Moving From the Studio to The Great Outdoors: Meet Ken Howie

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Ken Howie is a friend of mine and an excellent photographer. Ken used to have a studio in the same space as my old studio (and now, Dave and I are in his old studio).

Ken was a consummate studio shooter. He was nearly 90%+ studio work – from product and still life to motorcycles and automotive. His studio featured one of the best coves in the valley and the lighting tools he created were amazing. His clients included Fender Guitars, Ryobi Garden Tools, The Phoenix Art Museum and many other local and regional companies.

He made a decision to move not only from Phoenix to North Dakota, but to move from still work to video work as well. His careful approach to getting ready to move from a very large city to a town of 1000 or so is instructive for all of us.

Ken is a friend, as I noted, so this is part interview and part two buds chatting about the business.

I hope you enjoy meeting Ken Howie. You can see his website at www.kenhowie.com

 

For most of his career, Ken’s portfolio contained this work:

These are a few of his new work:

A big shout out to Ken and Theresa Howie for doing this interview with us. Much appreciated, guys.

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.

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.

Please Don’t Buy Stolen Gear

NEVERSTEAL

LensProToGo, a popular camera gear rental house and studio in Massachusetts was hit by the lowest of scum and had over a half million dollars of gear stolen.

This gear will undoubtedly be offered for sale in shady cesspools of slime (their homes) and on line at auction sites and other places gear is sold.

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE DO NOT BUY STOLEN GEAR.

EVER.

Make the seller show you the serial number, and check it out against this list of serial numbers from LensProToGo.

And if you need to rent something for a gig, give them a call.

Why I Have Decided to do Project 52 One More Time

This will be year 5 of Project 52. It has matured and seen many alumni start businesses going from weekend warrior to full time shooter. P52 has helped many more photographers find their creative voice and look at the world in a different way. It has formed lifelong bonds of friendship between photographers for whom geography is simply a challenge, but not a barrier.

To tell you the truth, I was happy as hell how it had turned out and five years is a while. I thought that the class that ends in August would be the last one and I would move on to other things.

But it kept calling me back. I knew it was good, and I wanted to make it better. I wanted to make it THE best place for emerging commercial photographers online. And I wanted to make it into a class that people could take on their own time. So a little over a month ago I sat with my wife and discussed it… the time commitment, the evenings at the computer… and we decided that since I love doing it so much – and felt it needed one last go – I decided to do it again.

One last time. (My wife thinks that I will do it again because I do love doing it, but that is definitely not the plan at this point.)

This time I am using a member management tool (www.memberful.com) and Stripe to take the payments. Really looking slick and very happy with the way it is going.

Look…if you are thinking about becoming a professional commercial photographer, or adding commercial work to your consumer business, this class is for YOU. You can see how it works at  www.2015Project52Pros.com and find out a lot more about how it can work for you.

There is a lot of chatter on the interwebs designed to take your dreams away from you and stuff them in a dufflebag with bricks, but that is horse doo. There are professional photographers working out there. Building businesses in areas that you would normally think too small for the “guru super-stars” and you may be right. But then I never wanted to be a guru superstar, do you?

I want to work in photography, making images for clients that love me and pay me and provide a good life with time to pursue my other photographic interests. Shooting a garage opener catalog pays enough to spend a week in Alaska AND pay my bills… hey, that works for me!

If that sounds like it may work for you too, and you are ready to do something that could easily be the hardest thing you have ever done, then take a look at this course. At this writing there are only 22 spots left and they will be gone soon. Ii was over half filled on pre-register alone.


 

Member’s Sites

Go to this page to get links to current and former Project 52 alums.

FAQ’s

We can answer a lot of questions on this FAQ page.

How it Works

This page has some examples of real world assignments.

Want More Info?

If you want to contact me with any P52 questions, use this form. Thanks.


Oh… and if you want to just get out there and register for the most intensive, real world based photographic training available on the internet, go here and make the commitment. To your photography and your future.