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.

 

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.)

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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James Eisele, West Palm Beach FL Commercial Photographer

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I met James Eisele down in West Palm Beach, FL when I did a workshop in that area. He showed a lot of talent and when I started the Project 52 course, he jumped in and became involved.

I have watched his work improve at a very high rate, and his studio in West Palm is busy a few times a week.

James Eisele Website
James on Instagram
James on LinkedIn

Images from James’ portfolio.

Interview with James Eisele.

Tucker Joenz, St, Augustine FL Commercial Photographer

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Tucker Joenz was with Project 52 for a couple of years and in that time I watched him go from hobbyist to serious photographer. He works hard and creates wonderful pictures for his clients. Tucker also shoots self assigned personal projects that have garnered some attention.

He is making the jump from part time photographer and part time designer to full time photographer and I thought you may want to hear what he has to say. St. Augustine, FL is not a great market, but Tucker is finding his footing, and bringing in clients.

Tucker Joenz Website.
Tucker on Instagram.
Tucker Joenz Blog.

Images from his portfolio.

Interview with Tucker Joenz.