Behind the Lens

My sister-in-law drove down from her Indiana home last month so we could play makeover and dress up and take pictures. Allegedly we were taking the pictures for her next CD, Crawl, but it’s hard to call it work when we’re both making faces and goofing off. Of course, it’s not all making faces, either.

Jenn Cristy

This is not the first time I’ve taken Jenn’s picture for promotional purposes or even for her CD art. I’m really lucky that she trusts me enough to let me play photographer for a day or two, and then play graphic designer and put together the CD packaging. It’s fun to dip my toes into my former life, without all the stress or pressure. And with Jenn, it never really feels like work.

Jenn Cristy

We decided to hire a makeup artist this go ’round and it was a terrific decision. If you are in the Atlanta area and looking for someone to do makeup, you must check out Lindze. Awesome gal, so sweet, professional and talented. She even helped with photo styling, which you will see on the CD cover…eventually. (Yep, keeping it under wraps until it’s out.) But these little sneak peeks give you an idea of what we were up to. You know, minus the giggling and singing and my occasional cussing at my camera lens (my 35mm lens only focuses sometimes-ugh).

I seriously think the photos from this shoot are among the best I’ve ever taken.

Technical details: Shot with my Canon 30D and a mix of lenses (Tamron 28-75, Canon 35mm) with natural light and a Canon 580ex Speedlite with Gary Fong Light Sphere to diffuse the bounced fill light.

Sounds Like…

Earlier this week, I made a phone call I never thought I’d make: I called Hellmann’s Mayonnaise to ask if my sister-in-law’s song was used in their newest commercial.

First, a little backstory.

My love for my sister-in-law Jenn Cristy and her music is no secret. I’ve blogged before about her music and her work (and my work to help her music). And my husband (her brother) and I are just about the biggest fans we can be from three states away. Two years ago, I spent hours listening to the tracks for her then-unreleased CD, Hotel Confessions, while I worked on the album and merchandise design. Jenn’s song “Betty” quickly stood out as one of my favorite tracks.

On Tuesday morning while simultaneously half-listening to the Today Show and surfing the Internet, some familiar music came through the TV speakers. My oldest, who was sitting next to me on the couch, popped his head up from his work. “Is that Aunt Jenn?” he asked. It sure sounded like it to me, so I fired off an email to her:

To: Jenn
From: me
Subject: Weird
OK there was a hellmann’s commercial on just now that had music that sounded just like the intro to “Betty.”

When I got in the car to go to work about an hour later, I noticed that I’d missed a call from Jenn. So, like any responsible adult, I waited until I got to work to return her call. Yeah, no. I called her from the car. (I did use the speakerphone, Honey. I promise.)

Jenn said a friend of hers had contacted her a couple of weeks ago about the same commercial so she’d looked it up online to take a listen for herself. “It’s the exact same chords from ‘Betty’,” she said. And, no, neither Hellmann’s (a Unilever brand) or Ogilvy & Mather (the agency who made the ad) had contacted her about using the song.

Here’s Jenn singing ‘Betty’ in Aug. 2010 on WTIU’s Weekly Special show — first seven seconds (via YouTube):

And here’s the Hellmann’s Mayonnaise commercial-first seven seconds (also via YouTube):

I’m not a trained musician but they sound awfully similar to me. Jenn, who is, thinks they do, too.

Jenn is an independent musician. That means she doesn’t have a label or a recording contract. The albums she’s made? Money came out of her pocket to pay for it. And I’ve got to be honest: I don’t think playing 100-some shows a year (some of which require travel and overnight stays for she and her band) is so lucrative that she and her elementary-school-teacher husband aren’t having to make some sacrifices for her to fund her business. Even the idea that someone is using her music for a commercial endeavor without compensating her makes me see red.

I called Unilever’s consumer contact line Tuesday afternoon to ask about the song used. The customer service agent I spoke to (Rose) said the commercial’s info was not in her system so she would have to pass on my information and someone would have to call me back. Because it was close to the end of business, she said, I likely could not expect a return call until Wednesday, at the earliest. (I explained to Rose that I was going to blog and tweet about the similarities in the music but wanted to give the company a chance to respond first. Newsroom habits die hard.) It’s now Friday and I’ve yet to receive a response to my call. Or, as we used to write at my previous employer, “a Unilever spokesperson did not respond to calls before press time.”

I’ll update this post if and when they respond.

Little Girls, Big Style: The Giveaway

I have been working on this giveaway forever. Like, since I started working on Little Girls, Big Style. I have always loved hosting giveaways and this one is even more special to me for rather obvious reasons. And I’m especially excited to be taking part in Sew, Mama, Sew’s annual Giveaway Day (be sure to check out the link and see all the amazing blogs/shops taking part).

Here’s what you’ll be winning from me:

• An autographed copy of Little Girls, Big Style.

• Two yards of Pellon Easy Pattern for tracing the patterns in the book.

• Some fun trims from my stash for using with some of the projects.

• A Clover Chaco Liner chalk marking pen.

• Three one-yard cuts of fabric (fun multicolored owls on white 21-wale cord by Robert Kaufman, Euro-style mermaids from JoAnn and the prize from my stash: Little Elfi from Germany).

• ModKid Little Chef pattern, which I tested for the lovely Patty Young.

• Indygo Junction Petal Blossom Bag designed by Violet Craft, which is the most recent thing I’ve sewn.

• A Starbucks Frappuccino cup and gift card. Starbucks was my office-away-from-home while I was working on the book and I spent many an hour there, writing without the distractions of home (or the Internet).

• An autographed copy of Jenn Cristy‘s Hotel Confessions. Not only was this the soundtrack of my book-writing days but I actually did the photography, CD packaging design and merch design while I was writing the book. You say “crazy;” I say “multitasking.”

This giveaway is open until U.S. residents until Dec. 17 at which time I’ll select a winner using (Sorry, international friends! I will do a book-only giveaway just for you after the first of the year.) To enter, all you have to do is comment on this post. Yep, it’s just that easy.

And don’t forget you can still enter the giveaways on the Little Girls, Big Style blog tour (continuing through Dec. 15) to win a copy of the book. Check out these blogs for your chance to win there:

What are you waiting for? Get commenting!

What’s Your Confession?

Last month, my sister-in-law and her band made the trek down to my house from Bloomington, Ind., for a photo shoot. The occasion? Her next CD, Hotel Confessions, which will be released Oct. 23.

Jenn and I had been talking about doing these pics for several months and one thing we’d agreed on very early was not to share any of the photos before the CD release so the impact would not be diminished. What we really hadn’t counted on was how tough that would be!

The photos turned out even better than I expected. She’s so fun to work with and needs very little direction. My biggest challenge was to make sure I left myself room to crop the pictures properly for the front of the CD. Normally, I crop in nice and tight with the camera, which does not lend itself to that fabulous square format.

I was glad to have some time to hang out with the guys in her band before I threw them in front of the camera. I think it gave them the chance to relax so being photographed wasn’t as heinous an ordeal! It really helped me get the kind of pictures I’d hoped.

Of course, I can’t show them to you. Yet. Well, except that one up there. Which is similar to the photo I used for this promo poster. So you’ll just have to believe me when I say we made something amazing that day, something perfect for the music it accompanies.

Just wait and see.

ETA: I updated the link to the poster, since it apparently was done wrong the first time. Sorry!

Girl on Film

We were blessed with the most fun houseguests the past few days: My sister-in-law Jenn, her husband and their daughter. Oh my! What fun we have had. They are so awesome and we always have the best time when we’re able to visit with them, although I think we’ve all been a bit sleep deprived from staying up too late talking and laughing!

The big reason for the trip was so that Jenn and I could shoot some new promo pics. I’ve mentioned before that she’s an insanely talented singer/songwriter; recently she’s been picked up by a digital distributor, so her music is now available on iTunes, Napster, Rhapsody, Yahoo! Music and even Combined with a very successful workout regime, it was obvious that new photos were a must. (You know, because we need an excuse to spend time together. 😉 )

I rented some studio space at Studio Space Atlanta, which opened not that long ago. What a cool place! Because I pretty much exclusively shoot on available light, I opted for the small natural light studio and its three-hour minimum. It turned out to be perfect, although it would have been much more comfortable if it had been warmer. The natural light comes in via two loading dock doors, which is great — except Monday’s high was around 43 degrees. I took a small space heater with us and, boy, was I glad for that because it was COLD! LOL! We lowered the doors whenever we weren’t shooting, which helped. And laughed a lot.

In spite of the frigid temps, it was just so much fun and we were so excited to see even the tiny previews on my camera’s LCD. The time just flew! I think we could easily have filled another hour or two, especially after my friend/assistant, Michael, arrived to lend a hand. (Seriously, he was such a great help and great company, too.) By the time it was all done, I think I ended up with nearly 200 photos, which I think I managed to narrow down to around 80 really strong images Jenn can use for her promotional stuff (mostly ads, posters and the like). But I think the best part was just having some great bonding time with my little sis.

In Pictures

In my mailbox this weekend came the most beautiful magazine, the Autumn 2008 issue of Life Images by Somerset.

I have been eagerly anticipating its arrival and was not disappointed. So much beauty between the covers! It’s such an inspiration to me and really makes me want to work even more at my photography.

I am often asked about my photography. I have to be honest; I really don’t think I’m qualified to give anyone advice! I embrace the hobby and work at it when I can but there are so many people who are much better at giving advice. I use a Canon 30D and have some lenses that I love (namely a Canon 50 mm/f1.4, a Tamron 28-75mm/f2.0 and a Canon 35mm/f2.0 that seems to have a bum motor). I’m a huge fan of the book Understanding Exposure. I took two wonderful photography courses at The Showcase School in Atlanta last year; I still refer to my notes often! And I think the best thing anyone can do is just practice, practice, practice.

I’m so honored to have three of my photos in this issue. And just flabbergasted by the news last week that they had accepted another piece of my work for an upcoming issue. My joy is boundless.