Too %$#*@ Much Freedom

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Last week I railed against too many rules.

Now I am asking if there is too much freedom?

Could I be off my meds, or a little daffy? To complain about too many rules and then question if there may be too much freedom too… OMG, I am turning into a …. no, I won’t go there.

And indeed we may have more freedom than we know what to do with… photographically that is. No, I am not discussing financial or political freedoms, I am talking about photography.

Today, we can do anything – ANY DAMN THING – we want.

We can Photoshop in a city we have never visited, we can fake a man looking over Manhattan from a desk and a studio in Phoenix. We can change hair colors and eye colors and slim a bit here, firm a bit there… we literally have no boundaries.

In Photojournalism, that manipulation is referred to as a no-no, or a “stupidass career killing dumb thing to do”… but I don’t want to get technical. And yet, there are PJ’s who have been caught pressing to the limits of those constraints because, well, they can.

The freedom exists for us to make worlds that only exist in our heads, and instead of having them look like illustrations, we add the credibility of photography to them and they become real. As real as this MBP I am typing away on this morning.

Reality gets blurred in the freedom to modify what we shoot… and quickly too. What used to take hours of work in Photoshop can now be done in a matter of minutes… so we have the freedom of time to work and manipulate and alter the ‘reality’ in front of us.

It can be a bit heady, and it plays out in different ways all across the scope of photography.

And while this ‘freedom’ to create can be a good thing, IS a good thing, it can – like all good things – be overdone. Pushed beyond the good and into the fake and deceitful. And even beyond, to the cruel and worse.

With this great freedom comes an equally and also overwhelming responsibility. We have great power in our eyes and minds, and managing that power with the constraint of an artist is like walking a tightrope, blind and being forced to listen to Pitbull at full volume.

Extraordinarily difficult and possibly puke inducing.

However, with all that said, it is in the tools of our trade where the freedom is becoming more and more ever present. Where once there were few choices, now there are myriad solutions. And the selection of tools becomes harder because of the segmentation, while at the same time becoming easier as the quality of the gear is rising to the point of ubiquitous.

We once had a defining line between “Pro” and “Amateur’ gear. Pros used professional cameras like Nikon F4’s and Canon EOS3n’s and Hasselblads and Mamiyas. Amateurs shot point and shoots. Pros had view cameras and press cameras and panoramic cameras. Amateurs shot point and shoots.

The price point kept the weekend, now and then shooter from spending on a Pro camera. The knowledge needed to produce images was tenfold what is needed today.

No darkroom means about 357.78 pounds of knowledge needed is removed. And that is only black and white.

Fast forward to today.

I am not sure you could even buy a camera today that would not be considered a top of the line camera only 10 years ago. The specs on entry level cameras like D7001’s and 60D’s and the like are beyond even what was imagined 10 or so years ago.

Today we can make excellent images on a variety of cameras from the big flagship cameras of Nikanon to mirrorless cameras to iPhones and Androids… all able t make images that meet the requirements of print, and exceed the quality of screen views by a country mile.

And so we have the ‘freedom’ to do whatever we want with whatever we want… and that can be a little intimidating. Like having lunch at TGIFriday’s with their 87 page menu, vs a small boutique restaurant in Portland that only serves 3 different gourmet meals.

Having all the choices means more work upfront, while in the three meal restaurant you choose the sea bass and get on with the wonderful conversation going on at the table.

I do not really think this is a problem if we recognize the hand of marketers at work. We are massaged into believing that the choices we make are far more important than they really are. They create the illusion of imperative change… change NOW or your work will die, and maggots will eat your hard drives, and no one will ever want to hang out with you.

Or, something.

Reality is this:

We have moved beyond a space where it really mattered. What matters now is the work. The subjects and the presentation and the engagement we create with our images.

I recently spoke with a photographer who was now purchasing his 4th 50MM lens. Starting with the 50MM 1.4, he then moved to the 50MM 1.2. After reading a post on a blog, he sold the 1.2 and bought a Zeiss 50MM. Now, he is looking to sell the Zeiss so he can get the Sigma because someone on a blog said they were actually sharper than the Zeiss.

OK.

But what does the work look like? What is the need for that change in the work? Where will that new lens benefit him in the images he makes?

Or is it because while he enjoys the world of freedom that having multiple choices involves, he chooses change without really knowing why?

Are there reasons for changing lenses? Absolutely. There are reasons for all of the choices we make… if we make them with the full knowledge of what we need and what we will see with that change. This knowledge comes from a firm core artistic vision and a strong business model.

This is the best time ever to be a visual medium artist. From photographers to artists to designers, this is OUR time. And that provides us great possibilities and overwhelming choices that must be met head on.

The world of too many rules can be as confusing as the world of too many choices, with too much freedom.

Stravinsky once said in regards to writing music for a choreographer;

“The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution.”

– Igor Stravinsky

This is important to us as photographers too. A bag full of lenses and bodies will NOT necessarily make better photographs, but if we focus on the art itself, the gear can fold into the background and the subjects may reveal themselves in a less fettered way.

My last trip to Zion and Bryce was an interesting one. I took my Canon kit full of wide and long, and I also took my Nikon Df kit. It has only 4 primes from 28 – 85. having those constraints made the trip more creative for me – more of a challenge.

I had to work the shots into what I had and that ‘working’ it made me see “more”.

Look, I really don’t think we have ‘too much freedom… I LOVE the freedom to use what I want and do what I want and not give a damn about those who want to bring me down (Yeah, Brene!!!).

This week I will be shooting with a Mamiya 6×7. While I have lenses for it, I will be using the 65MM and the 90MM exclusively… probably (heh). The additional constraints are shutter speed max at 1/400 (although we can use flash at that shutterspeed), a very heavy apparatus so tripod is necessary, and a viewfinder that forces me to look straight down and have my eye next to the camera. Oh, and only 12 photos per roll… heh.

These are the parameters that make me excited to be doing the shooting. I must find the shots carefully and with as much deliberateness as possible. I am looking forward to it.

How about you? What do you think about imposing some structure around shooting that forces you to look deeper, find solutions and dig for the vision?


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Help a Singer Go To Argentina, and Get Four Hours Consulting

Hi everyone.

My daughter, Alissa, is going to Argentina with the Phoenix Children’s Chorus summer, 2015. We are all pretty excited.

You can hear them sing here. 

However, it costs a bit to send her, and we are looking for some ways to help her get there (along with still paying off a lot of big medical bills… heh). If you would like to donate to send this wonderful young lady on an incredible journey of song the summer after her senior year, and help this amazing student chorus, please send what you can. PCChorus/Donate

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She wants to sing in Argentina… Don’t cry for her – help her go. :-)

But if you are looking to get some consulting for your business or photography, we can work something out for sure. The Chorus has set up a donations page and anyone can donate to the Chorus while specifically pointing those funds to an individual chorister. This is a tax-deductible charitable donation to the choir and they provide the paperwork you will need to claim the deduction.

I am offering something for those of you who would like to donate $300 to her choir trip.

If you do, I will provide 4 hours of consulting for you over the course of the following six months. You may use those hours for portfolio review, portfolio flow design, marketing strategies, website review, blog strategies, pricing strategies or whatever you would like. We can focus on lighting, style and image preparation if you would like, or make it a pure custom consultation to focus on your specific challenges.

The only caveats are:

  1. You must use the four hours in the six months following the donation.
  2. We use GoToWebinar for our meetings and I will record them for you.
  3. The hours are used in one hour increments, with a two hour max for one meeting.

I will only be offering this special “Send My Kid to South America” for a total of 10 photographers.

So if you are interested, here is how to do it.

Go to this page: PCChorus/Donate

Follow the directions there, but essentially you donate to them and apply those donations to Alissa Giannatti. Alissa will receive 70% of the funds donated in her name, and the balance of the donation goes to helping the choir’s other expenses.

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Click on “Dedicate my donation” for the next screen.

Dedicate the donation to my kidlet, Alissa Giannatti.

DONATION-INDIVIDUAL

Then send me a copy of your receipt, your name, your phone number and a good time to call and you and I will make our plan for the consulting. Yes, you can give this as a gift is you wish. Just let me know.

Again, only for 10 photographers. 

I am happy to construct a consultancy plan just for you, so take advantage of this offer if you need some help.

And if you simply want to donate $20 or $50 that would be wonderful as well.

Off Topic Sunday: October 20

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Yesterday I was asked to shoot one of the new choirs at Phoenix Children’s Chorus. This is an elite group of singers that are available for gigs in the valley. This is one of my favorites from the shoot.


 

ON SIMPLIFICATION
I am going through a simplification moment in my life. Looking to do more with less, and not being enamored of every shiny object that comes along. Whether photography or design, I am taking a more simple approach and looking to let go of things that are un-needed or simply take too much time and attention. This post at Unclutterer caught my attention.

Using simple tools, when that’s all you need.

I used to be intrigued by all the fancy apps for creating and managing to-do lists, and those apps certainly make sense for some people. But at some point, I realized that for me,  a simple text file was sufficient, and going back to that basic tool made my life easier. Sometimes extra features are a distraction, not a benefit.”

Yes.


 

CLASSICAL
The Italian Opera composer, Puccini could never have known that one of his arias would become a world favorite, and THE audition piece for every male opera singer to ever hit a “talent” TV show. The great tenor Pavaortti made the song a household tune in the late 90’s.

From Wiki:
” “Nessun dorma” achieved pop status after Luciano Pavarotti‘s 1972 recording of it was used as the theme song of BBC television’s coverage of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy. It subsequently reached #2 on the UK Singles Chart Although Pavarotti rarely sang the role of Calaf on stage, Nessun dorma became his signature aria and, in turn, a sporting anthem in its own right, especially for football.[5]Pavarotti gave a rendition of “Nessun dorma” at his final performance, the finale of the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics, although it was later revealed that he had lip-synched the specially pre-recorded performance (at the time of his Winter Olympics appearance Pavarotti was physically incapable of performing as he was suffering from pancreatic cancer to which he succumbed the year following). His Decca recording of the aria was played at his funeral during the flypast by the Italian Air Force.[7] In 2013, the track was certified gold by the Federation of the Italian Music Industry.”

In 1998, Pavarotti was scheduled to sing at the Grammy’s, but at the last moment became quite ill. The show’s producers, knowing that Aretha Franklin was attending the show, asked her to sing in Pavarotti’s stead. She agreed, and this magical moment occured – live on TV.

While some Opera “aficionados” decried the performance because of the liberties Aretha took, many others welcomed this expression and personally approached rendition as something the classical world could certainly embrace.

I agree. Why not allow the performers to bring something new, their own spin to the songs we have allowed to go unchanged for decades. Jazz players do it. Pop music does it. Why not classical?

I am not suggesting adding a disco beat to the Verdi Requiem, I am happy with letting voices of renown add their color and personal attention to the performance. Perhaps one day we could look forward to hearing Sting in Pagliaci… yeah, that would be cool.


 

JAZZ
One of John Coltrane’s most celebrated masterpieces was “A Love Supreme”. (Wiki) It is one of the most highly regarded jazz albums of all time, and sold over 500,000 copies in Trane’s lifetime… and hundreds of thousands since then as well.

Here is the incredible Branford Marsalis doing “A Love Supreme” and doing it supremely well.


 

PHOTOSHOP
And this may be actually a bit on topic, but it is very nice little look at Photoshop’s Patch Tool.

Great Reads: October 2014 Releases

FullSizeRenderI don’t know very many photographers who do not have a large collection of photo books. Mine fills an entire double walled shelve system and is still growing.

I love books.  I love photographs.

Nothing better than to grab an old book, a cup of tea and peruse the imagery contained on pages that I turn. I like looking at photographs on screens, but I love looking at them on paper.

I think of them as gear for our brains.

So here are some new books on photography. Take a look and enjoy.

“Stephen Shore has had a significant influence on multiple generations of artists and photographers. Even for the youngest photographers working today, his work remains an ongoing and indisputable reference point. Stephen Shore: Survey includes over 250 images that span Shore’s impressive and productive career. The images range from 1969 to 2013, with series such as Early Works, Amarillo, New York City, American Surfaces and Uncommon Places, among others. Stephen Shore: Survey elucidates Shore’s contributions, as well as the historiographical interpretations of his work that have influenced photographic culture over the past four decades. The narrative of the catalogue is conceptualized around three particularly revealing aspects of Shore’s work, including his analysis of photographic and visual language, his topographical approach to the contemporary landscape and his significant use of color within a photographic context.”

“After World War II, the American road trip began appearing prominently in literature, music, movies and photography. As Stephen Shore has written, “Our country is made for long trips. Since the 1940s, the dream of the road trip, and the sense of possibility and freedom that it represents, has taken its own important place within our culture.” Many photographers purposefully embarked on journeys across the U.S. in order to create work, including Robert Frank, whose seminal road trip resulted in The Americans. However, he was preceded by Edward Weston, who traveled across the country taking pictures to illustrate Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass; Henri Cartier-Bresson, whose 1947 trip through the American South and into the West was published in the early 1950s in Harper’s Bazaar; and Ed Ruscha, whose road trips between Los Angeles and Oklahoma formed the basis of Twentysix Gasoline Stations.”

“At the end of the 1950s William Eggleston began to photograph around his home in Memphis using black-and-white 35mm film. Fascinated by the photography of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Eggleston declared at the time: “I couldn’t imagine doing anything more than making a perfect fake Cartier-Bresson.” Eventually Eggleston developed his own style which later shaped his seminal work in color-an original vision of the American everyday with its icons of banality: supermarkets, diners, service stations, automobiles and ghostly figures lost in space. From Black and White to Color includes some exceptional as-yet-unpublished photographs, and displays the evolution, ruptures and above all the radicalness of Eggleston’s work when he began photographing in color at the end of the 1960s. Here we discover similar obsessions and recurrent themes as present in his early black-and-white work including ceilings, food, and scenes of waiting, as well as Eggleston’s unconventional croppings-all definitive traits of the photographer who famously proclaimed, “I am at war with the obvious.”

“About Exiles, Cornell Capa once wrote, “Koudelka’s unsentimental, stark, brooding, intensely human imagery reflects his own spirit, the very essence of an exile who is at home wherever his wandering body finds haven in the night. ” In this newly revised and expanded edition of the 1988 classic, which includes ten new images and a new commentary with Robert Delpire, Koudelka’s work once more forms a powerful document of the spiritual and physical state of exile. The sense of private mystery that fills these photographs–mostly taken during Koudelka’s many years of wandering through Europe and Great Britain since leaving his native Czechoslovakia in 1968–speaks of passion and reserve, of his rage to see. Solitary, moving, deeply felt and strangely disturbing, the images in Exiles suggest alienation, disconnection and love. Exiles evokes some of the most compelling and troubling themes of the twentieth century, while resonating with equal force in this current moment of profound migrations and transience.”

“The Decisive Moment originally titled Images à la Sauvette-is one of the most famous books in the history of photography, assembling Cartier-Bresson’s best work from his early years. Published in 1952 by Simon and Schuster, New York, in collaboration with Editions Verve, Paris, it was lavishly embellished with a collage cover by Henri Matisse. The book and its images have since influenced generations of photographers. Its English title has defined the notion of the famous formal peak in which all elements in the photographic frame accumulate to form the perfect image. Paired with the artist’s humanist viewpoint, Cartier-Bresson’s photography has become part of the world’s collective memory. This new publication is a meticulous facsimile of the original book. It comes with an additional booklet containing an essay on the history of The Decisive Moment by Centre Pompidou curator Clément Chéroux.”

“In Partida, Robert Frank continues the journey through his archives, presenting us with a new series of images of friends, colleagues, interiors, of quiet still lives and snap shots of both ordinary and unexpected objects and situations. Frank’s visual diaries constitute an important part of both his later work and the ongoing art of the photo book.”

Photographers You Should Know: Marc Hauser

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A Series on Photographers Who Influenced My Work and Life…

When I started photography, I looked for photographers that resonated with me. I found Marc Hauser’s work in a small bookstore in Tempe, and immediately fell in love with this simple, classic, intimate portraiture.

I bought the book “Halloween in Bucktown” and it is still one of my favorites.

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I am not going to bio the photographers you should know series, there has been so much written about the photographers I will be featuring. I will, however, link out to some articles that should introduce you to his creative vision.

“Hire him they do. Hauser, a friendly, rotund man who wears a four-carat diamond in one ear, grosses more than $1 million a year from his labors. The “Upstairs at the Harris” ads are his, and the portrait ads for Rolling Stone. He’s captured Fred Winston for WLS advertising and University of Chicago professor Benjamin Bloom for Psychology Today.

Hauser snapped Oprah Winfrey for an airline magazine cover. “We had a pretend screaming contest in my studio during the session,” says Hauser, “to see who could scream the loudest.” The resulting image, featuring Oprah in a purple dress with the outlines of movie cameras behind her, turned into her publicity still.”

Chicago Reader

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‘IF YOU CAN’T DO IT RIGHT, DO IT BIG’ from Chris Cascarano on Vimeo.

 

“His good–luck streak snapped about seven years ago. The Chicago photographer was badly injured while shooting a TV commercial on a golf course (he fell 40 feet when a crane crashed through a screen over a sprinkler system). He shattered a leg and lost the vision in his right eye, a catastrophe that evaporated his savings and bookings.

Some shooters would fade away. But Hauser focuses “on the positive,” he said. He has since endured a series of reconstructive surgeries (the most recent was Monday), switched to a digital camera, and trained himself to frame portraits with his left eye.”

GO (Times Media)

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“Marc also has a reputation for suddenly yelling while photographing you, to get a reaction. Anything beyond the usual smile. As I took my place and he adjusted the camera, I was prepared to do whatever he wanted. Marc works fairly close to his subject. I like that. It keeps you in the moment as a subject.”

Billy Sheahan Blog

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Google Image Search.

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Marc Hauser Photography

EDITED:

VIDEOS ADDED.

Photography: Too Many #%*#$ Rules!

katleyn-on-the-docks-smI was talking with a couple of photographers this week and we were discussing their output… or lack thereof, and I was commiserating a bit with them. I have been mired deep to the elbows in stuff that doesn’t involve cameras for the last six weeks. Very little shooting, lots of other stuff that HAD to be done.

I realized after I had spoken with them that what we were all talking about were the rules we have put on ourselves for the creation of our work. We couldn’t just pick up a camera and make images… nooooo, we have rules in place that dictate exactly when, and how, and with what that should happen.

We have rules that say we only shoot on road trips, or that there is too much going on, or that there is not enough time or not enough access to models or we don’t have the newest camera so our pictures will only have 18MP instead of 24MP so they will automatically suck the suck out of suck.

We need to follow all the rules before we shoot anything.

“I would love to make a photograph today, but I am unable to find the model I need to make the photograph so I will not make a photograph, but instead go on FB and make light of the situation all the while NOT making any photographs.”

There’s this ‘rule’, you see.

The rule of ‘if what we plan doesn’t pan out, we stop doing ANYTHING AT ALL. Because… err… well… uhh”

“I wanted to do some photographs this weekend, but my trip to Payson was put on hold for a week so I am unable to venture up there with my camera. So – I know – I will just mope around and kick rocks off the driveway because… because… rule! I can only be creative when on road trips to places I want to go to because… Tuesday.”

Rules are a form of self talk… self smack-talk that is. We have set up some litany of bullshit bullet points that must be met in order for us to, you know, be creative.

That’s like scheduling “Spontaneous Thursdays – from 9am – 10:30am, all middle managers must attend” meetings in the culture of cubicles.

Rules are resistance at work. Rules are insidious forms of resistance – and what makes them even more vile and disgusting is that we made them up.

We made them up from nothing other than a desire to not perform at the moment. So we let resistance form itself into some sort of limiting rule. Of course that is redundant… all rules are by nature, limiting.

We begin to let the rules live inside our heads for a just a little while, and they begin to make themselves right at home – rearranging the furniture of our mind until it is theirs and then they stop paying rent. They squat there in our brains, forcing themselves into our minds like drunken bikers at an open bar. And every time we think about doing something creative, they begin tearing up the place and bashing stuff with cue sticks and bar chairs.

I would love to make some photographs today, but:

“My camera is too old.”
“I don’t have lights.”
“I don’t have time for a road trip.”
“Not enough time to do a 10 course meal shoot.”
“If I had the props I wanted, it would be better.”
“No time to find a model, so what is the point?”

Each are examples of ‘the rule’.

THE rule.

“If things are not optimal, there is no reason to attempt anything at all.”

One rule to, err… rule them all. (sorry)

If things are not perfect, ducks lined up like a North Korean military band, there really will not be any reason to attempt anything at all. It is all so much simpler when we follow the rules.

Rules, resistance, excuses… whatever we want to call them, force themselves into even the most creative amongst us.

We call it writer’s block, or photographer’s block, or “in a rut-ism”.. or a dozen other names for the fact that we have a rule in place that is stopping us from doing something we want to do…

And the worst part, the absolute worst part of this whole thing?

We created that sonuvabitch ourselves. We made the rules that are now keeping us from what we want to do. We crafted and molded and polished and finessed them tlll they were custom-made just for us and fit like a glove.

Good move, us.

Of course those of you who know me a bit know that I don’t get along well with rules. I hate them… telling me there is a rule is like waving a red flag in front of bull named “Widow Maker”. I will always try to find a way around the so called ‘rule’ and create almost in direct opposition to it… because rules are generally made for breaking.

(And don’t get me started on the ‘rules’ of photography itself… that would be a six-pack plus of me blustering on about how they are fabricated by statists and such… nawww… we’ll go there another time.)

I hate rules.

However, I will confess to you guys that I have succumbed to the rules in my head as well. I am now in the midst of spring cleaning and calling the Sheriff to get them evicted – and the Sheriff in my county is one bad mutha. I work on it first thing every morning. I listen to my brain tell me what I cannot do because of whatever and I methodically work to get rid of those ideas. I force them into the open and then force them to disappear.

How?

Action. Taking action will always make the rules fade into the background.

I think it is easier than ever to let the rules get implanted and ingrained. Social media, websites, the idolatry of the celebrity, the overwhelming amount of ‘information’ that simply couches more and more rules. We begin to believe that we truly cannot do _______ because we currently do not have _______ and our work will simply suck because ______.

Nope.

It is all BS.

I taught workshops with a Rebel. I used my Rebel on the first CreativeLIVE I did. Why? Because of the ‘rule’ that you had to use a ‘professional’ camera to make good images. I never wanted my students to think that gear had anything at all to do with lighting and creating photographs that speak to the viewer. I wanted to show by example that those rules are simply marketing and bluster and elitism marching in lockstep.

I ‘broke’ that rule pretty well.

Now let me ask you something.

What ‘rules’ are manifesting inside your head and keeping you from doing something you want to do. And be careful when identifying them… they are not all based in photography.

“Too old to do something?” BS rule.
“Not enough time to do something?” BS rule.
“Wrong time to start something?” BS rule.
“Not enough ____ to be successful at _____?” BS rule.

Take action against them. Look for the examples where the rule was broken, then take the same or similar action yourself. (NOTE: There are examples of people breaking those rules and being successful all around you.)

It is not easy, but it is also not THAT hard.

It simply requires some action.

What action will you take today?

ATTENTION ALL PROJECT 52 MEMBER AND ALUMNI – 2015 Trip to the Canyons is ON

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As we do every year, the meetup / party is scheduled for February 6-8 and the trip north is from February 8 – 15.

There are no creative or workshop fees attached. Only a per person share for van rentals, gas and a few consumables. We will have information on local hotels and booking info ASAP.

The weekend starts Friday with a trip to the Superstition Mountains, some incredible mountain vistas, lunch at Tortilla Flats and great comraderie. Saturday is spent in town at the studio.

If you are a current or past member of Project 52, you are welcome to attend. I will need to know if you are for sure coming by December 1, and will base all bookings on that number so late entries may be difficult to accommodate.

Project 52 Members… JOIN US!

More information on this page.

Josh Ross on Marketing and the Life Cycle of a Product Shoot

My friend Josh Ross and I got a chance to talk a bit about marketing and project life cycle of a product shoot. This was an invite only (Project 52 members) and you will hear some questions at the end of the webinar. This is NOT a flashy look at photographs webinar, it is a listen and learn webinar.

Find Josh at his website and these social media places.

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

Google+

Flickr

Here is the previous discussion with Josh and me.

New Directions, Multiple Channels

New Directions, Multiple Channels

A few things have caught my attention lately. I mean really caught my attention. One was the great chat we had with my friend Rosh Sillars on how to price a gig in the new economy, and the other was his discussion we had off mic about photographers being able to do more than just a still image.

Now before anyone gets their feathers all ruffled out of place and sheds them all over the carpet, let me explain that I love and worship at the sanctity of the still image. I think it is my favorite form of art. And I will continue to develop my skills toward that end, hoping to become pretty good at it someday.

But just as changes in the way jobs are billed is becoming something to think about, so is the offering we make to our clients. Possibly this is something for you to think about as well.

Channels of creative output. Plural… ChannelS…

I have always been afflicted with a high degree of ADD (thank the Lord) and it keeps me looking for things to do and creativity to work with. I am a designer and a writer as well as a photographer. I play the drums (once good enough to be in a band or three… these days I simply scare the cats) and am learning how to play ‘standards’ with a jazz groove on the Tenor Sax.

I make money from photography, designing and writing. The other stuff is for fun, but I practice pretty hard. Ask the cats.

We all know that video is now a staple of the digital DSLR, the Mirrorless cameras, P&S and phones as well. Video is the newest channel to offer itself up for our additional channel of creativity.

A lot of us do not want to get into video for variety of reasons… some good. Some rather stupid. Mine have been on the ‘rather stupid’ column for too long. I need to add motion to my work, and the more I see of this new intersection of stills/video/writing the more I see how I must integrate it into what I do.

Do I want to make movies? Nope. Nor do I want to do commercials… but… still shots that move… yeah, that kind of has me intrigued.

And that intrigue took a big dose this week when I stumbled upon “Hollow” a Documentary about a single county in West Virginia. Once the richest county in America it now rates as one of the poorest counties.

A group of writers, photographers, audio techs, videographers, cinematographers and producers descended onto this unique place in the universe and produced a fascinating look into the places and lives that make up this small, rural, extremely poor county.

Through the use of the medium of a website, the power of ‘scrolling’ and visuals that ensnare the sensibilities, this ‘experience’ piece simply knocked me into a new mindset.

I must learn more about the video/motion side of things. This type of thing is one of the directions I would like to go… story telling. Rich, fantastic, sensory story telling.

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A rich blend of audio, video and still photography, Hollow is the new direction for long form story telling.

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Using Parallax scrolling the images move vertically and horizontally and slowly reveal more and more content to the viewer.

See more at Hollow Documentary. (Be prepared to spend some time.)

Another example of this deep story telling is found on the (now famous) NYT website. It is called “Snowfall” and tells the story of an avalanche in Washington that killed several snowboarders. The in-depth reporting, character studies, charts, graphs, video and stills bring life to a long content text piece. Where Photojournalism is going, I believe.

Take a look at this one about a shipwrecked boat and the Geopolitical importance of it. “A Game of Shark and Minnow” mixes journalism, blogging, photography and video into an in-depth look at this very interesting, and possibly explosive area of the world.

While “Snowfall” was one of the first of this type of presentation, and represented hundreds of hours of work, we can now do them rather quickly and with less effort with WordPress and the many different plugins available.

Here is a post on one of my favorite blogs, Elegant Themes, about the new forms of Storytelling using WordPress.

And here is a plugin for WordPress that facilitates this type of technology… for free. The “Aesop” story engine allows nearly anyone with a WordPress website to produce a content/media rich story. And that can be a game changer for some of us.

So how does this impact us still shooters?

Well, it does give us some new channels for creating imagery. It allows us to show our story telling abilities if that is something we want to do.

And it gives us a unique way to show a portfolio, to show our work as a ‘story’ instead of a group of disparate images.

A food shooter may choose to do a ‘story’ on a fictional (or non-fictional) area and illustrate it with wonderful still shots, some video of pouring wine or cheese tray fun… add some audio recorded on his iPhone with RODE mics and we have something different, something more robust… for simply showing the still shots.

A fashion shooter could have a ‘documentary’ of the prep of the shoot (and not a cheesy BTS video of the makeup artist painting lip liner… give it a rest, will ya…) along with audio and text… then show the images that were created much in the same way a portfolio would be shown now.

Introducing a product / portrait portfolio with some audio, some BTS, a few shots of the photographer at work, some video of the careful placement of props… then the still shots. Or intersperse them with video intros of preparing the shoot.

CAVEAT: We are not talking about videos that exist to show other photographers how to use a boom or the 10 smart ways to make a white background ‘pop’… we are showing clients what it is like to work with us, our attention to detail, our commitment to excellence while still having a fun and relaxed environment.

The stuff that beginners and CL shooters don’t do. We set ourselves apart with the way we present our work.

(And we subtly introduce the idea that we do motion into the mind of the buyer… heh. See what I did there?)

Look, I don’t want to tell you what to do. I only want to introduce you to my ideas and things that I think could really work out for creating something new, something different and possibly more interesting than what we are doing now.

I suggest you develop better writing skills, video (motion) skills and think about the different ways you can present your work… tell a story, even about telling the story.

Until next time… make photos.

Dennis Dunbar: Retouching Secrets of the Pros

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In Charlotte, NC, October 25

Presented by APA Charlotte

If you are in the area, you should check it out. Dennis is an excellent retoucher.

“Dennis Dunbar is a Digital Artist with extensive experience in digital issues and techniques. Since 1991, he has been working extensively in creating finished artwork for movie posters as well as commercial ads from his studio, Dunbar Digital, in Santa Monica, California. On Saturday, October 25, APA-Charlotte will be hosting a workshop, conducted by Dennis entitled, Retouching Secrets of the Pros.”

When:
Saturday October 25, 2014
Doors Open: 9:30am
Workshop: 10:00am – 2:00pm
Water will be provided and there will be a 45-minute break for lunch (not provided).

Where:
UNC Center City • 320 E. 9th Street • Charlotte, NC 28202

 

Building A WordPress Photography Site (Santino)

My friend Bob Knill wanted a bit of a hand on building his site. He chose the them Santino, and I did these videos for him, and you, to see how to build and maintain a WordPress website for photographers. We will add additional movies as we go through SEO, but this will give you a good idea on how to set up a WP theme.

NOTE: All themes are different, but most are pretty similar in function and tech.

Let’s get started:

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THREE

FOUR

FIVE

SIX

SEVEN

EIGHT

NINE

TEN

ELEVEN

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Hey, They Want You In the Arena… Are You Ready?

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Would it surprise you that what we think is more powerful than reality? That mere thoughts can be as powerfully uplifting or critically damaging as what we actually do?

“I don’t think I am ready to get out there and show my book” he said to me.

It didn’t matter that he was indeed ready to get out there. He did have a good book to show. Hell, it wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be. It had to be as good as it could be for the place he was in his life.

And it was.

But he had convinced himself that it had to be as good as some of the photographers on his list… the ones that are shooting every week. The ones that were ‘ready’ ten years ago. Or twenty. Or five.

He wanted to ‘catch up’ to them before going out with his wonderful work. Catch up is not possible, as there is no race involved. No comparison between his work and any number of others was valuable in any way.

Except to convince himself that he wasn’t ‘ready’. And not being ready means we have nothing to fear. We can never lose if we never try. We can never face the pressure to succeed if we choose not to bother succeeding.

Choosing not to be involved can be rationalized a lot of other ways as well. We have heard them all, haven’t we?

“Terrible time to start a business…”
“Economy sucks.”
“Photography is dead.”
“Everyone is shooting for free, so there is no hope for me.”

I am so tired of reading about the death of photography I could bang my head against the wall. While I guess the theme serves a purpose for link-bait posts on PetaPixel and DSLRLounge and other online publications, the reality is that photography is growing in leaps and bounds.

Unfortunately it is not growing as fast as the excuses, reasons, fabricated mythologies and link-bait articles about impossible success is are.

You know there is an entire industry out there devoted to keeping my friend from thinking he IS ready? No, they don’t have an association or annual meetings, but the reality is that they coordinate in insidious ways. And we can see those in action if we look closely.

From “pop-culture” to the news organizations to the specialized media that we tune into because we THINK they have our back.

And they may have our back on occasion, but there is no guarantee that they will be there when we are in need. They are not in business to help us succeed, they are in business to sell advertising and advertising likes big reach and nothing gets big reach like whining about failing.

The ones who have succeeded are turned into pop-stars. Bigger than life celbrities that are really succeeding because – well, they’re special. Special people make it. Special people get to be celebrities and have groupies and you…

… You are not special.

NOTE: Have you ever seen a sitcom or movie or play where the actors have to play the part of a ‘regular’ person who has to appear in some sort of ‘acting role’? The part calls for the ‘regular person’ to appear on TV or in a play… and the actor portrays them as fumbling, moronic, stupid and absolutely incapable of that ‘small part’ they are asked to play. Do you think that is by accident? Or could it be that they want you to think that acting is such a demanding, incredible, nearly impossible art that regular people are simply incapable of even attempting the smallest of parts.

Because ‘regular people’ are not special.

Bullshit.

You are as special as anyone, as capable as anyone – all you may lack is the PR department.

But this fear of being thought of as not ‘special enough’ can keep us cozy in the knowledge that we probably wouldn’t have been good enough anyway, so trying to would just have proven it and why prove it if it is just the way it is… – even better in the voice of Eyore.

We choose not to play in the arena. We choose not to engage. We choose not to flex our creativity but instead to hide it, bury it, and ignore it. For fear of being found not special enough to have it.

Brene Brown told Chase Jarvis something in his interview with her that stuck with me like glue. “Unused creativity becomes toxic.”

Think about that… unused creativity becomes toxic.

Hiding behind that wall of uncertainty, failing to enter the arena of challenges, and staying cozy in the warm blankets of ‘status quo’ can actually be dangerous and poison the mind.

“Hold on there, Don… what if we truly are NOT ready…?”

Oh that can certainly be the case. Beginners are not ready. The ones that open their ‘studio’ after shooting for 11 months on auto and have no idea at all about how the world of photography works are not ready. (They will be featured on one of the online forums of an example of why you shouldn’t think YOU are special and try it because they did and they failed and if they can fail you most assuredly will too. Because Craigslist!

Getting ready to enter the arena means knowing what you can do, and how to do it. It means being open to learning – and learning quickly. It means giving up things that may not be of value to you as you engage. It means understanding what I mean by that.

We are all as ready or as unready as we prepare ourselves to be and tell ourselves we are.

And let’s be really honest. We KNOW when we are ready. It is not rocket science. It is not mystical… and it is not something that only ‘special’ people know. The folks I am talking to here are the ones that know all they need to know, and find excuses to somehow ‘need’ more… the never ending, all encompassing “I’m not ready…”

Is my friend ready from a photographic standpoint? Yes. Is he ready from a business perspective? Yes. Is he capable… of course.

But what is stopping him is not those areas, it is the fear of being found wanting. The fear of failing publicly. The fear of being branded… a loser.

I just read something interesting. In Silicon Valley there is a group of venture capitalists looking to invest in the next big thing. Criteria to get in front of them… you must have failed TWICE at a business and lost more than a million dollars in each. They wanted someone who had risked it all, lost it all, RISKED IT AGAIN and LOST IT AGAIN… they wanted a fighter, a scrapper, a dreamer with some hard won STEEL in their gut. Someone they would feel confident was ready to enter the ring with the scars and broken bones of failure.

We may not be that guy, but we can enter the same arena. Rocky didn’t win. They went a bridge too far. The Ronin saved the reputation of their master.

Let’s gear up. The arena of life calls.

(Watch this video of Chase Jarvis and Brene Brown having a discussion about vulnerability, critics and putting yourself in the ring… consider it homework for the soul.)

Perfume Shot To Layout

At Project 52 last week we had an assignment to shoot a specific image of a perfume bottle. You can see the assignment here.

These are some of the great images the students shot for this assignment.

Environmental Portraits

The crew at Project 52 (2014) shot some environmental portraits last week.

Thought I would share them here.

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The Internet Changed The Proposition of Value: Here is How to Fight Back

“Where photographers can succeed is if they abandon the consumers and editorial world who has been over-run by these value perception changes, and instead turn towards the same brands that still pay developers premium salaries for exclusive solutions. As Paul Melcher wrote those brands will drive the future of pay-to-play professional photography in the next decade, feeding photographers who successfully reinvent themselves.”

Jan Klier, photographer, NYC

One Light Portraits: A Collection

The assignment was to shoot a portrait with one light.

Studio Portrait: Clean background, Simple Light; Forceful, Expressive Portrait

Specifics:

A very clean portrait shot on a flat field background (wall, seamless, cyc, material, cloth, canvas…) Tightly focused and stylistically within your style. This image should be created to show how you handle strong personalities in front of your lens.
There should be special attention placed on the expressiveness of the portrait: Sadness, pain, angst, joy, humor, intensity… ENGAGED.

We want to see more than a smile, more than a beauty shot. This is a glimpse into the soul of the subject.

It is important to make the lighting something that enhances the look / feel of the subject. Whether it is soft or hard, single light or multiple strobes, natural or mixed or whatever, the light and the subject should be something that makes sense – to you.

To me, one light is a way of presenting a subject free of the hand of the photographer. A light is a light, and the subject has a relationship to that light that is in many ways more organic than when additional lights are added in. Of course, I am referring to lights on the subject, not background lights or ambient or location specific lighting.

This week the August group took on the “one light portrait” challenge: