Avoiding a Vanilla Sky (and vanilla marketing)


Do you take photographs?

Maybe on your smartphone or with a digital camera?

The difference between the amateur photographer and the professional is how well the latter understands and controls light.

Most snaps, perhaps like the ones you take on holiday, are taken during the middle of the day. Say, between 10.00am and 3.30pm. A time of day when the sun, when it shows, is at its highest point in the sky.

You may not have noticed but this causes photographs to reveal a harsh, whitened and washed out light. A bit like vanilla. It’s plain. It’s standard. It’s frankly a bit dull (and I should know, I’ve taken hundreds of photos like this over the years).

The professional photographer, especially the landscape photographer, will rarely take photos during this central part of the day.

What do they do instead?

They shoot at the extremes of the day – sunrise and sunset. Times when the light is usually at its most dramatic, atmospheric and interesting.

Just look on a professional landscape photographer’s website gallery and you’ll see what I mean.

The picture which heads this blog, for example, was taken in the early morning. It shows sunrise at Mt Bromo, a volcano set in a plain known as the “Sea of Sand”. East Java. Indonesia.

This is how it really looks. How do I know? I’ve been there. At sunrise. Two days running.

The landscape here really is amazing. It looks a film set for Jurassic Park meets Aliens. And the best time to view it, whether down on the plain or from the hilltop viewpoints, is as dawn breaks.

The low mist which permeates the plains is a common sight at this time of the day. In fact, it’s often much more dense than the wisps you see in the picture.

As the sun rises and the earth starts to warm, the mist begins to lift. Revealing a lunar landscape potted with small volcanoes.

On my travels, you were never offered a tour to see a mountain, volcano or other dramatic feature at 10.00am or 12.00pm or 2.00pm. There might be the odd night walk but the most popular offering was always “See ‘attraction X’ at sunrise”.

Why? Because the light, the atmosphere and the landscape appear so dramatic and interesting at this time of the day.

No vanilla here.

The image captures the attention. Bold composition. Powerful colours. Fascinating features. Interesting light.

Which made me think.

If only more of today’s promotions and advertising evoked more of the “sunrise” and “sunset”.

Too much is like vanilla marketing. Plain. Dull. Forgettable.

Is that how you want your company to be remembered?

CLUE: If you do vanilla marketing, you won’t be. That’s the point.

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