Laura Miner - photo by Mark Lobo

photo by Mark Lobo.

As editor in chief of JPG Magazine, Laura Brunow Miner was an early influencer in the creative digital photography space. She’s currently the driving force behind Phoot Camp and Pictory and was included in Fast Company Magazine’s “Most Influential Women in Tech” 2010 list. Read her advice on finding meaning in creative work and avoiding burnout: “I have to say ‘no’ to everything that I don’t instantly fall in love with.”

Getting Started – How do you know which projects to say “yes” to and which to turn down?

I’ll have to admit this isn’t my strong suit — saying “no” to anything that is — but I’m working on it. I have a Post-It note on my monitor that says “What do I want to see grow?” (which seems like a more positive angle than the “Say ‘no’ more often” note I was considering)! At this point I’m stretched so thin between Pictory, Phoot Camp, Eat Retreat, and a handful of freelance clients, that I have to say “no” to everything that I don’t instantly fall in love with. It’s a little hectic day-to-day, but still a situation I’m grateful to be in!

How do you attract new viewers while maintaining your unique, niche voice?

From the beginning I’ve gone for quality over quantity in terms of attention. I don’t have the monthly page views I’d wish for, but am lucky enough to have people tweeting that Pictory is their favorite website. It can be frustrating in terms of growth, but if I didn’t accept this, my site would look a lot more like the Huffington Post and a lot less like it does.

When you’re curating Pictory, do you feel a stronger obligation to the audience or the participants who have submitted their work?

It has to be a balance. A good reader experience has always been hugely important to me, but without the contributor, there’d be nothing to read. As an example, I’ve tried to set really high standards for photographer credit (by including a link and bio with each photo credit) in order to help improve the standard across the web. But given that Pictory submissions are so personal, I think this extra information about the person who shared the photo is really nice for the reader as well.

Advice – What do you tell new photographers/creatives who find themselves overwhelmed with work and overly busy?

I actually delivered a talk at Creative Mornings San Francisco that covered exactly this. It’s called “Why We Work” and basically states that we work to satisfy our needs for: a sense of community, an outlet for our personality quirks, and a desire to leave a legacy. Each new project should provide a satisfying balance of these things. If you’ve got 20 minutes, give it a listen.

Nostalgia Time! What was your first camera and what did you learn from it?

My first camera was a Nikon F (the original photojournalist camera) that was born well before I was. It was a finicky film SLR and had an external light meter. (meaning it forced me to learn things by doing them the hard way). I discovered in high school that I wasn’t as talented at photography as my classmates, but that didn’t keep me from co-founding the school’s first photo club. (Luckily I’ve since discovered talents for design and curation that are also needed in the photo world!)

Laura keeps one of her earliest photos pinned to her photo board and was kind enough to send us a pic:
Laura Miner early photo

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