, which Music Circus is, there’s not a bad seat in the house!

As I look at this picture, shot several years ago as a publicity still for Music Circus, a California Musical Theatre production, of Bye Bye Birdie, I’m sometimes in awe of my own good fortune to photograph some of the coolest things ever!

Nathaniel Hackmann as Conrad Birdie in Bye Bye Birdie, produced by Music Circus, 2015. Photo © Charr Crail.

For example, I get to photograph art in the form of theatre. Sometimes it’s live and happening NOW. Other times it’s a set up and the performance is put on just for me while I aim my camera and snap the shutter. I LOVE it. And the second I choose the moment to click that shutter I’ve captured something never to be seen or experienced in quite the same way ever again. That’s the extraordinary beauty and profound delight of theatre. No two performances are ever exactly the same.

Visual Storytelling.  It may sound weird but it’s a lot like photographing live sports too. I’m looking for peak action and storytelling moments. For example, in any sport, football or baseball or basketball— you watch for the action, the touchdown, the homer, the slam dunk– you go where the ball goes. And even more than that— to do it well— you gotta anticipate the play to know where the ball is going to go. And then there’s emotion— who wins, who loses and how they react either way. Storytelling. That’s what we can do with our cameras.

So I guess theatre and football aren’t so different!

It’s pretty much the same in live theatre too — the movement, the emotion, the interaction, the peak moments,  the story outcome. What are the characters saying? Feeling? Experiencing? Get in touch with their emotions, watch their subtle body language and stay in tandem, your lens following along with them as they move across the stage. You may not know just where they’re going but you can anticipate loads by paying attention to their body language, their words and inflections, the emotional state and the storyline.

Oh, the things I’ve seen.  The art, the humanity, the creativity.

If I leave you with anything in particular it’s this. As a photographer you’re not just taking a picture— you’re capturing an experience you’ve witnessed.  How you capture it is dependent on far more than the obvious technical aspects of a camera.  The visual story you tell is happening inside you first– in your head, your heart, observations and your choices on when to click the shutter.  It’s your own interpretation of life and visual storytelling skills driving this show– The Photograph– one single shot of a moment you witnessed, now frozen in time, all because of you.

Focus on Creativity– Conversations with Amazing People

From a flicker of an idea to a realized reality— such is creativity!  I am so proud to announce my brand new YouTube channel featuring a project near and dear to my heart— Focus on CreativityMany thanks to the people who have already agreed to be part of this amazing conversation and the many yet to come and meet with me to share even more great conversation.

Creativity has been my life, both personally and professionally.  We are alive in this extraordinary time where with a few simple clicks it’s possible to connect with anyone in the world and get face to face, smile to smile, voice to sound anytime we want.  And this month I’ve been connecting just that way during online conversations with some remarkable people—  it’s been wonderful so far!  I pose the question “What is creativity to you and what is your creative process?”  The answers given during the conversations in Focus on Creativity are invariably unpredictable and fascinating.

I talk to international speakers, radio hosts, tantra experts, actors, authors, musicians, life coaches, health and beauty experts, landscape designers, photojournalists– and this is only the beginning because creativity is in everything and everyone!

When we think of the word “creativity,” art, music or culture often springs to mind.  But as one of my guests reminded me— we breathe, we create— and that is one of my most core beliefs.

Why does creativity matter and why is this conversation so important?

We all want to be more creative.  We are all searching for ways to bring things to life or to continue enhancing what we have or do.  That’s creating.  For me this began when a professional photographer told me they weren’t creative.  That shocked me and stuck with me, forever changing my view of what I had thought was a given.  So many of us wonder how to be creative— as if we aren’t already.

Creativity can appear mysterious and even seem to be a magical process.  Each one of us creates in our own unique way and has our own unique process.  Still, we wonder about how others do it.  We can learn from each other so we can go even deeper with our own creativity.

That’s what this conversation in Focus on Creativity is about.  Each one of us is a universe unto ourselves but we are not alone.  This Focus on Creativity conversation seeks to see and explore our unique ways of creating and the ideas and the process for each of us so we can share the mysterious, the magic and our connection with each other.

I am so delighted to share this ongoing project with you.  Please enjoy the videos, subscribe to the channel, and share.  What does Focus on Creativity look like in your own life?  Please feel free to comment and if interested in having the conversation with me be sure to get in touch!  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Join the conversation– CLICK HERE to view and enjoy!

Charr

Charr is the Host of Focus on Creativity, a photographer, an artist and a muse!

Charr@me.com

Focus on Creativity– Today we launch!

Creativity.  To some of us it comes easily.  To some of us it’s a constant question mark. We have all kinds of notions about what creativity is.  To me it’s everyday in everything.  To you it may be something very different but in the end, I promise you, it’s in all of us.

I actually remember the very moment I saw creativity in myself.  I was about six years old and in the process of coloring a bunch of grapes I had drawn.  My mom came by and exclaimed with surprise at how I had used unexpected colors in my grapes.  They were NOT all purple.  I had colored them with varying shades of blue and purple.  It was a sophisticated view for a child and her delighted reaction showed me something about my self— originality.

We all have originality.  You are original.  Your DNA says so and I bet many people in your life would say so too. We can’t help ourselves.  It is just what is so.

So what exactly is creativity and how does it show up?

According to dictionary.com it’s “the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.”

Creativity is how we like our tea, what we choose to wear on any given day, how we sigh, how we laugh, our handwriting, our personality as well as a million other far more obvious or subtle signs of self expression.

Why did this conversation even come up for me? I was the featured guest speaking about my photography and showing examples to a large group of professional photographers at their monthly meeting.  One of them raised his hand and pointed at one of my images on the screen and said.  “I can’t do that.  I’m not creative.”  That single moment has forever changed my ideas about creativity by revealing a shocking truth— even people in a creative field don’t see their own unique creativity.  It has become my mission to help people see it, to embrace it and to express it freely.

So, just a few weeks ago I was inspired to create a series of recorded conversations with people about creativity in their own lives and their thought process behind it.  So began my new endeavor Focus on Creativity, an ongoing series of video conversations with people that I will be publishing on a regular basis.  From hair stylists to actors, professional speakers to musicians and life coaches–  I believe everyone is fascinating on this topic and today is the day I’m telling the world about this brand new project— Focus on Creativity. 

The conversations keep happening and I’ll be publishing them when they do so please stay tuned! 

The first video in the series is with Georgiana Kovell, The Entrepreneurs’ Partner in Mind Blowing Success.  Enjoy!  And if so inclined to leave a comment, please do!

Want to get in touch with Georgiana Kovell??  Click Here.

Save Big $ with DIY Marketing– Take your own Pictures!

charr-crail-100

Taking pictures is one of those things that’s super fun BUT it can also save you money as an entrepreneur. Wherever you go, There you are. Shoot the picture– with your camera phone!

Save Big $ with DIY Marketing– Take your own Pictures!

Wherever you go, there you are. Take the picture—with your camera phone! Are you a business owner or entrepreneur who needs pictures and videos to go on your social media sites and websites to help you market what you do?

Of course, we ALL need them, right? People often use stock photos, which I don’t mind but I’d rather see the real thing– the hand of the artist if you will. But do you know how easy it is to do your own photos? So easy! And it can save you massive amounts of money! You don’t have to hire a pro for everything, you don’t have to buy stock photos and you don’t have to risk copyright infringement in case you just did a Google search to find the perfect photo to go with that blog post but got caught. When it comes to your business wherever you go, there you are– with your cell phone. Take the picture. Tell Your Story!

I’ve spent a career as a photojournalist shooting events great and small and some of the most famous people on the planet too I am proud to say. To me pictures are everything and from where I stand it seems they get more important every single day! Pictures AND video are the first things people look at when online or thumbing through any publication. It’s what draws them in, gets them to pay attention.

There is a secret sauce to all great imagery and though you may already know what it is how often is it the main thought in your mind when you bring a camera to your face and click?

What is the Secret Sauce?

If I had to choose one single word to tell you the most vital thing of all when it comes to great or effective imagery this is it– Emotion. How does the picture make you feel? How people feel and the emotions they experience is the single most important key to the deeper level of visual storytelling. Emotion is what you look for and I could write a book on that topic alone. Hold the thought. For now we will focus in on the more practical matters of approaching a photo subject because even though emotion is the secret sauce there’s still a lot more surrounding any subject in the sense of creating a complete story. The who, what, where, when, why and sometimes how.

The following suggestions should get you started in how to look at and approach situations you want to photograph and convey to the viewer what you saw– and in a perfect world seeking the special sauce and showing how it felt to be there too.

Let’s look at three simple and practical aspects to visual storytelling that you can learn and use for capturing your own effective pictures for use in your own marketing materials.

So let’s say I’m at a public event and I want to take a few photos that visually tell the story, capture the flavor– show what it was really like to be there. It’s very possible to gather all kinds of relevant information into a single picture.  Napoleon Bonaparte said it best–  “A picture is worth a thousand words.” You can see time of day, the season or climate, how many people were there, get a sense of the location and mood of the event.

The Overall Shot— This is the scene setter. This is the picture where you establish location by photographing the scope of a place or an event. Things you might include are people and how many. Is it a bustling crowd or a smattering? Is there a seasonal aspect? What is the overall mood of the event– the emotional experience people are having. Happy? Somber? Lively? Rained-out?

Look for interesting activities happening or some main gist of the event and why people might have gathered there. For example—Let’s say this is a community event with artisans selling their work and there are hundreds of people, young and old wandering through. It’s a riverside locale with dozens of vendors on a beautiful summer day. Take a picture in your minds eye right now and imagine the scene. Click.

The Medium Shot— Focus in on some specific thing or aspect of the event of interest to you. Since there are many artists you might look for one doing something unusual or colorful to emphasize that it’s an art event. For example– a glass artist is creating on the spot. Taking a picture of them moulding the glass into a shape, the heat source, the intensity of the artist as they work. Look for emotion, engagement, interaction. Perhaps someone is watching the process close enough to keep in the picture too so you move in and center the frame on them a bit. That would be considered a medium shot.  Can you imagine it? Click. Click.

The Close-Up—This is literally a close up photo. For example—the artisans hands as they deftly shape the molten glass before it cools into a fine glass miniature that they’ll later sell. You can see the lines in the deft and experienced hands, or the sweat dripping off the artisans face, or the stretched molten glass thread-like. Click, Click, Click.

One Event, Two Stories. Which story are you trying to tell?

One Event, Two Stories. Which story are you trying to tell?

This is storytelling but you are doing it in pictures. Sometimes you can get it in one picture. Often you’ll get it in the three I just described. The Overall, Medium and Close-up. Do this at any and all situations or events you attend and you’ll always come away with a solid visual record in photos you can use for blogging, posting on websites or social media of all kinds.

Showing up, getting your voice out in the world and telling a story from your unique point of view– it’s all a big and powerful part of great marketing.

You don’t have to be a journalist to think like one and tell a great visual story. You don’t have to be a professional with thousands of dollars worth of equipment to capture great pictures and the essence of photo subject. Listen, sometimes only a pro will do so by all means hire one for those important things like professional head shots or high end brochure work. But since wherever you go, there you are why not go ahead and take the picture yourself—with your camera phone– and post all over the place! Marketing is more than just advertising. It’s about connection, top of mind, being seen, noticed and recognized as a solid resource. And don’t forget the secret sauce.

Pictures and videos in social media are the first things people see besides a striking headline. Create and use them liberally as part of your ongoing business efforts. Pictures and videos are just two of the dozens of things I use my cell phone for when it comes to business and I love teaching how to do it.  Do you want to learn all about making photos, videos and using apps to market your business? I’m TEACHING how I do it all. It’s rad fun. Check out my workshop page– CLICK HERE!

About the Author: Charr Crail has been a photographer and artist all her life, and a working professional photojournalist for over 25 years. She specializes in photographing people, entertainment, creating imaginative photo illustrations and teaching. Charr is an oft published photographer in both newspapers and magazines and has won numerous awards for her photography and art work world wide. Charr also speaks to professional groups and colleges about photography and puts on workshops at her photo studio in Sacramento teaching art, digital imaging and marketing with your camera phone to both beginners and pros.

Learn and see more about Charr on her website: www.charrcrail.com or get in touch directly via email: charr@me.com

Live on FB, Spontaneity at my Workshop

Amazing day at my latest workshop– Creative Marketing Using Your Camera Phone!  

Seriously, how can you talk about marketing without mentioning Facebook Live and then doing it right then and there–  Fun!  Yep, we went Live on Facebook at the very end of a fabulous workshop– Creative Marketing Using Your Camera Phone.  A wonderful class for anyone in business who wants to get creative with pictures and videos so they can shoot their own, edit them, turn them into videos and market their product or services all right in the palm of their hand using the iPhone!  Had a blast learning and practicing some wonderful tricks and tools built right into your iPhone that you can use to create pictures and videos you can post online– social media, websites and more.

Perhaps the best part of this class for me was the unbridled enthusiasm these students had and the really great photos they captured.  It was a ling full day of learning, getting hands-on and even making videos from the pictures we captured.  Everyone had a blast!

Learn about this class and many more at my website:  www.charrcrail.com

Wherever you go, there you are!

charr-crail-wherever-you-go-memeSeriously, Wherever you go, there you are.  I’ve been thinking so much about my business and other entrepreneurs who want pictures and videos to go on their social media sites, their websites and marketing stuff.  I know a stock photo when I see it.  I don’t mind them but I’d rather see the real thing– the hand of the artist if you will.  It just looks real so I’m getting kinda more passionate about it these days because it’s become that thing that is always in the back of my mind.  Business, photos, posting, working–  Wherever I go, there I am, with my cell phone.

When someone is crazy for something, can’t stop thinking about it or doing it and is all about that particular thing… ?  Yeah, they joke about that saying “like a dog with a bone”.  I get it, and I am a dog with a bone now too.  My iPhone.  My camera phone.  I use it for EVERYTHING practically.  Well, I may not use it as a spatula to turn over a hamburger patty but I do use it more and more everyday for more and more. Here is a list for a few of the things I use it for.

Making art

Time and Date

Calendar

Games

TV

Alarm Clock, Timer

Texting

Email

Internet and Social Media

Photographing

Shooting Video

Listening to music

Maps and GPS

Learning with education apps

Shopping

Health, Exercise

The News

Invoicing

Banking

Taking payments (credit cards)

Making payments

Investing

Calculator

Weather

Audio Recording

Making notes

Reading books

Flashlight/Nightlight

Archiving and Sending/Sharing files

Attending live webinars … and so many more things…

What about you? What do you use your cell phone for?

Of course my main thing these days is photos and videos.  Shooting photos and videos, making videos from my photos, making memes with my photos– and now TEACHING how I do it all.  It’s rad fun.  Check out my workshop page– CLICK HERE!

App-sessed– Typorama

charr-crail-app-sessed-typorama

Typorama is a great app for putting text on images– aka making memes.

More and more everyday I’m mesmerized by the endless possibilities of using apps on my iPhone and iPad for making art, doing business, marketing and connection in so many different ways.  I’m having a blast learning and using some pretty amazing stuff!  Today I am sharing the first of many tutorials I’ll be doing about apps.  Today’s app is Typorama.  A simple, intuitive meme making app that has loads of great features and does a great job in general– so I love it.  It’s not the only one out there of course but it’s a good one and this tutorial goes over the general usage of it.  Enjoy!  If you like it please let me know.  I’d love to hear what you think!

Blank White to Wonderful- Inspired Creativity

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-6-29-33-pmThe Story behind Wuv Woo.  Being inspired by something is perhaps the purest key to creating anything truly unique and original.

“Good artists copy.  Great artists steal.”  Pablo Picasso.

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”  Mark Twain  

Screen-Shot-2016-05-30-at-11.23.43-AM
The New Yorker Magazine: Covers

New Yorker Magazine is iconic.  As a little girl I could, and would,  sit for hours at the local public library where they had an entire wall of beautifully bound New Yorker volumes, some of which were only the iconic comics.  I’d pull the heavy volumes off the wall one by one and read for hours at the table in that special section of the library.  I loved comics— what kid doesn’t?  But the comics in the New Yorker are sophisticated and wry and funny in a very different kind of way than the typical comics in the Sunday comics section of a newspaper.  They introduced me to ideas and things about life in the world that as a kid I might not have had access to for many more years.  I actually consider it part of my education.

And the covers!  The New Yorker covers are iconic.  They are relevant to the news and happenings of the day, they tell a story, they are serious art by top artists from an editorial point of view and I love that about them.  A friend of mind with a fabulous house in Pebble Beach had one of their bathrooms entirely wallpapered in New Yorker covers, coolest thing ever!  I still think about that from time to time with the notion of doing it too.

Wuv Woo.  This is one of my favorite pieces of art I created while falling in love with the man who is now my husband.  The creativity point to this story behind the image is that I get my inspiration from everywhere though you might never have a clue where from.  Why?  Because I am inspired creatively but never a plagiarist.  Even if you saw the New Yorker cover that inspired this image you would not recognize it.wuvwoo-charr-crail

That particular cover caught my imagination.  There was something about the face. It was sweet and oval with a geisha like whiteness to the skin.  Almost like a porcelain china or some smoothly chiseled marble.  It was a simple close up view of a beautiful face with almond shaped eyes and such lovely subtlety that just looking at it gave me a kind of pleasure.

I saved the illustrated cover of the exquisite face for many many years before I ever managed to create this Wuv Woo image.  Then one day a moment arrived and I was there and ready to do something with it.  Just hours later something new was born– because  I acted when the inspiration struck.  And it’s worth noting that one must act when inspiration strikes whenever possible!  Capture the idea, save it however you can!  Luckily I was ready to go, in place and could go the distance right then.  So some details behind Wuv Woo…

1— It was inspired by a New Yorker cover but took years to germinate and be born.

2— Wuv Woo is something sweet and affectionate I say to my husband meaning I Love You.  We have both adopted it as one of those mushy things couples say to each other.

3— Though I would more often be described as colorful this one rests in only three colors— red, black, white.  It needed no more than that to manage a striking image of contrast and sweet design.  The red represents love.  The face represents a loving and steady gaze at the object of affection.  The flowers and patterns represent the feminine and creative flair.  The words and the font I chose have a weight to them, an italic expression that relates to forward motion, the white cirlcling lines represent even more action and movement.  I didn’t consciously intend these things in the moments during creation.  It’s only now that I can look at it and see what I did.  I was in the creative trance while it was happening.

The technical– The face is a line drawing I did, which was directly inspired from the cover, the flowers and patterns are Photoshop brushes I created and use in varying sizes, layer styles and opacities.  I did the whole thing in Photoshop, incuding the drawing, using a Wacom tablet.

What more is there to say about it other than this.  The idea of being inspired is perhaps the purest key to creating anything original.  In the end my image looks nothing like the original but that’s because I allowed my inner voice to have it’s own say, it’s own delicious flavor.  I let it have it’s own expression of color, form and composition.

There’s a wonderful scene in the movie Finding Forrester, starring Sean Connery, that mentions this idea— about finding a starting place, aka an inspiration, and allowing your own voice to find the path, to take the creative journey but make it entirely your own.  Isn’t that what an artist does?  And I mean any kind of artist!  No matter the medium.  Musician, painter, cook, writer, photographer or architect or any other creative endeavor.  No matter the medium— it’s invariably the seed of inspiration that takes a white piece of paper and fills it with wonder.  From the Blank White to Wonderful.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”  Plato

Isn’t the need to create as much a powerful human need as the needs to eat, to sleep, to have comfort, to procreate?  We are conceived, we are born, therefore we create.

Screen-Shot-2016-05-30-at-11.54.43-AM

Creating from inspiration– scene from Finding Forrester with Sean Connery.

CLICK TO WATCH SCENE FROM FINDING FORESTER