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.

 

24 Frames In May II, 2015 Edition

We had an assignment on Lighting Essentials that was fairly easy to be involved with… sort of. The assignment was to load one roll of 24 exposure film into the camera of your choice and shoot each shot as though it were the ONLY shot you had. No ‘bangin’ off a motor drive, more like treating each frame as a singular image with the importance of a view camera.

Below are the amazing shots the photographers did in contact sheet form. Damn I miss contact sheets.

First up, Rudy Giron, Guatamala.

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Rudy Giron's Comments on his 24 Frames

Rudy Giron
• Canon EOS Rebel XS [EOS 500] from 1993 with 28mm 2.8 lens
• Lens: 50mm F1.4 AIS, 105mm F1.8 AIS
• Film: Expired Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 color film from 2001.
• Scanned at Kodak mini lab, Antigua Guatemala

Rudy Giron Photography
• Antigua Guatemala, Central America
• Tel: +502 4569 4419
• Email: photos@rudygiron.com
• Website: www.rudygiron.com

24 frames of film for May 2015.

I used an expired roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 color film from 2001 on a Canon EOS Rebel XS [EOS 500] from 1993 with 28mm 2.8 lens. Some frames exposed more or less well, while others were under/over exposed. I don’t know if this is camera error or simply the film was too old. Most frames were shot at f2.8 while others at f5.6 if enough light.

My theme is entitled “Come in” [“Pase adelante” in Spanish] which is what vendors would say as you enter their business. I tried to show all kinds of business as seen from the doorway. About half the roll is from tiny business found in villages around Antigua Guatemala while the rest of the roll was captured on the more affluent shops in downtown Antigua Guatemala.

My cost for this film project was $3.75 for film developing and scanning of the 24 frames at 6 megapixels [8″x10″] plus an index print at my local Kodak mini lab. I had the roll of film and I provided an SD card to the lab so I didn’t have to pay for a disc. The turn around for developing and scanning the 24 frames was 1 hour. They still sell a roll a 24-frame of film at this Kodak lab for $5.

Next, I will get some black and white C41 film as this is the easiest and least expensive way to have black and white film developed, scanned and printed in Antigua Guatemala. I have a few more themes in mind, for instance, portraits of the vendors inside the local market.

Alfred Kypta has a write-up on his blog about the 24 Frames in May assignment.

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Steve Gray did last year’s 24 Frames project as well.

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Steve Gray's description for his 24 Frames submission.

As with last year, I used my trusty Minolta X-370, using a 50mm f/1.7 lens. This time I opted for Ilford Delta 100 black and white film. Apparently the light streaking I saw last year was indeed caused by the old film, and not by the camera. Yay!

I sent the film off to The Darkroom (www.thedarkroom.com), which did an okay job. I did see a little bit of oddness in one or two frames (probably from handling the wet film). I corrected what I could with Photoshop, and I tweaked the cropping and contrast a little…so these are not genuinely straight out of the camera shots. Still, I’m okay with what I got. I bought a second roll of the same film, and now I need to plan an activity to shoot with it. If I keep this up, I’m going to have to splurge on a developing tank, chemicals, and a scanner. Heh.

The images can be viewed individually on my website @ http://photos.gray-imagery.com/p171174507

My base website is www.gray-imagery.com.

From Catherine Vibert:

Hi Don, here is the contact sheet, and the link is here: http://catherinevibert.com/film-for-a-change/. This was fun!

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Melissa Hanson‘s entry.

Melissa Hanson, Utah
Pentax K1000, 35mm
Sigma 28-70 zoom f:2.8
Sears 70-210 macro-zoom f:4
Kodak High Definition ISO 400
Lab:  Atelier A.F.A.
http://atelierafa.com/index.html
Flickr album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk9U6KyW

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Chris Dean:

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Chris Dean's Info

Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M with 80mm Zeiss 2.8 Lens
Film: Kodak Portra 160
Developed and scanned by a local lab (www.photorgaphique.co.uk)
No cropping or editing

Chris Dean: www.chrisdeanphoto.co.uk
Email: chris@chrisdeanphoto.co.uk
Twitter: @chrisdeanphoto
Instagram: @chrisdeanphoto

Full size pictures available at: chrisdeanphoto.co.uk/blog/2015/6/8/24-frames-in-may-2015

Last year’s 24 Frames in May was my first (serious) attempt at shooting film. This year I thought I’d make things even more interesting (difficult) for myself by getting to grips with a medium format camera. There’s a lot to learn!
It has a 6cm x 6cm negative, so everything is short in square format (a 1:1 format rather than the 3:2 of my DSLR).
It has a waist level viewfinder which means you look down into the camera, and left-right is reversed, which is a little confusing!

There’s no built-in light meter so you have to take light readings separately (or rely on the sunny 16 rule).
The negatives are a lot bigger than the 36mm x 24mm of a “standard” (35mm) film camera, which means the depth of field is very shallow, and you need a very steady hand (or a tripod) to avoid blurry shots. Focusing is critical and hard!
Unlike a digital camera where you can take hundreds of shots, you’re limited to 12 shots per roll of film. So you need to make sure you’ve got that shot, especially when you’re trying to treat each frame like gold dust.

May was especially hectic this year, so I didn’t ending up spacing out my shots to the extent that I would have liked, and the medium format camera slowed me down even more than the film 35mm did. So I rounded off the roll by taking a portrait of everybody attending a fancy birthday dinner I was having.

I had great fun. I’m looking forward to shooting more film, and have booked myself into a black and white darkroom developing course – can’t wait!

Bret Doss shot in and around Seattle.

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Bret's Info

Participating in Don Giannatti’s Project 52 has a lot of fringe benefits in addition to the exceptional training; for example, a challenge to get out a film camera and shoot 24 Frames In May.  I was happy to be able to participate this year, and also to find a clean Pentacon Six medium format camera (and some really clean lenses) on eBay.

The official challenge is to shoot 24 frames, one a day, and with a medium format camera that would mean two twelve-exposure rolls.  I had to follow a different path to my 24 Frames.  Since the camera was new to me, as were the lenses, I shot some tests as well to make sure everything was working.  As I was using some extension tubes for some of the calla lily images, I was estimating the compensation factor, and so did some bracketing.  The nature of my life and of the calla lilies I acquired for the project did not permit making only one frame a day.  In the end, I exposed six rolls of 120 film over two separate days, and selected 24 from amongst the test &bracketed images, ignoring the failed test images.  I used Portra 160 for the color images, and mostly Ilford HP5 (ASA 400) for the black and white (the last two you see are Ilford Pan-F — ASA 50).  Lenses were mostly the 80 and 65 mm, though I also shot with a 120, 180, and 300 as well.

I went to some of my favorite subject matter: the marina area and some calla lilies in the studio.  I used open sky window light for the callas.  I think next up will be some portraits with the Pentacon!

The film was sent to The Find Lab, using their Fatboy scanner option. Great service and quality scans.

The only post I did was some slight levels/curves for those images where neither bracket was ‘just right’ and I needed to be somewhere in the middle.  I retouched a very few hot pixels that appeared in very few of the scans, and applied a light sharpen to the images.

all images © Bret Doss, All Rights Reserved

Jorge Rodriguez Santos shoots in Cambodia.

Camera: Seagull 4A-107 TLR
Film: Ilford Delta 100 120mm
Scanned in color setting to give the sepia tone.
Jorge Rodríguez Santos
Jorge Rodríguez Santos Photography
Siem Reap, Cambodia
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Tomas Jansson

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Tammy Bogestrand

Gear:
Olympus OM2n
24mm Olympus lens
Tri-X 400 black and white film.

I limited myself to the 24mm for the entire 24 frames.

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Reed Waters:

1960 Yashica Mat
Kodak Porta 400 120 film.
These are out of the camera, no post processing.

ContactSheet-002
Michele Cushman
Camera: Nikon N65
Film: Ilford Delta 100 Professional Black & White film
Developed & Scanned by The FIND Lab
no editing of the photos
This was my second time participating in the 24 Frames in May project. Last year I also used black and white film and documented a trip back home to NYS for my nephew’s first communion. This year, I photographed my youngest son’s first flight lesson up in Frederick, MD.  Another P52 photographer, Bob Knill, set up the flight lesson for him on what turned out to be a beautiful day.  I captured the essence of the day with my favorite photograph being the one where my son is out of focus standing outside the hangar while I focused on the nose cone of the plane. That shot turned out exactly how I had envisioned it in my head before taking it.  There are a couple of shots where they are identical because of a happy trigger finger.  Overall I am happy how these turned out.
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Darla Hueske had a film mishap and only 15 of her shots came out unscathed. A shame because so many of her images are really good.

Portraits: June 2015

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Image © Catherine Vibert

Student Work:

A few of the amazing portraits students in the Portrait Workshops have turned in. There are dozens of truly great portraits. I am choosing only 16 for this post.

Perhaps It’s Time to Rethink “Photographer”

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Plastic spoons in the early morning sun.

I got a beautiful pen as a gift from a client recently. Thanks for that, Randi, it is an absolutely gorgeous writing implement. And, I assure you, I will write with it.

Because I am a writer as well as a photographer.

Millions of pens are sold daily in the world. How many people who buy them or receive them as gifts are writers? Probably not very many. In fact, they do not refer to themselves as “writers” even though that is what pens and pencils – and word processors – allow us to do.

We write with them, although few of us are writers.

I also received some art supplies for Christmas. A brush and some watercolors. I love to dabble.

I am not a painter. Seriously. Although I do know how to mix the pigments and how to use a brush to put the paint on the paper, it is as far away from being a painter than a kid in a big wheel is from driving an 18 wheeler.

An that’s OK. The words “truck driver” have not be co-opted by kids in plastic toy trucks.

Yet.

Now – photographer – well, that is another story.

That word has more meanings now than a zebra has stripes.

And that is becoming a problem.

If no one knows what you do because the term has been changed to mean everyone with an iPhone, Android, Rebel, D810, Hasselblad, F2 or Pink Barbie camera, then there is a serious problem running through the very core of what we do. That uncertainty will tarnish your brand and make it more and more difficult to become seen as a professional in the eyes of clients.

Perhaps it is time for us to begin thinking of what we do in a different way – a way that makes sense to those who are not already doing what we do. Maybe we need to change the way we describe ourselves and what we do to be more descriptive and narrow.

We all know what a laptop computer is. Did you know that Apple doesn’t sell one? Nope, they sell MacBooks. “Books”, not laptops.

How about Dos Equis? Do they sell beer – or a chance to be the most interesting man in the world? Does that leave out a large population of earth dwellers? Yep, but they are only interested in their demographic.

It is time for photographers to rethink the term “photographer”. After all someone who shoots weddings, is quite a bit different than someone who is running up a hillside under gunfire shooting as a photojournalist. A family shooter simply has less stress than a fashion photographer and there is quite a bit of difference in photographing the sunset in your backyard and a travel photographer hiking down three miles in the dark after waiting all day for a perfect shot.

I say we focus on what we achieve instead of what we do. We are visual experts, image gurus, and lighting wizards. We help companies sell more stuff. We help entrepreneurs raise more capital. We help businesses grow by engaging more clients and getting better results.

Our visioneering, and image creation help tell stories, clarify processes, deliver value and change the minds of consumers looking to purchase goods and services.

Better photographs help companies sell more stuff… period.

And THAT is what we may start seeing in the more savvy photographers out there. A focus on the results oriented bottom line of the companies who hire us. No bullshit over pricing, no hand-wringing over bidding… a simple value proposition that says WE MAKE STUFF HAPPEN.

“Hi, I’m Don and I am a photographer” – images of wedding photographers, baby photographers, the lady across the street making iPhone photos of the birds in her yard go rushing through their heads.

“Hi, I’m Don. I help businesses tell their story visually” – they understand instantly what I do that helps THEM.

I know it has been floated before, but it is now getting to be the time for us all to take it seriously. In a way, we are going to rebrand this industry with a more modern, and business friendly job title for photographers.

Ten Things To Think About When ‘Re-branding’ Your Photography

  1. Nobody cares what you do… they want to know what you are going to do for them
  2. Focus on the benefit for the client, not what you do
  3. Think globally and position yourself as an expert
  4. Being an image expert, a graphics guru, or a visioneer is new, so be very open to explanation
  5. If you need to explain what value you bring to someone who is simply too dense to get it, move on
  6. Only YOU know what your value is worth, and YOU are the one who states it in the beginning
  7. Perception is everything – it just is
  8. Never underestimate the power of a great idea – always be looking for them
  9. Tell your story and show your strengths – a badly designed logo, ugly website, and typography that sucks doesn’t say image guru, does it
  10. Do more than you do now – charge more than you do now

In short, we all must think about a re-brand of the job of being a commercial photographer. The name is lost to us, the civilians don’t care, and the market is in real need of the services of a visual expert that can engage customers…

Hey… I can do that.

You can too.