Sunday, January 27, 2013

This Week

This week has been kind of busy for me so I have not been thinking about any one thing specifically. One of my goals this year is to build a portfolio that I could use for commercial work. As much as I love my artwork, right now it is not paying the bills. In fact I have been told that unless I sell a print(s) I cannot spend any money. I reluctantly agreed after it was point out that my wages in combination of my spending habits with my “hobby” was draining the bank account. Hence the need to build a portfolio to break into the commercial field.

In the midst of my moody Monday I started to think about the photography I have done and what would I like to do. It then occurred to me I really should build a portfolio that leans a little more on the commercial side. Don’t get me wrong I love the art but right now I am not getting much for it. Not that if I suddenly sported a cluster of awesome commercial work that I would suddenly be getting jobs. But if I start on it now I might have a better chance of doors opening up and a way better income would follow.

So here is what I am going to attempt this year. After looking over some of the work of Tim Tadder I thought I would try my hand at extreme portraits. My first victim ,, ah subject will be my son. He just got done with his swimming season so his time opened up to be a model for me. The second subject is a car. I would like to create a photograph(s) of a car that look like they were made for an ad. Third one is birds in the backyard. I have a remote and want to try to get some nice photos. The last but not least goal is architecture and or interior photography. With such a divers range of subjects I should be able to excel at one or two types of them. The end goal is to place the best on a website and start to market myself for commercial work. Once I have some money coming in I can invest a portion to my artwork there by saving what I get from my steady paying job for the family.

As far as portrait work. I don’t mind it but I really don’t feel I do a good enough job unless I have complete control. By control I mean a central theme with everything mapped out up to and including the clothing. Most of my clients I have done were not that open to the consultation idea. If I go back to portraits I want to use what I get from my son’s session to draw people in and follow my rules. It is the only way I feel I can give them what they are looking for.

I ran across a video of a photographer that creates cool photographs, Erik Johansson the Impossible Photograph. Every now and again when I need a little inspiration I watch the video. So enjoy.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

3 Books You Should Read

There are so many books in the world of photography that should be read it would take too long to list them out. But I have three that I feel that every beginning photographer should put on their list of continuing educational reads. Not to mention the intermediates and master photographers can benefit from these books too. As you have seen in the past few posts, and most likely many more, I am big into continuing education and books are one way to do that. The more you read, listen or take part in a workshop the better chance you have to elevate your photography from a snap shot artist, to fine art. The three books I believe can put you on a path to enlightenment is “Photographically Speaking” by David duChemin, “Digital Landscape Photography” by Michael Frye and (don’t laugh) your owners manual.

Starting with the “Owners Manual” of your camera. The camera is a tool that has evolved from an instrument for an artist to trace details on to a canvas, documenting the world around us, to the everyday device we carry in our pocket and phone. The principal of the camera has not changed over the years, it is how it records the information as well as the complexity of this tool that has change. As an experienced photographer most of the time I can pick any camera up and produce an adequate image from it, film or digital. But noticed I said adequate and not “the best” image from it. The problem is that there are a lot of photographers in the beginning that don’t spend time with their owners manual and therefore they don’t get the full understanding or benefit of their tool

The owners manual, as dull as it can be, is the best way to understand and learn what your camera is capable and incapable of doing for you. Many time and many photographers out there have pushed their cameras to a limit in order get the shot they want, only to be disappointed in the result. A flip side can also be true. Many photographers wished they could do something that they believe their camera can’t do but had they read the manual would have discovered it was possible. For an example, (and this one is from my experience file) I wanted to shoot in the mode of black and white because I prefer it over color. In the black and white mode you can see details of the grayscale that may warrant a shift in exposure that you will not get by seeing the image in color. Remember the more you do for your exposure in camera the less you need to fix in PhotoShop. Bugged by this need I decided to pull the manual out just to see if this feature was possible. To my happiness I discovered there was a mode to switch the recording and display of file from color to black and white. The process to change to that mode was not in a place to that made it easily spotted. Thanks to the manual I found it.

As under rated and over looked as the owners manual is I believe it to be just as important to read it as the myriad of the other books out there. The knowledge of what your camera can and cannot do can be the difference of a ok shot to a work of art.. So laugh at the suggestion but don’t ignore it, read your manual if you haven’t already. Spend sometime with this book to find a feature your camera has you did not know about. Come to an understanding about the features of your meter or focusing program you did not know about.

The Second book is called “Photographically Speaking; a deeper look at creating stronger images” by David duChemin. I know I have brought up this book in past posts but I truly believe that this book will dramatically help you understand design principals that apply to photography. Just like not knowing your camera, not understanding good composition is one of the factors in a creating bad photographs. If you don’t have an art degree or outside knowledge of good design principals, or even if you do, this book is one that should be in your library.

The author David duChemin is a “humanitarian and world photographer” wrote this book in two parts, a jet lagged stupor and the second part was in rehabilitation learning to walk after a fall in Pisa Italy. He broke his book down into three parts and uses his work to illustrate the principals he is discussing. In creating this book, David hopes to bring an awareness of the photographic language. The better understanding of the language the greater the expression in our photographs.

What I got out of this book was my reestablishment of what I learned in college. The reason I liked sitting in a classroom and talking about someone’s, including mine, artwork. It got me back into slowing down and looking at what I had or was about to create. To objectively look at my photographs, or more to the fact, other photographer’s work and understand why the photograph works or not. This is an important tool to have because you may instinctively know that the compositionally works but you don’t entirely understand why. Not understanding your language will only lead to frustration and eventually you quitting photography altogether.

The last one that I would recommend is “Digital Landscape Photography” by Michael Frye. Now not everyone is a landscape photographer but this book does cover a wide variety of topics that can help anyone in their photos. Topics like depth of field, contrast, filters, histograms and the printing process. It is an easy read and the real deep concepts are illustrated to be easily explained. I read this book in one sitting and use it for a reference guide from time to time. If you are really looking for a technical book this one would be good to have.

Like I have said, there are many books out there that cover photography and to list them would take too much time and effort but this is were you come in. If you have a book that has either change the way you create photographs, or print or loaded with so much information that everyone should own it, tell us about it. Put at least two books that you think everyone should read in the comments sections or on my Google plus page. Shared information is the best information out there.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What kind of photographer are you?

This is a question I have been wrestling with for the past few years and to this date I believe I am on the right track..Well at least I can say that now cause who knows what will change tomorrow. I wanted to blog this subject because I cannot believe that I am the only one that has gone through this. In fact I know I am not the only one because there are number of books out there on how to choose your path and become pro. I know because I have one of the many books. In trying to dispense some advice I will try to interject some of what I have learned so far.

The moment we decided to become a photographer was the very minute we were caught up in the beauty of a print another photographer created. I remember when I saw the print that Ansel Adams created of El Capitan I was hooked. I continued to study other photographer like Edward Weston , Dorothy Lange and Arnold Newman and inevitably tried to emulate their style. I took classes at high school, read books and learned what I could about the photographic process.

I eventually went to college and was determined not to “sell out” and go commercial. I wanted to be a true artist photograph the landscape and sell my work to all my followers. What I failed to realize is the fact by selling my prints I would be commercial there fore “selling out.” The second thing is the size of my college bill that I had to pay back. So far “selling out” was something I needed to do. So after graduation I took a job with a portrait studio in the mall. For the record, you had to learn the 5 sellable poses before you could shoot a paying customer. There were a few people that were not able to complete this task and was out the door. I learned my craft well and had developed a healthy customer base. I enjoyed what I did and learned a lot, but the hours killed me.

While working at a graphics job I really tried to gather a following to build a business. This was not easy but I did well the first year and the second was as good but after that it did not go well. I started to lose my interest and eventually I gave up all together. The industry changed, I changed and I was not keeping up. I even put the camera aside altogether. It wasn’t until a year or so passed by before I picked it up again, going back to what inspired me, landscapes.

This is my point. We all start off shooting everything we can but later we think we must start shooting something that will make money. Most of the time that is portraits and not all of us belong in that group. We pick a spot because it pays but it eventually burns us out and makes us quit. Sometimes we never go back and it should not be that way.

If you are reading this and are lost on your photographic path just remember this; whatever got you hooked on photography, whatever brings you the passion of photography, and the reactions you get from your peers on your work you should follow it. If your gut feeling is that you should be a landscape photographer, or portrait and your peers back you then do it. Learn everything you can form books, mentors, and other photographers. This will be the path that will bring you the most joy in photography, not the one that you think you have to do. I thought I had to be a portrait photographer to make money, but I don’t.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Podcasts and Websites

I think continued education is important in order to be inspired, learn new techniques or keep up with new technologies on the horizon. In the past you had to rely on the monthly or bimonthly magazine to keep you abreast of the newest and latest topics. But now that we live in a IPOD world were Podcasts, which come in audio and video along with countless webpage stops, you can find anything about photography you want. Oh and two clicks from that is porn, just saying. So with all that is out there, and porn, where do you go to find the best information? Traditionally you would spend countless hours hunting around to find what you are looking for in which you would score or not. In the case of Podcasts to find the show or shows you want you have to listen or watch a few shows in order to get an idea if it is what your looking for. Or you can skip all that and continue to read on for my suggestions.

For me I learn best by listing and watching. So for the most part my continue education of choice has been Podcasts, and there are a lot out there. I stumble on Podcasts by pure curiosity when I was looking for something to listing to at work. I like talk radio but the things I like are not always on or on the stations I can get. So when I came across Podcast and the myriad of subjects they covered I thought I had hit the mother load. Oh and Porn, ya its one of the subjects covered in some Podcasts. So I started to down load a show or two and listen to a few of their casts to see if it was what I wanted. After a lot of shows I found a few that are worth passing along.

This Week in Photography or Twip. Frederick Van Johnson hosts this show and is accompanied by a Alex Lindsay and a verity of others that guest co-host. Topics covered are camera techniques, technology, news as well as in depth interviews with the mover and shakers of the industry. Interviews have been with people like Chase Jarvis, Trey Ratcliff developers of SumMug and a model from Model Mayhem. There has not been a subject TWiP has covered that I have not found unappealing or useful. I have been a follower of the Podcasts now for over a year and have not been disappointed in any of the subjects they cover.

What I like about this group is that they cover such a wide verity of subjects that even a weekend shooter can use. One such subject that sticks out was the episode on model releases and copyrights, episode 278. I found interesting the fact you are limited on what you can claim on a photo if you have not registered it with the copyright office. It is this type of show ant the others I have listen to that keeps me coming back. I also appreciate the way the Podcast is structured. Although there is humor and some inside jokes that come up in the show, it never strays down a childish path.

Not only should you check out the Itunes site for Podcasts but go to the Twip website to see additional articles and video postings that are not covered on the Podcasts. Most recent was the video cast with Ian Stone, Director of Business development of Zenfolio. Frederick does a very good 18min interview with Ian about what Zenfolio has to offer the pro or non pro photographer. Frederick is fair in the questions to help his viewers determine if the product is right for them. To me that is important. I need good information in order to make informed decisions about my photography.

This next Podcast is one that does and doesn’t cover photography. Chase Jarvis Audiocast is hosted by photographer/director Chase Jarvis in which “he explores art, creativity, and popular curl rue through his experiences and collaborations with visionary creative’s from around the world.” This is a great way of saying there is a lot more that is covered that directly and indirectly relates to photography.

Chase Jarvis is a photographer/director that brings in talents like Ryan Holiday author of “Trust me I am lying” A marketing book in which the author tells how he manipulate the media to get them to talk about his products without paying money in advertising. There are many other lesions on other ways to use social media to get the attention you strive for. Ryan doesn’t talk in specifics of photography but what he says in this Podcast can be applied for photographers.

I really like how Chase books guest that doesn’t directly deal with photography but through their wisdom we as photographers can grow. My favorite guest on the Podcast is Oren Klaff the author of “Pitch Anything.” This book teaches you not how to sell but pitch your ideas or products. Oren runs down along with Chase giving his experience using Oren philosophy on the pitching techniques. It is done with humor and real life examples. With most Podcast I delete them when off my Ipod when I am done. This episode I have kept it on and listen to it at least once a week. It is that good and that motivating. I am writing this before Christmas. I have put this on my list and if I don’t get it then I will buy it after words. Chase Jarvis is a must Podcast to listen to. You will learn things that you never knew that you wanted to know.

The third recommendation is a show that is called “The Grid.” “The Grid with Scott Kelby & Matt Kloskowski is a live talk-show about photography, Photoshop & other industry-related topics. Each week features a different guest (in-studio or online) and viewers are encouraged to chime in on the Liveblog here on or via Twitter by adding #TheGridLive to their tweets” If you like PhotoShop or Light Room this is the Podcast for you.

I am still combing through past episodes and listing to new ones to see how the information will benefit me. I am someone that uses PhotoShop and eventually add Light Room to my list of photo tools. But I don’t use them that deeply so some of the episodes don’t entirely interest me. Although the last episode of the year did capture my attention.

Episode 80 was on ways to become a better photographer for 2013 which caught my attention. In the episode they gave step by step information that would help you determine what path to take as a photographer, how you should better yourself and once your on the path, how to build a career out of it. For me I found this to be helpful in that it affirmed some of what I was doing and gave me a next step to follow. Although I do not always agree with their advise because of differing philosophies on photography I do find them helpful to my cause. Not only do Scott and Matt have this Podcast but there are classes that are available on The Grid website for a fee. Not to mention the books that they and other trainers offer through Peach Tree Publishing.

The last one is “The Pro Photo Show” hosted by Gavin Seim. The subjects covered can range from tips and trick to printing and photography philosophy. I find Gavin in the same boat as myself when it comes to photography. For me there are far too many poor quality photographs that could have been better if only the photographer took their time in creating the photograph. Gavin is a teacher and one who wants to change or improve the photography out there. He often talks about the master painters and their use of light and how we as photographer should incorporate that into our work. Gavin’s Podcast can originate from his home or on the road. All depending what kind of project or classes he his involved with. If you believe photography is an art and want to expand yourself in that direction then Gavin’s Podcast will be a fit.

There is a lot of Podcast out there and the few that I have mentioned may or may not fit your needs. It is important as a photographer to continue the education necessary to keep the work fresh and exciting. Not to mention to learn more about what is out there that can directly or indirectly impact our photography. I encourage you to check out these Podcast and seek out others through out the year. Most of them you will find on Itunes, just type their name, find a subject that interests you and click on play. Enjoy.

Frederick Van Johnson
Chase Jarvis
Gavin Seim