Project 52 “The Catalog”


In this assignment, the photographers had to jump through a few hoops. The previous week they had to submit a “Creative Direction” shoot showing at least two different approaches to doing the fictitious catalog.

Those approaches had to meet some criteria. First is that there are 200 similar items, and the art director wants the catalog (traditional paper and online) to be as consistent as possible. The second is that there is a limited budget, and while the money is pretty good for a two day shoot, it dwindles fast past that point. Shooting 100 items in a day, and having them all be matching takes some planning and a stylistic approach that will allow them to be shot quickly and efficiently. (NOTE: In the fictitious brief all items are similar in size.)

So the photographers have to show a creative direction that also makes it possible to do this catalog in two days, not a week.

The students did a bang up job of it as well. The creative direction shots were reviewed and we assigned that look. This is the finished catalog page in that creative style. The layout was delivered to them as a layered PSD and they could not change anything on it – just insert the photographs. Understanding how to work with a layout, and shooting to that layout is a very important part of commercial photography.

The results are wonderful.

Too %$#*@ Much Freedom

windows -rck

Last week I railed against too many rules.

Now I am asking if there is too much freedom?

Could I be off my meds, or a little daffy? To complain about too many rules and then question if there may be too much freedom too… OMG, I am turning into a …. no, I won’t go there.

And indeed we may have more freedom than we know what to do with… photographically that is. No, I am not discussing financial or political freedoms, I am talking about photography.

Today, we can do anything – ANY DAMN THING – we want.

We can Photoshop in a city we have never visited, we can fake a man looking over Manhattan from a desk and a studio in Phoenix. We can change hair colors and eye colors and slim a bit here, firm a bit there… we literally have no boundaries.

In Photojournalism, that manipulation is referred to as a no-no, or a “stupidass career killing dumb thing to do”… but I don’t want to get technical. And yet, there are PJ’s who have been caught pressing to the limits of those constraints because, well, they can.

The freedom exists for us to make worlds that only exist in our heads, and instead of having them look like illustrations, we add the credibility of photography to them and they become real. As real as this MBP I am typing away on this morning.

Reality gets blurred in the freedom to modify what we shoot… and quickly too. What used to take hours of work in Photoshop can now be done in a matter of minutes… so we have the freedom of time to work and manipulate and alter the ‘reality’ in front of us.

It can be a bit heady, and it plays out in different ways all across the scope of photography.

And while this ‘freedom’ to create can be a good thing, IS a good thing, it can – like all good things – be overdone. Pushed beyond the good and into the fake and deceitful. And even beyond, to the cruel and worse.

With this great freedom comes an equally and also overwhelming responsibility. We have great power in our eyes and minds, and managing that power with the constraint of an artist is like walking a tightrope, blind and being forced to listen to Pitbull at full volume.

Extraordinarily difficult and possibly puke inducing.

However, with all that said, it is in the tools of our trade where the freedom is becoming more and more ever present. Where once there were few choices, now there are myriad solutions. And the selection of tools becomes harder because of the segmentation, while at the same time becoming easier as the quality of the gear is rising to the point of ubiquitous.

We once had a defining line between “Pro” and “Amateur’ gear. Pros used professional cameras like Nikon F4’s and Canon EOS3n’s and Hasselblads and Mamiyas. Amateurs shot point and shoots. Pros had view cameras and press cameras and panoramic cameras. Amateurs shot point and shoots.

The price point kept the weekend, now and then shooter from spending on a Pro camera. The knowledge needed to produce images was tenfold what is needed today.

No darkroom means about 357.78 pounds of knowledge needed is removed. And that is only black and white.

Fast forward to today.

I am not sure you could even buy a camera today that would not be considered a top of the line camera only 10 years ago. The specs on entry level cameras like D7001’s and 60D’s and the like are beyond even what was imagined 10 or so years ago.

Today we can make excellent images on a variety of cameras from the big flagship cameras of Nikanon to mirrorless cameras to iPhones and Androids… all able t make images that meet the requirements of print, and exceed the quality of screen views by a country mile.

And so we have the ‘freedom’ to do whatever we want with whatever we want… and that can be a little intimidating. Like having lunch at TGIFriday’s with their 87 page menu, vs a small boutique restaurant in Portland that only serves 3 different gourmet meals.

Having all the choices means more work upfront, while in the three meal restaurant you choose the sea bass and get on with the wonderful conversation going on at the table.

I do not really think this is a problem if we recognize the hand of marketers at work. We are massaged into believing that the choices we make are far more important than they really are. They create the illusion of imperative change… change NOW or your work will die, and maggots will eat your hard drives, and no one will ever want to hang out with you.

Or, something.

Reality is this:

We have moved beyond a space where it really mattered. What matters now is the work. The subjects and the presentation and the engagement we create with our images.

I recently spoke with a photographer who was now purchasing his 4th 50MM lens. Starting with the 50MM 1.4, he then moved to the 50MM 1.2. After reading a post on a blog, he sold the 1.2 and bought a Zeiss 50MM. Now, he is looking to sell the Zeiss so he can get the Sigma because someone on a blog said they were actually sharper than the Zeiss.


But what does the work look like? What is the need for that change in the work? Where will that new lens benefit him in the images he makes?

Or is it because while he enjoys the world of freedom that having multiple choices involves, he chooses change without really knowing why?

Are there reasons for changing lenses? Absolutely. There are reasons for all of the choices we make… if we make them with the full knowledge of what we need and what we will see with that change. This knowledge comes from a firm core artistic vision and a strong business model.

This is the best time ever to be a visual medium artist. From photographers to artists to designers, this is OUR time. And that provides us great possibilities and overwhelming choices that must be met head on.

The world of too many rules can be as confusing as the world of too many choices, with too much freedom.

Stravinsky once said in regards to writing music for a choreographer;

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

– Igor Stravinsky

This is important to us as photographers too. A bag full of lenses and bodies will NOT necessarily make better photographs, but if we focus on the art itself, the gear can fold into the background and the subjects may reveal themselves in a less fettered way.

My last trip to Zion and Bryce was an interesting one. I took my Canon kit full of wide and long, and I also took my Nikon Df kit. It has only 4 primes from 28 – 85. having those constraints made the trip more creative for me – more of a challenge.

I had to work the shots into what I had and that ‘working’ it made me see “more”.

Look, I really don’t think we have ‘too much freedom… I LOVE the freedom to use what I want and do what I want and not give a damn about those who want to bring me down (Yeah, Brene!!!).

This week I will be shooting with a Mamiya 6×7. While I have lenses for it, I will be using the 65MM and the 90MM exclusively… probably (heh). The additional constraints are shutter speed max at 1/400 (although we can use flash at that shutterspeed), a very heavy apparatus so tripod is necessary, and a viewfinder that forces me to look straight down and have my eye next to the camera. Oh, and only 12 photos per roll… heh.

These are the parameters that make me excited to be doing the shooting. I must find the shots carefully and with as much deliberateness as possible. I am looking forward to it.

How about you? What do you think about imposing some structure around shooting that forces you to look deeper, find solutions and dig for the vision?

“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.

Help a Singer Go To Argentina, and Get Four Hours Consulting

Hi everyone.

My daughter, Alissa, is going to Argentina with the Phoenix Children’s Chorus summer, 2015. We are all pretty excited.

You can hear them sing here. 

However, it costs a bit to send her, and we are looking for some ways to help her get there (along with still paying off a lot of big medical bills… heh). If you would like to donate to send this wonderful young lady on an incredible journey of song the summer after her senior year, and help this amazing student chorus, please send what you can. PCChorus/Donate


She wants to sing in Argentina… Don’t cry for her – help her go. :-)

But if you are looking to get some consulting for your business or photography, we can work something out for sure. The Chorus has set up a donations page and anyone can donate to the Chorus while specifically pointing those funds to an individual chorister. This is a tax-deductible charitable donation to the choir and they provide the paperwork you will need to claim the deduction.

I am offering something for those of you who would like to donate $300 to her choir trip.

If you do, I will provide 4 hours of consulting for you over the course of the following six months. You may use those hours for portfolio review, portfolio flow design, marketing strategies, website review, blog strategies, pricing strategies or whatever you would like. We can focus on lighting, style and image preparation if you would like, or make it a pure custom consultation to focus on your specific challenges.

The only caveats are:

  1. You must use the four hours in the six months following the donation.
  2. We use GoToWebinar for our meetings and I will record them for you.
  3. The hours are used in one hour increments, with a two hour max for one meeting.

I will only be offering this special “Send My Kid to South America” for a total of 10 photographers.

So if you are interested, here is how to do it.

Go to this page: PCChorus/Donate

Follow the directions there, but essentially you donate to them and apply those donations to Alissa Giannatti. Alissa will receive 70% of the funds donated in her name, and the balance of the donation goes to helping the choir’s other expenses.


Click on “Dedicate my donation” for the next screen.

Dedicate the donation to my kidlet, Alissa Giannatti.


Then send me a copy of your receipt, your name, your phone number and a good time to call and you and I will make our plan for the consulting. Yes, you can give this as a gift is you wish. Just let me know.

Again, only for 10 photographers. 

I am happy to construct a consultancy plan just for you, so take advantage of this offer if you need some help.

And if you simply want to donate $20 or $50 that would be wonderful as well.

Photography: Too Many #%*#$ Rules!

katleyn-on-the-docks-smI was talking with a couple of photographers this week and we were discussing their output… or lack thereof, and I was commiserating a bit with them. I have been mired deep to the elbows in stuff that doesn’t involve cameras for the last six weeks. Very little shooting, lots of other stuff that HAD to be done.

I realized after I had spoken with them that what we were all talking about were the rules we have put on ourselves for the creation of our work. We couldn’t just pick up a camera and make images… nooooo, we have rules in place that dictate exactly when, and how, and with what that should happen.

We have rules that say we only shoot on road trips, or that there is too much going on, or that there is not enough time or not enough access to models or we don’t have the newest camera so our pictures will only have 18MP instead of 24MP so they will automatically suck the suck out of suck.

We need to follow all the rules before we shoot anything.

“I would love to make a photograph today, but I am unable to find the model I need to make the photograph so I will not make a photograph, but instead go on FB and make light of the situation all the while NOT making any photographs.”

There’s this ‘rule’, you see.

The rule of ‘if what we plan doesn’t pan out, we stop doing ANYTHING AT ALL. Because… err… well… uhh”

“I wanted to do some photographs this weekend, but my trip to Payson was put on hold for a week so I am unable to venture up there with my camera. So – I know – I will just mope around and kick rocks off the driveway because… because… rule! I can only be creative when on road trips to places I want to go to because… Tuesday.”

Rules are a form of self talk… self smack-talk that is. We have set up some litany of bullshit bullet points that must be met in order for us to, you know, be creative.

That’s like scheduling “Spontaneous Thursdays – from 9am – 10:30am, all middle managers must attend” meetings in the culture of cubicles.

Rules are resistance at work. Rules are insidious forms of resistance – and what makes them even more vile and disgusting is that we made them up.

We made them up from nothing other than a desire to not perform at the moment. So we let resistance form itself into some sort of limiting rule. Of course that is redundant… all rules are by nature, limiting.

We begin to let the rules live inside our heads for a just a little while, and they begin to make themselves right at home – rearranging the furniture of our mind until it is theirs and then they stop paying rent. They squat there in our brains, forcing themselves into our minds like drunken bikers at an open bar. And every time we think about doing something creative, they begin tearing up the place and bashing stuff with cue sticks and bar chairs.

I would love to make some photographs today, but:

“My camera is too old.”
“I don’t have lights.”
“I don’t have time for a road trip.”
“Not enough time to do a 10 course meal shoot.”
“If I had the props I wanted, it would be better.”
“No time to find a model, so what is the point?”

Each are examples of ‘the rule’.

THE rule.

“If things are not optimal, there is no reason to attempt anything at all.”

One rule to, err… rule them all. (sorry)

If things are not perfect, ducks lined up like a North Korean military band, there really will not be any reason to attempt anything at all. It is all so much simpler when we follow the rules.

Rules, resistance, excuses… whatever we want to call them, force themselves into even the most creative amongst us.

We call it writer’s block, or photographer’s block, or “in a rut-ism”.. or a dozen other names for the fact that we have a rule in place that is stopping us from doing something we want to do…

And the worst part, the absolute worst part of this whole thing?

We created that sonuvabitch ourselves. We made the rules that are now keeping us from what we want to do. We crafted and molded and polished and finessed them tlll they were custom-made just for us and fit like a glove.

Good move, us.

Of course those of you who know me a bit know that I don’t get along well with rules. I hate them… telling me there is a rule is like waving a red flag in front of bull named “Widow Maker”. I will always try to find a way around the so called ‘rule’ and create almost in direct opposition to it… because rules are generally made for breaking.

(And don’t get me started on the ‘rules’ of photography itself… that would be a six-pack plus of me blustering on about how they are fabricated by statists and such… nawww… we’ll go there another time.)

I hate rules.

However, I will confess to you guys that I have succumbed to the rules in my head as well. I am now in the midst of spring cleaning and calling the Sheriff to get them evicted – and the Sheriff in my county is one bad mutha. I work on it first thing every morning. I listen to my brain tell me what I cannot do because of whatever and I methodically work to get rid of those ideas. I force them into the open and then force them to disappear.


Action. Taking action will always make the rules fade into the background.

I think it is easier than ever to let the rules get implanted and ingrained. Social media, websites, the idolatry of the celebrity, the overwhelming amount of ‘information’ that simply couches more and more rules. We begin to believe that we truly cannot do _______ because we currently do not have _______ and our work will simply suck because ______.


It is all BS.

I taught workshops with a Rebel. I used my Rebel on the first CreativeLIVE I did. Why? Because of the ‘rule’ that you had to use a ‘professional’ camera to make good images. I never wanted my students to think that gear had anything at all to do with lighting and creating photographs that speak to the viewer. I wanted to show by example that those rules are simply marketing and bluster and elitism marching in lockstep.

I ‘broke’ that rule pretty well.

Now let me ask you something.

What ‘rules’ are manifesting inside your head and keeping you from doing something you want to do. And be careful when identifying them… they are not all based in photography.

“Too old to do something?” BS rule.
“Not enough time to do something?” BS rule.
“Wrong time to start something?” BS rule.
“Not enough ____ to be successful at _____?” BS rule.

Take action against them. Look for the examples where the rule was broken, then take the same or similar action yourself. (NOTE: There are examples of people breaking those rules and being successful all around you.)

It is not easy, but it is also not THAT hard.

It simply requires some action.

What action will you take today?



As we do every year, the meetup / party is scheduled for February 6-8 and the trip north is from February 8 – 15.

There are no creative or workshop fees attached. Only a per person share for van rentals, gas and a few consumables. We will have information on local hotels and booking info ASAP.

The weekend starts Friday with a trip to the Superstition Mountains, some incredible mountain vistas, lunch at Tortilla Flats and great comraderie. Saturday is spent in town at the studio.

If you are a current or past member of Project 52, you are welcome to attend. I will need to know if you are for sure coming by December 1, and will base all bookings on that number so late entries may be difficult to accommodate.

Project 52 Members… JOIN US!

More information on this page.

Josh Ross on Marketing and the Life Cycle of a Product Shoot

My friend Josh Ross and I got a chance to talk a bit about marketing and project life cycle of a product shoot. This was an invite only (Project 52 members) and you will hear some questions at the end of the webinar. This is NOT a flashy look at photographs webinar, it is a listen and learn webinar.

Find Josh at his website and these social media places.






Here is the previous discussion with Josh and me.