They Do That?

They Do That?

Our group of companies has long enjoyed a great relationship with the Schaumburg Business Association (SBA). From being a regular contributor for event photography, to partnering with other members on some great projects, we’re thrilled to continue this wonderful alliance.

Recently, the SBA featured our brands in a “Spotlight” to their membership, and we’re happy to share a synopsis:

Curtis Newborn Photographic serves more markets than you think!

• A longtime staple of the SBA, Curtis Newborn Photographic (CNP) provides a broad array of marketing & creative services

• With a convenient, full-service Schaumburg location, we service clients throughout Chicagoland & the Midwest

• The brands under the CNP umbrella provide turnkey solutions to a wide variety of marketing challenges

Click below to visit the SBA’s website where you can learn more:



Okay, sometimes you need to explain to the boss why you've spent the money on an experienced photographer, rather than spending the money buying his son/daughter a new camera. This seems to particularly apply when it comes to the Corporate Headshot – seemingly such a straightforward and innocent task, yet so easy for it to go completely wrong, too.


Somewhat indefinable, until you see an amateur image, then it becomes immediately obvious. You will look at least as great as your competitors, and with the right photographer, a whole lot better.


An experienced photographer knows how to relate to a people, how to position them and crucially how to interact with them to not get that “cheesy grin” look, but instead something unaffected, poised and friendly.


And your professional photographer will make sure that what is seen is properly lit, properly positioned, properly composed. As well as using many and varied bits of equipment for lighting and lighting control, only their experience in handling equipment will create a vast difference. Depending on what you need they can bring a portable studio, maximizing the quality and your time. A simple portable studio can be used to capture photographs of all staff very quickly and efficiently.


Part of the job is making sure that all the pictures are captured within the opportunity obtainable and with smallest job interruption. An experienced photographer knows how to sequence and manage the workflow – to make the most of their time, and yours!


Your professional will sit down with you and your team, and talk over what kinds of photographs you need. Lawyers, bankers and financial folk need to look confident – but definitely not smug! Doctors, client reps, sales staff need to be approachable, friendly and experienced. Company directors need to be assured, but not distant.


Remember you get what you pay for and what you ask for, so be clear with your photographer about how the images will be used – for web, for press, for magazines, for publications, for PowerPoint. The photographer will capture and prepare the images in diverse ways depending on how they will be used. You can come to us to use our studio, or we have a full traveling studio so we can come to you. Let’s talk soon about your biggest photographic challenges!



Ready to improve your food photography? Here are some tips that cover the gamut from lighting, photography hacks, propping & styling, to the overall creative mindset.


Experiment With Different Heights

Experiment with height and creating different levels. Use a cutting board to raise up some of your scene. Place something on a cake stand or use glasses in different heights. You don’t even have to go higher, placing things on a wrinkled kitchen towel create texture and breaks things up by creating visual differences or layers. Adding height can create a natural frame that you can work off, especially if shooting straight on or at different angles.

Absorb Beautiful Imagery

Continually look at good food photography. 10-15 minutes a day spent absorbing beautiful images from blogs and searching on Pinterest really refreshes my creativity and inspires me to create through my own lens. My goal is to saturate my subconscious with images that make me sigh so that when I start shooting I know what will move me emotionally.

Capture Your Overall Vision on Paper

Plan out your ideas for your photo shoots by using sketches. Don’t worry about details, just create quick sketches to capture your overall vision on paper. When sketching, focus on the story you want to tell, think about the props to use, choose the color palette and make notes about the lighting direction and all aspects related to the composition. This will help you to bring to life the mental image you had when first planning the photo shoot and photograph it, instead of shooting away and hoping to get a good image in the process.

Use Negative Space

Give the viewer some room to breathe, i.e. don’t zoom in all the way, let there be some negative space in the picture. It’s soothing on the eyes and mind.

Find Your Dishes Biggest Strength

To help me when I am going to shoot it’s crucial to ask myself what is the biggest strength of that dish or food? Is it the freshness, the texture, the color, the shape? And, very important too, what kind of feeling does that food bring, can be comfort, freshness, coziness… This combination is what will move all of the work to the final picture, through light, angle and composition.

Decide On Your Angle Before You Begin Styling

Use a dummy and decide on an angle BEFORE you start styling. Too many times, we have started setting up the food and styled it – just to find out that the angle is not right – and we have to change it – and then do all the styling over again.

Make The Photo Yours In Some Way

Make sure you make the photo your own in some unique way. Give it a look and style that is reflective of oneself, and/or your brand, philosophies and attitude towards everyday life.

Draw Your Set-ups

A tip given by some of the top food photographers through the years is to draw your setups. Most professional food photographers have their preferred setup and they only adjust it to their subject. So drawing your setup gives you a “base” that you can build your studio session from, making sure that you and the photographer are on the same page from the outset.

Artificial Light Can Be Your Best Friend

We hear it all the time; “I only use natural light”, “natural light is the only light to use,” etc. I absolutely do not agree. We have seen other posts and articles online comparing natural light to speed lights, and the differences are almost not noticeable when done right. Using artificial light can make beautiful food photography possible at any time of day and in any conditions. It is consistent, predictable and always there for you even if it is pitch black outside.

In Closing

Think about what you are shooting, who your target audience is, what the goals of your marketing or advertising campaign will be, and then make sure you fully communicate those goals across the entire team BEFORE you shoot. The results will be tremendous!

9 Questions Interesting People Ask People They Meet

9 Questions Interesting People Ask People They Meet

It all starts with having a genuine interest in the other person.

I remember early in my career, one of my biggest fears walking into a networking event to schmooze or meeting someone for a business lunch was boring the other person to tears in conversation.

I didn't want to be the windbag who dragged on forever, so I learned to be brief, to the point, and actually listen to the other person with all my being. I eventually avoided the mistake of talking about polarizing topics like politics or race, and learned to stay neutral, positive, and upbeat.

I began to tune in to my body language and voice tone to avoid sounding monotone, or looking like a bump on a log. I trained my brain to show emotions, laugh at people's jokes, smile when they smile, and make light of awkward situations.

The biggest lesson I learned in conversations with others.

But the biggest lesson for ensuring that I was being an interesting person who drew others in came down to asking the right questions. I found that this is what triggered authentic responses in the other person.

By showing curiosity about someone's story, accomplishments, passions, or interests, the law of reciprocity usually kicked in, and I had my turn to shine. There was a bonus attached to this strategy: Persuasion increased, which helped me steer the conversation in the direction I wanted it to go.

But here's the key: If you're in a conversation at a work-related function, or meeting someone to talk business for the first time, your best move is not to ask business-related questions; it's to discover common ties with that person that will steer the conversation back to the "work stuff" later in the conversation, but with a deeper connection.

In other words, get to know that person! To really exercise persuasiveness and make a quick connection that may have mutual benefits (and possibly make a new friend), I'll leave you with these questions. Granted, some may not be your ideal, icebreaking conversational starters, so use your best judgment when and where to use them to deepen the conversation.

9 questions for having great conversations

David Burkus, best-selling author of three books and an award-winning podcaster, has contributed the first four questions on this list from an interesting article he wrote for Harvard Business Review. The others come from our research, along with what other entrepreneurs and great conversationalists recommend:

1. What excites you right now?

As Burkus explains it, this question can go in many directions (work life, personal life, etc.) with a wide range of possible answers that may overlap into your life or work, which will open up the conversation further. And asking it allows for the other person to share something that he or she is passionate about.

2. What are you looking forward to?

Similar to the last one, but this is more forward-looking, which, says Burkus, allows for the other person "to choose from a bigger set of possible answers."

3. What's the best thing that's happened to you this year?

Same technique as the previous two, but this one goes back in time for the other person to reflect on something pivotal that may have changed the course of his or her life. It also opens up a wealth of answers to choose from, which may overlap into some of your own areas of interest or expertise for further discussion.

4. What's the most important thing I should know about you?

Because it can come across as a little direct, this is certainly not your first question, and it may not even be your third or fourth, but it "gives the broadest possible range from which they can choose," says Burkus. Use it in context, listen for clues, and wait for the right timing.

5. What's your story?

One of my personal favorites, this is open-ended enough to trigger an intriguing story--a journey to a foreign country, meeting a famous person, getting funded for the startup of your dreams, a special talent used for making the world a better place, etc. It's a question that immediately draws in the other person and lets him or her speak from the heart.

6. What is one of your defining moments?

This is another great question that invites the speaker to share on a deeper level, which builds momentum and rapport quicker. Obviously, a few casual questions before it helps set the mood for hearing about a profound moment or transition in that person's life.

7. Why did you choose your profession?

This assumes that, at some point, you dropped the mandatory "What do you do?" question. As a follow-up, it's a question that will reveal multiple layers of someone's journey. It speaks to people's values, what motivates them, and whether their work is their calling. It may also trigger a different, more thought-provoking response: Some people aren't happy in their jobs. By asking, you may be in the position to assist or mentor a person through a career or job transition.

8. What are you currently reading?

You may have the same authors and subjects in common, which will deepen your conversation. Also use this question to ask for book recommendations. You may find the conversation going down the path of exploring mutual book ideas to solve a workplace issue or implement a new business strategy.

9. How can I be most helpful to you right now?

To really add the most value to a conversation, once a level of comfort has been established, ask the other person how you can be most helpful to him or her, whether personally or professionally. You'll be amazed how pleasantly surprised people get by that thoughtful gesture, and how responsive they are in their answer. Your genuine willingness, no strings attached, to make yourself useful to others leads to more interesting, engaging, and real conversations that may lead to future opportunities.

In closing.

Remember, when you approach another person in conversation, the skill you want to use right off the bat is to immediately show sincere interest in that person. This will pave the way for a smooth conversation that can go places.

Whatever questions you decide to use, the important thing is to always ask open-ended questions and to avoid work-related questions or business questions until much, much later in the conversation. You'll be surprised by how seamless the transition is to discussing business, conducting a sales pitch, or exploring partnerships once both parties are into each other. Try it, and let me know what you think.



Considering a rebrand? Rebranding your company, product or service can be one of the most important decisions you make as a strategic marketer or entrepreneur. A successful rebrand can allow you to access new markets, win new mindshare, increase your top and bottom lines and build powerful brand equity.

Rebranding requires a tremendous amount of work. Before we dive into the step-by-step rebranding process, let’s take a look at some examples of successful, and unsuccessful rebrands.



Twenty years ago, Target was a commodity discount retailer that was undifferentiated from the likes of K-Mart, Sears and JC Penny. To separate from the cutthroat world of competing on the basis of price, Target began creating partnerships with designers like Missoni and Alexander McQueen, becoming affectionately known as “Tar-zhay” for the chic discount offerings and growing to be second only to Walmart in its market share.


Nearing bankruptcy in the 1990s, having become a niche computer manufacturer for designers and schools, Apple rehired founder Steve Jobs and refocused on style, introducing the iMac and killing their PC-like beige box computers. While not a typical rebrand handled by an agency, Job rebranded the entire company by focusing on innovation and creating completely new products and services, turning Apple into one of the world’s most valuable companies.


Vodka is practically a commodity; taste tests show that most consumers can’t differentiate their product in blind taste tastes. Thus, many vodka brands differentiate via their brand positioning. Ciroc was initially launched for
the North American market in 2003 and marketed to nightclubs and entertainment venues in the U.S., with a heavy focus in Atlanta and Miami. Sales struggled. Brand owner Diageo, owner of brands such as Johnnie Walker, Guinness and Sterling Vineyards wines, partnered with Sean Combs in 2007, giving him the lead on all brand management decisions for Ciroc and sharing the future profits of the brand growth with him. Combs’ personal style and creativity propelled Ciroc sales from 40,000 cases per year in 2007 to 2,100,000 cases per year in 2012.


SUBWAY – from Pete’s Super Submarines

In 1965, Pete’s Super Submarines opened in Bridgeport, Connecticut. A year later, it changed the name to Doctor’s Associates Inc., after co-founder Dr. Peter Buck, a nuclear physicist. After little success under the two previous names, Buck and co-founder Fred DeLuca gave it a third try using the name Subway. Today it’s the world’s largest submarine sandwich brand with over 40,000 locations around the world.

PayPal – from Confinity

Before it was called PayPal, the company was called Confinity – a name representing the merged words of “confidence and infinity.” While the company’s initial focus was on Palm Pilot payment and cryptography, the company chose the brand name PayPal after a Confinity engineer developed an online demo that allowed people to email payments. The company was later acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion in July 2002.

Accenture – from Andersen Consulting

Accenture was the new name applied to the spinout of the consulting division of Andersen Consulting in 2001. It’s a controversial rebrand that was criticized initially for the made-up word. However, after Arthur Andersen was convicted of obstructing justice in 2002, the entirely new branding allowed it to escape the negativity associated with the Andersen name.

Rebranding is expensive, even for a small to midsize company. If your

rebrand includes a name change, you’re likely to incur costs from $100,000s to millions for your new logo, visual brand identity and marketing materials, identity and assets.


But even spending millions of dollars on a rebrand doesn’t ensure success. If done poorly, it can potentially destroy a product or company. Here are a few examples of companies who missed the mark with their rebranding.

Netflix Launches Qwikster

Most people are familiar with Netflix, the first disrupter in the video rental business. Their DVD-by-mail business contributed to the demise of Blockbuster, and in 2018, their streaming business is the largest in the world with over 118 million subscribers. However, the launch of the service was bumpy. In 2011, Netflix spun out their DVD-by-mail service under the new brand Qwikster to separate the mail order service from the streaming service. It was more than a name change; it was designed to be a completely separate businesses. Existing customers were required to re-register for their mail services and have two separate accounts, one on Netflix and one on Qwikster. Netflix lost hundreds of thousands of customers and their share price dropped by 37%, so they quickly reversed this decision and restored the singular Netflix brand.


If you’re over 40, you probably remember the New Coke debacle in the mid- 1980s. Although blind taste tests showed consumers preferred the new taste in small doses over the original formula, there was a tremendous backlash and Coke reverted to the original formula later that year, which shows that even the biggest and best brands can get it wrong.


If you’re considering rebranding your product, service or company, here’s a 10-step process for rebranding a company, product or service.

1. Quantify the reasons for the rebrand and conduct a brand audit

What are the reasons for your rebrand? Are you launching a new product or service?

Expanding into a new market? Changing the vision or mission for your company? Focusing on differentiating and gaining a competitive advantage? Or moving on from a negative event?

The reasons for your rebranding will affect the creative decisions you make for your brand positioning, brand creative and brand visual identity. Conduct a brand audit to understand the current perception of your existing brand and quantify the work required for your rebranding project.

2. Assess the risks/ROI

Always conduct a marketing ROI analysis before starting your project. Do you have the resources and budget? Have you quantified all of the costs associated with your rebranding? What type of return do you think it will produce?

Here is a list of common items you’ll have to create/recreate: logo, website, corporate identity, signage, print materials, ad creative, marketing materials.

3. Naming – Are you selecting a new brand name?

If you’re changing your brand name, don’t start by choosing your name first. Start by creating your brand strategy so you know exactly what your name should represent. THEN complete the process for selecting a new brand name. While this is the opposite approach from the way many businesses proceed, having a clearly defined brand strategy can help give you clarity and daring when selecting a great brand name.

4. Determine your new brand positioning

If your brand positioning is changing, map your competitive positioning to understand where you hope to fit in the future marketplace. This can help you to avoid entrenched competitors and give your team a clear roadmap of the mindshare you wish to own for your brand.

5. Define your brand architecture

The essence of your brand strategy is your positioning and what you want your brand to stand for. Sometimes that’s clear, and other times it takes some work. If you’re unsure, this brand architecture exercise can help you to define your brand architecture – the three things your brand should mean to your market and, eventually, the mindshare you wish to own.

6. Summarize your brand strategy and write your creative brief

Now, pull it all together in a summary report and add your brand inspiration, brand differentiation and brand personality traits. Create a compelling brand story and outline your ideas for your brand visual identity.

This document should include all of the key elements of your brand strategy. Your creative team will rely on it for direction and you can use it to judge the effectiveness of their results.

7. Select your creative team

Do you have the resources to handle in-house? Even if you’re small, it’s wise to include a professional agency. If you complete steps 1-6 of this process before selecting your agency or creative resources, they’ll have a much clearer understanding of what to create and you’ll save a lot of time and budget on the strategy design.

8. Evaluate, test and protect

Evaluating creative and brand messaging is an iterative process, best completed by a team that solicits real-time market feedback. Continue to gain feedback throughout the process, but beware of over-relying on focus groups! Over-reliance on focus groups gave us New Coke. Balance market feedback with your reasons for rebranding and the strategy that your team develops. Try tools like Usertesting or Usabilla to capture feedback. Protect your name by filing for federal trademark or service mark protection.

9. Create your launch plan

About three to six months before your brand is ready to go-live, create your launch plan. How will you unveil your brand to the market? What promotional activities will you use? Think about your website launch, digital and social media promotion, events – live and online, customer notices, media/press/bloggers/social influencers. Build excitement by letting your audience know that something new and exciting is coming.

10. Go-live and execute!

The culmination of all of the hard work of your rebranding project is your launch – perhaps the most exciting (and nerve-wracking) event for any marketer. Execution is all about the details, so carefully plan your activities on the calendar, give clear instructions to your team, measure all feedback and metrics and adjust and refine when required. Not everything will always go according to plan, so stay flexible and adjust when needed!