Ten Beliefs That Suck the Life out of Photographers

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What if I told you it was not the industry, the bad economy, where you live, what camera you shoot with, how many lights you have or how small your Facebook following is that is holding you back. None of those are truly capable of stopping you, they are only challenges for you to meet.

The same challenges everyone who creates art or starts a business has to meet and beat.

The things that are truly holding you back are your own beliefs. Belief that it IS one of those reasons above. Believing that it is a geography thing that keeps you from excelling, or what gear you use or how many lights you take with you is more damaging than any REAL challenge you will ever have to meet.

Because they have no substance, these limiting beliefs can grow to fit any size needed to keep you from moving forward.

If it was simply a wall in front of you, there would be many different ways to move on. Scale it, go around it, blow it up… all sorts of ways to get it done.

But if the wall is a creation inside your mind, there is no way around it, it will grow higher than any ladder you have and it becomes impervious to any and all attempts to blow it up. It does this insidiousness because we want it to. We control its size and power.

So lets look at ten beliefs and maybe offer a suggestion on how they may be more in our heads than in our reality.

  1. We must have professional level gear to be a pro.
    No. We may need it at some point, but before we get to that point we need to make a gazillion images with the gear we have. And if we cannot make images that people want to pay us for with what we have, chances are they will still not want to buy them when they are made with pro gear. A crappy image is a crappy image no matter how many pixels there are.
  2. We have to live in a big city.
    No. You may have to have access to a big city, but then you do have Internet, FedEx, the USPS, and a phone. There are many photographers who are working for major clients while living in the rural town of their choice. They simply wanted to live there more than the big city, and they found the ways to do it.
  3. We must have a portfolio equal to Avedon or McCurry to even be considered.
    No. We must have a portfolio of course. And it must have wonderful images in it, but everyone starts somewhere, and clients know that. You may not get picked up by Vogue for a shoot with a small portfolio, but there are indeed other magazines that will hire you, and pay you, and help you build your work to be worthy of Vogue.
  4. We have to have thousands of hours experience.
    No… mostly. We DO need experience. We DO need to have some work under our belts in order to get the big gigs. But we need to do a lot of small gigs to build a book that will get us the bigger gigs… and then the really big gigs. It is a process, one that starts small and grows.
  5. We must never work for free.
    No. Working for free is sometimes the ONLY way to get the experience, credibility and inroads that allow us to work for pay. NEVER be exploited by working for free, but learn to recognize opportunity as a huge currency that is many times worth more than the paltry fees the gig may pay. (Note: If you are not sure which is which, you may NOT be ready… so keep working on learning the business.)
  6. We must have a huge internet following to be considered.
    No. In fact most working photographers have only a portfolio and simple blog. Some do indeed have a big following on some social platforms, but the majority do not. Instead they have a following of clients that they work hard for, and couldn’t care less about social media fame. The working world still has not caught up to the interwebs, and although I do think that building a solid online brand is important, it will mean less than diddly when you are pitching a real client for a real gig.
  7. We obviously suck because the pros do it so easily.
    No. The pros simply have more experience, more hours setting up lights, a ton of history in doing that same thing… and they are still busting their ass to make it more perfect, more special than last time. They do make it LOOK easy, but take it from me – they are still sweating bullets – they are better at hiding it than you are.
  8. “All we need is…”
    No. We call that the magic bullet syndrome. All we need is “one good job” or “that new lens” or “a bigger studio” or… NO. There is no magic bullet, no shortcut, no “easy” button or challenge buster that can be purchased. There is only a commitment to the struggle, and a focus on the outcome.
  9. Professional photographers are special, with special talents and special lives.
    No. They are just like everyone else. They didn’t get there by luck, or anointment – they worked hard and long and with focus to get to that point. Yes, some have incredible ways of seeing the world, but then they have worked at that as well. You see, they take a lot of photographs… a heck of a lot of photographs to develop that vision
  10. No one is able to make a living in this business anymore.
    No. That is horse apples. There are thousands of working commercial photographers. And they are going to be shooting tomorrow. Some you may know, and most you will not have heard of – or from. Not every photographer is on Facebook whining about how bad it is out there… only the ones for whom it is bad out there. And I can assure you for every photographer that is complaining or whining about it, there is one doing it. Making the images, doing the marketing, creating their vision and always ALWAYS holding that picture of what will be in front of their eyes.

Yes, there are a lot of other challenges that must be met. It is a different world than it was a dozen or two years ago, but it is still an occupation that has growth and possibilities. They youngsters know it. One couple turned weekend trips into free image giveaways that is now making them a a tidy living while starting to accept assignments. Another photographer who shoots for major corporations lives in a tiny town in West Texas. I know a product shooter who lives in Portland, and is marketing all over his region – and nationally.

I am not a Pollyanna, but I am a positive person when it comes to people and their capabilities. You may have to give up some things in order to do other things – we call that “duh” – but that is still in YOUR control. Watch less TV, spend more time making pictures, capture a weekend a month for project work, and make building your photography business a priority.

Whether you want to go into business or simply make better photographs, the power to do that lies within you. What you listen to, what you agree with, and the people that influence you all have a big measure of influence on how you see yourself and this world of images.

You can control that measure of influence. It is YOUR life, and I would suggest you stop participating in the pity parties and the “oh whoa is us” crowd and make images. Obviously it didn’t work out for them, and now their main goal is to stop you from making it a go. What would it mean to them if you succeeded where they failed.

Far easier to blame the world for their failures than to watch someone else actually win. And even if that is not reality, it can BECOME their reality if they believe it strong enough.

Before you believe everything question everything. When someone says “nobody can make a living in this anymore” look around for someone who is, and find out what they are doing. If something sounds improbable, it may be. Research it. Nail it down.

There is a simple way to work around these challenges. Make more images. Make images that compel others to view them. Making images is the best possible thing that photographers can do to advance their work and their business. So put this computer away and go out into the world… click, baby, click!

New Portrait Class (Enrolling)

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We just wrapped up the first group in our 8 Week Portrait Class. The results are incredible.

The idea is to immerse oneself in the work of a master portrait photographer (you can see the list of photographers here) and begin to understand what, how and most importantly why they do what they do.

The idea is not to copy, or become faux-togs of the original masters, but to learn from them and be inspired to develop our own vision.

Clark Terry, jazz master once said; “Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate.” No one could say it better. LEARN what the masters do. Incorporate it into your work, and INNOVATE your own stylistic approaches as you develop a wider kit of possibilities.

The second set of eight photographers is up next… and the class has only ten openings as of this morning. It is a bit different as we are taking it a little slower with a longer lead time between classes.

For more information on our Portrait Class 102, see this page.

A few shots from our students in the first class.

How Can A Single Photograph Tell a Story?

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Recently Stefan Sagmeister posted a video in which he excoriates designers for using the word “story” in their descriptions of what they do. Whether you agree or disagree, it is a compelling video. Personally, I am not 100% on board with his statements. There are some merit, but it all seems a bit pedantic to me.

You can see the video here.

I will note that he was not talking to photographers, but the design community. However some photographers thought that he was referring to the growing cliche of photographer storytellers.

I don’t believe he was, but I thought it important to address what he said and defend the idea that a single photograph can tell a ‘story’.

Not a novel, of course. Nor a novella or an article or much of anything that is linear… that would take several photographs usually. We would have a beginning, middle, and end photograph to give that linear flow that stories – complete stories – have.

With one single photograph, we are looking for something that is not as linear, but more of an excerpt. We may have to intuit or create the beginning and imagine the end… or any variation there of, but we definitely see more than the simple flat representation.

I believe the vast majority of images made are not designed to tell a story. They are reportage, representational, pretty, or a form of social proof that one did something. A visual diary of an adventure – big or small – and a fascination with the power of context a frame can give something simple or majestic.

But there are a few images and image makers that work diligently to present images that inspire us to think story… at least snippets of stories. The power of the still image is that it can help us recall emotions and moments of our own lives that may have nothing at all to do with the image before us.

This photograph by Sally Mann is compelling in ways that belong only to the viewer. The image of a young girl with the candy cigarette and very serious face leads the viewer to moments in their own childhood… and what happened before and after this brief sliver of time is up to the viewer to fill in. However it is seen, it certainly is a moving photograph.

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Brian Sokol’s image of a cyclone victim is full of stories. We share context with this man, we share a known set of variables. We may not know the particulars, but we know what has happened. That is story.

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Bert Stern used the context of Buster Keaton’s slapstick humor to make this image connect. Those of you too young to remember Keaton may not see what the image was conveying, but those who share the experience of seeing his off the cuff silliness know. Stern used this to make an image that conveys a message far beyond “drink smirnoff”, and introduced another level of connection between viewer and subject. Story – no matter how brief or different each viewer’s experience is.

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What does it take to make an image that would be considered to tell a story? Wow… that would be almost as difficult as describing what makes a good melody.

Most of it would have to do with context I believe, and shared experiences.

Context is how the photographer frames his subjects, what the subject is doing in the image, and whether or not the viewer can see that relationship between subject and surroundings enough to form a glimpse into possible scenarios. Context is arguably the most powerful part of the image making process.

A flat surrounding may not offer any glimpse at all into the environment, and in that case the subject and how they are reacting to the camera would be the focus of the story. Scenarios that include backgrounds may use them to set cultural equivalencies that help us with our shared experiences.

A large silo on a flat landscape can say midwest, while cactus and canyons signify the west. Old row houses and fog may bring us the shared idea of New England even to those who have never been there. We’ve seen it, we share its characteristics.

We all know what a devasted town looks like. We may not be able to see the tornado, but we knew it was there… and now it is not. A single image reminds us of that fact… town = tornado = destruction = healing. The emotional toll is captured in a single frame, but the shared experience provides a narrative.

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In commercial photography it becomes harder to tell a story if all the client wants to tell in the photograph is that their coffee machine has bigger buttons than the competition.

But there are opportunities to create more compelling and narrative driven images and when given the chance, commercial photographers can use all of their skill at crafting images to help craft the narrative as well.

This photo by my friend Jan Klier shows us something we have probably not seen before. There is a narrative here, something that is driving the women to be in this position at this precise moment in time. However, we have no idea what it is… so we provide our own. I think one could tell an entire short story based on this image… go ahead. Give it a shot.

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A food shot by photographer Sampsel Preston tells a delightful little story of texture and color and design. This is not a novel, but we can see the context of the colors, shapes and textures, and deliver a narrative on what is happening here. Perhaps all we wonder at is the beautiful colors and exotic looking food in the containers. Fine… that wonder is a bit of a story, isn’t it. Not a long one, or one with lots of plot twists, but a very fine little tale that holds our interest.

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I love the still image, and I am constantly amazed at the stories some of them can conjure within the viewer. A few of my favorite photographers adept at telling little stories in their single, still images.

Richard Avedon
Paul Caponigro
Stephen Shore
Helmut Newton
Guy Bourdin
Dorothea Lange
Peggy Sirota
Patrick Demarchelier
Arthur Elgort

There are many more. Many.

I think that the goal of telling even the smallest story in a single image is a tough one to achieve, but it is worth the struggle. Even if we are not totally successful, the image we work to will be more compelling than if we had simply clicked the shutter without a vision of our own.

Because our own vision, and its creation, can be a story in itself.

What do you think? Can a single still image convey a story?

P52 Member Alicia Bonterre wins Two ADDY’s… WOW

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Alicia Bonterre: Photographer, Trinidad and Tobago

Alicia Bonterre: Photographer, Trinidad and Tobago

CONGRATULATIONS, ALICA!!!

Alicia Bonterre started with P52 about two years ago. She wanted to up her game, create images outside of her comfort zone, and become better at commercial photography.

She just won two ADDY’s – A GOLD and a SILVER … so, we can safely agree she has indeed upped her game. The entire P52 gang are so very proud of Alicia’s progress and it is nice to see heer talent recognized in the ad agency world.

(The ADDY is the ad world’s version of the Academy Award, or the Grammy. It is one of the most prestigious awards a commercial photographer can receive.)

In Alicia’s own words:

PROJECT:
To photograph 12 images for a 2015 calendar for a local chain of supermarkets. The title of the calendar was “Grandma’s Remedies” and was to feature local herbs and “bush medicine.” The Ad agency gave me the list of herbs and the methods for their use, and I was asked to source, style and shoot. I met with the AD, the graphic artist and Account Executive to discuss the concept, layout, budget etc. Originally I was to shoot 8 of the 12 images with the other 4 to be sourced from stock, but after seeing the first set of images I delivered, they asked me to do all 12. I did up the story and mood boards for each and they were all approved.

 

CHALLENGES:
The first challenge was sourcing the items as many of these, although common, just weren’t readily available in my area or at the time. Because most of these were plants, wilting was a major problem as I could only get some of these from people’s yards and keeping the plant fresh after picking was a major challenge. In addition, I was only given this assignment a month before Christmas with the calendar needing to be in stores two weeks before then, so time was of the essence.

 

I spent 4 days sourcing which meant visiting the shops, my mom’s collection of antiques and novelties, friends’ cupboards, plant nurseries and the gardens of friends and their neighbors. Due to wilting some of the plants need to be collected just hours before they were to be shot.

 

Another challenge was that I don’t have a studio so I removed as much furniture from my moderately sized living room as I could and used there. This room is also very open with large windows on every side which is lovely for some images but for others it required a lot of flagging to shape the light.

 

THE SHOOT:
The shoot was completed over 3 days. I started with the items that I had on hand most likely to wilt. I shot tethered using Lightroom and would scale to view for accuracy of layout as the format was 9” by 12”. I had to make sure that everything would fit including a space for the fairly large date pad (approx. 25%) and the copy of the description and method of use for the herbs with a little breathing room for good measure.

 

Starting early, I would set up, shoot, edit,resize, and e-mail to A.D. for approval before breaking down the set. While waiting for approval I would set up and do another shoot, I would keep rotating like that averaging about 4 images a day. Some shots used natural light but I love the control I get from my strobes and flashes and often would bounce light off a large foam core board to create soft natural looking light so I could keep my ISO low while shaping the light.

 

CONCLUSION:
This was my first proper commercial job, but thanks to all the similar exercises done in Project 52, it was not new to me. I felt confident in accepting the job and felt I did a good job and the client was pleased. We are taught to shoot for our portfolios every assignment and this habit is now ingrained in me, so having to deliver that level of quality was not daunting.

 

That being said, I was very surprised to learn that my work gained the Ad agency Gold and Silver awards for Photography Campaign in the 2015 Caribbean ADDY. Up till then I had only a vague knowledge even of the existence of these awards so it was difficult for me to understand the importance of it. This has given me the encouragement to push further, learn more, want more, do more, be more. As a wonderful saying goes “If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!”

Keep dreaming those big dreams, Alicia… they are working well for you.

The award winning images below:

From the Portrait Workshop: Inspired by Dan Winters

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Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate. — Clark Terry, jazz trumpet legend.

It is still the best way to learn art. And it drives the style of teaching I do. I don’t want anyone to copy anyone else, but rather to be inspired by the work of others. In the portrait class, we have looked at seven artists, all masters of portraiture in their own style. We have taken them apart to see how they work, and how they present that work to the world.

And then we get inspired to produce work that pays homage to the master, while hopefully forging our own style and essence into the image.

Dan Winters is a treasure for photographers wanting to learn what style is. His work has been featured the world over, and he has one of the most recognizable ‘styles’ in the business. The students spent two weeks pouring over his images, watching videos and generally discussing what makes the Winters image work so well.

And then they took what they learned and made an image… some images are direct homage, and others take what they learned and put it into their own voice. A voice that may be far from the inspirational, but also one that respects what came before.

I think the photographers did an outstanding job working with one of America’s most iconic shooters.

8 Week Workshop: Portraits Inspired by Herb Ritts.

The goal is not to copy, but be inspired by… Learning about a photographer like the remarkable Herb Ritts helps us to evaluate our own work, see it with new eyes and blend what we learn into our own mix. The photographers who study the past forge new paths into the future… not only for their own work, but for the art in general.

Congrats to these talented and very dedicated group of students.

A Few Words on that “Unphotoshopped Cindy Crawford Photo” Crap

A few days ago, this was making big news online… wow. Imagine Cindy Crawford having the guts to go public in a photograph that was un-retouched in Photoshop.

Yeah… wow. Big F’n Deal.

Of course she did that for two decades and more. You know that, right?

Of this I can speak firmly. We didn’t have Photoshop in the 40’s. 50’s. 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s. At the beginning of the 2000’s it was being used a bit more, until we arrive at today where the non-use of it seems to be big news.

Here is Cindy, circa 1980’s. NO Photoshop.

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(Christy Brinkley, 80’s) (Christy Turlington, 80’s) (Elle MacPherson, 80’s) (Tyra Banks, 80’s) – NO PHOTOSHOP


For people who have NO sense of history, how it all became. They gotta 5DMKIII and LIFE STARTS NOW.

Crap.

We will look at the insincerity of the photograph of Cindy in a moment, but first a history lesson.

We made the photographs using skills in lighting. LIGHTING. L I G H T I N G.
We had a cadre of amazing MakeUp Artists, Stylists, Lighting Assistants… all focused on making the image – perfect. Cause there was no ‘fixing’ them later.

Imagine that.

We made prints lovingly and by hand in dark, smelly rooms that perhaps robbed us of a few years of longevity.

Those prints were lovingly delivered to magazines where they were sent for halftone scans. (No, they did not have banks of ‘retouchers’ to ‘airbrush’ each editorial image. Anyone who tells you that was never there, and making that shit up. DIDN’T HAPPEN.)

We also shot this magic stuff called “Transparency” film… a ‘slide’ by another name. The image was what it was. If you blew exposure by a 1/3 stop, it was there for all the world to see in the transparency. If you missed focus you ended up with what we would technically call a ‘soft image’… no amount of work at the scanning houses was going to fix it. And many ‘soft’ images made it into print… because ART.

Find a few 80’s / 90’s Vogue, W, Italian Vogue (my favorite), Bazaar or other fashion magazines. Find a few early issues of People, Time, Life, Look, – hey – find a magazine printed before 2003 – ANYGDAM one. NO. PHOTOSHOP.

PHOTOGRAPHY done right by craftspeople and artists and damned skilled creators. Guess what we never said? “Fix it in Photoshop” – cause we. like, didn’t know what that meant in 1987.

So now someone wants you all to believe that PHOTOSHOP is the magic beans of photography. Well, it isn’t.

Light is.

Which brings us to the current image of Cindy…

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… and why I call BS on it.

Light.

This shot of Crawford was LIT to show her “flaws”. It was PURPOSELY created to show texture and line and the signs of age. It is NOT simply un-retouched, it is, in fact, ENHANCED through the lighting.

If you brought a model who looked like this to any decent photographer, they could choose to mitigate with lighting (soft non-directional ambient, or large scrim, plenty of fill) or enhance with small, single light source MEANT to bring out any ‘imperfections’ the woman may have.

(NOTE: Before we get pulled into one of those lameass discussions of what ‘beauty’ is, let’s not go there. My belief is that Crawford was and will always be a stunning woman. Age is not a digression in her appeal. Beauty comes in all sizes, shapes, and ages. I stopped shooting fashion BECAUSE I grew weary of shooting 17 year old ‘babies’ who were meant to personify ‘all women’. This whole thing may be a cause-celeb for a lot of folks. I walked away from a solid business because of my beliefs. Beauty if NOT made in Photoshop… and all of my subjects are beautiful to me, no matter who and how old they are.)

However, this image is supposed to be a rally point for the “anti-photoshop” groups, and those for whom the cause of the moment is so awesomely cool, man, they just have to be, like, involved… #trending#badphotographsrockcausetrendingsaysso….

Is this a ‘bad’ photograph of Cindy Crawford. No, of course not. It is as perfect as the photographer CHOSE it to be. The photographer CHOSE a single lightsource with no fill to enhance every line/wrinkle/and skin anomaly that was possible.

But to champion it as a shot of Cindy being brave and shooting without Photoshop leaves that part of the equation, the most important part – LIGHTING – out.

So is the idea that Cindy is brave for not being Photoshopped? That’s no big deal. She has done that before.
Or is it that she ‘risks’ showing off some flaws of age? Well, she CHOSE that when she chose to be shot with this light… so shouldn’t it really be “Cindy Crawford shows us what a beautiful woman looks like with the passage of time”? Cause why would you light her like this and then Photoshop it… That would be stupid.

(Yes, I know… but I don’t want to go there… so stop it. Stop it now… heh)

Where do I fall on the Photoshop or No-Photoshop line. I use Pshop basically the way I used a darkroom. I strive to get it as right in the camera as I possibly can. It is in my photographic DNA, I suppose.

But I also don’t give a rats tushie what others do. I have no dog in this hunt, and usually find such discussions and ‘side taking’ utterly boring and useless.

So “Shop” away if you want. Or not.

But don’t peddle a prepared and purposely lit shot to show ‘flaws’ and expect me to believe that nothing else could be done but Photoshop. That is a lie… there is something we call…

Lighting.


Of course the disservice it does to the amazing photographers of that time… from David Bailey, to Watson, Elgort, Demarchelier, Lindbergh, Ritts, VonUnwerth, Roversi and more… just terrible.

We have an art form that doesn’t even acknowledge its past, but chooses to be led by people who do not have the best interests of photography at their hearts, but the quest for immediate fame and more “likes”… pathetic.

 

New Camera Announcements from Canon

Some amazing new cameras from Canon. I don’t get involved in new gear releases, but this stuff is starting to get exciting now.

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Canon D5

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • 50.6MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 6 Image Processors
  • 3.2″ 1,040K-Dot ClearView II LCD Monitor
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording at 30 fps
  • 61-Point High Density Reticular AF
  • 150,000-Pixel RGB+IR Metering Sensor
  • ISO 100-6400; 5.0 fps Burst Shooting
  • Anti-Flicker Compensation
  • User-Selectable Shutter Release Time Lag
  • Dual Compact Flash and SD Media Slots

 

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11-24 EF Canon F4L

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • EF Mount L-Series Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Constant f/4 Maximum Aperture
  • Super UD, UD, and 4 Aspherical Elements
  • SWC, Air Sphere, and Fluorine Coatings
  • Ring-Type USM Autofocus Motor
  • Internal Focus; Full-Time Manual Focus
  • Weather-Resistant Design
  • Rounded 9-Blade Diaphragm

 

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Canon EOS Rebel T6i DSLR Camera with EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM Lens

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

  • 24.2MP APS-C CMOS Sensor
  • DIGIC 6 Image Processor
  • 3.0″ 1.04M-dot Vari-Angle Touchscreen
  • Full HD 1080p Video Recording
  • 19-Point All Cross-Type AF System
  • 5 fps Shooting & Extended ISO to 25600
  • Hybrid CMOS AF III & EOS Scene Analysis
  • Creative Filters
  • Built-In Wi-Fi Connectivity with NFC
  • CS100 Connect Station Support

PORTRAIT-BANNER

Going North – Taking a Photo Trek

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Every year I host a meet-up of Project 52 members. Part workshop, part social, full on fun. There is no fee for this, we share all expenses, so it is a very comfortable and relaxing time with the tribe.

This year we will also be doing a road trip to the north country. The itinerary is the same as this workshop that I planned last year. We have two 12-passenger vans, an aggressive plan, hotel rooms booked, and cameras ready.

Along the way we will be doing portraits, landscapes and still life. I hope to be able to post to the blog next week, and if I can it will probably be video. (I really need to do more video… so do you.) I will also hope that we can post some images from along the road. That week will be a mish-mash of posts, so bear with us as we try something new.

If you have ever taken a Lighting Essentials Workshop, or been a member of the Project 52 groups, you are welcome. I will post next years week when I get back. We will be going to Canyon Lands on that trip, as well as the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. As I said, more to come.


PORTRAIT-BANNER

A Simple Photo of a Red Balloon

 

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The recent assignment in Project 52 was to shoot a single red balloon and make it the focal point. The students made some amazing images. And shooting a red balloon is not the easiest thing to do. Give it a try – all you need is a camera and a red balloon.

Here are some of the best of the group:


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Portraits Inspired by Peter Lindbergh

This week we looked at the work of Peter Lindbergh. These are the images that the students in the 8 Week Portrait Class did after studying Lindbergh. The workshop is designed for inspiration, not copying.

“Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate.” – Clark Terry, jazz trumpet legend.

Photographers You Should Know: Guy Bourdin

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Guy Bourdin was an early influence of mine. His approach to making images that resembled no one else made his work easily noticed. He was meticulous in his shooting, with sets that were overflowing with creativity. But always with him in charge. His whimsical approach to shooting made me want to try all kinds of things.

From Wikipedia:


“Guy Bourdin was born 2 December 1928 in Paris, France. He grew up in an age of war and experienced challenges represented by the philosophies of surrealism. During his military service in Dakar (1948–49), Bourdin received his first photography training as a cadet in the French Air Force. He was fascinated and assimilated Surrealism in its broader senses. From the mid-1950s, Bourdin experimented and refined his distinct vision, produced fashion images, photographed and filmed his observations of the world.

In 1950 he returned to Paris, where he met Man Ray, and became his protégé. Bourdin made his first exhibition of drawings and paintings at Galerie, Rue de la Bourgogne, Paris. His first photographic exhibition was in 1953. He exhibited under the pseudonym Edwin Hallan in his early career. His first fashion shots were published in the February 1955 issue of Vogue Paris. A contemporary of Helmut Newton, they both worked extensively for Vogue and greatly influenced in different ways what would become contemporary photography.[2] “Between him and me the magazine became pretty irresistable in many ways and we complemented each other. If he had been alone or I had been alone it wouldn’t have worked.” He continued to work for the magazine until 1987.

An editor of Vogue magazine introduced Bourdin to shoe designer Charles Jourdan, who became his patron, and Bourdin shot Jourdan’s ad campaigns between 1967 and 1981. His quirky anthropomorphic compositions, intricate mise en scene ads were greatly recognised and always greatly anticipated by the media.”

Guy Bourdin Website (Memorium)

“The Eye of Guy Bourdin”

“Guy Bourdin: Film, Paintings, Polaroids”

Michael Hoppen Gallery (Guy Bourdin)

“The Burden of Being Bourdin” : Interview Magazine

“Unseen Guy Bourdin”

Guardian Article on “When The Sky Fell Down” – a film about Guy Bourdin

That time a hack pop artist tried to rip off his images and was forced to pay in federal court…

Vogue article.

Some video… (perhaps a bit NSFW)

 

 

Here are a few Guy Bourdin photographs:

Books for your collection:

“What Do You Charge For? EBook

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Last summer I wrote four articles based on the five scariest words a beginning photographer can hear…

“What do you charge for…”

It ended up being nearly 20 pages, and it can definitely help you work through some of the myriad questions that haunt us when we don’t know the territory.

I invite you to download it here, my compliments.

Inspired by Sarah Moon: 8 Week Portrait Class Student Work

This week we studied the work of Sarah Moon for inspiration. The students looked at Ms Moon’s work, analyzed it, found what they liked and used it for inspiration. The goal is not to copy the masters, it is to understand them and let that understanding inspire the work.

Some photographers may never use what they learn in their personal style, and others will let the influence become a part of their unique vision.

As the legendary jazz musician Clark Terry said; “Imitate. Assimilate. Innovate”. A time tested way of finding your own voice. Congrats to the photographers in the class. This is a very creative and beautiful set of images.

“Protectionism” is NOT The Way of Professional Photographers

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The “Protectionist” Attitude Among Photographers

Well, not all photographers, but a considerable few. Enough that they can make a lot of noise and bluster.
I don’t suffer that attitude well, never have. The whining about how there are too many photographers and how we should NOT be helping them enter the business or ‘feeding them dreams’ or whatever, is simply a lame, self-serving sort of sod that never sits well with the facts.

Here are Five Myths of Protectionism in Photography.

If we do not teach the young photographers entering the market, they will flounder and get out.
Wanna bet. You cannot keep people from doing what they want to do. Not yet, anyway. And many people want to be photographers. They crave the craft and live every moment thinking about making images. Not teaching them the correct way to enter the market, and compete fairly, is folly beyond imagination. They will enter anyway, and have more chance to screw it all up than if they KNOW what they are doing.

And when did we photographers become so, well, mean. I have no appetite for watching people flounder and fail. I love it when they succeed and win. Creating winners amongst us is exactly what we ALL should be doing. To turn from that path is petty… and pathetic as well.

Training more people will hurt the industry because it will create a glut.
Wrong. There is and has always been a glut. Simply stated, that argument doesn’t work because it is putting a false parameter on something that has no parameters. There is no finite amount of work to be divided equally among the anointed players. Each photographer gets the work they get. It is either enough to sustain them or not. Artificially stating that there is some sort of ceiling is not logical.

There isn’t enough work to go around.
Well, maybe not for you. Or her or that guy over there. But there is a lot of work to be had out there. We know and follow too many successful photographers to even think that there is not ‘enough’ work out there. And even if that were true, and it is not, who is to say that the same shooters who are working now wouldn’t have those jobs all to themselves. The market picks winners and losers, not artificial quotas and protected participants.

Prices are plummeting because of the influx of talented photographers.
Yeah… so? Why would photography escape market forces. I paid $2500 for my Mac Classic in 1986. In today’s dollars that would be about $9,000. Anyone complaining about computer prices? Or memory? Or music? A single song on a 45 RPM record was a buck (I say single cause the other side was likely crap). And today at Amazon that single song is.. a buck.

However, I will say this. In 1984 I was getting day rates of $1500 – $2000 and those day rates have not gone up in any significant way since. (No, I usually do not charge day rate these days, but many do and I am pointing out the stagnation, not the method.) Was it because of digital?

Hardly. It was because things were changing and lots of photographers were entering the market. The market I wanted to be involved in. I had the choice to do that or get a job that no one wanted. I briefly thought about being the conductor for the New York Philharmonic… but the competition for that single position was pretty stiff… So I opted for competing for a lot of jobs instead of just one.

If we could somehow keep the beginners out, there would be more work for us.
No. There would be more for the folks that are already working. If you are not working and blaming it on the newbies, you will still not be working when the newbies are actually thrown under the bus.
Talent always wins when it is bundled with good business skills, marketing plans and a driven, nothings gonna stop me mentality. Thinking that somehow shutting off the spigot would stop those for whom photography is a calling, not just something fun to do would make ones life easier is simply looking past the problem into the face of a cure that has no merit.

I tell photographers who are complaining about how tough it is and how they can’t get work because of all the other photographers out there to take a look at the real culprit. Look right there…

In the mirror.

Protectionism, unions, state licenses and such are simply ways to garner income and keep out the competition, whether or not the competition has the talent to actually compete.

A photographer told me on twitter once that he was comfortable and loving being a photographer, but didn’t want any more people in the business because it was cutting down on his ability to get work. They were “talentless hacks” or something like that.

So what he told me in essence is that his work is so lame that talentless hacks were beating him out at his game and he didn’t want to actually have to improve above the level of talentless hack himself.

That was simply sad. I thought his work was pretty good, and that he should be doing well. Unfortunately, people with that mindset are usually not excited by the mornings, driven to make new work, striving to become better and better with all they create. Instead they brood and whine and look for people to blame for their own intransigence.

I love working with new photographers. After forty years in the business, I know I have stuff that can help, knowledge from the trenches that can answer questions – or even cause questions to be answered in the new world we find ourselves.

Be a mentor. If you can help a struggling photographer, do so.

What you give is so much more powerful than what you hold back.

Portraits Inspired by Yousef Karsh

This past week we looked at the work of Yousef Karsh. The students in the 8 Week Portrait Workshop are learning a ton and putting it to practical use. Here are their images from last weeks assignment.

Creating a Photo Portfolio That Represents Your Work

“What makes a photograph “Portfolio Worthy”

I want to talk about what makes an image worthy of your portfolio today, and have you think about your work in possibly a different sort of way.

What is your portfolio, anyway?

It is the repository of the work you have made, and limited to be the outstanding pieces from the volume of work created. It is the instrument you use to say “this is what I do.”

Whether it is a printed book, a ‘traditional portfolio’, an online gallery or your website, your portfolio is a collection of your best work. And hopefully one can see a style emerging from that collection.

A portfolio is not a congregation of your most popular shots, nor is it the ones your mom or boyfriend think ‘rock’. Those are great compliments of course, but the portfolio images should show more of another viewpoint.

Yours.

The images should be chosen with care and the knowledge that they reflect your sensibilities, with your unique vision stamped across them clearly.

In fact, they may not be the most popular shots in your collections. They may be a bit on the obtuse side, or more challenging in composition and design. They may show your more experimental choices or they may be the quiet nature of simplicity that you love so much. They can range from mild to wild, black and white to HDR, people to landscapes to interiors to food.

But they are yours. They represent the images you want to make, how you want to make them and with all of the parts genuinely yours.

Why? Because that ‘genuinely yours’ approach will help you as you begin to develop a style, a vision and a body of work that you will be proud of.

Shooting what other people like will make you madder than the proverbial hatter. There is no style in the world that will satisfy everyone. No matter what you shoot, someone is not going to like it. Changing your work to match their needs only means you will alienate someone else.

So don’t bother.

Shoot your work. Shoot it your way.

Find out what the images you love have in common.

Here’s a little assignment for you;

Put 20 of your favorite images onto a single large image… a collage. Photoshop can do that for you now (again) with a tool under the File menu.

File/Automate/Contact Sheet II

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Put the twenty images into a single folder and run the Contact Sheet II script. Choose the largest paper size you can print (or take to Costco/Sams Club/Walmart… whatever) so that all of the images are displayed together on one sheet.

This one is done on 8.5 x 11 and I used a setting of 12 images per page.

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Now take that sheet and look at it closely, with the intent of really seeing each image.

What are the similarities between your images?
What are the differences that jump out at you?
Which images, if any, look out of place in the selection?
Which images, if any, look wrong or not as good as the others that are similar?

Show the sheet of images to people you trust to give honest feedback. Even your mom, BFF, buds, and the guys you hang out with and discuss photography. As long as it is honest, it will be good feedback.

It is not a good critique, however. Critiques are done with intentions in mind, goals determined, and a frank discussion of what the images were created to do.

But feedback is good, and if you don’t know anyone who can give a good critique (yet) they are a good place to start.

The last thing to do is to analyze the ways the feedback made you feel about your work. Do you agree with their assessments? Do you believe they see what you shot the way you see what you shot? Does an image still stand up in your mind as being a strong image even if others say it was not their favorite?

Do this repeatedly with 20 images at a time. Find the ones that really resonate with you. The ones you want to show to everybody, everywhere, every day.

I’ll close with this quote by Photographer Bela Borsodi:

“If it touches you, if it excites you, if it makes you cry, if it makes you smile. A good photograph is something you cannot resist looking at. There might be a sense of surprise or discovery. something pleasant or painful. There is this quote by Oscar Wilde: “I can resist everything except temptation” In a way a good photograph is what you can’t resist and want to engage with. It doesn’t matter if you take photographs of your dog, or girlfriend, or whether you’re in a big studio with supermodels in it. If it speaks to you, then that’s when you know you have a good photograph.” 

(Thanks to Hiram Chee for finding this great quote.)