New Webinar: ” Up Your Game – One Assignment at a Time”

New Webinar: ” Up Your Game – One Assignment at a Time”

You will be receiving an email newsletter from me on Tuesday, January 22. It will come from me through Mail Chimp. If you do not receive the email on Tuesday (check your Spam folder), let me know IMMEDIATELY. The newsletter will be where many of the important topics will be discussed, and a notification of the newsletter will be made on the private site we are setting up for P52 PRO.

The email will contain important information regarding image sizes for critiques, where to put them, how to get into the private page and more.

Thanks to each who have signed up. We are nearly ready to close registration – only a handful of seats remain. This is YOUR year. Let’s make some noise!

Project 52 is a fascinating, intense, creative, portfolio building experience for serious photographers, emerging photographers, pro-am’s and any photographer who is wanting to be more professional in their work. We cover idea development, planning a shoot, lighting for style, creating unique visuals and presenting them in a professional manner. No matter what you are currently doing photographically, this online workshop will kick your butt, challenge you to be better and provide a safe and encouraging community for helping you to grow.

You may have heard about Project 52 and seen some of the amazing images that came from the photographers, and now is your chance to get questions answered, find out more about it and get involved. And it costs you nothing to be involved in the FREE version and only $15 per month for the PRO.

We are full for this group.

If you would like to be notified of the next group starting up (if there is one) drop me a note at with the subject line “P52 Notification” – please use that subject line so I can keep the emails together.

Here is the First Webinar: Enjoy. If this doesn’t answer your questions, let me know what you need. I will note that we are not too far away from closing it for this session.

Second Webinar (Saturday Edition)

Project 52 PRO is a very exciting way for a photographer to challenge themselves, be challenged and learn to shoot to commercial standards.

-52 weeks of instruction.
-52 weekly assignments
-52 weekly reviews and critiques
-52 hours of reviews to keep for your own to listen to again
-52 weekly informational videos for you to keep

We cover shooting, lighting, bidding jobs, finding work, marketing and portfolio building.

North America / Europe / Mid East / Asia: this year with the PRO group, we will be having two different critique shows, so photographers from Europe and Asia will have a decent choice of times for their area.

Whether you want to become a professional photographer, a pro-am weekend shooter or simply be a better photographer, Project 52 is the place to be.

We are currently full for this group. If you would like to be notified of our next group, send a note to me at with the subject line “P52

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Photography, I Hardly Knew You…

Photography, I Hardly Knew You…

“…you’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you, don’t you, don’t you…”

Well, yeah.

You see the problem with that grand lyric was that obviously the song WAS about ‘him’. That mysterious beguiling playboy that Carly Simon sang about. I must admit I would always say, ‘well, yeah its about him… duhhhh’ when I heard it. Insipid pop music was the bane of my existence back then.

Simon may play the coy approach, but in the end we all knew it was her that was hurt, and trying to be passive aggressive in the take down of the cad who dumped her. Yeah, I read Oprah… I got that psychobabble shit down, don’t I?

(NOTE: This is a long post… and it rambles on a bit. Just warning you. If reading things over 200 words is a challenge, this is probably not the post for you. No problem, all’s good. Just a heads up.)

Why was she surprised by the protagonist in her little melodramatic ditty? He was as he always was… she couldn’t change him. Why bother trying.

I guess I feel a bit that way toward photography. A couple of instances these last few weeks have set me thinking about what I am doing, how I got here, and the most challenging question… where will I go from here.

No, not giving up photography or the teaching of it. I still love making photographs.

Although somethings have changed. And it is causing me to think and re-think what I call photography.

Rodney Smith, a photographer I so much admire, had a post at his blog that should have gotten a ton more interest than it did. Here is a quote:

On occasion if the subject being photographed is special, wonderful things can happen, but for the most part the use of artificial light and the seamless help the photographer hide behind a veneer of professionalism. But in this process nothing has been risked, nothing has been revealed and your mask is in tact, exposed only to those who care to look deeper.


And lastly, now comes Photoshop, which is changing photography from an interchange with life into a studio experience in one form or another. If you don’t like the background, change it. If you don’t like the expression, change it. Change everything. Change the colors, the light, the clothes, etc., until photography is on its merry mechanical way of being a form of illustration.


So photographers have slowly lost control under the guise of getting more. They have slowly given up the great gift of a meaningful and spiritual interchange with this glorious world, for consistency, ease, control, and most importantly a fear of failure.


All those appurtenances you have added to your toolbox so you would not fail have in fact failed you in the end. What has been lost is a way to succeed naturally. I am fearful some photographers have lost their way.


If you risk a great deal and you expose your hidden self by your experiences and your reaction to the world you encounter, you will be telling all those who care to look and listen the small truths that are hidden inside you.

You should indeed read the whole thing. It will make you think.

And I could care less if you agree with him – or me- or not. It is an exercise in thinking beyond the edges.

There was a time, when I entered photography, that the challenge of making an image was foremost a matter of skill and bravery and choices and difficulties to be met at every turn. The amount of time spent working with chemistry to perfect that incredible negative was profound. It wasn’t automatic, it wasn’t foolproof. It was fucking hard work.

I have on my shelves countless books in photographic technique: The Ansel Adams “Camera/Negative/Print” series, books on darkroom and film developing, books on alchemy and the magic of selenium toner when combined with hot Dektol… I could go on.

But what would be the point.

That entire shelf of books is worth entirely nothing now.

The information contained within is no longer viable, no longer of interest to anyone but a few.

Something indeed was lost.

And other things were found… you see with any closing of one door, another door gets bashed open by a wrecking ball and throws shards of glass all over the walls and floors, endangering all who linger in the mourning of the closed door.

“Photography” is about 140 years old. In the grand scheme of things it is a pretty young art form. There are no known photographs of Bach, or Michaelangelo, or Genghis Khan. The camera didn’t exist. The likenesses were created with pen and brush.

By highly skilled pen and brush image creating folks.

When the camera came about, you should have heard them scream. In fact, you can still hear luddite statists discussing whether photography is art or not. It is, so STFU.

Now we have entered the digital photography dimension or era or time… whatever. I have a prediction… it won’t last another 140 years. You can bet your Mayan calendar on that.

Change is growing exponentially… and what we are seeing now is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Photography, as I learned it, is practically no more.

Digital changed everything.

Hey, I’m not whining, I am pointing out that when the bar of entry changes, the output changes with it.

If every young girl in the world had her own thoroughbred horse, what would the world look like? Would ‘horse racing’ or ‘dressage’ still exist? If everything was as good as everything else, what would be the point?

In my own work I have come to quite a different place than I was even a few years ago. I now question the ‘legitimacy’ of every image I shoot. Does it need to be made? What will the making of that image mean to me? If I do not take the image what will be lost?

In the commercial part of my business the answers are self evident. I need to make this shot and do a great job at it because that is what I am hired to do, and what makes me a professional. Obviously there is a need for the photograph, and thank heaven they called me to fill that need.

But I am referring here to the personal work. The stuff that I seek out. The ‘real’ images that have always helped me see my place in the world.

I have been asked why I photograph and the answer has always been ‘because I must’. Not just because I want to. There has always been a deep need to fulfill the request from my mind for a singular image, a point in time that will never be again captured and saved. I still love it so.

However, the excitement that I felt when meeting challenges of ISO, light, negative development, printing and presenting my work is now different. Oh, it isn’t gone… but it is different.

Digital has removed so many choices that once were so important – wiped them clear off the table. I mean, they are simply gone.

When I would think of a photograph, I would first consider the format. This shot felt right for an 8×10, that one was gonna be on 35, and the one tomorrow was 6×7, no doubt in my mind about that. I had a wide variety of cameras and formats that all felt different in my hands. I didn’t photograph with my 4×5 as I did with my 35. Even the way the camera was interfaced with me was such a complete and radical difference.

Then the task of narrowing down the film choices… and processing choices… and print choices.

Each choice impacting all the other choices… ahhh… heady times.

Now photography is for the most part shot on the 35MM type of camera. No waist viewfinders, no gridded screens and built in tilt-shift. No bigass 8×10 chromes that jump off the light table and make you catch your breath for a split second.

I miss that.

But I do not despair in the here and now either.

Digital has made the love of the still image something everyone can be involved in. I think that is grand.

But it is different.

The “Photograph” capitol P, is now the rarity. Photographs have become ubiquitous and so widely disseminated that the taking of an image is in many cases an afterthought.

Jorge Colberg recently wrote on Conscientious:

Photographing an event one is looking at might just be a natural consequence of that compulsive looking. Of course, one is likely to share the images with friends or whoever else will look at them (as I did). Photographing results from a desire to communicate, and modern technology has made it possible for people to achieve that very effect usually instantaneously (this is one of the reasons why articles such as Jones’ are so misguided).


But I believe there is more. Often enough, the photographs we produce are not very good photographs. Mind you, I’m not talking about the idea of beauty here. I’m talking about simple image quality. Cell phone and digital point-and-shoot cameras are pretty good, but most photographs by bystanders are pretty bad. They might be blurry, or the camera might have trouble getting the exposure right, or the fact that digital cameras almost always have very wide-angle lenses results in the event being quite small in the photograph. Interestingly enough, reduced image quality usually means increased believability – if it looks too good, it might be fake (as if it were impossible to fake blurry images).


So there’s that then: We photograph almost as compulsively as we look when something is happening (even if it’s just the breakfast appearing under our noses), and since the photographs don’t look too perfect, that only means they’re more real. And we share, because that’s what photographs are made for (only very, very few photographs are made for the walls of galleries or rich collectors, or to give pleasure to art critics).

Pretty compelling reading, and I do hope you read the whole article. It will make you think. And thinking is our friend.

I look at the ways photography is being discussed on forums and around photographers of all levels and am struck by how little the images are involved in the dialog. There is a fascination with the tools and the presentation and the ‘cool’ factor that has little to nothing to do with why that image exists, why it was made, and to what end it will be left.

In the world of Instagram, those are not things we discuss.

My daughter (15) has a point and shoot camera with ‘all of her pictures on it’. I mentioned that I would take her card out and transfer the photographs to her computer so she could make more photographs. “You can print up the ones you like,” I told her.

She heard: “Imvo platigroassy imo uitvllvy…”

“Why would I make a print,” she asked?

“And why would I want the pictures on my computer? I want them on the camera so I can show them to my friends. And most of them are on Facebook already…”

Well, OK then.

I replaced the 4GB card with a 16GB card, moved her pictures over to the new card and got a great big hug… “thanks daddy”.

Photography has become an event, a sport, a past time much as the way of golf… wait, nothing is as boring as golf. (Yeah, now I will get hate mail from golfers who think this is about them…)

There are some photographers who think that Instagram is the devil, Flickr the ruination of all that is artistic and G+ as a place where photographers shout “look what I did, look what I did.”

Well, they may have a point about G+, but seriously… nothing could be further from the truth.

Photography, capital P Photography, is still here. It exists in digital, and it exists in those still using analog.

It has little to nothing to do with Instagram or 500PX or Yahoo or Facebook or Twitter or whatever. That is something new… a shared visual experience, a connecting device with little regard for exposure or ‘the rule of thirds bullshit’ or any of the things we bigP shooters are thinking about.

But maybe we should think about it a bit more.

Maybe we should think about where this is all going, cause I think in another ten years we may not recognize much of what we think Photography should be. (Yeah, there’s that ‘should’ word again… scary.)

How about this… maybe we damn well better start thinking about it. Digital changed a lot of things about our art, our business, our personal relationship to the image and more.

Much, much more.

We could go running around worrying and fretting and getting all angst ridden like this insufferable whimpering elitist

When did my photophobia begin? When I realised that I was buying into the same delusion of grandeur as everyone else. I have a decent camera and it can take lovely pictures. It has a close-up focus that can capture perfectly crisp images of a flower petal or a bee up close. So I think the moment it all went wrong was on a visit to Kew Gardens. There I was, having fun snapping water lilies, when I realised that about a hundred people were doing the same thing. Grannies, kids, babies, all with cameras and a sense of being artists. I am waiting for dogs and cats to get their own photo-sharing site for their genuinely beautiful snaps.


How can you fool yourself about this? For every wacky picture you take and upload, a million just as wacky are being taken. Dogs, flowers, fairy lights … each one as gorgeous as the next. On Instagram every passing moment has a pseudo-Baudelarian beauty. Random shots of ordinary things are touched up for instant allure. It is so easy with these technologies to believe you are Baudelaire’s “painter of modern life”, the ironic flâneur capturing the passing life of the modern world, or a latter-day Atget, but really you are the servant of a computerised eye. Instagram’s apparent claim of ownership of every image on its site would actually be a logical next step, for the reality is that no individuality exists in the creation of digital images.

Well, I hope not. There is so much bullshit in those two paragraphs that I could devote an entire week taking this apart. Dude… if you can’t find anything to make a photograph of, just STFU and go write poetry.

Instagram is not the enemy… complacency and ignorance are.

Photography is alive and well, and the fact that so many people love it is cause for celebration. Understanding that the world of our art is changing takes personal education and engagement.

It means we will have to find our way through uncharted territory… a place where cameras mounted on hats, full range cameras with no need to focus until after the image is taken, 3-dimensional captures to 3-dimensional prints, images that ‘speak’, blurred images that are recovered to perfect sharpness, and so much more.

So many new and exciting things coming soon… I wish I was 30 again to witness all these amazing things.

And adopting the new doesn’t mean tossing the old. I am shooting some tintype now on my beloved Deardorff 8×10.

And I look forward to shooting on my new Nikon V1 to be delivered today.

So photography, an art form of less than a century and a half is being changed and altered and manipulated and morphed right in front of our very eyes.

Are you on board? And if you are, where do you think we will be in a couple of years?

I cannot wait to find out.

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2013: Books Without Photos… Oh My!

2013: Books Without Photos… Oh My!

I love books. My wife and I have enough for a small library I am sure. Every room of our home has books in it. And a good quantity of them as well.

We read avariciously. Marian prefers fiction, while I spend a lot of time with non-fiction and poetry. It gives us a wide diversity on the bookshelves.

I am doing something a bit differently this year. I plan on focusing in on four books that I believe will help me stay creative and motivatated.

While it is great to read about photographers and how to do stuff with photography gear and how exciting it is to be a photographer and check out these photographs, there are times when we need to focus on ideas, concepts and the stuff that will expand our way of seeing our work, and how we view what we do. These books do that for me.

Chris Brogan had an idea to ONLY read three books this year… concentrating all of ones efforts on fully understanding the books, and re-reading them again and again to instill the information deep into the brain.

I cannot do that. I know myself, and the double dose of ADD that keeps me going would never allow me to study only, hey a bird is right outside my window and I was wondering if you like cheese, and how far is it to Des Moines?

So my plan is to keep four books with me and refer to them again and again to help me stay motivated, and to take the information that is there and deeply ingrain it into my ways of working. I want these books to ‘steep’ into my very core. I will do my own edits and changes along the way… we all should. However, I feel these books will help me become sharper and more competitive in the coming months.

Do you need to be a little sharper and more competitive? Just asking.

(EDIT – Note: for reasons similar to my own, Chris has just abandoned his three book diet as well. More.)

I have purchased hard copies and Kindle copies so they live on my iPad and on my small shelf near the desk. I have read each of them once, but now I will be turning to them again and again all year. I will still consume various other books as we go along, but these will be the go-to’s and distraction guardians. I can only assume the hard copies will be marked up and dog-eared as the year ends 12 months from now.

These books are readily available, and I recommend them to everyone who asks.

1. Tim Ferris: “The Four Hour Chef”
The book combines power learning with cooking and self improvement strategies. It is a myriad of ideas woven through a cookbook that will help me drop a bunch of weight and get in shape while also finding ways to exercise my mind. The book is a big one in analog form. I may need a second set of pens to cover this one.

It is illustrated, but not images are there to support the text. The processes are clearly written and the book is quite a read.

2. Chris Guillebeau writes one of my favorite blogs over at “The Art of Non-Conformity” and has a wonderful book with that same name if you need another idea.

The book I am reading in my ‘Focused Four’ is “The $100 Startup” and it is a great, information filled book on entrepreneurship and creating a business that enables a ‘freedom’ lifestyle.

Examples, ideas, concepts and a strong ideal for my way of living comes through, and I have already begun marking this thing up. Lots of stuff for the brain.

3. Erika Napoletano writes a blog at ‘Redhead Writing’ that is intriguing and fun. Her quirky ways of looking at the world, and the refreshing reality based marketing information she gives is spot on in my book.

Her book, “The Power of Unpopular: A guide to building your brand for the audience who will love you (and why no one else matters)” has been one of my faves since it came out. I read it once, now it goes on my ‘focused four’ bookshelf for inspiration, ideas and buttkicking reality.

If you think you must be loved by everyone, you should think again. Focus on those who will follow you anywhere and to hell with distraction-based people and PIA’s.

4. Chris Brogan teamed with Julien Smith on a book titled “The Impact Equation” and I love it.

The book is filled with forward looking material that fosters ideas for your own ‘platform’ from which to grow a business, or perform better at anything you wish to do.

I am only three chapters in and have 6 pages of notes… yeah, I think it is that good. Chris is a no-nonsense marketer and one I recommend for all photographers to get to know. Other than his affection for G+, I find a great deal of inspiration and real world marketing info from him.

So there ya go. Four books I recommend to every photographer, and the ones that now inhabit that special place next to my computer. I am glad to hear that Chris abandoned his 3 book diet. I could never do that as I am a content creator, and that means I consume content as well. Chris has adopted my ‘special go-to books’ approach even before he knew about it… hey, great minds and all.

What books are you looking to focus on this year?

Next Time: Is it time to consider that digital photography has become something different than traditional photography?

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2013: Essay One: Distractions

2013: Essay One: Distractions


Seems like only yesterday we were all freaked out about the Y2K fraud.

And we have made it 12 years into what was called the new millennium, to find that it is pretty much like the old millennium… with a few tweaks.

This is New Years Day.

A time for many of us to take a look at what we did, and where we are going and how we might get there. It is simply, in reality, a day like any other. We humans like to apply distinguishing characteristics to things that really have none. It gives us order. It gives us a base from which to set contexts that we so very much desire.

So a few hundred million of us have made new years resolutions. We have decided from this Tuesday on, we will do the things we do with a different twist or maybe stop doing them altogether and do something new instead.

And a handful of us will, and most of us wont.

I read on Facebook that a New Years Resolution is a To-Do List for Wednesday.

Yeah, probably. I don’t know.

I don’t make NYR’s, as I know my capacity for changing more than a few things overnight is beyond my ability. I can focus on changing a few things and when they are changed, I hope they are catalysts for more changes.

I hate static statism. Standing still is not my style. I will cut through backstreets and make my way through uncharted suburbia instead of sitting still in traffic. I hate standing still.

So I try to move forward. Or at least move… heh.

I have been thinking a lot about what I will be doing this year of 2013, and how it may differ from last year, and what the momentum challenge would be to veer course. In fact I wanted to have my plans formalized way before today. And as of today they are still undergoing some transitions and finishing touches.

Life has a funny way of inserting itself noisily into any semblance of order one may wish to construct around one’s plans.

But before we look forward to LE in 2013, I want to look back and think about what I did wrong, and need to fix this year. I think it important to know what the path has been in order to construct a new and better one going forth.

Last year I focused on some things that will not get much attention this year, and I let some things slide that will get more attention.

Distractions: oh lord, do I get distracted. I have been so scattered that at times I was not sure what project I was working on and for who. Too much outside crap was allowed to seep into my daily work life that should have remained in a different part of my day. Too often I was irritated or involved deeply in things that I was not, nor will not be, able to change.

And that led to too many non-productive hours and days. Days that are lost forever to me. Days that I ‘could have’ written a couple thousand words. Days that I ‘would have’ taken some photographs if not otherwise distracted. Days that I ‘should have’ used for more productive and creative endeavors.

Yeah, I coulda, woulda, shoulda…

Three of the most lame, stupid, debilitating and devastating words we can ever use.

Could. Would. Should.

In fact they have no meaning. They are nearly singular in their insipid nothingness. There is no action applied to them. They are of no value in describing something. They are not something we can hold, or share. They are words of false self-redemption – a chance for us to change what is not changeable by going back in time and… and… and what? What do we do when we ‘could’ something?

Right now, take a moment and ‘Should’ something. Or ‘Could’ something. Go on, I am right here with you trying to figure out how I can ‘Would’ have something.

What action is required to ‘could’? What steps do we take to ‘should’? How will I know I have ‘would’ and it is complete?

Terrible words. Destructive words. Specifically damaging in the combination of the word ‘have’.

Think about this statement: “I tried to do that, but I could have lost my perspective if I would have made that change.”

Wow… what a load of shit. What they are really saying is, “Naww, that seemed too hard, so I didn’t give it a shot.” There is no other explanation since the could and would are not words that have any meaning in the real world. Those things might have happened, but more likely not. The person is obviously aware of the challenges to perspective that may arise and they are can be prepared to deal with.

I said those words too many times last year and I know better. Hell, I used to teach this stuff to people. I ‘shoulda’ known better than to ever let those words creep into my life, and yet… they did. No concentrated amounts of ‘shoulda’ gonna change that.

Banishing them is the action step. I cannot should have done anything.

I simply didn’t do it. Saying I could/would/should have has no bearing on the outcome, does it?

It didn’t get done. Or it was done and finished in the fashion it was. Nothing I can say now can fix, alter, edit, change, manipulate or otherwise transform what was done. I can add some ‘coulda’ with a dash of ‘woulda’ and guess what. It is still what it is.

Think about how it affects your photography. “I should have put a light back there” is meaningless. You cant’ because you didn’t. There is little knowledge, but a fine mea culpa for the crappy shot. How about “Next time I will put a light back there, to allow the texture of the background to show and increase the dimensional property of the photograph.” Great. Do that. Next time. No coulda woulda shoulda gonna make that photograph better, but making changes that are actionable, like ‘next time’ and ‘will’ are solid reinforcements for making a better photograph.

(And personally, I am not fond of the critique that starts out with “you should have…” Hey, buddy… you were not there. You do not have any idea what I was trying to do, nor whether your idea is a good one given my sensibilities and overall vision. Go ‘shoulda’ somewhere else. It is meaningless as a critique, cause there is no should… only what is.)

Meaningless words that crept into my vocabulary way too much. I will no longer go there.

Instead, I am going to get more done. I am going to own what I do, and press on. No excuses. No distractions that are easily explained away by meaningless words.

(It is possible to go into a long diatribe about the word ‘try’ but that little bastard deserves an entire article on it. Most insidious, self-destructive and ultimately limiting word ever… ‘try’… I call bullshit on “try”.)

Going forth there will be far fewer distractions. More jazz, less news. More poetry, reading and writing. No more ‘coulda’, ‘shoulda’, ‘woulda’ and a hell of a lot more “hey, take a look at this.”

Are you being held back by using these three words? They can be comforting when we do not think of what they really mean, but that comfort is false, and the destruction is real. Every time we use one of those words, we have endeavored to remove our responsibility for what was created and moved it another dimension… or something.

Change the words we use, and change our own world. Change our own world and see what incredible results we can achieve.

Think about the words you use to describe what happened. Are you cheating yourself of the joy of responsibility by using words meant to mitigate it?


Enabling Change… four books I recommend to photographers (and none have pictures in them).

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Meet Matt Dutile: A Passion for the Image

Meet Matt Dutile: A Passion for the Image

Matt started his photography career here in Phoenix about 4 years ago. Actually, four years ago today as I understand it. His work is focused on travel and lifestyle, and he is working for several clients that have sent him to some pretty cool locations.

You can visit Matt’s website here, and see some wonderful images.

Enjoy this interview with Matt. He will take us through some of his favorite images and assignments.

A few of my favorites from Matt’s work.

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Post Processing: A Small Harbor in Maine

Post Processing: A Small Harbor in Maine

There are times when I am shooting when I am in complete control of the situation. Well, at least as much control as the world lets me think I am capable of.

And there are times when I am not taking a photograph, but in fact taking a capture to allow me to make a photograph. Later.

This is one of those examples. I was in Maine with my bud Charles and we were simply driving around the peninsulas looking for places that were not where we live. Charles lives in Houston and I live in Phoenix.

If you have been to either, you would know that neither look like the Maine Coast.

In fact nowhere looks like the Maine Coast. I love it.

This small harbor we found at the end of a long drive to the tip of one of the Peninsulas, and it just captivated me.

The weather was cool, windy and gray. Not much happening in the sky in a capture, but so much more when I was there in person.

I walked the edge of the little bay looking for the shot. I knew there was one there, but sometimes the images hide in plain sight while we try to force other shots we have seen onto the canvas before us.

That doesn’t work. Ever.

My way of working is try to open myself visually to what is there, and begin to see like my lenses. It isn’t hard, it just takes practice.

AndyLimWhat would this shot look like with a wide angle lens? What would be left out with a tele? How will the parts of the image look when they are compressed with a tele? Would a very wide angle push the background too far back? Or just enough?

I decided on the medium wide lens so it would pull the harbor shape to me, while not pushing the background too far back as to not be seen.

I knew that the scattered boats was the ‘hook’ of the shot, and that the sky and water would frame them and present an image that looked painterly in design.

So I took a bracket set of images slightly above and slightly below the exposure I chose. No, not for HDR, but for an image that starts out in an exposure point that I know I can work with. I do not like to work with images that are too dark.

This is the image I took at slightly above the ‘exposure’ – about 1/2 stop over exposed.
The Photograph before we did any Post Process work on it

This is the image that I ended up with 20 minutes later:
A Small Harbor in Maine: Photoshop and Lightroom Post Processing.

This image has the same emotional tone as I saw standing on the shore. I took some romantic liberties with the color pallet, choosing to add some warmth and a feeling of disquieting weather. Where the original image had soft, blanket like clouds, I pulled out the texture and heightened the feeling of storm.

When you are working like this you have to think as an illustrator would, or a painter. Sure the sky is light… but wouldn’t that also lighten the ocean where the reflection would be? And how do we handle the reflective nature of the choppy sea?

Where do our shadows increase and where should the fall back?

Here is the post processing from opening it in Lightroom to finishing it off in Photoshop.

Thanks for coming along on this little tutorial.

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Pogoplug: Now This is Useful AND Cool

Pogoplug: Now This is Useful AND Cool

I just set up my Pogoplug.

I plugged it in, turned it on, set it up and went to work

Took about 2 minutes. Tops.

Wait… you may not know what a Pogoplug is.

Now this thing is cool. Think of it as a network drive / personal cloud sort of thing. With a very cool set of tools that let you actually USE the thing. Keep your photographs on there securely, and pull them up as a slideshow from your iOS or Android. Keep your music on a drive and access it to play from any device. Share files with clients and family. Automatically backup your files or photos.


And they have an online cloud for additional, easy storage.

The device is very small, taking nearly no space at all. And that is a big deal for me. My router is in the living room and having too many devices taking up too much room can create wifely harrassment.

The device hooks into your router, and you hook a hard drive mechanism to the device in one of many ways. In fact, you can hook multiple devices up to the Pogoplug and have different ways to store and share files.

You can see the footprint here as well as the USB drive in position next to my router and Network Drive. These things make working away from home or office a far less painful experience.

You can use a 2.5″ HD, a USB HD, a Flash Card, or any kind of memory that can hook into a device. I chose a 500GB USB Drive that I had for backing up my music. It has lots of room left, so I hooked it into my Pogoplug and started moving files around. I first set it to automatically copy over my iPhone/iPad files and images so I don’t have to even think about it.


I then downloaded the iPad/iPhone apps and logged in. Don’t worry, they are free. The files then began downloading to my Pogoplug. I can play my music from my devices, or my laptop, or use the Pogoplug for sharing files with clients that may be too large for email.

And… it worked right out of the box, right away. Simple, easy and totally simple application. (Well done, Pogoplug guys…)

I have a couple of extra Pogoplug units for you, the readers of this blog. I haven’t decided yet how we will give them away. I am sure some sort of contest will be forthcoming, so watch for it.

I am thrilled with this thing, and some of the cool things I have already identified some important business uses for it.

You can see more at their website, and they also have a cloud storage system for those who only want to use it online. The Pogoplug device is the tool for sharing, backing up, and more.

Watch for the contest coming next week. Win one of these things and have a blast with it.

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Shooting Shiny Stuff at P52

Shooting Shiny Stuff at P52

Sometimes photographers have to shoot shiny stuff. Lighting works very differently on things that are shiny compared to how light works on more diffused subject matter. The shinier the object, the more it will be reflecting the light sources – both main and secondary.

Controlling these ‘specular’ parts of the light – as it is reflected from the subject – can be the greatest challenge.

Highlights give clues to our subjects. They tell us if the surface is smooth or not, and they can aid in showing us the dimension and shape of the object or subject.

The P52′ers had a blast with a “Shoot Something Shiny” assignment, and here is what they came up with.

Rui Bandeira (And featured image above)

Reflective action
Jorge R

Honey spoons [Explored]
Rasmus Hald

p52 shinny-3053 composite.jpg
Gerry DAc

301/365 Shiny
David Travis

shiny handmade mercury glass coral vase
Virginia Smith

Cindy Kopp

Unfounded Stu

Bogle Petite Sirah
Irene Liebler

something shiney
Dan Berry

Shiny Knife
Bryan Lawler

Pen on Typewriter
Arni Freidling

Project 52: Shiny Object
Lily Dale

Tim Lester

The Veins of my Heart
Grey Gibbs

Glass Clock_MG_7639-2

Red Vase
Barbara Tozier

Lots of ‘behind the scenes’ setup shots at the Flickr Page.

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OT Sunday: Eliot Carter, American Composer

OT Sunday: Eliot Carter, American Composer

Eliot Carter was my favorite contemporary composer. It was his first and second string quartets that opened my mind to the possibilities of linear melody/rhythm and the transformative nature of time. I discovered his music in my second year of music school and have listened to something of his every week since.

Eliot Carter passed last Monday, November 5, 2012. He was 103 years old.

From the New York Times:

Elliott Carter, the American composer whose kaleidoscopic, rigorously organized works established him as one of the most important and enduring voices in contemporary music, died on Monday in Manhattan. He was 103 and had continued to compose into his 11th decade, completing his last piece in August.

The String Quartets, of which there are five, are some of my earliest loves. The first time I heard String Quartet #1 was in the music building at Arizona State University. The room was quite cool, and the musicians were there to share their new repertoire, and some works that had been commissioned for them.

They decided to share the first movement of the first quartet, and I was simply blown away. I can only compare it to the first time I heard Coltrane… and my life changed forever.

Many of the other music students there were aghast… where was the ‘melody’, why was the music so jarring. For the life of me, I had no idea what they had heard… but it wasn’t what I had heard.

I have nearly every recording made of the quartets, including a couple of imports. I even have the scores to both the first and second quartet.

Photography and music are two drivers of who I am. The polytonality and rhythmic challenges of Carter’s pieces fed my brain its much needed challenges, and it led to other discoveries, both in my music and my photography.

Mr. Carter’s music is not easy to listen to at first, especially for those who are not aware of the 20th century musical progression. But it is a challenge worth taking, in my opinion. Although, the meters and extreme difficulty of the performance of many of his mid-period works led to lots of angst among those who decided to take up that challenge, those who did found themselves quite transformed.


String Quartet, First Movement

A Symphony for Three Orchestras

Variations for Orchestra

The Last Interview with Alisa Weilerstein


I performed his piece, Eight Pieces for Four Tympani, and it left me exhausted. And, exhilarated. The tempos ‘modulate’ through time as though it were a flexible substance rather than a temporal imperative. Damned difficult, and no, I could not play it today… heh.

Shifting meters, rhythm that was both polyphonic and amorphous, melodies that stretched over others with seemingly no relation… it was demanding stuff. And it made demands on the listeners that some were not willing to do. His music was not something most people would leave the theater humming to themselves.

Also from the NYT:

As Mr. Carter’s centenary neared, the frequency with which his music could be heard only increased, making it clear that for at least two generations of young performers, even his thorniest works held little terror. In the summer of 2008, for example, the entire Festival of Contemporary Music at the Tanglewood Music Center was devoted to Mr. Carter’s work, with performances of dozens of pieces from every stage of his career (including several premieres). Mr. Carter attended most of the concerts. There were many such tributes that year, and the attention unnerved him, he said.

“It’s a little bit frightening, because I’m not used to being appreciated,” he said in an onstage interview at Zankel Hall the night after a celebration with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “So when I am, I think I’ve made a mistake.” 

From the Guardian:

Eventually Carter realised that all the accumulated baggage of his music – the neoclassicism, the madrigalian references, the Greek texts, the Americana – would have to go. In the Piano Sonata of 1945, written the year he moved with his wife into the brownstone apartment he would live in for the rest of his life, Carter retains the massive rhetoric of the American sublime. But the cyclic form, the startling use of piano resonances and rhythmic flexibility mark a huge step forward. The Cello Sonata of 1948 is another leap towards a really radical conception of form. The piece at the end seems to loop back to its opening, in a way that recalls Stéphane Mallarmé’s conception of a book that one can begin at any point. At the beginning, a strict metronomic “ticking” in the piano is combined with a rhapsodically unfolding line in the cello. Nothing quite like this joining of two radically opposed worlds moving at different speeds had been heard in music before.

But it was in the First String Quartet of 1951 that Carter’s new conception of independent musical layers, sometimes co-operating, sometimes clashing in purposeful disunity, came fully into focus. To achieve it, Carter cut himself off from his usual surroundings and moved to the Arizona desert for several months. What survives from his old manner is a heroic rhetoric of wide intervals, as if the American sublime has been sublimated and purged of anything local.”

This music, so utterly grounded in a complex, and for me, an almost visual experience, made my journey into music both a fascinating and joyful adventure, and a disquieting and elusively disconnected vision of what I wanted to do. Both with music and photography.

It is that air of conundrum that drives me today as well.

From the Boston Globe:

“In many ways, Carter was cut from the same cloth as the Founders. Crossing back and forth across the Atlantic with his father, a lace importer, Carter spoke French before he spoke English. At Harvard, he initially spurned music, opting instead for Greek and mathematics and philosophy. He recapitulated some of the background of the aristocrats who founded the United States: a classical education with a French flair. He was a modernist equipped with the intellectual tool kit of the Enlightenment.

He came to be a composer in deliberate fashion; he was well into his 30s before he wrote music he thought worth keeping. It would be another decade before he began to realize his own style. The decisive break came in his first two string quartets, dating from 1951 and 1959, where the four players become strikingly individual characters, with their own motives, articulations, and even tempi, an intricately managed clash of temperaments. Almost all of his subsequent music would similarly straddle the line Thomas Paine drew between society and government: “The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions.” Carter’s goal was to give every instrument in the ensemble its own individuality within the piece’s entirety. ‘‘This seems to me a very dramatic thing in a democratic society,’’ he said. In honor of the American Bicentennial, Elliott Carter even split the orchestra asunder, composing “A Symphony for Three Orchestras,” a work that, indeed, divides that ensemble into three distinct and often disputatious groups. It might have been only a coincidence that the onetime revolutionaries who assembled for the Constitutional Convention in 1787 came up with a similar model for the federal government.”

From the Washington Post:

“Mr. Carter experimented most notably with meter, or rhythm, and challenged audiences to follow multiple instruments that played simultaneously to different beats.

“A piano accelerates to a flickering tremolo as a harpsichord slows to silence,” wrote composer and musicologist David Schiff, describing Mr. Carter’s music. “Second violin and viola, half of a quartet, sound cold, mechanical pulses, while first violin and cello, the remaining duo, play with intense expressive passion. Two, three or four orchestras superimpose clashing, unrelated sounds. A bass lyrically declaims classical Greek against a mezzo-soprano’s American patter.”

Mr. Carter said that his music presented society as he hoped it would be: “A lot of individuals dealing with each other, sensitive to each other, cooperating and yet not losing their own individuality.””

Yes… controlled cacophony. Distilled life sounds played out in a chamber or orchestral setting. Music to live by, think by… create by. Rhythms that seem disconnected from each other are found to have deep relationships after careful listening.

And this music is made for careful listening. It is not Mozart for background string melodies. Nor is it the driving, pulsating, deeply spiritual John Coltrane.

It is music for listening to as an action in itself, for involving ones self within each bar and linear melody. It is for “active” engagement, not background filler.

Perhaps that is what I found so totally and honestly engaging about Carter’s music. It demanded that you listen to it, not daydream or dance or plan the next vacation while it was on. LISTEN to each sound and melody and rhythm – and feel the complexity slide away to reveal simple, intimate truths.

Individuality of spirit is ensconced deeply into his works, and that wondrous spirit was a gift to us all.

If we take the time to listen for it.

I wondered how I would feel when I heard of his death. I know now.

I wish I didn’t.

From Alex Ross:

“The American master, seemingly inextinguishable, died this afternoon, at the age of 103. An entire world of culture dies with him — a landscape of memory that included Stravinsky, Nadia Boulanger, Ives, Gershwin, even Gustav Holst.”

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An Open Letter to a New “Photography” Blogger

An Open Letter to a New “Photography” Blogger

(from a recent forum post where a new blogger was talking about ‘getting out there and doing it… going pro.)


I just looked at your blog and I have a few questions.

Who are you trying to reach with the blog?


Or other photographers?

Clients would be a good focus, as they will actually hire you. Clients will want to get in touch for a photograph if you inspire them.

Other photographers maybe not so much.

Alright, never.

Other photographers are never gonna pay you for your photography.

Posting about gear is photographer centric stuff that your clients do not care about. Posting that you are just starting out is great for other photographers to ‘share in the adventure’ – but as a client, I don’t really want to be a part of that early, uncharted course.

I’ll wait until you are sure of what you are doing.

Posting that you are running out of money means you are not a pro, or someone that someone else is hiring, and I am not having any of it.

The people who may be interested in this information, ie; other photographers thinking about making the jump, will never ever be a part of your bottom line.

I’m new.
I am not sure how to proceed.
I have cool stuff.
I am in serious financial straights.
Please hire me before I drown in debt and my kids hate me.”

This is not, I repeat NOT a marketing strategy. It will shut you down before you even stand up.

In addition, you call it a “Photographic Diary” and yet there are no photographs, it has no visual identity, and the information is more about the business you do not have rather than talking about the cool stuff you do. In addition, the theme you have chosen is, well, boring and not interesting at all to look at.

We are in the visual business, and something boring is NOT gonna let people know how good you are with visuals… right? Get a new theme and make it something interesting to see.

Then do these things…

1. Talk to your clients. Blog stuff that makes seniors want to shoot with you or brides just die to meet you (or whatever your niche is). Talk about how you solved this challenge or how much fun it was to shoot with that subject, or how you find locations… stuff to make clients take notice.
NOTE: They do not give a crock of shit about how fast your zoom is.

2. Photographs on every post. Post about photographs, not photography. Posts on subjects, not lenses. Make people think that all you ever do is make photographs. Cool photographs. Even, ahem, ‘awesome’ photographs.

3. Become an expert in what you do, in the language of who you do it for instead of your competition. Don’t speak photographer speak, use real people speak. The real people that may think you make great pictures cause of your cool camera speak. They are not the enemy, nor clueless idiots, they are your clients. LOVE them.

For instance:
“I love working with people of all ages, and can take a few years off your portrait if you would like…”


“I use layers in Photoshop to soften the separate channels of color and texture, and then blend them back in with masks to make the lines around the eyes softer.”

Trust me. Telling a forty year old woman how you are gonna use all that technical wizardry to make her look younger is not of any interest to her. That you CAN make her look a shade over 34 IS.

And lastly… never never never complain. Complaining sounds suspiciously like whining to a lot of people. When things are down, show your most lively photographs. Look more busy than you really are, and convey the fact that you are really busy because people love your work and wouldn’t it be cool if the reader could have an opportunity to have such a blast with you and get some incredible photographs.

You didn’t ask for a critique, and I broke my rule about never doing it without being asked, but since I am waiting for the mac to do some video rendering I felt… oh what the hell, why not.

The advice is worth exactly what you paid for it, but I would ask you to consider my concerns as I have a real affinity for people who actually DO shit over those who stand on the sidelines throwing stones.

Good for you for getting out there.

And great luck in all your endeavors.

- wizwow.

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The Fabulous Sandwich: Some Examples

The Fabulous Sandwich: Some Examples

Some shining examples of food shooting and shooting to layout from the Project 52 group.

The assignment:
Your assignment is to do a very interesting sandwich shot that fairly reeks of “high end cuisine sandwich” – and for this you will have a layout. The designer has already created two other brochures for the client, so the placement is pretty much set. He hired a photographer to do it, but unfortunately that photographer had never worked on any of the Project 52 stuff (probably didn’t have my book either) and totally, unconditionally failed to deliver the image.


Anyway – you guys are up next. What will you do to make this shot so freeking awesome that people will want, no – NEED to buy a sandwich from his restaurant – and make the designer and client ecstatic.

The layout was given to them as a layered PSD, and these are terrific examples of what the photographers did with it.

Our cover shot is by Cindy Kopp

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Stephen Collins

P52: Assignment40-Sandwich
Bob Knill

308/365 The Amazing, Incredible Sandwich
David Travis

Anna Gunn

P52 Sandwich Assignment #1

P52 Sandwich Assignment #2
John McAllister (2)


Nikki Weidner (2)

Mike Audleman

icecream sandwich
Dan Fenwick

Sandwich P52
Grey Gibbs

Rob Worth

The Amazing Chicken Dilly Sandwich Layout
Bryan Lawler

Tim Lester

P52-40 Sandwich
Irene Liebler

David Moore

sandwich assignment
Virginia Smith

2012 P52 Week 40 - Sandwich
David Price

BLT Sandwich in Layout
Arni Freidling

The Incredible Sandwich

Flora Cusi

Cindy Kopp

Adi Talwar

Sandwich Product Shot
Jerry OConnor

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Business Slow? Have You Tried These Ideas?

Business Slow? Have You Tried These Ideas?


I mean today…

These are simple ideas, built to do quickly or without being in a rush. Do at least five of them every day.

1. Have you checked in with past clients? Have you kept up with them? And more importantly, have you kept them up to date on what you are doing? Past clients are one of the best ways to keep cash flowing through your business. It takes so much longer to get a client than to keep a client.

2. Have you shot something for your portfolio lately? Have you post-processed any images from a recent shoot and added them to your portfolio? I cannot tell you how many consultations start with “what have you added recently” are answered with “I have been too busy to get any new work up.”

Great… if you are too busy to put up new work, why are getting a consult on getting more clients? What?

3. Personal note, message, call or Amazon Gift Card to someone who has been a supporter or evangelist for your work. The folks who love you are your best advocates. Treat them like gold… no, treat them like diamonds.

4. Put together a set of goals for the week? For the month? Just make sure they dovetail into your master goal set.

… … You do have a master goal set, right?

5. Check your business plan. How is it going? Do you need to change it one way or another?

Most people make the business plan and then never look at it or modify it. You must modify it, and you must continuously look at it and review it. Otherwise, what was the point of the exercise you went through to create it? It is a living document that needs your input and nourishment to be effective.

6. If you don’t have a business plan, grab a napkin an sketch one out. Seriously… do not do this on a computer. Write it down on something that is quickly modified. Use charts and boxes and lines and squigglies to get what you want to make sense.

A good mini-business plan for a photographer should be about 2 pages… max. This is not a bigass business plan, this is a short, to the point, no bullshit mini business plan.

7. Contact a mentor. if you don’t have one, find one. Then get in touch with them and ask them for guidance. Asking for help is not a bad thing, it is a damn good thing to do. If you are struggling, there are people out there who have struggled the same way and found pathways out.

No, finding a mentor is not easy. It shouldn’t be. If it were it would be of little value. Did you ever notice that the most highly valued things and positions are the hardest ones to attain? Almost like it was planned that way.

8. Brainstorm like crazy to find new and exciting ways of presenting your work, ideas, photographs, methods, and style to those who want to hire you. Work on that presentation. Work really hard on that presentation.

9. Think about what you have and if there is any way those skills or assets could be used to create new income streams. Do you shoot stock? Should you? Are you able to do a few seminars or workshops? Can you do something else with the downtime at your studio?

Maybe you don’t need the extra income, but thinking about ways to make money with what you already have is a great thought exercise that will probably lead to something new.

10. Breathe. Take some time to focus on your own person. Take in a ballgame, go for a roadtrip, or simply read a book in that great old chair in the lawn. Sometimes it is so important to step away from the everyday struggles of business, and let the fires burn in the background. Don’t worry, your self conscience is still at work looking for ideas and filtering out that which will not play out.

So even if it seems counter productive to step back, it can actually be one of the most important tactics to use. And you aren’t leaving for a week… just a few hours or a half day is what you need.

In these crazy days of marketing fatigue and social media burnout, it is a good thing to remember there are other ways to recharge and regroup.

Till next time… now where is that book…

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“Fredericksburg Today” a New Book by Steve Collins

“Fredericksburg Today” a New Book by Steve Collins

Steve Collins has been a friend for several years. We met at a workshop, and he has been a huge part of Project 52. Steve is building his business one client at a time in Fredericksburg, VA (a small town outside of Washington, DC).

I have watched his work grow steadily, and am very proud of this new book – and Steve.

Rock on, Steve… this is pretty cool.

From the Press Release:

“Fredericksburg resident and business owner Steve Collins of SJ Collins Photography debuts his documentary photo book at The Griffin Bookshop and Coffee Bar on Friday. The book release reception will be held from 6 to 9 p.m.

Fredericksburg Today, the title of Collins’ book, features photos of contemporary Fredericksburg. Those who purchase of a copy of the book on Nov. 2 will be entered to win a one night’s stay (double occupancy) at The Kenmore Inn, according to Collins.

A long time visitor to Fredericksburg, Collins relocated to the city in June 2011 from Prince William County. “I immediately fell in love with our town’s history, buildings, people and the sense of community only a city like Fredericksburg can offer,” said Collins.

A photographer, Collins began a personal project to capture contemporary Fredericksburg. The book is the culmination of this project.”

You can reach Steve at his website, and contact the Griffin Bookstore $ Coffee Shop for information on ordering a copy of the book.

Here are some of his photographs from the book.

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Trick or Treat… or Something…

Trick or Treat… or Something…

My kids love Halloween. I can remember every trek through the streets with plastic pumpkins in hand, towing a wagon with the smallest riding along.

The great folks over at Project 52 have been adding zombie and other un-human images to our Flickr page. I thought I would take a moment to share them with you all.

Say Cheese!



No 2nd Hand Smoke

Zombie modeling session

Exploring a concept

Halloween Loony Tunes

The Apparition

This Ain

44/52 - Trick or Treat ! (Self Portrait)




Thanks for coming along… oh, and I prefer chocolate, thanks.

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Three Bidding Fiascos: Be Prepared or Stay Home

Three Bidding Fiascos: Be Prepared or Stay Home

Recently I had an opportunity to sit and chat (over delicious Mexican food) with two very good photographers. Dave and Steve are both well seasoned, and full on commercial photographers here in Phoenix.

As things do, we began discussing gigs and some of the war stories we all love to bring up at these sort of little social events.

What emerged were three incredible stories of how unprepared photographers have screwed up big gigs, and themselves as well.

I bring them to you with the hope that they may inspire you to not make the same mistakes.

Fiasco Number One.

A client of nearly ten years has been doing quarterly updates to their national and regional advertising. The images run in several regional publications, newspapers and in-store Point of Purchase displays. The photographer that has been shooting the work for them was charging $12,000 per shoot based on the usage.

This rate had stayed fairly steady for nearly 8 years. Mostly because the photographer was doing a lot of work for them and kept this price steady as a favor and so that they could budget without getting bids each time.

The last quarter he did not get the gig. A new photographer had pitched them and told them he was happy to shoot it for $3000.

This photographer could probably have gotten the gig at $10,000 and made $7000 more if his work was good. The interloper, having no idea at all what the gig was worth, just screwed himself out of at least $7000, maybe more.

He also set the new bar at $2500… which is unrealistic in the commercial world with that kind of usage.

Why would he do it for so little? I can imagine that he had no idea of what the value of commercial photography is set at, nor is he aware of usage and how usage is priced. Look, this is a billion + a year client, and these images are very important to their marketing.

(Solution: Know the industry. Know the market. Get involved with that part of the industry, and get help on shoots that are for national clients. There are consultants and websites that can help. Wonderful Machine has people who can help with bidding on a per bid basis, and fotoQuote has a service that will help you put together something that makes sense.)

Fiasco Number Two

The client is a national ad agency with regional offices. Their client is a celebrity.

The gig involved the celebrity and an endorsement of a beauty product. The shoot was a buyout, with everything from national advertising to electronic media. Three shots of the celebrity with and without the beauty product and one shot of the product itself.

The bid was created using standard bidding and buyout parameters. And the photographer actually wanted the gig so the bid was modified (down a little) to a rate of $40,000.

All was set and agreed to… then… nothing.

The photographer received a phone call from a photographer looking to rent a studio for a ‘celebrity’ shoot. Turned out that they had looked at another photographer and had decided to go with her.

She was shocked that the rental was $300 for the day. She had bid only $2500 for the job and felt that if she spent $300 on the rental studio, she would not make enough.

Ya think?

How about craft services? This is a celebrity, her entourage, the ad agency entourage, MUA, hair stylist, stylist, and wardrobe person. Food alone could easily be $600. And of course, the photographer had no liability insurance, which is insane with that many people on set.

In the end, the agency lost the account. Why they would have even thought that someone quoting $2500 for a gig of this magnitude would have a freaking clue about what the real world brings is beyond my understanding.

(Solution: Get educated on licensing, why rights matter, and how much a shoot of this size and usage requirements would be. The above resources are important, but there are professional sites on line as well as the peers in your town that may help you work this out. And if they are not willing to help, they are totally assholes. Find someone else to help. Dig, research, dig some more.)

Fiasco Number Three.

A photographer was called to bid on a job involving widgets… lots of little widgets. The bid was for simple “drop and pop” shots of 450 items.

When the time came to begin the planning for the shoot, the client informs him that there will actually be three shots per widget.

At the same price as negotiated… but the new shots involve different angles.

The photographer tried in vain to explain how the light was different and how having 1350 shots meant much, MUCH, more time.

But to no avail.

What should have been a 2 day gig stretched into 6 days of blinding quick shooting and upset clients (it should not have taken this long) and more.

It was a disaster for both the client and the photographer.

(Solution: Actually, I told a fib above. The photographer was me. And when I was told that there were far more images than expected, I rebid the gig. And when they said it was too much, I politely declined the gig. They found someone to do it though… and there ya go.

That photographer is happily (or whatever) shooting boring, monotonous widgets at $3 a piece. By the time he is done, he will have worked for over a week for a rate that should have been one day.

I have the experience, both in the bidding and understanding of how the process goes, to make decisions that will not harm myself or my industry.)

Not much else to say here. I understand that there are a lot of new people in this business. That is a good thing.

That there are so many who haven’t or will not take the time to actually learn about the business they are in is not a good thing.

Don’t get caught on the outs… get educated in how it all works.

BTW – our photographers at Project 52 are learning all about the industry including bidding, shooting to layout, creating promotional pieces and building a portfolio. And that is a free site for interested photographers who don’t like being clueless.

Just sayin’…

And if you use the Promo Code “Lighting Essentials”, you will save $20 off my current class at UDEMY.

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OK, Now I’m Hungry… the Food Photography of Michele Drumm

OK, Now I’m Hungry… the Food Photography of Michele Drumm

Michele Drumm is a photographer in the Washington DC / Fredricksberg area of Virginia. Her work ranges from still life to environments, but one of her great loves is shooting food.

From meticulous studio shoots to on location editorial work, Michele brings a bit of whimsy and fun to each project she takes.

She has been a Project 52 member for two years and is now a Project 52 PRO, working on getting her book out and into the world.

We love her work and her commitment to making the image exactly as she sees it. Only problem is that every time I review her work, I gain a pound… heh.

Waygu Beef Burger

Highland Park Diner


Blackened Shrimp Saute over Sweet Corn Pudding and Mache Salad

Turkey legs at the fair

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

portabella mushroom

Untitled | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

You can see more of Michele’s work at her Flickr page. Just click on any image above and it will take you to her images.

Thanks for coming along today, but I gotta run off now. It’s lunch time!

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Should You Shoot ‘Edgy’ Work for Your Portfolio?

Should You Shoot ‘Edgy’ Work for Your Portfolio?

Recently a photographer asked about whether or not “Fantasy” makeup or “Avant Garde” images should be included in a commercial photographer’s portfolio.

The work he was specifically asking about was a kind of shoot one sees a lot on Model Mayhem… multi-colored makeup covering most of the face. This seems like something a lot of photographers like to do, and it is quite prevalent in some circles.

While answering something like this is always tricky, it is also important to get everyone on the same page first. What comes below is MY response, and should be taken with the understanding that it is personal and comes from my viewpoint. Please seek additional viewpoints if you desire.

First of all, I didn’t see the work as Avant Garde at all. Avant Garde means on the bleeding edge, and this work is not even close to that. While it is good work, it is not bleeding edge.

A group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts.
Of, relating to, or being part of an innovative group, especially one in the arts: avant-garde painters; an avant-garde theater piece.

The work was good, solid work with “fantasy” makeup as the feature. Fantasy makeup work is a staple of Model Mayhem shooters (Please do not read a negative into that, as it is not implied.) It has been around for a long time and shows no trend toward going away.

That’s fine.

The poster asked “if this kind of work in my portfolio would actually benefit me?”

Soaring to New Heights
Photograph: Joshua Gaede

My answer:
That depends. A book full of it? No, not really, I can’t see where that would work for you at all. I am not aware of any marketplace that uses this kind of work. Not fashion, not glamour, not beauty, not lifestyle… possibly a case could be made for doing it for a consumer client base. I do think it would be a pretty difficult marketing situation – as you stated, it is NOT the mainstream.

While there are some mainstream uses for edgy work, and

As something added TO your body of work, or an aside project, it would be fine.

My bottom line feeling is this: I simply am not aware of a market for this kind of work as an ‘emerging’ photographer. In fact it may actually be a problem in some situations.

Showing this work to a magazine editor may create a lot of questions as to what you are thinking is fashion/beauty work. As a former art director, I would immediately think of MM and wonder who the client was. Since the work is so personal, it may not be something that could be used commercially… ask yourself what client would want this kind of work?

Not beauty products.
Not lifestyle products.
Not fashion or glamour.

So it is left as a photograph for the model / MUA / photographer.

Again, that is fine for a single portfolio shot, but as a group it has no commercial value. And it doesn’t show the three most important things you can show in a portfolio.

1. a unique vision
2. the ability to solve a problem
3. an understanding of what kind of work is marketable

There are others, for sure, but these things should always be in the fore of thought when working toward building a portfolio.


As something to do to hone your skills, or if you simply love to do it, then KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. Absolutely! Personal projects are whatever the photographer wants them to be. And if you LOVE this kind of work, then you absolutely should continue… just be mindful of some of the thoughts above.

Remember, this is only MY opinion. And I am not FotoGawd!!!!

However, I would ask if you could find this work being used commercially anywhere (and the handful of ‘editorial’ images in Vogue or Elle, really don’t count as they are fairly rare. And when assigned, are usually given to already known photographers who may not even have a ‘fantasy’ headshot in their book)?

That search will indeed be enlightening, whatever you find.

HOWEVER… shooting personal work is very very important. And shooting what you love is vitally important for not only creative reasons, but to keep the camera and the eye busy.

And work like this, or whatever YOU think is the edgy work that you do, is great for projects and a personal viewpoint to show clients what YOU think is cool. Creating a project of “Fantasy” makeup makes a lot of sense to me within the context of a ‘Set’ of images.

Remember that it is more important to shoot than it is to filter out because of what you THINK someone would want to see. Good work in any genre will lead to more good work in that – and other genres.

See you next time.

Save $20 on my UDEMY Courses by using the code “Lighting Essentials”. This makes the price only $30.
My CreativeLIVE course on “Tabletop Product Photography” available here.
My CreativeLIVE “Lighting Essentials Workshop” available here.

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Bret Doss’s “Fallen Leaf” Series

Bret Doss’s “Fallen Leaf” Series

Bret Doss is a photographer and an engineer in Seattle, Washington. He and I have traveled the PNW together on occasion and he was my assistant on the Creative LIVE workshops.

He is a talented photographer with a wide range of interests. From fashionable portraiture to environments and still life, Bret brings a unique view to what he shoots.

In this recent “Improvisation” Bret turned his lens on leaves that fell on or near his porch. The images bring a subtle dynamic, and a visual twist, to something we have all seen… leaves.

Bret offers no explanation for these images, and I agree they need none. Fall is one of my favorite times of the year for photography, and shots like this are one reason.

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 06

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 05

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 03

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 04

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 02

FALLEN LEAF Series Oct ©Bret Doss 2012 01

This link will take you to the entire series.

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Gear List / Links for the UDEMY Portrait Class

Portrait Photography with Simple Gear

Link to the Class Page.

Stand (even better a stand and a boom)
Umbrella Holder
Umbrella (shoot through and bounce)
Flash (the kind that goes on the camera, but also has the ability to set the power manually)
A trigger set to fire the flash from the camera
Softbox (small or medium – get the best you can afford)
6 sheets of fome core or white cardboard
A 5-in-one or 6-in-one reflector set

Items for the class (note, these are affiliate links).


Flash Units:


Stand Toppers:

Mini Boom:




Extra items to consider:

A “Standbagger” for your gear. I have several for my big stands, but I love my two Standbagger “Grab-N-Go” bags for small flash work. You can see the entire Standbagger line here.

Flashmeter (light meter that can measure ambient light as well as flash).

Gray Cards and Light Balancing Tools:


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Facebook Slams the Door on Photographers

Facebook Slams the Door on Photographers

As photographers, Social Media takes a hit on all of our time. We do it for various reasons. Because it is fun. Because it is a good way to reach people who are otherwise not reachable. Because it is certainly a powerful part of the lives of all of us in business.

Facebook is certainly a big player in the Social Media world. Many photographers have used it to great advantage to help market their work, or grow their reach.

What were once called “Fan Pages” were changed to simply “Pages” a few years ago. And many of the people who are in small business saw this as a great opportunity to grow a community around their brand, share new work, create interest in innovative products.

And there were custom landing pages that allowed small businesses and photographers offer a premium for “liking” their page, as well as present a custom look to the normal Facebook UI. These custom pages could be set as the default home page for “Pages” allowing the FB business to control the entrance to the page.

Then that changed, and we have the timeline. The only customization that can be made is the top graphic. OK, fine. If it is across all pages, then it is somewhat “fair” I suppose.

My UDEMY course “Portrait
Photography with Simple Gear” is on sale
for 50% off until Friday, October 19, 2012.

But many photographers and small business owners have worked hard to get a lot of subscribers to “like” their page. These are people who ASKED to be kept apprised of posts and changes to the page.

Facebook just inserted them into the middle of this now by requiring the photographer to PAY to reach out to the people who ASKED to be kept apprised. (Right about now, someone is going to say… “well, FB is free so you shouldn’t complain”. Oh, please… that is simply bullshit and we aren’t even going to go there. FB charges advertisers to get access to me. A lot of money.)

So they expect me to spend from $5 to $20 to reach out to the people who have asked me to send them stuff. I will not comply (well, there have been two that I did ‘Promote” as they were essentially advertisements for my UDEMY course. For an ad, I have no problem with paying for the placement, so no problem there.)

From Photographer Neil van Niekerk;

“The linked articles above mention a loss of up to 60% of people that see the pages. I’m in the region on 90% if I have to roughly estimate it. By reposting the album of photos, I have been able to get more people to see it, but the numbers are still way down.

If this trend with Facebook continues, I’ll just put more accent on my blogs. FB doesn’t bring discernible income to me. It’s a marketing thing, sure. But I can’t say that I have had any income which was solely because of FB. I don’t have anything to sell in the way a retailer has … so there isn’t much driving me to pay FB money for other photographers to see my FB page.

I will just send the link to the FB albums to my clients, and they will share with family and friends, and I am content. That’s all I really need from this. But there is no reason for me to use Facebook to the extent I have in the past.”

You should absolutely read all of Neil’s post. It is far more detailed than I am going to get.

Like Neil, I find it difficult to continue to create content for Facebook if I am forced to pay for the reach I earned. I will probably hook up my twitter account to feed it, but the idea that I create specific work for my Facebook people when MOST will never see it makes me weigh the ROI of the work.

You can see in the chart below EXACTLY when FB changed their (secret) algorithm sending posts out to folks. From an average of 1670 readers to an average of 460 readers in a few days. The same days that FB changed it up.


I am preparing a longer post on what I think photographers should do now. But quickly, it is that it is now even more apparent… your BLOG / WEBSITE is still your best marketing tool. Every time we get a third party intermediary they begin to chip away at our wallets. Ya know!

There is no easy way to do anything, and working on a blog and a website can be hard work. You have to WORK for your readers, and you have to WORK for your content.

But no one is going to come between you and your readers.

See you next time.

“Want to Highlight Your New Facebook Pictures? Pay to Promote Them”
by Samantha Murphy at Mashable.

Yes, FB wants you to PAY to promote your personal shots of lunches and laundry.


A Hipstagram photo from recent trip through Maine.

A rock beach near Camden, Maine

A rock beach near Camden, Maine

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