Since when has it become easier to talk to friends online than in person? What does that mean about the connections we are making? Can social media be a helpful tool for introverts?

Is Social Media Helping Us or Hurting Us?

Some late night musings I wanted to share about the power and problems of social media. I originally posted this on Instagram with a way too long description, so I thought it more appropriate to share here. I would love to hear your thoughts on this, particularly from my fellow introverts.

 

This video by young Insta-star, Essena O’Neill, went viral a couple of weeks ago when she declared that she is quitting social media because of the negative consequences it has on viewers who think that their lives should look like this. It got me thinking.

 

Since when has it become easier to talk to friends online than in person? What does that mean about the connections we are making? The book, Quiet, by Susan Cain taught me that social media and online communication may be beneficial to people like me who are introverted and shy, because we feel safer behind this invisible barrier. We have the time to collect and organize our thoughts instead of being put on the spot in a face to face conversation. I find this to be incredibly true. And, as strange as it sounds, I often feel like I am more me and less like someone who’s trying to act like me when I’m communicating through writing or digital means. But recently I am seeing all these people declare (on Instagram and social media,  ironically) that Instagram life isn’t real life. So, which is it then? How can this be my fake life but the true me? I’m not sure of the answer.

 

I think it’s something about photography that seems to lie, whereas writing that description, that blog post, that status update almost always sounds genuine. Even art feels… truthful. It’s  funny how in a way the most accurate depiction of real life is the one that feels the most fake. Maybe because these pictures are missing the story behind them.

 

This featured picture is one of my happiest memories from 2014. I was at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Retreat. But what isn’t shown is the horrible terror I have of flying and how this trip multipled it tenfold. The anxiety and panic attacks I was struggling with at the time, and the health issues I was having, preventing me from really feeling “there”. Not to mention the “slimming” slip I wore under my dress that I thought I needed to look good felt like it was squeezing every ounce of life and oxygen out of me. Does that make the picture different? To me it does. It makes it all that more special. But to you all… I don’t know. I just feel like I’m complaining. The ugly stuff, the boring stuff, the sad stuff-it’s important. But I would never want to burden others with these things. We shouldn’t forget that it exists just because celebrities don’t advertise it to thousands of strangers each day. We are more than our photographs.

 

Stay thoughtful. Stay true.
-B

"If we want to see change, we have to become the change." -Samantha Power

Quotes that Matter Monday | Becoming Change

In light of recent tragedies, I wanted to share a quote this Monday that might help us move forward through our fears, our worries, and our anger. Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad are suffering; and I only shudder to think of what might happen next week or next month or next year. We now live in a world where mass killings happen daily, and students are afraid to go to school. And it hurts. Every piece of my being aches in the pain being experienced across the world today. But we can’t just feel sorry and afraid. We owe it to the world to do more than that. We owe it to the world to act.

 

“If we want to see change, we have to become the change.” -Samantha Power

 

Samantha Power is an activist, diplomat, and author. This quote comes from her 2008 Ted Talk, “A complicated hero in the war on dictatorship,” where Power discusses the lessons she learned from Sergio Vieira de Mello, and what we can take away from them about combating evil and stopping injustices. 

 

We have come to a point where we must do more than just empathize, we must take action to stop these atrocities and develop methods of prevention to keep them from ever happening. In a world so complex and full of different ideas and individuals, it is increasingly difficult to agree on what the right way to act is. And that makes it hard for us to take action. But I know that we can agree that these innocent deaths are not okay. That this suffering is not okay. So we must try. Even if we are wrong. Even if what we try isn’t exactly how you would have gone about it. We must work together and we must try because we have no other choice to stop what is happening.

 

Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear.” This is more important than fear. We must stand up. We must not just wish for change, we must create the change. On Veteran’s day last week, I stumbled across a blog post by Adam Ericksen about pacifism that spoke in much more elegant terms than I ever could have exactly what I am feeling. “Nobody wants war. Everybody wants peace. Despite accusing one another of being ‘the Great Satan’ or the ‘Axis of Evil,’ we all want peace. We want peace and those we call our enemies want peace, too. This desire for peace is a good thing. The problem is that each side views the other as an evil threat to peace; and each side believes the same thing – that the threat to peace must be eliminated. Peace will come, we believe, when our enemy is eliminated. But history has shown that when one enemy is eliminated, another will soon emerge to threaten our peace.” We have to stop hating each other and fearing each other and making generalizations. If not, we will be the end of ourselves.

 

Samantha Power, among many things, is currently the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. I first heard her speak in 2013, in fact at her very first speech in her new position, at Invisible Children’s Fourth Estate Leadership Summit. She talked to us about #whatmatters and told us that we are not just student activists; we are leaders, we are diplomats, and we have the power. I’ve never forgotten what she told me. That I not only have the power to shape my own future, but the future of the world. And I’m doing it now. Not five, ten years down the road. Now. You too, must realize the power you inherently hold simply by using your voice to stand up to violence and hate. Vote. Talk to your representatives. Get involved. Volunteer time, services, or money. It is no longer enough to just hope.

 

Live intentionally,

-B

Learn 7 tricks to taking beautiful product photos for Etsy, your blog, or your online store without spending extra time or money. | by South Ranch Creative

7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy or your Blog

Without Spending Extra Time or Money.

 

If you sell on Etsy or your own business website, you know that product photography is hugely important to the success of your shop. Most of your customers are used to shopping through professionally photographed websites and product shoots, and expect to see the same level of quality when they come across your shop online. Unfortunately most Etsy and small online sellers are not professional photographers and in running a shop singlehandedly, they don’t have the time or money to ensure that their shots are pixel perfect. I’ve created this short guide for small time sellers with tips and tricks on how to make the most of your photoshoots, using supplies you likely already have lying around! You’ll save time, money, and the headache of trying to plan out exactly what need ahead of time.

 

1. Bring in some life.

There’s nothing more boring than a stale, lifeless photograph of your product on a plain background with no props. Particularly if you sell any sort of goods for the home, you’d better think about adding in some visual interest that enhances and doesn’t detract from the awesomeness that is the product you’re selling. One of my favorite ways to add some life to my product photography is to actually… bring in… life. For clothing and accessory sellers, this could mean someone wearing or holding your product. For home good sellers, this could holding or interacting with your product, but also could mean plants! I find greenery and plant life serves as a great prop for tons of my listings, and it’s so versatile! It comes in all shapes and textures and colors. It can serve as a background or as a prop to highlight your product. Also, with natural, reclaimed, and organic products becoming more and more desired every day, putting natural, reclaimed, or organic props in your product shots might not be such a bad idea.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Bring in some life.

Boss Lady mug by Jennie Brown Creative

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Bring in some life.

“Cheers” Mountain Coasters by South Ranch Creative

Now, there are exceptions to every rule, and tons of shops on Etsy and elsewhere are wildly successful using tactics like a minimalist approach where nothing but the product is in the photograph. I’ve found this to be much harder to pull off for the average or novice photographer because things like lighting and color must be just perfect in order for this type of approach to work, but if this is the style you want, go for it! The best thing to do when photographing your work is to take way more pictures than you would ever think necessary and try everything. Try out using the props and then remove everything but your product from view and compare shots side by side later. Trying it all out once will help you make better and more informed decisions about your product photography in the future!

 

2. Light, light, light.

Light is a powerful tool in photography. It can make a good photograph look great, or it can make a great setup look terrible. I always strive to use natural light in my product shots, whether I am indoor or out. The times I’ve had to supplement with artificial lights, you can definitely tell that my photographs suffered, and here’s why.

 

Indoor lighting usually is not bright enough. Whether you use a quality smartphone to take your photographs or a DSLR camera, you probably have struggled with grainy pictures at some point in the past. That’s because compared to the massive amount of light that the sun provides during the day, indoor lights just can’t compete. Even on a partly cloudy or cloudy day, you’re probably better off shooting outside. Flash is an option for indoor photography, but if you’re like me and don’t want to take the effort to get it just perfect and not blow out everything in the frame, you usually stay away from it.

 

Indoor lights cast weird color hues on your photographs. I know, I know, white balance is a thing, and a lot of smart phones and cameras can do it automatically! Typically indoors, you are going to have a bunch more yellow light in your photographs than you would outside, unless of course you only use florescent lighting which can have problems of its own. Personally I find that the camera either overcompensates or undercompensates, and you end up with yellow, orange, or blue-cast pictures. Now with a good camera, this is something you may be able to go back and fix in Photoshop, but remember, we’re trying to save time here so you can get back to making and selling!

 

Check out these examples below to see how natural light can drastically improve your product photography and save you time editing later:

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited Indoor Light Product Photo

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited indoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Unedited outdoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited Indoor Light Product Photo

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited indoor product photo with natural light.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Light, light, light.

Edited outdoor product photo with natural light.

Indoor lighting makes shadows your biggest enemy. Have you ever tried to photograph your work from above and gotten frustrated that your shadow or your camera’s shadow is blocking the picture? Have you then brought in other lights to try and offset this, and created these huge, awful shadows because the angle of the light was too low? Dealing with lighting in the home can make you want to pull your hair out. Sure, you can pay for an expensive studio shot setup, with all different types of light to offset this, or you can shoot outside! The great thing about shooting outdoors is that you have light coming from so many more directions, often eliminating the strange shadows you get from one-dimensional lighting in the home. You’ll still have to consider the time of day and how cloudy it is outside, but overall I find it to be much easier. Sunlight is free, anyway!

3. Color is key.

A big mistake a lot of Etsy and online sellers can tend to make is not considering color strongly enough when photographing their products. Not only can it help show your product in the best light possible, but it can create a mood and set the tone for your whole shop! A super easy and very effective method is to choose one or two highlight colors for your product shots, and use white as your main color. That might mean taking all your photographs on a white background and letting the color of your product bring life into the shop. It could mean using a few of the same props or props that are the same color across all your photos, so that the viewer senses a strong theme and brand.

 

Other ways sellers deal with color is by using the same filter on all of their photographs. Now, please be cautious if you want to do this. It has to make sense with your brand, and don’t put it at 100% and way overkill the effect. You can find some great and more subtle ones online that you can use in Photoshop, and it will help create this visual connection between your products. You could also use saturation as a tool. I don’t mean editing the saturation in a photo editing software, but I mean creating product shots that feature bright, high color products, backgrounds, or props. This is the method I currently use, however I intend to switch over to a more minimal look soon, as I believe it fits better with my brand.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Color is key.

Pidge Pidge uses only the color of its products to create a commanding and consistent visual language across its shop.

 

4. Remember what your subject is.

Props and backgrounds can be a great way to show your product in its best light. But always be cautious about overwhelming the viewer with too much information. You want him or her to immediately know what you’re selling, and not to be distracted by a really interesting prop you’re using. I’ve often fallen into the trap of taking a great photograph at an interesting angle, and gone back to realize that I was no longer photographing the work. The subject of the photograph had shifted to a mug I was using as a prop because the picture looked nice, but my work wasn’t the main subject of the picture anymore. Typically you want your product to be the biggest element in the photograph, and for it to be near or in the center. I would not recommend ever photographing your work in a way that crops it outside the picture plane. The picture may look great, but buyers want to see what you’re selling and that’s hard to do when they can’t see the whole product!

 

I know this dinosaur planter is super cute and fun, but I made the mistake of having it be the focus of my photo and not my actual product! You’ll see that my product is even blurred here while the dinosaur is in focus. Makes for a fun photograph but not a product photo. The image on the right is much cleaner and clearly displays my product as the main focus.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Remember what your subject is.

Prop-focused photography.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Remember what your subject is.

Product-focused photography.

 

5. Think about angles.

Consideration of the angle your photograph is taken is an often underappreciated element to your work. When I go into an online shop, I love to see all of the products photographed from the same angle, and usually that means looking straight down on or across from the subject. This means either a 0 or 90 degree angle from the ground. I think these are good angles to shoot as because it captures your product from the most objective point of view. Adding in angles and different levels of focus and blur can create really great and dramatic pictures, but it’s not typically appropriate for this situation. These angles are also great for encompassing your entire subject in the shot, which we talked about in Step 4.

 

Now what are angled shots great for? Detail detail detail. I highly recommend taking angled and zoomed in shots of your products to show in some of the secondary pictures you show of your product. These can give the customer a sense of the level of detail in a product, it’s texture, or simply show it at the angle you might most commonly see it once actually in use. For example, if you are looking to buy a chandelier or hanging light fixture, you want to see it photographed from the side when you are shopping because that angle gives you the highest level of detail in one picture, letting you see what it really looks like. Once you click on the item, however, I would want to maybe see the chandelier from the bottom or from an angle taken from below because that is the angle you will most commonly view the product, and you want to make sure it looks good.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Think about angles.

Great primary product shot taken directly above the piece.

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Think about angles.

Beautiful close up shot taken at an angle shows detail and texture.

 

 

6. Show it in use.

Depending on your product, you may or may not want to show it in use as your primary image. For clothing, I always recommend showing it in use in your primary photograph unless you are going with an extremely minimalist approach. Nobody wants to see you knit hat on a foam mannequin head. It doesn’t tell us anything about what it would look like on a real person, and you get a lifeless photograph as a result.

 

"7 Steps to Taking Great Product Photos for Etsy Without Spending Extra Time or Money" by South Ranch Creative | Show it in use.

Handwoven pendant necklace by Pidge Pidge

 

For home products, you might consider a more minimal approach to displaying your work before showing it in use in one of your secondary photographs. This goes back to not distracting your viewer, but it depends entirely on what your product is. Think carefully about what your target customer would want to see initially when browsing through a list of products? What would make him or her click on your shop and not the listing above or beside you? Having at least one photograph that shows your product in use or in an environment that it might appear once purchased is a great way to sell your work. As a buyer myself, it really helps me get a sense of how I would use the product and how it would fit in my home or wardrobe.

 

7. Be consistent.

Be consistent is Step 7 because it is the most important aspect of your product photography to create a strong and consistent visual language across your brand. You can take stellar photos and still look like a novice seller if you have a mish mash of styles in your photography. If you take your photos from a specific angle, take all of your primary product photos from that angle. If you use a white background, use it in all of your shots. This applies to every previous step I’ve mentioned, because customers love a consistent brand where they know what they can expect.

 

Taking these steps into consideration when photographing your products can easily and dramatically increase the quality of your photographs while not busting your budget or taking up too much of your precious time. Often simple and small changes can go a long way, so try out a few different things, see what you like and what’s working, and practice! It’s fine if you don’t think you have perfect photographs yet, I certainly don’t! But if you practice implementing the same strategies and techniques for every product, you will not only get a consistent look but you will get better and better at doing so every time! What is your favorite tool for getting high-quality product photography? I’d love to hear your suggestions, too!

 

Keep creating,

 

-B

 

"Quotes that Matter Monday | Imitate Nature" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

Quotes that Matter Monday | Imitate Nature

One thing I’ve learned by growing up in the millennial generation is that we are obsessed with quotes. Quotes about life. Quotes that inspire us. Quotes that make us laugh. Quotes that somehow describe our life so perfectly at that moment that it’s a miracle that someone else said it. And I love it. If quotes can make us feel more connected as human beings, make us laugh, or help us feel better when we are down, then I am 100% a fan.

 

This is why I’m starting a post series called Quotes that Matter Monday (hashtag it, y’all) where I illustrate one of my favorite meaningful quotes and share it with the rest of the world in the hopes that they might draw meaning out of it too. This weeks quote is by one of my biggest role models: adventurer, writer, and child at heart, Jedidiah Jenkins.

 

“Whenever you can, imitate nature. You just might remember that indeed you are also an animal in her kingdom. We spend so much time avoiding this”  -Jedidiah Jenkins

So why does imitating nature matter? You can take it as literally or figuratively as you want, but nature has been around for a whole heck of a lot longer time than mankind has, so there’s definitely something that it can teach us. For me, being more in-tune with nature helps me better appreciate the things I have, which in turn helps me stay more humble, focused, and generous. So what does being in-tune with nature do for you? #quotesthatmattermonday

 

 

 

Check out Jed’s Insta and his blog about his amazing bike trip, Oregon to Patagonia. They’ll blow your mind. Oh, and he’s writing a book on this trip and his life, so be on the lookout soon!

 

Live intentionally,
-B

I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. But it is important. It is how I developed compassion and humility. It is how I became me.

The Moment That Made The Millennial | Part 1

I’m going to tell you a story. I’ve told it before. And it’s not life changing to anyone else but me. It’s how I became the me that I call myself today. The one I refer to that will do anything for something she believes in. The one that timidly shares her problems of anxiety with a group of friends she first met over the internet. The one that’s always churning in the background, regardless of what me is showing at the front. It’s the me that makes my eyes tear up to think about.

 

Fall of 2011 I moved into a dorm on the beautiful campus of Virginia Tech. I had gotten credit already for most required core classes, but I still needed something for Area 7: Critical Issues in Global Context. I signed up for a class called World Regions. Now, history and social studies have never been my strong point. How am I supposed to remember the leader of every major country in the world if I can’t even remember what I ate for dinner last night, and I forget the word “strainer” when trying to tell my mom what I need from the cupboard?

 

True story, I actually forgot that word tonight just a couple hours before I wrote this.

 

But I signed up for the course because I heard it was easy, had 3,000 students in it, and the professor was a baffling mix of humor and offensiveness that drove around in plaid Scion xB. This is the girl I was. Normal. I had my own problems and quirks like anyone else. I was introverted, quiet, a little nerdy, and took art classes outside of school. Even on the weekends. But I had a normal middle and high school experience.

 

Life changed me towards the beginning of the end of my first semester in college. It was a movie. (If that’s not of sign of the millennial age, I don’t know what is). Professor Boyer of that very World Regions class convinced me (and probably at least 1,000 more of us) with extra points to come see a screening of a movie. He did this thing where he showed screenings of movies about other cultures and countries for extra points in the class if we attended, probably in an efforts to try and “globalize us” or something. Funny I’d be looking back at that four years later, teary-eyed and eternally grateful that he ruined my life in the best way possible. And to think I almost didn’t go.

 

IC Screening with Jason Russell | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 1" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

 

The film shown that night was called “Tony,” and it was shown by a group of weird looking things… err I mean, people… called “roadies” that drove all the way from California (one from Uganda) for a nonprofit called Invisible Children. Invisible Children is a millennial generation nonprofit that exists to stop a rebel group in central Africa called the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and their leader, Joseph Kony, from committing terrible atrocities and human rights abuses, which they have been doing now for over 20 years.

 

Please watch. If you’ve seen it before, watch. If you’ve never even heard of Invisible Children or Joseph Kony before, please. Watch. I can’t promise it won’t ruin you. And I can’t promise you’ll care. But I did and I did with such a fury and a passion that I can’t not use every opportunity I have to try and convince others to do the same.

 

TONY from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

 

After the movie, there was a presentation about what Invisible Children was and a discussion with a young Ugandan who had been directly affected by the conflict. I can’t say I remember the words they said. I can’t remember the ones that struck my heart with such force, I was shaken and lost of strength. But I remember standing back up. It’s funny, actually. That I just kept standing up. Tears in my eyes, gripping the seat in front of me for balance, I just kept standing up in the middle of the room, while the roadies were still presenting. Good thing I was in the back, because I’m sure people were staring at me. The film, the talk, the staggering realization that this was going on in today’s world, that people weren’t stopping them, that people my age and younger were facing the worst human rights abuses imaginable was just more than my mind could bear. It’s like my body knew that I needed to do something that instance to help the cause, but my mind, in its utter astonishment, just hadn’t caught up yet.

 

Once the presentation ended, and I figured out how to move my legs again, I started to act. I immediately joined the Frontline, a campaign to raise $2 million in four months for Invisible Children’s Protection Plan. I organized a team in my dorm to raise even though there were only a couple of weeks of the tour left. I was a leader for the first time in my life, it was terrifying and humbling and exhausting. But I did because I wanted to, I needed to. Me, the definition of “that quiet art kid”, wanted to be a leader so that I could share a story that was bigger and more important than myself.  That sort of feeling only comes around a few times in a lifetime.

 

Young millennial repping the new IC@VT shirt | "The Moment That Made Me | Part 1" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

 

This was only the beginning. It was a seed and a spark. A moment. I happened to be there and it changed me forever. But this was only the beginning.

 

Stay tuned for The Moment That Made Me: Part 2 to see how this spark brought me to life. In the meantime, I’ll be back there reliving all my best and hardest and most inspiring memories since then and trying to pretend I’m not crying at something ridiculous.

 

Keep taking action and stay true to yourself.

-B

Have you ever lost hope in and felt like quitting your business, individual, or volunteer endeavors? I have too. Here's what to do about it.

What to Do When You’ve Lost Hope

As a business, individual, or volunteer

One of my favorite things about forward-thinking, millennial age nonprofits is that they have this unyielding energy and positivity about their cause. Disappearing are the days of showing a sad dog to sad music on television to guilt viewers into donating. Disappearing are the endless charades of phone calls and letters and “free” calendars. We have learned that people react to positivity and passion over scare-tactics and guilt trips.

 


“People are tired of being asked to do the least they can do. They are hungry to do the most they can do.” -Dan Pallotta at Fourth Estate Leadership Summit 2013

 

I am so excited to be living on Earth during this time when people are excited to do good, get involved in global issues, and make change. Startups, crowdfunding campaigns, and small nonprofits are popping up across my news feed every day, and at first they made me feel like I could do anything I set my heart to. I saw the wild success of Invisible Children’s viral video, Kony 2012, and believed with all my heart that I could do that too. With my own passion, I could start a fire.



In the time since then, I’ve started, become a leader of, or become a part of many ventures. I became co-president of my college Invisible Children club. I started a campaign selling my arts and crafts to raise money for charities. I planned a cross-country road trip with my high school best friend. I joined a friend to help her start a nonprofit for kids in foster homes. I planned with another group an organization that would teach young people how to become active global citizens. I became head graphic designer as a volunteer for a digital magazine devoted to telling worthwhile and relevant stories while giving back to charities. I started an Etsy shop and blog about the creative lifestyle.



As a self-proclaimed introvert and a generally anxious human being, I was so proud of myself for these things that I did. They took courage. They took stepping outside my comfort zone. But let me tell you what happened. The Invisible Children club slowly lost interest during my term and ceased to exist by only one semester after I stepped down as co-president. I stopped selling my crafts because I didn’t know how to continue and grow it into a real, legal business. We had to cancel our cross country road trip for money and scheduling problems. My friend decided the nonprofit was something that we would have to hold off on. The educational organization started seeming “too far-fetched” and “not the right time” and “maybe not a good idea,” and slowly disappeared into the dust.



The magazine and my Etsy shop–my newest endeavors–are still active, but I can’t help but lose hope sometimes during the times we are struggling. And with a new business or venture of any kind, you probably know that struggles aren’t hard to come by. I think to myself, is it worth it? Am I cut out to do this? Doubt creeps into my mind. Am I doing this right? Can I make it out of the rut? I want to run back to a 9-5 job and some stability. Why is this not working? Why won’t anyone help me?

 

You may know these feelings. Whether for a business, individual endeavor, or volunteer/activist cause, you may be feeling your own creeping sense of doubt. Sometimes it’s hard to look back at your past failures and say, “This has helped me grow.This has taught me these lessons.” instead of “I can’t do this now because I have failed so many times before.” To me, saying this is so hard because although my past failures have helped me learn and grow, a big part of me still knows that my natural state is not that of a leader. It’s not 10 miles out of my comfort zone or knowledge range. I don’t feel comfortable there. The odds are against me in these new endeavors and positive thinking alone isn’t going to make me succeed.

 

So what then, do you do when you’ve lost hope? Ask yourself what you’re losing. If it’s a business venture, are you losing money? Are you losing valuable time? Are you losing yourself? Look deeply at these losses and weigh them against your initial reasons for starting your endeavor. Many times I find that my losses aren’t actually so bad after all. I was upset because I was not succeeding. If you are simply not succeeding yet, then there is no reason to give up. Without any or substantial loss, your endeavor still has great value to you. After all, you started at zero, right?

 

Recognizing that I am just not doing as well as I had envisioned is an incredibly powerful tool to bring back my energy, focus, and dedication to a cause. It is my habit (and I’m sure a lot of yours as well) to have way higher expectations and goals for myself than I would have for someone else. So cut yourself a break. Look back at your expectations and think, I may not have met my goals yet, but here is what I have done and here is what I’ve learned. Because if I continue to learn more about my cause, continue to produce quality content, and continue to push my boundaries, I know that I will be able to grow and succeed and get better. It may happen slowly. I may later evaluate that my losses have become too high. But they are not that way today, and that is why I can keep going.



Keep dreaming,
-B

Voice A Story is a different kind of magazine, with the goal of teaching, inspiring, and motivating people of all ages through stories of dedicated nonprofits, relevant current news and happenings, and passionate art, photography, and writing projects by young professionals and enthusiasts. It is not your typical news magazine.

What it Means to Voice A Story

This is the first of a series of posts on a magazine called Voice A Story that you will find under the “Act” category of South Ranch Creative’s blog. Act stands for activism. It stands for caring about more than just your own needs and desires. It stands for taking action on things you are passionate about, and not backing down when you face resistance.
Voice A Story magazine logo

Voice A Story magazine was developed by a good friend and fellow activist of mine, Ryan William Flynn. Voice A Story is a different kind of magazine, with the goal of teaching, inspiring, and motivating people of all ages through stories of dedicated nonprofits, relevant current news and happenings, and passionate art, photography, and writing projects by young professionals and enthusiasts. It is not your typical news magazine.

 

In today’s age, we have an issue in what is and is not news, what is considered journalism, what is considered “worth printing”. We have media with extreme bias, thrown easily by political ideology, prejudice to the usual “if it bleeds, it leads”, with a focus on what is easy to explain. This is what Voice A Story Magazine is not. -Ryan Flynn

 

I had the distinct honor of being invited to be Voice A Story magazine’s head Graphic Designer and Web Manager back in August 2015 when the magazine was just in infancy. Without hesitation I said yes. I had just graduated college in May, didn’t have a full time job, and accepted a position at an infant online magazine that didn’t have the means yet to pay any staff members. So why?

 

Sometimes supporting the thing that is right, the thing that means something, the thing that is bigger than you alone is the most important thing you can do, and the rest can wait. I believe that we all have an important story to tell, and this magazine has the potential to serve as the light to all of those voices. The voices that would otherwise go unheard.

 

Since August, I have watched us build a passionate and loving team of eight superstars that run every aspect of the magazine, create a brand, website, and various social media accounts, publish the first two issues of the magazine and cover operating costs in the process, and donate $1 of every sale made to a chosen charity for each issue. My heart is full of pride for what we have done, however small or large you may perceive those accomplishments.

 

Voice A Story is a different kind of magazine, with the goal of teaching, inspiring, and motivating people of all ages through stories of dedicated nonprofits, relevant current news and happenings, and passionate art, photography, and writing projects by young professionals and enthusiasts. It is not your typical news magazine.

 

Issue 02 was released today, and featured charity is an amazing organization called H2O for Life, which engages young people to become active global citizens by getting involved in service-learning opportunities relating to the global water crisis. If you’ve not yet heard of or read Voice A Story, I encourage you to give this magazine the benefit of the doubt and purchase an issue here this very instant. It could just change everything for you.

 

The magazine is only $5 and $1 of every purchase through the months of November and December go to the charity, H2O for Life. Issue 01 is also still available and can be purchased for $4, the featured interview with Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms.

 

Keep taking action.
-B

"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer.

"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

My first time ever picking apples from a tree! 

 

Sometimes the sweetest adventures are only two minutes down the road. I’ve lived just down the road from Larriland Farm since I was five years old, and since going off to college, it has become a place of nostalgia and sweet memories for me that I will always cherish. Back when I was a wee brownie Girl Scout, I had the good fortune of having a troop leader whose family owned the farm and lived on the property. Many a fall weekends we spent down at the farm, taking hay rides through the woods filled with wooden storybook characters, and sleeping out near the fields, playing charades and roasting far too many marshmallows.

 

As I grew older, my trips to the farm grew less frequent. We would go to pick pumpkins in autumn. Sometimes berries in the summer when friends were visiting. And then I went off to college, leaving my cozy little home down behind for four long years. I think being away developed a longing in me to go back, re-live those wonderful memories at the farm even though I hadn’t been in so long before leaving when I was still home and had the chance to. Sometimes it’s good to leave a place you call home for some time, even if you are happy there. Because when you return, you return with a renewed sense of awe and appreciation for what you do have. I’ve found that this applies to most aspects of life.

 

So this chilly autumn morning, my mom and I hopped in the car and drove down to Larriland before the gates open at 9. There was frost on the ground, and the air was crisp, but the sun was shining brightly for our adventure. We were warned that if we didn’t show up early, 30 minutes early to be exact, all of the apples would be picked by the time we arrive. We kind of looked at each other, both with a sense of skepticism, but followed instructions anyway with faith that the kind workers there knew better than we did. And they were right. We arrived 25 minutes early, and were already 8th in line to go to the apple orchard. By the time 9AM rolled around, there were probably 50 cards lined up in Larriland’s main parking lot to avoid backing up on route 94 which the farm is located off of.

 

The pick of the day: Pink Lady and Gold Rush apples. We got 50lbs of them.

 

"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

View of the main barn from across Larriland’s lake, a central attraction to this pick-your-own farm.

"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

Sunlight poured through the trees as pickers rushed to get the best apples they could find. 

"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

Next to the main barn, a couple of goats enjoy the attention from the crowds of visitors that flock to Larriland each weekend int the fall. 

"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com"Fall (fawl), n. A time of year where the apples are crisper, the kitchen smells sweeter, and friends get closer." | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com

I’ve said this several times recently, that I think sometimes animals understand me better than people do.

 

Next time you think you need to travel hours to have a good adventure, look at whats around you. The places you pass by every day but have never stopped at or been too. The places beyond the edge of the woods. The places you went as a child. You just might discover something new.

 

Happy Halloween, y’all!

 

Keep exploring.
-B

 


All photographs posted here are property of Becca Grogan and South Ranch Creative. Please do not use without contacting me first and obtaining permission. Sharing of this blog post or pictures is okay as long credit is given to Becca Grogan and linked back to this page (if digitally shared). Thank you and enjoy!

For me it means a lot of doing everything I love: working for nonprofits, selling my arts and crafts and design, and working with a lot of good friends. Unfortunately it also means a lot of selling myself short of what I deserve.

What it’s really like graduating from college with a degree in “Art.”

 

As a recent graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in Art, concentration Visual Communication Design, I feel compelled to let the world know what it’s actually like graduating from college with an art degree in the year 2015.

 

Starving Artist.

 

If you’re a creative like me, or are close with one, I’m sure you’ve heard it all. You may have even caught yourself saying it. Does the phrase, “starving artist” sound familiar? Have you been asked what you actually do or what you’re going to do when you graduate? Oh wait, they already know that. You just make things pretty. Have you cringed at overhearing a marketing student declare they plan to learn Illustrator and web design in ONE day? Have you been asked to design a logo for…. $20?

 

One day, standing on the stage as an outstanding senior at your own graduation, the next, jobless and living back at home, wondering, "what did I do wrong?"

 

As College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ 2015 Outstanding Senior, I was asked to sit on the stage at my own graduation.

 

Through my own personal experiences, I still find that art and design is still a hugely undervalued profession. Because I have been asked to design a logo for $20. And if it’s not undervalued, then the time it takes to complete the desired project is severely underestimated. The thing about good design is that when it’s really, truly successful, it’s almost silent.

 

“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

The Macchiato Effect.

 

And when it’s silent, people don’t realize that their emotions, their immediate reaction to the content that is being served to them, is a result of the design of the content, not just the content itself. So they will pay an extra $2 for that magnificent looking spiced caramel macchiato, but gawk at the freelance designer that wants to charge them $1000 for a new logo for their small business. But consider this: if they pay more up front for that new logo, but end up getting double the business as a result of the good design, that $1000 now seems well worth the investment.

 

Update: Just for clarity I want to say that $1000 was just a blind example for the sake of my argument. Logo cost depends entirely on the size of the client, experience of the designer, complexity of the project, and much more. 

 

I never really considered working for a big design agency post-graduation. A lot of my colleagues did, and the good news is, they are by and large doing great. But for someone like me, looking for a small quirky design studio, a nonprofit, or full time freelance work, the opportunities to make a living wage no longer look quite as optimistic. And it’s not because I’m a worse designer, less motivated, or would have a more leisurely work-life. I would actually be far more motivated to work for an organization I am passionate about, and would work harder as a result. So what is it, then?

 

I think it depends on where you look. Unfortunately for a small design studio, the possibility of them just not having enough money to pay you more is actually realistic. Not one, but two of the small studios I interviewed at during and post-graduation ended up having to tell me that while they loved my work and would love to have me, they “just didn’t have the money right now” to hire me. In the eyes of someone new to this world, it seemed tragic that these wonderful, passionate designers couldn’t expand their businesses, even in their success, because it is just too expensive for them to do so.

 

But let’s get back to that caramel macchiato. Nonprofits and individuals looking to hire freelancers fall into this trap more often than not, at least in my small realm of experience. And I think others see this too. It is the traditional format of a nonprofit to spend very little on this dirty word, “overhead.” Overhead is any spending that is not going directly to the cause, such as administrative or fundraising costs. This concept doesn’t seem so bad, right? Less money spent on administration and fundraising means more money going towards the cause, right? But then think about that overhead as that $1000 spent on a logo. If spending a little bit more on overhead to fundraise, to promote, and to have good powerful design allows that nonprofit to double the money they raise that year, then they are still raising as much if not more money for the cause, even with a higher percentage of their spending going to overhead. I encourage you to watch this Ted Talk by activist, entrepreneur, and founder of Charity Defense Council, Dan Pallotta, on overhead and the way we think about charity spending.

 

The macchiato effect is perhaps most strong in individuals. That $20 I was asked to do a logo for? I was asked by an individual. A student. While I know firsthand the struggles of being a poor college student, I also think this goes deeper than that. Let’s go all the way back to the thought that oh, designers just make things pretty. It may be well and true that we make your shop logo look prettier, but it is so much more than that. It’s about sending a powerful message. And developing a powerful, meaningful message takes time, skill, and a lot of hard work. Think about how many people are going to see that logo, that business card. It is profoundly important to how you or your business is seen by others, and you don’t even know it. Not all design is good design. So just because you can get a logo for $50 elsewhere, doesn’t mean that you’re going to get the same positive effect from the design. By 2015, we’ve become accustomed to looking for the cheapest, the fastest, and the easiest. Heck, there are massively popular websites out there in which clients can host a “contest” for designers to make their logo. It’s quick, they get tons of logos to choose from, and it’s relatively cheap. But is it really fair to ask for all this great work from designers at the mere chance for them to win? Would you work for free? I’m going to propose that you might not really be getting the highest quality of product here. You might get lucky. You might not. But you are seriously undermining the talent and hard work of a lot of designers.

 

Virginia Tech's School of Visual Art's Visual Communication Design class of 2015. And yes, we made pantone caps.

 

You Sure You Want to Know What it’s Like?

 

So what is it like graduating from college with an art degree? It’s hard. For me it means a lot of doing everything I love: working for nonprofits, selling my arts and crafts and design, and working with a lot of good friends. Unfortunately it also means a lot of selling myself short of what I deserve. Am I not charging enough because I know they can’t afford it or because I know they they think they can’t afford it or that it’s not worth that price? I’d lean towards the latter. And I don’t blame them, and I know I will continue to do this because it’s what I love to do. But if the world as a whole can learn a greater respect for what we do as artists, perhaps change will be on the horizon.

 

Keep dreaming.
-B

 

 

Artist + designer + lover of plants. Come hang with me & my aloe plant, Al, as we bring back a love of handmade to your business, nonprofit, or upcoming party ✌

Welcome to the South Ranch.

I feel like it’s customary and required to share a little bit about myself, tell ya’ll what I do and why, and give a little schpiel about my shop that makes you want to go and buy all the things. And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

 

Hi, my name is Becca and I am the creative behind South Ranch Creative. What is a creative? To me, a creative is someone who isn’t just good at painting, or drawing, or writing, or thinking outside the box. A creative dabbles, and as someone who naturally sees beauty, elegance, and communication better than your non-creative, he/she has a small leg up when entering new creative ventures. And I LOVE to learn new things. So I start new creative ventures a lot.

 

So that leaves the South Ranch. Well friends, that is my home! I live in a sleepy rural town on 4 1/2 acres, where the biggest news of the week is when a set of teens take their horses through the McDonald’s drive-thru (not kidding). My home has been such a big influence on my work from the beginning. Not everyone has the opportunity to take fallen tree branches, old fence posts, and barbed wire from out in their yard and create a whole set of wedding decorations with it!

 

Wedding arch and table marker photographs courtesy of Summer Kelley Photography.

 

I am a recent graduate of Virginia Tech (GO HOKIES!) in Visual Communication Design and decided to start doing freelance as well as sell my arts and crafts in an attempt to eventually make a life out of it. You might say that I didn’t exactly “fit in” to your classic design agency lifestyle; I wanted to do something that was more meaningful to myself. This means working for nonprofits and not giant corporate agencies, for individuals of passion and not companies just wanting to sell you something. This means making the happiest day of someone’s life just a little more special, or creating work out of found, recycled, or reclaimed materials instead of buying new. In case you haven’t gathered this yet from my little rant, yes, I am an activist. A dirty word to some, a badge of pride to others, I have transformed over the past four years of college into someone who is more compassionate, more considerate, and exponentially more humble. And I have the nonprofit, Invisible Children to thank for that.

 

1 Year Anniversary Video Shot | "Welcome to the South Ranch" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.comI am actually in this photo carrying the banner for the MOVE|DC in Washington, how cool is that?!?!

 

Now you know I am a creative and an activist, but what else am I? I am a dreamer. You might say that I am an optimist to a fault, and I will affectionately take that description in stride. I am always thinking about the possibilities and hoping for a better future. It may make me naive in a way, but I find it hard to put all of my passion and motivation towards a project if I don’t believe that the outcome will mean anything. Lastly, I am an adventurer. I’ve never been out of the United States, I am terrified of flying, and yet I call myself an adventurer. Adventures aren’t restricted to a location, time, or distance from home and that’s what makes them so mysterious and alluring. They are best unplanned and unmapped. My wanderlust towards nature makes me a natural environmentalist so yes, I have some hippie genes in me too.

 

All of this–my creativity, my activism, my optimism, and my wanderlust–make up the core of South Ranch Creative. They saturate the work I sell and are the base of what I will be posting about in this blog. You might find DIY projects, a photo album of my latest road trip, a post about the nonprofit I just did work for, or the history behind one of my found or reclaimed crafts. If my art and my passions resonate with you, I encourage you to join me in this journey, and I look forward to hearing about your journeys too.

 

Keep dreaming,

B

 

Check out my Etsy Shop | "Welcome to the South Ranch" | by South Ranch Creative | www.southranchcreative.beccagrogan.com