How to PledgeMe.

How to create your Crowdfunding Canvas

One of the hardest things about every crowdfunding campaign is making it simple. Seeing everything you need to do on one page, and keeping track of where you’re at. Recently, we canvassed our crowd for ideas on how to make things easier and our friend Nat at Mum’s Garage came to the table with the idea of a canvas.

We’re big fans of the Lean Canvas here in the PledgeMe office, being regular mentors, judges, and attendees at Start Up Weekends around New Zealand. So, taking inspiration from that, and the Social Lean Canvas, we decided to create our own Crowdfunding Canvas.

 

Note: THIS IS NOT A BUSINESS PLAN! You should have your project and / or business plan stored somewhere else. This is just for your crowdfunding campaign (pre, during, and post).


Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Get the canvas

Go to the Crowdfunding Canvas and either:

  1. Create a Google Docs copy (File → Make a Copy), or
  2. Download the canvas (File → Download As).

You can print it out and hand write your plans on (small) post it notes / change as you go, or keep updating an online version.


Step 2: Fill out the canvas

Have a first run through of the canvas filling out each of the sections.

Left side: Your Crowd

  • Crowd

Write down the people who will pledge / share your campaign, and start chatting to them. These are actual humans you already know, not the crowd you’d like to support your project – a list of names, not general categories like students or animal lovers. Think about why they support you and how much you can reasonably expect them to be able to pledge.

  • Skills needed

Write down the skills you need, and think about whether anyone in your crowd above could help. Videographers, designers, writers, journos, social media whizzes, party planners – who do you know?

 

Middle section: Your Content

  • Funding

Note your overarching goal for the campaign (both min and max if you’re doing a lending or equity campaign) and make sure to include the costs for preparing and sending rewards (production, postage, etc) and PledgeMe’s fees. You should note what this money is for in one sentence. How does your budget compare to the pledging capability of your crowd? If you’ve got a shortfall, you’ll need to find a way to build a bigger crowd.

  • What we do

Write down in a sentence or two what you do. Where did your idea come from, why are you and your team the right people for the job, and why should your crowd get excited about it?

  • What you offer

Start drafting what you will offer your crowd: shares at what valuation, loan notes at what interest rate, or rewards. What will they get in return for pledging on your campaign?

  • Video and imagery

Start planning your visuals – note where you are at with your video (link to a script?) and where your best imagery is stored (of you, of what you do, and of your team).

  • Why crowdfunding?

Write down in a sentence or two why going to your crowd makes sense to you. It should probably be along the lines of “our crowd loves us, they matter to us and we want to keep them involved as we do our thing.”

  • People

Who are you? Write brief bios of each of your team, and be clear on what their role will be during the campaign (and beyond, if relevant). You can link to a bigger doc here if required.

 

Right side: How you communicate your content to your crowd

  • Spreading the word

Even if your crowd loves you, they can’t support your campaign if they don’t know about it. How are you going to get them involved? Phone calls, social media, direct emails, a newsletter, events, media coverage – what are you going to do, and who on your team will be responsible?

 

Bottom section: Your timeline

  • Timeline – Pre launch

One of the most common things we hear from campaign owners (both successful and not) is that they wish they’d spent more time planning. Most of the work behind a successful campaign takes place before it ever goes live. Prepping your crowd, nailing the budget, making a video, perfecting your rewards, reaching out to journalists, drafting a solid promotion plan – all essential to a smooth campaign. What do you need to have in place before you launch?

  • Timeline – During and Post launch

Even with a solid plan and your crowd’s interest piqued pre launch, you’re going to need time during the campaign to make it all happen. Getting the word out to your crowd via social media, direct emails, phone calls, campaign updates, and events can take up a lot of time. If your media plan goes well, someone will need to be on call to chat to journalists. After you close, organising and distributing rewards can be a full time gig. How will you and your team fit the campaign around your other responsibilities?


Step 3: Get feedback

Get feedback – this could be from your team, from us, or from your crowd! Are people excited about your rewards? Do they ‘get’ your vision? Does your budget sound reasonable? Would they pledge?


Step 4: Keep updating

Keep iterating and improving your canvas based on feedback and experience, both in the lead up to and during your campaign. If you’re getting similar questions from a lot of people, think about how to make your pitch clearer. If a reward is popular, ponder ways to offer more like it. Ditto for criticism – take it on board, integrate it if you need to, and thank people for their honest feedback. It’s better to hear this during the planning stage than when you’re in the midst of a busy campaign!

How to PledgeMe.

How to find out if your crowd wants to fund you

One of the biggest things that we’ve learnt over the past 5 years is that the most important part of any crowdfunding campaign is your crowd. The crowd you already know, whether it’s your mum, your co-worker, or your customers. Do they want to support you? Do they know your campaign is happening? Do they feel valued? All important things to take into account before launching a campaign, but sadly not always prioritised. You can build the shiniest campaign in the entire world, but if your crowd doesn’t know it’s coming, and don’t feel like they’re being valued, they won’t get on board.

So here’s our five step guide to checking that your crowd wants to fund you.

1)    Figure out who your crowd is.

Write down the names of people in your crowd that have supported you in the past, or have been watching you work on the thing you want to fund. The longer you’ve been working on the thing you plan to fund, the easier it often is. If you’ve been working on it for a while, and your crowd has been watching, they’re more likely to believe you’ll be able to do the thing you need funding for (and will know the hard yards you’ve put in to get to this point).

2)    Ask them

Screen Shot 2016-12-31 at 1.01.23 pm

Yep, it’s seriously that easy. We recommend asking at least 50 people what they think about your campaign. Not everyone will be on board, and some people will just say what they think you want to hear, but these conversations can help you decide whether you should crowdfund or not. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What about the thing I’m doing do you like?
  • What reservations do you have? How can I change that for you?
  • Does this thing really matter to you? Why? Why not?
  • Who do you think would also love this thing?

Also, some people will always say yes to please you. Don’t ask them.

 

3)    Crowdsource support

Involve your crowd in the whole journey, including your campaign prep. Get feedback on your content. Ask for ideas on rewards (or, better yet, some of the rewards that you can offer!). This doesn’t have to be all 50 people, and you might not ask for the same support from each of them, but we do think that in crowdfunding the old adage of “if you ask for money, you get advice and if you ask for advice, you get money” is dead. We find that if you ask for advice, you’ll often get both.

 

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-1-03-47-pm4)    Create a newsletter sign up

Only do this once you’ve decided that you’re definitely going ahead.

Make sure to set a date and time that you will be launching so everyone signing up knows the D-Day.

Manage expectations around what you’ll be telling people here, and create anticipation by sharing information bit by bit to them in the lead up.

You can also ask your crowd again for more information – like what sorts of perks would they like as shareholders, like Yeastie Boys did (as you can see to the right).

 

5)    Share on your social media accounts

If you don’t have social media accounts, this could be a bit harder. You’ll need to be really really really clear on how you’ll activate your crowd if you don’t have them. Is it emails?

If your crowd gets on board, you’re so much more likely to get people you don’t know on board. They’ll see the validation of your crowd, feel comfort by being shoulder-to-shoulder with your existing supporters  and emulate them. Sort of like in Derek’s TED talk on how to start a movement.

Don’t be afraid to ask your crowd if they want to fund you. And, don’t be afraid to wait if they’re not ready yet.

How to PledgeMe.

$2 mil in 2 days

ParrotDog made history two weeks ago, as the quickest equity campaign in New Zealand to hit the $2 million mark.

How did they get there? It wasn’t luck. It was 5 years of growing their business and brand, five months spent creating their campaign, 5 weeks communicating it, and a clear vision of where they wanted to go (and what they needed to get there).

Here’s five things that we saw that they did really well, that could inspire some of you aspiring crowdfunders out there:

1) Have a plan

Co_PCClVMAE3xle.jpg-large

We talk about having a campaign plan, and even have a Google Doc that we share out, but the Parrot Dog crew went next level with their planning. They had a wall chart with daily tasks.

Matt Stevens was the mastermind behind their plan, which had a page for every day in the lead up. It included everything from when they needed to have their directors indemnity insurance in place through to when they’d post on social media (Mondays and Thursdays).

Everyone was part of delivering the plan, and everyone could see it as it took up a whole wall in their office.

Remember: it always takes longer than you think to pull together a visually pleasing business plan, and a kick ass pitch video.

 

2) Get in touch with your crowd

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 1.38.12 pm

You can’t raise your money, if your crowd doesn’t know what’s happening.

The ParrotDog crew created a newsletter in the lead up to their campaign, with their first major announcement being that they were crowdfunding. After that, they had specific key messages they wanted to talk about each week, from announcing what the funding was for to the location of their brewery through to a copy of their IM.

Here are the newsletters they posted out to the world

They talked to everyone from their suppliers to their mums, and started asking folk to sign up to their newsletter weeks in advance of their launch.

 

3) Be yourselves

This was a big one for the ParrotDog crew. They didn’t want to become flashy or corporate. They wanted to bring their own strengths, but not try to become something they weren’t. So, they refused to do a traditional press release to announce their campaign – they made a quirky video instead.

ParrotDog Beer. nice. | Press Conference from ParrotDog on Vimeo.

Everything they did was on brand, and really showcased who they are as people and as a company.

4) Have a clear goal

PD event 8

The ParrotDog crew were super clear on what they needed money to do – build a bigger brewery. With a brew bar included, it really inspired their fans (especially those based in Lyall Bay) to get in and support. Having a really tangible plan, and vision that your crowd can embrace (or drink) is a big part of having a successful campaign.

5) Meet people #IRL

PD event 11

We sort of pushed the Matts into this, hosting the ParrotDog crew in our space for a meet and greet with potential investors a few days before they launched. It was a great opportunity for their crowd not only to ask questions in a group setting, but meet each of the team and ask them questions individually as well. With just a few days notice, the ParrotDog crew had over 90 people attend either in person or online. Many of the people there that night were the first pledgers to get in to the campaign.

 


Well done again to the ParrotDog crew, for funding their vision and inspiring a new wave of Kiwi crowdfunders.

 

 

How to PledgeMe.

The curious tale of what happens after you request a campaign

By the simple act of hitting the request button, suddenly your project idea is real, has form, and has gone off into the internet tubes to be assessed by a team of specially trained mice. Twisted, turned, hummed and haaaa-ed over, tapped, shaken, and rolled out on the floor for a better look.

If you feed PledgeMe cheese, they'll be happy mice.

Pushing that button is starting your project on the path to life, and we have the great joy of receiving it. Sadly we haven’t trained the mice well enough to oversee the process, so it falls mostly to yours truly (Tash) to check it out.

So what happens when you hit the button? You’ve filled out all the fields, told us your life story, and now it disappears into the darkness. You wait with great anticipation, refreshing your inbox every five minutes to see if we’ve replied.

Well, here’s how it goes

  • You request your campaign idea, complete with story, people, reward ideas and funding goal.
  • It pings an alert in my inbox, waiting patiently for my attention. Once (or sometimes twice) per work day, I open the folder which holds all the project notifications.
  • I click through to see what you’ve sent me. At this point all I know is your title, so my anticipation is based solely on your title, so capturing my interest at this point is a sign of a great project. Think of me as the average pledger who doesn’t know you — and write your title with the aim of getting me interested straight away.
  • I read over what you’ve sent. The key things I look for are: specific mention of what your project is about and how you’re going to achieve it, how much money you’re after and what you’re going to spend it on.
  • I hit ‘approve’ if you have all of those things covered, if not, I’ll probably email you to check any details that aren’t clear.
  • If the project primarily reads as if the funding is for charitable purposes, or the project is such there are no possible rewards to be offered, I’ll let you know and point in the right direction to get some assistance.
  • Once I’ve hit ‘approve’, I’ll follow up with an email. It’s full of super useful information about filling in the rest of your project details. It may look long and daunting, but it’s definitely worth reading.
  • Hooray! You can now log in, go to your project and edit ALL THE THINGS.
  • You push the final magical ‘submit’ button.
  • Again, a sparkly email arrives in the mailbox, and I’ll check in on what you’ve done. I’ll make sure you have: a video or main image, a funding goal, a deadline, a solid description and rewards.
  • If any of those key items are missing, or lacking detail, or otherwise a bit wonky, I’ll get in touch with suggestions to straighten them out. You make the edits and submit again.
  • If everything is there and I think you’re on the right track, I hit the final button: PUBLISH! Hooray! And now your project will be live on the site, ready for people to get pledging.

Pro tips

If you want to make the mice super happy, then pay heed to these pro tips.

The PledgeMe mice are happy you're going to follow Tash's pro tips.

  • Allow at least 5 working days for publishing from when you send the initial pitch through. Definitely tell people you are going to run a campaign, build the anticipation so when you can share a direct link everyone is ready to go.
  • Have all the information required before you create the project. It’ll make the process much faster and get your project live sooner, rather than it percolating in the background as a half-filled-in idea.
  • Ask us questions! Not sure about your pitch, your reward ideas or need to check in about the timeframes? We’re always ready and willing with advice – remember this is what we love and do every day!
How to PledgeMe.

New features, ahoy!

One of the great things about having a developer on the team is that we can continuously bring out some neat little functions to make people’s campaign experience better. The latest couple of things we’ve changed on the site are specifically focussed on making creating a campaign easier and adding functionality so you can track it once it is up running.

New create page

We’ve given the create a campaign page a face lift. We’ve removed that wall of text and streamlined the information you see and better clarified between the types of campaigns you can run. Oh and of course there is Jordan’s face peeking up from the bottom there.

We’ve also made the page where you submit your campaign proposal a bit more logical, beautiful, and we’re asking better questions so we can help make your campaigns successful.

Creating a new project campaign on PledgeMe

Campaign Analytics

Probably the coolest thing we’ve added is the ability to track your campaign via Google Analytics. Once your campaign is approved, you’ll be able to add in a Google Analytics tracking code so you can see how many views you’re getting, where they’re coming from, and how long people stay on the page.

Adding Google Analytics to a PledgeMe campaign.

Once you’re logged into PledgeMe, hit the Edit Campaign button, then the Analytics tab and enter your tracking code. Once you hit save Google Analytics will start collecting stats for your page. Woo! For more info on how to use Google Analytics check out their help page.

More in store

We’ve got heaps of other little features going live over the next couple of months. So keep your eyes peeled for them as they pop up.

How to PledgeMe.

What is this crowd you speak of?

While this modern life can occasionally feel a bit lonely, the reality is we all have a crowd. Like an enormous venn-diagram, we’re all connected to each other in some way: be it by blood, a common interest, a shared workspace or simply by walking down the same street at the same time.

Here at PledgeMe we don’t ever shut up about crowds. The crowd you need to tap into to get your project running, to reach your goal and bring life to a dream. For us it’s a word that starts to look funny when we read it because we use it so often, but it certainly doesn’t lose its meaning.

There’s a few different components making up your crowd. Let’s take a jam donut. Donuts are not only tasty and delicious, they work really well as a metaphor. Also it gave us an excuse to eat donuts for research purposes.

Mmmmmm donuts.

Donuts are delicious (and are a good metaphor for crowdfunding).

Imagine yourself as the jam. You’re right in the middle, with an idea. Jam on its own is ok, sure, but is made so much better with some support.

1. Cream: The bit immediately surrounding the jam (you). Making the donut that much more delicious, you can’t really have jam without cream to complement it.

These are the people you first mention the project to. The ones you run the idea past to gauge just how crazy it might be, test subjects you speak with before you’ve even filled out the pitch submission. They might be your friends, family, or respected people who terrify you but give you confidence to go through with it.

Your immediate crowd are critical: talk them through the whole process of submitting and publishing the project, and make sure they know when it goes live. They’ll have their trigger fingers ready to pledge immediately and give you momentum right at the start.

Writing a list of these people and contacting them directly is the best plan of attack (and as a bonus you can pat yourself on the back for being super organised). Maybe even get them together, give them donuts and have a pledging party.

2. Pastry: A donut wouldn’t be a donut without the sweet bready bit holding it all together. People come for the jam and cream, but don’t get very far without pastry.

This is where social media comes in. All your friends on Facebook, your followers on Twitter and Instagram: these people have at least some vague idea of who you are and what you’re about. They are by no means less important than your immediate crowd, they keep the ball rolling with pledges. When you’re making donuts, if you don’t get this bit right then it might all fall apart. The same goes for a crowdfunding campaign.

Oh gosh. Just let me eat it already.

As you can see, the simple jam and cream donut is much more powerful than we first thought.

3. Sugar: The literal sugar on top, pushing you over the edge with delight.

The magic of the internet is that messages can be shared super easily. These are the people you met once at a party, worked with briefly, or possibly don’t even know at all. But your immediate (cream) and secondary (pastry) people are friends with them, work with them, or buy coffee from them. When your project is shared on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram (or LinkedIn or Pinterest or Slack), these metaphorical sugar people see it. Their interest is piqued.

But how do you get them to pledge? By having a video (bonus points) and really great content. This is the crowd who might not know you, but help get your project over the line. Convince them to jump on board by being the most excellent you you can be. We know you are, and this part of your crowd have the potential to move through the layers and end up as part of your immediate crowd. Who knows, they may even be just the right person to make some extra magic happen.

Without one of the four components, a donut wouldn’t quite work, nor be quite so delicious. The greatest thing about a donut is eating it, and for the purposes of this metaphor, appreciating how your crowd comes together to make a successful whole.

 

FINALLY!

The perfect don… crowdfunding campaign. Mmmmmmm donuts.

How to PledgeMe.

How to make friends

AKA how to network and influence your crowd

I sometimes joke that my superpower is making friends. And, as much as I laugh it off as not actually being a superpower, it is one of most powerful skills I have.

Whenever I give talks I emphasise the importance of networking. One lecturer recently sent me feedback from her class on what resonated in my speech, and the response to my networking tips was amazing. So here they are to help your crowdfunding campaign, business development, or life in general.

How you view networking

A lot of people get a bit put off by the idea of “networking”. They see it as this slimy thing you have to do to progress your career or grow your business. The typical vision is of suits, canapés, and boring conversations. That’s not how it has to be at all! Networking is really just making friends.

Go out, meet people, have conversations, and if they’re boring back away! Each event you go to try to meet one new interesting person who you’d like to talk to again. Don’t feel the pressure to be liked by everyone or to like everyone. Every event is a possibility to meet cool, new folk that might be in your life for a few years (or just a few minutes). And possibly about eating as many canapés as possible.

An Artist's impression of Anna doin' her networking thang.

An Artist’s impression of Anna doin’ her networking thang.

How to connect

BE INTERESTED! Ask questions. Listen. Tell your own stories. Be your uniquely interesting and badass self. That means they’ll remember you (and you’ll remember them). File away one or two mental notes like what their daughter is studying or their tip on the best book they’ve read this year will endear you to them the next time you meet (which let’s face it you will because it’s New Zealand).

How you follow up

Tip: you don’t have to. Really. Your networking could just be that event. You could follow them on Twitter, or grab their card for future reference. But don’t feel the need to follow up if there’s no need (though if you say you will, you probably should).

You never know when remembering that  american tax specialist might come in handy in the future.Even if and all you only have a vague recollection of their name and where they work, Google will help you find them.

How to activate your network

So you’ve built your network, your crowd. Some of them are strong links (people you think are the bees knees and have coffees with on the regular) through to weak links (people you’ve met once at an event and haven’t seen them since).

When you want to activate the strong or weak links it is as easy as sending them a note. Make it brief. Offer them a hot or cold beverage, and ask to meet for a half hour to discuss one specific topic. If it’s their bread and butter, they may want to charge you for the meeting. But, if you make it interesting enough, quick enough, and offer them a coffee on you, they might just take up the meeting.

If someone helps you make sure you try and help them in the future.

Your crowd can literally carry you places.

Your crowd can literally carry you places.

To recap…

My top networking tips are

  • Treat people like people.
  • It’s amazing what you can do over a drink.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, but be willing to return the favour.
  • If you’re asking for a lot of help, you should be willing to pay for it.
  • Don’t take it personally if people don’t respond, they’re probably busy.
  • Use Twitter to connect (how powerful those 140 characters are!)
  • Have fun! (seriously… if it’s not fun, why are you doing it?)

All the best with your foray into making friends and influencing people.

Postscript

Feedback that spurred this post:

The most frequent comments were around your discussions of networking and how you build and use your network: they loved your advice and had not realised before that simply showing genuine interest in other people and their stories, as well as just having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with someone and chatting could become an important networking activity.
Related to the above, some of them really liked your explanation of getting to know your crowd and building on the relationships and expertise there

Your [Five] Ps were also very memorable and stood out for some of them; one person said the P that really hit home was ‘preparing’ a really good business plan and that she hadn’t realised how critical that was until now

All of the descriptors/adjectives used for you were very positive: cool, amazing, warm, fun-loving, very interesting, genuine, nice, enthusiastic, awesome

One person commented that your networking ideas were very helpful and it sounds like you enjoy a few wines : )

How to PledgeMe.

When will my rewards be sent out?

So you’ve just pledged on a campaign. Awesome. Now you’re itchy to get your mitts on the reward that was promised you. Woah, buddy! There are a few things you’ve got to take into account when you’re trying to figure out when you’re going to get your reward.

For pledgers

Have a looksie over on the right hand side of the campaign page. If there is still time running on the campaign you’re not going to be getting your reward until after that date. Because PledgeMe runs an ‘all or nothing’ model, the person you pledged to doesn’t get the money until after the campaign closes. It’d be hard for them to start sending stuff out when they a) don’t have the money yet and b) might not get the money at all.

Mmmmmm sweet release

The next factor to take into account is whether the campaign has set a timeline for rewards. Sometimes they will need a while to make their rewards, especially if they’ve put an emphasis on providing something unique or they were looking for the money to manufacture the product in the first place. It’s not uncommon for campaigners to say in the body of their pitch or in an update when they expect to send out rewards.

Ring ding dong ring a ding ding ding dong

Also, sometimes campaigns get super swamped with demand, like the Eat My Lunch crew who had over 2500 people pledge on their campaign! Super for them, but it does mean that sending rewards out to everyone is going to take time.

WOAH

So, if the campaign has finished and you’re wondering where your reward is you’ll need to get in touch with the campaign creator. They’re the ones who have promised you the reward. If you know the person then flick them an email or if they’ve got a Twitter or Facebook then give that a shot. If you’re having difficulty tracking them down, then get in touch with us.

In summary: be patient. The campaigner is probably celebrating their success or busy getting on with doing the thing it is they wanted your pledged to do! There haven’t been many, if any, cases of campaigners taking the cash and heading to Vegas, but there have been a few times where due to external factors they haven’t been able to provide them as fast as they thought they would. Best practice from their side is to keep you informed.

For campaigners

A couple of quick points to make sure you get your rewards out on time and keep your crowd happy.

  • When you’re planning your campaign remember to budget some time to send out rewards.
  • Mention your timeline for sending out rewards in your pitch. Especially if there is going to be a significant delay between the end of the campaign and delivery.
  • Use the update feature to keep your pledgers up-to-date with what is happening.
  • If you are having problems following through or you’ve had a setback, then let your pledgers know with an update. Keep them informed so they know when to expect their rewards or see if there is a way they can help
  • It’s really important you deliver on the rewards you promised or at least figure out some way to ensure your pledgers get value for their pledge.

In summary: It’s more than likely the people who pledged are your friends, family, workmates, or people just as passionate about your project as you are. So treat ‘em nice.

 

This is the first of an ongoing series of posts on How to PledgeMe. They’ll provide tips, hints, and tricks for campaigners, pledgers, prospective projects, and enthusiastic equity-sellers. Want a specific topic covered? Email Chief Media Wrangler Jackson and he’ll put it on the list.

 

How to PledgeMe.

Taking good pictures when you don’t know how to take good pictures

(And have a rubbish phone)

 

It really is hard to overstate how important imagery is when you’re running a PledgeMe campaign. Though there’s no rule as such, successful campaigns generally tend to come with a bunch of pretty, well-lit pictures, and the ones that don’t quite make it often lack a little in the looks department.

My official role at PledgeMe is Chief Design Awesomiser – whether I quite live up to that lofty title is for others to decide. But in my time behind a camera – video or otherwise – there are a number of techniques I’ve picked up that will improve any picture or video in ways far easier than they have any right to be.

Though I very much like the two cameras I have, neither is especially new, and I’m often looking to ways in which to improve the photos from them without spending any money.*

This edu-torial would be nothing without pictures themselves, so for this, I am going to (reluctantly) limit myself to my relatively awful cellphone camera (Motorola Moto G II), and not do any processing to the images that I can’t do in the phone itself.

Here are some tips.

An fairly well-lit, deliberately-composed tako. This is our humble goal.

An fairly well-lit, deliberately-composed tako taken on a rubbish phone camera. This is our humble goal.

1. Zoom with your feet.

If you’re in the habit of doing that little thing with your fingers where you push them apart on your screen like you’re trying to get a wrinkle out of it, please stop. Just move closer. If you can’t get any closer, try again, and ask yourself if you’re just really comfy and don’t want to leave your chair.

When you do that little pinchy thing, all you’re really doing is telling your camera to stretch the pixels, which isn’t generally a good idea. Move closer, and make every pixel count.

Left: Image taken by moving as close as possible. Right: Yucky digital zoom to get the same framing.

 

2. Take fewer, better pictures

This isn’t necessarily a rule I always follow myself, but I do try. Except in circumstances when a moment is fleeting, take your time to compose your shot; one pretty good photo is infinitely more useful than 20 kind-of-rubbish, blurry, poorly-lit ones.

A hurriedly taken photo that is wonky, poorly focused, and in which the camera is moving. All problems that can be solved in seconds.

A hurriedly taken photo that is wonky, poorly focused, and in which the camera is moving. All problems that can be solved in seconds.

Consider your photo’s content

Make sure everything you do want in your picture is actually in the picture, and anything you don’t necessarily want photographed, isn’t.

It sounds simple, is simple, and avoids situations where you realise that a picture you just shared with 700 Facebook friends actually contains a subtle reflection of your belly-button hair.

Tako is overwhelmed by her surroundings.

Tako is overwhelmed by her surroundings.

Consider your framing

A fairly good rule of thumb is to take shots at 90°. By this, I mean, get perpendicular to your subject, and try to keep some of the lines in your shot (walls, floors, horizons) at a multiple of 90°. Wes Anderson’s style is pretty much defined by this, and he’s done pretty well for himself.

This will generally make your shots feel more deliberate, and make people think you know more about what you’re doing than you do. It’ll also generally stop your shots implying that your subjects are giants or teeny-tiny if you keep the camera perpendicular to the floor, rather than gazing up into their nostrils.

3. Find better lighting

By this, I don’t mean spending any money on fancy lights – rather, there are multiple things you can do to make the lighting of your photos nicer – most of which should only cost you seconds of your life.

Find natural light

For this, you don’t even have to venture outdoors. Take whatever it is – person, animal, or object – and drag it near a window. Take a picture. Your picture is now 19 times better than it was when it was lit by a solitary fluorescent light in a small dirty bathroom. That’s just science. Turning off any artificial lights will remove that yellow sheen from your pictures.

In which the subject is poorly-lit, and the photographer is missing out on cuteness-potential.

In which the subject is poorly-lit, and the photographer is missing out on huge amounts of potential for cuteness.

Don’t take pictures at night (unless you really have to)

Some things only happen at night and there’s not a lot you can do about that. If you’re trying to get a shot of the milky way, your chances aren’t great during the daytime. If you’re trying to get a picture of the toaster-bike you’re really trying to sell as a cool neat invention that every New Zealander needs, wait until dawn, and take your picture then.

The Golden Hour

This is the term often used by photographers to describe that hour just before dusk (or after dawn if you happen to be out of bed) when photos automatically look really really sweet without any effort on your part. This doesn’t work if you take your pictures in the toilet, unless your toilet is in a wheat field, or next to a really choice stream.

Direct sunlight isn’t as great as it sounds

If you’re taking pictures outside in the middle of a sunny day, you might actually be better off being in the shade. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but there is such a thing as too much light. The teeny-tiny sensor in your cellphone can’t cope with the huge amount of contrast that direct sunlight provides, and significant amounts of your image will end up being purely black or white. And on top of everything else, it makes people all squinty and sweaty-looking.

4. Turn off your flash

Better than that, remove the flash altogether from your phone. Pry it out, crush it under your heel, and recycle it responsibly†. According to statistics that I totally just made up but know to be true, no picture has ever been improved by a flash from a cellphone. The flash will not only refract offensively through every droplet of sweat on your subject’s upper lip, it’ll make everyone appear yellow and jaundiced, and probably unfortunate-looking enough that they won’t want you using the picture for anything anyway.

Even more offensively, using the flash to take pictures of food will in 100% of cases make the food look inedible and sickly. Wait for the sun to come up, and get near a window.

Tako is not seen in the most flattering light. Turn off your flash.

Tako is not seen in the most flattering light. Turn off your flash, egg.

5. Any picture is better than no picture

Sometimes, you’re going to be taking a picture of something that is far away, moving quickly, inside, at night time. In those case, feel free to absolutely ignore everything I’ve just said. You almost certainly won’t end up with a masterpiece, but you will end up with something – which is kind of nice.

*An Olympus E-PL3 (2011) and a Canon 60D (2010)

†Don’t actually do this please.

How to PledgeMe.

Four Steps for a Fab Team Photo

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People pledge to people. The best way to get your crowd invested in your project is to show them who’s behind it, and what better way to do that than a team photo-shoot? So, by studying the great work of our friends at Thankyou Payroll, we’ve come up with the four steps you need for a fab team photo.

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1. Collect your team

Your team might not initially be on board with becoming models. If you’re having trouble with a few camera-shy colleagues, remind them how it’ll help them connect with your crowd, and ask them what kind of shot they’d be comfortable with. If worst comes to worst, let them hold the dog.

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2. Choose your pose

A great photo is all about great composition. Find a stance that suits each team member, but remember that the photo’s all about cohesion – make sure you’re showing off how good you look as a team, not just as lovely individuals.

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3. Stay consistent

If you’re taking lots of different photos, it’s good to keep a consistent theme running through them, so people remember what you’re about. We love how Thankyou Payroll’s dog, Hale-Bopp, is present in all their photos (although to be clear, points of consistency are not limited to canine companions!)

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4. Have some fun!

At the end of the day, a team photo is all about expressing your team’s unique personality. Don’t be afraid to get weird or wacky with it – just show your crowd you who are. They’ll love you all the more for it, we promise!

And, as a bonus tip: If you don’t know what to do, ask your crowd! We loved seeing the crowdsourcing efforts of Thankyou Payroll this week:

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And, if you don’t know who Thankyou Payroll are – check them out asap here: https://thankyoupayroll.co.nz. They provide a free payroll service to charities and kiwi businesses (and they are awesome).