Shooting a CD Cover: Front and Back (Project 52)

Shooting a CD Cover: Front and Back (Project 52)

This past week we have been reviewing the CD cover assignment for the Project 52 2015 group. The assignment was for a cover and back image for a String Quartet performing Samuel Barber’s String Quartet Op 11.

The assignment specifically noted that the string quartet members may not be available for the shoot, so a creative solution must be found. (I don’t give assignments that are impossible… and finding a string quartet to photograph may not be totally impossible, but damn close for many of us.)

When shooting a CD cover there are three main ways of approaching the image.

For pop music it is usually going to be a photograph of the artist. Rare are the covers that do not have the artist shown. The cult of personality, and celebrity demands that we keep the faces of the performers in the fore. In many cases, the celebrity is more important than the music anyway. See the covers below for Faith Hill.


Another way is to show something that is reminiscent of the music, or an image that may be part of the title. Respighi’s “The Pines of Rome” cover could certainly have the pines of Rome featured:


And the third way is use art that is quite striking, but may not relate to the music but in the most obtuse of ways. This is usually done when there is no necessary correlation between the recorded music and a celebrity, or an album that is more about the music or genre of music than the actual performers.


Some labels like Windham Hill above was a full adopter of that approach to album design, and helped create the style as we know it today. Another company that also used art, although in many cases commissioned art, for their classical work was Nonesuch. Both of these legacies live in today’s music cover designs.


The CD cover is becoming less of a major label concern as streaming has taken its toll, but cover art will be around for a while longer and is very important for Indie bands and artists.

Here are a few of my favorites from the Assignment. Remember the cover is on the right side, back panel on left.

Continue on after the jump to see the class images.


Exceptional Portraits (from the workshop)

Exceptional Portraits (from the workshop)

One of the most exciting and ultimately satisfying things I am doing is the 8 Week Workshop courses. We mostly focus on portraits, but are beginning to expand out with an upcoming Still Life Workshop as well. And more ideas are in the works.

This last week, we studied the work of Sara Moon. Moon is a fashion photographer best known for her intimate, nearly painterly like fashion imagery. And while most of the students do not seek a career in fashion, there is much to be learned from studying her work and being inspired by it.

I want to share with you a few of my favorites, as well as the entire classes work.

Cover image: Thomas Poehler


Now Enrolling for Two Different 8 Week Photography Workshops

Now Enrolling for Two Different 8 Week Photography Workshops

If portraiture is your interest, we are starting the 8 Week Portrait Workshop 102 in January. There are still a few openings if you are interested. See the workshop page for more information on this unique class. Lots going on in that class, and if you love portraiture, you should check it out.

The second course is a brand new one we decided to call the 8 Week Still Life Class. Most likely because it is 8 weeks long and focuses on still life and table top work. This is somewhat new for us, so we are looking at other disciplines that could be brought into the 8 week structure.

These 8 week units have been very popular and we love teaching them. I hope you check them out if you are interested.

“Connected” – A Travel Photographers Visual Diary of the World and its People

“Connected” – A Travel Photographers Visual Diary of the World and its People

Matt Dutile is a young, emerging, and very talented people photographer who specializes in travel and lifestyle editorial. His newest project is a book of his more enigmatic imagery.

What started as a promotional piece, has grown into a larger, more robust publication of over 80 photographs. I had an opportunity to chat with him recently, and we discussed this new book project, his recent travels, and the many fascinating places he has visited in his quests. Shooting for magazines and clients worldwide, take a few minutes to listen to Matt discuss the world of travel photography, and his favorite subject – the people of the world.

Here is a link to the INDIEGOGO site where you can pick up a copy of this very unique and fascinating book. This is a collectors item, and only a few hundred people will ever have a copy.

See more of Matts work at his website:

Here are the spreads we looked at in the video.

All images below by Matt Dutile, and are protected by copyright.

Madagascar1India2  Madagascar3 Mexico2 Morocco2 Peru1 Sicily2


Two new classes are now enrolling for January:

8 Week Portrait Workshop 102

8 Week Still Life Workshop

More Portraits… I Love Portraits

More Portraits… I Love Portraits

From the current 8 Week Class: Inspired by Skrebneski.

Gettin’ the Adventure Spirit

Gettin’ the Adventure Spirit

Perhaps it is because it is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, or maybe the wanderlust of the highway calling to me, but today’s update is a bunch of cool stuff about adventure photography that makes me want to get out the door, fire up Sarek and “head out on the highway, lookin’ for adventure”.

I have said it many times; if I was starting this road of commercial photography again, it would be adventure photography I would be chasing. Perhaps it will be, and perhaps I shall at some point. (Do you get the feeling that there is something in the air saying “reset”… a big change comin’ and perhaps it is indeed a time for a reset.) Who knows… hell, certainly not me.

I am just a writer/photographer who is wanting to have some fun on these final laps. Get the fuel ready, boys, I want another race.

Michael Clark puts out a quarterly newsletter that is well designed and full of great information for a start up photographer or a seasoned pro. Check his downloadable newsletter out here, and see his work here. Damn.

Paolo Marchesi is a fine adventure shooter as well. This blog post about shooting surfing on Todos Santos, and island off the coast of Mexico is really a great read. Wonderful photos as well. You can see his work here.

Go vertical with Matt and Agnes Hage while they shoot for Outdoor Research. This post talks about their recent shoot on the rock faces of Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. See their amazing work here.

Chris Burkard knows photography… and social media. With over a million Instagram followers, there is a sense that a lot of people like adventure photography. Listen to this interview with him on how he does what he does and check out his work here. Tumblr too…

From extreme adventure sports to sublime landscapes, Alex Buisse delivers every time. Check out this blog post on shooting for Red Bull. Then check out his work here.

See ya next time…


Find and Keep Commercial Photography Clients: A Free Training Series.

Find and Keep Commercial Photography Clients: A Free Training Series.

I have finally put the finishing touches on the Training Series I have been working on:

“How To Find and Keep Commercial Photography Clients” has been a long time coming. I have been working on it for about 4 years now. Not the system – I have always used the system – but in the organization of it into a cogent, and easy to follow course for commercial photographers to follow.

One of the most asked questions I get as an educator and a mentor is “where do I find clients for my commercial work?” Without any sort of access to the industry it can be quite complex. The old inroads have changed. Now we have to be more nimble, more innovative, and more organized.

This system does that for/with you.

No Secrets. No Tricks. No Easy Button. No Quick Success. All of that is pure crap – and you KNOW it is.

This is a system that can work for a photographer in almost any area or region. It is methodical and measurable.

The initial training is FREE. No charge. Nada damn penny.

And while a premium will be offered at the end of the training, there is absolutely no selling going on in the video training across the four modules.

This is real, actionable training you can use starting today. You can begin building your system immediately.

Sign up for the training at this page: and you will receive the first module link in the email that comes to you immediately. One email per week will follow with a module per week. The fifth email will be a wrap-up with an offer to continue on to the premium part of the training. (Did I mention there is no cost? I did… sorry.)

Even if you do not continue, you will have a good base system that you can TAKE ACTION and find the clients you need – and who need you.

SPECIAL NOTE: THIS TRAINING IS FOR COMMERCIAL/EDITORIAL PHOTOGRAPHERS, NOT CONSUMER PHOTOGRAPHERS. (If you shoot weddings, babies, seniors etc… this is NOT the system for you.)

So if you are interested in jumpstarting your commercial photography business, or ready to finally formalize a way to find clients for your fledgling business, take a look at the free training and get started today.

How To Find and Keep Commercial Photography Clients is live today (November 2) and the premium class begins December 1. (Enroll before November 15 and save $100 off the class price.) More coming on this special offer.


What We Learn from Studying Master Photographers



I am just about full on my newest portrait class (starting November) and we have been discussing a lot of things in the current portrait class that has me thinking. Yeah, that can be sorta dangerous, but in this case I think I want to share a few things.

In today’s wacky, fast-paced, ‘just-show-me-how-it’s-done’ world there are those who want to skip the hard bits. Just jump on over the challenging and get right to the ‘good stuff’. And yeah, we have bemoaned this before.

But today, more than ever, it seems like what is missed is becoming the heart of what should be found. It isn’t difficult to learn about master photographers, and it doesn’t negate anyones talent to study and learn from them. On the contrary, the study of the masters, or even contemporary shooters who you enjoy, can open your eyes to your own work.

We don’t study in order to copy the masters, nor is there any desire on our part to become small clones of their style. At least there shouldn’t be. What we are looking for are the commonalities of making images, and the unique solutions others have found to make them.

Look – we can teach someone how to light fairly quickly, it isn’t hard. We can teach the ‘rules’ of composition, and how to color balance and all that stuff. It is pretty damned easy to teach and to learn.

But no one can teach someone how to see, how to make a photograph that transcends the snap and becomes something more. No one can teach vision, and style, and how to dig down deep to make something all their own.

We teachers can only lead the way, show them the direction and help them find it within themselves. Understanding what other artists do and achieve with the very same tools they use can open flood gates of creativity, and the always valuable introspection.

Simple, really. We study the art of others to help understand our own.

The students in the 8 Week Portrait Classes I have run this year have said things to me like;

“I never knew I could make photographs like this. Studying the work of Peter Limburgh opened me to a whole new way of approaching light.”

“Sarah Moon made me see photographs in a totally different way.”

“I have found a new love of portraiture after being immersed in the work of David Eustace, and I love it.”

It is so true… the photographers all saw major breakthroughs in their own work after studying these wide ranging master portraitists. This was probably the most exciting thing for me as a teacher.

Here are a few things we can learn from studying other photographers.

How to meet a challenge head on.
So many times shooting is just a set of challenges that seem to stack up against you at every turn. Understanding that other photographers have had those same challenges, and then learning how they dealt with them can give us fresh perspective on ways we can deal as well.

How to approach a subject in different ways.
The portraiture work of David Bailey is worlds apart from the portraits of Dan Winters, and yet there is something to be gleaned from both. Whether you like one or the other more, studying the way they use light to shape and present the subject is fascinating. You may choose another path altogether, but you do it knowing what you are doing, and how to do it your way.

You get to step into the mind of another shooter… and that helps you grow.
When you study, or immerse yourself in the work of another photographer, you can start to see how that photographers sees, how they approach a visual challenge, how they choose to use – or not use – context. This can help you make decisions when you face the same challenges. Decisions that are uniquely yours, but derived from the visual legacy of a master.

The more you THINK about making a photograph, the better your photography can become.
In the workshops we strive to immerse ourselves in the work of master photographers. Some of the students decide they want to create a lighting scheme that is as complex as a master they are studying, while others try to find the essence of the work and then integrate some of it into their own style pallets. Both are excellent tools. And both help the photographer hone their craft faster because as you raise the camera up to your eye, you start to question the process based on the photographer you are studying. And that exercise is so very valuable. It creates patterns that will stay with you for the rest of your photographic career. THINKING about the photograph.

Freedom from sameness.
Yes… freedom. We get in a rut sometimes. We begin to think that Facebook and Flickr and G+ are arbiters of our own style and aesthetic and nothing could be further from the truth. Studying the work of photographers who are creating masterful images can lead to the discovery that you can make any kind of images you want to make… as long as they are authentically yours. And the freedom to make YOUR image can many times come after studying someone else who claimed their freedom, and then took it to levels unimagined for most of us.

I love teaching these classes, and we will resume in January. Currently we have three portrait classes; two are general approaches to stylized portraits, and one is focused on the environmental portraitist. I may add a studio section, but probably not. I am thinking that I could switch out a few photographers in the other classes and add a few new ones to the mix.

For more information on the last class of the year, go to this page.

Here are a few of the portraits to come out of the current 8 Week Portrat Class:

P52 Member Adi Talwar Shooting for the NYT

P52 Member Adi Talwar Shooting for the NYT

Adi Talwar is one of my Project 52 alumni. He just got featured in the NYT online magazine and the P52 family could not be more proud.

NYT article.

Adi is a go-getter. He always focused on getting the shot he saw in his head, and found the possibilities in the medium to make that happen.

Looking for a photographer who puts everything into his work, check out Adi Talwar for your next assignment.

Adi Talwar Photography   People

Some Amazing Portraits from The Current Class

Some Amazing Portraits from The Current Class

The goal of the portrait classes I teach is to look at a prominent portrait photographers work, and find those aspects of the work that resonate with our work. The goal is NOT to copy those we study, but to be inspired by their work.

This week we looked at the work of Lee Crum and Matt Barnes, two amazing portrait photographers. The members were inspired by their work and created some wonderful images. I am sharing them with you here.

For information on the next 8 Week Portrait Class, see this page.




This is the first workshop I ran early this year. The eight photographers we study are icons in the portraiture world, and I know you will love learning about them. Images above are a random sampling of the students work.

We Will Explore the Work of 8 Major Portrait Photographers

Each assignment features the work of a contemporary or modern photographer and provides the direction for the shooting assignment for that week. We examine the portraiture of Victor Skrebneski, Karsh, Sarah Moon, Peter Lindbergh, Herb Ritts, Dan Winters, Jeanloup Sieff, and William Coupon. Inspiration and insight. An additional bonus photographer was recently added. 

Each shoot has a couple of videos explaining the work of the photographer, and there is an assignment that is reviewed each week. This class will meet on Friday mornings, 9AM Pacific. It is designed for photographers who know how to use their camera, but want to hone their portrait skills.

We begin on November 7, 2015 and are limiting this group to 18 photographers.

Workshop fee has remained at $75, and there are over 80 hours of video reviews of previous classes available for your review.

Interested? See more here.

Here is a link to several pages featuring the student work. Students range from beginning portrait shooters to advanced pros. The mix of styles and levels make the class an excellent experience for all.


I live where Monsoons create havoc a few months out of the year. Mike Olbinski, a photographer here in Phoenix is an amazing storm shooter, and this video he did of this past monsoon season is a killer. His video will keep you riveted to the screen.

Here’s Mike:

“I’ve been chasing the monsoon in Arizona for about 6-7 years now. This summer was different though. Back in late July, I was wondering why it felt like I was out chasing more than ever before. And then I remembered. I had a job last summer. This year I didn’t. I went full-time photography in November of 2014 and haven’t looked back.

I was free to roam and had virtually no limitations. I even had multiple chases where I never actually wend to bed, but instead chased all night. I took the kids to New Mexico at one point early in the season.

Last year I counted roughly 31 total days that I chased a storm during the monsoon. This summer: 48. Yikes.”

Head over to VIMEO for the rest of the story.

And check out his work on his website.

What Riding a Motorcycle Taught Me About Life (and Photography)

What Riding a Motorcycle Taught Me About Life (and Photography)

'You go where you look' and other tips of the two wheel set

I started riding motorcycles when I was 14. Back in the day a kid could own a ‘scooter’ at that age and get a permit to drive it. A scooter was considered anything under 5 horsepower. 

There was no possible way I was going to ride a 5HP ‘motorcycle’. My friends and I all had Triumphs and BSA‘s and Nortons – some of the biggest and fastest bikes around that time – and we put 5HP decals on them for those times when the cops decided to chat with us. (We were once caught doing 70 MPH in a residential neighborhood under construction. How we ended up with only a warning is still a mystery to me.)

My first bike was a Harley Davidson “Hummer”. A 125 CC bike that needed jump starting every four or five hours. I quickly moved to a BSA 650 and rode it for a couple of years. A few years into my motorcycling is when I discovered a love for the hobby of photography. And a love for the Honda CB 750 Chopper I cruised around on. (Not my bike, but pretty close to what my bike looked like back then.)

I gave up motorcycling 40 years ago when I developed a passion for fast sports cars. And they could carry more photography gear.

And now, forty years later, I have acquired a new bike (new to me) and realized that I needed to take some lessons to reaffirm what I knew I still knew, and to become more acquainted with the newer machines and riding protocols. Like taking workshops for the soul, this was two days of immersive motorcycling.

The lessons were great. I still remembered shifting and braking pretty well, but so much of the maneuvering – especially at slower speeds – was a bit cumbersome. And my “school bike” was a 250CC Yamaha Dirt Bike. My current bike is a 1600CC Bagger that weighs four times the weight of the Yamaha. Sheesh.

It was during the lessons that I started to think about how riding a motorcycle relates to living a life. Especially a creative life.

Riding a bike leaves us vulnerable to all the elements nature can throw . Wind, rain, hail, heat… all of it is right there all around you as you move through it. Life isn’t “out there” it is right here. We must make decisions based on the world around us as we move through it. In a car, we are immunized from the elements and the car does what it can to keep us dry, cool, warm, and entertained with lovely music.

Making art is more like the bike ride than the car trip. Art whips you and pulls you, warms you and cools you, blasts you in the face with the elements all around us. And if you make a wrong decision, at the wrong time, the consequences can range from mild to severe. Being an artist is one of the most vulnerable positions we can put ourselves in. Always fodder for criticism, and always in someone’s sights somewhere.

Riding a motorcycle is a constant interaction with balance. Lean one way, the bike goes there. Lean the other way and it goes there. Grooves in the road hardly have any affect on my Sonata, but I can feel everyone of them on the bike. And I am always looking for the best track on the asphalt. 

Much like making art. We feel every bump, every critique, every failure. We are hypersensitive to the work we do and are constantly trying to find that ‘groove’ that will keep us upright for a bit longer. Making art can be a constant struggle with balance – and the compromises that balance demands. 

You go where you focus on. This was a new concept for me, at least I didn’t remember it from the days I wrangled my Honda chopper around the west side. When making a turn, you look at where you want to end up, keep your chin high and focus on the outcome. Almost surprisingly the turns are made for you by the motorcycle. Take your eyes off that goal and the turns become a bit more erratic, and less controllable.

Making art for a living demands us knowing where we want to go. We must have a clear vision of who we are, what we do, and why others should care. Simply making things with no plan or vision for where we want to go is a mere hobby, a past time. And there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. However, if we want to go beyond the mere dabbling, we need to know where we are going and LOOK at it. Sharply and with head up, eyes on the prize.

Learn to weave with confidence. Stuff on the roadway may be an uncomfortable bump for me and my Sonata, but that bump can be a significant problem on a bike. Learning to weave quickly and keep control of the motorcycle is something I am practicing for the the next several Sunday mornings. This bike is huge and the law of inertia means it wants to continue to go in a straight line. I am learning how to subtly get it to maneuver much quicker, in tighter weave patterns, and with more control.

And we learn to weave through the maze that is the creative’s journey. Finding ways to shift gears, move from side to side and escape possible perils are all a part of our day-to-day work. Whether the obstacles are too many family commitments to a full time job to a super busy time in our lives, they all seemingly appear out of nowhere and want to knock us from our ride. When we find that we can indeed weave through these obstacles by keeping our focus on where we want to be, we simply lean in a bit and find a way around them.

Take only what you need. GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) from which we all suffer from time to time is quickly abated when planning a motorcycle trip. There is no huge trunk for carrying an extra C-Stand or two. No place for a huge camera bag full of lenses that rarely get used. My bagger has a couple of storage places but after putting all the things one needs to survive on a road trip, it comes down to “do I need this” for the final pack up.

I am planning a very long road trip on my bike next summer – Phoenix, AZ to Fairbanks, AK. It will be a couple of weeks on the road each way and packing any more than I need will be a huge problem. There will have to be a very careful balance between what I absolutely need to make the photographs I want, and what I can live without. Even an extra 10 pounds can be an issue.

In art, we sometimes over do the gear and forget that we can pare down for any situation. Choose the gear wisely, and make sure it is the best gear for making the shots we want to make. And if we don’t yet know what images we want to make, perhaps a careful edit of the gear will help them be revealed to us. We don’t need every gizmo and ‘shiny new’ that comes down the pike, but we do need the tools we need. It is as simple – and as hard – as that.

Lean into the turns and apply some acceleration for more traction. It sounds counter-intuitive to lean INTO the turn since our most basic instinct is to try to counter balance the angle of the machine. When we do that, the machine will begin to right itself and go off course. Physics… no way to change or adapt our own ‘special technique’ to the turning of a motorcycle in motion (over 12 MPH).

We add a bit of throttle to the turn because we have slowed before we get there, and then we power through and out of the curve which gives the motorcycle more traction and it wants to right itself when you get to your goal (out of the turn).

When we get to a tough situation while making art, there will be curves and changes of direction at many turns. Before we go careening off the edge of the road (common motorcycle crash) we learn that when we see a curve coming, we begin to prepare for it. Maybe that means slowing down, maybe it means altering our processes, or possibly it may mean that the direction we are going is not going to remain, so we best prepare for a change.

And when the change comes, we lean into, apply a little more go-juice and power toward our new directions with momentum, purpose and speed. Life can be a long straight-away with a sharp turn hidden right over the hill, or it can be a winding, twisting two-laner creeping from valley to crest. Not a single mile of straight road in sight. We make art – we have seen both kinds of challenges.

The artist who loses it all through a catastrophe, or personal challenge may have never seen it coming, yet he powered through the corner with seemingly little effort. The artist who is constantly weaving and twisting through this work and that and is in a constant pattern of activity suddenly finds that patch of straight road and hits the throttle. All of us are on their own bike, taking the challenges, and curves one by one and adjusting through them with a sense of purpose and a goal in their eye.


There are artists who never prepare for a turn. They are so inwardly focused, or so insulated that they don’t see the turn coming. Some are so confused by the process of the turn, and don’t know where to look out ahead so they have no control of the machine and off the road they go. And there are the artists who timidly fail to accelerate, lose traction, and find themselves spinning out of control. Then there are those who for various reasons never hit the throttle, but simply roll to a coasting stop, drop the kickstand and walk away.

Those are similar to the tragic tales of woe are heard on every photography forum out there.

“No one can make a living in this.”

“Too much competition.”

“Back in the day we never had to do this.”

“I can’t adapt to this new way of working.”

“It’s too hard.”

Well, yeah. It IS hard. Too hard?

Perhaps it is too hard for the person making that claim, but I suggest that it may have had more to do with how they rode into – and out of – those curves than the curves themselves.

If you have a motorcycle;

  • Maintain balance.
  • Prepare for the turn by making sure your speed will handle it.
  • Look at where you want to go and focus on it.
  • Lean into the curve and accelerate for traction.
  • Keep your head high, and your vision fixed on where you want to be.
  • Let the motorcycle to the spot you are fixated on.
  • Enjoy the experience.

Turning through a series of curves is one of the most fun things to do on a motorcycle.

And if you make art;

Do the same damn thing.

Challenging Times; A Few Ideas to Positively Impact Your Business

Challenging Times; A Few Ideas to Positively Impact Your Business

Here are a few ideas that I use to impact my business quickly and also help me move from a creative block.

A few years ago I wrote about the things I do when given a chance to jump out and spend a little time on a project. That list is still pretty timely, so here it is again; “Ten Things You Can Do to Positively Impact Your Business”

1. Take a Road Trip
I love road trips. Planning them, packing for them, and doing them. Unpacking… well, not so much. But road trips are one of the most fun and inspiring things you can do. I try to take small road trips whenever possible.

I was invited to speak in Vancouver a few years ago. Instead of flying into Vancouver, I opted to fly to Seattle, rent a car and drive the 3 hours up.

It was cloudy and rainy on the way up, but stopping for lunch with my friend Bret, and a side trip down the Chuckanut road into Bellingham (Hwy 11) made it quite fun. Although I didn’t get as many images as I had hoped, I still had a blast listening to jazz and seeing places I had never seen before.

I love driving in new places, seeing things I have never seen and will never see again, and filling the head with visual possibilities. It is always nice to fill a card with some imagery too, but that is not always necessary. The time alone and the visual interest are always enough to trigger ideas.

2. Clean Up Your Website
We can always get into that website and freshen up the client lists, bio page, and images. Check in with your Analytics and see if there is some trend you need to capitalize on. Some new keywords, tidy up the home page content, change out that tired slide show and… hey – that’s my list. Heh.

Taking a few hours each month to add images, check page loads, make sure all links are working and what the site looks like in mobil devices is great preventative action.

It also lets you see what your viewers are seeing, and if your site needs new imagery. (It does, I checked.)

3. Learn Something New
Have you thought about putting together a new WordPress blog? Or opening a small online store to sell products (Amazon Fulfillment)? Have you thought about writing articles for a favorite blog? Now is a great time to take some online classes in WordPress or Photoshop or Dreamweaver. I like

Take a writing class, or some sort of art class. If you play an instrument, get some lessons and see how your brain kicks the visual areas into high gear.

Take a workshop in a new place, then plan a drive there. The mix of road trip and workshop can make for some amazing images, and some incredible creative flow.

4. Make a Book
Artifact Uprising

Take your images and make a damn book. Edit it down to something you are proud of. Write some text, caption a few photos, make some “editorial decisions”. Work hard on it. Make small prints of a couple of hundred images and edit – edit – edit them down to the 50 images you want to showcase.

Maybe it is a compilation of all the best images you made last year. Or maybe it is a set of images you did of your favorite model, or subject, or location.

Purchase a few copies of the book and make sure they are out in view in your studio / office. Show everyone you know the new book. Love it.

5. Add to Portfolio
Shoot some new stuff. Shoot some stuff that you have never thought about shooting. Shoot some stuff you have thought about shooting but had not taken the time to do them. You know the ones I am talking about.

Find a project to work on, and then do it and get it done. Working keeps you sharp, and it keeps you fresh. Keeping the trigger finger going, and the Photoshop cranking keeps the ideas coming in at a furious pace. And having a project keeps you focused.

Get that project edited, then get it onto the website and into your print portfolio. Get ready for new visitors and possible viral engagement.

6. Blog/Write Articles for Established Media
Share your ideas, images and projects with interested people. Show clients what you do, how you meet challenges, and how you provide visual solutions to the projects they are working on.

Brag. Share. Engage with the people who drop by. Invite conversation, and meet new people through your blog. Don’t do it because you ‘have to’ – do it because it is fun.

And don’t do it expecting something in return. ROI on blogging is not like ROI on investing in a good marketing campaign. Blogging is something that you either love to do or do not. If you are one who doesn’t like to write, then just get a Tumblr and put images on it when you get them. Be consistent, and show work that may not be on your portfolio site. Or work that IS on your portfolio site.

There is no right way, you got that – right?

7. Try Something Different
Ever shoot film? Try it.

Ever shoot a Hasselblad with film? Try that too.

Rent a view camera and learn how to use it. Shoot something that just ‘feels’ like a large format shot.
Do a video on your project. Add sound. Create a storyboard, script and shoot schedule. Shoot it on a pocket camera – or shoot it on your DSLR.

Find out what photographers mean by ‘motion’ and give it a shot. How about a headshot with motion? Or a small story about a creek in your neighborhood? Go on, it’s new and different – and that is all it has to be for now.

8. Organize Your Gear
I do this every year. Get the gear out, spread it around the studio and do an inventory. What needs to be fixed? What needs to be touched up, or tossed out? Do I have all the gear I need (including one more stand than I have… perpetually), and is it accounted for?

I make a list of gear and what containers they are in. Standbaggers are audited, and a ‘packing list’ is created, laminated and attached. Now I know where all the gear I have is, and with careful re-packing I can keep control of what I have – and not end up on a gig without something really important.

The amount of gear has grown to it taking the better part of a day to do now, and that makes it even more important. I need to know where every piece of gear is, and how to get to it easily and quickly. Packing for a gig is so much easier with this system.
9. Build a List
Planning for the new year means a good time to make a list of perspective clients. Hit the bookstores and get the names and publications into your iPad or smart phone or laptop. Shoot the “Masthead” pages of magazines on your camera phone and move contact info into your contact management system immediately. Organize the list for the work you do, get ready to begin the push in email, direct mail, and any other contact forms you want to work with in the fall.

Plan the marketing with your list carefully and create a strong plan for getting your work in front of the people you have identified.

10. Market Your Ass Off
Just do it.

Show everyone what you do. Get a new set of cards done and pass them out. Make sure you wear your branded tee shirts, with matching branded walking shorts and that cool little branded beanie where ever you go.

OK, that beanie thing may be a little over the top. But only a little. Being top of mind with as many people as possible means that there is a better chance for a referral, or a mention or a call for a gig.

So there ya go… ten or so ideas to keep you busy. As we go into the New Year. Each can be the catalyst for some big new work coming up. I start this year with a pretty full plate, but each of the above is being carefully woven into the next couple of months, scheduled in as though it were a gig, and planned in advance.

Keeping the creative flowing is always the challenge, and one you and I must constantly meet head on if we are to survive and thrive in this business.

The “Dating Game”



“The Dating Game?”

I was recently involved in an email discussion (mini consultation I guess…) with a photographer who was pretty incensed by my constant upbeat evaluation of this business of photography. His concerns were voiced well, and although he was civil (without which I would never have responded) I could tell that he was genuinely pissed off.

In short, he is a photographer in a smaller town in the upper midwest. NOT a fashion center, nor really a big center at all. Surrounded by smaller towns and burgs he was about three hours from a large city where agencies were doing regional and national work.

He told me that no matter what I said, there was no work up there, and that no one he knew was doing any work. And he talked to a lot of photographers and they weren’t getting any work either and how could I be so upbeat about a business that didn’t exist anymore?

(A quick 5 minutes on Google provided 37 graphic designers, and 24 advertising agencies in close proximity. In the big city nearby (Minneapolis) there are literally hundreds.)

I asked him if he wanted a dialog with me, or just wanted to vent? And if he did want to chat about it would he answer a few questions honestly about where he was in his work?

It took him three days to write back but he did indeed answer my questions.

In fact, he answered his own questions about why he wasn’t getting work and why he probably would never get work if he remained on the same path he was on. At the time he couldn’t see it, but it was right there in front of him.

I have discussed the importance of being relevant, being professional, being persistent and focused and energized many times before, but today I want to explain it in a sort of “Dating Game” kind of metaphor. C’mon – it will be fun. Or… not.

Are you the kind of person other people want to be around?
Are you interesting? Witty? Charming? Talented? Driven?
Are you trying new things, making new things, delivering new things?
Are you engaged and involved in MAKING stuff?

Or are you simply there. Sitting with other non-interesting, non-witty, non-charming, non-talented people who don’t make anything hoping that someone will walk over to you and say, “hey, I am tired of interesting, witty, talented people. It’s time for me to date someone who really doesn’t have anything to offer me”?

How often does that happen in real life?

People are fascinated by things that are fascinating… duh. So if you are simply one of the people sitting around projecting to the world that you are not engaged, not involved, not interested in anything other than navel gazing, complaining, being offended and harshly criticizing others, then you may not be a “good catch”.

This isn’t an introvert/extrovert kind of thing – it is a people being interested in other people kinda thing. To be involved, one must actually BE involved.

We can read book after book on traveling across country by motorcycle. We can watch videos about it. We can go online and follow a few intrepid souls that are crossing the globe on a motorcycle. We can put posters of motorcycle riders in the middle of nowhere all over our walls – heck, we can even have screen savers of McGregor and Boorman in Siberia on a pair of BMW’s. We can have all of that.

But we are not riding cross country on a motorcycle. We are only passively thinking about it. Not doing it.

Now, let’s take that out into the real world and see if anyone is interested:

“Hi, my name is Don and I do a lot of thinking about riding motorcycles cross country. I read a lot of books about it. Once, I even dreamt I was in Albuquerque and couldn’t find the road to Boston. I read all the forums, and know the names of a lot of motorcycles.”


“Hi, my name is David, and I am currently riding a Triumph Bonneville from LA to Miami. I am camping out and taking photographs of the people I am meeting on the way. This is my motorcycle, and I am a third of the way there. I leave first thing in the morning.”

If you are someone interested in riding a motorcycle across country, which of the above are you most interested in talking with?

“Hi, my name is Don and I dream about being a photographer. I know my website is not very good, but I don’t have time to work on it because I spend an inordinate amount of time in my G+ group where we discuss how much this business sucks and how everyone thinks they are a photographer and how iPhones ruined everything. I have no marketing and I have never even looked for anyone to show my pictures to because no one is hiring anyway. I know all about the sharpness of “L” glass and what the ‘best’ cameras are. I even know the weight difference between a D800 and a Sony RXII7.”

How attractive is that to perspective buyers. To them, you are uninteresting and not engaged and actually invisible. You haven’t done anything, but you think your effort should be rewarded the same as those who have actually DONE the hard work, the heavy lifting, and met failure, defeat, bad portfolio reviews, shitty clients and good.

And that just isn’t the way it is done. Whether in looking for a date or finding a client, just thinking about stuff won’t be enough.

Thinking about being interesting is not the same as being interesting.
Thinking about creating photographs is not the same as creating photographs.
Thinking about showing your book, making cold calls, contacting editors is not the same thing as actually DOING it.

I gave my email friend a few pointers – some tough love – and guaranteed him that if he got engaged, and stopped thinking about doing it and actually got out there to do it, there would be some magic happening. The magic of ‘making’ and ‘doing’ instead of the lethargy of ‘hoping’ and ‘wishing’.

I haven’t heard back from him, and I am not sure I will. The comfort zone of doing nothing provides great cover. Easier to explain failure when you surrender before the fight. And the fight is hard, and no one ever wind and yada yada. It is a damned hard mindset to break.

For those of you thinking that ‘doing’ is as easy as ‘thinking about doing’ be prepared for a great awakening. Doing is hard. Real hard. You will make something and instantly there is someone, somewhere, ready to pounce on it and tell you how terrible it is, how lame it is, and how you should stop doing whatever you are doing because it embarrasses them and makes them realize that they are NOT doing anything.

When my first book for Amherst came out, I received a couple of nice emails from people all over the country. However, the fifth email I opened that morning was a scathing attack on my photography, me as a person, and I think they also hated my dog. That is life, folks. It just is.

I was kinda hurt by it, but after a while I simply told myself that no, you can’t please everyone and hell – I HAD WRITTEN A DAMN BOOK!

I had become engaged instead of wishing I could be.


After I wrote this article I made a declaration that I was going to ride to Alaska on a motorcycle instead of wishing and dreaming that I could do such a thing.

One week to the day later I am the proud owner of a cruiser with bags and gear. I have a little less than a year to get ready for this trip of a lifetime (I will turn 67 on the road). You can follow the pre-planning and trip itself – August 2016 – at the trip website: Phoenix to Fairbanks.

And you can join me if you like.

Five Things to Share on a Wednesday




My friend Jon Mather keeps adding more to his amazing WordPress Photographers Tools Plugin. From galleries for images to contact management and bidding – and he just added a CRM module. Customer Relationship Management is one of the most important things a photographer can utilize to keep the clients coming.

It takes work, effort, sweat and sometimes a bit of blood to get a client – don’t lose them by forgetting they exist.

Jon is almost finished with his Kickstarter… I think a few more folks would make it perfect for him to get all the modules bullet-proof. I know he plans on adding all sorts of things once he gets it launched – but he needs some user feedback.

Help the guy out. Here is a process video for the CRM module:

And if you want to see the instructional / demo videos he is working on, go here.


I recently wrote an article on how wishing and hoping and all that crap didn’t matter as much as doing. That day I read the edit back to myself and realizing that it was time for me to stop wishing and hoping that someday I could do an adventure on a motorcycle. So… I am planning this for next August.

Phoenix to Fairbanks on a motorcycle… there and back again.




Many of you know or have been involved with Project 52 over the years. Every year was standout amazing. This year is no exception and I am very pleased to share their work with you. If you go to the 2015 Project 52 Pros page you can see the links to the various galleries of submitted images for review. Some of these photographers are pretty green at the kind of work we assign them, and some are established pros looking to up their game.

If you want to see how talented they are, drop by each Tuesday and see the newly released images from the assignment a few weeks previous.

2015 Project 52 Pros Website.

(Sorry, we are not accepting enrollees at the time.)






From Leslie Burns excellent legal/photography blog:

“So what can copyright holders do to protect themselves? Before sending a DMCA Takedown Notice, make sure to give the infringement an impartial review for the Fair Use potential and to document doing so somehow. This presents not only a proof issue (how do you document your good faith effort to check for Fair Use?) but also how do you actually check for Fair Use when courts themselves can’t even define it clearly? Here is where the good news part of this ruling comes in: you don’t have to be right in your analysis of whether or not it is Fair Use, you just have to make a good faith effort to consider it.

In my opinion, the possibility of being sued or countersued for an improper notice will chill copyright holders from submitting legitimate takedown notices. Especially the little gals/guys, who don’t have the resources to defend against these claims, will get spooked. More infringements will go unchallenged because artists will be too scared to risk the penalties of an improper notice action. And who can blame them?”

Read the whole thing. The implications are dire… and will have a very cooling effect on the small artist who gets trampled by the big guys. I know we should keep fighting… but I am getting the distinct feeling the war is over.

And we lost.


Shooting to Layout: A Point of Purchase Display

Shooting to Layout: A Point of Purchase Display

One of the most difficult parts of commercial photography is shooting to layout. A designer or art director has an approved layout, and your shot must work within the elements on the page. We see it a lot in catalog, advertising, collateral, and web oriented assignments.

For this particular assignment, the image had to be crafted to fit in the pre-approved design of the point of purchase (POP) display. Designed to go in hundreds of mom ‘n pop hardware stores and nurseries the goal of the shot is grab some attention and get the viewer to take a brochure. There would be three brochure racks hanging below the lower band and hide most of the image.


A WordPress Plugin for Photographers

A Kickstarter for Photographers to LOVE.

My friend Jon Mathers is a photographer / programmer down in Perth, Australia. He and I were chatting about some new and better tools for photographers using WordPress, and Jon decided to build a small suite of tools that I thought were missing. We started with a mosaic gallery, and a horizontal scrolling gallery that are quite hard to find in a lot of themes.

(Demo Site) – and as one of the beta testers, I can say there is a LOT more coming than is visible here. This Plugin is amazing and filled with little gems that will be exciting for commercial AND consumer shooters.

We then thought it would be cool to add a document area for keeping track of items we may want to keep together for projects.

BAM… he was off to the races and this plugin has been growing and growing and will be an amazing tool for photographers. The Project 52 members are beta testing it and so far loving it. There are few – if any – similar plugins out there.

Here is what it has in the suite as of this morning. I am running it and will attest that it all runs great.

Masonry (mosaic) gallery.
Horizontal scrolling gallery. (Editorial shooters love them)
Before / After tool for showing images comparison (one over the top with a reveal slider)
Panoramic Viewer for ultrawide photographs
Print Gallery: Create a selection of images that can all be printed on one sheet for a client. Also allows the client to take out images they don’t want. Great for proofing or providing a prospective client with a take-away.
Projects: Gather notes, documents, images and links for all sorts of assignments and personal projects.
Contacts: Create contacts and label them for jobs/leads/prospects as well as what kind of contact they are (Art Director, Designer, Editor etc…)
Products: These can be hard products (prints, framing) or virtual fees (day rate, per shot rates) that are created and maintained by you. Perfect for creating quick quotes when you need something fast.
Quotes (Bids): Import the contacts, attach the products, add as many vendors/suppliers/rentals as needed and out comes a quote ready to print.

With this arsenal of tools, a photographer can become real serious about their business and work my suggested “Three Contacts Per Day” method easily and effectively.

Jon is working quite hard on this Plugin to get it ready for full implementation. I know he has spent some out of pocket and will incur some additional costs when he brings in some PHP pros to make sure the whole thing works perfectly and meshes together well. (It does now, bu he wants to make sure his code is up to snuff… he is a perfectionist in this stuff.)

I know you will love this WordPress Plugin, and his Kickstarter is quite modest in what he is seeking (enough to pay the PHP crew).

PLEASE take a look and help him – and yourself – with this great plugin.




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