Project 52 PRO Launched Today. Building a Business in Photography

Project 52 PRO Launched Today. Building a Business in Photography

Project 52 started last year as a way for photographers to get critiques and assignment in a real world setting. In a no BS arena of commercial insight and realistic assignments.

On many forums discussions range from what kind of lights do I need to the best prices on batteries. Others feature photographers discussing their 10 day assignments for big tech firms and how difficult it is to get 10 cases of gear through customs in places with names no one can pronounce.

And all that is fine, and fun, and definitely useful.

But I didn’t find very many places where photographers could learn all the stuff I learned when I was assisting, starting a business, opening a studio in a renovated flower shop, making the mistakes and having the wins of a small market photographer.

Sure we should specialize. But being able to do a competent job or better on a variety of subject matter is important as well.

Shooting to a layout. Taking an assignment and finishing it with success, delivering the images and billing the client is important stuff to learn.

Bidding. Now there is an entire truckload of worm cans ready to be opened.

So I had an idea. I do that a lot.

I would give an assignment each week.

Then the photographers would do the assignment, we would look at the assignment and I would offer my experience as both a photographer and a designer to critique the work from a commercial standpoint.

I didn’t charge for it. And the free version continues just as it did last year. There are some variations (last year I did not give one architectural or interior assignment – just overlooked it) and there are some more twists coming there.

The PRO version is something I thought about last year, but nixed it because I wanted to see how it went. To see how the appetite of photographers was in relationship to this real world experience.

We had a very successful year. Some of our photographers are shooting professionally, some full time.

Portfolios were created and the photographers were making appointments and showing what they learned.

But there is only so much you can do in a format like that.

I found as I went along that there was a lot of stuff that needed more attention and should be separated out from the original Project 52 as they are more for the serious, commercially focused, photographers.

So Project 52 PRO Edition is born.

It is a very tightly integrated approach to getting a business going in this calendar year. Full time or part time or just to make it real, we are focused on the exciting aspects of being in business, the mundane necessities that must be addressed, and the real world values that can make or break an entry into the world of commercial art.

Our goal? Build a Plan, Work the Plan, Get Clients, Shoot the Work, and Get Paid.

This year.

We are not wedding/baby/maternity/boudoir focused. We are fully committed to commercial photography. If you are a wedding shooter and want to break into the world of commercial, this may be a great project for you.

These are crazy times, and we want to smooth out the crazies a bit as we move forward.

For more information on the Project 52 PRO Edition, see this page.

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Project 52 Photographer Greg Pastuzyn

Project 52 Photographer Greg Pastuzyn

Meet Greg Pastuzyn from New Jersey. Greg attended my last New York Workshop, and hosted one of our Wednesday evening chats from his home. Greg has been working with Project 52 for a while now.

“I was introduced to Project 52 through Don’s blog Lighting Essentials. At the time I was looking to bring my photography to a new level. Overall the style could have been considered documentary/capturing life, but basically I would just shoot anything that interested me. I have been participating since assignment 1 and I must say it has been a great education for me. You can read all the blogs and books you want but without taking the camera in hand and getting out of your comfort zone you won’t improve. Don’s assignments forced me to shoot things I normally wouldn’t even think of.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was in coming up with an idea and vision for the assignment. Some were easier than others, and the ones that I had a firm direction of what I wanted to do usually came out better. It became apparent very quickly that the more effort I put forth the better the critique. Which then gets us to the next challenge: balancing between the assignment, home life, and the job that pays the bills.

It took a lot to get some of the assignments done when I did not find them inspiring. Like going to the gym every weekday morning I dedicated time, but perhaps often not enough time to completing the assignments, and again the rush jobs usually coincided with marginal work. Go figure. The pre-visualization became easier as time went on and I found that reading the assignment when it was posted rather than waiting until the week it was due helped immensely (another go figure?). The critiques were always very helpful and added to the learning experience.

A few takeaways from a year of assignments. Shoot them all with the same attention to detail that you would bestow on a shot of something you were passionate about. Practice. Nothing says improvement like practice, and sometimes you need something like project 52 so you don’t practice the same shots over and over.”

More from Greg after the jump.
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Project 52 Photographer Charles Tibbs

Project 52 Photographer Charles Tibbs

Charles Tibbs, Phoenix photographer weighs in on his experience with Project 52.

“First I want to thank Don for taking so much time out of his busy life to teach and mentor us for an entire year, this just tells you how passionate he is about what he does.

Where do I start, I started the project about 3 months in and slowly got up the nerve to post my first shot which was the Macro project and thought to myself “this is not going to be to bad at all”. Boy was I in for a big surprise, the assignments at time were very frustrating for me, I had to push myself beyond my comfort zone and think out of the box to get the shot. I did not always succeed, hell I had more failures during Project 52 than homeruns but it was the failures that made the next shot better.

For instance, shooting concepts like the “HOT” project killed me and was an EPIC failure on my part, I could not get my original idea to work so I just took something real quick and submitted it. This is something that I have to really work hard at overcoming, frustration and just thinking through the shot from concept to pushing the shutter. On the flipside, there were a few projects that I nailed and there was nothing better than hearing Don say “wow, great job Charles that’s what I was looking for” this kept me going each week searching for this critique.

What I think I will never forget from Project 52 is that you need to think about the small things while making a photograph if you want to be successful like making sure there are no wrinkles in a shirt or that thebottle and glass are not too close together. I also learned that you are your worst enemy in this business and that if you don’t put yourself out there you will not succeed.”

More from Charles after the jump.
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Project 52 Photographer James Eisele

Project 52 Photographer James Eisele

Say hello to James Eisele, a ‘project 52′ photographer in Florida.

“While project 52 was challenging, I didn’t feel it was overwhelming, even though it frequently forced me out of my comfort zone with assignments that were different than anything I’d shot previously.

Probably my biggest struggle was time; time to plan, time to gather the resources, time to execute, and time to edit. My imagination could easily conjure up these epic scenes for new assignments, but the reality of having only 1 or 2 weeks forced me to stop visualizing how much I could add to an image and start thinking about how much I could remove and still get the story across. That was a big shift for me – do as much as you can with as little as possible. This has been a huge help in my commercial work as streamlining the workflow from concept to delivery has had a very positive impact on my photography business.

The other rude awakening for me was that coming into project 52 I considered myself a very detail oriented photographer, and it didn’t take long to figure out that I wasn’t nearly detail oriented enough. I learned about details I didn’t even know I should be looking for, and that was something that will stay with me from here on out.

I still wrestle with “my personal style”. I know it when I see it, which is a huge step forward, but I’ve not yet gotten to the point where I can comfortably replicate it on demand. Maybe I’m a touch A.D.D. but I love to experiment with new and different techniques rather than punch out cookie-cutter broad-lit portraits or high key product shots. Trying to be different and innovative while still maintaining consistency is something I’ll probably continue to struggle with going forward.”

More from James and a look at some of his images after the jump.
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Project 52 Photographer Terri Jacobson

Project 52 Photographer Terri Jacobson

Photographer Terri Jacobson checks in with her assessment of Project 52.

Only 52 photos

In the beginning I was a point and shoot kinda girl. All I ever needed was the little green box on my Canon dial. In 2010 I began the 365 photo a day project completing it successfully, never missing a day and during that year I moved from the green box on the dial to aperture priority and then the big move to manual.
By the end of 2010, I wanted more. I wanted to master lighting, the elusive, always mysterious lighting.

Enter, Project 52. I bow to the amazing talents that are now @wizwow groupies.

The challenges. I am but a mere guppy in a sea of friendly sharks. Some of these photographers are hot. Every week I hold my breath and submit my photo hoping not to look too much like a rookie. In the beginning I knew nothing about lighting.

The biggest challenge was photographing things. Things that pour, things that are edible, things that shine, things that are three-dimensional. Things that need white cards, reflectors, black flags, back lighting and the list goes on and on.

When I first started the Project 52 I wanted to shoot it all, I’ve eliminated “things” off of my list. “Things” are a lot of work.

Overcoming the challenges. Every week I faithfully listened to the critiques. Without a doubt, the critiques were the most valuable piece of the project. Don is gentle but firm and I learned more about the whole of photography from the critiques than anything else.”

More from Terri and some images from her portfolio after the jump.
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Project 52 Photographer David Price

Project 52 Photographer David Price

David Price checks in with this assessment of Project 52.

“My thanks to Don Giannatti, whom I found as Wizwow on one of the lighting forums, and followed him to Lighting Essentials. What a terrific resource! When I first heard about Project 52, I wasn’t certain what to think. Real-world situations with critiques. I sat back the first few weeks and watched, and I listened. The critiques were full of really good information. The community that was building in was just that, a community. I decided to jump in part way through, and I’m glad I did.

I am a music teacher by trade, with a life-long affinity for photography. I have always liked taking people portraits, usually at parties and other events. I know that I would like to build my skills as a portrait and event photographer, on the ever-increasing chance that music in the public schools is something that is taken away from my students, like it has for so many others around the country.

Project 52 provided a chance to hone a skill set specifically of a professional commercial photographer, but I see the value in what we are learning translates to a wide variety of photographic endeavors – editorial, portrait, wedding & events, and others. Yes, I’m eclectic. I think they’re all important, and inter-related.

What did I learn?

I shot to layout for the first time. I took my first pour shot. Planning, dealing with lighting levels background to foreground, reflectors, shiny surfaces, clear-ish liquids, set size – heck, a set location – pouring action, and triggering the camera, oh my… I had even shot the pour from the wrong side and gotten the label upside down. Oops. But still, I learned from it and moved on.

I was able to use skills learned from that to plan out and try lighting a perfume bottle. That went much smoother than the pour shot. It was also the first project of the year that Don complimented, and that felt really good.

I tackled my fear of the unknown and took shots of strangers for the first time with my local fire department. I treated that like a service project. They got pictures for their personal use (prints, Facebook, etc.) if they liked, and in trade I got access, time, and a chance to meet some pretty cool people and a neat, new firehouse.

I liked the idea of macro photography before, and couple of the assignments gave me an opportunity to try a new-to-me macro bellows. The hard part was holding the coin in focus while getting enough light to the right place. The bellows put the coin so close to the lens to be in focus that there was very little space to get the light onto the face. That was tough.

As I said above, I have always liked taking pictures of people. This year I tried to improve from just taking good grab shots to a level of trying a studio portrait or two with a magazine-level lighting, or using reflectors so that my available light shooting also improved. I can still hear Don saying, “Don’t lose them into the background. Separate them, even if only a little…”

I tried but failed a few assignments. I lived. I learned something. I’ll try it again. I’m not there yet and I know it. But, my misses are getting closer to what I want them to be, and that was a big part of why I decided to jump in when this opportunity came along.”

More from David and photographs from his portfolio after the jump.
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