Using Design Thinking to Turn Challenges into Opportunities

Using Design Thinking to Turn Challenges into Opportunities

Using Design Thinking to Turn Challenges into Opportunities

We’ve all heard the term “design thinking,” freely bandied about, but what does it really mean and can only creative people apply this in their work? “No,” says designer, educator, author Matthew Jervis, founder of Make It Creativity.

Every person has the capacity to be creative—not just designers and artists. Being creative is instinctual. It’s a set of basic survival skills that have evolved over time and continue to evolve…and not necessarily in a positive way.

Use design-thinking to become unstuck. Join Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans as they teach a class based on their #1 New York Times bestseller, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

Jervis points out that our ancestors needed to be creative to survive. “We ran buffalo off cliffs because we needed to eat and clothe ourselves since we didn’t have horses yet. We needed to be creative. What’s the best way to run them off a cliff? Where is the nearest cliff? How do we keep from running ALL the buffalo off the cliff?”

He approaches the creative process and design thinking with the idea that it’s a way of living and approaching everyday challenges…not just for designers working with clients. “The ability to see a challenge as an opportunity is key to thinking creatively,” he simply states.

“The ability to see a challenge as an opportunity is key to thinking creatively.” @mkit_creativity
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“I feel that parenthood/childcare/teaching are some of THE best examples of design thinking as well as being some of the most creative endeavors out there,” he says. Here is a list of ten tactics devised by Jervis that parents—or anyone for that matter–can deploy in a challenging situation.

Whether it’s a kid having a temper tantrum, or running out of gas on your way to work. How we react to and deal with the circumstances is key to coming up with the best solution.


It’s important to note here that creativity is a collection of skills, not a stand-alone endeavor.

“Creativity is a collection of skills, not a stand-alone endeavor.” @emilyjpotts
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To become sharper and ultimately more creative, we have to dig into the specific parts that make up creativity and strengthen them individually in order to strengthen the whole. Then we can mix and match these skills and apply them as needed. It’s as if any challenge comes with an ala carte menu. A little of this a little of that. Through Jervis’s research, he has developed this top 10 list of his favorite creative skills:

1. Empathy

Strictly speaking, this is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person. In design thinking we rely on our empathy to help us more fully appreciate a situation, the people that it effects, and how a particular strategy or solution may be received. As a parent or care-giver, we rely heavily on our ability to think empathetically. Everything and I mean everything is better with empathy on it! How to approach a situation requires us to know just HOW to approach the situation.

Use design-thinking to become unstuck. Join Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans as they teach a class based on their #1 New York Times bestseller, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

2. Negotiation

Simply put, this is a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement with another party or parties. This is an extremely important expression of creativity, and also goes hand-in-hand with empathy. The outcome is to control a narrative, to make or strengthen a relationship, or to move a discussion in the desired direction to achieve a mutually beneficial solution or agreement.

3. Contingencies

When one strategy doesn’t work the individual using their creativity will have a ‘plan B’ ready to go, another characteristic of the mindful parent in full creative mode. When we brainstorm we come up with tons of great ideas. From there we usually move ahead with one of them, but it’s always a good idea, no matter what the situation is, to keep a couple in your back pocket as ‘plan B’ and ‘C,’ just in case ‘plan A’ doesn’t get the job done.

4. Problem-solving

Thinking and approaching problems basically means using a mix of generic or ad hoc methods, in an orderly and focused way, in order to find a solution to a particular problem. As humans, we problem-solve constantly, from what to get for lunch, to fixing a leaky faucet, trying to locate missing lunch boxes, to much larger global issues, like peace in the Middle East.

5. Imagination

Einstein famously said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” What we have come to realize is that imagination is another way to think of “What if.” Once we are able to ask that question, all things become possible. Without asking that question or being able to imagine, we stall out with no hope of being able to innovate on any level.


6. Create new and worthwhile ideas (both incremental and radical concepts)

In other words, being able to think divergently. This is a technique where there are no wrong answers. Kids are great divergent thinkers. They have no problem thinking of crazy solutions to get a ball off the roof. From using a broom handle to paying off a helicopter pilot. All ideas are on the table. Fluency! Originality! Again, kids are great at this and we are better teachers and parents when we ask them for their ideas and really listen to them. As we get older we poo-poo ideas almost faster than we can speak them. As a result, we miss some great ideas, some truly creative solutions never see the light of day.

7. Permission to innovate

Having permission is the first step to curiosity which immediately precedes innovation. We need permission. Whether we give it to ourselves, give it to others (parents teachers, I’m talking to you), or we have been given permission through our work culture or a manager/project leader etc., we can not move into curiosity without it. If we don’t feel that we have the permission or that our curiosity is not welcome or valued, we will lack the confidence to allow ourselves to be and act with curiosity and we will never explore possibilities or alternative solutions.

“Do you have permission to innovate with your work?” @mkit_creativity
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8. Working with limitations

When we can see the opportunities in materials and ideas that might on the surface seem unremarkable or inappropriate for the task at hand. If we have everything at our fingertips, then what we create really is not as surprising or incredible as if I created that same thing with very limited materials that I had lying around. If I could just pop over to Home Depot or the local craft store to get everything I needed to fix a leaky faucet, then my solution won’t be judged on how creative I am, but rather if the leak is fixed or not. Now if I fixed that same leak with say a tin can and some twist ties, then I’ll be regarded as an artist. Limitations create value. Take a breath before you throw money at a challenge.

9. Humor

Making someone laugh is an incredible skill. It requires us to be observant, present, know our audience, and to be able to curate our messages appropriately. Humor can be a weapon; it can educate; it can incite behavior, and it can heal. It is a skill that can be applied to negotiation, collaboration, even problem-solving! With a dash of humor, we can make solutions or strategies more inclusive and human.

10. Collaboration

Playing well with others. If you can’t collaborate or deal with people than you have a long and hard road ahead. Being a team player is what 90 percent of life is about. I can’t substantiate that number, but it feels right. If you’re a parent, teacher, bus driver, or whatever, you need to be able to interact and collaborate with people all the time just to get through the day.

All of the above skills are just simple bite-sized ways for us to regard challenges as opportunities to be creative.  To see a challenge as an opportunity is also a great way for us to enter into design thinking and look at the creative process!

Use design-thinking to become unstuck. Join Stanford professors Bill Burnett and Dave Evans as they teach a class based on their #1 New York Times bestseller, Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life.

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Modern-Day Rosies: Deanne Fitzmaurice Re-Envisions the Iconic Symbol of Women Empowerment

Modern-Day Rosies: Deanne Fitzmaurice Re-Envisions the Iconic Symbol of Women Empowerment

STACEY CORCORAN, an electrician at the Nippon Sharyo railcar manufacturing facility in Rochelle, Illinois. Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Some ladies have all the luck drive. Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, filmmaker, and co-founder of Think Tank Bags, Deanne Fitzmaurice, is known for pushing the boundaries of what is typically expected of photojournalists.

One of her latest projects, ‘Women Can Build‘, demonstrates the impact and stories that she can convey in a single image. It’s goal is to help challenge stereotypes and highlight role models for millions of women across the country.

For International Women’s Day we join Deanne in sharing the stories of the extraordinary women who are building our 21st century transportation infrastructure in industries traditionally dominated by men.

Modern Day Rosies

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Lilla Wallace is a cleaning specialist at a railcar refurbishment facility in Los Angeles, CA. “I work inside the garage, the Service and Inspection area called S&I. We do two cars a day — the whole thing! It’s detailing, elbow grease, hard cleaning, hard work, not soft cleaning.” Lilla sees herself as one day being a mechanic, drawn to the physicality of the work. “You can work hard and still retain your femininity.” Read more of her story here.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Ruby Diaz a quality control technician at the Kinkisharyo railcar factory in Palmdale, CA., recently promoted after establishing herself as an electrical worker. She worked with thick, heavy copper wires, oftentimes having to withstand vibrations from the moving trains. “I was a little intimidated with so many male coworkers,” Ruby says.  “But I thought, why not take the challenge. It’s hard for women, they feel they don’t have enough strength, or power, or dedication. It is a tough and heavy job. But women can work just as hard as anybody. Women shouldn’t be intimidated.” Read more of her story here.

As a photojournalist, how much do we engage with our subject? Join Deann Fitzmaurice for her free online discussion answering the question: Can We Be Objective Observers?

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Ami Rasmussen is an interior assembly foreman at the Kinkisharyo railcar factory in Palmdale, CA and mother of two. It wasn’t until her daughters were older that she was able to fulfill a lifelong dream to join the U.S. army serving as a light vehicle mechanic. Post-service and with established experience, she now works on the Interior 2 team, with seven other men. “We probably touch the trains more than anyone else,” Ami says. “There is no typical day, here. We install seats, the rear locker, grab bars, pretty much anything you grab onto inside the train. We’ll build the actual locker, and others will install the electrical components. The tools I use vary, from screwdrivers to torque wrenches, to drills, to rivet guns.” Ami admits that there are pros and cons to working with a majority male workforce but being in charge of 78 men in the military, she thought to herself ‘I got this.’ Read more of her story here.

Photo by Deanne Fitzmaurice

Elisangela “Lisa” Oliveira is a bridge painter for the New York City Department of Transportation and was the very first woman to pass the Civil Service Exam for Bridge Painters at the NYC DOT. “It’s a physically demanding exam,” said Lisa. “I had to climb the Williamsburg Bridge and demonstrate that I knew what I was doing with the safety procedures to pass!” She started as an apprentice with the bridge painter’s union and advanced to a journeywoman position, followed by a forewoman position. Lisa said she experienced a lot of discrimination in the beginning of her career but Lisa pushed back, telling them, “Put me to work, if you don’t like me, you don’t like me.” Read more of her story here.

Deanne Fitzmaurice is a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist and filmmaker whose work is known for using emotional and physical layers to expose human connection. Join CreativeLive as Deanne discusses her 13 year project about an injured Iraqi boy, and the questions she’s wrestled with on her photographic journey. 

As a photojournalist, how much do we engage with our subject? Join Deann Fitzmaurice for her free online discussion.

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14 Vintage Photos of Real-Life Rosie the Riveters

14 Vintage Photos of Real-Life Rosie the Riveters

Rosie the Riveter was based on a real woman — actually, a lot of them. The US cultural icon represented the many American women who found factory work during WWII, producing war supplies and other munitions, including aircraft. During this time, the female workforce more than doubled, as women moved into roles from which they were previously discouraged or outwardly barred. However, the labor of the women was necessary as men left the country to fight, making Rosie the Riveter a symbol not only of patriotism, but of pioneering female spirit and hard work.

For International Women’s Day weekend, we’re looking back at the real-life Rosies. Wondering what the new face of Rosie is? Check pulitzer prize winning photojournalist out Deanne Fitzmaurice’s re-envisioned symbol of women empowerment.

real-life rosie the riveter

The Library of Congress writes of this photo: “This girl in a glass house is putting finishing touches on the bombardier nose section of a B-17F navy bomber, Long Beach, Calif. She’s one of many capable women workers in the Douglas Aircraft Company plant. Better known as the ‘Flying Fortress,’ the B-17F is a later model of the B-17 which distinguished itself in action in the South Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men, and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions.” The photographer of this and many of these shots was Alfred T. Palmer.

rosie the riveter

Another Palmer photo, this one shows women at work on a bomber at the Douglas Aircraft Company in Long Beach, California.

real life rosie the riverter

“Women workers employed as wipers in the roundhouse having lunch in their rest room, C. & N.W. R.R., Clinton, Iowa,” notes the Library of Congress of this photo by Jack Delano.

WWII women's service

“Painting the American insignia on airplane wings is a job that Mrs. Irma Lee McElroy, a former office worker, does with precision and patriotic zeal,” writes the Library of Congress. “Mrs. McElroy is a civil service employee at the naval Air Base, Corpus Christi, Texas. Her husband is a flight instructor.”

library of congress WW2

This machinist was one of many during WWII. Here’s some more background on one of the women who served in this capacity during the 1940s.

rosie the riveter

The Library of Congress notes that women like these two were “trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail,” which was essential to the American armed forces during the war.

For a limited time — save up to 60% off our inspired by women classes! Shop now.

rosie the riveter

In many of the photo captions, the Library of Congress seemed more concerned about the aircraft than the women making them. From the image description: “A girl riveting machine operator at the Douglas Aircraft Company plant joins sections of wing ribs to reinforce the inner wing assemblies of B-17F heavy bombers, Long Beach, Calif. Better known as the ‘Flying Fortress,’ the B-17F bomber is a later model of the B-17, which distinguished itself in action in the south Pacific, over Germany and elsewhere. It is a long range, high altitude, heavy bomber, with a crew of seven to nine men — and with armament sufficient to defend itself on daylight missions.”

real rosie the riveter

Several of the men of this women’s family were headed to the service. According to the caption, she had “one brother in Coast Guard, one going to Army.”

rosie the riveter

Factory work wasn’t just a way to serve the country at home; it was also a financial necessity for many of the women who took on these jobs. The woman featured in this photo was “formerly a sculptress and designer of tiles,” writes the Library of Congress.

“Dorothy Cole converted her basement into a workshop to tin plate needles for valves for blood transfusion bottles prepared by Baxter Laboratories, Glenview, Ill. She turns in her profits to war bonds to provide a college education for her young nephew.”

real life rosie the riveter

The factories of WWII were extremely diverse places, with workers of all socio-economic statuses and races. The woman was pictured “operating a hand drill at Vultee-Nashville,” in Tennessee, according to the Library of Congress.

rosie the riveter

“With careful Douglas training, women do accurate electrical assembly and installation work,” the Library of Congress notes in the caption for this photo. That kind of electrical work went on to be an important skill for many of the women who, while they may not have stayed in the workforce, were able to do home repairs and even work for friends and neighbors.


Here’s another caption which mostly focuses on the machinery: “Capping and inspecting tubing: two women are shown capping and inspecting tubing which goes into the manufacture of the “Vengeance” dive bomber made at Vultee’s Nashville division, Tennessee. The “Vengeance” (A-31) was originally designed for the French. It was later adopted by the R.A.F. and still later by the U.S. Army Air Forces. It is a single-engine, low-wing plane, carrying a crew of two men and having six machine guns of varying calibers.”

rosie the riveter

This 1944 photo shows a woman working on an airplane motor.

rosie the riveter real life

Howard Hollen captured this young woman in Texas drilling on a bomber.

For a limited time — save up to 60% off our inspired by women classes! Shop now.

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Sue Bryce Shares Her Favorite Pose Ever

Sue Bryce Shares Her Favorite Pose Ever

sue bryce posing tips

Most people are neither comfortable nor particularly experienced in front of the camera. Which means that, in order to take the very best photo of your subject, you, as a photographer, need to be able to give the kind of direction that makes sense and churns out consistently beautiful results.

After years of portrait photography — wherein her sole motivation is to make women look and feel their very best — master photographer Sue Bryce has devised several fool-proof instructions and methods of posing that not only delight her clients, but almost always sell her products for her.

This one trick, which she calls “the faux-waist,” is a concept that every portrait photographer should adopt immediately.

The idea, says Sue, is to create the illusion of a narrow waist in clients. However, when you instruct a subject to encircle her waist, she’ll likely actually put her hands much lower.

“This is what all clients do. They put their hands on their waist,” she says, “but they really put their hands on their hips.”

To create the illusion — and, in doing so, create the best pose — Sue instructs them instead to bring their hands higher and in toward the center of their abdomens.

“It’s not your real waist,” says Sue, but many subjects think that’s where their hands should be. As a photographer, it’s up to you to instruct them how to pose in such a way that the illusion of a very narrow waist is there.

Do note, though, that when given this instruction, many women will also roll their shoulders forward.

“To correct this…I’m going to just say, ‘drop your shoulders and relax them. And push your elbows back.’ And as soon as her elbows go back from her body, she’s no longer rolling her shoulders.”

The shot, says Sue, works almost every time.

“That covergirl shot sells to pretty much every single client that I ever photograph,” she says.

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5 Things Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Know and Do Before Starting A Business

5 Things Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Know and Do Before Starting A Business

Making the decision to become an entrepreneur and starting a small business is not for everyone. It takes hard work, grit, and determination and can sometimes leave us disillusioned, wondering, “Did I make the right choice?” At times it can feel like you are taking steps backward, but success as a creative entrepreneur isn’t linear. 

Here are 5 pieces of business advice that every creative entrepreneur should know before starting his/her own business.

1. Knowing Yourself 

Self-awareness and believing in your passion will help give fuel to the fire of your new business. As you navigate the waters of self-doubt, perhaps even financial loss, and concern about the future, reminding yourself of the value you felt you could add to the world will help to buoy you. 

Lisa Congdon said it well in Become a Working Artist, “Believing that you have something to give the world is really the first step.” You must understand that you have value and your work has value, and that you offer something unique to the world. 

It cannot be overstated that self-awareness is crucial to your individual success but also how you work together with others. Being honest with which tasks you can do excellently verses which are better delegated to others, can maximize your time and profit. 

2. Having Goals and Setting Steps to Get There 

Walking along a road aimlessly gets you nowhere significant. That’s the same with starting a small business without a goal (or any other endeavor for that matter). 

Begin with the end in mind. What specific goals do you want to target in your business plan as a small business owner? Write them down. Then make a vision map that has intermediate goals that stem from much larger goals. Intermediate goals are manageable goals that you can accomplish in a week, a month, two months, or three months. 

Lisa Congdon shows that big goals can be accomplished through careful planning, intermediate goals and actionable steps. Her approach closely resembles the effective S.M.A.R.T. goals approach: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

3. Crafting Your CV, Statement and Portfolio 

Crafting an effective curriculum vitae (CV) and paragraph bios are important steps before pricing and promoting your work. Consider getting involved in your creative community to help guide the formation of your CV. Ask yourself, “What do the CVs and bios of your community show about their work? What do they look like? What’s the feeling that you get from them?”

As a self employed creative, you need to build your credibility within your community. That’s where your portfolio will play a vital role. Design your creative portfolio in such a way that it addresses the psychology behind why people appreciate your work. What is the specific joy that you bring to your audience? Make sure to include:

  • What your creative small business is about
  • Your business name
  • Your education and/or certifications
  • Mission/vision statements
  • Creative affiliations
  • Sample work


4. Pricing Your Work 

Pricing your work appropriately is challenging. Tim Leonhardt stated, “Creatives are basically more vulnerable than other people and the reason is really quite simple: It is because the work that we do is completely personal.” So, what is a fair price for your work? As Much As You Can Get!  As hard as it is, it is also important to separate yourself from your work (and the price). When someone offers much less than what you desire, do not take this to mean that you have less worth as a person. 

Tim Ferriss in his breakthrough book “The 4-hour Workweek” declares there are three currencies in this world: money, time and energy. Keep in mind these three currencies when you price your work. 

Another factor to consider is tenure– how many years have you been doing your creative work? Also, remember to do proper benchmarking with competitors so as not to price your work too high or too low.

Above all, know your worth. There may be times at first, when you may need to price your work low while you’re building your credibility and then you can ramp it up slowly. 

5. Promoting Your Work

Building your tribe is a good start in promoting business growth. Start with your network of family and friends, and ask them to subscribe to your blog and social media accounts. Be patient, and stick with keeping your blog and social media accounts current as it can take months to see the fruits of your labor.

A cohesive digital marketing plan is essential in your strategic planning and business model. This includes perfecting your messaging, leveraging social channels, mapping your customer journey, and developing a growth/scaling plan. Ryan Deiss’ eight-step framework is a good starting point to help you understand the complexities of digital marketing and convert high-value customers that are loyal to your work.

While starting your own creative small business can be a frightening leap into the unknown, knowing and executing on these five principles can help you on your path to success.


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5 Indispensable Writing Resources

5 Indispensable Writing Resources

The act of writing is something different to every writer—it is a joy, a challenge, a job, a dream, a calling. But no matter the reason to write, every writer seeks to improve their skills. Of the many writing resources, these are the ones I find myself recommending and returning to most often.

This list is designed to help you get your best content out of your brain and onto the page so it can be polished and, ultimately, published.

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker

This book offers a wealth of information in an accessible and engaging way. It focuses on how to choose and use style, understand syntax to improve prose, and write clearly and coherently. Pinker—a professor, cognitive scientist, and linguist—includes examples and cartoons to keep the material easy to understand and entertaining.

Grammar Girl

Bookmark this site—you’ll likely be using it often. Grammar Girl covers everything from writing tips to complex grammar questions in an accessible way by providing memory tricks and helpful examples. Covering topics such as verbing nouns, punctuation usage, correct word choice, and much more, there is always something for even the most experienced writer to learn. And if you need a new podcast, look no further. Named “2017 Winner of Best Education Podcast in the Podcast Awards,” the Grammar Girl podcast is a valuable addition to your listening list.

No matter what your writing goals are, CreativeLive’s Online Writing Classes will give you the energy, instruction, and focus to achieve them. Learn more.

The Poynter Institute

Though it is a journalism-focused organization, Poynter offers a number of classes appropriate for any writer. Deepen your understanding of grammar, fine-tune your fact-checking skills, learn multimedia storytelling basics, and study the art of revising your own work through online, in-person, and webinar courses.


Scrivener is a word processing program that helps writers organize and manage their documents, research, ideas, and notes all in one place. Its fluid, easy-to-use interface supports many different writing styles: you can outline first, write piecemeal and then sort, organize ideas based on research, and so on. Once your content is ready, Scrivener exports it into established formats like PDF and Microsoft Word. It’s available for Windows and Mac and as an iOS app. The license is $45 and a free trial for 30 days of use is available to all new users.


Confident with your ability to weave a compelling story, but sometimes shaky with subject-verb agreement or dangling modifiers? This free writing app scans your text for grammatical mistakes and not only prompts you to correct them, but explains why so you can learn for the future. (Also check out: HemingwayCliche Finder)

No matter what your writing goals are, CreativeLive’s Online Writing Classes will give you the energy, instruction, and focus to achieve them. Learn more.

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How Diversity and Inclusion is Changing Art (For the Better)

How Diversity and Inclusion is Changing Art (For the Better)

Yasmin Abdi, Real Creative Lives

Embracing our differences is important. Creatives have always understood the power that diversity and inclusion bring not just to art, but the world, and that sentiment will only continue to grow as the business world catches up. It goes beyond doing “the right thing” — including people of different backgrounds is an essential ingredient in every aspect of life.

A diverse workforce benefits everyone, especially creative teams. Check out how businesses can foster innovation by bringing in new ideas from people from all walks of life -and even close up massive gaps in the marketplace.

Diversity in Creative Teams

Diversity is among the most crucial ingredient in creative thinking. Teams who work in an inclusive environment — that is, teams with a fairly heterogeneous mixture of sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, culture, and educational background — tend to produce better results.

In creative teams, the general rule is that more ideas = better momentum. Having a diverse team is one of the best ways to boost creativity since the creative process thrives on stimulation and building off of new ideas. Compared with a team who shares the same background, a team of diverse talent will naturally come up with a wider range of thoughts and suggestions. It puts more tools in the toolbox, so to speak.

An Inclusive Workplace Boosts Business Performance

As several recent studies have proven, an inclusive workforce boosts employee engagement and helps the bottom line.

This is no surprise. Talent management works best in an inclusive culture where people can be their authentic selves and contribute new ideas. A broad range of experiences and backgrounds translates to a direct competitive advantage.

The modern world is one where creativity is prized. Many modern tech giants are partly responsible for blazing this trail — their policies toward independent and creative thought provide a stark contrast to the workplace of yesteryear. Diversity is a key element of creativity, though, and most workplaces still need to work on an inclusion strategy.

A culture of inclusion and a diverse workplace start with diversity policies. Education and workshops are a great starting point for establishing a common ground of understanding.

TONL: Identifying A Gap in the Status Quo

CreativeLive instructors Karen Okonkwo and Joshua Kissi

The lack of diversity in many sectors is a gaping hole in the market. Several entrepreneurs are capitalizing on this. One of our favorite examples is TONL, a company that is turning stock photography into an interesting thing by finally making it more than a woman laughing while eating salad.

TONL is disrupting the traditional homogeneity of stock photography in the business world by including people of diverse backgrounds from all over, seeking to reduce unconscious bias, and letting everyone feel like they’re a part of the big picture. No pun intended.

Creating Diversity in Stock Photography

Can photographers help make the world a better place? Karen Okonkwo and Joshua Kissi share thier story of creating & distributing images of diversity around the world. #TONL

Posted by CreativeLive on Friday, February 15, 2019

The company, founded by CreativeLive instructors Karen Okonkwo and Joshua Kissi, prioritizes storytelling and adding value to content through human photos and in doing so, they are working to remove prejudice toward not just black people, but all people of color.

A Nigerian-American, Okonkwo owns several online business and event planning companies, but in 2013, she noticed it was difficult to display diversity on her blog with the resources available online. A true entrepreneur, she saw a gap in the market waiting to be filled. She teamed up with Joshua Kissi, a Ghanaian-American who shares Okonkwo’s love for entrepreneurship and is the co-founder of the online visual company Street Etiquette. As they explain on the CreativeLive podcast, they’re working on more diverse representation on the web. You can, too, by taking their class on diversity in stock photography or by watching Okonkwo and Kissi’s keynote at CreativeLive’s 2018 Photo Week.

Learn how to capture the uniqueness in everyone with TONL co-founder Joshua Kissi. Learn More.

Humans of New York Student Feature

Another fantastic creator from our CreativeLive family, Paul Ninson, was recently featured on the popular social media account, Humans of New York, which is keen on telling stories from all walks of life. Ninson hails from Ghana and after becoming a father at a young age, tirelessly pursued his passion for photography and documentary work.

After meeting Humans of New York’s Brandon Stanton, Paul was able to connect with Chase Jarvis, founder of CreativeLive, who in addition to mentoring Paul, gave him access to CreativeLive’s video library.

Paul’s career -and online presence- has since taken off as he’s photographed landscapes, members of African tribes, and many people from various cultures. He’s passionate about his commitment to improving the world through his art and now has a huge audience ready to take the journey around the globe with him. Ninson, who never forgets that he started his career with just a dream, gives a large percentage of his proceeds to the subjects of his photography.

Ninson is just one of many artists that Chase Jarvis has been drawn to. Jarvis loves to hear the story behind the art and even started his own series, 30 Days of Genius, where he sits down one-on-one with the biggest entrepreneurs in art, culture, and business. You can listen in on the conversation here.

Learn More

A world where everything is the same sounds… well, terrible. At CreativeLive, we understand that we are made stronger by what makes us different. Diversity is all around us and it’s not to be ignored, so we’re helping to build and promote a vast creative culture that fosters innovative thinking, amazing art, and groundbreaking entrepreneurialism. Learn more about the Real Creative Lives of our diverse community.

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How to Create Authentic Lifestyle Family Portraits

How to Create Authentic Lifestyle Family Portraits

Elena S. Blair has built a mini-empire in under a decade by capturing authentic family moments. She is also co-founder of Ladyboss Workshops with CreativeLive instructor Sandra Coan who help up and coming women photographers create profitable businesses. But the Seattle-based photographer didn’t build a business delivering images of real moments without photography posing — in fact, just the opposite.

Elena uses unique lifestyle posing techniques to encourage authentic interaction so much so that she says she hardly ever stops talking during a session. Rather than stiff posing working for that perfect S-curve, Elena works with posing activities, like asking the family to hug or dance, or asking a new mom to breathe in that new baby smell.

If you can’t make it to Elena’s upcoming WPPI presentation (Wedding and Portrait Photography International) we’ve scored you exclusive access to her tips for creating candid shots with lifestyle posing.

Stop looking for specific poses on Pinterest and ask instead how you want your images to feel

Pinterest can be great for inspiration, but too many photographers fall into the trap of finding a specific look and trying to imitate the pose as a starting point, only to end up disappointed. Photographers shouldn’t be defining the pose — or their own style — on looks, but on feel.

“I think that the reason [your vision isn’t really connecting with what is actually happening at your shoot] is that you’re thinking a lot about what you want your photos to look like, not what you want your photos to feel like. If I want it to be joyful, I’m going to direct them in a way that’s going to result in a much more joyful image. If I want it to be tender or serene, I’m going to direct them in a way that yields something a bit more tender or serene. Or, I’m going to focus more on a part of the pose like the hand or the hair or whatever detail that’s going to emote that feeling.”

Start simple.

Elena starts each session in a similar way. First, she interacts with the family without the camera. Then, she starts with a standing pose. Both help the family to feel more comfortable for their session and more likely to interact authentically, with better facial expressions. Starting with a seated pose is less comfortable and more awkward — which means sitting is better saved for later in the session when the family is more relaxed.

Keep them touching and vary the heights.

Lifestyle posing doesn’t nitpick with the many small changes a formal portrait photographer will make, but there are a few goals to keep in mind when directing simpler lifestyle poses. The first is to keep the family touching — this shows connection. The second is to add variety by varying the heights. By asking the dad to put one kid on the shoulders, or having the parents seated and the kids standing, you’ll get more variety in your poses without working from a strict sit-still-and-smile posing guide.

Get Started with Lifestyle Family Photography

Learn Elena S Blair Photography’s ‘Family Session Workflow’ from start to finish to feel more confident with your own clients!Get Started in Lifestyle Family Photography ► ‘Learn More’

Posted by CreativeLive on Saturday, September 22, 2018

A lesson from Blair’s Lifestyle Family Photography Posing & Direction

Move quick and give constant direction.

In many cases, family portrait photography involves young children. Spoiler alert: young children often have shorter attention spans. Elena suggests moving quickly from one pose to the next. This helps keep the natural expressions. Move too slowly, and the children will start getting bored. Because she’s often moving quickly from one posing activity to the next, she’s usually giving constant direction, making minor changes to the pose –like asking for more or different interaction — and moving on.

Learn when to recognize when kids need to move and when they need a break.

The key to keeping youngsters happy during a photoshoot is to recognize when they need a break. Elena suggests photographers pay attention to signs like fidgeting — this suggests they need to move. When you spot fidgeting, move into a more active pose next like dancing or jumping. When the kids need a break, photograph just mom and dad by themselves while the kids run around.

Don’t forget the details and the in-between moments.

Yes, the goal of family portrait photography is to photograph the family together, but Elena suggests looking for details within that family portrait pose. For example, you can crop in on just the dad and daughter or a single family member. While the family as a whole is a priority, sneak in some close-ups when you can. Elena also suggests looking for the moments while moving to a new location or moving to a new pose.

Consider the gallery as a whole.

Along with capturing the family and some close-up details, Elena considers the entire album when working for a family photoshoot. She’ll often take a portrait of each child at eye level. Directing smaller groups, like just mom with each child, is also important.

Lifestyle portrait photographers don’t direct each individual body part to a perfect position — but that doesn’t mean there’s no posing at all. For good poses that also capture authentic moments, try working with posing activities and adding in other posing tips from Elena’s workflow.

For more posing techniques, watch more of Elena Blair’s class Lifestyle Family Photography Posing and Direction. Or to dig into lifestyle family photography as a whole, try her class Getting Started with Lifestyle Family Photography.

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What to Look for at the WPPI Conference

What to Look for at the WPPI Conference

There are many different professional photography conferences available in the US, Europe, South America and Asia, but there’s only one that is known for its community feel. WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers International) has been around for over 40 years and now makes its home in lovely Las Vegas. This year it will be held at the Mandalay Bay Hotel, a sprawling hotel with a conference center, lot of bars and restaurants and even a shark tank.  The conference itself will have over 160 classes and photo walks, and 200 vendors. It will run from Monday, February 25th through the March 1st.  It’s a great opportunity to learn from the experts and also have a chance to see and touch the latest in cameras, lenses, bags, lights and any photo accessory that you think you might need or can’t live without.

One event that makes WPPI truly unique for conferences in the US is 2 days of  live print and album competition judging (my favorite part of the show). On February 25th and 26th, you’ll be able to go from room to room, watching panels of judges critique and score over 2,000 images in 29 categories and 4 album categories. You’ll learn so much from listening to the judges discuss lighting, posing, print skills, composition and so much more. Even if you’ve never entered a competition, you’ll get a better idea of how your work stacks up against other photographers in your genre. You’ll come away inspired and ready to work to be more creative, not only for yourself but for your clients.

Can’t make it to WPPI? Here’s a special discount off the Monthly Creator Pass to learn from the conference’s top speakers on-demand. Learn more.

Classes begin on Tuesday the 26th and if you purchased a full registration, you’ll have access to over 50 Platform classes covering all genres. For an additional fee, you can choose smaller classes like Plus and Master Classes and Photo Walks.

Also included in your platform pass is Rise and Shine, a morning session  Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Stars of 2019 featuring Petronella Lugemwa, Qiya Ng, and Kuoloon Chong of Kompactfaen, Jasmin Neidhart of Grace & Blush and Phil Porto. Learn how they discovered their signature looks, stuck to their guns despite prominent trends in wedding photography, worked through their insecurities in a competitive industry and harnessed their distinctive qualities.

Photo © Qiya and Kuoloon of Kompactfaen

The trade show begins on Wednesday the 27th and runs through the March 1st. It can be a bit overwhelming as you wander around and not only see the larger booths of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji, WHCC and others, but also you’ll be stopping to hear the vendors’s top speakers teach to crowds on the trade show floor. Again, more education that you won’t want to miss. The trade show veterans recommend that you walk the whole floor on the first day, go back to the vendors who have the equipment or software that interest you the most on the second day, and if you’re ready to purchase, do that on the third day. Or do more research after you’ve left the show, but at least you’ll have had the opportunity to view those items in person.

But what you’ll really notice is the camaraderie among the attendees whether you see them in the hotel lobby, in classes or on the trade show floor.  Everyone is there for the same reason – to learn, be inspired and party. Some people have been hanging out with the same people for years, but many of the photographers are going to be there for the first or second time (you might be one of them). So take advantage of the opportunity to meet like-minded professionals – strike up a conversation with the individual sitting next to you in class, say hi to the person in the elevator wearing a WPPI badge, talk to an instructor after the class is over (they’re all very friendly because they’ve been in your shoes). People really want to have a face-to-face conversation about something they love – photography. You might find your own new community, people who you can email if you have an editing problem, or who can help you choose the best lighting to purchase for your style of photography.

Can’t make it to WPPI? Take $50 off the Annual Creator Pass to learn from the conference’s top speakers on-demand with code WPPICREATOR ( exp. 3/10/2019) Start your 7-day trial now!

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Improve Any Photo with These Three Simple Editing Steps

Improve Any Photo with These Three Simple Editing Steps

I consider myself somewhat of a photograph gunslinger. I take shots from the hip, no look shots, hanging-out-of-the-window-of-a-moving-car shots. Some of them turn out great. Some of them don’t. Some just need work. For the images that aren’t solid gold straight out of camera, these three steps are the first and most important issues that I address to improve my photos. And luckily, it doesn’t matter if I’m editing in Lightroom, Photoshop, or even on my phone— any editing application worth it’s salt can help you with these three techniques.

Expose for the Subject

I believe that every picture should have at least one clearly defined subject. Whether it’s a person, a group of people, a sunset, or a plate of food; it doesn’t much matter. The subject is the star of your photo and it is the most important part of your image to have properly exposed.

I generally edit my photos in Lightroom and the quickest way I’ve found to get a decent exposure is to open the image in the Develop module (d) and use the (+) and (-) keys to respectively raise and lower the overall exposure of the image.

Photos: Matt McMonagle

Photo: Matt McMonagle

Here’s an image that I took, straight out of camera. It looks a bit dark. Take notice of how bright her face looks, specifically. Her face is the subject of the photo. Her face is the exposure priority.

Here’s the same image, after raising the exposure. I ended up bumping the exposure +1.5. It’s starting to look better already!


Photo: Matt McMonagle

Level the Horizon

What do you notice about the photo that might seem just a bit off? Are you tilting your head ever so slightly when you look at it? Me too. So, what’s the problem? The picture is crooked, and especially apparent because of the perceived tilt of the horizon.

Want to learn more Photoshop techniques and tricks? Learn all the best shortcuts today.

My favorite way to level the horizon is to open my photo in the Develop module (d) of Lightroom and go to the crop tool (r.). From here, the fastest way to fix the horizon if you can see the horizon line is to hold (command) and draw on your horizon line. I’ve attached a quick video showing what this move looks like.

Here’s that same photo with a straight horizon.


Photo: Matt McMonagle

Crop Out Distractions

In my mind, whatever is distracting your eyes from the subject of the photo needs to go! Sometimes this is easier said than done. But minimizing visual noise is a paramount objective in my editing process.

In most cases, our eyes are drawn to the brightest part of an image. If there is something on the edges of your image that is drawing your eye away from your subject, try cropping it out.

The bright edge of the handrail on the left side of the photo catches my eye. I’m going to try cropping it out to see if it helps the image quality.


Photo: Matt McMonagle

It sure did!

From here, I might go on to add a bit of contrast, adjust the colors, or make other minute changes, but these three steps- adjusting exposure, leveling the perceived horizon of the photo, and cropping to remove distractions and create a balanced frame- get me about 80% of the way to a finished image.

Here’s a video of my entire editing process, start to finish.

It doesn’t matter if you use Lightroom, Photoshop, or even your phone to edit photos. These steps are the fundamentals of editing photos, and they are the fundamentals because they are so simple and effective! You can use these three editing principles to improve any photo.

Want to learn more Photoshop techniques and tricks? Learn all the best shortcuts today.

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