Happy New Year Y’all!
It’s been two days since I’ve stepped foot outside thanks to the four inches of snow the recent southern blizzard has dropped on us this week. The plan was to have my new blog and site up and running this week but being all of us are iced in, that isn’t happening.
I will take this opportunity however to let you know that this domain, zarias.com, is going to be moving under the zackarias.com domain. I’m bringing everything together under one domain now. Portfolio, blog, workshop, etc. This domain will stay up for awhile and then become a redirect. All of this content will be in the new blog.
I’m also pleased and/or upset to announce that I’m dumping Media Temple as the host. I’ve had it with them and their lack of care or inability to keep my sites malware free. I’ve done my research and the mass of complaints about WordPress malware issues point back to blogs hosted on Media Temple. They denied it for the longest time and would not lift a finger to help clean my sites. Now they seem to help customers out with cleaning their sites but they won’t or can’t stop the infections. I know it’s on their side because I have friends with parked test domains on Media Temple and those sites, that no one knows anything about, are getting infected as well. I have a client only domain parked on Media Temple that has been infected as well. I’ve done all I know how to do to keep this site clean but I deal with at least one infection a week.
I’m not going to say who I am moving to right now because I’m going to get 100 comments on why or why not to go with that host. I will tell you that it isn’t one of the “big ten” that hit most of those whack web host review sites. I’m going for a smaller server company that isn’t on the h@ck3r5 radar like the large hosts.
So, this site will be down for a bit and then moving domain names all together. That will happen as soon as Atlanta thaws and I can meet up with our local web designer to get the new site uploaded, this blog transfered over, etc. Should be in less than a week!
I hope you are doing well in the new year. See you in Miami or Tampa this month at the OneLight?
———- Sale is now over. You all helped raise $5,000 for streetgrace.org today. Thank you! —————
Magcloud is now having a 25% off sale including the field guide. This sale is through Dec. 31st.
The original blog post about the sale is after the jump.
The original blog post minus the buy it now button is below.
For the first time ever I am having a sale on the OneLight DVD. Since we just launched the Field Guide with Magcloud and they are having a Black Friday sale on all of their publications (including the field guide) then I’m going to have a sale too!
You can order the OneLight DVD for you or a loved one today and today only for $100 + s&h.
This is for the DVD only. This does not include the normal swag (tshirt, CD, sticker pack). You can only order the DVD through the PayPal button on this page for today (11/26/10) and today only. There are going to be some random packages stuffed with some interesting stocking stuffers though! We’re going to have fun with this!
The Field Guide will be on sale at Magcloud from Midnight to noon today (11/26/10) PST. These two items will NOT ship together. The DVD comes from us and the Field Guide comes from Magcloud. You can find the Field Guide here. Remember their sale price starts at Midnight PST. I’m announcing this at Midnight EST so you’ll have to wait a few hours until their sale price kicks in if you are reading this soon after this post.
Since this is something I’ve only done once, I’m going to make it beneficial to you by getting a great price on the DVD and beneficial to an organization that Meg and I are starting to support. Proceeds from this sale will be going to an organization here in Atlanta called Street Grace.
Street Grace is a non-denominational alliance of churches dedicated to supporting, enlarging and allying with those individuals and organizations working toward eliminating the commercial sexual exploitation of children. Our friends at Whitestone Motion Pictures recently produced a short film called The Candy Shop to bring awareness to this problem. Please check them out and lend your support.
Happy holidays to you and yours! May you be blessed with watching this DVD on a 42″ plasma screen that you purchased at 5am this morning for $125… or something like that.
——-This offer has ended ——-
PS – Do you have an iPad? If so, download the free Magcloud app and be watching my Twitter feed throughout the day. You might just get something for Free.99 today. ——- This offer has ended ——
Ahhhh. The ubiquitous image. What is it saying? Peace? Thoughtfulness? No. It is saying frustration. Or is it peaceful frustration while being thoughtful? Girl. Hair. Flipping. Black clothes. Chain. Dreds. I don’t know. #whatev.
So, to continue on with the talks about the photo business we’ve been having around here let’s talk about stock photography.
Previous discussions :: “Oversaturated market you say?” and “Cheap photographers only kill themselves, not the industry.”
As per usual, this post is going to sort of banter on in one direction for awhile. I’ll bring it back home near the end. There’s lots of words and stuff in this one. Snooze. Fest. More after the jump.
Now, I’m not a stock photographer. I’m an assignment photographer. If you need a photo then I go out and shoot one just for you. I say this to qualify myself regarding this post. I’m looking into the stock industry from the outside. My only qualifications to speak about this are A) I personally know people working in the stock industry and B) I’m an assignment photographer who has lost work to the stock industry.
As I see it there are three kinds of stock photographers.
1) The seasoned stock shooter – This kind of photographer has been shooting for stock for at least 15 years. They have seen the stock industry from every angle. They know what it was like in the days of film and were at the forefront of the switch to digital. This kind of photographer has been impacted the most by the micro stock industry. I know folks who have closed their studios thanks to microstock.
2) The microstock shooter – This kind of photographer is shooting specifically for microstock. I have a number of friends working in this industry right now. Some of them have opened studios based on microstock.
3) The assignment to stock shooter – This kind of photographer takes assignments ranging from editorial to corporate shoots. They hold on to the ownership of their images and after the initial client’s needs are met they release those same photos into the stock world for additional sales and income.
Let’s have a short history lesson that may or may not be completely accurate.
Back in the day if you wanted to be a stock shooter you had quite a process to go through to be selected for a stock company. Some companies had a minimum of images they wanted to see from you. Some were 1,000, some were 5,000. Imagine walking into an office with 5,000 slides or negatives that you have culled down for stock. Once accepted there were some agencies that set minimums that you had to meet each year. You had to submit at least XXX images per year to stay in the catalog. Stock agencies would produce massive catalogs (read- boat anchor) of select images in their library to send to clients. You could flip through a 500 page catalog (read – boat anchor) that was broken down in sections. Stock agencies also had researchers on staff that would help clients find the right images. It was a huge undertaking of time, research, and resources to run and operate a stock photography agency and the prices to sell stock reflected this. It also meant the editors at these agencies were more selective of the photographers that would be represented in their libraries.
Bruce Livingstone came along and started iStockphoto and created microstock. Microstock is clearly defined as “cheap as sh*t photography for the masses.” You can now get an image for as little as .95 cents. In 2006 the behemoth known as Getty came along and bought iStockphoto for a reported $50 million and the skies opened up and the microstock flood began. Bill Gates’ company, Corbis, got in the game and it seems like Getty or Corbis will one day own every image ever made in the world with the way they are buying up stock agencies and photo collections. I envision a day where you can go to the store and get a free DSLR. That camera will have a SIM card and upload every image you take into a stock library. I wouldn’t put it past these monsters to at least try it. I mean, they aren’t making a profit now so why not give it a try?
How did this happen? Cheap DSLRs and the flood of new interest in photography during the digital revolution. You don’t have to send slides in now. You just upload images. You don’t have to have 5,000 images to be considered. You can get in a library with a single image. And now, you can get into it just by having a Flickr account. Now, I’m not so naive to think that it’s just “as easy as that” to be a microstock photographer. Shooting for microstock is a hard job. There is a lot that you must do to be successful in it. I think of it as day trading for penny stocks or something like that. You bust your ass all day long making pennies on the dollar on each sale but if you do enough volume it begins to pay off. I mean, the real beauty of selling stock online is you can go to bed at night and wake up with more money in your account than you had the night before. Your images are out there working for you as much as you are out there working for your images. My big take-a-way from this is… Your images are worth more than the microstock companies are selling them for.
I ignored the microstock industry for awhile until I know for a fact I lost some jobs to $3 images. That kind of sucked but life went on. Then I met some microstock shooters who are grossing about $80k+ a year on selling $3 images over and over and over and over again. I’ve seen the bank statements. It’s true. $80k and up for selling images for nothing? Really? That got my attention. A few years ago I looked into shooting microstock and this is what I figured out for myself… There’s no way I want to do it.
Without offending my friends and colleagues who shoot stock I have to make this statement… Stock photography, for the most part, sucks. It’s supposed to suck in some ways. It has to say everything and nothing all at once. It has to be generic to be really successful over time. If you can get an image to say “happy” and “sad” all at one time you have found success! If you are shooting for stock PLEASE don’t be offended by this. I know some of you are and some of you I count as friends and know this… I totally respect you and your work. You have found something in microstock and you’re paying your bills, feeding your kids, and living a good life so a big high five in Borat’s voice to you for that. Seriously. There are some amazing images in some microstock libraries and microstock companies are starting to cull their best work into higher priced and more selective collections that sell for a whole whopping $400 or something stupid like that. Stupid in that some of these images are worth a few thousand dollars and they are being sold for a fraction of their worth. And then some of them are worth $1 and are over inflated. It’s a crap shoot really.
I won’t shoot stock because A) It has to be generic and I don’t want to be a generic photographer. B) A few bucks for an image? Are you serious? I don’t care if it can sell it a gabillion times. I’m not selling an image for .95 cents or something like that. At least for now I’m not. One thing I’ve learned in this industry… never say never. You never know when you may have to diversify and you never know what part of the industry that may take you. If all hell broke loose in my life and I had to start this thing again… then maybe I’d be looking at microstock.
IF I was going to shoot for microstock the first thing I would do is brand my stock images under some name not associated with mine because at some point I would want to separate myself from my cheap as sh!t microstock work.
Here is a photo to break up all this dang boring text. I like this photo. It has nothing to do with this post. I bet it would make a horrible stock photo.
So microstock filled a “need” I guess. That’s what people defending cheap as sh*t photography say. People “needed” photography for less. I say they filled more of a “want” and not a “need”. Sure the Internet created a demand for dumb ass photos of girls in pant suits wearing a telephone headset for tech banner ads. Operators standing by. But the world doesn’t “need” a photo for .95 cents. They want it and so somebody came along and gave it to them. Now the flood won’t stop but it is going to come to an end as we now know it and that’s what I’m sitting on the sidelines waiting for. I have my 50 yard line seat, my bleacher cusion, my bucket of beer and popcorn, and my big foam finger waving in the air. I’ll let you guess which finger.
Bitter? No. Absolutely not. Cynical? No. I welcome the microstock industry. I’m all about the free market and if someone wants to sell images for a dollar and a photographer is fine with getting, .20, .30. or maybe .40 cents out of that deal then who am I to stop it? The good thing about the free market though is the market will dictate what happens. Either they find success or they fail and currently, microstock is failing and, IMHO, they continue to make stupid decisions. Let’s look at it like this.
A clients needs a photo for an annual report. This annual report has the potential to bring in tens of thousands of dollars to tens of millions of dollars in investments into the company. They need some great photography for this annual report. This annual report has a lot of value to the company so therefore the photo that runs in it has a lot of value. If photographs weren’t valuable then no one would want them and if no one wanted photos then none of us would have a job. So…
Possible hypothetical solutions ::
• Hire an experienced photographer to shoot the photo – $5,000 – $10,000+
• Hire an emerging, less experienced, photographer to shoot the photo – $1,000 – $5,000
• Buy an exclusive license to an image from a reputable stock agency – $1,000 – $3,000+
• Buy a basic license from a stock agency – $800 – $2,000
• Buy a microstock image – $1 – $300
Look at the price ranges above. Some of these numbers are pulled out of my backside but still based in real world situations and dealings. Notice that the price ranges overlap each other until you get to microstock. Microstock pricing is so far undervalued than any other option. What they should have done from the very beginning is price their images higher. Had microstock had an entry level pricing plan starting at $100 they would have still been a VERY affordable option for many people. Had it been me I would have started stock pricing in the range of $100 – $500 per image instead of $1 – $50. They lowballed themselves from the very start and now that there is so much competition in the field these companies are fighting over pennies instead of dollars. I’ve heard this statement on many sites regarding the microstock industry… “These companies seem to be in a race for the bottom.”
Now images starting for $1 are the “norm” and these companies can not sustain themselves. iStock CEO, Kelly Thomson, has a post on their forums about changes in contributors payouts. Check out this quote…
Since roughly 2005 we’ve been aware of a basic problem with how our business works. As the company grows, the overall percentage we pay out to contributing artists increases. In the most basic terms that means that iStock becomes less profitable with increased success. As a business model, it’s simply unsustainable: businesses should get more profitable as they grow. This is a long-term problem that needs to be addressed.
Check out this notice about iStock getting in bed with Getty. “Nothing’s going to change…” Yeah, except contributors payouts. That’s going to change. But everything else will stay the same. Maybe.
There’s a massive amount of information in the quote above. They’ve been aware of a problem with their business model for five years. It’s like putting a ship out to sea when you know there’s a hole in the bottom of it. They knew the more successful they became the harder it would be to stay in business. They packed it off (read – sold the leaking boat) to Getty for $50 million and Getty sure isn’t known for being keen business developers. So instead of raising prices of stock to find a sustainable profit margin and STILL come in cheaper than traditional stock or assignment photography… they choose to cut the royalties they are paying to their contributors. Brilliant plan.
“Let’s starve the people who plant the crops we sell. The crops we sell, Bee Tee Double-U, for less than they are worth.”
As we can see, they already have a great track record of seeing they have a problem and not really doing the right things to solve it.
All of this sounds like Wal-Mart. Who in the hell in the photo industry would want to be associated with Wal-Mart? Sure they are successful but to what end? To the end of other companies in their towns and to their own vendors. I look at Getty and Corbis as the Wal-Mart of photography. Read this article from Fast Company about a jar of pickles. It is the microstock equivalent of what I’m talking about in this blog post.
I stopped shopping at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club last year because walking into their stores was much like looking through a microstock library. “Look at all of this shit that we don’t need but we want it.” People want this crappy plastic whatever and they want it for $1.97.” It’s true. I walked into a Wal-Mart one day last year, saw all the crap on the shelves, and I felt sick about neon pink plastic something-or-anothers that were on sale for $1.97 and they were damn near stacked to the ceiling and they all came from China. Truckloads of crap we don’t need, shipped from the other side of the earth, stacked to the ceiling. What the @#$# are we doing? I walked out and never went back.
I know what you are saying… Who the hell am I to sit from outside and armchair quarterback my thoughts into a market in which I don’t work? You’d be somewhat right to answer with “I’m a nobody with nothing to say.” But I am an assignment photographer who tries to educate my clients and my industry about the value of what we do. I’m also a photographer who has lost jobs to microstock. So companies slinging photos for less than a dollar sort of impacts the message I’m trying to convey AND the business I’m trying to run.
Another issue with all of this is the more successful you are with an image in microstock the image, in my mind, becomes less valuable. If you’ve sold an image 1,000 times then great success! But that image is out there 1,000 times in God-only-knows of what forms and uses. Check out this great compilation of the use of one microstock image. Over and over and over again the image goes. From one web site to another. From IT to bad credit loans for cosmetic surgery. You’re a company trying to promote your brand and you use the same images for the bad credit loan company? Seriously?
Ok Zack… bring it home. Microstock, as I see it, is a big over inflated balloon and these companies are still pumping air into it and I fear as they try to become profitable it will come at the price of paying their contributors less money.
I wanted to buy a stock image for this blog post. I got on the big stock sites and started looking for images. I typed in a few keywords and 800,000 images came back. I refined my keywords and 900,000 images came back! Nine hundred effing thousand pictures. I refined my search and got more results. I should have gotten fewer. I went from site to site and could only stomach about 20 pages of results for each. It was the same image over and over again with an occasional “oh wow, that’s pretty interesting but still not working” photograph. I mean, pixel for pixel these photos weren’t the same but they might as well have been. Tens of thousands of images that all look alike.
Put yourself in your client’s chair trying to find the right image. Not only do you have all these places boasting they have 25,000,000 photos and counting but now all of Flickr and its gabillion trillion jillion photos is opened up to find stock. DeviantArt got in on this game recently as well. You have 20 sites with 20 million images each and some of them cross pollinating polluting to each other so you’re getting the same bland results from brand to brand. You ask for a drink and someone opened a fire hydrant in your face and that water isn’t necessarily filtered very well. You’re getting the drink you asked for but you might just get sick to your stomach drinking what you asked for. You just need one image of a girl and/or guy doing a thing, holding a thing, communicating an emotion. You find an image that could work but see it’s been downloaded 3,000 times already so who knows where that image is sitting. Oh, and you have until the 10th to buy that image because there’s a notice on the front page that this particular stock company is going out of business.
From the folks on the buying end of microstock that I work with and have talked to about this matter, they hate the experience of searching for stock. Hate it. I’ve yet to meet anyone that enjoys the process of searching microstock. The only reason they are there is because their clients are demanding lower budgets for projects. As soon as they have a budget for photography microstock is NEVER an option because the process of finding the right image is worse than getting a root canal. And the larger these libraries get, the more painful it is to search through them.
How about you just give my studio a call at 404-939-2263. We’ll find out what your needs are and create an image for you and give you a great license for your needs and we will work with your budget provided it isn’t $1. You’re going to spend a week or two finding the perfect stock image. How much is a week of your time worth? Suddenly you have more of a budget than you thought and your eyes won’t be bleeding at the end of the process.
That’s what I’m on the sidelines with my big foam finger waiting for. Microstock can serve all the bad credit loans clients they want. Go for it. But from my discussions I’ve had with photo editors and art directors who have, at some point, been pushed by clients to use stock to save money, these PE’s and AD’s are pushing back saying money has to be found to hire a photographer for the job or the client is going to have to pay for hefty research fees and eye replacement surgeries. Suddenly assignment photography isn’t such a bad option.
The last take away, and the next blog post in this series, is watch your pricing. If you are getting started as a photographer you’re going to be pretty darn cheap but know that what you do has value. Know that if you are going to sustain yourself you will have to price yourself accordingly. These large microstock companies have millions in revenue but they are still trying to become sustainable. Get the cheap jobs and experience under your belt as soon as you can so you can move to sustainability as soon as possible. Don’t be five years into your business knowing you are in a losing situation. It’s one thing if you have an international corporation pouring cash into your bottomless pit. It’s another thing when you are a one person shop trying to feed kids.
PS – This is not an exhaustive look into the stock industry. This is not an end all be all statement as to the state of the industry. This is one guy with one opinion stating his viewpoint from where he sits. I’m looking forward to your comments because I know for a fact a few of you will have a different take on some of these points that will challenge and/or change my viewpoint on some of this.
PPS – How soon do you think the whole Flickr stock thing is going to come to a screeching halt when the first few lawsuits hit because somebody forges a model release to make a few bucks? Think it’s expensive to work with a professional? Wait until you see how much it can cost working with an amateur.
The OneLight Field Guide is finally out! It only took 11 months and that many redesigns but it was worth it. Looking at the state of the guide now compared to where it started I’m glad that it’s late. It’s better than the first few editions.
The guide showcases more than 50 images ranging from bands to models to brides. Mostly bands and models. For the first half of the guide I explain the gear and the settings used to create the image. For the second half I showcase images using the same gear and approximate settings. You’ll find tips and tricks throughout the guide that go beyond the scope of apertures, shutter speeds, and modifiers. I walk you through single light sources and then introduce you to multiple lights and how to deal with that. It’s made for folks who would like to keep a cookbook of scenarios on hand while out shooting.
Everything is straightforward and easy to grasp. It is made to complement the OneLight DVD and/or workshop so it isn’t supposed to be a step by step by step guide on how to use flash. That’s covered at length in the DVD and workshop. If you are comfortable with the basic principles of off camera lighting, but you have not been to a OneLight workshop or have not seen the OneLight DVD, then you will still enjoy this guide.
I developed this guide for people who came to the 2010 OneLight workshops. Enough folks heard about it and asked if I would release it for sale. I went back and forth on that for awhile and was not going to do it because I felt the cost of doing so wasn’t worth it. Then I started reworking it through MagCloud and I was able to get the cost of the guide under $30. If you were a participant at a OneLight this year then you should have gotten an email from Meg already. If you did not, check the email address that you signed up for the workshop with or check your spam filter. You have to reply to her through that email address to get this shipped to you at no charge. For those that have replied, your order has been placed and will be shipped to the address you provided.
I know what many of you are going to ask… Why in print? Why not a PDF download for $5 or something? I’ve gone back and forth about that a number of times and I will most likely revisit my thoughts on this at some point… but for now… it is in print and print only.
We shoot with digital cameras. We look at our images on a computer. We read blogs. We look at more digital photos than we can count. For this project, and the next, I wanted it to be in print. Something you can hold on to that doesn’t also check email. To be very honest with you, it would be MUCH easier to just release this as a PDF. It would also be more profitable to sell. It costs me more and makes me less to make it available in print but it has more value in print so I’m going with that right now.
Plus… This is a dry run for a new project that has been kicking around in my head for over a year. I’ve been wanting to launch a photography magazine for awhile now and this is the “first issue” of that magazine. Now, the magazine in my head looks completely different than this field guide. The field guide is just a taste. A scratch on the surface of what I’m planning. DEDPXL is the name and it will be a semi-annual to quarterly magazine launching in January. It will be print on demand like this guide and it will be an organic publication that starts with people I know who have a lot to offer.
It will be independent as f#*%. Meaning, we will not be accepting advertising or sponsorships for this magazine. You can not buy advertising space. You just can’t. There won’t be gear reviews so don’t send your stuff. It will be a showcase of emerging work, insights into the running of a business and the photo industry as a whole, how to’s on the technical, and a sounding board for a number of voices in the industry… both positive and negative. Business & Craft.
I will not be taking submissions for articles right now. It is a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” kind of a thing and my list is already full for 2 or 3 issues. (Not that I’ve gotten in touch with all of you on that list.) There will be a call for certain things here and there. You’ll see. I think it’s going to be pretty awesome and there isn’t anything quite like it on the shelves today.
Lastly, I’m not doing this as a new business venture. It’s a personal project. I can’t wait to get it off the ground. Since I can’t find a hobby, I’m going to start a photography magazine.
Until then, have a look at the OneLight Field Guide. I hope you enjoy it. It is available on MagCloud for $28 + shipping.
Or… Why does this photographer have to be so cynical?
I’m having “one of those days”. I’m stressed. I have more on my plate than I know what to do with. End of year means taxes and accounting which means I’m ready to find that short pier to take a long walk on. I saw a “Top 10 ways to become a pro photographer” link on Twitter this morning. Those are becoming more and more popular these days. And, IMHO, they are becoming more lame. Things like “Order business cards!” or “Put your images on a website!”. Another fun one is “Play with different lighting!” and those are followed by three or four vauge sentences that have zero value to them. More noise. Less signal.
Being a professional photographer can never be summed up in any sort of “top 10″ list. I could make a top 10 list of why an 85mm 1.8 lens is a good lens. I could also make a top 10 list as to why an 85mm 1.8 lens is not a good lens. There are 20 list items right there and it only scratches the surface of a single lens. If you have to add “put images on a web site” as a top 10 list of things to do then who in the hell is your target audience? Infants? And I’m not talking metaphorical infants. Order business cards? Note to bloggers… if you have to state the bare bones minimum obvious… don’t bother.
Why am I so stressed out today? Because being a professional photographer, or rather, being a small business owner is a hard effing job. Last night Meg and I were sitting at our dining room table. The kids were in bed. The kitchen was a wreck. Laundry is coming out of our ears. The dog needs a bath. She has a migraine. I have muscle spasms in my back and we were in a pretty heated discussion about taxes, accounting, bank statements, expenses, budgets, and the like. We were two team members of the same team having it out in our own locker room. She was stressed. I was stressed. Running a business and being a photographer is amazing but it takes a toll on you at times.
Last night I sat down at the dining room table and announced that I’m ready to throw in the towel. I want my job back at Kinko’s. I want to go to work, drone on for someone else, and come home and turn it off. I want someone else to worry about taxes. I want to look forward to always having two days off a week. I want to go back to being anonymous and useless and overlooked. That’s how I felt at Kinko’s and last night it was the greenest grass I’ve seen on the other side of the fence in a long time. This is coming off the heels of hosting Joe Effing McNally in my studio just the night before. One of my heros was in MY studio and the very next day I’m ready to take a match to the whole damn thing and walk away. Note that I don’t want to throw it in because I’m comparing myself to others. It’s just hard sometimes to be a husband and father, run a business, and engage with people. Sometimes, no matter how many good things are going on, sometimes… you just want to give up.
ETA – I am in no way going to do this of course. By God’s good grace I’ll be doing this till I die.
So this morning when I see this insane, stupid, “captain obvious”, top 10 things to be a professional photographer list I wanted to scream at the internet web site page I was reading. It might as well have been a top 10 list on how to fly a 1980′s era Soviet fighter plane that goes like this…
#10 – Climb into the cockpit.
#9 – Familiarize yourself with all the dials and stuff.
#8 – Learn about how jet engines work and why they are used on air-eee-o-planes.
#7 – Go forward real fast and when you’re at that good speed make the plane go up in the air.
Do you see how absolutely useless this list is to someone who would actually want to fly an 80′s era Soviet fighter plane? So a “how to be a professional photographer” list that includes things like “make a portfolio” or “try different lighting and stuff” is an exercise in being useless. It’s an exercise in making more noise than signal.
So in my typical “escape reality and do something fun instead of something important” I thought I would come up with a quick top 10 list to becoming a pro photographer. Let’s see if we can make so much noise it actually becomes a signal.
#10 – Breathe! – I can’t tell you how important it is to constantly breathe when you are professional photographer. Not only does it help you make great photos but if you can keep breathing long enough after a photoshoot then you’ll be able to collect the check from the client. Try different kinds of breathing too! In through the nose and out the mouth. Or in and out of the mouth. Talk to your customers about how you like it in and out of the mouth.
#9 – Try out a digital camera! - Boy howdy! Digital cameras are becoming all the rage in 2010! For only a few hundred dollars or a few thousand dollars you can take photos that don’t need film! Digital photography allows you to take pictures and see them as soon as they are downloaded on a computer! It’s almost instant! The Russians have now developed computer tools to work on your digital photographs! Check out this internet web site with all the details! If you buy a digital camera make sure you get a good one like a Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, or iPhone.
#8 – Everytime you see a tree… take a photo of it! – Have you ever thought about how important trees are in the world? They help us achieve number 10 on this list! Everyone loves trees and if you have a lot of pictures of trees everyone will love you. When showing your photos of trees to people talk about how you were thinking about the innocence of that tree at the moment of capture. Or point out the transcendental qualities of light and form as the moon beams of uranus waft through the branches. People will think you’re quite the artist.
#7 – Make a portfolio! – Take two or three hundred of your best photographs and make a portfolio! You need this to show to people how good of a photographer you are! I like to make mine out of half inch galvanized steel because it’s really impressive and useful for many other things in life!
#6 – Take pictures of kids! – Parents love their kids and they love photos of their kids! If you don’t have kids then go to your local park and take lots of photos of children. Try shooting from different angles like from inside the bushes, behind trees, or from your parked car for really “exciting opportunities.” You’ll soon meet all of the parents of the kids you are taking photos of as well as lots of local law enforcement officers who, lots of times, have kids too! If they come up to you with baseball bats in hand be sure to have your portfolio from #7 with you. That steel cover is going to be useful to protect yourself. Drop a few of your business cards as you run away. Always market yourself!
#5 – Move to New York City! – Lots and lots of photographers are in New York City. Lots of people who love photography are in New York City. It only makes perfect sense to grab your camera bag and move there to open as big of a photo studio as you can find! Fill that studio with things like backgrounds, lighting, and tripods of different sizes and colors and you’ll be on your way to the bank! I’m not sure what you’ll be doing once you get to the bank but it might involve a ski mask and a paper bag with a note attached to it. Ask the teller if they have kids.
#4 – Join the social media revolution! – With internet web sites like myspace and friendster becoming so popular these days you’ll need to be on there to meet people. You’ll also find many opportunities to win free stuff for all of the online surveys these internet web sites have to offer! Add lots of spinning cameras that make noises to your internet web site pages because you want people to notice you and nothing is better than animated gifs of cameras. Also try out Xanga. Check out another awesome version of my blog to see what I’m talking about!
#3 – Make your own lenses! – Did you know that professional lenses can cost up to $189? As you are getting started you might need to save some money and one way to do that is to make your own lenses. The most important thing to remember is the convex lens curves outward; a biconvex lens curves outward on both sides, and a plano-convex lens is flat on one side and outwardly curved on the other. There are also concave lenes, biconcave, and plano-concave lenses. The elements are not necessarily symmetrical and can curve more on one side than the other. Thickening the middle of the lens relative to its edges causes light rays to converge or focus. Lenses with thick edges and thin middles make light rays disperse.
#2 – Wear socks! On your feet! – I’ve met a lot of professional photographers in my life and one thing that they all have in common is almost all of them, with few exceptions, wear socks… on their feet. I notice this because I’m a photographer and I’m supposed to notice the details in life and find beauty in those details. The next time you meet a professional photographer ask them to take their pants off and see if they are wearing socks. You’ll be shocked at how they react to your noticing details like this and they will know that you are a lot like themselves. You will now have friends in “the industry”! Talk about the moon beams from uranus with your new friends.
#1 – Try to get people to comment on your blog by asking them what the #1 way to become a professional photographer is….
NOT only did he whoop me on single image votes but he also won most votes overall for his five images against mine. He won 1,451 votes against my 1,242 votes. His single best image won with 867 votes. I came in second place with 509 votes with this image…
In the original post Jason’s photos were 1, 3, 4, 7, & 9. Mine were 2, 5, 6, 8, 10.
It’s always fun to go out and shoot with another photographer you admire and respect. It’s even more fun to go out and shoot with a photographer you admire and respect and make it a competition. Then it is interesting to see how the public views the outcome of the images when it goes to a vote. The big take away from this is… None of y’all know great photography when you see it!!! :) I’m just kidding.
Jason… Congratulations. Enjoy your sucksess for the next year. Maybe you should even start placing “Photographer of the year” in your bio and on your website. Know this… I’m coming back next year to this light fight as Iniogo Montoya…
We’ll have the BTS video that Jason’s crew shot online this week AS WELL as a post about the “light saber” I was using for this shoot-out. There’s a new modifier in town and it’s pretty awesome. But evidently not awesome enough for me to win this shoot-out.
Today my good friend and collegue, Jason Groupp, and I had a shoot-out in the streets of NYC. We have been talking smack for two weeks about this on Twitter and we now have the results of our bravado.
******* Voting is now closed. Results here. *******
Click “more” to see the rest of the original post and photos…
Here is how it worked. Jason booked Amanda and Sean to be our subjects. Jason set up the first shot and he had five frames to execute it. Then I had to use the same location and execute a shot in five frames. I then chose the next location, shot five frames, and then Jason would shoot five frames. We piggy backed like that for six locations. At the sixth and final location I challenged Jason to tape his LCD screen. I did the same. We had five frames to shoot, with lights, without meters, and no chimping. It was a blast!
We have now picked our top five images and you are going to vote on who won best image of the shoot-out. This will be like a presidential election. One image will be the top photo of the day and then we will tally the votes of each image and see who received more total votes than the other and they will be crowed “President of Light” or something stupid. I have a feeling this might just be an annual thing.
So here are the images. Vote at the bottom of the page. Voting will continue through PhotoPlus this weekend and we will announce the results at the first of next week along with a behind the scenes video of the shoot and some of our out takes.
Thanks for voting!
Atlanta based film maker phenom, Brandon McCormick, and his unreal team of talent at Whitestone Motion Pictures has produced a short film about the sexual exploitation of children.
I can not tell you how much respect Meg and I have for Brandon and the WMP team he has built. He pours his heart and soul into his work and produces not for the money but for the greater good of humanity. I’m not going to turn this into part of our industry discussions though. Just check out the trailer above and do your part to help spread the word about this film.
First, thanks for all of your input on the first blog post of this series. As usual, your comments are far more interesting, entertaining, and thought provoking than anything I write here. If you haven’t read through those yet, you should. What’s interesting to note in the comments there is how the tone of comments changes through the 100+ of them. They start off friendly enough and then somewhere in the middle a few feathers begin to get ruffled. That’s fine. That’s welcomed. It’s a very interesting time in our industry right now and it’s good to have passionate discussion about it. The smart photographers will sit with open minds and get a bit introspective and take a look at their own business practices. The stupid photographers will sit from on high and just point fingers OR sit at the bottom and think, “I’m banking an extra $1,000 a month that I don’t claim with my $800 camera!”
Anyway. Check out that photo above. It’s some stop light advertising for a wedding photographer advertising weddings starting at $350. Man… that’s cheap. Is this person part of the problem in our industry? Absolutely not. I admire the hustle. I admire the fact that they are trying. Now – if you are the type of pro photographer that looks at that and says, “This is everything that is wrong with this damn industry! You can’t be a pro charging $350 for a wedding! What an A-hole!” Yeah, if you’re that photographer let me challenge you.
Think of the brides out there who don’t have a budget but want some photos of their weddings. Maybe there are young couples getting married who don’t have the parents to pay for a big event or they don’t want to start their young family in debt but they would like someone to come take some pictures. Are you saying that if they can’t afford a $3,000+ photographer then they don’t deserve photos? Are you saying that if they can’t afford a Mercedes then they shouldn’t be allowed to drive? Shame on you. Not everyone can afford pro level prices. That doesn’t mean they can’t have some level of photographic services available to them.
Let me tell you a little something about my journey being the cheap photographer after the jump…
I started out shooting bands seven years ago for free. Then I charged $50. Then I charged $75. Then I charged $150. Within a year I was up to $250 and I leveled off there for awhile and I was busy shooting bands. My goal was to shoot 10 bands a month at $250 each and fill in the rest of my financial needs with second shooting for Marc and and any other jobs I could gather. After a year of marketing to bands I was shooting 20 bands a month at $250. I doubled my goal and darn near became the Olan Mills of music photography. You know what happend? I almost lost my business.
This is what happens when you are the low ball cheap photographer. You either don’t get enough work to stay alive and you have to quit the business or you get so busy being the low ball cheap photographer that you can’t keep up with the workload and you have to quit the business and that’s what happened to me. You can only stay cheap for so long before you have to make a change to your pricing to either stay alive because you aren’t getting enough work, or to get fewer clients so you can keep up with the workload and actually have a day off from time to time.
Some of you may be reading this and think, “20 bands at $250 each = $5,000 a month = $60,000 a year.” and you’re thinking you would LOVE to have that “problem”. If you are young, single, no kids, no pets, living in a crap apartment and drive a crap car and have no plans of paying taxes then yes… $60k a year shooting seems really nice but let me tell you what it’s like in the “real” world.
First of all, thanks to our tax codes you can go ahead and take about 30% of that and give it to the government. If it’s not in income tax it will go to taxes somehow so just budget for that. I want to buy a house one day and to do that as a self employed person I have to show that I actually make money doing this. If I don’t claim my income on my taxes then I have no paperwork to show that I have income when it comes to buying a home so I claim every penny I make. It’s very tempting to hide income and it’s quite easy to do as well but one day it will catch up with you and you’re going to be hosed. Render unto Caesar and all that. You just have to.
So our $60k just dropped to $48k a year. How much does it take you to live? Let’s put you in a $900 apartment + utilities, add some car insurance, a set of tires, a new transmission for your crap car, a 24-70 2.8 lens, food, and some beer money. Life can easily cost around $2,000 a month in many places. Especially places that actually have 20 bands a month to grace the doors of your business. That’s $24,000 so you have $24,000 left in income for the year.
Wow! That’s a ton of money! Awesome!
Now throw kids into the mix and your life easily got $1,000 a month more expensive. Now we have about $12,000 a year in profit. Not bad. $1,000 extra bucks a month. Oh wait. You’re shooting 20 bands a month. That’s a lot of driving. I totally forgot to add gas in this mix. Oh yeah, and you need some insurance on that new lens. You think you’re going to get 20 bands a month coming in the door without some sort of advertising, networking, marketing, and web presence? Nope. Tap, tap, tap on the calculator and I can tell you for certain that when I was bringing in $5,000 a month on bands I had about $250 left over every month. It could take four months to replace a $1,000 camera. Please note that you haven’t bought so much as a new pair of socks with this budget. You’re eating cardboard three times a day as well. Want to take a vacation? No can do. Want health insurance? Hahahahahahahaha! That’s a funny one! You want health insurance. Silly photographer! You’re ONLY bringing in $60,000 a year. You can’t afford health insurance. Better budget for some vitamins.
Look at the workload as well. 20 bands in a month. It was rare that I shot more than one band in a day so that’s 20 days of shooting. You have 10 days left to do the post production, answer emails, network, spend time with friends and family, sleep, etc. You’re in a dying marriage. You’re trying to keep your business alive. You’re trying to be everything to everyone. Husband. Dad. Artist. It’s a hard life that can lead to a divorce lawyer. Not that I know anything about that at all. Replace divorce lawyer with car wreck or cancer or broken arm. You’re barely staying alive bringing in $60,000 a year and I was living in a cheap place and driving beater cars. I did have a small studio space and that was part of my marketing. I was competing with other young music photographers and I had to separate myself from the small pack of us in Atlanta and part of that was stepping up from the coffee shop office to a studio space.
I was so covered up in work that I couldn’t keep up with it. I either had to start raising prices or I was going to die. I once figured out that I was making about $5 an hour. Note that I quit a $10 an hour job for this. Hmmmm. Nice job Zack. Be your own boss and make less than a slacker in a copy shop.
Did you visit the site of the photographer in the photo above? Notice that they are out of business. No idea what they are doing now with their life. Maybe they raised their prices, ditched the brand, became a better photographer, and now go by the name of Joey Lawrence.
When I started raising my prices I didn’t get as many clients as I used to but my income stayed about the same. It helped me take a few days off. It helped me take a breather and work on my business. I started diversifying my income and started attracting new clients. I could start focusing on my craft again. I got my very own set of Pocket Wizards after two and half years of shooting full time. I started to see the value of what I do. The clients I attracted saw the value as well. And that attracted new business.
My pricing for bands is a tad higher than $250 these days. I’ve seen real growth in my business and at some point I’ll have to blog about the fact that I am not where I am today without the help of others to get me here. I didn’t do it on my own and I still don’t do it on my own. People like Michael Weeman, Erik Dixon, Kara Pecknold, Sherri Innis, and Dan Depew have helped me as I’ve branched into new opportunities and those new opportunities continue bringing in opportunities. I still hustle. I still have to continue pushing. There are photographers that are far more expensive than I am and there is an army of shooters under cutting me to the bone… but I stay afloat. I’m still alive. I still don’t have health insurance. Still haven’t purchased my home. Still shooting Alien Bees instead of Profotos. I don’t fret over the cheap photographer. I actually tip my hat to you and say “Good luck and good shooting.” It’s a hard life but at the end of the day… for those of you who can’t seem to do anything else with your lives… photography is the greatest job in the world no matter if you’re getting $50 or $50,000 for a shoot.
This isn’t the post about pricing you may think it’s becoming. That’s for a different time. I’ve laid this all out to make the point that cheap photography has it’s place. It has it’s place for clients who can’t afford much and it has it’s place for photographers trying to build something from nothing. It’s part of becoming a full time working photographer in an age when so many want to become a photographer. I have a lot of respect for John Harrington. By a lot I mean boat loads. I understand what he’s saying in this post about shooting for free but I have to wonder… how in the hell did he get started as a photographer? I’m pretty certain he didn’t buy a camera one day and start invoicing $1,000 a day the next. I don’t think he landed his job at The World & I magazine without some sort of portfolio of work that I can only imagine was made up of pretty cheap photo shoots. Maybe I’m wrong. I am the antithesis to every point he is fighting against in that blog post and I’ve built a career off of it and from what I can gather – I didn’t kill the industry doing so.
Hyundai didn’t kill Mercedes. McDonalds didn’t kill Ruth’s Chris. Wal-mart didn’t kill the mom-n-pop shop… oh wait.
Up next… Microstock. Now there’s something to look at.
Sometime after that I want to have a discussion about shooting for free as if that discussion has been beaten to death already… because guess what… Shhhhhhh. Don’t tell anyone… (I still shoot jobs for free every now and then.) Shhhhhhhh.
Everyone wants to be a photographer these days.
Let me warn you now that this blog post is currently in it’s third state of revisions. It’s a real rambler. If you’re up for it, I’m up for it. More after the jump.
If you hang out on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like enough you can “stumble upon” some trends without even trying to. Lately I have seen a number of articles flying around about the over saturation of the photography industry, the unsustainability of the microstock market, and the pros and cons of working for “free”. The “abuse” we photographers receive at the hands of our clients and totally absurd Craig’s List postings of people wanting work for free or photographers giving away the farm for nothing.
Here are a few of the articles that most people are talking about these days.
• Photo business guru John Harrington over at Black Star Rising talking about the 12 excuses for shooting for free. This article is the one that got me thinking about doing this blog post.
• David Hobby (Strobist) about working for free. Another must read.
• Rob Haggart (A Photo Editor) about the unsustainability of the micro stock industry. Canary in the coal mine?
Let’s start with the “over saturated” market premise.
I, Zack Arias, am part of the over saturated market. I am one of the many who are filling the waters of this industry. Every job I take is a job off of the table of another photographer. I am a working photographer in large part due to the prevalence of affordable DSLRs, the expense of film and development being removed from my up front overhead, and the Internet.
I’ll be so bold to say that if you have entered this industry in the last ten years then you too are part of the over saturation equation. If you are thinking about becoming a pro photographer, whether part time or full time, then you are over saturating the market as well. I would say the “standard saturation” photographers are the ones who have been in the game, full time, without gaps, for more than ten years.
Let’s break this thing down.
In the days of Kodachrome and dinosaurs there were some pretty set rules of engagement and paths of entrance into the photography industry. You usually started by going to photography school or you started working in a lab. You had to get your feet wet somewhere and school and photo labs were a good place to get started. Once you were ready to move forward you started assisting working photographers. Many times you would have done this for free. I have assisted and interned for free many times and I have met countless photographers who started by schlepping bags and fetching coffee for nothing or next to nothing in pay. It’s what you did. It’s how you got to see how a “real” photographer worked. It was called… get this… “paying your dues.”
These days those paths aren’t so clearly defined. You can go to school via blogs, workshops, YouTube, and DVD’s. You can upload pictures to flickr and suddenly get a message from an art director wanting you to shoot a job. You can be a kid from Canada, travel the world, shoot some bands and end up shooting campaigns for a company you aren’t even old enough to buy their product. You can be inspired by your own wedding photographer, buy a camera, a fast lens, and rise to the top of your zip code within a year. You can go to Wal Mart, buy a cheap DSLR, shoot your friends and family, shoot their friends and families, put a blog together, and start a business. There are so many easy entry points into the market now. There is an abundance of inexpensive cameras, free learning portals, and free advertising routes that allows just about anyone with a camera to get out there and make a little or a lot of money with it.
The worst part about all of this is you don’t even have to be all that good of a photographer to get into the game. That really is the worst part about it all but hang out at enough photography water coolers and you’ll hear stories from “back in the day” about the same damn things. Being a crappy photographer with a profitable business is nothing new. There were just more up front costs to deal with back then. Now it’s just easier to be a crappy sucksessful photographer. Add insult to injury… You can be a fairly mediocre photographer these days and have a workshop teaching others how to be just as mediocre as you are. Meh. Whatever. It is what it is.
Add to all of this the deteriorating morale in the corporate workplace, the need of many to make an extra $100 here and there, unemployment, the recession, blah blah blah, and the fact that a lot of people find it a whole lot cooler to say “I’m a photographer” at social gatherings instead of saying “I’m a systems analyst at a health care company.” Bring this all together into the perfect shit storm of an industry filled to the gills with Joe and Jane Photographers trying to do something cool with their lives AND make some money doing it. I mean, Quicken and Quickbooks didn’t really over saturate the accounting market did it? Maybe I’m wrong.
I’m right here part of it all. I’m part of the over saturated market. You’re part of the over saturated market. Don’t bitch and moan and complain about it because you’re in it with the rest of us.
What do we do with that information? Here we all are. Up to our necks in each other. We watch ten leave because they can’t take the pressure and twenty more take their place. It all gets just a little tighter around here. The last thing in the world you need to do is complain about the situation… unless of course, you’ve been at this for twenty or more years. In that case, my apologies to you. I know you’re feeling the pressure of all of us new kids in the pool but here we are and it’s the only pool in town for us. Complaining about us isn’t making us leave and don’t think for a second that I didn’t just notice the water around me get a lot warmer.
Blah blah blah. Metaphor upon metaphor.
So it’s competitive. Guess what? Photography has always been competitive. I don’t know of any other time in this industry when it wasn’t competitive. The nice thing about the industry these days is it seems that most of us are now open to share our experiences with others. Gone are the days of everyone playing with their cards close to their chests. If you are still trying to stay in this industry with that sort of attitude your days are numbered. It’s a real hippy love fest around here these days and we young punk kids ain’t got no time for your old ways of doing things.
Us young punk kids actually really need you to stick around. We need the long established pros to help us out. I know you want us out of your pool but that isn’t happening any time soon. The better you can adapt the better you can survive. Part of adapting is now requiring you to kind of be a life gaurd even though you’d probably just be as happy to watch us all drown.
So. Yeah. Over saturated. Your attitude should shift from “This sucks.” to “So what?”. Big Deal. More at the party dude!
How can I run a business will all these $500 wedding photographers in my town?
That’s the next thing we are going to look at. I’ll let you in on this… I’m all for $500 wedding photographers. For many different and sometimes conflicting reasons. Then we’ll look at the micro stock situation. Is it the canary in the coal mine? Then let’s have a conversation about what it all means at the end of the day and will the industry adjust and what will that look like?
*I actually like to listen to the song above as “The dark days are over” and the horses coming aren’t here for destruction.
Friend and colleague, David E Jackson, has recently published this video on his blog about his thought process behind a recent conceptual shoot.
As you are starting on your photographic journey many of your questions will be dealing with cameras and lenses and their settings. What lights were used and with what modifiers. What photoshop actions were used. Etc. Then the day will come when cameras, lenses, lights and all of their settings don’t mean a damn thing to you any more. What you want to know from other photographers is what was the thought process behind a certain photo or series of photos. Dave does a good job breaking that down. Watch the video to hear how he thinks… not which aperture he used.
I’ve been saying for a long time that Dave is “one to watch” and this recent shoot of his only confirms that. Check out his blog for photos and more BTS action for this shoot. Great jorb homestar!
Anytime I’m traveling to a new place I am always on the look out to shoot some portraits. I put a call out on Twitter last week for musicians in London who might be looking for some new shots and fellow photographer, Romain Kedochim, came through with a great connection to artist Kevin Mark Trail. Kevin is currently working on his second release. You’ve heard him if you’re into The Streets. He’s performed and recorded with them on tracks such as Let’s Push Things Forward. Also, a big thank you goes to Sylvester Nicholson for helping out on the shoot and finding this awesome location to work with.
And for the sake of consistency… Here is the opening shot in B&W.
And now for something completely different… I’m working on another “stranger portraits” project while I’m here. Here is one from today.
Question… Does it have to be perfect? Can the best image for the job sometimes be blown technically but executed perfectly for the job at hand?
Wrong shutter speed.
Just right photograph.
As technically strong as I try to be I’m always drawn to the work of others and myself that blows “technical perfection” out the window in lieu of “emotion” “movement” etc. Thoughts? Each photo above is technically wrong. They should be dumped yet they are in the first edit of my new portfolio.
I wouldn’t want to buy an “imperfect” house. Why do I like “imperfect” photography? Thoughts?
PS – More on the business coming up. Just needed a break from all that.
Just wanted to update you on a few videos and blogs posts we are working on.
I promised a studio tour of our place here in Atlanta and that will be coming up. Currently we have a large job in house and we’re under a pretty tight NDA. In order to do the studio tour we would have to clear the entire space of our client’s merch and that’s just something we can’t pull off right now. We will most likely have some down time in October to get that finished up. Sorry for the delay.
The photo above is our cyc wall. It’s about 12 feet tall, 19.5 feet wide, and has a 3 foot radius. From the cyc wall to the other end of the studio is 64 feet. We’ll show you all that in the video along with grip, carts, workspaces, storage, deals we found on furniture, set pieces, etc, etc.
When we get the studio cleared out again we’ll knock out the color worflow video as well as the grip video. We’ll drop them all at once most likely.
Thanks to everyone who came to the white seamless session yesterday at Photoshop World. I thought I would give you all a quick link to the tutorial here on the blog so you don’t have to dig through the archives.
>> It starts here. <<
If you have any questions about the technique just drop them in the comments.
Oh boy. Here we go.
The above image is a contact sheet from my days at photography school. It is has to be circa 1996-97. I recently opened up three 32 gallon totes filled to the brim with negs, prints, and contact sheets and this gem of a contact sheet was nestled in there. You can click the image above for a larger view if you so dare.
Did I seriously photograph a musician holding his guitar while standing next to a brick wall? I sure did. Did I really try that multiple exposure? [Hanging my head in shame] On the same shoot I even hung a bed sheet up on that tree and used that as a background. I’ll save you from that visual pollution. My poor, poor, poor subject. I need to look him up and apologize for wasting his time. Take a look! He did an outfit change in the middle of that roll. I was so convinced we were getting good stuff that I had him come right back to where we were shooting with the first outfit.
Note : I was really, really, really proud of these pictures back then. I felt it was my best portrait work at the time. I think I was in the fourth quarter at school. I’m so grateful to my teachers and mentors who tore me new a@@holes every time I showed any of these images. I liked them. Everyone else hated them. I couldn’t understand why people didn’t like them. My subject was really happy with them when I gave him some prints. Thank God for those people who spoke truth in my life or I’d still be shooting that crap.
I moved on from there now I need to get beyond where I am today. Always growing. Always growing. Always.
Aside from the bad light, the inconsistent exposures, that truly unfortunate multiple exposure shot, and the guitar+brick wall shots, can anyone else tell me another major mistake that was made with this roll of film? The first correct answer gets a OneLight DVD because I have to pay a penance for shooting these pictures. I’m looking for a specific answer. @Michael Sebastian & @Cary Norton – I imagine you fellas should know it.
I want to thank all of you for the feedback on the Dubai photos from the last post I made. I wanted to share with you the entire first edit of images for this portfolio.
All feedback and criticism is always welcome around here. Some of y’all had some great feedback on the first post. If any of you want to take a stab at editing this portfolio go for it! Grab the images from the gallery, arrange them however you see fit, spit them back on the web, and send me a link!
Editing your work is half of your job as a photographer. It’s the one thing in this industry that I feel I can not teach. I can sit with someone individually and speak to it but I can’t just make a blog post about it. I know of no academic resource about editing your work… not that I’ve seen them all. I’ve read many articles on the subject but none have stood out as definitive volumes of knowledge on learning how to edit your work. I think the only teacher is experience and feedback from peers. I hope to have a selection of these images printed and ready for critique when I’m at PhotoShop World in Vegas in a few weeks. I’m going to corner McNally while I’m there. He’ll tell me like it is. If you want to get inside the head of an editor make sure you are reading A Photo Editor on a daily basis.
I’m not trying to develop a “travel story” in the traditional sense of the genre. This is more personal in nature as I’m shooting the city as an outsider looking in. These are images or representations that I am drawn to. I’m trying to congeal a visual set of 20 images or less from this set. As I pour over these images I see holes in the Dubai portfolio already. There are certain architecture shots missing. I’ll be back there in March of next year and my plan is to really have this book solidified. I think I need to get this first gallery down to 12 or 15 and then bring in the new work when I go back. Since this is personal work I think of it as an assignment that might have the creative direction of, “Go to Dubai and shoot the city as you see it.” Amazing story line isn’t it?
I’ve done some post production to some of the images. Some are still just RAW files. You’ll find some duplicates here and there through the gallery as well as a few clunker/personal images that are just in that folder for my own reason. Like the one of Joe McNally outside of Ravi’s. Finally, there are a few images in this gallery that are there just for the graphic designer I’m working with to have some extra visual collateral to work with as he designs the new books. I aint no designer. I’m barely a photographer.
If any of you are a working photo editor who feels you know how to speak to editing please leave me a note here. I’d like to speak with you about a project for photographers that I want to do. I just need the right editor who can communicate about the subject.
As Lightroom churns through some images I’m working in PhotoMechanic on a few new portfolios for web and print. The one capturing my attention right now is the selection of images from my two trips to Dubai.
I’m still trying to figure out why I love Dubai so much. There’s something about that place and something about the people that has really caught hold of me and I can’t let go of it. I’m sure if I were to go there around this time of year it would change my ideas about the place.
More images and thoughts after the jump ::
Working on a portfolio is tough stuff. The images above are just a cross section of the initial edit. I have my main portfolio culled to about 2,000 images. That is the big messy edit. It needs to get to 20. Most likely it will be a selection of 20 or fewer portraits. Then I’m doing a portfolio of 20 or fewer Dubai images. Then there is a personal project I’m working on this year and that will be about 10 images plus narrative, video, and one audio track bundled into one portfolio. Then we are doing a kids commercial test in a few weeks and that will most likely be another portfolio of 10 images.
Entertainment/Music. Dubai. Personal Project. Commercial Kids. Four portfolios ready to go by the end of the year. That’s the goal. In print and online. That’s the goal. With the new branding wrapped up. It’s taken 10 months to filter the vision down for these.
Currently I’m most excited about the personal project and the Dubai portfolio. Those two get my blood moving around a little bit faster and little bit hotter. The personal project will have a definite narrative. The Dubai portfolio I see in my head is black and white but there are a few images that just work in color. So how do you find the right flow with color and B&W living side by side? How do you show the contrast that is Dubai? At some point I’ll get a sloppy edit together and then I have to hand it over to trusted colleagues for input, critique, and discussion. It’s a painful process but it has to happen. The only thing I hate more is working on branding. I hate working on branding.
So, here is a good example of my dilemma. I have this shot of a gentleman in his Lamborghini. It only works in color. I have a shot of two kids playing and I like the connection of the reds and blues in the two photos. There’s also a social contrast between the two images. So, I’m digging these two photos but I have this other shot outside of a shop that I kind of like as well. Here they are…
Here is the same spread but with a change to the left photo…
And now the other shot placed in…
What do y’all think?
PS – Then. THEN… After all that… the majority of the work is horizontal so am I going to print double truck (across two facing pages) or am I going to keep them on individual pages? The gutter can screw up a composition in a New York minute. Ugh. And do I print double sided or single sided? Blurb or Epson and a post book? It’s all of these questions that keep me from having an up to date print portfolio, but that has to change. It will all be done by the end of the year. I’ll share the process as soon as it is done.