Insights from a Social Media Beauty Influencer

Michelle, of @allthingsbeautymichelles on Instagram, is a 20-year-old beauty blogger from Sydney, Australia. She is currently a full-time university student, works casually, and is a beauty influencer on Instagram, WordPress, and YouTube. She has kindly agreed to provide an insight into the life of a Social Media Beauty Influencer.

It is clear Michelle has dedicated a substantial amount of time and effort into maintaining a professional-looking beauty account on Instagram.13393068_1702643193329888_1338657446_n.jpg

She says that each photo takes different amounts of time to create, with a single product shot taking only a few minutes to capture and edit, and a group photo of one or more products taking up to ten minutes including editing. Because of her work, Michelle has been approached by companies to try or feature their products.
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She doesn’t currently charge companies for her posts, but has been exploited in the past by a well-known cosmetics company, who used her photo with out giving her credit. This is an issue, especially for small-to-medium beauty accounts, as companies ignorantly believe they are entitled to use photos they come across without adhering to the Instagram etiquette of giving credit for the use of a photo. Michelle says as long as she is always awarded credit for her work, she is happy for others to use her images. Michelle enjoys the glamorous opportunities she has had as a beauty blogger/ Instagrammer, such as the events and free products! She feels blessed to be have been able to attend two Bloggers United Australia events, and she has received products to review from multiple companies.

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As a beauty blogger, Michelle has had the opportunity to meet new friends and interact with companies. This photo was taken at an event hosted by Bloggers United Australia.

Michelle has not encountered many negative aspects as a beauty blogger/ Instagrammer. She said that this begun as a hobby and as soon as it makes her unhappy she will stop. However, she has had some anxiety and loss of sleep due to product photo’s not working. For example, when she was sent a skin care range that she was asked to review on her Instagram, the products they cast shadows when she took pictures, which did not live up to the quality/standard of work she maintains on her page.

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There is a degree of quality and professionalism expected of beauty influencers, especially on Instagram.

I would like to thank Michelle for her first-hand insight and contribution to this post.

 

All images in this post were given to me by the photographer and used with their permission.

 

The Challenges Faced by Aspiring Social Media Beauty Influencers

Jeffree Star, Jaclyn Hill, KathleenLights, and Manny Mua have achieved great successful from their YouTube careers, and this ‘rise from obscurity to pop-culture stardom is hardly unique on YouTube’ (D’Souza, 2015). However, it is uncommon. Unfortunately, many, often deserving, YouTube and Instagram personalities will never achieve this status (D’Souza, 2015).

For many, YouTube is capable of providing sustainable full-time careers. Majority of YouTubers make a lot of their money from the advertising sold on their channels, which increases with the number of subscribers (D’Souza, 2015). Billions of dollars are spent each year on advertising on YouTube, allowing creators to generate an income. However, generating a consistent revenue from YouTube, let alone securing business opportunities as Jeffree, Jaclyn, Kathleen, and Manny have, is much more challenging, and accomplished by only a very small percentage of YouTubers. This is a consequence of the number of major challenges faced when trying to make a full-time career on social media. The first challenge faced by those trying to establish a career as a full-time social media beauty guru is the extremely competitive nature of the industry. There is over 14.9 billion beauty-related video views on YouTube, of which 97% are generated by the 45,000 beauty-focused personalities on YouTube. The second challenge is getting your content noticed. The reality is that most videos on YouTube get little to no attention. The third challenged faced by YouTubers is that these content creators only ever see a small portion of what advertisers pay. Even though billions of dollars are spent each year on YouTube, YouTubers  have to accumulate a substantial number of subscribers and views before they see that money. Another challenge to that pertains to achieving success on social media as a beauty influencer is the perpetuation of conventional beauty standards and status symbols. As observed by Alice Marwick (2015, p.139), ‘While Instagram makes it possible for “regular people” to attract the mass audiences historically limited to broadcast media, the Instafamous tend to be conventionally good-looking, work in “cool” industries… and emulate the tropes and symbols of traditional celebrity culture, such as glamorous self-portraits, designer goods, or luxury cars’.

Aside from the monetary challenges of sustaining a career as a full-time social media beauty influencer, many people often underestimate the time and energy devoted to achieving a successful career in the industry.

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It can take a great deal of time to orchestrate, photograph, edit, and upload one photo to Instagram.

From my experience as an aspiring beauty influencer on YouTube and Instagram, the time and energy to set up, film or photograph, edit, and promote my work can be exhausting, and I only do this as a hobby.

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It often takes great effort and professionalism on the part of beauty influencers to create content that encourages a loyal following.

Currently, I am not paid for my work, I do it simply because I find it enjoyable, but this means having to fit it in between a part-time job and two university degrees. From meeting others with the same aspirations, through YouTube and Instagram, this is the case for many aspiring beauty influencers.

Unfortunately, many social media beauty influencers will never reach the same status as the likes of Jeffree Star, Jaclyn Kill, KathleenLights, and Manny Mua. However, it is still a rewarding career, and hobby, for many people. If you would like to gain an insight into the life of an aspiring Social Media Beauty Influencer than read my following post, in which I have interviewed Michelle, of @allthingsbeautymichelles on Instagram, on her experiences.

 

All photos used are my own.

Reference List

D’Souza, K 2015, ‘Move over Hollywood, this is the age of the YouTube star’, San Jose Mercury News, 13 October.

Marwick, A. E. 2015, ‘Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy’, Public Culture, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 137-160.

The Life of a Social Media Beauty Guru

Everyday, new photos and videos are uploaded to social media sites, portraying the glitz and glam of life as high-profile social media beauty guru. Fans of such gurus as Jeffree Star, Jaclyn Hill, Manny Mua, and KathleenLights, watch on as they see the ever-growing success of their Internet idols. These seemingly ordinary people have had to overcome adversities such as anxiety, impoverishment, and discrimination, but with their success, their stories seem like modern-day fairy tales, all carrying a similar message: that if you are determined and work hard, dreams really do come true.

Any makeup lover will tell you that beauty YouTubers and Instagrammers are the ones to consult for all things makeup. They inform their viewers of the latest trends, offer reviews on new products, and constantly produce beautiful tutorials. Beauty fans all have a select few they subscribe to, over time developing a relationship that feels personal. This is because they have a clear knowledge on all things beauty and seem to give honest, fair reviews on the makeup they try, earning fans’ trust.

One of the amazing opportunities that has become an increasing trend in the makeup industry is the chance for a high-profile beauty guru to collaborate with a makeup brand to produce a product or a collection, or even for them to create their own brand. Because of their perceived knowledge of all thing beauty, when gurus release their own products, sometimes in collaboration with major cosmetics companies, fans rush to get their hands on them before they sell out.

Jeffree Star, born Jeffrey Lynn Steininger, is an androgynous makeup artist, model, and performer, who was once one of the biggest stars of Myspace as a result of his self-released music (Gamson, 2011). Jeffree joined YouTube in February of 2006 where he continued posting his own music videos and other vlog-style videos, but did not start posting regularly scheduled videos until December, 2015. Jeffree Star launched his self-titled cosmetics line on November 27th, 2014. The brand has seen phenomenal success, as he continuously releases new colors and products with sell-out launches. His products are highly-esteemed among other beauty influencers due to their ethical production and high quality. Jeffree Star now has almost 1.5 million subscribers on his YouTube channel and 2.5 million followers on his personal Instagram account, where he consistently posts beauty-related content, often featuring his own makeup line. Jeffree has also just announced on his Instagram that he will be collaborating with Morphe Brushes to produce a brush set in for Summer, 2016.

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Jeffree Star Cosmetics Velour Liquid Lipsticks and Skin Frosts. Photo Credit: Instagram / lapetitechimommy

Jaclyn Hill is a self-taught, professional makeup artist, who was born and raised on a Pig Farm in Illinois. Jaclyn joined YouTube in 2010, after being encouraged by her clients at MAC Cosmetics to film makeup tutorials, to teach them the tips and techniques of the trade. Jaclyn currently has over 3 million subscribers on her YouTube page, and 2.7 million followers on her Instagram page. Jaclyn’s social media success has resulted in a number of opportunities. Jaclyn has been able personally contribute to make up brands, however, her most notable collaboration would be with high-end cosmetic brand, Becca Cosmetics. Her first collaboration with the brand, Champagne Pop, launched in 2015. In the first twenty minutes of it being on sale, online retailer sephora.com sold a record-breaking 25,000 compacts. Originally the pressed powder highlighter was released as limited-edition, however, as it kept selling out, it was eventually made permanent. As an extension of Champagne Pop, the Champagne Collection has just launched which includes the Champagne Glow face pallet, an eyeshadow pallet, and three different versions of the original Champagne Pop highlighter. The collection was first released online on May 26th, 2016 at 12 p.m. These (extremely) specific launch times are obviously necessary for fans who wish to buy the product, as an exclusive limited-edition preview sale of the face pallet on Sephora’s mobile site sold all 20,000 units in just 90 minutes. The collection is to launched in US stores on June 16th, 2016 and in Australia on July 7th, 2016.

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The Champagne Collection by Jaclyn Hill. Photo Credit: Instagram / angiebeautyxo

Kathleen Fuentes, more commonly known as KathleenLights, joined YouTube in January, 2013. She now has 1.2 million followers on Instagram, more than 2.2 million subscribers and over 188 million views. On her social media platforms, she describes herself as a beauty vlogger, who loves coffee and dogs, and ‘who happens to have a small obsession with all things beauty’. Kathleen was one of the first YouTubers I ever subscribed to, and she continues to inspire me. Through YouTube and Instagram, Kathleen has become friends with a number of people in the industry, from other influencers to makeup brands, and has had the chance to create her own makeup products via collaboration. Kathleen has collaborated with ColourPop, an online cosmetic company based in Los Angeles, to create eight eyeshadows, three lipsticks, three lip pencils, and one liquid lipstick, all of which have seen incredible success. She also collaborated with Ofra Cosmetics, a leading manufacturer of professional skincare and makeup, to create two liquid lipsticks. Although they did not contribute to the product’s production, Kathleen, Manny Mua and PatrickStarr recently collaborated with Benefit Cosmetics to promote the new Benefit Cosmetics Cheekathon Pallet.

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KathleenLight, Manny Mua, and PatrickStarr on display with Benefit’s Cheekathon Pallet in Sephora. Photo Credit: Instagram / pettybeyoutiful

Manny, known as Manny Mua, first gained recognition when he created an Instagram page dedicated to cosmetics in March, 2014 and then a YouTube channel in July, 2014. Since then he has gained over 1.9 million Instagram followers, over 1.2 million YouTube subscribers and over 46 million views on YouTube. He describes himself as a ‘BOY BEAUTY VLOGGER’, and believes that makeup is ‘GenderLESS’. He uses his beauty channel to teach beauty tutorials, as well as posts beauty hauls, favorites videos, challenge videos, tag videos, and vlogs. His Instagram account is scattered with pictures of his journey, including makeup looks, brand collaborations and encounters with celebrities. Since his journey began, Manny has gone on to meet and befriend some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Jeffree, Jaclyn, Kathleen, PatrickStarr, chrisspy, and bretmanrock. He has also had the opportunity to work with numerous makeup brands, including Morphe Brushes, Gerard Cosmetics, Makeup Geek Cosmetics, Benefit Cosmetics and Ofra Cosmetics. Due to the success of his collaboration with Ofra Cosmetics, the limited-edition liquid lipsticks have been made part of their permanent collection.

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Manny Mua and KathleenLights’ Ofra Cosmetics Liquid Lipsticks in Aries, Charmed, Hypno, Havana Nights and Miami Fever

Jeffree, Jaclyn, Kathleen, and Manny are not the only Gurus that have seen this degree of success, with their social media popularity and the opportunity to collaborate with renowned makeup brands. More and more influencers are being given the same opportunity. In a recent video that Jeffree posted on his YouTube channel, in which he reviewed another influencer’s upcoming collaboration with Tarte Cosmetics, he said, ‘I just want to say that I think it is so amazing that all these YouTubers are collabing with really huge brands. It’s just wild because I come from working at the MAC counter, and back then only huge corporations… they would collab with like huge celebrities… The fact that all these brands are believing in YouTubers and Makeup artists I think is really, really dope.’ For lists of other existing or upcoming collaborations between beauty gurus and makeup brands, check out the following articles by Shea SimmonsEmily McClure, and Nylon Singapore.

Obviously, hard work, passion, and dedication goes in being a full-time beauty guru. Filming, editing, and promoting is both time and energy-consuming as is, so add in additional projects such as these collaborations, and this leads to a lot of stress and sleepless nights – the reality of life as a beauty influencer will be discussing further in my next post. However, I feel as if the-behind-scenes work of high-profile beauty gurus is often overshadowed by the continuous snaps, tweets, Instagram pictures, and vlogs about new product launches, generous gifts from brands, celebratory parties, and even business trips to exotic places. If you want my insight into the reality of life as a beauty influencer, then please, go ahead and check out my next post.

 

All images in this post were used with the permission of the photographer.

Reference List

Gamson, J 2011, ‘The Unwatched Life Is Not Worth Living: The Elevation of the Ordinary in Celebrity Culture’, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, vol. 126, no. 4, pp. 1061, – 1069.

The Reality of Life as a Social Media Beauty Influencer

Since the development of Web 2.0, a new industry has been created which has generated numerous jobs. These jobs involved the development and creation of new software, platforms and apps that gave life to the social media era. With the cultural significance of Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube, people are now making full time careers out of living their lives and developing their passions on these social media platforms. As an avid social media user and aspiring beauty influencer on YouTube and Instagram I am interested in researching this emerging profession and the opportunities it has to offer. As ‘YouTuber’ and ‘Instagrammer’ are now part- or full-time occupations, I have conducted research into the reality of the quality of life of social media beauty influencers, or ‘gurus’, and I will be presenting my findings through a blog series.

A beauty influencer is a person who, through their social media presence, has the power to affect the purchase decisions of others because of their knowledge of makeup and beauty-related topics. The term ‘Beauty Guru’ is often used to describe YouTubers and Instagrammers who have extensive knowledge about makeup and beauty-related products and application techniques (Rainnie, 2015). The term is often used to describe those who may or may not have received formal training (Rainnie, 2015).

Vlogging is a contraction of the term ‘video blogging’, and ‘vloggers’ are people who actively participate in vlogging (Rainnie, 2015). Vloggers film themselves and share their ‘vlogs’ across Web 2.0 platforms, most commonly uploading to the social media site, YouTube (O’Reilly, 2005; cited in Rainnie, 2015). Vloggers who operate predominantly on YouTube are often titled ‘YouTubers’ (Rainnie, 2015). Influencers who operate predominantly on Instagram will be referred to as ‘Instagrammers’. I have chosen to make YouTube and Instagram the focus of my social media research for a number of reasons: my familiarity with the platforms, their strength as social media platforms for beauty influencers, and the fact that many influencers who have YouTube channels also have Instagram accounts, and vise versa.

The YouTube beauty gurus I will discussing in this series have accumulated a significant following. For the purpose of this blog series, the term ‘significant’ when used to describe a YouTube following will refer to a YouTuber who has accumulated a following greater than 1,000,000 subscribers. YouTube has over one billion users, and as of April, 2016, there are only two thousand channels with seven-figure subscriber counts. This is an incredible achievement and a milestone that is acknowledged by the YouTube organisation and commemorated by awarding the YouTuber with a Gold Play Button.

Instagram also hosts numerous beauty-related accounts, that have helped a number of influences achieve ‘Instafame’, ‘the condition of having a relatively great number of followers on the app’ (Markwick, 2015, p.137).

If you too are interested in the glamorous opportunities and the unexpected reality of this emerging industry, then make sure to check out the other blog posts in this series.

Reference List

Rainnie, E 2015, ‘Persona and Parataxis: YouTube and the Rise of the Beauty Guru’, Bachelor of Communications and Media Studies (Honours), University of Wollongong, Wollongong.

Marwick, A. E. 2015, ‘Instafame: Luxury Selfies in the Attention Economy’, Public Culture, vol. 27, no. 1, pp. 137-160.

 

Living on Social Media

On Android’s alone, ninety-three million selfies are taken each day. 93 MILLION! And people were checking their phones 100 BILLION times per day. On Apple devices, such as my iPhone 5, there is an automatically generated Selfies folder in the Photos’ App. Embarrassingly, mine currently has 1,058 photos. My only saving grace is that they are not all of my selfies… some are of my dog. Latest data estimates that millennial’s, such as myself, will spend approximately 54 hours per year taking selfies. This equates to more than 25,000 selfies during their lifetime.

When studying the media, we often reflect on how we look at the media, and more inwardly, how we look at ourselves in the media. In doing so, for this particular topic, we have been looking at social media and the phenomena of the quantified self. Basically, this means talking about selfies. In particular, how selfies have been linked to three specific cultural shifts.

The first shift is online media’s ability to determine status (Evans, 2015). In his book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton (2005) explains this shift as ‘one’s value and importance in the eyes of the world.’ The second shift is the rise of the ‘attention economy’ (Goldhaber, 1997; cited in Evans, 2015). On the internet, attention in the new currency, and it is a scares and precious resource (Evans, 2015). The third shift, and arguable the most prevalent in 2016, is the increasing shift in celebrity culture (Evans, 2015). As explained by Joshua Gamson, in his article, The Unwatched Life Is Not Worth Living: The Elevation of the Ordinary in Celebrity Culture, (2011: 1062) “celebrity culture is increasingly populated by unexceptional people who have become famous and by stars who have been made ordinary”.

The age of social media has given rise to the ‘microcelebrity’ – celebrities who obtain their fame on social media platforms (Evans, 2015). Ordinary people are sharing their lives, hobbies and talents online, and becoming incredibly wealthy and famous as a result. These people are using celebrity strategies to build a profile, reach out to their followers and fans, and have a willingness to reveal personal information about themselves (Evans, 2015).

From my personal experience, the social media platforms where I find this most prevalent are those like YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat.

Most people of my generation and younger, namely Gen Y and Gen X, spend more time watching YouTube then TV. Since launching ten years ago, YouTube has acquired over a billion users, who watch hundreds of millions of hours and generate billions of views. The platform has allowed anyone with a camera to post content, resulting in an immeasurable variety of content to be created, uploaded and watched. Some of the most successful of that content revolve around gaming, DIY, education, beauty, skits, and general entertainment. YouTube has created household names for our generation, including Jenna Marbles, Tyler Oakly, Pewdiepie, the Vlog Brothers, Smosh, and Jaclyn Hill, who all found or consolidated their fame on YouTube.

As well as creating content, these internet celebrities ‘skillfully juggles Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube to build a deeply loyal connection with fans’. This is, arguably, the distinct difference between mainstream and internet celebrities; celebrities who found their fame on social media are often (but not always) more connected with their fans, as they realise the fan’s importance to their success.

Instagram fame is, arguably, less about creative ability, but just as formulated. When researching this topic, and searching Instagram Fame on Google, there are numerous results for How To Quickly Get Popular On Instagram and Cracking the Instagram algorithm for fame. There is even a wikiHow on gaining Instagram Fame. There are fewer articles about it’s impact on the younger social media generation.

In relation to this topic, the phenomena of the ‘quantified self’ was also discussed. The Quantified Self movement is ‘self knowledge through numbers’ (Evans, 2015). Although this was discussed in relation to personal health and medical tracking, I think it has relevance in our culture of social media. Success and self-worth are becoming increasingly intertwined with our social media numbers; the number of followers, the number of views, and the number of likes.

I, myself, am an aspiring YouTuber (shameless plug) and experience a lot of these things. I spend a lot of time filming, editing, uploading and promoting the content for my growing YouTube channel and linked social media accounts, such as my Instagram account. Social media has created new careers and opportunities, not only for people who create the platforms, but for the people who appear on the platforms. I found this topic very interesting, and so relevant in 2016, that this could quite possibly be the topic I pursue for my research project.

 

References:

de Botton, A 2005, Status Anxiety, Penguin UK, United Kingdom.

Evans, N 2016, ‘Looking at Ourselves: Social Media and the Quantified Self’, lecture, UOW, presented 16 March, 2016.

 

My Reflections on Undertaking a Digital Research Project

I had decided to make YouTube the focus of my Digital Research Project. Media practices and audience experiences are very spatial in nature, and I believed that YouTube could be used to demonstrate this. As an aspiring YouTuber, and loyal user, I was interested in researching and presenting the links between the YouTube platform and media, audiences, and places.

After spending the last weeks of the Spring semester researching, collaborating, filming, editing, editing, and more editing, my Digital Research Project has finally been uploaded. Please check it out here. If you would like to see the whole interview I conducted with Dan, from Danger Dan Vlogs, then please also make sure to check that out here. Now the project has been completed, and published, it has come time to reflect on the experience.

University life can be especially overwhelming this time of year, with numerous assignments and exams, and especially if you are also working four days a week. I found myself in this situation, which lead to me missing the deadline for my last assignment, and handing it in late. After making this mistake once, I was determined to not let it happen again. This was an important aspect of the project management element of this exercise. Project management is the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques in order to meet or exceed expectations, in the most effective and efficient manner.

This project was quite different to any I had undertaken before. There was a great degree of freedom attached to this task; it was an academic assignment, set by the university, but designed by the student. I was able to pick my own topic, conduct my own research, and present it in a way that I believed to be most suitable. Because of the almost-overwhelming number of directions I could take this task, it required a great deal of planning and researching, which is an essential part of project management.

The first problem I encountered with this task was that I knew I needed to begin, I just hadn’t found the right idea; I hadn’t found the inspiration to start my creative project. This can be a problem when working with a deadline. As Catherine McIntyre-Velky (principle at Adept Creative Project Management, and Director of Operations at Go East Design in St Paul, MN) notes, “the idea doesn’t come when you need it. It arrives when it arrives.

Another concern I had with this creative project was the fact that we were to demonstrate we could collaborate with other people. In the early stages of the project, this was a very daunting thought. I prefer to work by myself, especially on creative projects. There are many challenges and complications that can arise when working with other people, especially in a creative environment. In his book, Creative, Efficient, and Effective Project Management (2013), Ralph L. Kliem summarises these challenges, particularly on page 197.

However, when I met Dan, who is a fellow BCM240 student, and vlogger, and began discussing the project, our collaboration began quite naturally. I really enjoyed working with Dan, and am very grateful for his help with my project. I found the whole experience extremely valuable, both as a student, and a vlogger.

When editing my video, I really struggled to cut it any further, without damaging the integrity of the whole video. Unfortunately, I couldn’t submit a video that was over an hour long, so there was plenty of research that I had found that didn’t make the final cut. If you would like to read more on this topic, then check out the following links:

The final challenge I came across when completing this project was one that I had not anticipated. After finishing my video, and uploading it to YouTube, I was told that my video had been blocked due to a copyright claim. I had edited in snippets from other popular videos on YouTube as supporting evidence in my video, which I could no longer use. This is another important lesson I have learnt from the project management element of this exercise – to be prepared for the unexpected.

Thank you for joining me on my journey this semester. Stay tuned for what I anticipate to be another year of blogging in 2016. If you can’t wait that long, then be sure to stop by my YouTube channel in the mean time.

Filming and Editing… Finally.

This week I have been busily working away on my Digital Research Project. After spending the last few weeks researching, I have finally progressed. I have progressed to the filming and editing stage of the project, which has been equally as time-consuming.

During the week, I met with fellow BCM240 student, YouTuber, and Vlogger, Dan. Dan has his own YouTube channel, which you can check out here. We caught up to discuss the project and swap ideas. I used one of the meetings as an opportunity to interview Dan, for the video submission of my project. We sat for over half an hour and filmed. With that amount of footage, there were plenty of outtakes and bloopers. If you would like to watch our recording session, and get a sneak peak at what will feature in my project, check out Dan’s vlog. If you would like to see the entire session, I will be publishing the footage when I publish my project.

After I had the chance to watch the footage back, and to begin to edit, I asked Dan to watch what I had put together so far, and get his feedback. I have really enjoyed this collaboration component of the assignment, and it has been a really valuable experience to work with Dan.

For the rest of the week, I have continued researching, filming and editing so that I am ready to submit the project on Monday.