“Money, Money, Money” A Difficult Subject

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The subject was money. And the assignment was for a brochure cover for a financial services company. Layout was included, but optional. The important thing was to not be totally cliche’ about the image, and also not to succumb to a boring shot.

This is a most difficult shot to do, and the photographers had to master the technique as well as come up with the creative. I think they did very well.

The students of Project 52 just keep on rolling. Two of them just got their first pro gigs, and others have been able to expand into markets they hadn’t been in before. Very exciting times at P52.

Photographers You Should Know: Nadav Kander

Nadav Kander shoots a lot of different subjects and I think he does them extremely well. I love his classic approach to composition, and the understated approach he uses to lighting and presentation. His imagery is clean, uncluttered and created with deliberation and attention to detail.

From Wiki:
Nadav Kander
(born 1961) is a London-based photographer, artist and director, known for his portraiture and landscapes. His work is included in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria and Albert Museum and other galleries and museums.

Nadav Kander: Radioactive ruins of secret Soviet towns: a fantastic set of images of places we may never see.

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From his Rep Agency in Europe: We Folk.

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From Nadav Kander’s American Representatives: Stockland Martel

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From Nadav Kander’s Website.

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Are We Clear About What We Do as Photographers?

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Are We?

Two things recently formed today’s article. One was a note from a commercial shooter who was being setup to fail, and the other from a consumer shooter angry that the client kept wanting more and more retouching… and feeling trapped that it must be done.

To both I responded with one word: contract.

I know we all hate that contract crap… at least I know I do. It starts out a relationship saying “I trust you, but I really don’t so sign this.” Maybe I am being a little melodramatic, but it seems that way to me.

The commercial situation was this:

The photographer had submitted a bid for the job and the client said “Wonderful. We love the bid. It’s a go… with just a few minor changes. Of course.

1. We want every shot you take in RAW.
2. We want there to be very little Photoshopping on the images (how does that square with #1?)
3. We want the images to look like the images in your portfolio.
4. We want the images to look just like what we want them to look like although we can’t really tell you what that is until we see them.
5. We want 60 days to pay instead of 30.
6. We want the copyright to all the images forever.

He was concerned about these requests… as he should be.

Whether intentional or not, they were setting him up for a major fail. Conflicting expectations and demands that are clearly not in the normal way of working will always create confusion. And give the client something to use as leverage to bash your price down.

The photographer asked me to review his response which was lengthy and detailed with explanations of why he doesn’t feel good about giving the RAW files, and what copyright really means to him and how he wants to do a great job for them but is a little confused about some of the terms.

I simplified the response to only a few lines.

60 Days is acceptable (from billing date).
Backup RAW Files for the chosen 16 images.
Responsible client representative to art direct the imagery and/or provide a shot list.
Responsible client representative to approve images on set.
Copyright will be retained by the photographer, but client can have a buyout for chosen images for this much more money.

Done.

I always hear photographers talking about educating the client. Well, I am not one that believes the art department of a major corporation needs educating. They know this stuff, they are only playing politics.

By the way, they said yes to the revised bid with 5 paragraphs stating what the PHOTOGRAPHER was going to do.

If I sound jaded, I apologize only slightly. I have seen too damned much of it, and on occasion been on the receiving end. In my case it doesn’t last long because I have a contract and a clear method of working that prevents that.

I have a very simple contract that has the deliverables plainly stated. You get this. This way. By this date.

The client is responsible for the shot list, and someone with the responsibility to do so, must approve all images. Without client approval process, they get what they get. In writing this is.

The consumer shooter had a customer from hell… asking for more than 15 rounds of ‘editing’… from ‘fly away hair’ (shot in a breeze) to making a chin smaller and opening up the eye a bit.

The photographer was mad at the client for all these demands and that shouldn’t be the case. I am happy to make all the changes you want. At $90 per hour.

The contract should state what is included: Color Correcting, skin cleanup, some creative expression (hey, it’s consumer… gotta love them actions). Additional changes are happily made at $90 an hour (or whatever your charge is).

“While every attempt is made to provide a perfect photograph for you, changes in reality can be costly and time intensive. Digital liposuction/cosmetic alterations are supplied at a rate of $90 per hour and estimates must be approved before work commences.”

In the design/web business we call that “Change of Work Order”.

Since we were clear in what we are going to deliver, it is a change to that deliverable schedule when things are added. This also goes for the “Hey, you’re here with your camera already out… can you get a shot of the whole facility from that forklift?”

“Absodamnlutely I can. Hold on, that will require a change of work order… I have one right here. I can add the fee to it and we can get that shot.”

You will quickly find out if they want the shot that bad.

Or you can just go shoot it for them… I don’t care. Just don’t whine about being taken advantage of later. Gift the client that shot since you already had your camera out… or don’t. You have the ability to do either because you have a specific job to do.

Inherent in all of this is the comfort level you have for ‘walking away’. In Trump’s book, “The Art of the Deal” he makes a very important point several times; if you are not willing to walk away from the deal, you aren’t in the deal, you are taking an order. Desperation breeds a bad deal if you are the one that is desperate.

Your choice. Are you an order taker or are you negotiating a position or compensation. Being willing to walk away gives the confidence to make your demands known, and feel as powerful making YOURS as they do making theirs.

I don’t usually do full RAW file transfers. It’s rare. 16BIT Tiffs… whatever. But RAW generally stays in my purview, just like my negatives and transparencies. And I don’t transfer copyright. Ever.

I can negotiate most other things and depending on the client and the gig, I can be pretty flexible. But core principals will not be swapped away, and I am totally fine with walking away. No gig is worth giving up my core values and deeply held beliefs.

Be smart, be clear and be deliberate. Eliminating those things that can go wrong upfront is the best way to make the ending a smoother, more enjoyable one.

PS: If your contract requires a Harvard Law Professor to make sense of it, then it’s wrong. Plain old speech is fine. Spell it out clearly with clearly understood words… it’ll hold up.

Two Lenses: A Day in the North Country

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Yesterday I spent the morning wandering around an area north of Phoenix for a few hours. Joined by photographers Dennis Mong and Miachelle DePiano, we took a loop through a beautiful part of central / north Arizona.

I had no expectations other than hoping I could capture a few shots of the fall colors that seem to last but a moment each Autumn. We took the I17 North to Camp Verde, had breakfast while hoping the very gray skies would open up with some sun, but moved on toward Strawberry, AZ when that didn’t materialize. As we went up the mountain toward Strawberry, Pine, and Payson, the sun began peeking out just a bit. The resulting soft light was really pretty.

I used two cameras, with only two lenses. The drive wasn’t formally constructed to do that, but it ended up that I used a moderate wide and a telephoto for all the images.

Cameras:

Nikon Df, 35MM f2.0
Canon 6D, 200MM f2.8L

Gear Links

So I either chose a moderate wide or a tighter tele for all the shots I did, not once changing the lenses on the two cameras. That forced me to look for tight or compressed images or things that could be presented within a wider context.

I may do this again in a week or so… 28mm on the DF and 135MM on the 6D and look for shots that fit those two specific image views. Or not… LOL. I do not have any idea what I will do in a couple of weeks.

5 Photographs with the Nikon Df and the 35MM f2:

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5 Photographs from the Canon 6D, 200MM f2.8L.

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Great Reads: November Books 2014

“A Road Through Shore Pine focuses on a series of 18 never-before-seen photographs by Robert Adams (born 1937), taken in Nehalem Bay State Park, Oregon, in the fall of 2013. Adams documents a contemplative journey, made first by automobile, then by foot, along an isolated, tree-bordered road to the sea. As presented through Adams’ 11 x 14-inch prints, the passage takes on the quality of metaphor, suggestive of life’s most meaningful journeys, especially its final ones. For this group of photographs, all of which were printed by Adams himself, the artist returned to the use of a medium-format camera, allowing the depiction of an intense amount of detail. Through experience gathered over more than four decades, Adams’ trees, especially the tips of their leaves, are etched with singular sensitivity to the subtleties and meanings of light.”

“The definitive monograph of American photographer Vivian Maier, exploring the full range and brilliance of her work and the mystery of her life, written and edited by noted photography curator and writer Marvin Heiferman and featuring 250 black-and-white images, color work, and other materials never seen before.”

“Mikhael Subotzky and Patrick Waterhouse worked at Ponte City, the iconic Johannesburg apartment building which is Africa’s tallest residential skyscraper, for more than six years. They photographed the residents and documented the building-every door, the view from every window, the image on every television screen. This remarkable body of images is presented here in counterpoint with an extensive archive of found material and historical documents. The visual story is integrated with a sustained sequence of essays and documentary texts. In the essays, some of South Africa’s leading scholars and writers explore Ponte City’s unique place in Johannesburg and in the imagination of its citizens. What emerges is a complex portrait of a place shaped by contending projections, a single, unavoidable building seen as refuge and monstrosity, dreamland and dystopia, a lightning rod for a society’s hopes and fears, and always a beacon to navigate by. This long-term project obtained the Discovery Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles in 2011.”

“Julie Blackmon has transfixed the contemporary art world with images of her children, nieces, nephews and friends (and their children). Following the success of the bestselling volume Domestic Variations (2009), Homegrown shows how Blackmon’s style has evolved, as she continues to capture the tensions between the harmony and disarray of everyday domestic life. Though her photographs continue to be undeniably contemporary, references to classic painting and portraiture can be detected: the influence of seventeenth-century Dutch painter Jan Steen mixes with more contemporary figures, such as Balthus, Edward Gorey, Tim Burton and Federico Fellini. Included in this new volume are 45 works made from 2009-2014, along with an introduction by renowned poet Billy Collins and an interview by the actress Reese Witherspoon.”

“Nadav Kander (born 1961) is a recipient of the renowned Prix Pictet and one of today’s most successful photographers. Upon learning of the existence of two “closed” cities on the border between Kazakhstan and Russia, he decided to visit them. For Dust he photographed the desolated landscapes of the Aral Sea and the restricted military zones of Priozersk and Kurtchatov, which did not appear on any map until well after the end of the Cold War. Long-distance missiles were secretly tested in Priozersk, and hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated in the so-called Polygon near Kurchatov, until the program ended in 1989. The bombs were exploded in a remote but still populated area, and covert studies were made of the effects of the radiation on the unsuspecting inhabitants. Kander describes how the ticking of the Geiger counter on his belt while he photographed served as a foil against the aesthetic allure of the ruins.”

“Find out how Alec Soth constructs his projects, why Trent Parke relies on old-fashioned Polaroids and hand-made books, and how forty-one other photographers experiment with new and old technologies, turn their photo-diaries into exhibitions, and attract audiences of millions via online platforms.

This book celebrates the creative processes of the modern photographic era, in which blogs and Instagram streams function alongside analog albums and contact sheets, and the traditional notebook takes the form of Polaroid studies, smartphone pictures, found photography, experimental image-making, and self-published photo-zines. Each photographer presents his or her sketchbook: several pages of images that convey his or her working methods and thought processes. These intimate, oneoff presentations are accompanied by engaging interviews that reveal how the simple act of pressing a shutter can capture and express a fully realized personal vision.”

“Throughout his prolific career as a photographer, Emmet Gowin has threaded together seemingly disparate subjects: his wife, Edith, and their extended family; American and European landscapes; aerial views of environmental devastation, brought together by his ongoing interest in issues of scale, the impact of the individual, and notions of belonging. This long-awaited survey pays tribute to Gowin’s remarkable career and his impact on the medium. Following his marriage to Edith Morris in 1964, Gowin began work on a series of images of his extended family that is now recognized as a touchstone of twentieth-century American photography. He photographed the children and the aging parents, and made intimate portraits of his wife, continuing a photographic tradition inherited from his mentor, Harry Callahan, with whom he studied in the 1960s. His focus broadened in the 1980s, when he began an exploration of landscape and aerial photography, most specifically in his documentation of Mount St. Helens and the American West”

Halloween Shoot: Project 52 Members

Halloween Shoot: Project 52 Members

The assignment was to illustrate a double truck (2 page spread) magazine story on the Origins of Halloween. Layout was furnished as a layered PSD file and the P52 students had to shoot TO that layout – reversed copy and all. The assignment was a great example of how photographers can take a single topic and make something totally different than other photographers. (NOTE: a few of our photographers are from areas in the world that do not celebrate Halloween. They chose something more in tune with their regions.)

The images:

Photographers You Should Know: Aaron Jones

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The first time I saw Aaron Jones work was in a Communication Arts Magazine a long time ago. At that time he was in Portland (I believe) and the work was so amazingly incredible I will never forget that moment. Those images must have resonated with a lot of other folks because soon afterwards, I started seeing his work in national magazines and some very high end advertising. Soon after, he moved from Portland to San Francisco.

Jones invented a lighting tool that provided a unique and very interesting look. Over time, he was able to turn that lighting tool into a product, “The Hosemaster”.

Here is a good article on how the Hosemaster works.

Essentially the Hosemaster was a very fancy tool for light painting.

In the early 90’s Jones moved to Santa Fe and built a studio there. He continued to work as a commercial photographer for many more years. I am not sure what Jones is doing today. If anyone one knows, let me know. Thanks.

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Basic Systems for Commercial Photographers

hunts-tombMy recent Lighting Essentials post on “Systems” (Don’t Be Afraid of Systems) was an overview of some simple checklists that I use to keep focused and create content in an overwhelmingly busy world. The amount of people, information, education, entertainment and sheer braincell killing stupidity that competes for our attention at nearly every turn makes it hard to stay on task.

I have a few larger systems that work for me, and of course they are constantly being challenged by the fact that day to day, my days are usually not the same.

Being a photographer and a designer means that there are all kinds of distractions, and a constantly changing landscape of what must be done that day.

A shoot day usually means no design gets done. A heavy design day means lots of ass sitting (and you know how I feel about that). A day on the road kills creation for both the photography and the design. Getting any design done while transferring planes and flyint through bumps is not gonna happen, and the constant shift of attention makes a 30 minute time frame better for reading than actually designing or editin images. Most of the time.

I do get a lot done while traveling, but most of that output is directed to writing, reading and catching up with correspondence. (Once in San Francisco I was so intently working on a page design that I missed the boarding call. At one point I looked up and there was nearly no one in the area. I had to wait another 2 hours for a flight… it was a crazy evening.)

So my system has to be big enough, flexible enough and ‘open’ enough to encompass those wild swings of priorities.

The post on Lighting Essentials talked about checklists and systems for packing/unpacking gear and how to focus time through the day.

But focusing through the kind of days that photographers have is more difficult than a cubicle gig.

I use a ‘system’ that allows for serendipity.

Part of this system is to be very, very careful on promising delivery. I build in time, double check my schedule and make sure I can deliver when I say I can. Editing and post takes time, and we can sometimes find it takes longer than we thought it would. Finding a design problem may lead to more complex changes than were expected, and I want to be able to make sure that I always under promise and over deliver.

It is so much better to tell a client you will get it to them in two weeks and deliver it in a week than it is to promise it in a week and deliver it in two.

Trust me.

None of us like it when the promised due date goes by without nary a word.

MY SYSTEM IS FLEXIBLE AND ONLY HAS FOUR STEPS

1. Handle all emergencies as they spring up… UNLESS they are not really emergencies. If they are truly an emergency, we take care of it RIGHT NOW. Putting off the challenges only lets them stack up. Make sure you have room in your schedule for the occasional burning house.

2. Keep clients apprised. Nobody likes surprises – especially delivery surprises. If it is going to take a bit longer to get those files edited, let the client know as soon as you realize it. Tell them why it is going to take a bit longer and then under promise / over deliver.

3. Be prepared for all contingencies. Just as it is necessary to have a backup camera or two, it is necessary to have backups to your planning/productivity. Do you have someone who can step in and take some of this work off of your desk and let you handle a higher level priority? I hope you do, otherwise long, sleepless (and not nearly as productive as you think they are) nights await you.

4. Stay on top of marketing. No matter how busy you are, there must be time set aside for your marketing work. Don’t let the week go by without that scheduled email to go out to local ad agencies. If you have scheduled it for that week, make it a priority to get it out. We can be very busy, but if we do not keep the marketing forefront, we can then have the roller coaster of no business / lots of business.

If we are not marketing while we are busy, then we end up getting slow, and then we market like crazed banshees amped up on Red Bull till we get busy again and stop marketing.

And that is nuts!

I would also recommend Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. Both are go-to’s on my shelves. And the great thing is you can adjust to fit.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Amazon)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (25th Anniversary Edition) (Amazon)

The most important thing is to make sure you have some simple systems in place to handle the bigger issues of time management. No, don’t go all nuts with huge spread-sheets and such. Just work it out so you have a ‘typical’ way of dealing with the rigors of running a small creative business.

Project 52 “The Catalog”

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In this assignment, the photographers had to jump through a few hoops. The previous week they had to submit a “Creative Direction” shoot showing at least two different approaches to doing the fictitious catalog.

Those approaches had to meet some criteria. First is that there are 200 similar items, and the art director wants the catalog (traditional paper and online) to be as consistent as possible. The second is that there is a limited budget, and while the money is pretty good for a two day shoot, it dwindles fast past that point. Shooting 100 items in a day, and having them all be matching takes some planning and a stylistic approach that will allow them to be shot quickly and efficiently. (NOTE: In the fictitious brief all items are similar in size.)

So the photographers have to show a creative direction that also makes it possible to do this catalog in two days, not a week.

The students did a bang up job of it as well. The creative direction shots were reviewed and we assigned that look. This is the finished catalog page in that creative style. The layout was delivered to them as a layered PSD and they could not change anything on it – just insert the photographs. Understanding how to work with a layout, and shooting to that layout is a very important part of commercial photography.

The results are wonderful.



Off Topic Sunday, October 26, 2014

An absolutely astoundingly hectic week. My daughter got married Friday night, and Saturday was spent on a hundred different unrelated errands. Now, Sunday is going to be for catching up and getting ready for next week.

Check out this amazing commercial. And please stay to the end so you can really see how powerfully creative this spot is. Kudos for the creators and a BIG shout out to the manufacturer of this product for having the guts to go with something so different.


Our weekly Jazz entry:

Don Ellis was an innovator, a visionary and a hell of an incredible Jazz arranger / composer. This piece, “Strawberry Soup” is his seminal piece and one of my all time favorite works. For jazz orchestra, string quartet and a bunch of different types of wind instruments, the piece has the structure of a symphony in three parts – with a drum solo. There are four drummers in the group. Ellis plays the trumpet and has the trumpet solo and jumps in the drum solos at the fourth drummer spot. Don Ellis died too young at the age of 44 from a heart condition.


 

Our weekly classical entry:

Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto is one of his most atonal pieces and was composed in 1960 for a commission by his publisher G. Schirmer. It is scored for full orchestra and piano soloist. While it has a very modern approach to tonality, it is still an easy piece to listen to and is quite accessible to the classical music newbie.


 

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If you are running your site on WordPress, you may find these eleven plugins worth downloading. All of them are tested and they perform functions that keep you focused on creating and not screwing around with code.

See you next Sunday.

 

Photographers You Should Know: Jeanloup Sieff

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I discovered Jeanloup Sieff while going through a bunch of black and white portfolios in a used book store in the early 80’s. Fell in instant love with his incredible monochromatic view of the world, and followed along as he gained more and more fame as a photographer with a huge, minimalistic style.


 

From his gallery:

Born in Paris to Polish parents Jeanloup Sieff (1933 – 2000) began shooting fashion photography in 1956 and joined the Magnum Agency in 1958, which enabled him to travel extensively. Settling in New York for much of the sixties he worked for Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and Elle, photographing celebrities such as Jane Birkin, Yves Saint-Laurent, Rudolf Nureyev and Alfred Hitchcock amongst others. Sieff won numerous prizes including the Prix Niepce, the Chevalier des Arts et Lettres in Paris in 1981 and the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in 1992, and his work is housed in many private and international collections.

Sieff is heralded as one of the great international photographic talents of the last half-century and has left an undeniable imprint on his generation. Prolific in many fields, the variety of his imagery highlights his broad artistry, ranging from fashion, nudes, landscape and portraiture.

With great tenacity, Sieff pursued a personal and highly effective signature style, soaked in playful imagination with a touch of irony. Seldom working in colour he favoured the discipline of black and white, often using to his advantage the spatial distortion of wide-angle lenses, the dramatic potential of shadow and exploitation of tone.

“I have always maintained that there is no such thing as art. There are only artists, producing things that give them pleasure, doing so under some compulsion, perhaps even finding the process painful, but deriving a masochistic joy from it!”, Jeanloup Sieff.

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From another gallery that shows his work, the Bernhiemer Gallery.

“In the mid-1950s he worked as a freelance photojournalist and fashion photographer for Elle magazine, then in 1961 he went to New York, living and working there until 1966. After returning to Paris he photographed fashion, nudes, and portraits for numerous journals such as Vogue,Harper’s Bazaar, Paris Match, Glamour, Esquire, Look,Vogue, and Twen.”

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A small gallery of Sieff’s images.
(All images are by Jeanloup Sieff)


Jeanloup Sieff Books on Amazon.




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?