The photographer behind the iPhone

Knoxville-based travel photographer Corey Wolfenbarger worked on four continents with several popular companies. He still does not understand how he earned his opportunities.

“Sometimes you do not know how these things happen,” Wolfenbarger said.

Wolfenbarger, 24, visited the University of Tennessee Wednesday, Jan. 31 for a talk in Lindsey Young Auditorium at John C. Hodges Library. He shared his photography journey and a few photo editing tips from apps on his smartphone.

Wolfenbarger got his start on Instagram and Tumblr in 2012. Now, his portfolio contains photos from companies like TOMS, Urban Outfitters and Holiday Inn.

Equipped with only his iPhone 5, he set his sights on the Blue Ridge Mountains and took as many photos as possible.

“I was sharing them on Instagram and getting twenty likes,” Wolfenbarger said. “Nobody was hyping my stuff but I was still really hyped on it.”

Wolfenbarger’s life revolved around photography during his college career. He often skipped class.

“I decided that if I took photos at sunrise or sunset then my photos were going to be way better,” Wolfenbarger said. “So, I would make the executive decision to not go to class anymore.”

In 2014, he decided to drop out of college. He moved in with his parents and turned his scope to the Great Smokey Mountains. Almost every day, Wolfenbarger took trips to the mountains. His photos gained popularity on social media.

New Year’s Eve 2015, something clicked to Wolfenbarger.

Surrounded by talented and successful photographers, he knew he could make a living by taking photos.

“I saw that if I work as hard as I can and stay humble and realize that I don’t know everything… give it my all and that I can do this and people will pay me eventually,” Wolfenbarger said. “If it was little at the time or whether it as nothing. I can make a living with this.”

By 2016, Wolfenbarger’s popularity increased, and he received requests to take photos. All he had at the time was his iPhone.

“I just had an iPhone,” Wolfenbarger said. “I was not going to out myself so I would make up some obscure excuse why I could not do it.”

He decided if he wanted to receive serious pay-work, he should buy a DSLR camera. New technology became a setback for Wolfenbarger because he only shot photos from his iPhone prior to requests. He knew he needed to progress.

“The DLSR was terrifying for me,” Wolfenbarger said. “I did not know how they worked. I did not know how I was going to edit my photos.”

Wolfenbarger initially struggled to learn the basics like aperture and shutter speed.

“When it clicks for you, it’s the most beautiful moment of all time,” Wolfenbarger said.

Wolfenbarger received many opportunities to work with companies in 2016, a “dream year” full of travel and unexpected chances.

Wolfenbarger continues to learn and strives to improve his photography. He is currently working several booklets and plans to travel to Yosemite National Park.

“It is very frustrating and it does have a lot of setbacks, but it is where I am at in my work right now in my photography,” Wolfenbarger said. “I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.

Edited by Chelsea Babin

Featured Photo by Sage Davis

‘Pinteresting’ effect of advertising, promoted posts on users

How will the integration of advertising affect dedicated users of the popular social media site, Pinterest? Only time will tell.
How will the integration of advertising affect dedicated users of the popular social media site, Pinterest? Only time will tell. Photo by mkhmarketing

“I’ve got my wedding pretty much planned,” joked Molly Scott, a senior studying psychology at the University of Tennessee. “I’ve just got to get someone there with me to stand and pose for pictures.”

Scott, like most of her friends, plan their weddings, decide what to eat for dinner, plot their next workout and make fashion decisions largely based on Pinterest, a pin-board style website built around photo sharing. Users create themed “boards” of image collections based on their individual interests by “re-pinning” photos posted by other users, which they share with friends and followers. Pinterest users can also choose to link their accounts to other social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Up until now, Scott has been using an advertisement-free Pinterest. But on Sept. 19, the website announced via email they will soon begin “experimenting with promoting certain pins from a select group of businesses.” In short, they are going to start advertising.

Dedicated users don’t have to worry just yet. Ben Silbermann, Pinterest’s co-founder, promised these promoted pins would be tasteful, transparent, relevant and based solely on user feedback.

“Nobody’s paying for anything yet,” he said in his email. “We want to see how things go.”

Pinterest already has unlimited marketing potential and success amongst it’s users, who are mostly women ranging in age from 18 to 64 with moderate to high incomes, according to Pew data.

“Pinterest makes me want things,” said Lori Baine, a homemaker and mother of three from a suburb of Knoxville. “Every time I get on, I see something that I like that I don’t have.”

The pressure to spend is also felt by Morgan Mock, a senior studying accounting at UT. “It makes me realize how much money I don’t have,” she lamented. “I’ve done some of the recipes and crafts on Pinterest, and it’s so expensive.”

Pinterest is not the only social media site attempting to move into the realm of advertising. In fact, it is close on the heels of Facebook’s recent acquisition, Instagram, a smart phone app that allows users to share, “like” and comment on photos and videos with friends. Success in this process is also possible, with established sites like Facebook leading by example.

“I think Facebook is doing it best,” said Dave Delaney, digital media consultant from Nashville and author of the book, New Business Networking. “They’re always testing and they annoy people here and there. At the same time, because they’re always testing, they’re finding new ways [to advertise]. They haven’t just created something and left it on it’s own … they’re constantly innovating, and that’s good to see.”

Marketing and promotion are not new to Pinterest, and there are many tools businesses can utilize, like brand or businesses accounts and contests or giveaways that easily reach customers. The question is how Pinterest will put a dollar sign on these services without offending their users.

“All social media sites have to be careful with how much advertising they allow to leak through because they need users to view the ads and interact with the ads by clicking through or pinning something promotional,” Delaney said. “At the same time, if you clutter or ruin the experience for the user, then they’re going to abandon ship and go somewhere else.”

Delaney said it’s about where the promoted content will appear, how it appears and if it is consistent and constructive to users. Not to mention, advertising is just part of the experience.

“It’s good to consider … how users, who are mostly women and are primarily middle to upper class, are used to being bombarded with advertisements,” he said. “Pick up any women’s magazine, 80 percent of it is ads. Go to any ‘mommy’ blog, and those are usually ad supported. I think women – actually more so than men – are used to seeing constant advertising everywhere aimed at them.”

Lucky for Pinterest, they also hold a major bargaining chip in the equation: their service.

Delaney said one important fact users can think about if they are agitated with the addition of ads is to “think about it and say, ‘Well, you know what, Pinterest is free.’ You have to deal with the advertising so you can have a free tool like Pinterest.”

At least for now, many users are unconcerned with the upcoming changes. They are just going to keep pinning as usual.

“I can’t really say if I’ll like it because I haven’t seen what it will look like yet,” Mock said. “If I like it, I’d re-pin it anyways.”


Edited by Jennifer Brake