2018 Anti-Resolutions

By the time you read this, it will be New Year’s Eve in New York City. If you are in a time zone ahead, it might even be 2018 – and, in that case, Happy New Year!

A new year signals change. Advertisers know this so you probably have already seen tons of ads about how you can start to change your body, mind, diet and just about anything else that you can be persuaded to purchase some kind of product or service to fix. And it’s certainly not a bad thing to capitalize on the fresh start a new year provides to do something positive.

This year, though, I’ve decided I’m anti-resolutions. In fact, turns out I’ve never actually been good at them. Outside of a couple of years where I took a photo a day for 365 days, I have never started doing anything in January that I actually stuck to all year long.

Free by Jen Gallardo

And that’s okay.

Instead, I have an anti-resolution: always be reflecting. What do I mean by that? It’s two fold.
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The Tricky Thing About Portraits

When dear husband and I were planning our wedding, the hardest thing after finding a venue (and getting married on a budget…) was finding a good wedding photographer that we could trust. As people who take lots of photos, we definitely know what we like and don't like. Thankfully, we ended up with more photos we liked than photos we disliked.

That said, having shot weddings and events in the past, I like capturing fun moments and not being in the way (don't get me started on photographers and videographers who block the view for the entire crowd of onlookers during a ceremony). The way I like to take photos is that you shouldn't really know I'm there. But I think that’s kind of easy these days.

The real tricky part lies in taking pictures of folks not doing something special but just being. Here are a few tips I have in case you are trying to make a good picture of another human:

1. Get Lit

And by "lit" I mean pay attention to lighting. Good lighting is imperative. The last thing you want to do is have a whole lot of dark photos that you need to tweak. Unless you are trying to capture someone's dark side, in which case, carry on!

That said, good lighting doesn't have to mean expensive lighting equipment. If you find your camera's flash is too much, try to redirect that light. You can literally put a rectangle mirror under your flash while you take a picture (there's a product that does this for you called the Lightscoop). This helps diffuse the light so that flash is not so harsh. Alternatively, take your portrait on a bright but overcast day and let a cloudy sky be your big softbox in the sky.

2. Make Me Look Pretty

Everyone is beautiful in their own way and when you create a portrait, it’s about figuring out the best way to capture that. Makeup can be your friend; although, more so the kind that keeps you from getting too shiny if you tend to have oilier skin and not the kind that alters what you look like (again, unless that's what you are going for!).

Do keep in mind that even the beautiful people don't always look so great staring straight at a camera. Models are lauded more for creating angles with their bodies versus something inherent about their composition. This is when I think it’s totally ok to have some inspiration photos you like that you will try to capture. I have a Pinterest board of inspiration — whatever floats your boat.

Moreover, once you are inspired, it's important to use the right tool to facilitate the result you are after. If you have a zoom lens or interchangeable lenses, a good rule of thumb is to go higher than 50mm for individuals and go lower than 50mm for large groups of people. A lower number means a wider field of view which can distort lines and people's faces if you aren't careful; a good example of this is in the movie La La Land. As the camera at the audition pans in on Emma Stone's face, you'll notice something's a little off due to the distorting effect of the wide lens:

3. Don't Be So Basic

Every person is different and so every session will be different. What feels right for one may be terrible for another. If something you envisioned for your model doesn't work, realize that as soon as you can and move on. Don't force some photo trends just because it's in.

Similarly some photo trends need to die and you have my permission to let them die. Photo shoots on railroad tracks, for example, need to end; who decided that was safe?! And don't get me started on bad couples poses. I've seen engagement photos bordering on the obscene because of where a hand is placed during a staged kiss. When you are trying to create a portrait of a regular person, you generally want to avoid techniques that will be seen as gimmicky in the future. I generally try to avoid super stylized lighting or poses unless I'm working with an actual model who wants something unique; your average person will want to simply look their best in as many of the photos as possible.

Key takeaway: focus on presenting someone in their best light (literally) and don't be afraid to make changes and adapt in real-time if needed to improve the outcome!

Why I Can't Read the Googler's Manifesto

I think you may have heard about one Googler's manifesto, but I can't bring myself to read it.

Segmentation Fault
Was I not the only one who wanted to throw her computer out the window after hearing about the manifesto?

Let me preface this by saying that I strongly believe in free-flowing discourse and dialogue. I believe that we should question our assumptions and seek solace in facts and figures. I also believe in seeking out patterns in our past behavior to help predict future actions, or break out of them. But first and foremost, I believe that we owe it to our fellow humans to empathize with their experiences on this earth.

And, from what I understand of this manifesto, the writer doesn't seem to understand the shifts that women have seen in the last 30 years with regard to technology. The number of women graduating with Computer Science degrees is steadily decreasing; as Wired Magazine notes in their interview with Melinda Gates, 1 in 3 women in the 1980's has decreased to less than 1 in 5 earning a Comp Sci degree. Continue reading "Why I Can't Read the Googler's Manifesto"

The importance of feedback in user experiences

I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:

I work in a large room that’s offset from a larger and more public area. The room is locked, so that only people who work for my company can enter as long as they have an ID badge with the appropriate permissions assigned. There are two doors through which one can enter the room. These doors can be opened by anyone from the inside of the room, but you must first push a red button adjacent to the door.

Buzzers
Buzz Me by Jen Gallardo

Continue reading "The importance of feedback in user experiences"

Let’s Just Start Over or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Product and Comfort a Cranky Stakeholder

I wrote this piece on Medium first about my work as a Product Manager:

Last week, colleague walked over to my desk to ask me about the product I just started working on. And by started to work on, I mean I inherited this product in part because there was some significant “clean-up” needed and rumor has it that I’m good with fixer-uppers. His question to me was, “How about we just start over?” In short, stating that he’d almost rather walk away from this dumpster-fire mess than somehow try to put out the embers and make something of the leftover half-burned pieces of fresh garbage. Well, this isn’t exactly what he meant but that’s probably how I felt when I heard the question and realized the hole I now needed to climb out of.

Bonfire at Night
Bonfire #8 by Jen Gallardo

Continue reading "Let’s Just Start Over or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Product and Comfort a Cranky Stakeholder"

My 10-Year Test

I use the Pocket app which I love. It allows me to hold on to interesting articles to read (or re-read) later on the subway (where I still often have little signal).

One that I finally got around to reading is titled The 10-Year Test: The Best Way to See if You're on the Right Career Track.

The gist of the article is that, when you feel stuck and you don't think you are making progress, reflect on how far you've come in the last 10 years. I've been thinking a lot about my life trajectory, especially in the wake of this crazy election, but I never really thought of it this way.

The author makes a compelling argument against the constant anxiety around our forward-looking plans.

Continue reading "My 10-Year Test"

#RealTalk Life Advice about Work

At least a few times a year, I'm prompted to think about work. We all go there most days a week but rarely give any thought to whether it still makes sense to be there or if change is needed.

I receive a lot of email newsletters that are focused on career ladies, like myself, and they typically follow the same tired career tropes:

  • Find what you love and you'll never "work" a day in your life!
  • Take a risk and do what you love!

The reason I call these tired is because we all know that doing what you want, in any given moment, is often more fulfilling than doing what you think you should be doing. For example, sleeping in on the weekend is way more fulfilling than spending those hours doing laundry or cleaning. This is common sense and not worth repeating.

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Married in Manhattan…on a Budget

After being together for thirteen years, my then boyfriend (now husband) proposed to me. As he nervously put the ring on my finger my first words to him, after saying yes, were, "Wait, does this mean I have to plan a wedding?"

Married in Manhattan
My Husband and I on our wedding day at Washington Square Park

At that point in time, the majority of our coupled friends had already gotten married. I happened to be in a couple of weddings so had seen firsthand what I did and did not want in my own nuptials. However, even with that knowledge, planning a wedding was not easy.

The additional challenge for us was that our families were unable to financially support us so the burden of paying for the wedding fell squarely on our shoulders. That said, this is not necessarily a bad thing! Saving for a major expenditure, together, is actually good practice for saving for other things like a house, college fund or a nice vacation.

When the dust settled, we were able to get married in Manhattan for just under $15K which is well under the national average for weddings in this country. This is also WAY under the average for Manhattan which is currently at a ridiculous $88,176.

Additionally, I should note that this amount is inclusive of our honeymoon flight and lodging which ended up being a wonderful reward for all our saving and planning. Some folks suggested maybe we should wait until later and have a longer honeymoon but it was actually really nice to get away on an adventure that included our passports, however modest.

So, without further ado, now that it's been a full year since the wedding and I've had a chance to reflect on that day—and all the planning that led up to it—here are some tips and tricks on how we did it: Continue reading "Married in Manhattan…on a Budget"