Trick or Treat… or Something…

Trick or Treat… or Something…

My kids love Halloween. I can remember every trek through the streets with plastic pumpkins in hand, towing a wagon with the smallest riding along.

The great folks over at Project 52 have been adding zombie and other un-human images to our Flickr page. I thought I would take a moment to share them with you all.

Say Cheese!



No 2nd Hand Smoke

Zombie modeling session

Exploring a concept

Halloween Loony Tunes

The Apparition

This Ain

44/52 - Trick or Treat ! (Self Portrait)




Thanks for coming along… oh, and I prefer chocolate, thanks.

Three Bidding Fiascos: Be Prepared or Stay Home

Three Bidding Fiascos: Be Prepared or Stay Home

Recently I had an opportunity to sit and chat (over delicious Mexican food) with two very good photographers. Dave and Steve are both well seasoned, and full on commercial photographers here in Phoenix.

As things do, we began discussing gigs and some of the war stories we all love to bring up at these sort of little social events.

What emerged were three incredible stories of how unprepared photographers have screwed up big gigs, and themselves as well.

I bring them to you with the hope that they may inspire you to not make the same mistakes.

Fiasco Number One.

A client of nearly ten years has been doing quarterly updates to their national and regional advertising. The images run in several regional publications, newspapers and in-store Point of Purchase displays. The photographer that has been shooting the work for them was charging $12,000 per shoot based on the usage.

This rate had stayed fairly steady for nearly 8 years. Mostly because the photographer was doing a lot of work for them and kept this price steady as a favor and so that they could budget without getting bids each time.

The last quarter he did not get the gig. A new photographer had pitched them and told them he was happy to shoot it for $3000.

This photographer could probably have gotten the gig at $10,000 and made $7000 more if his work was good. The interloper, having no idea at all what the gig was worth, just screwed himself out of at least $7000, maybe more.

He also set the new bar at $2500… which is unrealistic in the commercial world with that kind of usage.

Why would he do it for so little? I can imagine that he had no idea of what the value of commercial photography is set at, nor is he aware of usage and how usage is priced. Look, this is a billion + a year client, and these images are very important to their marketing.

(Solution: Know the industry. Know the market. Get involved with that part of the industry, and get help on shoots that are for national clients. There are consultants and websites that can help. Wonderful Machine has people who can help with bidding on a per bid basis, and fotoQuote has a service that will help you put together something that makes sense.)

Fiasco Number Two

The client is a national ad agency with regional offices. Their client is a celebrity.

The gig involved the celebrity and an endorsement of a beauty product. The shoot was a buyout, with everything from national advertising to electronic media. Three shots of the celebrity with and without the beauty product and one shot of the product itself.

The bid was created using standard bidding and buyout parameters. And the photographer actually wanted the gig so the bid was modified (down a little) to a rate of $40,000.

All was set and agreed to… then… nothing.

The photographer received a phone call from a photographer looking to rent a studio for a ‘celebrity’ shoot. Turned out that they had looked at another photographer and had decided to go with her.

She was shocked that the rental was $300 for the day. She had bid only $2500 for the job and felt that if she spent $300 on the rental studio, she would not make enough.

Ya think?

How about craft services? This is a celebrity, her entourage, the ad agency entourage, MUA, hair stylist, stylist, and wardrobe person. Food alone could easily be $600. And of course, the photographer had no liability insurance, which is insane with that many people on set.

In the end, the agency lost the account. Why they would have even thought that someone quoting $2500 for a gig of this magnitude would have a freaking clue about what the real world brings is beyond my understanding.

(Solution: Get educated on licensing, why rights matter, and how much a shoot of this size and usage requirements would be. The above resources are important, but there are professional sites on line as well as the peers in your town that may help you work this out. And if they are not willing to help, they are totally assholes. Find someone else to help. Dig, research, dig some more.)

Fiasco Number Three.

A photographer was called to bid on a job involving widgets… lots of little widgets. The bid was for simple “drop and pop” shots of 450 items.

When the time came to begin the planning for the shoot, the client informs him that there will actually be three shots per widget.

At the same price as negotiated… but the new shots involve different angles.

The photographer tried in vain to explain how the light was different and how having 1350 shots meant much, MUCH, more time.

But to no avail.

What should have been a 2 day gig stretched into 6 days of blinding quick shooting and upset clients (it should not have taken this long) and more.

It was a disaster for both the client and the photographer.

(Solution: Actually, I told a fib above. The photographer was me. And when I was told that there were far more images than expected, I rebid the gig. And when they said it was too much, I politely declined the gig. They found someone to do it though… and there ya go.

That photographer is happily (or whatever) shooting boring, monotonous widgets at $3 a piece. By the time he is done, he will have worked for over a week for a rate that should have been one day.

I have the experience, both in the bidding and understanding of how the process goes, to make decisions that will not harm myself or my industry.)

Not much else to say here. I understand that there are a lot of new people in this business. That is a good thing.

That there are so many who haven’t or will not take the time to actually learn about the business they are in is not a good thing.

Don’t get caught on the outs… get educated in how it all works.

BTW – our photographers at Project 52 are learning all about the industry including bidding, shooting to layout, creating promotional pieces and building a portfolio. And that is a free site for interested photographers who don’t like being clueless.

Just sayin’…

And if you use the Promo Code “Lighting Essentials”, you will save $20 off my current class at UDEMY.

OK, Now I’m Hungry… the Food Photography of Michele Drumm

OK, Now I’m Hungry… the Food Photography of Michele Drumm

Michele Drumm is a photographer in the Washington DC / Fredricksberg area of Virginia. Her work ranges from still life to environments, but one of her great loves is shooting food.

From meticulous studio shoots to on location editorial work, Michele brings a bit of whimsy and fun to each project she takes.

She has been a Project 52 member for two years and is now a Project 52 PRO, working on getting her book out and into the world.

We love her work and her commitment to making the image exactly as she sees it. Only problem is that every time I review her work, I gain a pound… heh.

Waygu Beef Burger

Highland Park Diner


Blackened Shrimp Saute over Sweet Corn Pudding and Mache Salad

Turkey legs at the fair

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

portabella mushroom

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

You can see more of Michele’s work at her Flickr page. Just click on any image above and it will take you to her images.

Thanks for coming along today, but I gotta run off now. It’s lunch time!

Should You Shoot ‘Edgy’ Work for Your Portfolio?

Should You Shoot ‘Edgy’ Work for Your Portfolio?

Recently a photographer asked about whether or not “Fantasy” makeup or “Avant Garde” images should be included in a commercial photographer’s portfolio.

The work he was specifically asking about was a kind of shoot one sees a lot on Model Mayhem… multi-colored makeup covering most of the face. This seems like something a lot of photographers like to do, and it is quite prevalent in some circles.

While answering something like this is always tricky, it is also important to get everyone on the same page first. What comes below is MY response, and should be taken with the understanding that it is personal and comes from my viewpoint. Please seek additional viewpoints if you desire.

First of all, I didn’t see the work as Avant Garde at all. Avant Garde means on the bleeding edge, and this work is not even close to that. While it is good work, it is not bleeding edge.

A group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts.
Of, relating to, or being part of an innovative group, especially one in the arts: avant-garde painters; an avant-garde theater piece.

The work was good, solid work with “fantasy” makeup as the feature. Fantasy makeup work is a staple of Model Mayhem shooters (Please do not read a negative into that, as it is not implied.) It has been around for a long time and shows no trend toward going away.

That’s fine.

The poster asked “if this kind of work in my portfolio would actually benefit me?”

Soaring to New Heights
Photograph: Joshua Gaede

My answer:
That depends. A book full of it? No, not really, I can’t see where that would work for you at all. I am not aware of any marketplace that uses this kind of work. Not fashion, not glamour, not beauty, not lifestyle… possibly a case could be made for doing it for a consumer client base. I do think it would be a pretty difficult marketing situation – as you stated, it is NOT the mainstream.

While there are some mainstream uses for edgy work, and

As something added TO your body of work, or an aside project, it would be fine.

My bottom line feeling is this: I simply am not aware of a market for this kind of work as an ’emerging’ photographer. In fact it may actually be a problem in some situations.

Showing this work to a magazine editor may create a lot of questions as to what you are thinking is fashion/beauty work. As a former art director, I would immediately think of MM and wonder who the client was. Since the work is so personal, it may not be something that could be used commercially… ask yourself what client would want this kind of work?

Not beauty products.
Not lifestyle products.
Not fashion or glamour.

So it is left as a photograph for the model / MUA / photographer.

Again, that is fine for a single portfolio shot, but as a group it has no commercial value. And it doesn’t show the three most important things you can show in a portfolio.

1. a unique vision
2. the ability to solve a problem
3. an understanding of what kind of work is marketable

There are others, for sure, but these things should always be in the fore of thought when working toward building a portfolio.


As something to do to hone your skills, or if you simply love to do it, then KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. Absolutely! Personal projects are whatever the photographer wants them to be. And if you LOVE this kind of work, then you absolutely should continue… just be mindful of some of the thoughts above.

Remember, this is only MY opinion. And I am not FotoGawd!!!!

However, I would ask if you could find this work being used commercially anywhere (and the handful of ‘editorial’ images in Vogue or Elle, really don’t count as they are fairly rare. And when assigned, are usually given to already known photographers who may not even have a ‘fantasy’ headshot in their book)?

That search will indeed be enlightening, whatever you find.

HOWEVER… shooting personal work is very very important. And shooting what you love is vitally important for not only creative reasons, but to keep the camera and the eye busy.

And work like this, or whatever YOU think is the edgy work that you do, is great for projects and a personal viewpoint to show clients what YOU think is cool. Creating a project of “Fantasy” makeup makes a lot of sense to me within the context of a ‘Set’ of images.

Remember that it is more important to shoot than it is to filter out because of what you THINK someone would want to see. Good work in any genre will lead to more good work in that – and other genres.

See you next time.

Save $20 on my UDEMY Courses by using the code “Lighting Essentials”. This makes the price only $30.
My CreativeLIVE course on “Tabletop Product Photography” available here.
My CreativeLIVE “Lighting Essentials Workshop” available here.

Bret Doss’s “Fallen Leaf” Series

Bret Doss’s “Fallen Leaf” Series

Bret Doss is a photographer and an engineer in Seattle, Washington. He and I have traveled the PNW together on occasion and he was my assistant on the Creative LIVE workshops.

He is a talented photographer with a wide range of interests. From fashionable portraiture to environments and still life, Bret brings a unique view to what he shoots.

In this recent “Improvisation” Bret turned his lens on leaves that fell on or near his porch. The images bring a subtle dynamic, and a visual twist, to something we have all seen… leaves.

Bret offers no explanation for these images, and I agree they need none. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for photography, and shots like this are one reason.

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 06

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 05

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 03

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 04

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 02

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 01

This link will take you to the entire series.