New Directions, Multiple Channels

New Directions, Multiple Channels

A few things have caught my attention lately. I mean really caught my attention. One was the great chat we had with my friend Rosh Sillars on how to price a gig in the new economy, and the other was his discussion we had off mic about photographers being able to do more than just a still image.

Now before anyone gets their feathers all ruffled out of place and sheds them all over the carpet, let me explain that I love and worship at the sanctity of the still image. I think it is my favorite form of art. And I will continue to develop my skills toward that end, hoping to become pretty good at it someday.

But just as changes in the way jobs are billed is becoming something to think about, so is the offering we make to our clients. Possibly this is something for you to think about as well.

Channels of creative output. Plural… ChannelS…

I have always been afflicted with a high degree of ADD (thank the Lord) and it keeps me looking for things to do and creativity to work with. I am a designer and a writer as well as a photographer. I play the drums (once good enough to be in a band or three… these days I simply scare the cats) and am learning how to play ‘standards’ with a jazz groove on the Tenor Sax.

I make money from photography, designing and writing. The other stuff is for fun, but I practice pretty hard. Ask the cats.

We all know that video is now a staple of the digital DSLR, the Mirrorless cameras, P&S and phones as well. Video is the newest channel to offer itself up for our additional channel of creativity.

A lot of us do not want to get into video for variety of reasons… some good. Some rather stupid. Mine have been on the ‘rather stupid’ column for too long. I need to add motion to my work, and the more I see of this new intersection of stills/video/writing the more I see how I must integrate it into what I do.

Do I want to make movies? Nope. Nor do I want to do commercials… but… still shots that move… yeah, that kind of has me intrigued.

And that intrigue took a big dose this week when I stumbled upon “Hollow” a Documentary about a single county in West Virginia. Once the richest county in America it now rates as one of the poorest counties.

A group of writers, photographers, audio techs, videographers, cinematographers and producers descended onto this unique place in the universe and produced a fascinating look into the places and lives that make up this small, rural, extremely poor county.

Through the use of the medium of a website, the power of ‘scrolling’ and visuals that ensnare the sensibilities, this ‘experience’ piece simply knocked me into a new mindset.

I must learn more about the video/motion side of things. This type of thing is one of the directions I would like to go… story telling. Rich, fantastic, sensory story telling.


A rich blend of audio, video and still photography, Hollow is the new direction for long form story telling.


Using Parallax scrolling the images move vertically and horizontally and slowly reveal more and more content to the viewer.

See more at Hollow Documentary. (Be prepared to spend some time.)

Another example of this deep story telling is found on the (now famous) NYT website. It is called “Snowfall” and tells the story of an avalanche in Washington that killed several snowboarders. The in-depth reporting, character studies, charts, graphs, video and stills bring life to a long content text piece. Where Photojournalism is going, I believe.

Take a look at this one about a shipwrecked boat and the Geopolitical importance of it. “A Game of Shark and Minnow” mixes journalism, blogging, photography and video into an in-depth look at this very interesting, and possibly explosive area of the world.

While “Snowfall” was one of the first of this type of presentation, and represented hundreds of hours of work, we can now do them rather quickly and with less effort with WordPress and the many different plugins available.

Here is a post on one of my favorite blogs, Elegant Themes, about the new forms of Storytelling using WordPress.

And here is a plugin for WordPress that facilitates this type of technology… for free. The “Aesop” story engine allows nearly anyone with a WordPress website to produce a content/media rich story. And that can be a game changer for some of us.

So how does this impact us still shooters?

Well, it does give us some new channels for creating imagery. It allows us to show our story telling abilities if that is something we want to do.

And it gives us a unique way to show a portfolio, to show our work as a ‘story’ instead of a group of disparate images.

A food shooter may choose to do a ‘story’ on a fictional (or non-fictional) area and illustrate it with wonderful still shots, some video of pouring wine or cheese tray fun… add some audio recorded on his iPhone with RODE mics and we have something different, something more robust… for simply showing the still shots.

A fashion shooter could have a ‘documentary’ of the prep of the shoot (and not a cheesy BTS video of the makeup artist painting lip liner… give it a rest, will ya…) along with audio and text… then show the images that were created much in the same way a portfolio would be shown now.

Introducing a product / portrait portfolio with some audio, some BTS, a few shots of the photographer at work, some video of the careful placement of props… then the still shots. Or intersperse them with video intros of preparing the shoot.

CAVEAT: We are not talking about videos that exist to show other photographers how to use a boom or the 10 smart ways to make a white background ‘pop’… we are showing clients what it is like to work with us, our attention to detail, our commitment to excellence while still having a fun and relaxed environment.

The stuff that beginners and CL shooters don’t do. We set ourselves apart with the way we present our work.

(And we subtly introduce the idea that we do motion into the mind of the buyer… heh. See what I did there?)

Look, I don’t want to tell you what to do. I only want to introduce you to my ideas and things that I think could really work out for creating something new, something different and possibly more interesting than what we are doing now.

I suggest you develop better writing skills, video (motion) skills and think about the different ways you can present your work… tell a story, even about telling the story.

Until next time… make photos.

Dennis Dunbar: Retouching Secrets of the Pros


In Charlotte, NC, October 25

Presented by APA Charlotte

If you are in the area, you should check it out. Dennis is an excellent retoucher.

“Dennis Dunbar is a Digital Artist with extensive experience in digital issues and techniques. Since 1991, he has been working extensively in creating finished artwork for movie posters as well as commercial ads from his studio, Dunbar Digital, in Santa Monica, California. On Saturday, October 25, APA-Charlotte will be hosting a workshop, conducted by Dennis entitled, Retouching Secrets of the Pros.”

Saturday October 25, 2014
Doors Open: 9:30am
Workshop: 10:00am – 2:00pm
Water will be provided and there will be a 45-minute break for lunch (not provided).

UNC Center City • 320 E. 9th Street • Charlotte, NC 28202


Building A WordPress Photography Site (Santino)

My friend Bob Knill wanted a bit of a hand on building his site. He chose the them Santino, and I did these videos for him, and you, to see how to build and maintain a WordPress website for photographers. We will add additional movies as we go through SEO, but this will give you a good idea on how to set up a WP theme.

NOTE: All themes are different, but most are pretty similar in function and tech.

Let’s get started:













Hey, They Want You In the Arena… Are You Ready?


Would it surprise you that what we think is more powerful than reality? That mere thoughts can be as powerfully uplifting or critically damaging as what we actually do?

“I don’t think I am ready to get out there and show my book” he said to me.

It didn’t matter that he was indeed ready to get out there. He did have a good book to show. Hell, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be. It had to be as good as it could be for the place he was in his life.

And it was.

But he had convinced himself that it had to be as good as some of the photographers on his list… the ones that are shooting every week. The ones that were ‘ready’ ten years ago. Or twenty. Or five.

He wanted to ‘catch up’ to them before going out with his wonderful work. Catch up is not possible, as there is no race involved. No comparison between his work and any number of others was valuable in any way.

Except to convince himself that he wasn’t ‘ready’. And not being ready means we have nothing to fear. We can never lose if we never try. We can never face the pressure to succeed if we choose not to bother succeeding.

Choosing not to be involved can be rationalized a lot of other ways as well. We have heard them all, haven’t we?

“Terrible time to start a business…”
“Economy sucks.”
“Photography is dead.”
“Everyone is shooting for free, so there is no hope for me.”

I am so tired of reading about the death of photography I could bang my head against the wall. While I guess the theme serves a purpose for link-bait posts on PetaPixel and DSLRLounge and other online publications, the reality is that photography is growing in leaps and bounds.

Unfortunately it is not growing as fast as the excuses, reasons, fabricated mythologies and link-bait articles about impossible success is are.

You know there is an entire industry out there devoted to keeping my friend from thinking he IS ready? No, they don’t have an association or annual meetings, but the reality is that they coordinate in insidious ways. And we can see those in action if we look closely.

From “pop-culture” to the news organizations to the specialized media that we tune into because we THINK they have our back.

And they may have our back on occasion, but there is no guarantee that they will be there when we are in need. They are not in business to help us succeed, they are in business to sell advertising and advertising likes big reach and nothing gets big reach like whining about failing.

The ones who have succeeded are turned into pop-stars. Bigger than life celbrities that are really succeeding because – well, they’re special. Special people make it. Special people get to be celebrities and have groupies and you…

… You are not special.

NOTE: Have you ever seen a sitcom or movie or play where the actors have to play the part of a ‘regular’ person who has to appear in some sort of ‘acting role’? The part calls for the ‘regular person’ to appear on TV or in a play… and the actor portrays them as fumbling, moronic, stupid and absolutely incapable of that ‘small part’ they are asked to play. Do you think that is by accident? Or could it be that they want you to think that acting is such a demanding, incredible, nearly impossible art that regular people are simply incapable of even attempting the smallest of parts.

Because ‘regular people’ are not special.


You are as special as anyone, as capable as anyone – all you may lack is the PR department.

But this fear of being thought of as not ‘special enough’ can keep us cozy in the knowledge that we probably wouldn’t have been good enough anyway, so trying to would just have proven it and why prove it if it is just the way it is… – even better in the voice of Eyore.

We choose not to play in the arena. We choose not to engage. We choose not to flex our creativity but instead to hide it, bury it, and ignore it. For fear of being found not special enough to have it.

Brene Brown told Chase Jarvis something in his interview with her that stuck with me like glue. “Unused creativity becomes toxic.”

Think about that… unused creativity becomes toxic.

Hiding behind that wall of uncertainty, failing to enter the arena of challenges, and staying cozy in the warm blankets of ‘status quo’ can actually be dangerous and poison the mind.

“Hold on there, Don… what if we truly are NOT ready…?”

Oh that can certainly be the case. Beginners are not ready. The ones that open their ‘studio’ after shooting for 11 months on auto and have no idea at all about how the world of photography works are not ready. (They will be featured on one of the online forums of an example of why you shouldn’t think YOU are special and try it because they did and they failed and if they can fail you most assuredly will too. Because Craigslist!

Getting ready to enter the arena means knowing what you can do, and how to do it. It means being open to learning – and learning quickly. It means giving up things that may not be of value to you as you engage. It means understanding what I mean by that.

We are all as ready or as unready as we prepare ourselves to be and tell ourselves we are.

And let’s be really honest. We KNOW when we are ready. It is not rocket science. It is not mystical… and it is not something that only ‘special’ people know. The folks I am talking to here are the ones that know all they need to know, and find excuses to somehow ‘need’ more… the never ending, all encompassing “I’m not ready…”

Is my friend ready from a photographic standpoint? Yes. Is he ready from a business perspective? Yes. Is he capable… of course.

But what is stopping him is not those areas, it is the fear of being found wanting. The fear of failing publicly. The fear of being branded… a loser.

I just read something interesting. In Silicon Valley there is a group of venture capitalists looking to invest in the next big thing. Criteria to get in front of them… you must have failed TWICE at a business and lost more than a million dollars in each. They wanted someone who had risked it all, lost it all, RISKED IT AGAIN and LOST IT AGAIN… they wanted a fighter, a scrapper, a dreamer with some hard won STEEL in their gut. Someone they would feel confident was ready to enter the ring with the scars and broken bones of failure.

We may not be that guy, but we can enter the same arena. Rocky didn’t win. They went a bridge too far. The Ronin saved the reputation of their master.

Let’s gear up. The arena of life calls.

(Watch this video of Chase Jarvis and Brene Brown having a discussion about vulnerability, critics and putting yourself in the ring… consider it homework for the soul.)

The Internet Changed The Proposition of Value: Here is How to Fight Back

“Where photographers can succeed is if they abandon the consumers and editorial world who has been over-run by these value perception changes, and instead turn towards the same brands that still pay developers premium salaries for exclusive solutions. As Paul Melcher wrote those brands will drive the future of pay-to-play professional photography in the next decade, feeding photographers who successfully reinvent themselves.”

Jan Klier, photographer, NYC

One Light Portraits: A Collection

The assignment was to shoot a portrait with one light.

Studio Portrait: Clean background, Simple Light; Forceful, Expressive Portrait


A very clean portrait shot on a flat field background (wall, seamless, cyc, material, cloth, canvas…) Tightly focused and stylistically within your style. This image should be created to show how you handle strong personalities in front of your lens.
There should be special attention placed on the expressiveness of the portrait: Sadness, pain, angst, joy, humor, intensity… ENGAGED.

We want to see more than a smile, more than a beauty shot. This is a glimpse into the soul of the subject.

It is important to make the lighting something that enhances the look / feel of the subject. Whether it is soft or hard, single light or multiple strobes, natural or mixed or whatever, the light and the subject should be something that makes sense – to you.

To me, one light is a way of presenting a subject free of the hand of the photographer. A light is a light, and the subject has a relationship to that light that is in many ways more organic than when additional lights are added in. Of course, I am referring to lights on the subject, not background lights or ambient or location specific lighting.

This week the August group took on the “one light portrait” challenge: