New Portrait Workshop: Environmental Portraiture (SECTION 2)

ENVIRONMENTAL PORTRAITURE: 8 WEEK PORTRAIT WORKSHOP III

SECTION TWO: LIMITED TO 20 STUDENTS

Technical Approaches To Portraiture

We examine environmental portrait lighting techniques from seven of the world’s best photographers. From natural light to blended natural and artificial light, students explore each technique as they apply it to the weekly location/environmental portrait assignment. 

Posing Techniques for Portraiture

Learning about how the world’s top environmental portraitists work with their subjects help photographers find and develop their own methods. Studying the images, re-engineering them and finding out how to present the subjects as they do adds more tools to the process.

Photoshop Integration for Environmental Portraiture

Each assignment also includes appropriate Photoshop techniques for the student to explore – from Frequency Separation to creating ethereal and emotional lighting effects, we have gathered the best tutorials available for each weeks workshop.

Explore the Work of 8 Environmental Portraitists

Each assignment features the work of a contemporary or modern photographer and provides the direction for the shooting assignment for that week.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE WORKSHOP PAGE.

8 Week Portrait Workshop III: Environmental Portraiture

8 MASTER PORTRAITISTS / EIGHT MASTER INSPIRED ASSIGNMENTS

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THE WORKSHOP PAGE.

8 Week Portrait Workshop III: Environmental Portraiture

Jake Stangel on Starting Out as a Professional Photographer

Jake Stangel on Starting Out as a Professional Photographer

Jake Stangel is one of my favorite photographers. I love the fresh way he shoots, and his no-nonsense approach to making images that reveal more than what may meet the eye in the real world.

First: here is an hour talk he gave at CCA, and it is really good.
(Below is embedded talk from above link.

IMPORTANT TAKEWAWAYS:

He had no gear starting out.

He lived in a small town in Oregon after college.

He had nearly no knowledge on lighting, commercial photography, shooting to layout, working with clients, bidding, billing, and finding work than you do. He realized it, and began to learn. From the photographers he assisted, to the photographers he hung with.

So don’t think it can’t be done.

It is not easy, but if you have a fresh eye, a thirst for knowledge, and some guts. It can most certainly be done.

Enjoy his many portfolios here.

Shooting to Layout: P52 Members are “Cooking” with heat!

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The assignment was given with a “napkin” layout. A very simple sketch similar to what we get from AD’s from time to time. Then the photographers got to download the layout – and shoot to that layout exactly. It is one of my favorite assignments because we get to see the same layout with different treatments.

Here you go:
(NOTE: If images appear cropped, please click to the post page for full image views.

A Few More Portraits

The 8 Week Portrait Classes are now finished. I added a bonus photographer on for each of them (9 photographers per class) and this is the gallery of inspired images from the bonus photographer for the 8 Week II class, Mark Tucker. We look at the work of the photographer, study the lighting and posing and direction that is evident in the work and then create images that are inspired by that photographer. We do not copy or try to recreate, we use the work as inspiration, and Mark is an inspiration to us all.

The student gallery from this last assignment:

Ten Things to Remember As You Begin Your Photographic Odyssey

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Ten Things to Remember As You Begin Your Photographic Odyssey

I stopped doing what I was doing and began to be a photographer one day. I had been around photographers, but I didn’t have any clue what being a “professional” really meant. I simply started out as a photographer, then learned that I needed to assist first, then hit it again as a photographer. I made a lot of mistakes. I went to the School of Hard Knocks for undergraduate and “Mean Streets, U” for upper grad work. I learned from the seat of my pants, and took a lot of risks… some paid off kinda good, some didn’t work out at all, and a few hit big time for me.

But when I talk to a lot of photographers who are starting out, they have a false idea of the business. They don’t understand the focus needed, or that it may be kinda damn tough for a while. Sacrifice means they may cut back on cable channels, or get a 15? MacBookPro instead of a 17″.

Right.

I have ten principals that will keep you going when you start out. I wish I had known about them when I started out. I know they work for me now as I start yet another company in a down economy… heh.

Here we go…

1. You are going to have to work harder than you do when you work for someone else. Got that? Let me say that again – You will be working harder at being a photographer than you will work if you keep your corporate, or other kind of ‘employee’ gig. It isn’t up for discussion, and you better damn well be prepared. No one is going to be watching your clock, that is up to you. There is no one who will be telling you to get up earlier and stay up later… you will have to do that. Work is good. Work is healthy. You will be good and healthy when you are moving toward a successful photographic career.

NOTE: If working harder than you are working now doesn’t appeal to you, go ahead and skip the other 9… take a nap or something. It really ain’t no big thing. Photography as a career may not be right for you.

2. You can never give up. You can never give up. You keep at it until you have NO other way, then you find another way. I don’t care about what challenges you have, you must not give up – ever. Even when you want to (we all want to now and then… believe me, it will pass), you keep going. It takes years to get this thing going on… so be prepared.

3. Sacrifice will become something that you become familiar with. Maybe you move into a smaller apartment, drive a used car, eat macaroni and cheese a bit… trying to live the life of a successful photographer while you are scrapping along makes no sense, and will drive you to ruin faster than most anything else you do…

4. …except spending too much money on gear you don’t need. Rent, borrow, marry someone with great gear… just don’t spend all of your capital on a lens you use now and then. Make a detailed list of what you need… go ahead, we’ll wait. Got it? Good, now trim a third of that… there ya go. I am a photographer – I know what my list would look like… heh.

5. There is a reason you are a photographer. Find it or keep looking till you do. Some call it a vision, some refer to it as a calling. It is YOUR defining work. Shoot and shoot and shoot some more until you find that special work that is YOURS. Then keep at it until other people know what it is you are doing. You will know when you connect with your vision… you can feel it. Do not let anyone else take you down or sway you away from your own vision.

6. You are gonna screw up. And you are gonna screw some things up pretty bad. So f’n what? Everyone fails at some point. It is what you do after the screw up that makes that failure critically dangerous, or greatly empowering. Did you learn from the screw up? The answer better be yes. Will you screw up like that again? Answer there better be no… emphatically no. Learn from your fail, get up, dust yourself off and keep going… (see #2 above).

7. No matter what, death is not on the line. You are going to be a photographer, and work really hard, and fail occasionally… but it wont kill you. You will survive the screw up, the short month, the fourth meal of mac and cheese in a week, the used Toyota… You. Will. Survive. People will tell you that you are crazy and it isn’t worth it… that’s what people do. Tell them thanks, and keep on with it. You will survive. And you will grow, and one day look back and be able to tell others about your struggles… and no matter what, you will embellish to make them sound even worse than they were when you were going through it.

8. Wake up in the morning and be happy, grateful even, that you are doing what you want to do. Sure its hard, sure it has its challenges… but it also has its rewards. And it is what you want to do – well, need to do really. You wake up a photographer and you get to make photographs. That is soooo much cooler than what you were doing, right? And we know way too many people who hate their jobs. They wake up and count the days to the weekend… we never really work a day in our lives, but we are engaged at a level most will never be. 12 hour days or longer? No problem. We are photographers, in charge of our own destiny, and doing something we can love.

9. Don’t sit down. Don’t get cocky. Don’t let a lazy day stretch into two. You are in a race, a competition, a driving force of creativity that is pushing you – and others – to get the work. One hit isn’t a career. (Remember Christopher Cross? Yeah, neither do I – look him up.) Letting up gives the ones that are drafting a chance to gain the lead. Now, look, I am not saying that you need to be petal to the metal and fiercely competitive and never ever have a moments rest. I am not saying that… I mean to say that it may feel that way. You must learn to deal with constant competition, constant need to grow and constant irritable distractions that make it harder to keep going.

Keep going.

10. Do it all out. Do it full on. Give it ALL you have, then dig down and find a bit more. You know that silly marketing thing – 110%. Yeah, that is really mathematically impossible and totally irrational in our business. In this business you give 115%… get it! And love love love what you are doing. It feels so much better, and it gets easier when you are going big. Really big. As BIG as you possibly can.

I know you have heard some of these before, but we rarely hear them in schools (they are afraid if you really know what it will be like, you will quit and they wont get their money). We rarely hear them in the forums because so many in the forums have no idea of what they are talking about. And many times those that do don’t get heard due to the noise level of the naysayers. Sometimes they are simply busy doing it, so really don’t have time to argue with those who think they read something somewhere that a guy said his brother’s girlfriend once heard…

Get out there. Shoot shoot shoot. Build a business. Don’t quit. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving. Tell the naysayers that you are too busy to hear them tell you about not being busy.

And love what you do everyday for a change.

 

Catherine Vibert Delivers Social Media Headshots

Catherine Vibert Delivers Social Media Headshots

P52 Alum and member Catherine Vibert explains the necessity of having a perfect headshot for Social Media. This kind of client centric marketing will create an interest in those needing to have the best headshots they can get. And – that is EVERYBODY on social media as a business person.

Well done Catherine.

“Social media and marketing collateral formats are not a one size fits all thing. You will need to be able to crop your pictures to fit Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, About Me, and any other myriad of social media outlets. This is my speciality. I shoot with cropping in mind. To get the most bang from your buck out of one single headshot, it needs to be shot to be chopped. I made a little collage of various crops from the same picture.”

See how she did the magic at her website.

 

An Easy Tool for Shooting to Format

An Easy Tool for Shooting to Format

Project 52 Alums Anna and Filipe (McGunn Media) have created a set of templates (mattes) for shooting to formats that are many times required – especially by social media.

They have made them available free on their site as well, so you can download them if you need to shoot to a specific format (say a Facebook Header) and want to make sure the composition fits.

 

Large Format Shooters: This Looks Really Interesting

Large Format Shooters: This Looks Really Interesting

GALAXY HYPER SPEED Direct Positive Photo Paper

I love shooting large format cameras, but the hassle of developing 4×5 and 8×10 negatives can be daunting unless one has a full darkroom. Paper is easy… safelight and some trays and you got it.

This project will bring some sanity to those of us who really love the look and feel of a large format image, but have trouble getting the negs developed. Yes, there are labs – but take a look at what they charge. A weekend shoot could easily run $200 for 20 or so images.

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(images from the kickstarter page)

The answer is to shoot on paper.

I load my 8×10 with the paper I use to print on and make images directly onto it. I can then develop the image in a tray under safelight. Yes, the image is a negative, and yes it is backwards. A simple scan of the print can fix that. Or, do a copy shot on your DSLR and reverse it in Photoshop.

(For those of you who like to think out of the box, shoot the paper negative onto black and white negative 120 film and end up with a positive transparency of the image… small but mighty. Scan the positive as a transparency.)

Check out this KickStarter project and see what they are offering. I am in at $150. I hope you all support this project and enjoy a bit of a resurgence in the interest in large format photography.

GALAXY HYPER SPEED Direct Positive Photo Paper

“We all know about direct positive photo papers nowadays. With all their nice features they lack one very important quality – the high speed. Every single shot is very time-consuming for large-format photographers, and fellow pinholers struggle sometimes for hours. In addition, if there is a moving object in the shot, the object turns out blurred (if it appears at all). However, 70 years ago photographers already had a solution to this problem – Kodak Super Speed Direct Positive Paper.”

Link here. Send them some love.

24 Frames In May II, 2015 Edition

We had an assignment on Lighting Essentials that was fairly easy to be involved with… sort of. The assignment was to load one roll of 24 exposure film into the camera of your choice and shoot each shot as though it were the ONLY shot you had. No ‘bangin’ off a motor drive, more like treating each frame as a singular image with the importance of a view camera.

Below are the amazing shots the photographers did in contact sheet form. Damn I miss contact sheets.

First up, Rudy Giron, Guatamala.

rudy-giron

Rudy Giron's Comments on his 24 Frames

Rudy Giron
• Canon EOS Rebel XS [EOS 500] from 1993 with 28mm 2.8 lens
• Lens: 50mm F1.4 AIS, 105mm F1.8 AIS
• Film: Expired Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 color film from 2001.
• Scanned at Kodak mini lab, Antigua Guatemala

Rudy Giron Photography
• Antigua Guatemala, Central America
• Tel: +502 4569 4419
• Email: photos@rudygiron.com
• Website: www.rudygiron.com

24 frames of film for May 2015.

I used an expired roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 color film from 2001 on a Canon EOS Rebel XS [EOS 500] from 1993 with 28mm 2.8 lens. Some frames exposed more or less well, while others were under/over exposed. I don’t know if this is camera error or simply the film was too old. Most frames were shot at f2.8 while others at f5.6 if enough light.

My theme is entitled “Come in” [“Pase adelante” in Spanish] which is what vendors would say as you enter their business. I tried to show all kinds of business as seen from the doorway. About half the roll is from tiny business found in villages around Antigua Guatemala while the rest of the roll was captured on the more affluent shops in downtown Antigua Guatemala.

My cost for this film project was $3.75 for film developing and scanning of the 24 frames at 6 megapixels [8″x10″] plus an index print at my local Kodak mini lab. I had the roll of film and I provided an SD card to the lab so I didn’t have to pay for a disc. The turn around for developing and scanning the 24 frames was 1 hour. They still sell a roll a 24-frame of film at this Kodak lab for $5.

Next, I will get some black and white C41 film as this is the easiest and least expensive way to have black and white film developed, scanned and printed in Antigua Guatemala. I have a few more themes in mind, for instance, portraits of the vendors inside the local market.

Alfred Kypta has a write-up on his blog about the 24 Frames in May assignment.

contact

Steve Gray did last year’s 24 Frames project as well.

ContactSheet-Steve-Gray

Steve Gray's description for his 24 Frames submission.

As with last year, I used my trusty Minolta X-370, using a 50mm f/1.7 lens. This time I opted for Ilford Delta 100 black and white film. Apparently the light streaking I saw last year was indeed caused by the old film, and not by the camera. Yay!

I sent the film off to The Darkroom (www.thedarkroom.com), which did an okay job. I did see a little bit of oddness in one or two frames (probably from handling the wet film). I corrected what I could with Photoshop, and I tweaked the cropping and contrast a little…so these are not genuinely straight out of the camera shots. Still, I’m okay with what I got. I bought a second roll of the same film, and now I need to plan an activity to shoot with it. If I keep this up, I’m going to have to splurge on a developing tank, chemicals, and a scanner. Heh.

The images can be viewed individually on my website @ http://photos.gray-imagery.com/p171174507

My base website is www.gray-imagery.com.

From Catherine Vibert:

Hi Don, here is the contact sheet, and the link is here: http://catherinevibert.com/film-for-a-change/. This was fun!

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Melissa Hanson‘s entry.

Melissa Hanson, Utah
Pentax K1000, 35mm
Sigma 28-70 zoom f:2.8
Sears 70-210 macro-zoom f:4
Kodak High Definition ISO 400
Lab:  Atelier A.F.A.
http://atelierafa.com/index.html
Flickr album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk9U6KyW

ContactSheet-24-frames-May-2015-HansonM-web

Chris Dean:

Chris_Dean_Contact_Sheet_24FramesInMay

Chris Dean's Info

Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M with 80mm Zeiss 2.8 Lens
Film: Kodak Portra 160
Developed and scanned by a local lab (www.photorgaphique.co.uk)
No cropping or editing

Chris Dean: www.chrisdeanphoto.co.uk
Email: chris@chrisdeanphoto.co.uk
Twitter: @chrisdeanphoto
Instagram: @chrisdeanphoto

Full size pictures available at: chrisdeanphoto.co.uk/blog/2015/6/8/24-frames-in-may-2015

Last year’s 24 Frames in May was my first (serious) attempt at shooting film. This year I thought I’d make things even more interesting (difficult) for myself by getting to grips with a medium format camera. There’s a lot to learn!
It has a 6cm x 6cm negative, so everything is short in square format (a 1:1 format rather than the 3:2 of my DSLR).
It has a waist level viewfinder which means you look down into the camera, and left-right is reversed, which is a little confusing!

There’s no built-in light meter so you have to take light readings separately (or rely on the sunny 16 rule).
The negatives are a lot bigger than the 36mm x 24mm of a “standard” (35mm) film camera, which means the depth of field is very shallow, and you need a very steady hand (or a tripod) to avoid blurry shots. Focusing is critical and hard!
Unlike a digital camera where you can take hundreds of shots, you’re limited to 12 shots per roll of film. So you need to make sure you’ve got that shot, especially when you’re trying to treat each frame like gold dust.

May was especially hectic this year, so I didn’t ending up spacing out my shots to the extent that I would have liked, and the medium format camera slowed me down even more than the film 35mm did. So I rounded off the roll by taking a portrait of everybody attending a fancy birthday dinner I was having.

I had great fun. I’m looking forward to shooting more film, and have booked myself into a black and white darkroom developing course – can’t wait!

Bret Doss shot in and around Seattle.

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Bret's Info

Participating in Don Giannatti’s Project 52 has a lot of fringe benefits in addition to the exceptional training; for example, a challenge to get out a film camera and shoot 24 Frames In May.  I was happy to be able to participate this year, and also to find a clean Pentacon Six medium format camera (and some really clean lenses) on eBay.

The official challenge is to shoot 24 frames, one a day, and with a medium format camera that would mean two twelve-exposure rolls.  I had to follow a different path to my 24 Frames.  Since the camera was new to me, as were the lenses, I shot some tests as well to make sure everything was working.  As I was using some extension tubes for some of the calla lily images, I was estimating the compensation factor, and so did some bracketing.  The nature of my life and of the calla lilies I acquired for the project did not permit making only one frame a day.  In the end, I exposed six rolls of 120 film over two separate days, and selected 24 from amongst the test &bracketed images, ignoring the failed test images.  I used Portra 160 for the color images, and mostly Ilford HP5 (ASA 400) for the black and white (the last two you see are Ilford Pan-F — ASA 50).  Lenses were mostly the 80 and 65 mm, though I also shot with a 120, 180, and 300 as well.

I went to some of my favorite subject matter: the marina area and some calla lilies in the studio.  I used open sky window light for the callas.  I think next up will be some portraits with the Pentacon!

The film was sent to The Find Lab, using their Fatboy scanner option. Great service and quality scans.

The only post I did was some slight levels/curves for those images where neither bracket was ‘just right’ and I needed to be somewhere in the middle.  I retouched a very few hot pixels that appeared in very few of the scans, and applied a light sharpen to the images.

all images © Bret Doss, All Rights Reserved

Jorge Rodriguez Santos shoots in Cambodia.

Camera: Seagull 4A-107 TLR
Film: Ilford Delta 100 120mm
Scanned in color setting to give the sepia tone.
Jorge Rodríguez Santos
Jorge Rodríguez Santos Photography
Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Tomas Jansson

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Tammy Bogestrand

Gear:
Olympus OM2n
24mm Olympus lens
Tri-X 400 black and white film.

I limited myself to the 24mm for the entire 24 frames.

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Reed Waters:

1960 Yashica Mat
Kodak Porta 400 120 film.
These are out of the camera, no post processing.

ContactSheet-002
Michele Cushman
Camera: Nikon N65
Film: Ilford Delta 100 Professional Black & White film
Developed & Scanned by The FIND Lab
no editing of the photos
This was my second time participating in the 24 Frames in May project. Last year I also used black and white film and documented a trip back home to NYS for my nephew’s first communion. This year, I photographed my youngest son’s first flight lesson up in Frederick, MD.  Another P52 photographer, Bob Knill, set up the flight lesson for him on what turned out to be a beautiful day.  I captured the essence of the day with my favorite photograph being the one where my son is out of focus standing outside the hangar while I focused on the nose cone of the plane. That shot turned out exactly how I had envisioned it in my head before taking it.  There are a couple of shots where they are identical because of a happy trigger finger.  Overall I am happy how these turned out.
contact_sheet_mcushman2015

Darla Hueske had a film mishap and only 15 of her shots came out unscathed. A shame because so many of her images are really good.

Time to Put the 8 Week Portrait Class Away for A While

Time to Put the 8 Week Portrait Class Away for A While

Winding up one of the Portrait Classes:

I have loved teaching these mini classes and studying some of the great modern portrait photographers. I believe much can be learned when one immerses themselves into the work and looks deeply into the work and styles of those masters of the medium.

The students have raved about the classes all year, and it is kinda sad to retire them for a while. Of course if you were a student, you still have access to the course materials and all of the videos we created (over 72 hours of video classes and reviews).

I have no plans on when I will do this class again, but I will have a self guided class for those who want to learn on their own. If you are interested let me know by email.

To all of the photographers who have taken this class a big THANK YOU. Your work was an inspiration to each other and me as well.

Exceptional effort will realize exceptional results.

— Don

(NOTE: The last Portrait 102 class will be winding up in two weeks. I will be putting it away as well.)

Moving From the Studio to The Great Outdoors: Meet Ken Howie

MEETKEN

Ken Howie is a friend of mine and an excellent photographer. Ken used to have a studio in the same space as my old studio (and now, Dave and I are in his old studio).

Ken was a consummate studio shooter. He was nearly 90%+ studio work – from product and still life to motorcycles and automotive. His studio featured one of the best coves in the valley and the lighting tools he created were amazing. His clients included Fender Guitars, Ryobi Garden Tools, The Phoenix Art Museum and many other local and regional companies.

He made a decision to move not only from Phoenix to North Dakota, but to move from still work to video work as well. His careful approach to getting ready to move from a very large city to a town of 1000 or so is instructive for all of us.

Ken is a friend, as I noted, so this is part interview and part two buds chatting about the business.

I hope you enjoy meeting Ken Howie. You can see his website at www.kenhowie.com

 

For most of his career, Ken’s portfolio contained this work:

These are a few of his new work:

A big shout out to Ken and Theresa Howie for doing this interview with us. Much appreciated, guys.

Portraits: June 2015

Catherine-Vibert-2

Image © Catherine Vibert

Student Work:

A few of the amazing portraits students in the Portrait Workshops have turned in. There are dozens of truly great portraits. I am choosing only 16 for this post.

Perhaps It’s Time to Rethink “Photographer”

forks2

Plastic spoons in the early morning sun.

I got a beautiful pen as a gift from a client recently. Thanks for that, Randi, it is an absolutely gorgeous writing implement. And, I assure you, I will write with it.

Because I am a writer as well as a photographer.

Millions of pens are sold daily in the world. How many people who buy them or receive them as gifts are writers? Probably not very many. In fact, they do not refer to themselves as “writers” even though that is what pens and pencils – and word processors – allow us to do.

We write with them, although few of us are writers.

I also received some art supplies for Christmas. A brush and some watercolors. I love to dabble.

I am not a painter. Seriously. Although I do know how to mix the pigments and how to use a brush to put the paint on the paper, it is as far away from being a painter than a kid in a big wheel is from driving an 18 wheeler.

An that’s OK. The words “truck driver” have not be co-opted by kids in plastic toy trucks.

Yet.

Now – photographer – well, that is another story.

That word has more meanings now than a zebra has stripes.

And that is becoming a problem.

If no one knows what you do because the term has been changed to mean everyone with an iPhone, Android, Rebel, D810, Hasselblad, F2 or Pink Barbie camera, then there is a serious problem running through the very core of what we do. That uncertainty will tarnish your brand and make it more and more difficult to become seen as a professional in the eyes of clients.

Perhaps it is time for us to begin thinking of what we do in a different way – a way that makes sense to those who are not already doing what we do. Maybe we need to change the way we describe ourselves and what we do to be more descriptive and narrow.

We all know what a laptop computer is. Did you know that Apple doesn’t sell one? Nope, they sell MacBooks. “Books”, not laptops.

How about Dos Equis? Do they sell beer – or a chance to be the most interesting man in the world? Does that leave out a large population of earth dwellers? Yep, but they are only interested in their demographic.

It is time for photographers to rethink the term “photographer”. After all someone who shoots weddings, is quite a bit different than someone who is running up a hillside under gunfire shooting as a photojournalist. A family shooter simply has less stress than a fashion photographer and there is quite a bit of difference in photographing the sunset in your backyard and a travel photographer hiking down three miles in the dark after waiting all day for a perfect shot.

I say we focus on what we achieve instead of what we do. We are visual experts, image gurus, and lighting wizards. We help companies sell more stuff. We help entrepreneurs raise more capital. We help businesses grow by engaging more clients and getting better results.

Our visioneering, and image creation help tell stories, clarify processes, deliver value and change the minds of consumers looking to purchase goods and services.

Better photographs help companies sell more stuff… period.

And THAT is what we may start seeing in the more savvy photographers out there. A focus on the results oriented bottom line of the companies who hire us. No bullshit over pricing, no hand-wringing over bidding… a simple value proposition that says WE MAKE STUFF HAPPEN.

“Hi, I’m Don and I am a photographer” – images of wedding photographers, baby photographers, the lady across the street making iPhone photos of the birds in her yard go rushing through their heads.

“Hi, I’m Don. I help businesses tell their story visually” – they understand instantly what I do that helps THEM.

I know it has been floated before, but it is now getting to be the time for us all to take it seriously. In a way, we are going to rebrand this industry with a more modern, and business friendly job title for photographers.

Ten Things To Think About When ‘Re-branding’ Your Photography

  1. Nobody cares what you do… they want to know what you are going to do for them
  2. Focus on the benefit for the client, not what you do
  3. Think globally and position yourself as an expert
  4. Being an image expert, a graphics guru, or a visioneer is new, so be very open to explanation
  5. If you need to explain what value you bring to someone who is simply too dense to get it, move on
  6. Only YOU know what your value is worth, and YOU are the one who states it in the beginning
  7. Perception is everything – it just is
  8. Never underestimate the power of a great idea – always be looking for them
  9. Tell your story and show your strengths – a badly designed logo, ugly website, and typography that sucks doesn’t say image guru, does it
  10. Do more than you do now – charge more than you do now

In short, we all must think about a re-brand of the job of being a commercial photographer. The name is lost to us, the civilians don’t care, and the market is in real need of the services of a visual expert that can engage customers…

Hey… I can do that.

You can too.

It’s Father’s Day: Make a Photograph to Keep

roks

The Best Photographs I Never Took

It was Christmas a few years ago. My father in law came for the annual Christmas Dinner at the Giannatti’s. We host about 20 people here throughout the day, and Floyd always came over with his warm and infectious smile. The dude knew how to work a room.

He was sitting near the window light, hunched over due to severe back pain and was smiling intently at a story my brother in law was telling him. An adventure story, I’m sure. The light was fantastic… a soft, wrapping light that brought out the features of his 82 years, and added a bit of sparkle to his eye.

“I should grab my camera and get that”, I thought, just as someone asked me to do something in the kitchen. I didn’t grab my camera at that moment, and when I finished in the kitchen, the moment was lost.

“I’ll get it next year”, I thought to myself.

We were on a small dirt road, in a forest somewhere north, a long time ago, when my mom and dad started playfully goofing around and tossing pine cones at each other. It was a sincere moment between them and something rather… rare.

“I should grab my camera and get that”, I thought, and I headed back to the truck. I stopped to grab a drink and when I had turned they had moved on to doing something else… each alone to themselves.

“I’ll be ready next time,” I thought. I will keep my camera at the ready.

On a very warm summer’s day, my next door neighbor, Mr. Bailey, asked me to come over and see something he had made. It was a magnificent stained glass window decoration that he had lovingly built by hand. The craftsmanship was stunning and he was very proud of the work he had put into it. At 90, working with your hands on delicate things like glass is no easy feat.

“I should grab my camera and get that”, I thought, it would be a great portrait.

But I got caught up in other things, and didn’t get back over to my neighbor’s house in time.

Time.

A true luxury,  a gift of improbable proportions, a terrible foe, and an all around bastard.

Time is the currency we always underestimate. We think we are given vast quantities of it to spend as we want, whenever we want, on the most frivolous things we want.

“There’s more where that came from” is a wonderful mantra when thinking about money. It sorta sucks big time when thinking about time.

We can make more money. We cannot make more time. And time is even more relentless than the seas that pound rocky shores to sand over millenia. Nothing we can do, buy, beg or steal can stop time from simply passing.

Except… a camera.

To me the still image is the most powerful tool we have to stop time. Ineffective, lame, small potatoes tool for sure. But it’s all we have at the moment.

Click.

I got you now, time. In fact I preserved that moment, however simply and unsophisticated my capture of it may be, forever. That 1/250th of a second. Out of a lifetime… Yeah – I got that one, time dude… so bite me.

Click.

My first daugher at 4 days old, lying in a patch of sunlight on the floor near our window.

Click.

My girls laughing for their first “trio” shot (with ever so many more to come) on a small rock outcropping in the foothills. That rock is gone, covered over by a CVS Pharmacy and a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. And they are all oh, so much older… but I got that tiny little moment of our family lives. I GOT IT.

On a tiny piece of slide film, now scanned and printed and archived.

Click.

My wife, graduating with honors from her Master’s Program. What a day.

Those shots I got. I had my camera with me and I cheated time a bit. It was as fleeting as ever, but I snagged my 125th of a second of it and preserved it in the best way I know. Primitive and less than perfect, but better that we have it than not.

We turn our lenses on the things that matter to us far less frequently than we photograph things that in the end have no meaning at all. I would trade a terabyte of model shots for a gig of my folks, or more of my kids growing up.

I never made it back over to Mr. Bailey’s, and he passed later that week. My folks and I never went up to the little road in a forest again and they are now gone. My father in law never came to dinner again and passed later that year.

Those photos will never be made.

Time made certain of that. Time didn’t hear me say ‘next time’ because, well… there is no next time.

The moments we live are spent as we live them. We never know how much time we have, and yet we waste so much of it on things that have no importance, while missing those tiny moments that would have been cherished.

Click.

The still image is, for me, one of the most fascinating of art forms. Capturing a moment of time, and holding true to that moment as best it can, the photograph can help us feel, remember, and enlighten. Yes, it can trick and deceive us as well, but that is for another essay, at another time. For now, we are discussing the better side of the photograph.

Today is father’s day. Grab that camera and if you are fortunate to be able to make an image of your dad, do it. What I would give for an opportunity to make one last photograph of my father, my mother, my brother… what I would give.

Make photographs of the people you love, and the life you live.

Make the best photographs you have ever taken of those that mean the most to you.

Sometimes the Nonsense We Tell Ourselves Can Make Us Crazy

Anybody seen a forest around here... I can't see it  with all those trees.

Anybody seen a forest around here… I can’t see it with all those trees.

Sometimes the Nonsense We Tell Ourselves Can Make Us Crazy.

Today, I have a challenge for you all. Not one that I make lightly. And one that comes from a deep and abiding point of wanting you to be successful. Really successful.

It has to do with barriers. Barriers to better imagery. Barriers to better clients. Barrier to a more lucrative and exciting business.

Barriers that we set our selves because we are very comfortable in where we are. And that includes being comfortable when where we are sucks. That is how we humans are wired. Staying in the status quo is far easier, and far more comfortable than breaking out of the bubble an confronting change.

We work hard to not change anything. Even if we want to change, there is a fear that holds us in a stable place without challenging the edges because fear says we will meet great harm if we do.

And in most cases this is pure bullhonky… (yeah, I heard that somewhere…)

We have built those barriers with our belief systems, and those belief systems are so often built on a base of fear instead of a base of knowledge.

For instance:

Have you ever heard a photographer say “I can’t charge that much, my clients can’t afford it”? I have. Nearly everyday it is sputtered out on some forum somewhere on the net.

It is such a self defeating thing to say. And it will make success for that photographer come much slower.

Let’s take this statement apart like an old Chevy motor and find out why the sucker don’t run good.

  1. If you are trying to sell something to someone who cannot afford it, that makes you kind of a smarmy kind of saleswacko, right? I mean, what kind of evil SOB tries to sell stuff to people they KNOW cannot afford it. Now this may not run in the front part of your conscious brain, but believe me it is in the subconscious.So you are already setting up failure because to succeed in selling something to someone who cannot afford it makes you a slimeball.
  2. The assumption that you know what they can afford is also sort of a silly idea. You don’t know what they can afford or not afford. Just because you cannot afford it, doesn’t make it unaffordable to your neighbor or client. You may THINK they cannot afford it, but really you are saying “I don’t think my stuff is worth what I am asking for it – and no one else does either.”Maybe it isn’t – but that is for another discussion.
  3. Pre-disqualification is simply fear stopping you from finding out what other people think of the value of your work. Perhaps you are right, and they do not value your work at a rate that you want to charge. OK… fine. We would at least know that, and could work toward a specific challenge to fix it and raise the value in your customers view.
  4. This sort of negative talk has no upside. It has no value other than to further convince you that there is no reason for you to expect to be successful because you make stuff no one wants to pay for.

Now ask yourself if that sounds like a business that is going to succeed?

I don’t think so either.

Fact is, there are people who can afford your work. There are clients that WANT to afford your work. There are clients that would work with you if you doubled your rates before they would work with you now, because they want the BEST photography and they know that is not cheap or free.

How about the excuses/reasons we have for not marketing our work? From the feeling that it doesn’t matter anyway (see above), to ‘why bother, the business is dying anyway”, to a fear that if you do market, you will have to deliver something and that would mean moving from your comfort zone of doing nothing and bitching about it.

These are fear walls that keep us focused inward – unable to move to the next place and feeling that it is both a blessing and a curse. After all, if you never get a gig, you will never screw up a gig, and that makes you feel safe.

Success will put you in the spotlight and you will have to perform… to spec. That can be scary, but we know what to do to never be in that position, right?

We keep on doing what doesn’t work. And we keep on filling our heads with non-truth, fear based excuses and reasons why we can’t.

Man that word sucks the suck out of suck… “can’t”.

It is a word that means “throwing in the towel.” It is quitting before you even try, and admitting to the world that you are incapable of doing something you may very well have never tried.

It is also a lie. In many cases you surely CAN do what you need to do… you have chosen NOT to do it. A choice, not a disability.

Look… change is hard. Really hard.

But it is necessary. It is life. It is the very fabric of our world. Change brings innovation, new ways of seeing things, and possibilities that may seem endless… unless you ‘can’t’.

I think you can. I think you can be successful. I think we can all be successful. Damn the economy. Damn the restrictive governmental regulations. Damn what our parents and siblings and the people we work with say.

They may be right when they say they ‘can’t’ but we have to stop letting them make us think WE can’t.

We just have to change things up. Make new ways our ways. Develop strong ties to growing in ways we have not thought about before.

We do things differently than we have been doing them. We CAN make changes, of course we can. We CAN find clients who want our work – hell, other photographers find people who want their work. We can too.

We stop saying we can’t. We stop not marketing (our current method) and begin marketing. We stop telling ourselves that they cannot afford us, and look for clients that can appreciate the value. We stop sitting on our asses and playing on Facebook and get out there and make more pictures…. OK, that last one was for me… but you get the picture.

And here is the challenge.

What negative lines are you repeating to yourself that may not actually be true?

  • Is it that you are not ready?
  • Could it be that you are not good enough, and don’t want anyone else to find out?
  • Is it that no one would like your work, so why bother trying to show it to anyone?
  • Is it because your gear is not as good as that guy with the really awesome blog says it should be?
  • Is it because someone on Flickr said you were terrible with composition (although eleventyhundred others think you do just fine)?

I know there is a negative phrase you are repeating time and time again. Tell us what it is… and tell us how you will fix it.


 

If you are interested in the “No Fear” last edition of Project 52, visit this page for more information. We will fill this group very quickly.

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