HSC INFLUENCER SERIES- Jill Rittymanee
Jill Rittymanee; super-talented photographer, illustrator and graphic designer currently based in NYC. You can follow Jill on Instagram at @j.ritty
Photos courtesy of @janechu
Tell us a little about yourself! Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Ozone Park, Queens. I'm currently freelancing as a food photographer (UberEats and more), graphic designer, illustrator and as a social media manager!
Did you study photography or did you learn through hands-on experience?
It's really a bit of both. I studied a bit of photography when I went to LaGuardia High School and we had to develop our own film and one course in Pratt that was part of the Communication Design curriculum. It was a lot of hands-on without really understanding until I went to photo meets. Seeing all the talent there inspired me to want to learn more on my own. Then everything started to make sense more as I started to finally read the manual, read/watch different tutorials and experiment!
You’re first and foremost a freelance food photographer (and a great one!). Why food, specifically?
Thank you! Food is an easier way to experience something new. If it was unfamiliar, that would be the item I ordered and bam, new experience! Documenting food helped jog my memory and was a better way to recommend a place or a dish. It grew from that to wanting to create better memories. Not only that, it impacts businesses in a positive way!
In the past, I was the one with the small point-and-shoot taking photos of my friends every time we saw each other. However, with Facebook tags and relationships between people getting complicated, it became overwhelming. Food is definitely a lot less drama. Most I have to worry is getting the shot in before the ice cream melts. I'm getting back around on portraiture and practicing it more though.
Food is very tough to photograph at the best of times. How do you handle the unpredictable locations, lighting, and food aesthetic, etc?
The challenge is the fun part! It depends if I'm shooting for fun or for a client. Generally, before I shoot, I'll see where the light is, what kind of table surface they have or if they even have a table. For a client, sometimes it's necessary to supply your own tablecloth, table or make a table with what they have. I have used a cardboard box and tablecloth on the floor before.
Adapting to your situation is important! For crazy neon or overhead lights, asking to shut them off makes a huge difference. A diffuser or reflector is an easy fix for high exposure or to create a more even lighting. If it's casual shooting, I'll just take the food outside or ask if I can sit by a window. And an LED light is a must for dinner shoots.
I noticed that you’ve changed your profile name and started a new account on Instagram. Why the change?
Having to explain that there was an underscore at the end of jillish_ was exhausting haha...Many times people would just look at me confused. Figured to use my actual name since it is about me and matched with my website url as well! Is it weird that I also didn't like how jillish sounded too friendly?
How do you go about finding new clients to work with? Do you reach out to new restaurants or do the restaurants find you via Instagram?
I never reach out to restaurants unless a colleague said a client is expecting me to! They find me through Instagram, word of mouth or from an event.
Have you noticed a change in your engagement on Instagram since the algorithm changes?
Huge change, but going to bite my tongue here and just need to roll with the punches and work on better content and more engagement!
What would you say is the best advice or tip to build your business on Instagram?.
Focus on improving your content instead of comparing yourself to others. Look for others for inspiration instead. Your passion for your interest has to be really true. It shows when you engage on your page, as well as others. Networking is key, but don’t be too aggressive about it! Have respect for others. With this foundation, it’ll all fall into place.
In your opinion, how do you see the “business” of blogging changing over the next few years? Do you think that Influencers will always have such a strong role in marketing?
I have too many theories about this and this might seem all over the place, but will try my best to keep it short. The market is oversaturated with more and more learning about influencers, but wanting in for the wrong reasons. In the public eye, influencers already have a pretty bad reputation of being privileged millennials. A lot don’t realize the actual effort needed behind the scenes. Regular users may show even less support because of this. I could also see everyone considering themselves an influencer and losing meaning in the long run.
FTC rulings are also becoming more predominant now. Influencers with a larger following end up appearing as advertisements (even if they genuinely like the product) that users have been trying to avoid. Micro-influencers may start to shine or ones that are really dedicated with original and beautiful content. Authenticity and quality will become more valued. On the other hand, influencers are less cost for marketing. To produce a TV episode every time a new restaurant pops up isn't practical. As long as people are looking for new places to eat and want to see what they're paying to potentially eat in a more approachable way, I think influencers will still hit the mark. If Yelp somehow curated the quality of their community’s images, that would be a different story. The food community on Instagram might end up being more product based than restaurant based.
Whether it’ll still be on Instagram or not is another story. I can’t tell what the next big thing would be, but I just choose to improve my photography or move onto videography regardless.
And finally, any more advice for budding bloggers?
Be authentic. Your end goal shouldn't be because you're getting "freebies." It brings the community down. Care about what you’re posting and the business it represents. Do something because you're really into that subject. It's fine to try different things, but think of how you can contribute versus what you can get. Observe what you do for fun and what you would pay to experience and capture it better! Always work at improving yourself and again, follow what you're passionate about.