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How to Take Good Pictures With Your Mobile Device

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How to Take Good Pictures With Your Mobile Device

Before the days of smartphones — if you can remember such a time — taking a great photo was a labor-intensive process. Now, it’s easy to master how to take good photos with your phone — no fancy cameras or desktop editing software required.

Brands are catching on, too — these kinds of visuals remain important to marketing. But make no mistake: Taking a great photo on your smartphone is not as simple as pointing and shooting. There are plenty of bad smartphone photos out there — I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few.

What’s the secret to taking great pictures with your smartphone, then? As it turns out, there are a few of them. Check out these tips below to improve your smartphone photography game. (And once you have the photo-taking part down, check out some of the best photo editing apps for mobile.)

How to Take Good Photos With Your Phone: 25 Tips & Tricks

1. Use gridlines to balance your shot.

One of the easiest and best ways to improve your mobile photos is to turn on the camera’s gridlines. That superimposes a series of lines on the screen of your smartphone’s camera that are based on the “rule of thirds” — a photographic composition principle that says an image should be broken down into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, so you have nine parts in total.

According to this theory, if you place points of interest in these intersections or along the lines, your photo will be more balanced, level, and allow viewers to interact with it more naturally.

how to take good photos with phone: rule of thirds

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To switch the grid on …

  • iPhone: Go to “Settings,” choose “Photos & Camera,” and switch “Grid” on.
  • Samsung Galaxy: Launch the camera app, go to “Settings,” scroll down and switch the “gridlines” option to “on.”

2. Set your camera’s focus.

Today’s phone cameras automatically focus on the foreground of your frame, but not every picture you take on your phone has an obvious subject. To adjust where you want your camera lens to focus, open your camera app and tap the screen where you want to sharpen the view.

If you’re taking a photo of something in motion, for example, it can be difficult for your camera to follow this subject and refocus as needed. Tap the screen to correct your phone camera’s focus just before snapping the picture to ensure the moving subject has as much focus as possible. A square or circular icon should then appear on your camera screen, shifting the focus of your shot to all of the content inside that icon.

3. Use HDR mode.

High dynamic range or HDR, is a camera app feature that helps balance the light and dark elements in a high-contrast photo. It can be used to give photos a more creative, or artsy vibe, but it is commonly used to produce an image that looks similar to how you see it with your eyes.

Often with smartphone cameras, it’s hard to get the perfect exposure for light and dark areas. You could be taking a photo of someone in a shaded area outside against a bright background or in a room with low light against a bright wall. Setting the exposure to the background could make the person being photographed underexposed. Conversely, setting the exposure to the subject could result in the background being overexposed.

HDR prevents this by retaining both the details in darker areas and shadows and bright areas. The iPhone takes photos in HDR by default. For android phones, you may need to adjust HDRsettings manually.

4. Use natural light.

It’s hard to find a great smartphone photo that was taken with a flash. Most of the time, they make a photo look overexposed, negatively altering colors and making human subjects look washed out.

Take advantage of the sources of natural light you can find, even after dark. This gives you a chance to play with shadows, like in the second image below, or create a silhouette with other ambient sources of light, like traffic and surrounding buildings.

how to take a good photo with phone: use natural lightImage Source

Once you’ve taken the photo, play with the “Exposure” tool in your favorite photo editing app to see if you can make the image slightly brighter, without making it too grainy.

5. Focus on one subject.

Many of the best photos include just one, interesting subject. So when taking a picture of one, spend some extra time setting up the shot. Some professional photographers say that the subject shouldn’t fill the entire frame, and that two-thirds of the photo should be negative space — that helps the subject stand out even more.

But be sure you tap the screen of your smartphone to focus the camera on your subject — that’ll help to ensure that it’s focused and the lighting is optimized.

Pro Tip: Once you’ve taken your photo, you can use filters and apps to make the subject even more vivid, or to crop it to frame the subject correctly. The brightness, contrast, and saturation of the photo can also be adjusted accordingly — all from your phone.

how to take good photos with phone: focus on one subject

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6. Hold your phone still.

While smartphones have given us the benefit of taking photos on the go, the cameras on our phones are still sensitive to movement. To help avoid blurry or warped photos, steady your camera first.

You can lean on a friend or wall to prevent your arms or hands from wobbling, or prop your phone up using books or similar objects to steady your phone.

7. Consider buying a mobile tripod.

Although mobile devices make it easy to snap any photo on the go, there’s never been an easy way to ensure the shot stays level and balanced when you shoot — especially if you want to be in the picture and not just take a typical selfie with your extended arm.

Mobile tripods give you the freedom to mount your smartphone for quick hands-free shots without lugging any heavy equipment with you. Most mobile tripods are barely bigger than your mobile device and can bend to any angle. Learn how these miniature tripods can help enhance your mobile video experience below.

8. Embrace negative space.

“Negative space” simply refers to the areas around and between the subjects of an image — and it can take a photo from “good” to “great.”

When you include a lot of empty space in a photo, your subject will stand out more and evoke a stronger reaction from your viewer. And what does negative space look like? It’s often a large expanse of open sky, an empty field, a large wall, or water, as in the example below.

how to take good photos with phone: negative space

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9. Find different perspectives.

Taking photos from a unique, unexpected angle can make them more memorable — it tends to create an illusion of depth or height with the subjects. It also makes the image stand out, since most mobile photos are taken either straight -on or from a bird’s eye view.

Try taking a photo directly upward and playing with the sky as negative space, like in the first photo below. Or, you can try taking it at a slight downward angle.

Pro Tip: If you take a photo and find the perspective is a little askew or tilted, use the SKRWT photo editing app to make the lines look clean and square.

how to take good photos with phone: perspective

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10. Play with reflections.

There’s something so idyllic about seeing the sky reflected in a body of water. There’s a reason why we love seeing that — our eyes are drawn to reflections. So look for opportunities to play with them in photos.

There are plenty of out-of-the-box places to find reflections — puddles, larger bodies of water, mirrors, sunglasses, drinking glasses, and metallic surfaces are just a few.

how to take good photos with phone: capture reflections

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11. Use leading lines.

In some photos, there’s a line that draws the viewer’s eye toward a certain part of the frame. Those are called leading lines. They can be straight or curvilinear— think staircases, building facades, train tracks, roads, or even a path through the woods.

Leading lines are great for creating a sense of depth in an image, and can make your photo look purposefully designed — even if you just happened to come upon a really cool shape by accident.

how to take good photo with phone: leading lines

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12. Look for symmetry.

Symmetry can be defined as “a vague sense of harmonious and beautiful proportion and balance.” And pictures that contain symmetry can be incredibly pleasing to the eye — it’s also one of the simplest and most compelling ways to compose a photo.

In photography, symmetry usually means creating an image that can be divided into two equal parts that are mirror images of each other. That’s a bit different than reflections — symmetry can be found “in the wild,” as per the staircase picture, or you can set up your photo accordingly, like photographer Eric Christian did in the first photo below.

And remember — use those gridlines from tip #1 to line everything up perfectly.

how to take good photo with phone:symmetry

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13. Keep an eye out for repetitive patterns.

Repetitive patterns are very pleasing to the eye — they appear whenever strong graphic elements are repeated over and over again, like lines, geometric shapes, forms, and colors. These patterns can make a strong visual impact, and photographing something like a beautiful, tiled floor can be enough to create a striking image. Other times, it’s more fun to keep an eye out for where they appear naturally or unintentionally, like with the congruent fire escapes on the left.

how to take good photo with phone: pattern

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14. Play around with color blocking.

Isn’t it cool when an entire photo is black and white, except for a single object? It turns out that yes, indeed, there are apps for that. One of our favorites is Touch Color — an app that automatically converts a picture to grayscale and lets you fill in the parts you want to colorize.

Color blocking can help to highlight the elements of a photo that you want to stand out, like a plant or something else with a bold hue. It achieves a similar goal as negative space, in that it can help a single subject stand out — but with color blocking, the photo’s other elements remain intact for a cohesive image.

how to take good photos with phone: Color Effects

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15. Avoid zooming in.

When you take a photo from a distance, it’s tempting to zoom in on something specific you’re trying to capture. But it’s actually better not to zoom in — doing so can make the photo appear grainy, blurry, or pixelated.

Instead, try to get closer to your subject — unless it’s a wild animal, in which case we would advise keeping your distance — or take the photo from a default distance, and crop it later on. That way, you won’t compromise quality, and it’s easier to play around or optimize a larger image.

16. Capture small details.

You may have heard the phrase, “It’s the little things.” Sometimes, that also applies to photos. Close-up images that capture small, intricate, and delicate details can make for really compelling visual content. Keep an eye out for textures and patterns like peeling paint, a gravel road, or a tile tabletop.

Pro Tip: Use the “sharpen” tool in your favorite photo editing app to (conservatively) sharpen the details of your photo. You might also download the Camera+ app and use its Clarity filter, which is what The Wall Street Journal‘s Kevin Sintumuang calls the app’s “secret sauce — it adds pro-camera crispness to almost any shot.”

how to take a good photo with phone: detail tile patterns

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17. If you use flash, only do so during the day.

Sometimes, using your camera’s flash can improve a photo — but rarely does it do so at night. Because dark shots reveal a much sharper contrast against your phone’s flash, it can make any flash look invasive and uneven

In already well-lit spaces, however, a flash can help to soften some dark shadows behind or beneath your main subject.

When framing your next shot, look on the ground or against vertical surfaces for any dark shadows you might want to remove. If you see any, flip on the flash manually in your camera app. Setting your phone’s camera flash to “auto” won’t guarantee that your phone will notice the shadows you want to get rid of. Just remember to turn the flash off again when you’re done.

Consider the importance of flash for enhancing or hiding certain lines and features the next time you’re shooting product photography.

18. Set your camera app’s exposure manually.

Another mobile camera feature you’ll want to set manually is your exposure. Tapping your screen when your phone’s camera is on doesn’t just refocus the lens on a new subject — it also automatically adjusts how much light the camera lets in. This, too, won’t always look just right. It’s best to adjust it by hand.

To change your mobile camera’s exposure by hand, open your camera app and tap the screen. When you see the lens refocus, you’ll see a very small sun icon and a vertical scale. Slowly swipe your finger up and down this scale to adjust the light level.

19. Create abstracts.

Abstract photos are meant to capture the essence of an object, or a series of them, without revealing the entire landscape as a whole. In other words, they serve the purpose of creating unique, surprising images from ordinary subjects.

This look can be accomplished by cropping an abstract portion of an otherwise normal photo, or by taking close-up shots of objects that leave the viewer wondering — in admiration, of course — what the subject might be. And subjects with patterns or repetition are great candidates for abstract photography, like in the photo of sliced figs below.

how to take good photos with phone: abstract architecture

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20. Take candids.

Posed photos can be great for the sake of memories — happy moments with friends, family, or the occasional run-in with a celebrity. But sometimes, candid shots of people doing things, or people with people, can be far more interesting.

That’s because candid photos are better able to effectively capture the emotion and essence of a moment. One of the best ways to capture this kind of shot is to just take as many photos as possible. You’ll have more to choose from, and the best photos often happen when the “stars align,” so to speak, in a single moment — everyone’s eyes are open, one person is tilting their head just so, and you finally got a shot of your chronically closed-lip friend smiling with his teeth.

take good photos with phone: eating candid

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21. Be unconventional.

Composition is a huge part of what makes a photo great, but so is the photo’s subject. Some of the most delightful and remarkable photos come out of cool, unique ideas. Images are more effective than text at evoking emotion from your viewers — that often means getting your photos to say something.

Try thinking outside of the box when it comes to what you’re capturing — your viewers could be pleasantly surprised by a cool or unexpected subject.

leaf-dog-constellation

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Want more tips on creating visual content? Check out these examples of explainer videos.

22. Make ’em laugh.

Speaking of evoking emotion, sometimes the most memorable photos are the ones that make us giggle. The image below of an older woman wearing a brightly-colored shirt stating “Hi hater” is funny because it’s unexpected — and there’s a part of us that admires her, too. The second image of the dog toy on a dinner plate pokes fun at classic Instagram food shots, but it’s from a dog’s perspective. If you can make your audience laugh, they’re likely to enjoy your photo.

pug-eating-toy

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23. Clean your phone’s lens.

A smartphone camera might be more convenient to carry around than a full-fledged photojournalist’s camera, but it comes at the cost of protection.

Your phone is usually in your pocket or your bag when you’re out of the house. All the while, the device’s camera lens is collecting all kinds of dust and lint. Be sure to clean this lens with a soft handkerchief before taking a photo. You might not be able to tell just how dirty the lens was until you start editing your picture, and making sure the lens is crystal clear before taking a shot can keep you from starting from scratch.

24. Attach an external lens.

Want to get really fancy? External lenses are for you. There are actually several out there that can be attached to the top of your smartphone’s native camera lens — from fish-eye to wide-angle lenses, these add-ons can bring an entirely new quality and perspective to your photos.

According to Wirecutter, the best camera lenses for iPhone photography are made by Moment, a manufacturer of mobile lenses. Start there, or do some research to find the lens add-ons that fit your smartphone photography needs.

Horses looking into fisheye external lens attached to phone camera

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25. Don’t be afraid to edit.

Composing and taking your smartphone photo is just the first step to making it visually compelling. Editing your photos is the next step — and a very critical one, at that. Filters can be a valuable photographic tool, particularly when it comes to two goals: 1) Removing blemishes from a picture, and 2) making food look even more delicious.

Beauty filters are a common fix— and now, the iPhone photos app offers many similar filters. There are also apps like Pho.to, which can automatically retouch facial photos without a lot of work. And when it comes to those photos of your daily meals? One of the latest apps available is Foodie, which comes with its own set of filters optimized for different types of food.

But there are many other great photo and video editing apps out there for mobile devices — check out this post to see some of the best ones out there.

Foodie

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Take Better Photos

Thanks to our mobile devices and the editing apps that come with them, we can now take high-quality photos and edit them without too many bells and whistles — all from the same device that we use to make calls.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

Marketer's Guide to Photoshop



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State of Content Marketing in 2023

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State of Content Marketing in 2023

I just pressed send on the manuscript for my book to be released in September. It’s called Content Marketing Strategy (snappy, eh?), and Kogan Page will publish it.

Last week, marketing professor Philip Kotler wrote the foreword. I won’t spoil it, but he mentioned the need for a strategic approach to owned media.

He writes, “(T)he company doesn’t carry an account of showing these marketing assets and their value. As a result, the company cannot show the CEO and company board members a return on owned assets or content.”

Luckily, my upcoming book shows exactly how to do that. Funny how that works out.

In any event, all this struck me that now is an opportune time to look at where the beloved practice of content marketing stands today.

First, let’s go back to 1999 when Kotler published Kotler On Marketing, one of his more than 70 books. The latter 1990s – a time of tumultuous change – fueled most of the thinking for the book. But he knew that it was merely the beginning.

Kotler concluded the book with a section called “Transformational Marketing.”  In the next decade, he wrote, “marketing will be re-engineered from A to Z. Marketing will need to rethink fundamentally the processes by which they identify, communicate, and deliver customer value.”

Well, it’s taken over two decades, but it’s finally happening.

Consumers have changed, but marketing operations are just starting to

In case you didn’t notice, almost every marketing conference these days starts with the same four or five requisite slides:

  • Digital technologies, such as search and social media, empower consumers today.
  • Consumers research, engage, buy, and stay loyal to brands in ways that have fundamentally changed.
  • First-party data and privacy are of the utmost importance.
  • Artificial intelligence begins to threaten the idea of the usefulness of search and pressure companies to deliver better and more personalized experiences.

You get it. Consumer expectations in the age of the social, mobile, and AI-driven web are different than they were.

However, the continuing challenge in 2023 is that content and/or marketing operations in enterprise companies are only beginning to evolve. Most marketing departments have remained as they were when Kotler wrote his book — they still work from mid- to late-20th century hierarchies, strategies, and processes.

Most marketing departments still work with mid- to late-20th-century hierarchies, strategies, and processes, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Content marketing isn’t new, but a content marketing strategy is

For hundreds of years, businesses have used content to affect some kind of profitable outcome. But the reality is this: Whether it was John Deere’s The Furrow from the 1800s, Michelin’s guide to car maintenance in the early 1900s, or even Hasbro’s GI-Joe partnership with Marvel in the 1980s, content was not — and is not for the most part now — a scalable, repeatable practice within the function of marketing. In short, companies almost always treat content marketing as a project, not a process.

That fundamental change will finally take hold in 2023. It could happen because of the digital disruption and ease by which you can now publish and distribute content to aggregate your own audiences. It could happen through the natural evolution that the ultimate outcome – more than the marketing – matters more.

As we roll through 2023 and beyond, content — and the exponentially increasing quantities of it produced by every organization — deeply affects not just your marketing strategy, but your business strategy. Content in marketing is now bigger than simply content marketing, and it should be dealt with as a component of that business strategy throughout the enterprise.

#Content in marketing is bigger than #ContentMarketing. Treat it as a component of the business strategy, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

In 2023, the No. 1 focus of my consulting and advisory practice these days: help companies transform content into a repeatable, scalable, and measurable function that drives value through a multi-channel strategy. It’s bigger than publishing a blog, creating a lead-generating resource center, or sending an email newsletter. Today’s content marketing team is being absorbed into marketing because marketing and its various operations are fundamentally transforming into a content-producing machine.

It is not good enough to produce content “like a media company would.” The goal must be to operate as a media company does. Your job is not to change content to fit new marketing goals. Rather, your job in 2023 is to change marketing to fit the new business content goals.

Your job in 2023 is to change #marketing to fit the new business #content goals, says @Robert_Rose via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

The unaware builds a case for the aware

The term “content marketing” continues to evolve. Even today, I run across those who still call it “brand publishing,” “custom content,” or “inbound marketing.”

My take matches with what Kotler described in 1999. I always thought the term “content marketing” would become part of “marketing” more broadly. In 2023, that happened. So, returning to the lexiconic debates of 2013, 2014, or 2015 doesn’t seem terribly productive. Content marketing is just good marketing, and marketing is just good content marketing.

That said, two kinds of companies do well at the broader view of content marketing. Some of them, such as Cleveland Clinic, Red Bull, Arrow Electronics, HubSpot, and REI, have purposely devised content marketing strategies as differentiating approaches to their marketing. They are succeeding.

Others, like Amazon, Microsoft, JPMorgan Chase, and Peloton, backed into a smart content marketing strategy. But executives at those companies probably don’t recognize it as such. If asked (and some have been), they would say acquiring or launching a media company operation was just a smart business strategy to diversify their ability to reach their consumers consistently.

They’re right, of course. Many have yet to read books about content marketing, been influenced by the Content Marketing Institute, or even recognize content marketing as a separate approach (as far as I know). And they are also succeeding.

Consider this proof: As I write this article, six companies have a market capitalization of more than $1 trillion. Four of the six wholly or partially use the business model of media creation to further marketing and business strategies. Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon are all, in part, media companies that also sell products and services.

Why would you not avail yourself of that same model?

The future looks cloudy and bright

As for the overall state of enterprise content marketing, it’s in transition, as all marketing is. As a focused project-based approach, working in ad-hoc ways across a business, content marketing appears to have proven its worth. Hundreds of entries every year to the Content Marketing Awards feature myriad case studies using content marketing techniques in strategic ways to profitably affect business results.

And yet, it remains to be seen whether you can make content marketing a scalable, repeatable, measurable function within marketing.

As to what the discipline’s future holds? At last year’s Content Marketing World, one of my favorite events, the Executive Forum gathered senior leaders from brands succeeding with content marketing. As we talked about the future, one participant said: “The only certainty is change. I can’t tell you where or when, but I do know there will be change, and this is the principle we build on now.”

As for my take, Kotler’s idea of transforming the marketing function seems to have gotten lost along the digital road traveled by marketers. In so many cases, marketing – and especially content – remains just an on-demand service function within the business. Its sole job is to produce ever more voluminous amounts of content that describe the value of the brand (or its products or services) so that sales can sell more efficiently, customer support can serve more effectively, and all manner of customer interfaces are more beneficial to both sides.

However, and maybe because I need to rationalize now that my book is finished, I passionately believe it’s finally time for marketing to reclaim its ability to create value — not just reflect it in the polished shine of your traditional products and services.

Almost 27 years ago today, Microsoft founder Bill Gates wrote an essay called Content is King. In it, he said that “(C)ontent is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

It certainly was one of his more prescient moments. Nearly three decades later, his words have proven true. The essay title has become the rallying cry for thousands and thousands of entrepreneurs who now make their living on creating, managing, optimizing, and measuring content on the internet. (A Google search for “content is king” nets more than 1.7 million results.)

But it’s the last line of his essay that I find the most visionary: “(T)hose who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products – a marketplace of content.”

That’s what content marketing is for me in 2023. It’s just marketing – optimizing the value of ideas, experiences, and products in a marketplace of content.

Time to get to work.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Get Robert’s take on content marketing industry news in just five minutes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Watch previous episodes or read the lightly edited transcripts.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute



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27 Best About Us and About Me Page Examples [+Templates]

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Your about page summarizes your history, values, and mission — all in one place. That’s a tall order for just a few paragraphs. If you’re feeling stuck, turn to these about-page examples for inspiration. 

about us page example: laptop held in palm of hand

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MarTech’s marketing operations experts to follow

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MarTech's marketing operations experts to follow

Marketing operations is what makes the magic happen. These are the folks who see that your martech stack doesn’t get stuck. They are the maestros, modelers and makers who make sure the trains run, the data is digestible and that you have the programs you need. Where would we be without them? That’s too scary to think about. Here’s our list of MOps experts who have the ear of the profession.

Darrell Alfonso

Darrell is director of marketing strategy & operations at Indeed and the former global marketing ops leader for AWS. He’s the author of “The Martech Handbook: Build a Technology Stack to Acquire and Retain Customers.” In addition to speaking at many conferences, Darrell was named one of the Top Marketers in the US by Propolis 2022 and among the “Top Martech Marketers to Follow” in 2020 by Martech Alliance. He’s a regular and popular contributor both to MarTech and the MarTech conference; you can find all of his articles at this link.


Eddie Reynolds

Eddie has been in business a long time, starting his first company when he was 14. “A pretty minimal enterprise,” he told one interviewer. “I had a tax ID number, a legal entity, and a company name. I even had the IRS coming after my dad for sales tax that I failed to report properly.” Today he is CEO and revenue operations strategy consultant of Union Square Consulting. He publishes The RevOps Weekly Newsletter and the podcast RevOps Corner. Eddie’s large LinkedIn following attests to the quality of the insights he shares there on  sales, marketing, service, and admin roles. 


Sara McNamara

Sara is an award-winning marketing and sales operations professional whose work has been recognized by awards from the likes of Salesforce (Pardot), Adobe (Marketo), Drift, and LeanData. She is a Senior Manager, Marketing Operations at Slack and a martech stack (+ strategy) solution architect. That and her passion for leveraging technology and processes to improve the experiences of marketers, sales professionals, and prospects, explains why she’s a regular guest on MOps podcasts.


Ali Schwanke

Ali is the CEO and founder of Simple Strat. The firm specializes in helping companies get the most out of HubSpot — from CRM strategy and setup to marketing automation and content creation. She is also host of HubSpot Hacks, “the #1 Unofficial YouTube show for HubSpot Tutorials” and has been a guest speaker at the MarTech conference.


Mike Rizzo

Mike’s career in marketing operations showed him that there is a real and significant MOps community. That’s why he founded MO Pros/MarketingOps.com, the fast-growing online community for people in marketing operations. He is also co-host of Ops Cast, a weekly podcast. 


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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman

Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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