Monday I shared the images from the 8 Week Workshop, and today I share some from the Portrait 102 Workshop. These photographers studied the work of David Bailey and were inspired to make some lovely portraits.
Books by David Bailey:
Monday I shared the images from the 8 Week Workshop, and today I share some from the Portrait 102 Workshop. These photographers studied the work of David Bailey and were inspired to make some lovely portraits.
Books by David Bailey:
Occasionally we find ourselves in an argument of whether or not ‘creativity’ can be taught, or does it have to be born within us? We read all about creativity and how important it is. We award little statuettes to really “creative” people. Creativity is blessed, cursed, chased, obsessed over, ignored, beaten down and vindicated.
It is a word so over used that we mention Stravinsky and Lady GaGa in the same breathless discussion of creativity. Schools want to nurture it (which of coursd is pure bullshit). Companies seek it (also bull-bullshit). Poets have it in spades (bull… oh never mind).
But have you ever tried to simply define it? Being ‘creative’ can also be cruel, savage, inhumane and anarchistic. Creativity can mean simply doing something different… so what? If I take the garbage out with my left hand instead of my right hand, as I do every day, is that “creative”? A photographer takes pix of dog-doo on bright backgrounds – is that ‘creative’ just because no one else has done it?
I rarely think about creativity, as I long ago realized something about creativity that made me wary. Creativity claims to be your buddy, your pal… your roommate along the path to making cool shit. But creativity rarely keeps up his end of the bargain. He leaves the place a mess, hits on your girlfriend, steals your money and drinks your beer.
And then one day, ol ‘creativity’ waltzes out the door destined to befriend that kid down the street, or the woman downstairs. He hasn’t even paid for his half of the electricity. You are left with an empty feeling, a loss of ‘mojo’ that develops into a long, long despair.
So here are a few things I know about creativity. And believe me, after being in the ‘creative’ business for nearly my entire working life, I know this guy. Here’s the skinny…
Ten things I Know About Creativity:
1. Creativity is not something you bestow on yourself, but something that others bestow upon you. Creativity to the creative person is simply the way they work. Calling yourself ‘creative’ may not make it is so, and in fact, I find it runs pretty much the opposite. Every time I see the title “creative photographer” I want to mutter under my breath, “says who”?
2. Creativity is not a method or a system or a learned behavior. It is inherent in all of us, but few of us let it be what it is. Whether out of fear or laziness, self pity or arrogance, ignorance or infinite exploration, we eschew creativity and choose the safer, well worn paths. Ignorance of creativity is a very smart way to get along in some circles. Congress for instance.
3. Creativity cannot be taught. It doesn’t have to be. It only needs to be unleashed. Getting out of its way is the most difficult of challenges. We are not conditioned to allow creativity to go unchecked. From our earliest age we must walk in a straight line, color inside the lines, sit at our desks, study what some older person deems is important to us. Creativity and school is like a fish with a bicycle.
4. Why do we automatically consider creativity good? Over the years many madmen have done a pretty good job at creating some of the most heinous acts ever perpetrated on other humans. Murderous monsters are creative in the ways they trap their prey… while eluding capture. Creativity can be horrific when applied to horrific things. Creativity has no soul other than the one wielding it. Creativity is not good or bad, it is simply its own person, and he does what he wants. We allow him to run free or channel his wanderings and misadventures. Our call, not his.
5. Creativity can be within specific genres and may not necessarily spill across the entire spectrum of a persons life. One may be incredibly talented in music, but not very good at drawing. A sculptor may be able to see and reveal an incredible masterpiece, while a concert level pianist may not be able to see anything but a piece of rock. This is not good or bad creativity… it just is creativity in different spaces of humanity.
6. Creativity is shown simply and honestly… and not in a good or bad notion. One may be very very creative and turn out pure shit in the eyes of the world. A 3 year old with a canvas and 56 paints could have the time of their lives… being creative and exploding color across the field in ways NO ONE has ever seen.
Creativity does not necessarily create masterpieces. Sometimes creativity creates shit. And then he stands there smugly demanding that we LOVE what he did… it was so, you know, creative.
7. Work that is derivative can be creative, if the act of derivation ends with something that we think is worthy. It can also end on a bad note if we think it is not as good as the original. We see creativity usually on the backside, not the front. We see the results not the action, and we rarely see the prelude. Sure “Batman” was pretty creative back when Marvel was cranking them out and we were spending a quarter to keep up with the story. But these days, they are simply worn out ‘toons with two hundred million dollar budgets. Boring, predictable and lame.
8. Creativity is a tool. Creativity is an honorarium. Creativity is a joke. Creativity is divine. If Lady Gaga is creative, then what would we call Eliot Carter? Stravinsky? Coltrane? If P-Diddy is creative, what do we call the hordes of rappers that came before and after that sound the same… identical even, to his work? If Copland was creative, how do we explain it to someone who has never heard his music? How about explaining music to someone who has never heard music before… ever?
Now that would be creative.
9. Creativity is over rated. We have turned anything a bit different into “creativity at its finest”. If building the space shuttle and twitter are both creative, is there any difference given to the importance of the creation? Can “Cats” be considered as creative as “Othello?” Is a child like presentation of a Chopin Etude be considered as creative as a performance by a prodigy – or indeed the creator himself? If we consider creativity to be some mark on a ledger or tick on a measuring stick, then we have to be able to quantify it.
Go ahead… give it a go. Quantify creativity.
Good luck with that.
10. Creativity is not definable. Not in any way I can comprehend. And yet I know creativity when I see it, hear it, taste it. We all can agree that we know creative people, and yet we may be somewhat dismayed when we discover who each of us believe to be creative.
I rarely think of creativity as something I want to achieve. It is never how I discuss my own work. If my work is creative, others will note and if it is not, then it will be noted as well. To seek it wastes time, as it cannot be found. It only reveals itself when it is ready, and when the moment is right.
Our job is to make more opportunities for creativity to be revealed. We do that though practice, and study, and work, and effort, and critiques (good and bad) and friends who are not afraid to call you on the work, and enemies that make you defend, or retreat, or rethink. Creativity is a pain in the ass. It has no guarantee of being revealed. There is no magical criteria (10,000 hours my ass), no ‘aha’ moment, no grace to be bestowed. It can leave you waiting at the alter after promising you a thousand times that it loved you. It is heartless and loving, cruel and kind, manic and patient.
And often it is disguised as something else. Something more familiar than trendy, more ethereal than processed. Sometimes it is disguised as hard work.
Creativity means something to each of us, but it is rarely something that I think we should be chasing. Rather we should be chasing the near perfection that comes from working whatever we do to the heart of it. From shooting every day. From being relentless critics to stalwart defenders of our work. Creativity needs nothing from us, but we give our all to achieve it.
Sometimes we are awake to see creativity arrive, but we rarely know its name nor recognize its power. Most of the time we are working on our work so hard we never see it arrive, we couldn’t care less what we call it and we never remember to acknowledge it. We just keep working.
So creativity sits on our shoulders for a while.
Resting in his comfortable by-the-month apartment, putting his feet on the furniture and parking his car on our lawn
But you can be sure about one thing… creativity can be a mercurial and disloyal pal while he camps on your shoulders. He will come over for BBQ and Corona’s, flirt with your girl and hang around long enough to borrow your lawnmower and never return it when he leaves.
You see, creativity rarely moves in, buys a house and puts in a pool.
(BTW, creativity comes in all genders… mine happens to be an aging hippy who still loves film.)
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One of the photographers we are studying in the 8 Week Portrait class is Jeanloup Sieff. This master photographer created images in almost every genre from portraits and nudes to landscape and commercial.
The idea is not to copy the work of each of the photographers we study, but to learn about what they did and find influences and inspiration. The photographers in the portrait workshop share with you their images:
Books by Jeanloup Sieff:
The project 52 group looked at photographing sweets and chocolate this week. Some very tasty images were shot by the gang. I figured since it is Friday, I should let you in on some of them.
Last week an open letter dispute erupted on social media. That could be said of just about any week on social media, but this time it was about a photographer and a band who wanted to use a photograph.
I found myself intrigued but after reading both letters I felt more confused and chagrined at the situation than angry. It was a minor tempest in a teapot… one of those very small kids teapots because, let’s face it, not too many people even care about such things as this.
The photographer fired off a note after being contacted by the band for the free use of an image in a book they were doing.
The photographer’s letter was one of outrage, demanding to be paid for the use of his photograph and he makes a very cogent point. Without being paid, we can not continue to make images for bands or anyone for that matter. It is what we do, and as such it should garner more respect.
The band fired back with claims that it is too expensive to create a photobook if they are going to pay royalties to every image. As well, they figured that since they already purchased the photograph, they believed they should be able to use it.
Let’s look at some realities:
“Any refusal of permission would be respectfully accepted and no further questions asked.”
— Garbage in open letter to Pat Pope.
A photobook with 200 photographs in it; at $350 per license, that comes to $70,000. The band claims that is too expensive for them to spend to do a book. They are most probably right. By the time you figure printing and shipping and distribution and design and copywriting and incidentals, the books are going to be very, very expensive. And then the price has to double at the bookstores so the stores can make money. Could be a run of 7000 books could cost $40 a piece. That comes to $280,000 upfront for the band. The $40 book then has to have a retail price of $80 a piece to allow for it to be sold… breaking even for the band.
I have written books that are sold in major bookstores so I can speak from experience when I say NO photobook for $80 is going to sell out quickly… if at all. If the print run was a thousand books, it could sell out in a year or so. But it would also be around $125 per book… so maybe all bets are off.
End game: The band is right.
It is too expensive to produce if the royalties are to be paid. Perhaps they should figure out a sponsorship or move on. It is a cold fact of life that many things we want to do are simply too expensive to do.
That is NOT a value judgement, it is a simple fact of business.
Or find photographers who will give you pictures for use without a royalty… which is what they were doing.
I think the band learned that because they previously purchased a license, it does not hold over to any future uses.
They also learned that a simple request, made in good faith could unleash a shit-storm that would drag their name through the mud. I guess that is a good lesson for us all. The social media mobs are unforgiving and – really – not very bright. They react the same way the immensely base Piranha do… form a gang and destroy.
“I’m a firm believer that musicians and artists deserve to be paid for their work. I’ll sign any petition that’s out there supporting that concept, and even when I choose to stream rather than buy, I’m one of the fans of your band that will pay for a premium service because I think you should be paid. That’s my point of view. Is it yours? When you think about artists being paid, does that include photographers? Do you think “content providers”, whatever the hell that means, deserve to be paid for their work, or is that a special category for musicians? If I want to release a music album, can I use your music in it if I give you a “proper credit”?”
— Pat Pope in open letter to band Garbage.
Wow. That is quite an angry response to a simple request.
I think it could have been handled another way. Going public without even contacting the band was, in my opinion, a little cheesy. But I am willing to cut some slack because we have all become a bit tense over big names using our shit for free. It isn’t right.
But neither is focusing your anger on the wrong perpetrators.
Being angry at the band, who simply asked, was misguided and off base. Of course they wanted to use it for free. We all want free stuff and we ask for it when we can. No harm. A simple “No, it would need to be licensed first” would have seemed more professional to me.
Nothing wrong with saying no. NO. It is easy… try it. “No.”
However, the real problem makers in this whole debacle were never singled out for his ire, his rage, his being really perturbed. The perpetrators who caused this entire calamity were even pointed out by the band. They were identified and STILL no words of scathing indignation was turned toward them.
Who were they?
“We were so grateful and delighted to learn that most of the photographers were happy for their images to be seen in conjunction with the telling of our story.”
— Garbage in response to Pat Pope
If you want to be mad at someone, just read the credits in the book when it comes out. Be mad at those who complied, not with those that requested. Being mad at someone who genuinely asked for permission first is – well – it’s offputting to me.
And since so many others said YES, that could signal that the majority indeed support the free use (whether it is right or wrong is not the point here). Be mad at them, if you like.
Or maybe choose not be be mad at all. Perhaps the photographers saw fit to have their images in the book for reasons we may never know. Or should know. Or even have a right to know. It is their property to do with what they want.
My story is not your story… don’t try to write the paragraphs your way.
The real conundrum is where the line gets crossed between supporting one another and exploiting one another. It is not a fine line, it is wide and gray and sometimes hard to see. But it is there.
All in all it was great fun for the mobs… but it held little out for those of us who are wanting to get a little more serious about the dialog that needs to happen regarding usage of IP.
Until that happens… rock on, dudes (and dudettes).
Lindbergh is one of the most popular photographers we study in the 8 Week Portrait Class. His work is simply brilliant and so many of the students have an immediate affinity to his authentic, intimate way of shooting.
His new book, Images of Women II is now available at Amazon. I bit the bullet and ordered one this morning (they are not cheap) and am now anxiously awaiting delivery… Monday they say. WooHoo.
If you are a people, portrait, fashion, or beauty photographer, this book may be the inspiration you need whenever you need it. The work is not over-produced or photoshopped illustrative. Straight up photography of some of the most beautiful women on the planet… some wearing impossibly expensive clothes.
Some not wearing clothes at all.
“Internationally-revered German fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh revolutionized his metier with iconic images of the 1980s supermodels. From his beginnings, he has sought to capture the personality, character, and identity of fashion models, not just the glitter and glamour. In 1997 he presented his seminal book Images of Women comprising his work of the 1980s and 1990s. As a sequel, Lindbergh now presents Images of Women II featuring the highlights of his work created between 2005 and 2014: fashion photographs, nudes, and portraits of today’s actresses and models such as Milla Jovovich, Isabella Rossellini, Monica Bellucci, Jamie King, Emmanuelle Seigner, Tilda Swinton, Kate Moss, Elisa Sednaoui, Jessica Chastain, Hye Jung Lee–and the occasional man, such as Hollywood grand seigneur Kirk Douglas.”
Images from the book.
(Being a freelancer can be quite a challenge. Like this little flower above, you can be battered and surrounded by those who didn’t make it, but you keep on blooming for as long as you can. Survival means making big mistakes and learning as much as you can from them.)
I enjoy sharing the experiences I had in over four decades as a professional photographer. I do this on my weekly workshop, “Project 52 PRO” and whenever someone asks for advice or guidance. From a very rich, and wildly diverse career in the photographic arts, there are some great highlights.
But, there are some things I did – specific things and general things – that were huge mistakes, ones that took time, assets and energy away from moving forward. In this self-employed landscape there are many hidden valleys and dark canyons that one can wander into if we are not paying attention. We will not be discussing the technical screwups that accompany most of us as we start out… ISO problems, no backup, loading film backwards, forgetting an assistant at roadside restaurant (yeah, it happens).
While I usually talk about the good times, great clients, and fun opportunities I had as a photographer, I think I should share these “not so highlight” moments from my personal reel.
Missing the Market
When I first got started in photography, my main interest was photographing girls. I wanted to make my mark as a fashion photographer and began buying every fashion magazine I could lay my hands on. From French Vogue to Italian Bazaar to obscure British mags with names I cannot even remember. I spent a fortune on them.
I wanted to be Arthur, Patrick, Peter, or Albert. I wanted to shoot fashion editorials in the deserts of Africa, the mountains of Spain, and the jungles of South America. I wanted to know Polly Mellen and hang out with Christie and Kathy and the high-board girls from Ford.
I lived in Phoenix, Arizona.
Moving to NYC was not an option, and I wasted a decade or more trying to be someone that I simply could not living in the town I lived in. Sure there were boutique shoots, editorials, ‘back pages’ for regional and national magazines.
But no Paris, Africa, Brazil or Spain.
When I finally woke up to the fact that I would either have to move or change, I changed.
Well, I gave it a shot anyway…
I had created the brand of a “fashion photographer” in a decidedly not fashion oriented town. (No, shooting OTR for department stores is not fashion… it’s catalog. There is a difference.)
So I stopped shooting fashion and began to change my portfolio. Since I was already doing some additional work in other genres (in a town like Phoenix, you better have more than one trick in your bag) I figured I would start to shoot more of that and people would see me in a new light.
I learned that it takes more than a different portfolio to change your brand in the mind of people who have known your brand for many years. I would show my book, full of table top, food and portraits and would hear things like;
“Nice book, you shoot fashion, right?”
“Wow, I didn’t know you shot still life. But we don’t do much fashion here.”
“Where did the girls go?”
I didn’t realize that in order to change my personal brand, it would take a few years and concerted efforts to do so. I expected a new portfolio would be all that was needed.
I was wrong. And since I had stepped away from the fashion work (department stores and boutiques) the void was already filled and I had a real hard couple of years before I got back.
I should have begun changing my brand BEFORE walking away from the work I was doing. Making a more gradual transition instead of the cliff dive method I chose.
Confusing A Job Description with Mystical Talent
I thought of them as the most visually literate among us. I mean they were the cream of the visual arts crop. I would hold them up to amazing worship status. They knew about how to make ads great, and they would demand more from me than I had because of their greatness.
I was intimidated and emotionally fearful of those job titles. I let them treat me poorly, demand more than was fair, and in some cases pay less than they should have. I was in such awe of their “talent” that I figured they must always be right and if I got it wrong… well then I must suck, visually.
That held me back for years. This feeling that somehow I wasn’t up to that level of greatness I bestowed upon them. Because of a job title.
That changed one summer. A tough gig for a tough AD, and when that month was over I realized that this locally famous, top-notch AD was actually a wretched fraud who copied most everything he did from Dallas and Minneapolis designers.
Once that wall was down, I began to see how I actually did fit into the scheme of things. I realized that they were simply professionals doing what they do, and I was just as professional in what I do. That silly mysticism vanished and I found some confidence I really needed.
Letting a Competitor “Own” Me
Wow… letting it all out here… heh.
Yeah, I let another photographer ‘own’ my brain for a few years. He set up a second condo in there and everything I saw was through the prism of this other guy – and how I could best his work, and get even for all the transgressions he had committed against me and my work.
You have to understand that we did not know each other. We had a friendly “hey, how are you” relationship when we would meet at the lab, and everyone met at the lab at one time or another.
But HELL – that didn’t matter. When he got a gig, he “stole” it from me. When I got a gig, I “stole” it from him. His accomplishments were giant humiliations to me. My accomplishments were proof of my dominance over him.
Looking back on this time is painful. I cannot even imagine how many missed opportunities there were because of this stupid, nearly obsessive, one sided war. I am actually a bit ashamed of my behavior at that time, and I can say absolutely that it cost me money. Lots of money.
Most of the stupid things we do costs us money… maybe not directly, but indirectly it can be devastating.
I was having lunch downtown one day, when he came in alone. He saw me sitting there and asked if he could sit with me. We talked about the business, and he told me how much he liked my work, and how he was going through a rough patch. I told him if he needed anything, to let me know – and he that he could use my studio anytime if he needed to.
He moved out of my head that day, and later he actually moved away to another town where he did quite well. I was and am glad for him.
Never let someone else be in charge of your life. Lesson learned.
Putting ALL The Eggs In One Flimsy Basket
“I’ve got something for you…”
It started that way. A deal so big it was almost unbelievable. A shoot so enormous in scope that it could be the only client I needed. A deal so magnificent that I would never have to look for a client again, I would have all I wanted to shoot delivered to me and paying fees that were downright awesome each and every week.
Who could pass up a deal like that. Especially when you have $1270 in the bank and $76,000 in receivables. I was so tired of being a bank for my clients – waiting 60, 90, 120 days for payment after paying my vendors in thirty. Peter robbing Paul who had his hands in Peter’s back pocket.
So I embraced the big deal.
And it went great for nearly a year. Just enough time for me to get lazy about the portfolio, stop seeing clients I had nurtured for years, and to sort of be “dark” within the industry. I was making great money and shooting as much as I wanted.
I have not the time or the space here to tell you what happened. I am sure you already have figured out that it went south.
I lost a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of contacts. I was able to rebuild – once more. I will never put myself into one of those situations again. I am more astute of the world of business, and I have a well refined bullshit detector that has become a big part of my vetting process.
Yeah – I have a vetting process.
And never ever put all of your income stream into one “amazing” deal unless you have strong contingencies for the inevitable “too good to be true” awakening.
Above are some big mistakes that cost time, money and most importantly energy. Energy that should have been focused on creating more, but instead had to be utilized to ‘dig out’ or change course.
And yeah, it happens to a lot of us. I am grateful that none of them were able to take me down to the mat- although a few came close.
I will probably make other mistakes as I continue on. I hope that I have at least learned the lessons from above and make all brand new, shiny stupid mistakes in the future.
(I did not mention the disaster that taking on a partner cost me… both in business and money. Suffice it to say that I will NEVER have another partner, and in any case we will BOTH have to sign any check that is issued for anything. If you don’t follow that rule with your partner, you may wake up wishing you had.)
Some Things Change, and Some Things Stay the Same
The constant, and rapidly changing landscape of photography continues unabated. Some may think of this as a very scary time to be in this business. They may be right… for them.
For me it is nearly a miraculous time to be in the photography business. From amazing gear to incredible innovation, it surrounds us every day. Perhaps it has become so ubiquitous that we don’t even see it when it is staring us in the face.
Change, baby. Everywhere.
I just read an article about some wedding guy going with Micro 4/3 and giving up his Nikons. Another article on what looks like a very cool 300WS studio flash with TTL for under $300. One photographer is shooting on a massive camera on handmade paper, while another is exploring Iceland with nothing but an iPhone. Both of them are getting images that are amazing.
The business part is changing as well. A recent study by web folk who study this sort of thing found that people respond more to big photographs on web pages than they do small. They also found that the cheap, crappy stock image is worse for the site than if there were no image at all.
Photographs WORK? Photographs help sell stuff? Good photography matters?
Dang… who could have known?
Well, WE PHOTOGRAPHERS SURE AS HELL KNEW. Most competent ad agencies and graphic designers know. (Although there are a lot of graphic designers out there who have obviously bought into the free or dirt cheap RF stock junk. Too bad, losers.)
Now we are being backed up by non-photographers.
Our job now is to let our clients know how valuable a photograph is. Let them know that skimping on photography is a fast way to fewer sales and pointing them in the right direction is one of our purposes.
And we do that by doing the best work. Always the best work. No slacking, no hacking, no short cuts. We do the best work we can, and we do it over and over again.
We have to be able to show the client the difference between hack crap and good imagery. If we can’t, we may find that we are not making much headway.
I recently did a portfolio review with a photographer who was struggling a bit. He was having trouble connecting to his audience, and getting clients to say yes was becoming a very difficult endeavor. He was showing his book diligently, but getting no offers.
Problem was that while his book was that of an emerging photographer, the work ranged from ‘meh’ to good, and a few ‘greats’ thrown in almost as an afterthought.
When I remarked on is truly impressive images, he would say something like “yeah, I wasn’t sure about that one.” And he was sure about the mundane boring stuff?
The reality is that he was nearly totally cut off from the world of commercial photography. He took his cue from Model Mayhem, 500PX and G+.
When I asked him about some commercial shooters in his town (Google is your friend), he didn’t know who they were or what they did. He didn’t look at magazines or online publications. He was in a vacuum, and nobody can hear you scream in space.
When you show your work, you will be judged on more than the individual images, you will be judged by how well you understand the genre you are presenting. Is it within the genre of the client?
Wine bottles lit by umbrellas, ‘fashion models’ who are obviously 5’1”, car shots of last years models, food shots that look cold and stale, bad natural light still life work… all can lead to a single image bringing down the entire book.
The question becomes “why are they showing me this? Do they think this is cool? Can they not see it is horribly presented? How did they get all those other shots I wonder?”
Doubt. And doubt doesn’t close deals.
Some truths about this highly competitive business:
The business is changing rapidly, but there are some things that are not changing… and showing top notch work, developing a body of work and keeping your work in front of people who buy is still as important, if not more important, than it has ever been.
So enjoy your new “mirrorless” or MFT, and dig into that Medium Format with gusto. Grab those new strobes and tell us all about them on the various social media… but remember that the words won’t count as much as the images you create with them.
If your client is looking for a technical writer who knows everything about every lens ever made, you may get a shot at it. But if they are looking for a photographer, you better make sure your portfolio is up to snuff, full of new work, and ready to be shown
That much will stay the same for a while longer. I’m sure.
I would love to hear your comments on the ways you are working to keep your portfolio up. Add them in the comments.
I will simply link to Rick’s article here. Rick is a Phoenix photographer specializing in still life and food.
This is a nicely done article documenting a shoot for Coldstone Creamery. BTS shots as well as some finished examples.
You can visit his website here.
“I think that its a society that has totally lost its bearings on the terms of what its values are, and so its put all its value into celebrity. There is such a lack of spiritual self confidence perhaps that the achievers seem to have to be the kind of holy cows that people worship.”
— Editor, Vanity Fair, ca 1993
“The great thing about the job was that in the evenings when we weren’t doing these ads, we photographed Anjelica Huston and Julie Driscoll. Polly Mellon, the fashion editor was there – it must have been for Vogue. Julie Driscoll was a pop singer with Brian Auger and Trinity. Musically they were a very hot band at the time. At the end of the shoot, Dick (Avedon) gave her a kiss and she, being very, very English, said in her slightly Cockney accent, “Oh, I bet they’ll be awful,” which is a totally English way to say “Thank you.” He just froze. He sort of straightened, and said, “When I take pictures, they’re good.””
— Neil Selkirk on Richard Avedon
Awesome coincidence? Or a convergence of some unknown force?
I do not know, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Last week Petapixel ran an article I had written titled “Prints. Remember Prints?”
Almost immediately afterwards they ran Lynne Cartia’s wonderful article on the importance of a printed photograph.
I think that is cool juxtaposition.
And I hope it makes people think a bit more about how important prints are to the lifeblood of photography.
Here are a few portraits that caught my eye last week. I hope you enjoy the picks.
Ryan McGehee delivered this exceptional portrait. Brave crop, lighting that engages and mystifies and an absolutely charming face.
Kine Meijer showed this unique portrait and knocked me out.
Gabriella Wright’s dancer is captivating.
Hiram Chee created this stunning fashion shot.
Rob Davidson chose a 4×5 Speed Graphic and Ektar Film for this moody portrait.
Jeff Carson captured a very strange and engaging portrait of a young woman and a mask.
I will share the entire class portfolio later this week… it is incredible.
I just love this image.
I don’t really know why.
Photograph by Ted (Nahum) Baron.
My friend and mentor, Selina Maitreya is sharing a lot of great stuff on video. There is an upcoming course, but you can grab a lot of great info from these videos. Check them out here.
I have known Selina for many years. I have all of her books, and have trained with her. I consider her a mentor, coach and friend.
Selina has joined us here on Lighting Essentials many times, and each time is a delightful experience for me.
Selina was perhaps the first commercial photography rep in Boston (or perhaps anywhere) and she represented some of the biggest names in the business. Today she is working with photographers to help get them motivated, moving and most importantly… out of their own way.
I have known many photographers who have gone through here one on one’s and her portfolio rebuilding exercises, and all have benefitted greatly from the experience.
Now you have the opportunity to experience Selina’s approach to becoming all you can be for absolutely free.
Take some time to listen to these videos and open your mind to the possibilities that are all around you.
I am really enjoying these videos… I hope you do as well.
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.”
“The proof is in the pudding.”
Always wondered about that term, so I looked it up.
According to the Urban Dictionary;
“The original phrase is “The proof of the pudding is in the eating!”
Which means you have to eat the pudding to know what’s inside of it.
The modern version of ‘the proof is in the pudding’ implies that there “is a lot of evidence that I will not go through at this moment and you should take my word for it, or you could go through all of the evidence yourself.”
That is pretty much what I thought.
Your portfolio is sort of like the pudding in question. It’s proof that you can do what you say you can do right there on page, screen, or tablet.
Can you light a wine bottle and show the wine and the label – and do it from an angle that makes remakes a simple shot into a real challenge? Can you be set up and waiting for the moment when the semi-celebrity who promised you 30 minutes comes in 27 minutes late and declares that he has no time, and to get on with it – and nail the shot with confidence? Can you bid a complex job so that there are no surprises, no glitches, and no “extra fees?”
That’s the pudding baby… and it is the proof you need to your prospective clients as well as yourself.Cause if you aren’t sure, they aren’t sure. And you will not be getting a PO.
That doesn’t require being cocky or arrogant. (OK, a little arrogance is fine, just don’t let it go to your head and forget where you came from… ) It means you are sure of your self, and your abilities, and know how to get the stuff done that must be done.
It also means being aware that there are occasions where it is simply not possible. Shooting fashion on the beach during a torrential rain is going to be a cancellation day, as is the afternoon the power grid goes out on a big location shoot at the clients offices.
But most of the time we can pull a rabbit out of a dingy, soon to be recycled old hat. It is, ahem, what we do.
We make crappy products look amazing.
We make mediocre food look appetizing and delicious.
We add new life and interest to a 56 year old townhouse.
We make OTR crap look ‘cool’ enough for someone to want to buy it.
We help people sell stuff, and we do it with skills and a vision and a surety of purpose that we know what we are doing.
The ‘proof’ is in the pudding… fine, but remember it’s OUR dang pudding. We know what went into it and how it should be served. We are the masters of our own vision.
If we let others mess with our work, without giving us a chance to do what we do – the way we do it, it can be both frustrating and bad for business. We are hired to do a job, and we should be willing to fight to do it right.
Our job is to make the VP of Finances smile by making images that grow sales beyond projections.
Our job is to make images that bring more people to the website than ever before.
Our job is to createiImages that help seal the brand idea with the visitor so that there is no doubt in their mind that THIS is the company they want to do business with.
Our job is to help business make more money by making a better visual product.
Professional commercial photography should be viewed as a profit center, bringing clarity, consistency and brand loyalty to the front of the mind of the viewer. Great images create great brands.
Think of our largest, premium brands… the ones that get to a level all their own.
Nieman Marcus. Gucci. Prada. Lamborghini. Cartier. Harley Davidson.
Do they scrimp on advertising? Nope.
Do they look for the cheapest photographer? Nope.
Do they understand that excellent imagery SELLS better than crappy stock or amateurish attempts?
They know it.
We know it.
Now, how do we get our prospective client to know it? The guy who called and wanted your bid for some interiors, and reads from a script on what they are looking for – or the woman on the phone who doesn’t introduce herself, but simply blurts out “How much do you charge for a shot of a …”
Yeah… we get those calls. And part of us wants to jump on the bid right away. We are in the mindset of “we are right for every job that comes in and if we don’t get every job that comes in we are lower than the grub worms that crawl in the dirt because we NEED every job that comes in to validate our recent Broncolor system…” or whatever variation works for you.
Hey – guess what – you don’t really need the “howmuchayoucharge” crap. It will never pay you enough, and you will begin to doubt that you are worth more.
I get these calls as well… and I am always courteous, friendly and sincere. I ask them to hold up for a minute and begin to ask them questions about the possibilities of the gig. I ask outright how many other photographers are they calling and if they had seen my website.
If they are calling more than a couple and they have not seen my website, then I politely tell them I am probably not the right photographer for them. I do not try to ‘educate them’ nor do I ridicule their poor business sense. Too much water under that bridge. You can try if you want, but my experience is that their mindset is on ‘cheap’ and it covers more territory than just photography.
However, I will also ask for an email address so I can send them something that is indicative of what I do, and most of the time I get one. I want to give them a taste of the pudding, and reinforce why they should consider photography or design (especially mine) to be more than a line item on their budget.
I want them to realize that great photography and design MAKES more money than it costs.
We will get the kinds of clients that we look for.
We will get more of the kind of clients that we work for.
Whether they be cheapos or premium, the laws of attraction seem to work that way.
We also earn a reputation for what we do… and this is one terribly difficult thing to rebuild if we let ours slip.
Do we have a reputation of a premium shooter, who helps their clients create stunning work for stunning results? Does our portfolios say that we are problem solvers, and that our work makes a difference for our clients? Do we make careful, thoughtful, powerful images that produce results?
And can we articulate why professional photography, and ours in specific. can enhance their needs beyond a piece of flat art representation? Can we justify our photography as a revenue investment instead of a line item?
Or do we just take pictures?
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
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.
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!
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.
A few shots from our students in the first class.