What Is The Biggest Problem with Your Photography?

The biggest problem may also be the one that most people focus on. No pun intended.

“So let’s get the elephant out of the bag most of you keep it in and into the room where we can discuss it: most people are complaining about their cameras because otherwise they’d have to put the blame for their photography on themselves. It’s the camera’s fault their photograph isn’t great. Or maybe the lens’ fault. Not theirs. 

 

Now don’t get me wrong. If you managed to take an incredible photo of a compelling subject in a way that the world hadn’t seen before and it was with a D600 that was throwing lubricant and dust onto the upper left area of the photograph, you’d be pissed. Equipment can get in the way of your enjoyment. But let me also be clear: you’d still have a great photograph, though you’d be spending a lot of time cloning out the crud the D600 put into the photo. Generally we don’t want our photo gear adding to the tasks we have to do in our workflow, which is one of the reasons why the D600 shutter issue was such a big deal and has really hurt Nikon’s credibility with users. One Nikon technical support person apparently suggested to one of this site’s readers that they not use such small apertures or take time-lapse images. Really? Then why are the features there?”

– Thom Hogan

It is always interesting to me how much discussion goes into the crap we use and how little goes into the crap we produce.

Perhaps we should change that around.

Photographs = Communication = New Creative

Photographs as communication.

The new uses of photography continues to grow.

“It’s not that my memory improved but, instead, that I started archiving these events and ideas with my phone, as photographs. Now, if I want to research the painter whose portraits I admired at the museum, I don’t have to read through page after page of my chicken scratch trying to find her name. When I need the title of a novel someone recommended, I just scroll back to the day we were at the bookstore together.

Looking through my photo stream, there is a caption about Thomas Jefferson smuggling seeds from Italy, which I want to research; a picture of a tree I want to identify, which I need to send to my father; the nutritional label from a seasoning that I want to re-create; and a man with a jungle of electrical cords in the coffee shop, whose picture I took because I wanted to write something about how our wireless lives are actually full of wires. Photography has changed not only the way that I make notes but also the way that I write. Like an endless series of prompts, the photographs are a record of half-formed ideas to which I hope to return.”

— Casey N Sep

I am working on something that is so far out of the box for me that it is a kind of a whole new path.

With an iPhone.

Documentary Photography with a Fresh Twist

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PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL DAVID FRIBERG

Michael Friberg and Benjamin Rasmussen find a fresh way to explore the conflict in the Middle East. Part reportage, part editorial, they create a powerful new way of communication on a contemporary problem.

“The way that we shoot for magazines, you try to photograph a subject in a way that people are going to think they are important enough to read that story,” Rasmussen explains. “We have a visual language that we use to communicate the fact that somebody is important. We wanted to take that language and use that on a group of people that no one was really paying attention to.” He points to the cover of “By the Olive Trees” as an example; in it a handsome, young man stands holding an olive branch. His clothes fit well, a fashionable shirt unbuttoned to the chest, and he holds the branch carefully, looking away, but his gaze is troubled. Friberg shot it in natural light, but the key to their approach was spending quality time with their subjects and letting the photographs become an extension of that, instead of simply following someone around taking pictures.”

Article here.

The Last Project 52 Assignment for the 2013 Group

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“Cooking With Chili” is the name of the faux cookbook. The assignment was to shoot to the layout. The students did a magnificent job with this, and I want to share the work with you all.

You can see the layout, and it was provided as a layered PSD file to the students. They then shot the concept (brief) and put the image together in Photoshop.

We are now working on a book for the end of the year, and it will be amazing. I will post the book (free PDF or purchase hard copy at Blurb) here when it is ready. Believe me, it will be amazing!

See how a lot of different photographers interpreted the same layout.

Irene Liebler’s “Cooking With Chili” BTS Work

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Irene Liebler is a photographer/designer in Connecticut. She is also a Project 52 member and has developed quite a unique style.

This is a recent image for an assignment on P52, a “Cooking With Chilis” Cookbook Cover, shot to layout.

In this post, she walks you through how she did it, and the thought process that goes into this level of work.

She also has a book at Blurb that walks you through the processes she uses for making her unique and wonderful imagery. Pick up a copy of “The Man In The Red Jacket” to see the magic being made.

Art And Its Detractors

“How has your art been received in your community? Do you have any detractors?”

“Oh, yeah. That comes up all the time. If you really, really commit to something, someone will hate you for it. And that’s ok. But the further you pursue your art, and the more you come to understand that it’s coming from who you are, the less that stuff gets to you. When you reach that point and put your work out there, and somebody hates it, what are your options? Are you gonna move forward or completely realign your work? Somebody will always be there to tell you they don’t like what you’re doing. To do work that pleases people is a constant investment in gauging trends and evaluating opinions and measuring yourself against them. If you align to what’s popular, and then in two years everyone hates it, you have to completely change who you are. But if you just figure out who you are and how you want to work, all you have to do is commit to that the rest of your life. People’s reactions might change, but you won’t have to. You’ll be doing something you care about, whether people like it or not.”

Photographer Ryan Muirhead Talks Depression, Creativity, and What It Means to Be Human

“NO” versus “YES” – Which Got The Most Response?

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On the previous post I mentioned, almost in passing, how negative articles and stories are more highly engaged than are positive ones.

A few minutes later, this catches my attention:

Just Say NO

“So, one answer to my student’s rhetorical question is “Just say NO.” As in, no, I will not make your donut commercial for free; no, I will not play at your restaurant “for the exposure;” no, you cannot have my painting to hang in your home because your “important” friends will see it; no, I will not paint your set “for the experience.”  What I will do is accept a slightly below market wage because I’m still in school and you’ll get what you pay for; yes, I will play at your restaurant for one night if you provide dinner for my family of six beforehand; yes, I will loan my painting to you for a fixed period of time if I am invited to the cocktail party to meet your important friends; yes, I will paint your set with you so that you can train me on a specialized technique with which I am unfamiliar.  Or, yes! I will gift my talents to you with generosity and an open heart because I love you, your cause, or your work. But no, I will not make your donut commercial for free.  [In a follow-up post, I discuss saying "YES!"]“

It received over 114 responses before the comments were closed.

The following week, the author wrote “Saying YES”.

“Just – or even more – important than knowing when to say “no,” is knowing when and how to say “yes.”  Giving builds community; giving builds friendships; giving builds social capital (although one need not think of it in those terms); giving lifts the spirit of both the giver and receiver.  We may give of our time, we may give of our money, we may give of our things, we may give of our talent.  Related to giving is sharing – we may share knowledge, share food, share an experience (good or bad), without any exchange of material goods.”

It received three comments.

Negativity is the common thread of all failed anythings. The author has it right on both of these articles. Absolutely right… and yet the negative by far has more engagement.

Why?

WTF? You think I am some sort of sociologist or somethin’? I have no data, only my life long experience of finding that negative people are more persuasive and impassioned than they should be.

It is almost as if people go LOOKING for negative things to use as some sort of blame shifting mechanism.

After all, if you aren’t successful it is probably because of ‘those people’… you know who I mean… the others that steal dreams and force us to constantly make bad decisions and sit on our fat asses whining.

Yeah… them.

On Change Changing What was Changed…

hiway
… or something.

My friend Jan Klier (NYC) and I were discussing the recent Getty move to grant access to millions of images for only a byline. He feels it is a good move for photographers, and while I am still somewhat ambivalent we both agree that the worst thing is the overall message that photographs are not worth much anymore.

We also agree that message will fade as photographs are becoming more and more valuable all the time.

No, I am not talking about wedding photographs or baby shots, brochure covers or even ad shots for the newest wizbang gadget.

I mean as a value to our lives. The communication and interaction they facilitate. The shared experiences and cultural manifestations of images are not to be ignored.

From Jan’s post this morning:

“Photographers lack that scale in their marketing. How many portfolio reviews have you been on in the last year? How many people have seen your entire book and seen the majority of your photos? How many people’s opinions have you gotten about your work? Is it a statistically significant number? Doubtfully. Yet, how many people have seen some of your images in some form or another without you knowing about it? How much better could your business be if you could reliably create and market your next photo with the accuracy of an Amazon recommendation?

So while Getty’s latest move may not yet be the photographer’s meta data solution, it’s a move in that direction. Paul Melcher has been involved in Stiple, another smaller endeavor in the same vein.”

From my half of the email exchange this morning:

Change is hard. Change is always harder when multiple models change at the same time. The traditional ‘dollars for hours’ model of the service sector is being tossed on its head. The traditional ‘licensing’ for use’ model is being challenged and in many cases eviscerated.

When we take today’s market and look at it from today’s perspective (rather than one of 20 years ago) we can clearly see that if we began this industry now, we would be using a far different set of tools to create the values we want to maintain. We would not be looking at day-rates, licensing, and controlling access, we would be looking at reach, engagement and open access.

Business models that made no sense 20 years ago, and will make a lot of sense 20 years from now. Or something else entirely, change is indeed constant.

Simply said, the old models don’t work smoothly in today’s environment. It will not get smoother.

And yet that failed model of trying to shoehorn an unworkable model into a clearly bad fit is what so many spend their time and efforts on.

The old model of the business of photography is breathing its last breath. Mediocre photographers who got by in years past are today’s roadkill. Big time shooters are finding other models to follow (McNally the celebrity, Heisler the sage etc…) and this is the natural progression of disruption, be it good or bad not withstanding.

The new model of photography is also quite difficult to see at the moment. It is still in flux, and in fact may never again ‘gel’ into a single, describable entity. It may remain ethereal and erratic, shifting forever without a clear and discernible set of parameters.

Quickly changing cultural beliefs and communication standards will be entering and weaving for quite a few more years… and the pace will most likely not subside (barring a catastrophic failure of society, which may not be out of the question these days).

The fear that photographers have over losing what they had is misplaced. It is already gone. Looking back and wishing it were not so is of no value, and it will avail nothing but more distraction and pain and time lost from moving ahead.

Looking forward may indeed be painful, but it will at least be a start toward understanding the changing nature of photography, how photography is perceived and used, of what value is photography to the culture and how one who creates imagery fits in.

This of course requires more effort, so we will continue to bitch and whine, which of course provides nothing of value, but is far easier to do.

Notice the amazing hit counts on the ‘oh poor woe is us’ posts at Petapixel, VSL, f-stoppers and such. Doom and gloom are still the big attractions for the human race. Early newspaper owners knew it. Media organizations know it. Nothing different in the photography realm.

But we are all aware of those that ignored the doom and gloom fascination of the day to move into a more prosperous tomorrow. Instead of wringing hands and enjoying each other’s suffering, they went out and did… something else. A choice we all have an opportunity to make every single morning we open our eyes.

Today I am trying to figure out how to incorporate Snapchat into my business… not sure I have a breakthrough yet, but I believe there is a way.

Chocolate: Two Shots

Photographer David Price shows us two ways to light chocolate.

In the first shot, he is using a very large light source. The source is above and behind the chocolate, and that masks the individual color of the items. This is because the specular – the reflected light source – is white, and that is what we see predominantly.

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-1-Chocolate

You can see the set up here:

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-2-Backlit-SETUP

In the second shot, David moved his light to the side of the chocolate. This provides a specular highlight on the side of the chocolate, but allows the colors of the chocolate to be seen as they are now the “true value” of the chocolate.

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-3-Chocolate

This is the setup.

Assignment-6-David-Price-Tue-4-Sidelit-SETUP

There is no right or wrong decision when working with the specular effects on subjects, there is only your choice as regards to the style of the work you are completing.

Thanks, David.

David Price Photography,

“Too Expensive” or ‘Not Worth It” – There is a Difference

canyon-rim

From Seth this morning:

“Culturally, we create boundaries for what something is worth. A pomegranate juice on the streets of Istanbul costs a dollar, and it’s delicious. The same juice in New York would be seen as a bargain for five times as much money. Clearly, we’re not discussing the ability to pay nor are we considering the absolute value of a glass of juice. No, it’s about our expectation of what people like us pay for something like that.”

And that is the problem – and the solution.

If people are complaining that your photography prices are “too expensive” they may be telling you loud and clear that what you are offering is not ‘worth it’ to them.

That your work is “too expensive” gives absolutely no actionable response. We don’t know what that means. Whether they are low on money or are comparing your pricing to their brother-in-law’s new portrait hobby.

But if they say “your work is not worth – to us – what you are asking for it” then we have something to go on. We can ask why they do not value it more. We can look into creating a value that surrounds the imagery by creating a better story about it. The story is the thing that makes it different.

Things that are ‘worth it’ are usually accompanied by stories that create the value. Without a good, compelling story, it is just a photograph… and that may not be worth it to anyone.

What’s your story?

Cool Shot, March 19, 2014

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Photographer Andras Deme.

Assignment shot for Project 52 PROS: “Time Travel”.

Andras used collage techniques to show the same woman in antique garments and a future wardrobe. The image was shot in London.

Are Photographers “Lonely”?

Do we think that by having a great twitter feed and a bunch of cool likes on 500pixies or GPus is the same as having buds? Friends?

People to hang out with – and NOT at a keyboard while in our underwear… real interactions.

I can say unequivocally that the difference that being connected 24/7 has made in the photography business (BEYOND the cameras) is profound.

My studio in Phoenix was always the center of a lot of social activities. Models, MUA’s, stylists, photographers, people in the arts… they would drop by, especially on Saturdays. Just to chat. Just to hang out.

It was a really fun time.

Now… not so much. The studio is there, but the people are hooked to their devices, their networks… and the effort it takes to go ‘somewhere’ is not worth it because when they get there, everyone would be on their devices anyway.

Sad.

Watch.

Oh Yeah, We’ve Seen That Before…

from-the-bridge

Iconic images.

You know them. The ones everyone has seen.

Mather Point at the Grand Canyon.
Zabriskie Point in Death Valley.
Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado.

The bridge over the Virgin River in Zion is one of those iconic photographs as well.

A shot most everyone takes after finding a place to park. Some folks hike more than a mile to get on the bridge for this shot of sunset in the summer. A Google Image Search turns up dozens of this scene (and quite a few of the footbridge at another location). All are similarly taken from the same bridge, but all of them have nuances both large and small that change the image in seemingly magical ways.

When we are confronted by these iconic images, right there in front of us, there is a tendency to compare and contrast with all those we have seen before. The ones on bright spring afternoons, or with dark and foreboding winter skies. And all of the weather/time spectrum between.

Photographers gathering on the bridge over the Virgin River at the mouth of Zion Canyon. Some times of the year find this bridge nearly impassable for the tripods and photographers!

Photographers gathering on the bridge over the Virgin River at the mouth of Zion Canyon. Some times of the year find this bridge nearly impassable for the tripods and photographers!

I always wonder if I should take the shot or simply pass with the knowledge that someone else “got it”?

I nearly always take the shot. I don’t know why, really, other than it is my record of being there. My version of what it looked like that late afternoon with the wispy clouds, and warm light. Mine.

Perhaps it is because I make photographs for myself. I am not looking to ‘please’ others, nor am I young enough to think that everything I do is unique and ‘cool’. It isn’t. Probably never was.

But those images are ones I like, and they add visuals to the memory of some wonderful new friends, an excellent experience, and for the brief moment that the image was all mine.

While I may never set the world on fire, I can kindle up a few sparks of my own… and that is one of the things that I love so much about photography.