Tag Archives: commercial

Be Selfish and Volunteer Your Way to Success

A sampling of the days session

September 8, 2011 I volunteered once again to photograph those less fortunate than myself. I did the same thing back in 2009, when I was not getting enough photography assignments (or other work of any substance) and my monthly cash flow was shall we say….inadequate. Thank goodness for my other income streams: investments and real estate.

Volunteering is a way for me to give rather than receive, it feeds my soul. I receive many benefits from volunteering: I meet new people, I get to practice my interpersonal portraiture schtick, lighting ratios, RAW processing, color management, retouching, JPEG compression and emailing skills.

The sum total is that I become enriched. When paying projects do come my way, because I’m prepared, I know exactly how to handle anything that comes up. With personal style and professional confidence.

Over time the good people I help, help spread the good word about me. I’ve received recommendations on my LinkedIn profile and many heartfelt emails. It feels good. Over time the sum total of my efforts drives my credibility to ever higher levels. This in turn leads to more business and art opportunities that allow me live life on my terms.

Isn’t that what we’re all after?

Be selfish and volunteer.

It will do us all good.

Michael

Related Images:

Copy Wrong to Copy Right

During last weeks episode (29) of Build A Better Photograph I mentioned that one of my photos had been abused by an online publication without my knowledge or permission. The image was cropped, the color was altered and the photo credit was removed. Nice! Oh joy, another knucklehead to deal regarding artists rights because not giving a wit about another persons art work has to be addressed. One can do this nicely but confrontation nonetheless is mandatory. As soon as I found out about this transgression I immediately sent an email to the publisher asking him to explain why he was using one of my photos without permission and from where did the photo come from? To his credit, he responded within minutes, apologized and took down the photo and related article. Score one for me.

I wanted to make this right for the publisher, clearly he was sorry but assumed the photo was OK to use  (a big mistake, making assumptions). I wrote back and offered to provide an approved photo he could use and re-post the story. He was agreeable. I sent an approved photo but for some reason the story has not yet reappeared. (happy ending?)

Following are the steps I took in approaching this issue, making an assessment and my conclusions about the resolution:

1)    Being made aware of the issue. In this case the photo was of my wife and she was the source for finding out about this transgression. I use Google Alerts for other types of notifications and just joined the PLUS Registry for future image rip offs. I’ve also used Digimarc in the past.

2)    Assess the gravity of the transgression. Is the issue worth pursuing? In this case it was for three reasons: 1) My wife was in the photo and upset. 2)  I have a local reputation with my client base and need to be vigilant in case this comes up in conversation. 3) Ripping off work is NEVER OK.

3)    Make a plan of action. Phone call? Email? In person? All three? In this case an email was the best choice. It’s written and there is a record of it…in case….

4)    Implementing the action plan. Don’t just think about what to do, do it and do it ASAP!

5)    Evaluation of the transgressors response. In this case the publisher got high marks for removing the photo but it would have been super if he had re-posted with the approved image. Oh well. What can you do? I did my best, received some action so I have to be satisfied with that. On to the next idiot!

6)    Follow up. I’ve since reached out to the publisher via email and phone but to no avail. Guess he had enough or it just wasn’t that important to him anymore..old news is no news, eh?

The steps above are right in line with my “a successful photograph is a series of small steps made correctly” mantra posted at the top of my home page. Everything we do as SECP’s is geared towards pushing out our bubbles of influence and it’s not just creating work and running the businesses. We also take into account protecting our work and reputations.  This is just my opinion of course, I could be right.

See ya!

Michael

 

VR Panoramas 08/19/11

Todays show is a bit different. Links to the VR Panoramas are here. They will take you to the resource so you can follow along with the discussion Lee and I have with Pat Swovelin.

1) 140 Ocean Park 525, Waterfall Fountain

2) 2115 3rd Street 203, Stairs

3) Arrowhead Stadium, Overview From The Top Of The Orange Level

4) B-17 Liberty Belle In The Ball Turret

5) B-17 Liberty Belle In The Bombardier’s Seat

6) Bryce Canyon, Sunrise Point, Horse Trail, 2

7) Clayton Center, Main Theatre, Ground Floor, Middle Of The Seats

8) Dark House, Evil Clown With Axe

9) KC Chiefs Vs Arizona Cardinals Chiefs Come Onto The Field

10)  KC Chiefs Vs Denver Broncos, Coin Toss, The Coin Is In The Air – Little Planet

11) M-Club Swimming Pool

12) MiMA Lobby

13) Philippe’s 100th Anniversary, The Perfect Gentlemen

14) Riverside National Cemetery, Medal Of Honor Memorial, Back Medals Wall

15) Toni Scotts 1-Woman Show Bloodlines

My Competition is My Past

Knock Yourself Out

As part of my daily duties as a professional photographer and self-employed businessperson, I evaluate multiple aspects of running my business: finances, investments creative mojo, technical understanding/practical application, sales, marketing, interpersonal skills, pricing, vendor relationships, likeability factors and more.

It never ends. I’m not complaining. Just explaining what I do to keep my oarsmen in the correct rhythm so I head in the direction of my business and career plans. No easy task. I’m distracted and bore easily. How do I do it then? For 30 years I’ve worked on these duties a little bit at a time, just a few at a time, slowly. I learn and absorb the process, knowledge and practical applications on my time frame: slow and steady wins the race. For example: as a professional photographer I feel it’s my responsibility to look critically at my work on a regular basis and ask myself what can I do better than I’m doing now? More thoughtful approach to my lighting angles? More awareness of my contrast ratios? More competent lens/aperture/shutter speed selection criteria? I want to keep pushing my quality until there isn’t a single location lighting situation I can’t handle. Lit or not I want to conquer all  technical and creative situations. This is my goal. It’s beyond my grasp. I may never arrive at the level my sights are set on. But my constant evaluation process will move me in that direction. And I will always improve. You see, I’m competing with myself, not anyone else. This flys in the face of the conventional wisdom that states you compete against like-minded small businesses.

If photographers are different and offer different levels of quality, creativity and customer service, then how can I be in competition with anyone but me? I am aware of who’s in my market. Sure. I’m aware of what others charge and what issues others have regarding running their careers and lives profitably. This isn’t to say I don’t learn from the success and mistakes of others. I do. Frequently.

But I compete with my past. With my performance from yesterday. From last week. Last Month. Last Year. My competition is my past. This logic keeps me focused on the goals I’ve identified, sane and relatively stress-free.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading.

Michael

Thy Muse Is Challenge

Tidepools

I’ve a muse to inspire push and motivate. As an SECP (self-employed creative professional) I want to get my bubbles of influence (creative, financial, relationship) out further and farther (or farther and further?) Every project I work on, every email I send, every letter I write, every negotiation I undertake, every sales presentation I make, every personal relationship I have present a challenge of some sort. The challenge is my muse.

Challenge calls to me like the Sirens. If I don’t approach each challenge wisely however (as the Sirens hoped for), I may not crash but most likely will not have the expected outcome. I’m always down for seeking new and unfamiliar ways to channel this muse to help me accomplish my goals. Do I always succeed? Of course not. But I do succeed enough to propel me, my family and career forward.

For instance, during my current time-lapse project I’ve worked out ways to photograph the subject to make it more interesting. Some of my ideas: fade in and fade out to convey the passage of time, zoom in, zoom out and pan while manually shooting a burst of frames. The end results are cinema type camera moves within a still photography time-lapse. My client is pleased with the result and this had led to discussions about future time-lapse projects. This of course encourages to think up new ways to increase the the value of the overall project for all involved parties.

Another challenge on this project; how to get the specialists (carpenters, roofers, plasterers, foremen) flown in from Japan to accept me. I wanted to be able to place my 2nd and 3rd cameras in locations of my choosing. These locations while great for my purposes may not be ideal for them. How to respect their boundaries, achieve what I want and come together for the sake of the project?

I’d planned to give prints as gifts near the end of the project. But after reviewing  the first days take from camera two (set inside where the carpenters were working), I noticed the carpenters had posed during a few of the exposures. One silly, one serious and one group with all of them. How great is that? I didn’t know they had posed. Once the camera was set, I leave for several hours, came back to retrieve the camera and leave again for my office. I discovered their self-portraits during my edit session. I remember telling them the camera was set to make an exposure every 90 seconds and that you could hear the sound of the shutter. I didn’t think anything of it. It was left up to them to act. They did. And I responded in kind.

     

                 Just for fun….

This simple gesture on both sides has resulted in a bonding of sorts. Subsequently they have suggested spots for camera placement. They are also very careful to ensure my cameras don’t get disturbed during its’ daily cycle. Challenge met and conquered.

I urge you to find your muse. In whatever shape it comes to you. Embrace it. Get to know it. Learn how to apply it to advance your goals.

Good luck.

Michael

RAW vs. JPEG. Which is better?

I’m a member of several professional groups on Linked In and the debate that has been raging for months on which format is better is interesting in that it touches a nerve with so many and that there are so many “experts” weighing in. This appears to be a thoughtful question on its’ face but ridiculous when you compare: pens vs. pencils, hammers vs. saws, Yankees vs. Dodgers (bottom of the ninth, 2 out and 2 on), sex vs. celibacy, dirt vs. grass and on and on. You get the idea.

Here’s my take. When it’s important, for a client or my portfolio, I shoot RAW. When it’s for my wife, I shoot JPEG. No seriously don’t go, I’m just getting started. JPEG has it’s place at the photography table, it’s just not as fun as a RAW meal. On the occasions when you know exactly what you’re going to do with the files and you’re working under ideal (the scene brightness range or SBR is within the range of the sensor) conditions and you don’t have to do significant color correction, contrast toning or up sizing, then go ahead and shoot JPEG till the cows come home. Today’s cameras do a wonderful job with the JPEGs. And you can edit them in the Adobe RAW converter (ACR). Quality will be compromised, don’t kid yourself. If you scrutinize an edited JPEG, you’ll see banding and posterization issues in the tonal transition zones: highlight to mid-tone and mid-tone to shadow. Look closely. And I mean with a professional’s eye towards a quality output. Borrow both of mine if you want but look….you’ll be surprised.

If you work under challenging conditions: you cannot fill shadows, cut down the contrast or otherwise minimize the impact of an extended scene brightness range then use a RAW file processor and you will redeem your photographs’ soul.

For example on this location I am capturing frames from early morning to late afternoon. I have sweet light until 9 or so and UGLY light until about 3. In between the SBR is out of the range of the sensor by 5 stops or more. RAW to the rescue, JPEG need not apply, you’ll be shown the door.

These top to bottom comparisons provide proof of the superiority of RAW files in uncontrollable lighting and contrast conditions. In the first set the early morning light does not pose a challenge as the SBR is well within sensor parameters. The next set shows the power and flexibility of the RAW format. Finally the last set is much the same as the second set but with a lighting angle that is more off to the edge of the scene.

Early morning SBR

Mid-morning SBR

Late pm SBR

Notice how the highlights have been toned down and the shadows have been toned (opened) up? The skin tones have been warmed, the mid-tones have been boosted (clarity slider) and a slight vignette has been placed around the perimeter of each processed image. This heavy editing can be done on a JPEG file but the output quality will be compromised and less than acceptable especially when measured by professional standards. Keep your standards high, your clientele informed and your rates profitable.

Good shooting!

Two Camera Tea House Time-Lapse

Mobile camera rig for a 5D and 16-35 F2.8

As many of you know I’m working on a project to deliver a four month time-lapse photography sequence. After capturing the first 5,400 exposures I moved camera 1 to the other side of the construction site. With the exception of this camera inexplicably shutting down for 1/2 a day after it was relocated (and after it ran flawlessly for 300 exposures), the move was successful. I chose to relocate because a tarp covering the entire structure was obscuring the work being performed and I wanted to get an angle that included the front of the structure.

 

A close-up of my rig.

To increase the odds my client will be pleased with the entire body of work, I occasionally add a mobile second camera to capture the work inside. The camera is set up at a spot where the work will be done for that day and a handheld intervalometer is used to control the camera. I leave for several hours. The fellows from Japan who are working here have enjoyed being photographed and have hammed it up a few times during my absences. The relationship we’ve been establishing with each other has been building and will lead to more cooperation regarding the shots I want. I look forward to working with them throughout the remainder of the time they’re here.

Photography is a powerful and universal language. I’m thrilled when what I do connects to others. The power is fun. The power is friendly. The power is gracious. The power is photography.

As soon as I post sequences, I’ll let you know….

Cheers!

Michael

5 Steps To Nurturing A Vision

Sunrise at 6:45am

Many times I’ve been asked by non-professional practitioners of photography how I create my distinctive imagery. This post is dedicated to providing some answers…

To be clear there are two types of creativity I wish to discuss here, the planned creation, (commercial assignment) and the “I must do it today”, creation (personal). Self-imposed deadlines are crucial for they train me to work within client-driven deadlines with a minimum of stress.

1)  On days I feel compelled to create for my book, I make a worthy attempt as soon as possible for I won’t be right inside until I do. When I was younger I fought against this urge. I don’t anymore because it became unhealthy (emotionally and intellectually) for me to ignore this creative drive. Money and sales will come in due time, I don’t fancy putting the cart before the horse anymore.

Late Evening Multiple Exposure

2)  Once I accept that today is the day to create, I plow ahead and begin my creative process. For example: I recently spent time in Lake Tahoe, CA. The views of the lake from the house we were staying at were remarkable. After several successful photos during the day and evening, I knew I had to get up early and shoot a sunrise photo and stay up very late to shoot an evening series to round out the collection.

Everybody Needs A Pier Picture

3)  Actually do the work. With joy in my heart and an eye towards the finished image. I don’t filter at this stage, I just make my exposures in as many flavors of shutter speed and aperture combinations as I deem appropriate.

4)  ASAP I look at the images and begin the assembly process. Since I’ve already gotten my image hit while shooting (page one of my book), all I’m doing is shuffling the files into the vision I desire.

5)  On commercial assignment work the difference in working through the creative process is that I’m working towards a vision the client has imparted to me. I check their ideas against the production issues and deadlines and if all goes well, I deliver an image as solid as any in my portfolio. All the previous steps are the same whether for myself or clients.

Happy New Year from Lake Tahoe, CA.

Michael

The Morning Sun Melts Away The Snow

Early Morning Warmth

A Gray Day For Sure

The Shin Bone Is Connected To All

Looks Like.......

Network. Make connections. Hand out cards. Meet people. Talk. Follow up. Blah, blah, blah. Oy! It’s enough to make you want to go work for somebody else, take their guff and not have to schmooze. Just grab the booze and drift through your life. A lot of people did just this back in the day. But that’s not us is it?

No matter how you slice it, it’s all about connections and how well one tends relationships. Case in point. My wife and I were invited to a birthday party hosted by Sandra Tsing-Loh and Frier McCollister at their home around the corner from us in Garfield Heights. They actually rented our guest house for most of last year and bought a short-sale house (thank you financial meltdown) when it became available. Great kitchen and porches. Anyway we were a bit surprised to be on the guest list but Sandra thought we would be a good addition to the mix. Being around the corner, we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving but on the walk home we notice the streets seemed slanted?

There were a number of successful artists present: actors, writers, poets, a producer, a conductor and a city official. I met them all. We ate. We drank. We talked. We laughed. I wasn’t trying to network at all. I usually network head on every chance I get but I really wanted to party this time: I was completed an assignment that was went south on me and my current tenants gave notice Friday that they were leaving Monday. So I partied on but during the festivities one of the guests mentioned a friend is coming out to LA from NY and needs a small guest house for six months. Bingo! A connection. This woman is the Music Director and Conductor of The Pasadena POPS Orchestra. And we hit it off. I look forward to developing a relationship with Rachael, who knows where this connection will lead. How cool is that? Oh yeah, the photo assignment ended up being OK too.

A tremendous end to a lousy day!

I Can’t Wait To Work For Myself!

We all needs da monray!

I’ve lost of count how many times friends and acquaintances have said to me during the past two years, “I can’t wait to work for myself!” Or something to that effect. They don’t fully comprehend the ramifications of their statements. That’s OK because I’m going to set them on a very clear path before they jump ship: I look at them, sigh a little, grab them by the shoulders and say,”You realize when you work for yourself, everything becomes your responsibility, everything you know becomes your responsibility and everything you don’t know yet becomes your responsibility. Everything. No exceptions. Have fun keeping up.”

These days I fantasize about what it must be like working for a company: benefits, profit sharing, sick days, parties, vacations, income on a regular basis, (even if you don’t do your job well). Sounds great, sign me up.

Thirty years on my own and I’m a bit worn out the past 18 months: marketing, prospecting for new leads, sales calls, budget proposals, project proposals, strategy meetings, emails, social networking, blogging, network groups, etc. Add to that the personal responsibilities of marriage, parenting, home maintenance, mortgage, retirement planning (this does not magically go away working for yourself, in fact it’s just the opposite, they become more important than ever, yikes!)

So yes come on down and join our party, we need all the help we can get….