Friday, December 5, 2008

Working for FREE, a budding pro's perspective.

This morning I woke up to find a few of my favorite photographers posting comments on their blogs about working for FREE! The conversation started with David Hobby over at the Strobist blog and then continued with comments from one of my favorites Chase Jarvis. Well, I want to put my two cents in here for those of you interested in this discussion.

First thing this discussion needs is a little background for reference since not many of you know me... yet :) I have been working for the past 2 years, on the side of my design business, to break into the professional photography market. I have been involved with photography for about 16 years and I have been a graphic designer for over 11 years now. I love my career but there is a little something that twinges in my heart when I take a picture that just doesn't happen for me when I work on a design.

As an aspiring photographer there are some core problems I have identified that I must solve before becoming successful as a full time photographer.

First and foremost of course is technical competence. As a designer I feel I have the creative aspects pretty well covered, composition has always been a focus in my design work. If I am going to excel in all aspects of photography I have to have a sound base in understanding the basics and how they effect the overall results of the image. This has been one of my primary focuses. My resources for study include courses, books, workshops, blogs, magazines and of course lots of practice. I try and learn something new every day and I work to incorporate something I've learned in practice on every shoot.

The next for me is business. If I am going to run a successful business I need to understand contracts, pricing, scheduling, production, fees, resources etc. I will admit that this is the part I am having the most trouble with since the business of photography is so variable but it makes sense for any right brain thinker to have issues with such things. :)

Third is promotion. Portfolio, networking, marketing, advertising, PR all of those things have a part in the success of a business but to get to this point I have realized I need to identify who I am as a photographer and what you want to shoot. This is also a difficult part for me since I enjoy most aspects of this work but I understand the importance of focus, showing a group of work that is all over the board leaves people wondering what you shoot or what you could shoot for them. For me the part that is most hard is just making a choice about such things and then sticking with it and putting your all into it.

Now when it comes to promotion you need a body of work to promote, this is where the FREE comes in. The conversation that was started today I feel is, excuse the pun, right on the money. I struggled for a while with the idea of free work because I didn't know if it meant that I just wasn't good enough yet to charge for my work or if it would open me up to being taken advantage of or probably the biggest for me was being taken seriously as a photographer. I know know that when gone about it in the right way it can be the best way to get to where you want to go.

Now I don't think I'm going to be hanging a sign outside the front of my office that says FREE PHOTOGRAPHY any time soon and that's not what I got from these posts. If you are going to do serious work you need serious people to work with and I agree that taking money out of the equation can open a lot of doors and a lot of ears.

Up until this point I have been doing work for friends and family, from weddings to maternity, portrait sessions and some light advertising work I have gotten a ton of experience without the stress of meeting the expectations that a paid project always brings. Here are a few of my favorites from the past few months...

Master of Destruction



Bullet Time



Engagement Photos

Festival of the Lion King

Now that I have had a chance to build my skill set and hone my technical abilities it's time to start working on that portfolio. This is the time to get out there and do the projects that will make a difference for me as a photographer looking for paid work. For someone in my position FREE just makes good sense, especially since I have my design business to pay the bills. FREE allows me to avoid one of the biggest obstacles in this business and opens a lot of doors that may otherwise not have budged.

The business of photography is different from most and as such it needs to be approached differently. It may not be for everybody but the benefits certainly outweigh the cost if it's done right. The information that David Hobby and Chase Jarvis provide may be hard to swallow for some people but take a moment to read through all of the information and look objectively at what you are doing, try the ideas on and see if any fit before just shrugging it off because you DON'T WORK FOR FREE!

I also want to throw one other idea in there, there was a section in the post about doing something for the community, offering your skill to help an organization or benefit a family, whatever it may be I ask you to think carefully about the things you could do to make an impact, turn your practice time into doing something for the greater good. Reach out wherever you can and don't hide behind thinking you can't make a difference or not having the time. Everyone at every level can have an impact and there are more people out there who need or want help than you probably know. For the longest time I thought about it and did nothing because I was worried about so many things that I know a lot of us as people let get in the way, from time to expectation and beyond there were loads of reasons not too but I finally broke through that because of one simple reason... I can. So far the work i have done in the community has made a small impact on the lives of others but also a big impact on me and I am looking forward to the work I know I will do in my community in the future.

As for me I'm looking forward to my next project, FREE or PAID! A big thanks to David Hobby for starting this conversation, it's really great to see the community that I am growing to be a part of is so active with people who really truly care about the community and their industry. I am passionate about someday making my mark on this industry and I only hope to be able to do it to the extent of the ones I admire and respect. And Chase, you'd better believe that a million and one ideas are swirling through my head right now to send over to you regarding your offer!

Talk to you all soon!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Finding a Direction

Photography has always been a love and a passion, more now than ever before. I have been working hard these past 2 years to figure out where I stand as a photographer, to grow in my technical ability, to hone my creative view and to find my voice as a photographer. I have always been the guy who can do most anything when it came to a field. I was never good at just being one thing in one industry. Having been a graphic design for the past 11 years I have worked with video, audio, packaging, promotional, outdoor, web, kiosk, etc, etc, etc... Someone asks me if I can do it and I say yes and then figure it out and once I do it becomes the thing that everyone wants me to do until that next thing comes around. So, knowing that should give you a bit of an idea as to why finding a focus right now is difficult. I didn't always do all of those things just because I was asked, I was always excited to tackle something new and to accomplish it. In the past that has taken me through many different fields within my industry and now with photography I am trying to figure out how to keep it new and keep it fresh like I like to while finding my true voice as a photographer and growing in one discipline until it has been mastered.

I keep playing with the idea of just offering a wide range of photographic services but my research points to the successful commercial photographers as being consistent with their vision. I can understand why this would be important since the person who is hiring you must know if you are going to deliver what they want and if they see multiple styles in one book they don't really know who they are getting for the assignment.

So that leads us to the next question. How can I differentiate myself in this market, what can I do that is not being done and how can I take the risk of whether people will like what I do or not when I have a family to provide for. In these touch economic times starting a new business is probably not the best decision but I cannot ignore this passion. Photography has lit a fire in me and right now it is raging so fiercely that I am having a hard time focusing it. I am slowly learning how to harness and control this energy but it is a tough road. To have so much love for something and just have no idea how to move forward. I feel stuck at the starting line revving the engine waiting for that light to turn green.

I have identified my two largest obstacles at this point, first is creativity, I need to make a decision about who I am going to be as a photographer and how I am going to market myself. I need to create a look and stlye that is my own and that is unique enough to help me stand out in a crowd. The second is a lack of understanding for the business side of things. That has been clearing up slowly, I am reading everything I can and I have to say a big thanks to my digital mentors (blogs) Chase Jarvis, Tim Tadder, Joe McNally and Vincent Laforet as well as all of the great books and publications out there.

Ohhh, but where to go from here... that is the question that is haunting me lately. I recently completed a series of photos from a studio shoot that I abslutly loved. They are still not completely there but I think I am starting to get a feel for where I am going.

Bullet Time

Be Afraid

Master of Destruction

I have always believed that the IDEA is the most important piece of the puzzle in anything I have done and it is no different in photography. The things that have always spoken loudest to me are the pieces that have the great conceptual idea behind them. Once you have the idea it's all about executing that idea and, that, I think gives variety while maintaing a certain style or direction. I think as I move forward my next pieces will need to all be idea generated, pieces that convey the idea effectivly through photography instead of words. Using my knowledge of graphic design, composition, marketing, advertising and the tools such as photoshop to give me the edge I need to be competitive in this marketplace.

I think commercial portraiture is where I want to be, moving forward. This is the kind of stuff that really get's my attention.

This image is from Tim Tadder's Blog and is Copyright Tim Tadder

I'm still not sure if that includes brides and kids and food and products or if it is more specific. I don't yet know if it's all just studio or if it's location based or both but I do know that I want to figure it out fast and start working because it kills me everyday that I read a blog post about someone else's cool assignment. I want to be the one working them and writing them and pushing the envelope every day to create the work that gets noticed.

I will get there, it's not a question of if...

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Today was a good day!

Lately I have been doing a lot of soul searching trying to figure out what photography means to me. Why do I love it? Why do I do it? How will I continue on with photography and what place in my life will it hold in my future?

On another front I have been watching and learning more and more about our current economic and social state of affairs. I see more schools that do not carry arts programs, I see gas prices rising and my grocery and energy bills are ever growing. I wonder a lot these days what my future will look like and there are times when I wish I had more. More money, more time, more passion, more of the things that I think most people think about, especially in these times.

I have always been a very optimistic person and there is not a lot that can get me down, I always believe in the better times ahead and I always look at the good in a situation. This may be why I am somewhat blind to the way the world around me is and can often be. I try not to watch the news because I believe it is usually sensationalized and hyped for other reasons, I gain access to my information from online sources where I can decide if a story is worth my time and energy. I know I live a good life, I have family and love, I have a house and a car. I have art and a career. A worry for me is when I can't get the next new gadget or when my house isn't clean. I live a good life but I am seldom reminded of it outside of my little world and so sometimes the mundane and downright stupid can affect my day for the worse.

I recently had an opportunity to be called upon by some family and friends to provide photography for a family in need. I have always been interested in using my art and passion to help out others and this was a wonderful experience. I was asked to photograph a young man who was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and who had only a short time left with his family and loved ones. I knew that this would be a difficult assignment mentally since it was a first for me and because I am a fairly emotional person. I don't know how photojournalists deal with the things they see and face regularly. I wasn't sure what to expect but when I got there I was introduced to someone who was so full of life that you'd have a hard time believing he was in the process of saying goodbye. It is very difficult for me to imagine being in his place and I could only hope to be as brave as he is. Even now my natural response is to shut out the experience for if I do not know of it I could never have to live it. I've been fighting that battle, I can't just push the experience and feelings it produced aside because of my fears but I also cannot let it consume my every thought. I have been trying hard to learn from it, to open myself up to the idea that every day is a gift, i've always thought that way but like most I rarely live it. He will forever be a part of my experiences and a part of my life through the moments I captured of he and his family. The experience has opened my mind to how i may be able to contribute to others and to life in general through my passion and art.

I was reading a blog post by a photographer I follow named Vincent Laforet and it was about this years TED prize, a grant to help a media journalist tell a story, awarded to an accomplished photojournalist named James Nachtwey. From a photography standpoint his work was inspirational and I got a lot from looking at his photos but by listening to his story, the one being spoken as well as the one being told through his pictures, I had a look at a side of life that I think most of us naturally shield ourselves from.

I watch the video presentation and view the images and I think, how can we ever be upset when our to-go order is wrong or when our bosses or clients get upset with us. How can we ever have a single bad thought about the things that happen in our Starbucks/Target driven lives. Each and every day that I go on living I am thankful to reside in a society where there is the possibility of creating art, expressing opinion, going to see a movie, eating out with friends, enjoying time with family. We have so many opportunities afforded us and we let our days be driven by the guy who had the nerve to get in front of us on the highway.

The older I get and the faster life moves by the less time I devote to thinking about the simple pleasures we all have access to day in and day out. The more I have the less it is enough. Even sitting here writing this I am thinking about whether this will stay with me or if the stories of my week and the to do list of next will crowd it out and it will fizzle out of my head forever forgotten. I know this gets heard all the time and maybe it is because we see it everyday in the world around us that we are numb to what it truly means but man do we have it good! For anyone who is wondering if life can get any harder, for all of you out there who have an ounce of dissapointment about their lives, for anybody else who lives in their own little world most of the time and for everyone who cares even a little bit about anything please watch this clip in it entirety. Set aside 30min, if not now then schedule it in and do yourself a favor and see what this man has to say. It will be worth every second of your time.

I will no doubt need to watch this over and over until it is burned into my memory. I know that the experiences of this week have opened my mind to some new possibilities and I write this to pass along the message that when you think you've got it rough take a second, look around and realize the obviousness of the truth. I can only hope that out of these powerful messages I can at the very least get to the end of EVERY day and without a doubt say...

Today was a good day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The new Canon 5D Mark II

To everyone it may concern,

I wanted to send a little note about the new Canon 5d Mark II that was just released a few days ago, this may be old news for some but I had to make sure it got out into the community as this is one of those pieces of technology that is sure to change the industry forever.

The photographic capabilities of this new camera are astounding with a 21.1MP sensor and an expanded iso rating between 50-25600! But that's not all, this camera shoots full HD quality 1080p video. The ability to combine multiple lenses, control focus & depth of field and shoot in near natural light will open up so many possibilities. Priced at $2700 Canon has made technology that has been out of reach of so many talented artist available to the masses and it is sure to open up so many new artistic avenues.

A Canon Explorer of Light got his hands on a prototype and just yesterday released a short film made with the camera with a small crew and only 48hrs to produce. It has been posted to Canon's website at

Also a making of video is available at SmugMug at

According to the blog of the person responsible for the shoot it looks like SmugMug may be opening up a contest for a video production with the new 5D, you can read about that here

If you are interested in more of the technical details you can visit the Canon website for the new 5D Mark II at

Now pick your jaw up off the floor and let me know what you think about the possibilities this opens for you and the community, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Rashel Maternity Shoot

Rashel Maternity Photography

Rashel Maternity Photography

Rashel Maternity Photography

Rashel Maternity Photography

Rashel, a long time friend of the family is pregnant with her first baby boy (ooh, how exciting!!) and I had the pleasure of doing the first in what will be a series of maternity photography for her. In this shoot we wanted to keep it light and fun with the use of lot's of props and bright cheery backgrounds. The photos from this shoot will also be used to create her baby shower announcement. I had a blast working with Rashel to create these images, it's great to have good models around that don't mind spending hours in the studio for a couple of pictures... Be sure to check back over the next few months to view the other shoots as well as their newest addition in January. Congratulations Sean & Rashel, you're going to make great parents!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What I Saw: Photoshop World '08


There are events in your life that open your mind to thoughts, ideas and possibilities you may have never had before. It is usually a defining moment and offers a change of perspective. My 4 days at the Photoshop World conference did that for me. The education I received was not on a program or a camera instead it was on the art of photography. I never would have thought I'd find it at a Photoshop seminar but the instructors brought more than tips and tricks they brought perspective, ideas and passion that I soaked up! The following is a timeline of imagery captured over the four days and a visual progression of my perspective. This is "What I Saw"

Note: All of the photos used in this video montage are available for viewing online on my Flickr page here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Jeff & Amy Engagement Photo Shoot

Engagement Photo ShootJust got done putting the finishing touches on the photo shoot for Jeff & Amy's Engagement. First of all I'd like to extend a warm congratulations on their engagement and best wishes for the future. Spending time with them both on this day long shoot I got to see why they will do well together, they compliment each other so well and I was really happy with just how well that came through in the photos. The photos I have posted here are my favorites from the shoot but if you'd like to see the entire set just click here.

We started the day out eating a light Sunday brunch on Park Ave, a favorite... very relaxing and a nice way to start out the morning. After brunch we hit some locations in the area and then moved over to the Rollins College. One of the things I like most about doing these shoots is getting to learn about some real nice tucked away spots. The area was beautiful and made for some wonderful photos. After Rollins we made a stop for an outfit change and Jeff & Amy broke out the motorcycles! What fun! It was great to incorporate the bikes into the shoot especially since it says so much about who they are. The collection came out great and I am looking forward to delivering them to the happy couple.

For this shoot I used a Canon 20D with a Canon 17-40 f/4 lens and two Canon Speedlights. This was a first for me experimenting with using an off camera strobe on location. The strobes weren't used on every shot but where I did use it I was happy with the outcome. I think my largest challenge on this shoot was not having an assistant, I am slowly realizing that part of being a professional photographer is having the tools needed to enable you to get the best shots possible. It is really hard to steady a camera with one hand while holding a strobe out on a pole with the other hand. I think next time I will have an assistant!

Don't forget to view the shoot in its entirety by clicking this link and hopefully I will have a chance to put up a few outtake shots as well.

Engagement Photo Shoot

Engagement Photo Shoot

Engagement Photo Shoot

Engagement Photo Shoot