The Art of Still Life: June 2016 Edition

The Art of Still Life: June 2016 Edition

PROJECT-52-2016Examples from the Still Life Class here at Lighting Essentials.

Finished photos and the BTS shots of the lighting used.

(cover image by Carla McMahon)

A big shout out to the students for such wonderful work. And the BTS shots.

Photographer: Doris Rudd

Photographer: Lavanya Reddy

Photographer: Rachael Switalski

Photographer: Paul Brousseau

Photographer: Katherine Gooding

Photographer: Helen Svensson

Photographer: Barbara Schweighauser

The Porto Photography Experience

The Porto Photography Experience

From Anna at the Porto Photography Experience:

“As photographers living in Porto, Portugal, we feel privileged: the UNESCO World Heritage area backdrops to shoot in, the kind of sights all photographers dream of; amazing food; great weather for most of the year; gorgeous models we love to work with – all of this at our fingertips.


Late last year, we had a lightbulb moment – why not share this with like-minded people?


After months of excited preparations (which you’ve probably read about in our monthly “Behind the Scenes”), we asked a group of sensational photographers whose work we have admired for years if they would like to join us to test our idea – much to our delight, they said yes!”

Read the whole thing… and start planning for the next Porto Photography Experience. I will be going next time for sure.

“A Disturbing Trend” – by Neal Rantoul

“A Disturbing Trend” – by Neal Rantoul


“Look, the practice of making pictures used to be hugely craft based. You needed to study photography and the making of pictures hard to be good at it. It used to be difficult to do well. As a professor I seldom saw any student any good at it until they were a couple of years in. Now, the level is higher and proficiency comes without much work. I doubt most students two years into their degree can accurately tell you what ISO is, aperture and shutter speed settings, 18%  gray, reciprocity failure, D-Max and so on. You can build the case, of course, that they don’t need to know those things. Put the camera on “P” and fire away.

My point? As photography becomes ubiquitous, as we are all photographers and even the most simple of cameras made today provides stunning results compared to a few years ago, photography is free to explore areas never approached before. That’s all good. But please give me less words and better pictures! I find the story, the text mostly boring and condescending, telling me how to look at the photographs rather than letting the photographs do the talking.”

Digital. Film. Images.

“I don’t think using film per se makes someone stand out in a digital world,” he says. “That’s never been a motivation to me. It’s essentially a photographer’s understanding of his craft and sensibility and way of seeing that makes him stand out… And that certainly shouldn’t be bound by a format, or even a talking point in the conversation between the image and the viewer.”

— photographer Jamie Hanksworth in this fabulous column on the growing resurgence of film.

Is Snapchat a New Story Telling Medium?

“Snapchat brings the reader into the story. Each viewer becomes a part of the assignment. They are my travel companions,” Stanmeyer tells TIME. “When millions of readers pick up the magazine each month, they only see 12 to 15 photographs. But so much more takes place while creating these deeply layered stories; moments of success, failure, problem-solving, excitement, boredom, hope, terrible hotels, to camping under the stars, eating tins of meat and instant noodles.” And, through Snapchat, National Geographic’s followers saw it all.”

John Stanmeyer, Photographer National Geographic in Time Magazine

Overheard: Keith Taylor, Photographer, Atlanta

Keith Taylor, Photographer, Atlanta:

“You must learn to be content with where you are & what you have, yet still push yourself. Otherwise, you will destroy yourself – mentally – by comparing yourself to where somebody else is at. What somebody else is doing doesn’t matter so much. What matters is what you’re doing with what you have to work with at any given time.”


I noticed this guy as I walked past him on Peachtree Street. He was looking through the viewfinder of his camera at something or another. Once past him I looked through my viewfinder at him and sharply said, “Hey!”


He looked up at me & I took this shot. Then, I walked over, introduced myself, and explained that I liked capturing random people & sharing a little about who they are as well as any words of advice they had for the viewers of their photo. This is what I got from him:


His name is Seth, and he is originally from Americus, GA. He moved to Atlanta one year ago to pursue his dream of becoming a full-time photographer – something he has been working on now for seven years.


I asked him to share some advice with the viewers of this photo and he said (in the context of pursuing photography professionally): “The key is patience. Don’t get in a hurry. It’s all about becoming a better version of yourself. You’ve got to learn to enjoy where you’re at while you’re there.”


He then apologized to me because he felt what he had just said was “incoherent.” I suppose it could be to some people – but it wasn’t to me at all and I told him so. As a photographer myself, I knew all to well what he was talking about…


Commercial photography does require patience – copious amounts of it. There are very few overnight successes in this field. It requires what seems like a never-ending effort on your part – for years – before you start seeing some of it really pay off. You’ve got to stay in the game during the times you don’t feel like playing anymore.


You’re forced to become a better version of yourself, because you’re constantly having to learn, adapt, & humble yourself.


You must learn to be content with where you are & what you have, yet still push yourself. Otherwise, you will destroy yourself – mentally – by comparing yourself to where somebody else is at. What somebody else is doing doesn’t matter so much. What matters is what you’re doing with what you have to work with at any given time.


So Seth – thanks for reminding me of what I need to be doing – and possibly even some other creative spirit out there that’s feeling like giving up as they read this.

Noticed on Keith’s FB page today.

Visit Keith Taylor Photography.

TAINTED LOVE: Why Photographers Fail

TAINTED LOVE: Why Photographers Fail


Why Photographers Fail

Recently there has been a spate of very sad, and ultimately defeatist articles decrying the “death of photography”. We have no shortage of examples. Seriously.

In all their pain and detailed examples of how the art and business of photography have been “ruined” (their words), I can find little to no examples of the basic, most important reason that photographers are falling behind.

And that is;

Photographers are wildly devotedly, happily, and ecstatically in LOVE with the processes of photography. Like any devoted partner, they see the relationship as sacrosanct, and the most important in their lives.

And they are totally, 100% wrong to be so.

Photography is a process, plain and simple. Romanticizing it makes it more difficult to change, to adapt to new rules, and to find solutions that are not instantly visible.

While they are deeply committed to and in love with the process of photography, their clients are simply… not.

We call that a disconnect.

And a shame.

Let me give some examples.


Jay B Sauceda: Ya’ll Need To Meet This Texas Photographer

Jay B Sauceda is an Austin based photographer with a Texas-sized appetite for making killer images. Whether it be piloting a plane through a mountain canyon, or hiking the Utah plateaus, Jay looks for images that spark the imagination.

Jay is also behind the zaniness of Texas Humor ( and the author of Y’all: The Definitive Guide to Being a Texan”.

I had a chance to sit down and chat with him for a few minutes and I thought I would share that with you.

A Few Spots Are Open in the Upcoming Workshops


One of the most popular workshops we do. This is an intense, shooting workshop where we study the work of 8 top level photographers to learn what they do, how they do it and why.


Be sure to watch the video on the page.


The students who take this class tell me they learn so much about shooting still life that it changes their approach to photography. An intense, but totally fascinating look at shooting inanimate subjects.


“Body and Soul” a New Book by Boudoir Sensation, Susan Eckert



Meet Susan Eckert, a photographer in Long Island, NY specializing in intimate portraiture of women. (Blog)

Her new book, “Body and Soul” is one of the best photo books I have had the privilege to read. It is a wonderful mixture of artful images, and real down to earth business advice for anyone wanting to start a photography business – whether boudoir or not.

Susan’s background in psychology is super interesting, and she brings some wonderful insights into how clients and boudoir photographers relate. This info is not found in any other book I have ever read.

I LEARNED A LOT!!! (And I have been doing this for so long it really does have to be a new idea to get me interested.)

Eckert blends solid business and marketing advice with a wonderful set of interviews with clients, past clients and even a few other photographers. This presents a super valuable read for anyone who is in business, wanting to start a business or possibly struggling in business.

If you are one of those photographers, you will want to purchase two copies. One copy for your bookshelf and one copy to mark up, highlight, post-it-note the hell out of. This is your guide to a successful launch of your business.



An Interview with Photographer LaRae Lobdell, Florida




For those who may not know, LaRae started her career in the Seattle area, and is now living in the Miami area. She has been a host on CreativeLIVE, shot many musicians and artists, and is now working with Polaroid University on a project to teach photography to beginners and intermediate shooters.

Recently she was in a very bad car accident, one that may slow most of us down. LaRae powered through it and is really back at it 100%. She is an inspiration for many of us.

I caught up with LaRae and we had a nice chat. I hope you enjoy the interview. She takes us through some of her images in the second half of the video.

“Failure is an essential and inevitable part of success.” – LaRae Tweetable.

LaRae’s Website

LaRae’s Blog

LaRae on Instagram

LaRae Lobdell Contact



One of the most popular workshops we do. This is an intense, shooting workshop where we study the work of 8 top level photographers to learn what they do, how they do it and why.



The students who take this class tell me they learn so much about shooting still life that it changes their approach to photography. An intense, but totally fascinating look at shooting inanimate subjects.





One of the most popular workshops we do. This is an intense, shooting workshop where we study the work of 8 top level photographers to learn what they do, how they do it and why.



The students who take this class tell me they learn so much about shooting still life that it changes their approach to photography. An intense, but totally fascinating look at shooting inanimate subjects.



Interested in a system that will help you find commercial clients in your town / city / region? This system works. It simply does. Join me for a full on discussion of why and how this Thursday evening.


Find Photo Clients NOW Webinar This Thursday

Find Photo Clients NOW Webinar This Thursday


I want to share a few things about the Find Photo Clients Now System, and why I know it will help emerging photographers in smaller markets develop a real and meaningful approach to business.

I will discuss how it came about, how I used it successfully in three businesses, and how it is working for many of the P52 members who are currently using it.

I am not a guru, nor am I gonna spend 30 minutes trying to ‘sell’ you on it. The free stuff that is part of the system is valuable as hell, so this is just a discussion on how it works.

Guest photographers who are using it will be in attendance as well.

Join us on Thursday, 5PM Pacific, for the webinar.

Sign up here.

Why I Changed the Approach to Find Photo Clients Now




I have wanted to teach this system for quite a while now. It works. I know it works because I have helped dozens of photographers to use it and make it work for them.

There is a wave of teaching going on out there, and it is something I love to do. So I bought a course on how to build a course and found out that I already know how to build a course. I was just $1400 lighter in the discovery.

No matter. I want to make the best courses around and I think I can do that my way. the “engaged” way.

I call it the “authentic” way.

The course I bought teaches one how to make courses that run themselves. “You’ll make more money” they say. “You wont have to work so hard”, they tell me.

OK… fine. But neither of those things turned out to be authentically of any value to me. I don’t teach to get rich. Seriously? I don’t teach to have a free ride or expect it to be easy. I teach because I care – not only about the students, but the material I am teaching as well.

So I changed it up.

Instead of me not being involved and it just being an online set of videos, I decided that I will be involved and work with the students to understand, implement, and be successful with this system. This means less ‘sales’ but it also means we get real interaction and real engagement. There are only 20 total students for each class.


I designed it to get more clients for my studio. And it worked. I implemented it in my ad agency and it worked there too. I have helped others implement it and it has worked for them. And I designed this system back when cell phones were new. Yes… it is a tried and true system.

Now we have the internet to boost us along. We have Google and Email and social media and did I mention Google?!?

The internet was like taking the system and giving a high dose of endorphins and stimulants.

Where it worked before, now it can work quicker. And with even more precision.

Let’s get one thing straight though – it is not a “get rich quick” scheme, or any kind of “secret” to success. It is not a shortcut, fast-track, eezypeezy solution that will allow you to work in your pajamas 15 minutes a day and make “big money”.

All of those things are bullshit. Pure unadulterated BS.

This is a system that helps you organize the businesses and people that can and will give you commercial photography gigs. From discovery of what your authentic work is to researching where those who hire photographers are, the system helps you identify the opportunities in your town, city, or region.

And we do this system to help it make sense to you so you can grow it into something that works for YOU.


Your success is my success. I sincerely want you to get out of the grind of having no clients, or shooting consumer work because that is all you have to shoot, and into the commercial / editorial / advertising world of photography.

Now there are those who will tell you that that world is dead. Most of those who are telling you that are simply those for whom it was not possible given the amount of work they were willing to commit. If you aren’t driven or committed, your expected successes will be commensurate to that low drive.

They blame the market, the President, their home life, the economy, and blah blah blah.

But they cannot answer the question “why are others who are less talented doing so well?”


My friend David spent two and a half months compiling his list, researching names, finding the clients and companies that he KNEW he could work for. If he wasn’t shooting, he was researching. When he finally hit the marketing he ended up with 6 clients that made that work worthwhile immediately.

And he hasn’t stopped growing. From local clients to international clients in less than four years.

The system – customized for him – keeps him on top of the business, and top of mind with clients and prospective clients.

But I have a confession to make. I am not an internet marketer. I am not a web ‘sales guru’.

I won’t send you 30 emails in a row begging you to take my course. That is really icky stuff… and it is not me.

I have set up a page that you can sign up to see if the system looks good for you. A small portion of it is available if you want it. And it is four highly informative videos you get once per week. After that I will send you two “offer” emails. One on the fifth week, and one when we open a new class.

That’s it. No “hurry up” emails. No “it’s closing at midnight” crap.

Just two.

That is authentic. Life offers you something and you either take it or leave it. I am not going to beg you to invest in this course. That is not me either. I am simply saying it works. I think you should try it.

You will be able to find, connect with, sell to, and keep commercial photography clients. Period.


Go to Find Photo Clients Now and sign up for the system. Full of info and no selly-selly.

As I said, your success is my success. And I love success.

BTW – if you want in the class that starts April 16, go directly here. We have 4 open spots.

(Header photograph by SohFong Ung.)


Sometimes we discover that we need a system to organize all the information we get thrown at us from every kind of media available.

That is what this system does. Like a highway map, it allows us to navigate all the available sources of commercial photography assignments and helps us identify the people and businesses that NEED our expertise to move their product.

I hope you take me up on this offer for the free training. And if you want the premium training, we will have classes starting whenever we have enough interest.

March Madness: 31; Making the Subject Look Cold

March Madness: 31; Making the Subject Look Cold

Making The Subject Look Cold

By Pablo Minier

(This is the last of the March Madness tutorials. If you want to take them all in, just click the March Madness graphic on the right and it will take you to a list page. We hope you enjoyed these little tutorials and got some useful info from them. A very big SHOUT OUT to all the P52 members who took the time to prepare these for you. Interested in next year’s Project 52? Stay tuned for the announcement coming in April.)

One of the challenges of food photography or any visual medium really, is to convey sensory experiences when your viewers can only interact with your image using their eyes. How do you let them know that a beautifully pour espresso is hot and fresh? Or that a steak is tender and juicy? What about a cold beer? That’s where visual cues come in. Fortunately our brains are an amazing feat of biological engineering so we are able to associate certain visual characteristics of different objects to how they feel to the touch or how they might taste or smell. In this tutorial we’ll cover one such visual cue: condensation.

Image 3

When the temperature of an object is colder than the environment that  surrounds it, water droplets will accumulate on its surface and that’s how we know that something is cold just by looking at it. So hurray for condensation! The thing is that this phenomenon doesn’t last for a long time, especially if you’re working on a studio with hot lights or even using window light. We need to find a way to takes advantage of this visual cue without having to pop our subject back in the freezer and wait for 15 minutes. Don’t worry, here comes glycerine to the rescue!

Image 2

The solution is rather simple, mix water and glycerine at a 1:1 ratio, pour your magic liquid in a spray bottle and be ready to be amazed. As it turns out this mixture when applied carefully will take a really long time to dry out and it won’t drip (unless you spray too much of course). So at this point you are probably picking up your keys and going out to your local store to get some glycerine; make sure to also get at least 3 totally different spray bottles while you’re at it (every bottle has a slightly different spray pattern that is further modified by the distance and angle that you use to spray your subject).

So there you have it folks, a nice and easy way to use visual cues to elevate your food photography. Happy spraying!


March Madness: 30; Building a Successful Instagram for Paying Clients

March Madness: 30; Building a Successful Instagram for Paying Clients

Building a Successful Instagram for Paying Clients

By Virginia Smith

Is it just about getting as many followers as you can?  As far as Instagram goes (and even twitter) it’s better to focus on up and coming brands, brands that are trending or that interact with their Instagram accounts was well as have a good following of art directors, magazine editors, agencies and bloggers. It doesn’t always mean a large amount of followers either. I have a friend on IG who has 25,000 followers from being involved early on with IG meet ups. She started to offer her work for sale and crickets…not much response.  She’s changing her strategy from just attracting followers to attracting gallery owners, art directors and agencies.  It’s also studying how the audience you target interact with their IG audience. Is the brand or following WORTH targeting?

My elopement photographer daughter ( targets Free People because many of her elopement brides wear the brand for their wedding dresses. (Using key words with a hash tag symbol # and targeting the brand itself with the @ symbol are the terms I’m talking about.)  She submitted a few Free People branded shots to their submission page and she got featured as well as 150,000 likes on the shot including 500 comments. She ended up with 200 additional likes, several elopement inquiries one of which took her to Costa Rica, one commercial inquiry still in discussion. It also gives her creditability her commercial clients.  A wedding photographer’s audience needs to continue to grow their audience as the new followers frequently are looking for a photographer while the older followers have probably had their weddings.  This is why she intersperses her wedding work with lifestyle work to attract the commercial clients.


When she and I collaborated on a styled elopement based on a children’s author I tweeted the author when it got featured. His mother tweeted all his friends and the publisher retweeted it. That led to another children’s author messaging me and we are planning an editorial collaboration as well as some paid marketing photography to expand his audience.  So using Instagram and twitter together can be a great strategy for building a brand presence.


The series I just finished is bringing me views from some interesting brands. It’s a test of a storytelling series of images from a Road Trip to Zion.  I purposely took shots of the model featuring her as a fitness model on the road wearing her favorite brands.  I created a list of products used in the shots (cosmetics, props, clothing).  As I posted each image, I tagged (@) and hashtagged (#) the brands as well as chose some of the hashtags the brands I am targeting use in their feed that day. Most people check the hashtags they use. The first shot posted featured boots by a particular brand. They loved it and asked to feature it however their terms of service meant that they could use the image in perpetuity for whatever they chose.  Not the results I had hoped for so I turned them down.  However it’s interesting that a leather maker saw it, commented and I’ve started a dialogue with another small leather company who would like to run a similar series.  One of the images got reposted by a major brand on their Instagram featured page that brought me additional views and followers.  I usually look at who is choosing to follow me so I was glad to see that many of the new followers are in businesses that would be in the market for photography.


From what I’ve observed from the younger photographers I network with that use it successfully, it’s consistency, focus and interaction that can lead to the right people seeing the work and translate into paying clients over the long run. It’s also interesting that it can be self-perpetuating. For example the client who hired my Sam Arroyo Photography and Arroyo Films for the Costa Rica elopement will in turn be featured on IG as well as submitted to a wedding blog, which also leads to more clients!  Getting the paying clients to post your images tagging you also leads to referrals and more work!  The images are available for viewing in hashtag searches online, which can lead to additional interest in hiring you or in the images themselves for stock photography.

There are many articles on the dangers of giving your work for free, looking at the terms of service in hashtagging a brand and user generated content being used without permission by brands that should be researched as to the perils a photographer would want to avoid.  After researching and trying out different strategies I am targeting brands that have a submission process for images they use to repost from. One has to decide what the end goal should be. Right now, for me each new series is designed to build an audience who are connected to commercial photography, art directors and growing businesses. Hopefully carefully chosen hashtags can prevent implied consent yet attract the right audience.  I am also looking to change my branding tactics with instagram so that potential clients can see my work in story format by running several images in a theme. When they see an image that’s numbered as part of a series, they spend more time on my feed viewing the series.  The end goal is paid work by building my own exposure.


I am also using the series (in this case “American Southwest Road Trip”) in my marketing materials as well. It will be printed as an accordion fold brochure for art directors and agencies.  In creating a series, I do not automatically share my instagram feed with twitter and Facebook.  I share a few of the series images on Facebook referencing my instagram and targeted towards a certain audience.  For a minimum investment I can run an ad targeted at art directors in my area for a week.  This is not so much to get work about to build a presence and it seems to be effective as more people will recognize the work when I network.  With Twitter I will try and connect with people I’ve met by name to look at the work.  I plan on uploading an image to a twitter post with a link to my website page with the images or to a blog post.  I’ve watched other successful photographers use this method successfully.  It also makes the work go farther when building a portfolio.

Social media has proven to build brands presence successfully over time.  But it’s not just a matter of posting whatever work you’re currently doing.  It’s posting with purpose and a plan.  Think about your audience and the results you are hoping for.  Play around with creative ideas to do just that and have fun doing it!  It’s pretty exciting when you start seeing what works.  I will be finishing a short series today with a stop motion video.  Can’t wait to see what happens!

Virginia Smith




If you are finding it difficult to find clients for your photography business, here are four FREE modules that will help you NOW. They are not sales videos, they are focused on real world information for you to take action today. Get your portfolio client ready, find the types of clients YOU should be working for, meet them face to face and get the gig. It's not easy, and there are no shortcuts. Know that. 4 Free modules sent to you one per week. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Your FREE Training is on the way... check your email box now.