Tag Archives: Promote

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

2011 Rose Bowl Time-Lapse of Fireworks Show

July 4, 2011

Here is the sequence I shot last night. I rendered the frames out at a much higher rate than I thought I would (10 frames per second vs. 2 frames per second) and I like it. The challenge was finding the right tempo music. Garage Band had what I needed. Enjoy.

Michael

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

Keywords & SEO, Playing Well Together Part II

In the previous post with the same name I promised to let you know if I got the job….

It took a bit of negotiating (completely normal), but we came to an agreement on scope and budget. As a gesture of good will, I threw in a video interview. I’m sure this will go a long way in building the relationship with this client. Step two was to collect the deposit check, order the custom-built time-lapse housing and meet with the contractor who will set the pole into the ground and run power. As of this writing, I have the check ($$$$), ordered the housing, camera and lens but I’m waiting for the contractor to return my email…..

I’ve had a reality check with this new client: their priority scale is calibrated differently than mine. My business is dedicated to providing superior customer service. To that end I’ve sent emails, made phone calls and have generally tried try to get them to work with me in reaching their goal of beginning this project on their suggested start date. In order for me to help them reach their goal however, I require a deposit check. Without the deposit check I cannot order the time-lapse housing. This special housing requires ten days lead time (for fabrication, de-bugging, delivery, set-up and final testing). The check was delayed by two weeks, the housing was delayed by the same two weeks and that has pushed the start date back to who knows when.

I’m not as concerned anymore because I have the check and expect to pick up the housing early next week. The ball as they say is in their court.

Speaking of…..

Old truck with a chair on a boom at the Zorthian Ranch

Tribute to Blade Runner

I spent Saturday April 9th, in Ventura as part of the inaugural seminar series put on by my friends Sam Benner and Peter Duffy of Be The Edge Now. I was one of five speakers and my topic was how to create business opportunities through volunteering, continuing education and pushing out your personal bubble of influence. This was the first time I spoke on a topic that wasn’t about photography or Photoshop. Whew! I was fully confident about the topic and my content, right up until the night before. Panic sets in and the question arises, “why would anybody listen to me?” fortunately I didn’t waver and went ahead with my thoughtful, reasoned and practiced approach to the idea of creating one’s own opportunities. All I can say is thank you to all of the people who came up to me afterwards, thanking me for my content. I’ve also received several emails and invitations to connect online. This obviously is another way to create opportunities…blog about your experiences so that others may learn and thrive.

Cheers!

Michael

Don’t Burn Your Bridges, You May Need Them Later….

Lake Tahoe Pier-2006

 

Of the many aspects about teaching that I’m fond of, the process of reaching out to companies and asking for review copies of their products is up near the top. To date this has worked so well that I’ve become expert at asking and receiving. Of course I offer something in return: my expertise in reviewing said products and my loyal audience who have grown to trust my judgment when I bring the information to them. Everybody wins. It’s actually a great system.

I’m happy to report that I don’t burn bridges as a matter of course, (you won’t get very far being self-employed) What happened yesterday bears repeating: I reached out to a company to ask for review copies of their entire product line. (how bold of me, but if you don’t ask you don’t get) I heard about this particular software from a woman who attended the Los Angeles Photshop User Group monthly meeting during which I presented my compositing work, thought processes and business approach. Anyway the marketing person from this company calls me in response to my inquiry.

She wanted to know a bit more about my show’s philosophy and why I want their product for my show’s product showcase segment. We chatted a bit and found out that we are on the same page when it comes to education and training. She liked my ideas for presenting their products and offered to send me download links and serial numbers straight away. (she did)

We ended the phone call with her asking me if I remembered her… Can you say GULP? She and I met when we worked at Brooks Institute. She left in ’06 and I’ve not taught there since ’09. (low enrollment = no classes for adjuncts) Oh well. Get your own radio show.

One can only imagine  the outcome had there been no bridge connecting us…….the conversation would have had a decidedly different tone. (if she had responded at all)

Be well.

Michael

Almost Anything can be the Subject of a Photograph

This is a 3D scan from a tiny subject

As some of you know from my Facebook posts, we have an owl living in one of our palm trees. This owl is prolific in the amount of pellets that have fallen to the ground. As weird as it sounds, I’ve been collecting them for my fine art series: Remnants. The two images above are from different individuals but the same type of creature. I think it’s a mouse as the skull is under an inch in length.

For me almost anything is worthy of being a photographic subject and to further my point on my radio show’s Fan Page is an image I built last evening in darkness, a high ISO and a long shutter speed.

16 Gigs Later….

Getting Blasted

16 gigs was what I shot on a recent assignment. The client was extremely happy with my work, attitude and professionalism. This occurs when I show up for an assignment, build my photographs and deliver results. The difference this time, the client didn’t budget for photography even though they said, “we need photos for post-production reference and online promotion.” Let’s see, they need professional photography but didn’t budget for it. Huh? Yet they budgeted $100,000 for the trailer. Hey can I get some of that? Seriously. You have to send some my way.

Let me explain….I was contacted by a director/producer friend who was directing/producing the live-action portion of a trailer for a yet-to-be-released video game. The company releasing this game didn’t budget for photography. Professional or otherwise. My good director/producer friend explained to them why it was necessary and important to pay a professional for the required and necessary photography.

We negotiated a price that was obviously way more than they expected/wanted and I worked for a fee that was just about correct for the usages required.

So in the end it worked out but of course I was going to politely decline if the client insisted they had no money. Thank goodness for good friends and a good reputation.

As always, thanks for reading.

Cheers!

Post Production Software

Straight Out of RAW!

As this blog is usually dedicated to artists who choose to work for themselves and the thinking that goes into becoming a self-employed creative professional (SECP), I’ve digressed a bit to bring you the success I’ve been having lately using Nik Software.

The first image is what came out of my 5D in the RAW format.

What I Did in ACR

The second image is after processing that 5D RAW image in Photoshop’s ACR.

Using Color Efex Pro 3.0

The final image is what I came up with using Nik’s Color Efex Pro 3.0’s Glamour and Graduated filters in sequence and in combination with Smart Objects. I also added a bit of Nik’s Viveza 2, too. This allows me to achieve the maximum effect coupled with maximum control. And it’s editable!

As a professional I appreciate the thought put into this product. The thing that amazes me most is how smart NIK’s products are, they work today like we used to work with film, color correction, graduated and neutral density filters. Thanks guys!

Don’t forget to catch my show, Fridays at 9am, PST at: buildabetterphotograph.com

Create Your Own Moment

In 2003, after 24 years in business for myself as a commercial photographer and photo lab services provider, I was ready to move beyond photography and into the next phase of my professional life: creation of an online presence through blogging, public speaking, writing, teaching and consulting. It was also a goal of mine to become a celebrity in the process. Eight years later, after concentrated effort and focus, trial and error, missteps and success I find myself in the catbird seat ready to push out to the world all that is me via my very own internet-based radio show on photography. (:()) How’s that!

I’m now at the spot I envisioned eight years ago, but I’m not surprised: hard work, relentless effort, laser focus and karma all mixed together will do that for any self-employed creative professional (SECP). I control my destiny, it’s up to me, sink or swim to make this a long-term success.

How did I get here?

Follow me:

1)     I fully committed to this from the jump. It was necessary to reaffirm this many times but I began at 100% full throttle. For me this was the only way to begin, no time for toe-dipping here, jump in and swim with purpose and a plan. When the inevitable forks in the road popped up I knew which ones to take advantage of. My fork collection is huge.

2)     I was fortunate to have been offered a teaching job at world famous Brooks Institute. From 2003-2009 I taught twice a week at the Ventura, CA campus. Met 100’s of students and many of them will be coming onto my show as interviewees. Cool. How did I get this gig? By paying it forward. Several years earlier I had occasion to view a photography show by Brooks Institute students at a gallery in Santa Barbara. The teacher of these students was looking for someone to help with a field trip to LA area photo studios. I didn’t know this teacher but I volunteered anyway as LA is my hometown, I like to be in the service of others (Makes me feel complete) and I had a studio. . The field trip successful. Everyone enjoyed themselves. When I called the school in ’03 to inquire about a teaching position, this teacher had become the Provost. He remembered that field trip and how I had volunteered to help him and his students. I was hired shortly after that phone call. KARMA.

3)     I’ve worked my connection with the school into opportunities to speak, run workshops, give interviews and to appear as Mr. Pixel on Phototalkradio.

4)     I began a blog on 6/22/08 and have acquired over 5,000 unique visitors and over 7,000 hits. Small in the world of the web but big for me and growing daily.

5)     My book was released on 11/17/09. It stayed in the top 100 (of its’ category) at Amazon for seven months.

6)     Credibility has led many companies to partner up with me more easily than if I had no book, no blog and no connection to a world class school.

7)     Not to be one to rest on my laurels, I went to a marketing boot camp in September of 2010 run by Craig Duswalt. There I met internet guru Tom Antion and was inspired by both of them to rethink my marketing efforts. While following Craig’s online presence I discovered his radio show on toginet.

8)     After speaking with Craig about his radio show (and having an empty credit card, always always a dangerous thing) I pulled the trigger on 50 hours of prime radio time programming.

I go live 2/4/11 at 9am: Build A Better Photograph with Michael E. Stern

Hard work, laser focus, relentless effort, karma and here I am!

What are you doing?

Michael