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

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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”

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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.