Are You a Commodity or a Brand?

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brookeBrooke from way back in the day… can you spot the ‘brand’ we were inspired by?

Why Thinking of Yourself as a Brand is More Important Than You Know

There are brands and there are commodities.

A brand is something or someone that people choose because of what they associate with the item – what intangibles that choice brings.

A commodity is something or someone that people choose because of price point or availability. Cheapest or easiest to get is what they go for.

A brand is not interchangeable, but a commodity is.

Cans of peas are commodities, Green Giant Peas are a brand. Some people will pay more for Green Giant Peas than any of the other brands. And if the store is out of Green Giant, they will happily take ANY of the others on the shelf – they are commodities.

Leica is a premium brand. Mention the name Leica and photographers instantly focus on excellence, vision, longevity and high value. Even people who are not photographers will perk up when they hear the word Leica.

There are dozens of other manufacturers of cameras – and each have their aficionados, but Leica can command high respect EVEN from the Canon, Nikon, Fuji, and Sony shooters who are also aficionados and fans of their own brands.

Looking for a premium bag, we may think Prada. There are other brands that we may think of, but Prada is Prada… and there is no substitute for that brand.

If we think about the bag as a commodity – not a premium, then almost any bag from any department store will do the job.
The Prada bag was not chosen ONLY because of its ability to hold things without them falling out. It was chosen because of what is associated to it, what makes it unique IS its brand uniqueness. It is better made, classier in style, more innovative or classic or whatever. It is a Brand that people associate with the bag.

The bag from the department store is utilitarian. It holds things without them falling out just fine. It comes with no other associations. One bag is totally interchangeable with another.

As a photographer, one of our most important part is our ‘brand’. If what we do is totally interchangeable with another photographer, or even a group of photographers, then the value becomes less, and the loyalty is simply not there.

Start to think of yourself as a total brand.

  • What you do.
  • How you do it… differently.
  • What values you bring.
  • What you value your own work to be.
  • How you deal with prospective clients.
  • What your visual strategy looks like (identity/graphics/website)
  • Does the visual strategy enhance your brand?
  • Will your clients be able to discern your value?
  • How do you deal with clients to introduce and enhance your brand?
  • How do your customers see your work – as a brand or a commodity? Don’t know? Ask.
  • If they see you as a commodity, how do you change that view?
  • If they see you as a brand, how do you enhance and engage that view?
  • Brand can include your images of course… that is a given
  • But also how you show the images: your portfolio, leave behinds, identity pieces
  • What your website looks like – Is it modern and cool, or a free crappola site
  • What your logo looks like. Is it professional? Does it speak to your brand?
  • Where you show your work. Do you have an office? Do you have a co-work space? Is it a local Starbucks?
  • What you wear when showing your work. Do you dress casually, formally, hip, classic, contemporary, eclectic?
  • What you wear when you are shooting. Does it match your work, how you showed your work, and what you think of the work?
  • What you wear… period. All three should match… and that gives you memorability.

Style, personal style, can go a long way toward building a brand.

It is why rockstars all look ridiculous… they do it to be remembered. It is why actors and actresses do outrageous things in public… to be remembered.

Do you have to do ridiculous and outrageous things while looking like a throwback to the Village People? OF COURSE NOT.

But you do have to maintain a style, a look, a personal brand that elevates your work from commodity status.

Here is the scary thing… if you are a commodity – an easily replaceable, easily interchangeable photographer – you will have a very tough time in a crowded market. It will come down to a buck cheaper or being the only one available that day. And that does not make for a career that builds.

A Brand photographer – YOU – is someone they want to work with because they want to work with you. Budgets are not a big deal (within reason) and the focus is on getting the best person (you) for their ad shoot, or brochure assignment. They WANT to work with YOU. You bring more to the experience than just great images. You bring integrity, values, wacky playfulness, serious classic styling, a relaxed working atmosphere, an intense working atmosphere… whatever it is that makes you – YOU.

Time for a personal assessment… look above at the list of statement / questions and answer them for yourself. Write them down. Answer them honestly and with no censorship – only you are going to see them.

Are you a brand or a commodity?

Knowing this will really help as you make decisions regarding your work, your fees and who you plan to work with as you begin to build your business.

Ideas on how to go from a commodity to a brand are plentiful, and I will offer some suggestions in the upcoming weeks.


 

ANNOUNCEMENT

I am very happy to announce that I will be working very closely with Robin Bramman on business branding and personal branding. We are planning on doing a workshop online for branding your photography business as well as yourself. It will be a free workshop for all of you LE folks, so watch for the announcement. Coming up soon. Visit Robin’s site for more on what she does for large corporations and entrepreneurs alike.

I will let Robin introduce herself here.

MEET-ROBIN-copy

“Hello, I am Robin, Lead Curator + Strategic Brand Partner at RobinBramman.com.

 

Think of me as your Brand Partner for your digital presence – with personal and business branding expertise, strategic planning skills, social media savvy, project management and group branding implementation insights, and straight-from-the-trenches entrepreneurial wisdom.

 

I’ve logged over 20+ years as a visionary strategist + interactive services project champion (translation: fine-tooth comb detail-wrangling for smooth-as-silk fully branded website launches). I am super collaborative and have a host of partners I call upon to take your brand from ZERO to launched.

 

Throughout my career, I’ve worn high-powered hats in corporate America in both healthcare and financial industries, owned + operated my own brick ‘n mortar clothing boutique, successfully flipped + sold real estate properties, and dropped it all to be a stay-at-home mom. I’m a big fan of personal evolution, breaking as many rules as possible, and building a POWER team to support your branding initiatives.

 

I hold advanced master branding certifications through Reach Communications Consulting, Inc. and am a part of an exclusive enterprise team that allows me to deliver comprehensive learning programs for individuals, group branding sessions and deliver personal branding keynote and corporate workshops in support of brand building for the organization.”


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Old Mama Dog – New Tricks…


“I am changing the direction of my photography as I shoot more film. Overall I hate my own results but I love the work itself. I’ve been all over the place trying to figure out what type of photographer I want to be when I grow up. As I get older I realize the small moments are just as powerful as the big ones. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a kid and yet I’ve never been more of a kid than right now.

So I’ll keep taking every kind of photograph like a kid in a candy store til the sugar high wears off, throw up or learn what kind is my favorite. Pretty sure it’s all about being human whether it’s in New York or my own little corner of the world.”
Virginia Smith


One Red Balloon… a Challenge

A recent assignment in my 2014 Project 52 group was to shoot one red balloon… but to stay away from cliche’s as much as possible, while definitely creating an interesting photograph in which one red balloon features prominently.

The students wee wonderful. Here are their photographs.

Assign_13_Michael_Mitchell-1 Assign_13_Michael_Mitchell-2 assign#13-Mark-Maynard Assign13-Gonzalo-GarciaGranero-A_smoking-is-sexy Assign13-Gonzalo-GarciaGranero-B1_Be-different_Be-nice assign13-sergio-fialho-1 assign13-sergio-fialho-2 Assignment_13-Barbara_Brady-Smith assignment-13-steve-gray-A assignment-13-steve-gray-B mon-assign12-susan-page sandra-red-balloon

John Sharpe, Photographer: Calgary, Alberta

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Meet John Sharpe, a commercial photographer in Calgary, Alberta.

The great frozen north (at least in winter) has many roads to artistic and business success. John has been a photographer for 25 years and has shot for local, regional and national clients.

I thought John’s experience and knowledge about this business would be a great share for those thinking about starting out professionally so we got together one day last week and had a chat about photography.

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You can find John at his website, and on social media.

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Facebook

Twitter

(NOTE: PAGE EDITED TO MAKE IT GEOGRAPHICALLY IN SINK WITH REALITY.)

“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



What Do You Charge For… (Part Two)

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Part Two of our Thinking about our rates post.

(Part One)

Understanding what we are worth, and how to construct a pricing structure that we feel good about is quite challenging for many of us. But it is a necessary challenge for us to overcome – see previous newsletter. This week we will look at bidding a job for a larger entity – a corporation or ad agency.

Usual corporate assignment work will come from the Marketing / Communications department. Referred to as MarCom, these departments can be as small as one person or as large as an entire floor. Or two.

MarCom’s are like agencies that are in-house. In larger corporations, you may find C-level managers working with creative staffs that can dwarf many ad agencies.

Occasionally these MarCom’s will work with outside agencies on special assignments, or if a specialty is called for that they cannot handle… like TV or Radio.

The basic structure is the same as an ad agency. Creative leads work with art directors and designers on everything from cafeteria menus to annual report documents.

And they hire photographers when they need them.

Ad agencies can run from one-person shops to entire buildings devoted to making and creating advertising for consumer and B2B businesses.

The lead of the creative teams are usually called Creative Directors, and then you have Art Directors, Designers and Junior Designers. The largest will also have a position titled “Art Buyer”.

Creative Directors are the final approval point for most hired freelancers. Art buyers can be the most important influence on who gets hired when working with an agency that uses an art buyer.

Art buyers look at work. Think of them as casting agents. They steep themselves in the creative work that the agency is doing and then look at the photographers that come in as a sort of match maker. The Art Buyer will assemble a selection of photographers and the final decision will then be made by the Creative Director or the Lead Art Director for final hire.

In agencies without an art buyer, the senior art directors and Creative Directors will make that call.

Your job is to stay top of mind with art buyers, creative directors and art directors. And I personally think that special efforts should be cultivated toward the junior art directors as well… they don’t stay junior art directors for ever, you know.

Bidding a job for an ad agency differs from mom and pops because ad agencies and MarComs KNOW the way the business works, and are familiar with rates and rights and copyright.

That does not prevent them from asking for a buyout with no extra compensation and oh, by the way can you do the job gratis cause the last guy screwed it up and used up all their budget, but no problem they will make it up to you next gig…

Always remember you do not have to agree to anything, but they may ask.

When working with an agency or MarCom, I find the most efficient way to get to a price is ask questions. Lots of questions. The answers can make the bidding process go so much smoother. If you know this information, and you articulate the bid, they will understand that you know what you are doing.

Simply blurting out a price without asking a lot of questions will reinforce in their minds that you do NOT know what you are doing. Never a good position to be in.

Getting the answers to these questions can make the gig go so much smoother.

1. When is the shoot scheduled and when are the final files due? If you are already booked, it may not make sense to pursue this bid. Finding out what they have in mind can also help you look at your schedule with different priorities. If it is 30 below for the next month and the shoot is in the Bahamas for a week, it can make a difference… heh.

2. How did you find me? This can establish a lot of information. If they found you off the web, they may have been looking for someone in your area, or with your expertise or vision. The fact that they were looking for talent instead of working with someone they know is good information to have. If you were referred, then you are ‘endorsed’ and that carries third party weight that may give you an edge. (It also means a thank you note to the referrer.)

3. Are there layouts and are they flexible? As a former agency Creative Director, I can not stress enough how important it is to understand the process of working with clients to get approvals. The CD and AD and their teams may have gone round and round with the client for approval of the layout they have. It is the fruits of late night negotiations and lots of bitter coffee. Don’t take for granted that it is a guideline and you can do what you want.

Sometimes you can and sometimes you can’t. Find out before you bid so you can make the necessary plans to work within the approved layouts. Do the job for the client and if you can, give them an alternate or two. But again, ONLY after making sure you have their shot in the can.

4. Usage: What are the plans for this shoot? Is it for TV, print, web… all of it? Knowing what the final use is can help you bid the job. Not only from a price point, but from a gear and team point as well. Knowing what you are shooting for is important for creativity as well.

5. Who will be doing the legwork and pre-production? Will your studio be in charge of props, models, stylists, location scouting, craft services and transportation? Or are they contracting those out to their own vendors? Why bother bidding that stuff if they are going to provide it, and knowing how they work with the outside vendors in these situations is also good knowledge for future bidding. (Note: some of these may of course be broken out… the agency has a location scout, but looks to you for hair and makeup. Good to know so you can bid accordingly.)

6. Will there be a need for extra insurance? Jewelry, pre-release electronics, possibly dangerous locations may require additional insurance… who is purchasing that? If it is you, then you know that it must be searched for and purchased. This may require quite a bit of additional resources, and the agency/MarCom needs to be aware of those costs.

7. How will location costs be handled? Are they up to you to be on the final bill or will the agency be handling that through their own people. (NOTE: I am a photographer, not a friggin’ bank. The more of these upfront charges I must bear, the less capital I have to work with. And if the agency is going to take 60 – 90 days, my capital is tied up in a job I already completed… I personally do not front gigs, but there are some photographers that do. You will have to choose which way you go with the knowledge of how much capital you can work with.)

8. Who will be on set or location to approve the work? Will it be a senior AD, someone from the client side, both or will the work be done by the photographer without approval and supervision of the shoot. (Note: that rarely happens in big ad / MarCom shoots, but it can be found in some genres – adventure photography for one.) It is very important to discuss this – especially if you have not worked for them before. Approvals during the shoot are imperative on ad shoots – and you must be able to trust that the one doing the approving actually has the authority to approve.

9. Who will be handling post production? Will the studio be doing all of that post work, or will images be delivered for the agency to work with? On hard drives or FTP? Formatted or RAW? What level of post production is required? Some of this is based on your style. If you are a very manipulative photographer creating photo illustrations, it may naturally fall to your studio to do the post. If you are more of a ‘straight’ photographer, they may want to handle the post production themselves for consistency across their presentation.

However, if you feel that post processing is something that is indeed a part of your work style, then let them know that you prefer to do the post, and include it in your bid.

10. Options? There are always options. What kind of licensing do they want? What kind of licensing do they need? Sometimes the two are not the same, and it behooves you to help your client understand the best way for them to go to get what they need.

And not only in the licensing area, but in the entire shoot. Become an ally, a partner in the work. Help them see how something can be done better, or with more efficiency, or with a different spin. Showing genuine enthusiasm is quite important and can help tilt the scales in your favor.

When you know the answers to these questions, you will be able to look at that blank piece of paper and start to fill in the line items with much more ease and accuracy than if you had no clue. Eliminating the frustrating parts of not knowing, makes the tally simpler and more in tune to what they are asking for.

I am a big believer in lots of line-items for not only clarity, but for negotiations as well.

More on the bid process coming soon.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Michael Clark’s 2014 Summer Magazine

I love these photographers magazines.

summer_2014_smFrom Michael:

This issue includes an editorial about why there was no Spring 2014 Newsletter, a review of the SmallHD DP4-EVF external video monitor, an article my recent expedition in the Amazon with the CauseCentric Production crew for the documentary film Tribes on the Edge, an interview with Peter Dennen of Pedro + Jackie photo consultants, a book review of “The Rise of Superman,” an editorial entitled “Great Advice and Hard Truths,” and much more.”

Get your copy here and check out his great portfolio

“What do you charge for…”

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Five scary words to a lot of photographers. There is so much of US wrapped into those five words. I think they may be the scariest words we self employed folks ever hear.

Although it is exactly what we want to hear… someone wants to hire us. All that marketing paid off. The emails, promos, tweets, status updates, pins, instagrams, and tumblr posts worked!!!

We have someone who actually wants to hire us… or do they? Maybe they are from our competition trying to weasel out our price points? Perhaps they are looking for someone to bid higher than their buddy so they can use our higher rate as a justification to hire their buddy? Maybe they are really some sort of corporate spy bent on destroying my business because of something I have no idea I ever did?

Actually no… they just want to know what it costs.

What if I am too high? What if I am too low? What if I don’t really know how to do what they want? What if they want something I cannot do? What if I fail to deliver? Do they have an army of attorneys waiting in the wings to sue me into oblivion at the slightest amount of sensor dust?

Do they have a goon squad?

“Go away or I’ll call the goon squad.”
“I’m on the goon squad.”
“You are the goon squad!”

As I like to point out… “It costs what it costs”. Now we have to discuss what it costs with someone who may or may not want to pay what it costs, and we have to be clear to ourselves and them on why it costs what it costs.

Relax… take a breath. Think about what you say next.

Because it can be very, very important… as it can become the ‘base’ of all that comes afterwards. It can become a touchpoint, and as such can hinder all attempts at negotiations.

Perhaps someone says “How much do you charge to do headshots?” You quickly respond with, “well, headshots are usually $200.”

You have just created your top rate. All negotiations will be focused on lowering that rate, and you simply tossed it out as a reference.

Now the client smiles… “That’s great”, he says, “I need a headshot of me in my office in Denver. When can you come up and do it?”

Remember that $200 you tossed out there… now it has to be changed. And the client is going to resist that change, as they have already gotten the touchpoint figure of $200 in their head.

Yes, of course it is a stretch story… all examples are stretch stories in order to make a point clearly. Most of the time the differences are more subtle, and the client expectations more nuanced.

Or not.

What if the guy was asking you how much for a headshot, and you blurt out $200 and he does a quick calculation that to do the entire office staff of 30 people it would be $6000 and that is a grand over budget. So he thanks you and hangs up.

You had no idea he was talking about 30 people. Surely that would have been a better ‘per shot’ price for most of us.

When we give a price, we usually base that price as our highest point in the mind of the client. What we want to do is ‘base’ that price as the lowest point. This gives us more room to negotiate as needed.

NOTE:

“My rates for heashots are $200.” Bad… it creates a base high point.
“My rates for headshots start at $200.” Better… it creates a base low point.
“My rates for headshots can vary according to the job, but they start at around $200. What are the specifics of your job?” Best… this one creates a base rate that then requires more feedback from the client. We call that dialog and it is very good for establishing relationships.

Number three takes care of establishing a price point by noting that they START at $200, and we indicate that there is room for negotiation based on the facts of the job.

Beware of being vague.

“How much do you charge for a headshot?”

“How much you wanna spend?”
“What is your budget?”
“I dunno, what do you have in mind?”

Vague means you don’t know, and are making it up as you go along.
(HINT… yeah, many of us do just that on occasion… shhhh…).

That neither instills confidence or trust, and we get down to negotiation stance before we even know what we are negotiating for.

I suggest for single off jobs you have an established “starting at” rate, and go from there to the inquiry of the specifics. If you have let them know that you are open to making considerations for possible special circumstances, and that you are also able to charge more for the work, you have a bit more of a platform to stand on when discussing the rates.

For larger jobs with lots of moving parts, it is ALWAYS better to get the specs for the job before even mentioning an number which could become a touchpoint for the client. They asked off the top of their head and you gave them a specific number… done. No… don’t do that.

Is there a time when it is OK to ask what their budget is?

Yes… once the negotiation has begun. Once the figures have been established as real, and fluid if necessary, you can then ask if there is some way to work within their budget.

But be careful not to give the farm away. That will not help you establish yourself as anyone of consequence in this or any business.

Bid:
Headshots for 20 people.
Shoot fee: $170 per person.
MUA/: $75 per person
Stylist: $50 per person
Digital Tech: $550 for the day
Assistant: $500 for the day
Travel to location: $200 for the day
Gear Rental: $200 for the day

Client comes back and says you are a bit over their budget. That is a tip that they want to work with you but of course want the best price they can get. If you are way over their budget, you will probably not hear back from them. That should not be a problem if you are indeed confident in your value.

I would then ask… what is the budget. “If we can get within your budget, I will be glad to work it out.”

By line-iteming each of the cost figures laid in the bid perhaps you can trim a bit. The client feels better about sharing the budget with you because you have just laid your prices out for him.

If you must trim a grand off… there are ways of doing that.

If you must trim five grand off, walk.

To trim off five thousand dollars makes a mockery of your bid. And if you do it, never expect to do anything of value for that client again, as they know that your bids are paper tigers, easily shredded by desperation.

And desperation fueled by fear is most definitely NOT a good place to be for negotiations.

Part Two of this will be posted next Wednesday, August 13. See you then.

Meet Josh Ross: Product Photographer, Portland, OR

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I met Josh several years ago on the stobist forum. We have stayed in touch and I am knocked out by his wonderful still life and product work.

I asked Josh to speak about his photography, and we chatted for an hour. Josh walks us through his transition from LA to Portland and from Portrait to Still Life work.

Enjoy this interview and make sure to visit Josh’s website: www.joshrosscreative.com

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Josh Ross on Twitter
Josh Ross on Facebook
Josh Ross on Linkedin
Josh Ross on Google +
Josh Ross on Flickr

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Thanks so much for spending some time with us Josh. I look forward to having you back in September to chat with the Project 52 students. See you then.

For some more insight on how Josh does retouching, see this page.

Knowing Your Subjects Well

bri-running-2-smallOne of the most important considerations of a photographers work is the subject matter they choose to make photographs. Sounds almost simplistic, doesn’t it?

But there is a great deal of thought that goes into this part of what we do. If we have chosen subject matter for any reason at all, it should resonate and help us be more authentic in the work we choose to do.

For instance; if you are a mountaineering photographer, would you not be interested in mountains, hiking or climbing? If you shoot cars, are you not interested in them at all… just metal and wheels?

Car shooters LOVE cars. They LIVE cars. They can tell you about the fins of the 80’s and how big the cylinders the Cobra’s engine had in those classic muscle cars. A fashion photographer can instantly spot the trends, know the designers who are creating them and speak the language of fashion.

And that mountaineering photographer… she knows how to climb and hike and where all the cool places to shoot climbers are.

It is how the most authentic of us begin to work within our tribe. And it shows in the images.

One of the photographers I am working with loves motorcycles, in specific the older, retro designed bikes like Triumphs and BSA’s. He is not a kid though, and his friends reflect that as well. It is his tribe, and bikes are mixed with kids and the suburbs, day jobs and long weekends.

A niche he plans on using in order to build a stronger lifestyle book, along with the rugged outdoors folks who hike the Appalachian Trail in winter, the ridges of the Canadian Rockies in the summer.

It is the same people he spends time with when not shooting or working.

His tribe. His subjects. His authenticity.

A few examples of authentic photographers working in their own tribes.

Matt and Agnes Hage: Adventure Photographers.

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The Hages live in Alaska because the love the mountains and hiking where the wild things are. They have turned that love affair with the rugged outdoors into their subject matter and are shooting for editorial and advertising clients all over the world.

When they are not climbing and shooting for clients, they are climbing and shooting for themselves. Their lifestyle IS the one they photograph for, and with the people who are part of that lifestyle.

Scott Toepfer photographs his friends, their interests and what they love. The west coast surfing, motorcycle, freedom loving youth are where he turns his lens. His tribe, his life, his subjects.

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Scott has captured that culture, his culture, very well. And advertisers are wanting that authenticity brought to their products and services BECAUSE it is real and authentic

If Scott is not shooting motorcycles, he is probably out with the tribe riding them, hanging out with the buds and living the lifestyle he portrays in the work he produces.

Scott and I chatted about photography and it is here on Lighting Essentials.

Tara Donne loves design and food and travel. No small wonder it is what she makes photographs of as well as living that life. She loves to cook, and she loves to shoot food. Her travel bug is ignited by and paid for by her photography. Exotic locations are where she loves to go, and the images show us the excitement of visiting far away places. The food, people and quirky little vignettes are what she would shoot if she were on vacation.

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Her tribe, her images, her way.

Can you work with subjects that you do not have a personal affiliation with? Sure… because you live that lifestyle through the camera, the work, and the professional friends you make while working. And you KNOW it, and how to portray it with real insight.

You may be an older guy who loves to shoot fashion. And that work becomes your passion and your subject. It doesn’t mean you have to hang out in clubs and do shooters with 21 year olds, it means that you have to understand that lifestyle and bring that authenticity to the work.

You find yourself knowing more about designers, makeup, hair trends and style than you may have ever expected to, but it is an interest that brings authenticity to the work.

In short, your tribe, your interests, your passions… they make the best subjects. And if you come to the subject from a different passion, let them engage your imagination and spark an interest that goes beyond the surface, and into the heart of the matter. Making YOUR photograph is the most important thing, and being involved helps you stay focused.

As we look at new and exciting new opportunities for photographers, it can also be wise to consider who we are, what we do, and who our own tribes are. Finding authenticity in our own lives and watching that interest become a part of our subject matter can be quite exhilarating. And fun too!

ReBranding With Photography

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This was an interesting week.

An old friend and colleague reached out to renew a friendship and to discuss some epiphanies she had recently experienced.

Lunch was near my studio and it was with a bit of trepidation that I had agreed. While I think the world of this person, I also know that our working together can be fraught with frustration and no small measure of much needed patience.

I suck at patience, and life is too short to continually haggle with people. It simply is. We can be like water and oil at times… she with a close eye for microscopic detail, and with a heavy background in corporate people management, me with a ‘big picture’ approach, and eschewing nearly every corporate culture meme there is.

Lunch was always fun with her though… terrifically smart, very focused and with a zest for finding out everything about everything, she can match wits with most.

I was not expecting her exuberance to have faded in the last two years, and I was correct. But now there was something a bit different going on. She had found her voice, her ‘thing’ so to speak. That part of her that had made her so frustrating before was now morphed into a sureness and solidly focused professional.

“You were right,” she said almost at the beginning. “All the things you said I needed to do, were what exactly what I needed to do. I just wasn’t ready to commit to myself. I must have driven you crazy, huh?”

I smiled and brushed off the driving me crazy, although that nail was punched right on.

I had encouraged her to find her voice, find the thing that would make her, and her fledgling business, more unique and reflect more of her authentic person. Write like she speaks, be as personable on the page as she was in person. In short, be herself and stop trying to be what others thought she should be.

I am so proud of her now, that all of those frustrations are simply no worth thinking about. She has gone from a corporate ‘manager’ to someone who is confidently managing herself… and a whole slew of private clients that have been attracted to her systematic, well thought, and successful approach to her business.

We have set up a few projects together, and one of them involves an idea to share with you all.

One of the things we must remember is that what we package is sometimes not as interesting as HOW we package it.

Some of us older guys will remember the ads in magazines for the ability to “see through walls”… yes, this device would allow you to actually see through walls and doors. Like magic.

It was the little thing we put on our doors to see who is on the other side. He had purchased a warehouse full of them, and selling ‘door peepers’ just didn’t have the punch that “See Through Walls” did. He became a multi-millionaire.

Social Media, Personal Branding Photography is our package. And as of today, we have at least 5 shoots on the books for February. At a very decent rate for sure. (For sure I have mentioned it before… we have now been able to put a tighter ‘brand’ on it.)

What is included:
2 headshots: one ‘natural’ and one ‘professional’.
A full length shot to be used for purposes where that would make sense.
Two half length shots, and something with a strong environmental feel.

Uses:
Facebook header – need interesting wide shot.
A Twitter background – tall shot for left hand side of twitter page.
An About.me page.
A YouTube header.
A shot for their “About Me” web page.
Web Header images for their site.

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We are taking a full day for the photography, providing styling and hair/mu where appropriate. Most images to be shot on location, with only two images in the studio.

Well researched up front, I will know what dimensions their social media images must be, so I can shoot to “layout” so to speak.

All of the scheduled clients are entrepreneurs and business people who are discovering their social media impact and want their brand to be consistent across platforms.

And while shooting photographs of someone is not new, knowing exactly how they will be used and shooting for the disparate formats that they need them for is somewhat refreshing. No more cropping out or filling in areas on haphazard iPhone shots… we shoot FOR their social media and website presentation.

A professional and creatively presented, cohesive set of images.

A win for our customers and a win for us.

Just thought you would be interested… take it and run with it in your town if you are so inclined.

 

Going Back in Time

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The great shooters of Project 52 Pros, 2014 just completed an assignment I would like to share.

The work was to be shot in a style or period and be as faithful as possible in presentation. The reason for the shoot was to introduce them to the special difficulties of finding props/locations that could be used for something of a previous era. We excluded any era forward from the 60’s/

I think they did brilliantly.

Big Ambitions? Where Do We Start?

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I want to ride a bike across the country. I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.
I want to photograph the heartland… from an old Indian motorcycle… with a view camera.
I want to do a photo story on Ecuador and Peru and the percussionists of South America.
I want to be able to do the ‘Quick Step’ on the dance floor.

Big ambitions. Especially the dancing… LOL.

Where do we start? What is the first step?

We can all have big dreams and big plans, but the hardest thing we have to do is to break it down into the smaller chunks and then granularize it even more to a set of actions.

Do this.
Then this.
Then this.

We don’t set off one morning heading for a donut and a cup of coffee and figure, oh what the hell, let’s go ahead and walk all the way to the other side of the continent. Right?

Right?

Lately I have been thinking it is similar to building a body of work in photography. I am thinking that there needs to be as much planning in our work image wise as would be in an epic shoot of drummers in Peru.

And that planning should have the same structure as the planning of riding a bike across country. Where, when, contingency plans for snow and rain… life.

We have all ridden bikes before. I do it a lot these days. Grab the bike, head out the gate and think… where am I gonna go today. And it is usually within the neighborhood. My bike is not a road bike, it is a beach cruiser so it only has one speed… whatever I pedal.

So distance is measured by how much of a workout I am going to commit to, and what my time frame is.

Short little jaunts in the immediate neighborhood. Safe. No need for planning at even the granular scale. Ride away, turn around, ride home.

Photographically I have been doing the same thing. Safe, comfortable… out and back again imagery that works nicely and I enjoy.

Time to get uncomfortable again. To ride farther than I normally do.

Planning a photographic body of work, what I want to accomplish this year in images is a rather new endeavor for me. I have always been led by my instincts, the clients I had, and the fun of making images that I like.

Nothing wrong with that until it becomes less comfortable and less fun. And one looks back on a year of images and realizes there was no direction, no cohesiveness… no ‘body of work’ that can be discerned overall.

Glimmers of a direction, and some fine shots… but a disappointing year of work for me leads me to be more deliberate this year.

Deliberate… not sloppy, or crude, or slap-dashed, or semi-planned, or sorta-in-a-way… DELIBERATE.

This has been top of mind for me for the past six or seven weeks. I want to create images that are both deliberate in construction and as a collection – cohesive and tight and planned for reasons that can be articulated… even if just for me.

Where do I start? What comes next?

Identifying the problem was easy, and a bit painful… now it is time to set forth on the corrective path and the myriad roadblocks that usually hide in the mist are making themselves highly visible.

Old habits… die hard.

New habits are even harder to create when we are not certain how to proceed to begin with.

I have been planning a lot of new teaching materials, and teaching plans for this year. And not all are revolving around the technical aspects of photography. I am planning for some philosophical and artistic discussions, perhaps a workshop or meeting of the minds as well. That planning goes well for me… it is in my DNA to plan that sort of thing.

Now I find myself having to plan out my work as well. And I am struggling against forty years of discipline in a craft in order to break away and do something different… something without a different set of disciplines. Or at least a new set of challenges.

It is possibly one of the more challenging things I have done in a long time… well, I haven’t completely done it yet… still in the opening throes of it.

I know when I must start… today. Every day is today.

Every day is the opportunity for something new… now to find the courage to grab on to a corner of that fleeting opportunity and take it for a spin.

Just around the neighborhood… I can always turn around and go home. It’s safe.

And one day… I may just decide to keep on going.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

“What is Wet?” – Project 52 Assignment

Some beautiful work from the Project 52 assignment on ‘wet’.

From the assignment:

WET…

Shiny, smooth, liquid… wet is – well, wet.

And we have to show “Wet” in a photograph. For a client who wants to keep things dry.

You can approach this one in three ways:

You can show something very, very wet. And make the photograph speak to the power of being wet, and how that may be a challenge down the road a bit.

You can show something very, very wet that is purely for the fun of being wet… as long as it shows the detail of the ‘wetness’.

You can show something repelling the wetness from it’s surface. Like a deck protectant, or a sealer for cloth.

The title of the shot would be “Wet” and obvious to anyone looking what that referred to.

How do we show “Wet” – in a photograph?

Wet things are shiny. Wet things have highlights and speculars that show them to be shiny. We will have to have some context around them – or within the subject itself – to make the call that it is indeed wet and not ‘just shiny’… and that means probably some added detail to the wet areas.

We want to see big, ‘liquid’ highlights on this shot – so softbox, scrim or overcast sky with lots of control. White cards are important, and your subject should be chosen with care. (Note… natural wet areas do not count… lakes, streams, rain etc… unless there is a reason or context present in the subject.

Get More Info on Project 52 Summer 2015 here.
Enrollment starts July 3, 2015

An Easy Set Up For Still Life: with Virginia Smith

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I needed a quick and easy set up for the small jobs I so here and there. Branding samples, food photography, accessories for the styling that I do on the side. I love window light, shadows and color so this is my easy set up for my style. The elements are:

* a diffused window (inexpensive white sheers from any big box store will do)
* an assortment of colored art papers available at any art supply store
* odd pieces of wood or a piece of paneling
* squares of vinyl flooring that looks like slate or stone, even wood
* wide painters tape

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All these elements are about 24×24 inches square. They are taped in place along with whatever props I may need in the background to set a mood (dresses, branches, fabric…). Sometimes I place my surface right against the background, sometimes I place my surface away from the background. I have latitude next to the window to use the light and shadows that fall as well as time of day. The shadows are stronger late in the day as in these test shots. I can use a reflector to soften the shadows but I tend to prefer them strong.

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If I find the backgrounds too smooth, I will add textures that I have created from old paintings, walls, rocks, dirt and whatever else looks interesting.

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Fast, easy and fits my Modern Vintage style.

The items needed for the setup.

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Virginia Smith (Modern Vintage Photography)

SUMMER-SCHOOL

The “Test Shot” with Stephen Collins

Objective:

Shoot rare military memorabilia (medals, daggers, insignias, etc.) for inclusion in to an auction catalog and online viewing portal. Images must be large (3000-4000px, .tiff), with no specular reflection, especially the dagger blades (ornate etchings), yet show depth and texture of every item. Some edge specular was acceptable and desired.

Background:
I was invited to a test shoot; Determine my ability to produce the image quality required. Of course, the people inviting me in, are not photographers and did not completely communicate the details of how, what or where I’d be shooting. So I loaded up the car with a little bit of everything and off I went.

During the test shoot it became obvious I needed to “MacGyver” a better solution than bouncing a soft box off tabletop white seamless. I needed an indirect, side lit solution, height adjustable with the camera directly overhead.

Using what I had around the house, I needed only two extra pieces of foam board. The three black boards are taped together, creating a trifold. The two holes cut for the storbs hold the trifold in place nicely and are not affected by heat from the modeling lamps.

I was originally thinking black board for zero reflection on the knife blades. While that did work, adding a white board clamped to the center board, is much better for a uniform, non-specular reflection. And, now I have both options should the image call for a change up. I also included two white boards on each end to provide more uniform lighting.

Final Shot:

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Light stand (one side) consists of: Standard light stand with optional sand bag
Swivel umbrella adaptor with double stud adaptor
> Paul C Buff mini boom arm
> Pole clamp connected to large spring clamp holding 3×4’ white foam board reflector

Stephen Collins

Website

<a href=”http://www.lighting-essentials.com/category/summer-school/”><img src=”http://www.lighting-essentials.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/SUMMER-SCHOOL.gif” alt=”SUMMER-SCHOOL” width=”200″ height=”158″ class=”alignright size-full wp-image-8897″ /></a>MANY OF THE TUTORIALS DURING “SUMMER SCHOOL” ARE BY <a href=”http://www.project52pros.com” target=”_blank”>PROJECT 52 PRO</a> MEMBERS EITHER CURRENTLY ENROLLED OR ALUMNI.