P52 Member Adi Talwar Shooting for the NYT

P52 Member Adi Talwar Shooting for the NYT

Adi Talwar is one of my Project 52 alumni. He just got featured in the NYT online magazine and the P52 family could not be more proud.

NYT article.

Adi is a go-getter. He always focused on getting the shot he saw in his head, and found the possibilities in the medium to make that happen.

Looking for a photographer who puts everything into his work, check out Adi Talwar for your next assignment.

Adi Talwar Photography   People

Some Amazing Portraits from The Current Class

Some Amazing Portraits from The Current Class

The goal of the portrait classes I teach is to look at a prominent portrait photographers work, and find those aspects of the work that resonate with our work. The goal is NOT to copy those we study, but to be inspired by their work.

This week we looked at the work of Lee Crum and Matt Barnes, two amazing portrait photographers. The members were inspired by their work and created some wonderful images. I am sharing them with you here.

For information on the next 8 Week Portrait Class, see this page.

What Riding a Motorcycle Taught Me About Life (and Photography)

What Riding a Motorcycle Taught Me About Life (and Photography)

'You go where you look' and other tips of the two wheel set

I started riding motorcycles when I was 14. Back in the day a kid could own a ‘scooter’ at that age and get a permit to drive it. A scooter was considered anything under 5 horsepower. 

There was no possible way I was going to ride a 5HP ‘motorcycle’. My friends and I all had Triumphs and BSA‘s and Nortons – some of the biggest and fastest bikes around that time – and we put 5HP decals on them for those times when the cops decided to chat with us. (We were once caught doing 70 MPH in a residential neighborhood under construction. How we ended up with only a warning is still a mystery to me.)

My first bike was a Harley Davidson “Hummer”. A 125 CC bike that needed jump starting every four or five hours. I quickly moved to a BSA 650 and rode it for a couple of years. A few years into my motorcycling is when I discovered a love for the hobby of photography. And a love for the Honda CB 750 Chopper I cruised around on. (Not my bike, but pretty close to what my bike looked like back then.)

I gave up motorcycling 40 years ago when I developed a passion for fast sports cars. And they could carry more photography gear.

And now, forty years later, I have acquired a new bike (new to me) and realized that I needed to take some lessons to reaffirm what I knew I still knew, and to become more acquainted with the newer machines and riding protocols. Like taking workshops for the soul, this was two days of immersive motorcycling.

The lessons were great. I still remembered shifting and braking pretty well, but so much of the maneuvering – especially at slower speeds – was a bit cumbersome. And my “school bike” was a 250CC Yamaha Dirt Bike. My current bike is a 1600CC Bagger that weighs four times the weight of the Yamaha. Sheesh.

It was during the lessons that I started to think about how riding a motorcycle relates to living a life. Especially a creative life.

Riding a bike leaves us vulnerable to all the elements nature can throw . Wind, rain, hail, heat… all of it is right there all around you as you move through it. Life isn’t “out there” it is right here. We must make decisions based on the world around us as we move through it. In a car, we are immunized from the elements and the car does what it can to keep us dry, cool, warm, and entertained with lovely music.

Making art is more like the bike ride than the car trip. Art whips you and pulls you, warms you and cools you, blasts you in the face with the elements all around us. And if you make a wrong decision, at the wrong time, the consequences can range from mild to severe. Being an artist is one of the most vulnerable positions we can put ourselves in. Always fodder for criticism, and always in someone’s sights somewhere.

Riding a motorcycle is a constant interaction with balance. Lean one way, the bike goes there. Lean the other way and it goes there. Grooves in the road hardly have any affect on my Sonata, but I can feel everyone of them on the bike. And I am always looking for the best track on the asphalt. 

Much like making art. We feel every bump, every critique, every failure. We are hypersensitive to the work we do and are constantly trying to find that ‘groove’ that will keep us upright for a bit longer. Making art can be a constant struggle with balance – and the compromises that balance demands. 

You go where you focus on. This was a new concept for me, at least I didn’t remember it from the days I wrangled my Honda chopper around the west side. When making a turn, you look at where you want to end up, keep your chin high and focus on the outcome. Almost surprisingly the turns are made for you by the motorcycle. Take your eyes off that goal and the turns become a bit more erratic, and less controllable.

Making art for a living demands us knowing where we want to go. We must have a clear vision of who we are, what we do, and why others should care. Simply making things with no plan or vision for where we want to go is a mere hobby, a past time. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. However, if we want to go beyond the mere dabbling, we need to know where we are going and LOOK at it. Sharply and with head up, eyes on the prize.

Learn to weave with confidence. Stuff on the roadway may be an uncomfortable bump for me and my Sonata, but that bump can be a significant problem on a bike. Learning to weave quickly and keep control of the motorcycle is something I am practicing for the the next several Sunday mornings. This bike is huge and the law of inertia means it wants to continue to go in a straight line. I am learning how to subtly get it to maneuver much quicker, in tighter weave patterns, and with more control.

And we learn to weave through the maze that is the creative’s journey. Finding ways to shift gears, move from side to side and escape possible perils are all a part of our day-to-day work. Whether the obstacles are too many family commitments to a full time job to a super busy time in our lives, they all seemingly appear out of nowhere and want to knock us from our ride. When we find that we can indeed weave through these obstacles by keeping our focus on where we want to be, we simply lean in a bit and find a way around them.

Take only what you need. GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) from which we all suffer from time to time is quickly abated when planning a motorcycle trip. There is no huge trunk for carrying an extra C-Stand or two. No place for a huge camera bag full of lenses that rarely get used. My bagger has a couple of storage places but after putting all the things one needs to survive on a road trip, it comes down to “do I need this” for the final pack up.

I am planning a very long road trip on my bike next summer – Phoenix, AZ to Fairbanks, AK. It will be a couple of weeks on the road each way and packing any more than I need will be a huge problem. There will have to be a very careful balance between what I absolutely need to make the photographs I want, and what I can live without. Even an extra 10 pounds can be an issue.

In art, we sometimes over do the gear and forget that we can pare down for any situation. Choose the gear wisely, and make sure it is the best gear for making the shots we want to make. And if we don’t yet know what images we want to make, perhaps a careful edit of the gear will help them be revealed to us. We don’t need every gizmo and ‘shiny new’ that comes down the pike, but we do need the tools we need. It is as simple – and as hard – as that.

Lean into the turns and apply some acceleration for more traction. It sounds counter-intuitive to lean INTO the turn since our most basic instinct is to try to counter balance the angle of the machine. When we do that, the machine will begin to right itself and go off course. Physics… no way to change or adapt our own ‘special technique’ to the turning of a motorcycle in motion (over 12 MPH).

We add a bit of throttle to the turn because we have slowed before we get there, and then we power through and out of the curve which gives the motorcycle more traction and it wants to right itself when you get to your goal (out of the turn).

When we get to a tough situation while making art, there will be curves and changes of direction at many turns. Before we go careening off the edge of the road (common motorcycle crash) we learn that when we see a curve coming, we begin to prepare for it. Maybe that means slowing down, maybe it means altering our processes, or possibly it may mean that the direction we are going is not going to remain, so we best prepare for a change.

And when the change comes, we lean into, apply a little more go-juice and power toward our new directions with momentum, purpose and speed. Life can be a long straight-away with a sharp turn hidden right over the hill, or it can be a winding, twisting two-laner creeping from valley to crest. Not a single mile of straight road in sight. We make art – we have seen both kinds of challenges.

The artist who loses it all through a catastrophe, or personal challenge may have never seen it coming, yet he powered through the corner with seemingly little effort. The artist who is constantly weaving and twisting through this work and that and is in a constant pattern of activity suddenly finds that patch of straight road and hits the throttle. All of us are on their own bike, taking the challenges, and curves one by one and adjusting through them with a sense of purpose and a goal in their eye.


There are artists who never prepare for a turn. They are so inwardly focused, or so insulated that they don’t see the turn coming. Some are so confused by the process of the turn, and don’t know where to look out ahead so they have no control of the machine and off the road they go. And there are the artists who timidly fail to accelerate, lose traction, and find themselves spinning out of control. Then there are those who for various reasons never hit the throttle, but simply roll to a coasting stop, drop the kickstand and walk away.

Those are similar to the tragic tales of woe are heard on every photography forum out there.

“No one can make a living in this.”

“Too much competition.”

“Back in the day we never had to do this.”

“I can’t adapt to this new way of working.”

“It’s too hard.”

Well, yeah. It IS hard. Too hard?

Perhaps it is too hard for the person making that claim, but I suggest that it may have had more to do with how they rode into – and out of – those curves than the curves themselves.

If you have a motorcycle;

  • Maintain balance.
  • Prepare for the turn by making sure your speed will handle it.
  • Look at where you want to go and focus on it.
  • Lean into the curve and accelerate for traction.
  • Keep your head high, and your vision fixed on where you want to be.
  • Let the motorcycle to the spot you are fixated on.
  • Enjoy the experience.

Turning through a series of curves is one of the most fun things to do on a motorcycle.

And if you make art;

Do the same damn thing.

Challenging Times; A Few Ideas to Positively Impact Your Business

Challenging Times; A Few Ideas to Positively Impact Your Business

Here are a few ideas that I use to impact my business quickly and also help me move from a creative block.

A few years ago I wrote about the things I do when given a chance to jump out and spend a little time on a project. That list is still pretty timely, so here it is again; “Ten Things You Can Do to Positively Impact Your Business”

1. Take a Road Trip
I love road trips. Planning them, packing for them, and doing them. Unpacking… well, not so much. But road trips are one of the most fun and inspiring things you can do. I try to take small road trips whenever possible.

I was invited to speak in Vancouver a few years ago. Instead of flying into Vancouver, I opted to fly to Seattle, rent a car and drive the 3 hours up.

It was cloudy and rainy on the way up, but stopping for lunch with my friend Bret, and a side trip down the Chuckanut road into Bellingham (Hwy 11) made it quite fun. Although I didn’t get as many images as I had hoped, I still had a blast listening to jazz and seeing places I had never seen before.

I love driving in new places, seeing things I have never seen and will never see again, and filling the head with visual possibilities. It is always nice to fill a card with some imagery too, but that is not always necessary. The time alone and the visual interest are always enough to trigger ideas.

2. Clean Up Your Website
We can always get into that website and freshen up the client lists, bio page, and images. Check in with your Analytics and see if there is some trend you need to capitalize on. Some new keywords, tidy up the home page content, change out that tired slide show and… hey – that’s my list. Heh.

Taking a few hours each month to add images, check page loads, make sure all links are working and what the site looks like in mobil devices is great preventative action.

It also lets you see what your viewers are seeing, and if your site needs new imagery. (It does, I checked.)

3. Learn Something New
Have you thought about putting together a new WordPress blog? Or opening a small online store to sell products (Amazon Fulfillment)? Have you thought about writing articles for a favorite blog? Now is a great time to take some online classes in WordPress or Photoshop or Dreamweaver. I like Lynda.com.

Take a writing class, or some sort of art class. If you play an instrument, get some lessons and see how your brain kicks the visual areas into high gear.

Take a workshop in a new place, then plan a drive there. The mix of road trip and workshop can make for some amazing images, and some incredible creative flow.

4. Make a Book
Artifact Uprising

Take your images and make a damn book. Edit it down to something you are proud of. Write some text, caption a few photos, make some “editorial decisions”. Work hard on it. Make small prints of a couple of hundred images and edit – edit – edit them down to the 50 images you want to showcase.

Maybe it is a compilation of all the best images you made last year. Or maybe it is a set of images you did of your favorite model, or subject, or location.

Purchase a few copies of the book and make sure they are out in view in your studio / office. Show everyone you know the new book. Love it.

5. Add to Portfolio
Shoot some new stuff. Shoot some stuff that you have never thought about shooting. Shoot some stuff you have thought about shooting but had not taken the time to do them. You know the ones I am talking about.

Find a project to work on, and then do it and get it done. Working keeps you sharp, and it keeps you fresh. Keeping the trigger finger going, and the Photoshop cranking keeps the ideas coming in at a furious pace. And having a project keeps you focused.

Get that project edited, then get it onto the website and into your print portfolio. Get ready for new visitors and possible viral engagement.

6. Blog/Write Articles for Established Media
Share your ideas, images and projects with interested people. Show clients what you do, how you meet challenges, and how you provide visual solutions to the projects they are working on.

Brag. Share. Engage with the people who drop by. Invite conversation, and meet new people through your blog. Don’t do it because you ‘have to’ – do it because it is fun.

And don’t do it expecting something in return. ROI on blogging is not like ROI on investing in a good marketing campaign. Blogging is something that you either love to do or do not. If you are one who doesn’t like to write, then just get a Tumblr and put images on it when you get them. Be consistent, and show work that may not be on your portfolio site. Or work that IS on your portfolio site.

There is no right way, you got that – right?

7. Try Something Different
Ever shoot film? Try it.

Ever shoot a Hasselblad with film? Try that too.

Rent a view camera and learn how to use it. Shoot something that just ‘feels’ like a large format shot.
Do a video on your project. Add sound. Create a storyboard, script and shoot schedule. Shoot it on a pocket camera – or shoot it on your DSLR.

Find out what photographers mean by ‘motion’ and give it a shot. How about a headshot with motion? Or a small story about a creek in your neighborhood? Go on, it’s new and different – and that is all it has to be for now.

8. Organize Your Gear
I do this every year. Get the gear out, spread it around the studio and do an inventory. What needs to be fixed? What needs to be touched up, or tossed out? Do I have all the gear I need (including one more stand than I have… perpetually), and is it accounted for?

I make a list of gear and what containers they are in. Standbaggers are audited, and a ‘packing list’ is created, laminated and attached. Now I know where all the gear I have is, and with careful re-packing I can keep control of what I have – and not end up on a gig without something really important.

The amount of gear has grown to it taking the better part of a day to do now, and that makes it even more important. I need to know where every piece of gear is, and how to get to it easily and quickly. Packing for a gig is so much easier with this system.
9. Build a List
Planning for the new year means a good time to make a list of perspective clients. Hit the bookstores and get the names and publications into your iPad or smart phone or laptop. Shoot the “Masthead” pages of magazines on your camera phone and move contact info into your contact management system immediately. Organize the list for the work you do, get ready to begin the push in email, direct mail, and any other contact forms you want to work with in the fall.

Plan the marketing with your list carefully and create a strong plan for getting your work in front of the people you have identified.

10. Market Your Ass Off
Just do it.

Show everyone what you do. Get a new set of cards done and pass them out. Make sure you wear your branded tee shirts, with matching branded walking shorts and that cool little branded beanie where ever you go.

OK, that beanie thing may be a little over the top. But only a little. Being top of mind with as many people as possible means that there is a better chance for a referral, or a mention or a call for a gig.

So there ya go… ten or so ideas to keep you busy. As we go into the New Year. Each can be the catalyst for some big new work coming up. I start this year with a pretty full plate, but each of the above is being carefully woven into the next couple of months, scheduled in as though it were a gig, and planned in advance.

Keeping the creative flowing is always the challenge, and one you and I must constantly meet head on if we are to survive and thrive in this business.

Jake Stangel on Starting Out as a Professional Photographer

Jake Stangel on Starting Out as a Professional Photographer

Jake Stangel is one of my favorite photographers. I love the fresh way he shoots, and his no-nonsense approach to making images that reveal more than what may meet the eye in the real world.

First: here is an hour talk he gave at CCA, and it is really good.
(Below is embedded talk from above link.


He had no gear starting out.

He lived in a small town in Oregon after college.

He had nearly no knowledge on lighting, commercial photography, shooting to layout, working with clients, bidding, billing, and finding work than you do. He realized it, and began to learn. From the photographers he assisted, to the photographers he hung with.

So don’t think it can’t be done.

It is not easy, but if you have a fresh eye, a thirst for knowledge, and some guts. It can most certainly be done.

Enjoy his many portfolios here.

Ten Things to Remember As You Begin Your Photographic Odyssey


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″.


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.