Just wanted to wish everyone Merry Christmas, I hope you are enjoying your day spending it with good food and friends / family! I have friends coming over to enjoy some cajun fried turkey and delicious trimmings! It’s hard to believe this year is about spent, but it’s been a good year! Nashville has a little snow so we have our white Christmas LOL!! Here is my pad in it’s Winter setting. Thanks for your friendship and support, and Merry Christmas!
I’ve been approached by many of these wisenheimers. LOL. Where for a pretty hefty fee, usually 300-400 dollars a month or more, they keep you on the first page of all major search engines, with a couple different search phrases. Like Nashville portrait photographers, or Nashville wedding photographers, etc. One company in particular I talked to at length, and discussed different options, the guy was eager and helpful, but also knew what it took to get a sale. I explained to him that I see the value in his project but am not in a position to commit to that added expense right now. Different things like blogging, etc. that I am able to do, are gradually helping my search rankings by using different key words and traffic…..but also I know you have to really know what you’re doing to get to the top of page one on search results. It’s something I want to try to budget for in the future at least for a few solid months, to see what results it brings….but I have things I need to work on first. The good thing is advertising is tax deductible. Which brings me to this point. Most advertising I have bought has not been a worthwhile investment. Most of my business has been word of mouth and referral, which has been proven over time to be the very best! That may mean it builds slower, but it builds more consistently. In this day and age however, search ranking I believe is the most valuable medium of advertising, over phone book, etc.
Now then. In my mind, advertising is a good investment if chosen wisely…..but you should only invest what you can afford to lose, as results are never guaranteed. Yes, it could very well generate extra business…..BUT there’s no guarantee it will increase your business at all. It does guarantee more people see it, which is good in the long term of things especially if in your local market, but again, it may or may not turn into business. Also I’m wondering if people will think they can’t afford me just because I’m there? Like being number one on Google automatically makes you the best and usually most expensive? Discussion welcome. At this point I think I want to give it a try in the future, it’s the only way I’ll know….and even one job could pay for it. But am looking into more affordable alternatives before deciding.
T-O-N-I-G-H-T- ….That’s right, some really talented local artists have come together to display their art at a fairly unconventional location, as a community event to bring art and education to an area that has become known as troubled. It’s something I’ve been part of for the past several months since it’s formation. Perhaps a little too late, the mall has made great efforts to clean up the crowd and enforce youth escort policies and beef up security, which I can see has helped…..unfortunately there are more store vacancies than before, but hopefully for them, that changes. But a group of merchants who care are reaching out to make something positive happen which is awesome, and how it should be! They have gotten a space at the mall, and gotten some art on display from the Lost Boys of Sudan gallery downtown, as well as trying to get attention from the media and city council / mayor. Of course we all know the media is often fixated on negative things, because the story sells. Hickory Hollow was a pretty decent, but fairly crowded area when I worked there years ago when new in Nashville……they went through a few rough years that unfortunately took their toll on the area and mall….the unfortunate thing about how public perception along with media reports usually works, the bad stick in peoples’ minds. Well isn’t it nice to know there are people trying to make a difference and make changes for the better?
Here is the gallery’s Facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?ref=profile&id=704069638#!/thegalleryathickoryhollow I hope you’ll come out and check out our work and see how things like this can make a good impact on that community! It is tonight from 6-9 in the old Dillard’s wing, lower level. Park between Sears and the old Dillard’s, there is a mall entrance, the gallery is the first storefront on the left, across from the Bazaar. Holiday shopping crowds aren’t too bad, just come out I’ll be there later preparing my own works and hanging them.
With the holidays approaching especially, it’s not uncommon for charity or non profit organizations to look for help from not only contributors, but also event workers, including photographers to cover their event. I don’t have a lot of extra time to do pro-bono work, but given the right circumstance, or a cause I am passionate about, I think it’s a good thing to do occasionally! I have done some of it and for the most part, found it rewarding and enjoyable….and it’s another way to network, bonus. This is different from shooting for a company who uses these images commercially and tries to entice people with false promises of exposure. (myah…)
Here are some key things I address before accepting anything like this. Usage. What will the photos be used for and where will they be published? Also any applicable photo credits. Not typically an option in print or publication but it’s better to discuss up front so there’s no misunderstanding. Also details about what I am to photograph in particular. If you don’t, it never fails, someone there will throw you off course and suck up all your time….just because you are providing a service for free, out of kindness, doesn’t mean your time doesn’t have value. I discuss time frames I will be shooting and make it clear to them I am all theirs during that time but have an appointment after I am through, so I must adhere to that schedule. That also encourages them to be organized. Which brings me to the most important part perhaps…..I make sure I can easily locate my contact person upon arrival, and that everything and everyone is in place for me to get started. Being organized and valuing your time wins the respect of others, and it helps prevent people from sucking up all your time when you are trying to do something nice….that does not equal weakness. I always let them know in a nice way that people must be ready, and their event is well planned and organized. And there is no waiting around while they pull it together. When it works like a well oiled machine, I am more likely to help them out again. If not, my value of them goes down far enough to not see it as a worthy cause any longer.
I saw a rather offensive model casting the other day that said “no ugly models” as well as other requirements. I totally understand each project needing a specific kind of model with the right look, but was there really a need to be that ruthless? I’ve found it’s better to specify what you DO need rather than negatives. For model assignments, it’s necessary to find the right subject for the project, nothing wrong with that. In the case of journalism or for hire client photoshoots, you don’t always get to choose and you have to work with what you have. Part of the challenge and skill of a photographer is to be able to make the same impact by photographing a 65 year old man as you do a gorgeous pristine 19 year old model. Of course you don’t shoot them in the same light, or same technique, but rather to capture their unique character and personality in that photo. That man knows he doesn’t have the “beauty” that young model does, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce as powerful of a photograph with him, as with that model, who by society’s standards, is traditionally beautiful.
The goal with each type of subject is the same…..bring out their best look and personality…. and feature it. The means to get it are different. With each unique subject, and the goal of the photograph, how it’s done changes. I look at some of the photos of less perfect subjects being photographed as if they were, it’s humiliating. That proves the technique changes to get successful results. Beautiful subjects can be made more beautiful if in the right hands. Average every day subjects can be captured as beautiful or full of character and interesting. Rough around the edges subjects can be photographed as especially interesting as well and their faces can tell a great story! Sometimes flaws should be embraced to do that! There have been times I’ve photographed nice looking subjects and made them look their worst, in order to carry out a storyline for the photo. Obviously that was the mutual goal, but the point of this article is to be creative with every type of subject, something can be done to make a great photograph for each person if it’s thought out. The photo below was simply a candid shot at a meet and greet event….shot with my Yashica 6×6 medium format, Ilford HP5 400 120 film. She’s a rather popular alternative model and is pretty friendly. Rather than capture her happy and lovely glamourous side, I captured the rough edges because that’s the story I wanted the photograph to tell.
On various online forums, and even real time conversations with others somehow connected to the industry, this question or topic came up. I can see where both sides of the argument fall, but my simple answer is “no”. Not every amateur is trying to be a pro. Even if so, we all have to learn and start somewhere. Learning should be encouraged, I have no problem helping anyone who has a passion and will listen. I believe it’s important to network and not view each other as competition. All our work is different. All our personalities are different, therefore we’ll all have different clientele. Also none of us know everything or can afford to be separatists for fear that someone will take all our secrets and run with them. Silly. We can all learn from each other, and there is always more to learn. In following paragraphs I will support my theory about why amateurs are not killing it for us all.
There are a lot of talented up and coming shooters who just need field experience, and haven’t learned the business end yet, and some not so talented who think they have. Take for example the new $50.00 headshot guy. His customer probably needs the headshot to submit to their agency or for their corporate headshot. What are the chances the lighting and composition will be good, and the mood fits the purpose of the photo? Assuming this person has little or no professional training or experience to understand the dynamics and how they work together . If not, the headshots will not be useful. In his mind, his cheaper price compensates for having less field experience and background, and established name. Some can get by with that, others cannot. Or the Craigslist “Uncle Joe” wedding photographer, who shoots weddings for $300.00. I admire his hustle and eager spirit, but as stated in past blogs, I think it’s disingenuous to market yourself as a pro if you aren’t qualified to do the job. But some people can’t afford a pro. Just so they know, Uncle Joe shows up with one entry level SLR and a kit lens and popup flash, probably no spare batteries or fast enough lenses to shoot in low light, no studio lighting or hot shoe flashes, no contracts, no backup body in case of failure….this is an event that is a one time shot, a pro carries backup everything and is prepared. Uncle Joe will probably hand a disc of the photos with no quality control or post production, all of which the average person has no idea what to do with. This is what his customers don’t think about. Yet you can bet they expect results….those who want to spend the least often expect the most, and Uncle Joe is treading on thin ice. But to some, he’s better than no one, so he’s needed. Anyone who would hire him would have no intention of hiring me, or any of my respected colleagues anyhow……so no, amateurs don’t hurt pros in that regard.
Even commercial budgets have slimmed down in this tough time…..some are trying the amateurs or haggling with pros, or even buying stock images, which that market is way down….this is a slump. I don’t think it will stay this way. Sooner or later someone will need to make some money. When companies slack on their image by hiring those less qualified or buying the same stock images others have, sooner or later the presentation value will go down to it’s prospective clients, and cream will have to eventually rise to the top. Most in this market are not fooled by lesser skill set or knowledge of the business. That being said, there’s no substitute for the real thing. Some will learn this the hard way, some will never learn…..others know. With the influx of digital and more photographers surfacing, all of our marketing skills have to be better than ever, and making a presentation helping people see the value of our services is the biggest challenge the amateurs provide. I don’t think of them as enemies, or pros vs. amateurs. I hope those that are trying to excel, do so. Especially if they are trying to learn and not take short cuts. I might add that not all pros are worth their salt just because they are pros….it’s survival of the fittest like any other business.
Usually when shooting a wedding, I stop by the rehearsal to get a feel for the place, learn where parties enter the ceremony area, look at available lighting, colors, etc. That way I can let it marinate and maybe help me come up with better ideas since I have time to think about it…..I usually don’t shoot anything then unless requested by the client. I think showing up eases the bride’s mind, that I’m fully invested and show initiative to go and have a look around. For this I usually dress like my usual self, and for weddings of course wear dress pants and official company dress shirt, sometimes a sports coat or suit jacket depending on weather. One girl in the wedding party of a recent wedding told me she thought it was funny that I went to the rehearsal dressed like a skateboarder, and then show up to the wedding all dressed up, LOL!! She was young, early teens so that made it even funnier! I’m surprised anyone even noticed actually!
If I remember right I was wearing a long sleeved white thermal with a black Apple Tshirt over it, plaid shorts, and checkered Vans….not unusual for my every day look. But of course was in proper dress for the actual wedding. There has been a reason all along I do this, but now I was busted…..I simply told her why after laughing for a minute straight. Many people dress casually for rehearsals which I think takes the edge off…..we can know who we really are and get comfortable with each other. I do this for that reason, in a way it helps build a personal connection with my clients and their families. ALSO when they notice I dressed up all for them the next day at the wedding, that also adds more to it. It lets them know you care enough to put on your professional image and yet inadvertently let them in your personal life. It may not work for everyone, but so far it has for me! Speaking of casual, below is Tybee Island, GA. shot in Sept. 2009 with my Yashica MAT 6×6 medium format, and Fuji Velvia slide film, 400. The sun was low, just look at my shadow, was about 50 feet long LOL!
We’ve talked about always backing up our work, which is extremely vital especially for the professional photographer. So I don’t need to go into not relying on your computer hard drive exclusively LOL. Redundancy is the best. For years I have burned dvd’s and kept my work backed up on portable hard drives as well….several western digital drives into it, I bought a couple 1 TB drives on sale at Best Buy, as duplicates to be kept offsite. The same photo content is on other drives I have here. I am securing a safe deposit box at the bank as my offsite solution. Which is pretty bulletproof! This way I am double protected, in the event of drive failure, theft, fire, or flood. Some may say it seems redundant to have duplicate drives for your same work, but that’s the whole idea! It’s MUCH cheaper than data recovery. From what I’ve heard about most online backup solutions, it’s very SLOW. Which is no good. So I think I’ve found my best solution, it’s offsite but close.
You don’t attempt to make both sites indestructible. Just get separation. Every shoot, I immediately back up my work to not only the computer but my current external hard drive…..the one kept at the bank will be picked up a couple times a month, new stuff loaded onto it, and brought back to the bank for duplicate drive storage. It also keeps the drive active which is better for it than sitting. Digital backup may not be as timeless as negative life, for film, but redundancy and separation is the smartest I think. I feel an obligation to protect my work, not only for my own access, but for my customers as well….especially for weddings which people keep their whole life.
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