New Webinar: ” Up Your Game – One Assignment at a Time”

New Webinar: ” Up Your Game – One Assignment at a Time”

You will be receiving an email newsletter from me on Tuesday, January 22. It will come from me through Mail Chimp. If you do not receive the email on Tuesday (check your Spam folder), let me know IMMEDIATELY. The newsletter will be where many of the important topics will be discussed, and a notification of the newsletter will be made on the private site we are setting up for P52 PRO.

The email will contain important information regarding image sizes for critiques, where to put them, how to get into the private page and more.

Thanks to each who have signed up. We are nearly ready to close registration – only a handful of seats remain. This is YOUR year. Let’s make some noise!

Project 52 is a fascinating, intense, creative, portfolio building experience for serious photographers, emerging photographers, pro-am’s and any photographer who is wanting to be more professional in their work. We cover idea development, planning a shoot, lighting for style, creating unique visuals and presenting them in a professional manner. No matter what you are currently doing photographically, this online workshop will kick your butt, challenge you to be better and provide a safe and encouraging community for helping you to grow.

You may have heard about Project 52 and seen some of the amazing images that came from the photographers, and now is your chance to get questions answered, find out more about it and get involved. And it costs you nothing to be involved in the FREE version and only $15 per month for the PRO.

We are full for this group.

If you would like to be notified of the next group starting up (if there is one) drop me a note at with the subject line “P52 Notification” – please use that subject line so I can keep the emails together.

Here is the First Webinar: Enjoy. If this doesn’t answer your questions, let me know what you need. I will note that we are not too far away from closing it for this session.

Second Webinar (Saturday Edition)

Project 52 PRO is a very exciting way for a photographer to challenge themselves, be challenged and learn to shoot to commercial standards.

-52 weeks of instruction.
-52 weekly assignments
-52 weekly reviews and critiques
-52 hours of reviews to keep for your own to listen to again
-52 weekly informational videos for you to keep

We cover shooting, lighting, bidding jobs, finding work, marketing and portfolio building.

North America / Europe / Mid East / Asia: this year with the PRO group, we will be having two different critique shows, so photographers from Europe and Asia will have a decent choice of times for their area.

Whether you want to become a professional photographer, a pro-am weekend shooter or simply be a better photographer, Project 52 is the place to be.

We are currently full for this group. If you would like to be notified of our next group, send a note to me at with the subject line “P52

Meet Matt Dutile: A Passion for the Image

Meet Matt Dutile: A Passion for the Image

Matt started his photography career here in Phoenix about 4 years ago. Actually, four years ago today as I understand it. His work is focused on travel and lifestyle, and he is working for several clients that have sent him to some pretty cool locations.

You can visit Matt’s website here, and see some wonderful images.

Enjoy this interview with Matt. He will take us through some of his favorite images and assignments.

A few of my favorites from Matt’s work.

An Open Letter to a New “Photography” Blogger

An Open Letter to a New “Photography” Blogger

(from a recent forum post where a new blogger was talking about ‘getting out there and doing it… going pro.)


I just looked at your blog and I have a few questions.

Who are you trying to reach with the blog?


Or other photographers?

Clients would be a good focus, as they will actually hire you. Clients will want to get in touch for a photograph if you inspire them.

Other photographers maybe not so much.

Alright, never.

Other photographers are never gonna pay you for your photography.

Posting about gear is photographer centric stuff that your clients do not care about. Posting that you are just starting out is great for other photographers to ‘share in the adventure’ – but as a client, I don’t really want to be a part of that early, uncharted course.

I’ll wait until you are sure of what you are doing.

Posting that you are running out of money means you are not a pro, or someone that someone else is hiring, and I am not having any of it.

The people who may be interested in this information, ie; other photographers thinking about making the jump, will never ever be a part of your bottom line.

I’m new.
I am not sure how to proceed.
I have cool stuff.
I am in serious financial straights.
Please hire me before I drown in debt and my kids hate me.”

This is not, I repeat NOT a marketing strategy. It will shut you down before you even stand up.

In addition, you call it a “Photographic Diary” and yet there are no photographs, it has no visual identity, and the information is more about the business you do not have rather than talking about the cool stuff you do. In addition, the theme you have chosen is, well, boring and not interesting at all to look at.

We are in the visual business, and something boring is NOT gonna let people know how good you are with visuals… right? Get a new theme and make it something interesting to see.

Then do these things…

1. Talk to your clients. Blog stuff that makes seniors want to shoot with you or brides just die to meet you (or whatever your niche is). Talk about how you solved this challenge or how much fun it was to shoot with that subject, or how you find locations… stuff to make clients take notice.
NOTE: They do not give a crock of shit about how fast your zoom is.

2. Photographs on every post. Post about photographs, not photography. Posts on subjects, not lenses. Make people think that all you ever do is make photographs. Cool photographs. Even, ahem, ‘awesome’ photographs.

3. Become an expert in what you do, in the language of who you do it for instead of your competition. Don’t speak photographer speak, use real people speak. The real people that may think you make great pictures cause of your cool camera speak. They are not the enemy, nor clueless idiots, they are your clients. LOVE them.

For instance:
“I love working with people of all ages, and can take a few years off your portrait if you would like…”


“I use layers in Photoshop to soften the separate channels of color and texture, and then blend them back in with masks to make the lines around the eyes softer.”

Trust me. Telling a forty year old woman how you are gonna use all that technical wizardry to make her look younger is not of any interest to her. That you CAN make her look a shade over 34 IS.

And lastly… never never never complain. Complaining sounds suspiciously like whining to a lot of people. When things are down, show your most lively photographs. Look more busy than you really are, and convey the fact that you are really busy because people love your work and wouldn’t it be cool if the reader could have an opportunity to have such a blast with you and get some incredible photographs.

You didn’t ask for a critique, and I broke my rule about never doing it without being asked, but since I am waiting for the mac to do some video rendering I felt… oh what the hell, why not.

The advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but I would ask you to consider my concerns as I have a real affinity for people who actually DO shit over those who stand on the sidelines throwing stones.

Good for you for getting out there.

And great luck in all your endeavors.

- wizwow.

Business Slow? Have You Tried These Ideas?

Business Slow? Have You Tried These Ideas?


I mean today…

These are simple ideas, built to do quickly or without being in a rush. Do at least five of them every day.

1. Have you checked in with past clients? Have you kept up with them? And more importantly, have you kept them up to date on what you are doing? Past clients are one of the best ways to keep cash flowing through your business. It takes so much longer to get a client than to keep a client.

2. Have you shot something for your portfolio lately? Have you post-processed any images from a recent shoot and added them to your portfolio? I cannot tell you how many consultations start with “what have you added recently” are answered with “I have been too busy to get any new work up.”

Great… if you are too busy to put up new work, why are getting a consult on getting more clients? What?

3. Personal note, message, call or Amazon Gift Card to someone who has been a supporter or evangelist for your work. The folks who love you are your best advocates. Treat them like gold… no, treat them like diamonds.

4. Put together a set of goals for the week? For the month? Just make sure they dovetail into your master goal set.

… … You do have a master goal set, right?

5. Check your business plan. How is it going? Do you need to change it one way or another?

Most people make the business plan and then never look at it or modify it. You must modify it, and you must continuously look at it and review it. Otherwise, what was the point of the exercise you went through to create it? It is a living document that needs your input and nourishment to be effective.

6. If you don’t have a business plan, grab a napkin an sketch one out. Seriously… do not do this on a computer. Write it down on something that is quickly modified. Use charts and boxes and lines and squigglies to get what you want to make sense.

A good mini-business plan for a photographer should be about 2 pages… max. This is not a bigass business plan, this is a short, to the point, no bullshit mini business plan.

7. Contact a mentor. if you don’t have one, find one. Then get in touch with them and ask them for guidance. Asking for help is not a bad thing, it is a damn good thing to do. If you are struggling, there are people out there who have struggled the same way and found pathways out.

No, finding a mentor is not easy. It shouldn’t be. If it were it would be of little value. Did you ever notice that the most highly valued things and positions are the hardest ones to attain? Almost like it was planned that way.

8. Brainstorm like crazy to find new and exciting ways of presenting your work, ideas, photographs, methods, and style to those who want to hire you. Work on that presentation. Work really hard on that presentation.

9. Think about what you have and if there is any way those skills or assets could be used to create new income streams. Do you shoot stock? Should you? Are you able to do a few seminars or workshops? Can you do something else with the downtime at your studio?

Maybe you don’t need the extra income, but thinking about ways to make money with what you already have is a great thought exercise that will probably lead to something new.

10. Breathe. Take some time to focus on your own person. Take in a ballgame, go for a roadtrip, or simply read a book in that great old chair in the lawn. Sometimes it is so important to step away from the everyday struggles of business, and let the fires burn in the background. Don’t worry, your self conscience is still at work looking for ideas and filtering out that which will not play out.

So even if it seems counter productive to step back, it can actually be one of the most important tactics to use. And you aren’t leaving for a week… just a few hours or a half day is what you need.

In these crazy days of marketing fatigue and social media burnout, it is a good thing to remember there are other ways to recharge and regroup.

Till next time… now where is that book…

Three Bidding Fiascos: Be Prepared or Stay Home

Three Bidding Fiascos: Be Prepared or Stay Home

Recently I had an opportunity to sit and chat (over delicious Mexican food) with two very good photographers. Dave and Steve are both well seasoned, and full on commercial photographers here in Phoenix.

As things do, we began discussing gigs and some of the war stories we all love to bring up at these sort of little social events.

What emerged were three incredible stories of how unprepared photographers have screwed up big gigs, and themselves as well.

I bring them to you with the hope that they may inspire you to not make the same mistakes.

Fiasco Number One.

A client of nearly ten years has been doing quarterly updates to their national and regional advertising. The images run in several regional publications, newspapers and in-store Point of Purchase displays. The photographer that has been shooting the work for them was charging $12,000 per shoot based on the usage.

This rate had stayed fairly steady for nearly 8 years. Mostly because the photographer was doing a lot of work for them and kept this price steady as a favor and so that they could budget without getting bids each time.

The last quarter he did not get the gig. A new photographer had pitched them and told them he was happy to shoot it for $3000.

This photographer could probably have gotten the gig at $10,000 and made $7000 more if his work was good. The interloper, having no idea at all what the gig was worth, just screwed himself out of at least $7000, maybe more.

He also set the new bar at $2500… which is unrealistic in the commercial world with that kind of usage.

Why would he do it for so little? I can imagine that he had no idea of what the value of commercial photography is set at, nor is he aware of usage and how usage is priced. Look, this is a billion + a year client, and these images are very important to their marketing.

(Solution: Know the industry. Know the market. Get involved with that part of the industry, and get help on shoots that are for national clients. There are consultants and websites that can help. Wonderful Machine has people who can help with bidding on a per bid basis, and fotoQuote has a service that will help you put together something that makes sense.)

Fiasco Number Two

The client is a national ad agency with regional offices. Their client is a celebrity.

The gig involved the celebrity and an endorsement of a beauty product. The shoot was a buyout, with everything from national advertising to electronic media. Three shots of the celebrity with and without the beauty product and one shot of the product itself.

The bid was created using standard bidding and buyout parameters. And the photographer actually wanted the gig so the bid was modified (down a little) to a rate of $40,000.

All was set and agreed to… then… nothing.

The photographer received a phone call from a photographer looking to rent a studio for a ‘celebrity’ shoot. Turned out that they had looked at another photographer and had decided to go with her.

She was shocked that the rental was $300 for the day. She had bid only $2500 for the job and felt that if she spent $300 on the rental studio, she would not make enough.

Ya think?

How about craft services? This is a celebrity, her entourage, the ad agency entourage, MUA, hair stylist, stylist, and wardrobe person. Food alone could easily be $600. And of course, the photographer had no liability insurance, which is insane with that many people on set.

In the end, the agency lost the account. Why they would have even thought that someone quoting $2500 for a gig of this magnitude would have a freaking clue about what the real world brings is beyond my understanding.

(Solution: Get educated on licensing, why rights matter, and how much a shoot of this size and usage requirements would be. The above resources are important, but there are professional sites on line as well as the peers in your town that may help you work this out. And if they are not willing to help, they are totally assholes. Find someone else to help. Dig, research, dig some more.)

Fiasco Number Three.

A photographer was called to bid on a job involving widgets… lots of little widgets. The bid was for simple “drop and pop” shots of 450 items.

When the time came to begin the planning for the shoot, the client informs him that there will actually be three shots per widget.

At the same price as negotiated… but the new shots involve different angles.

The photographer tried in vain to explain how the light was different and how having 1350 shots meant much, MUCH, more time.

But to no avail.

What should have been a 2 day gig stretched into 6 days of blinding quick shooting and upset clients (it should not have taken this long) and more.

It was a disaster for both the client and the photographer.

(Solution: Actually, I told a fib above. The photographer was me. And when I was told that there were far more images than expected, I rebid the gig. And when they said it was too much, I politely declined the gig. They found someone to do it though… and there ya go.

That photographer is happily (or whatever) shooting boring, monotonous widgets at $3 a piece. By the time he is done, he will have worked for over a week for a rate that should have been one day.

I have the experience, both in the bidding and understanding of how the process goes, to make decisions that will not harm myself or my industry.)

Not much else to say here. I understand that there are a lot of new people in this business. That is a good thing.

That there are so many who haven’t or will not take the time to actually learn about the business they are in is not a good thing.

Don’t get caught on the outs… get educated in how it all works.

BTW – our photographers at Project 52 are learning all about the industry including bidding, shooting to layout, creating promotional pieces and building a portfolio. And that is a free site for interested photographers who don’t like being clueless.

Just sayin’…

And if you use the Promo Code “Lighting Essentials”, you will save $20 off my current class at UDEMY.

Should You Shoot ‘Edgy’ Work for Your Portfolio?

Should You Shoot ‘Edgy’ Work for Your Portfolio?

Recently a photographer asked about whether or not “Fantasy” makeup or “Avant Garde” images should be included in a commercial photographer’s portfolio.

The work he was specifically asking about was a kind of shoot one sees a lot on Model Mayhem… multi-colored makeup covering most of the face. This seems like something a lot of photographers like to do, and it is quite prevalent in some circles.

While answering something like this is always tricky, it is also important to get everyone on the same page first. What comes below is MY response, and should be taken with the understanding that it is personal and comes from my viewpoint. Please seek additional viewpoints if you desire.

First of all, I didn’t see the work as Avant Garde at all. Avant Garde means on the bleeding edge, and this work is not even close to that. While it is good work, it is not bleeding edge.

A group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts.
Of, relating to, or being part of an innovative group, especially one in the arts: avant-garde painters; an avant-garde theater piece.

The work was good, solid work with “fantasy” makeup as the feature. Fantasy makeup work is a staple of Model Mayhem shooters (Please do not read a negative into that, as it is not implied.) It has been around for a long time and shows no trend toward going away.

That’s fine.

The poster asked “if this kind of work in my portfolio would actually benefit me?”

Soaring to New Heights
Photograph: Joshua Gaede

My answer:
That depends. A book full of it? No, not really, I can’t see where that would work for you at all. I am not aware of any marketplace that uses this kind of work. Not fashion, not glamour, not beauty, not lifestyle… possibly a case could be made for doing it for a consumer client base. I do think it would be a pretty difficult marketing situation – as you stated, it is NOT the mainstream.

While there are some mainstream uses for edgy work, and

As something added TO your body of work, or an aside project, it would be fine.

My bottom line feeling is this: I simply am not aware of a market for this kind of work as an ‘emerging’ photographer. In fact it may actually be a problem in some situations.

Showing this work to a magazine editor may create a lot of questions as to what you are thinking is fashion/beauty work. As a former art director, I would immediately think of MM and wonder who the client was. Since the work is so personal, it may not be something that could be used commercially… ask yourself what client would want this kind of work?

Not beauty products.
Not lifestyle products.
Not fashion or glamour.

So it is left as a photograph for the model / MUA / photographer.

Again, that is fine for a single portfolio shot, but as a group it has no commercial value. And it doesn’t show the three most important things you can show in a portfolio.

1. a unique vision
2. the ability to solve a problem
3. an understanding of what kind of work is marketable

There are others, for sure, but these things should always be in the fore of thought when working toward building a portfolio.


As something to do to hone your skills, or if you simply love to do it, then KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. Absolutely! Personal projects are whatever the photographer wants them to be. And if you LOVE this kind of work, then you absolutely should continue… just be mindful of some of the thoughts above.

Remember, this is only MY opinion. And I am not FotoGawd!!!!

However, I would ask if you could find this work being used commercially anywhere (and the handful of ‘editorial’ images in Vogue or Elle, really don’t count as they are fairly rare. And when assigned, are usually given to already known photographers who may not even have a ‘fantasy’ headshot in their book)?

That search will indeed be enlightening, whatever you find.

HOWEVER… shooting personal work is very very important. And shooting what you love is vitally important for not only creative reasons, but to keep the camera and the eye busy.

And work like this, or whatever YOU think is the edgy work that you do, is great for projects and a personal viewpoint to show clients what YOU think is cool. Creating a project of “Fantasy” makeup makes a lot of sense to me within the context of a ‘Set’ of images.

Remember that it is more important to shoot than it is to filter out because of what you THINK someone would want to see. Good work in any genre will lead to more good work in that – and other genres.

See you next time.

Save $20 on my UDEMY Courses by using the code “Lighting Essentials”. This makes the price only $30.
My CreativeLIVE course on “Tabletop Product Photography” available here.
My CreativeLIVE “Lighting Essentials Workshop” available here.