Introduction by Skip Cohen
Over the many years I've been in this industry I've attended hundreds of workshops and presentations by some of the finest and most creative artists in our industry.
Years ago I had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Arthur Rainville while I was in Boston. To this day it remains one of the finest presentations on the quest for creativity I've ever heard. And again, over the years, Arthur has grown to be an incredible friend and throughout the industry there's grown a deep respect for his outlook on the craft, his ability as an educator and his creativity as an artist.
This post is part of an SCU "trifecta" with a podcast and a video all thanks to Tamron USA. What I've enjoyed about Tamron over the years is their position on education and support for the photographic community...it's non-stop. So, kick back for a few minutes and enjoy the world according to Rainville!
The late, great astronomer, Carl Sagan, once said; “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent a universe.”
All too many times these days we like to hope we can create Art-on-Demand… a little Photoshop here, a little NIK filter there, maybe even a dash of Painter…. that ought to do it! And while all of these new fangled tricks-of-the-trade certainly can aid in our quest for the magical, nothing will ever replace making a good and honorable picture to start.
Camera and computer skills aside, the aesthetics of art – composition, design, balance; color harmony will set a grand stage for the magic to come.
The old adage of what goes in is what comes out could never be more accurate here. The more you look at successful photographs, great paintings, any worthy art, the more it will manifest itself when the time is right. And then…. the two P’s – Play and Practice.
You can’t make yourself be creative, you can only let yourself. You’ve probably already experienced having some of your best images come from simply joyful times, not particularly ‘have to’ moments.
Picking an idea or a theme to focus-explore will also yield heightened results. A good example might be: studying the work of the legendary street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. His sense of timing, of waiting for the exact “Decisive Moment” when every element in the composition ‘sang’ separated his imagery from the masses.
Finally – get in the Zone. You can visually influence your efforts by emotionally being ‘ready.’ Using Wordsmithery – the suggestive art of telling yourself what you want to see, feel, capture, and will help you focus. Let’s look at an example.
Consider the focus word – Solitude.
What does the word imply? aloneness, quite, private space….
Now how could you visually speak of those words?
For one thing…space. Leaving lots of negative space in the image around your subject suggest oneself in a great big world.
Consider the quality of light. Should it be dark and separately foreboding or perhaps soft and quiet like an overcast day?
Obviously when you start to put Wordsmithery into your gear bag you will have added a significant tool to your visual imaging.
A great example was the discovery by artist James McNeil Whistler (ya, he got famous with a simple portrait of his mom) once said: “Art Happens.”
Seems Whistler was standing in front of a window and noticed the foggy view– “Art should be like breath on a pane of glass” and he instantly knew how he would create his atmospheric looking paintings from that day on.
Being a ‘Whistler Lover’ I set out to recreate his special look and initially achieve it in ‘real time.’ Obviously a soft quality of light is called for, no harsh glaring light or shadow for Mr. Whistler. And a muted color palette was with out question – no bold elements need apply. The negative space compositional elements of a small subject in a great big world concept heightened the feeling.
In the end, it’s you, your private way of seeing, that will tell a unique story. You will bring all the ‘magic’ that has accumulated in your memory banks into play at the moment you push the shutter button. See – think – feel – and….. make your magic.
ARTHUR LEVI RAINVILLE, M.Photog., Cr. CPP, API
Visit Arthur's new website for more images and information.
All images copyright Arthur L. Rainville, All rights reserved.
by Skip Cohen
I first met Bob and Dawn Davis at a convention when Maureen Neises, from Graphi asked me to look at an album they had done. I was president of Rangefinder/WPPI at the time and the last thing I wanted to see was another album! Well, what I saw was phenomenal and the start of a long-standing friendship. The album event was Oprah's tribute to women who changed the world and it was photographed at her estate in Chicago. It remains one of the most beautiful and striking presentations I've ever seen.
In this post Bob talks about the need to sometimes be your own publicity machine. I know that many of you will read it and think, "Sure, it's easy for him, he's got a People Magazine story to crow about!" Okay, here's your challenge...it doesn't matter what the event or how big your exposure. Every photographer has something that happens that's newsworthy within your community. It might be something new you're doing. Maybe you photographed the Mayor's dog. How about a family shoot that was in some way unique and different from what everybody else is doing?
You've got to be the one to get the message out there. You've got to find a way to remind your target audience that you're a professional photographer. You've got to be the one to crow a little.
This is part of a "trifecta" today with a video and a podcast with Bob. In the podcast Bob talks about getting the message out in your community.
Bob and Dawn need to be on your radar. You'll find their online courses are just a click away. Follow them on Facebook too.
Sometimes you have to toot your own horn, in a good way! Dawn and I have learned through the years that if you don’t let your audience know what you’re up to or about your recent accomplishments the phone will not magically ring with opportunities.
I remember a few years back we had completed a BIG assignment for a very high profile client, no need to drop names. Lets just say it was a once in a lifetime shoot, of historic proportions, for some of the highest profile people in entertainment and politics. Every one of the guests received a custom designed Graphistudio fine art book. Dawn out did herself with the design and Graphistudio exceeded our expectations in helping us deliver a one of a kind book on time. I remember saying to Dawn, buckle your seat belt; things are going to take off! We delivered 500 books to movers and shakers, our name and website was in the book, surely everyone whom received this exquisite fine art book would have to hire us for their weddings and events. Time went by and the phone did not ring!
I learned from this that you have to let people know about your accomplishments. Recently we had the great honor to work with, event planner extraordinaire, Mindy Weiss, to photograph the wedding of the TV show The Bachelorette, Ashley + J.P.’s wedding at the Langham in Pasadena. This was as high profile as it gets, for me it’s like when I was back at the newspaper, this wedding is on the same level as shooting the Super Bowl. I could hear the words of Bob Kotalik, my chief photographer of the Chicago Sun-Times saying, “kid come back with a good picture or don’t come back at all!” The images from Ashley + J.P.’s wedding were going to be featured in People and we had to deliver. Sunday morning after their wedding we sat down with the photo editor of People and made the selections. The plan was the cover, but the Royals bumped us to a corner with the news of their coming baby.
This time I had a plan to let 20 of our best vendors and event planners know exactly what we just accomplished! As soon as the issue of People magazine hit the newsstand, I bought 25 copies and FedExed the promo boxes. I know my audience and they would appreciate details. Dawn had found these little blue suit cases that match our brand color. Michele, our operations manager helped track down the goodies, aromatherapy lotion, Godiva chocolate, toy camera keychain, our collection guides, three signed 4x6 prints from our recent travels, 4x5 soft cover Graphistudio wedding book, all packaged with blue crinkle paper. Lastly I sprayed some of Dawn’s perfume inside the box. Placed the suitcase in a FedEx box including the issue of People with a press release and a hand written personal note to each recipient.
This kept us in the forefront of the minds of everyone who received our promo box. To date we have had four inquires for high profile events and weddings. We are keeping our fingers crossed they all book.
Originally posted on the PhotoResourceHub.com site, it's an interesting perspective on a question that often comes up...
by Skip Cohen
There's been a lot of great discussions over the years on the advantages of a formal education in photography. Some of the finest photographers in the world never attended a full time educational institution with the intent of majoring in any aspect of imaging. But that's exactly my point today. Photography is no longer a stand-alone art form or vocation, we call it "imaging", which is far more extensive. "Imaging" encompasses so many different aspects of art, technology, marketing and business. In order to stand out from the Uncle Harrys I write about all the time, you've got to have a solid skill set and yet, by definition, millions of people consider themselves photographers.
On the website for the New York Film Academy they wrote:
"Photography is an art form, a way of seeing the world; it’s also the most popular hobby on the planet. But great art can only be created through the vision of an artist who has mastered the broad technical and aesthetic challenges that require every photographer to make dozens of split-second decisions about shutter speed, aperture, ISO, composition, focal length, gesture, and the precise moment of exposure when capturing a photograph."
Recently I was approached by one of their staff members who asked if he could write a guest post on the topic. I approached the idea with a great deal of cynicism and was pleasantly surprised by what I received. Here it is completely unedited and terrific food for thought.
By Russ Klettke - consultant writer at New York Film Academy.
There are two points of controversy around photography that have been around for a long time. One asks whether photography is a fine art – under the same umbrella as painting and sculpture, for example -- and the other is whether or not a university degree is required to become a photographer.
The answer to both is “it depends.” And perhaps, “it’s a matter of degree.”
Certainly there are fine photographs that are worthy of the fine art designation. The work of Ansel Adams, Matthew Brandt, Adolph de Meyer, Edward Steichen and Gertrude Käsebier might come to mind (the latter three are part of Alfred Stieglitz’s famous collection donated to the Museum of Modern Art in 1928, when photography first achieved top-tier art world attention). Perhaps what keeps the controversy alive today is that fine art photography is a mix of what someone simply observes and what they do to represent that observation. This debate is intensified by the easy manipulations by way of digital technologies by Brandt and others – in ways that Ansel Adams, with old fashioned darkroom burning and dodging, never imagined.
But does a photo snapped by an amateur’s smartphone qualify as art if it’s seen by millions on Pinterest or if it goes viral via Twitter or Facebook? Ultimately, the answer is in the eye of the beholder. Interest and popularity are sometimes a measure by which we judge artistic merit, but it boils down to judgment. The matter of motorcycles in the Guggenheim museum (“The Art of the Motorcycle,” 1998) and whether or not the design of vehicles constitute art found its own debate – even though the wildly popular exhibit drew more than 300,000 people to its three-month exhibit. The critics sniffed, but it was the most popular show ever at the iconic museum.
Where it comes to studying photography, there are many opinions of whether post-secondary education is required and to what degree that study it makes for a talented photographer. As an educator, I am of course biased in favor of education, and I believe that more is more. The person who has technical skills can do well in many forms of photography. But the person who has a deeper understanding of the natural world, the human condition, and even world geopolitics will have advantages as both a photographer and as a business person (a large portion of photographers are self-employed, and therefore need to manage their marketing, bookkeeping and profit/loss considerations).
The breakdown is often made according to career objectives. A photographer who is interested in portrait work (schools, weddings, etc.) is ideally a solid technician with a personality that is fit for the job. A year’s worth of very technical study may be adequate, while an apprenticeship with an established photographer is probably as or more important. The portrait photographer needs to be confident, and for some that confidence comes with a degree.
Photojournalists are in a different category. They have to identify visual representations of news and often themselves study alongside writers for at least a portion of their education. A nature photographer needs to understand botany and biology; a financial news photographer should at least know how mortgage crises lead to foreclosures; a sports photographer should have insight on the physical and emotional drama of athletics and the sports industry, on and off the court. A four-year degree or master’s in fine arts are generally valued by news organizations, if not required of photographers.
Then there are commercial photographers, working in advertising and corporate communications. They are on the same team as highly proficient marketing and public relations people, and have to be seen as intellectual peers as well as good photographers.
Almost all journalism university programs include digital photography schools, and where you study can make a difference in several respects. One is the emphasis on living with your camera. Some institutions bring you into actual photo classes by your sophomore or junior years, while other place a camera in your hands at freshman orientation. Another component is your surroundings: the physical location of a school will have a lot to do with what you learn to shoot. A school set in a rural setting might lead you to a career in outdoor photography, perhaps focusing on landscapes or agricultural themes, while a city location would provide a very different experience. Consider also the broader scope of the university: if it includes a robust phys ed program and proximity to college or professional sports teams, you might end up as a sports photographer. A vibrant performing arts academy will instead expose a student to actors, singers, dancers and those around them. In general, the learning experience is holistic and can set a path for the first phase or entirety of one’s career.
So as with most controversies, the questions around photography – Craft or art? Technical training or university degrees? – are never fully resolved. It is up to the prospective student to consider their goals, look at their options then make a decision. As a photographer and educator, I can assure you it’s a great ride when you enjoy the path you take. By New York Film Academy Photography School Staff Member
So the controversy will just continue, but I did love the perspective this educator took. If you've got an interest in checking out the variety of educational opportunities, they offer a wide variety of programs from a 1 week workshop to a full Masters of Fine Art degree. One thing I do know for sure - there's no such thing as too much education. Photography/imaging is a career path where you never stop learning!
Note: Russ Klettke writes on arts education, health, nutrition, sustainable architecture and planning, plaintiff law and real estate. He received a degree in magazine journalism and economics from Syracuse University and lives in Chicago.
Individual Photo Credits as shown. All images taken by students at NYFA.
by Skip Cohen
Every now and then somebody comes into our lives with such a big personality that after only a year or two you can't remember when they weren't in your life. Well, meet our buddy, Chantale Perron. She's a Canadian photographer who Sheila and I first met at Skip's Summer School in 2011. Since then she's been a non-stop supporter of great feedback and so many interesting ideas on education for photographers just starting out. She's definitely somebody who should be on your radar and check out her blog as well.
She's an active participant in SCU and a member of the newly formed advisory board, the Student Council. Even more impressive than the infectious Perron spirit, is her passion for imaging. At last year's summer program Chantale and Tiffani Dhooge headed off on their own shooting session. It's one of the biggest and most fun benefits of a boutique conference like this, networking and building friendships with other photographers.
Meet Chantale Perron!
One of my favorite, inspirational sayings comes from Danielle Laporte’s Credo for Making it Happen (author of The Fire Starter Sessions). Danielle says, “Just Figure it Out”. It may sound silly to you, but is it really? Think about it. How many times do we as entrepreneurs / small business owners get stuck in a rut, or overwhelmed with reasons “why” we can’t do something. It’s easy to come up with the typical negative “yeah but….” response and find a reason why an idea can’t work, as opposed to finding the solution to make it work.
During last summer's Skip’s Summer School conference in Chicago, good friend and fellow photographer, Tiffani Dhooge of Genesis Photography and I had a really fun “Just Figure it Out” moment. While walking around the hotel grounds during Tony Corbell’s lighting course, a cool little spot in the parking garage caught Tiffani’s eye. She pulled me aside and said, “wouldn’t it be cool to do something right here?”. I agreed immediately. Then came all the questions and excuses; What should we do? Who will we shoot? We don’t have wardrobe. We don’t have a model. What will our concept be? Do we have time to do it? Do we have enough equipment? Can we pull this off?
Sure we can. Just Figure it Out.
We brainstormed together and tackled each obstacle as it arose until we had figured out exactly how to overcome each one. Any time one of us said “yeah but….” The other would say, “figure it out”. And that’s exactly what we did. Armed with only our excitement, Tiffani headed off in one direction to find a model, and I headed off in another to the Housekeeping department for “wardrobe”. Within an hour, everything was set and we met back in the garage with all our gear.
For the next hour or so we played around trying to create something from absolutely nothing. The best thing about this spur of the moment shoot was not only tackling obstacles but also getting to collaborate with another photographer and push each other to see things differently.
So the next time you find yourself coming up with an excuse as to why you can’t do something, stop for a minute and tell yourself, “just figure it out” and see what you can come up with. You’ll be glad you did!
A big warm thank you to the beautiful Vladlena for agreeing to work overtime after her long day modelling in Tony & Clay’s classes.
One of the first guest posts on the SCU site was from good buddy, Bob Coates and his journey into the fine art world. This is an encore from my previous site, but it's also part of a series of great "how to" posts. You'll also find a terrific podcast with Bob that aired on February 10. Here's the next part in the series, this time with an explanation of how he's creating the final piece of art. Skip Cohen
As a follow-up to my previous blog post, here are a few ideas on how I am creating my art.
As a review you can't make images with a camera you leave behind! Remember, the camera you choose needs to have enough of a file to create larger images. That led me to the Micro 4/3rds system Panasonic Lumix GH2. I am really enjoying this lightweight camera that has interchangeable lenses. (Just a note - Bob is not sponsored by Panasonic and made the choice to go with the GH2 after trying several other lightweight alternatives.
Here is a quick primer on how I work with the files to create the look of a painting. Photoshop's layers and Blend Modes play a big part. Take the original capture of a scene then add multiple textures with the layer Blend Modes using different settings. To really get the idea you need to get into Photoshop and PLAY. Add a texture layer and cycle through the Blend Modes. You can do this quickly by having the Move Tool selected, hold the Shift Key while hitting the + or - keys. This will allow you to see how the layer reacts with the image giving different looks. These effects can be modified by changing the opacity of the layer or adding a layer mask to allow only portions to show through. Then add another layer, change its Blend Mode to taste and repeat. You can shuffle the layers, add and subtract saturation, play with selections add Layer Styles and more.
A really fun by-product of shooting and gathering textures while you travel is watching people who see you taking a photo of some small detail, on a wall for example, come behind you and have this questioning look on their face. Then they try to take a photo of what they think you were photographing. Textures can be found everywhere and as you use this technique more and more you'll start to see how the different layers look together. Through my travels I've built an entire inventory of texture images.
I said this same thing at the end of Bob's first post...Bob needs to be in your network. You’ll find more images on his website. He also had an article in the November issue of Professional Photographer, called “The Art of Play”, with a subtitle that says it all, “Creativity expands exponentially when you embrace the possibilities of textures, Layer Styles and Blend Modes”. He’s an excellent instructor and available for seminars and individual coaching on artistic techniques. Give him a shout at email@example.com.
All images copyright Bob Coates. All rights reserved.
This post is part of a "Daily Double" here at the SCU Blog. There's a terrific podcast that's airing at the same time as this post. Bob's experience as a professional photographer is going to be so relevant to so many of you. He started out in this industry as a photojournalist and he's shot just about everything.
Bob and his wife Holly have been good friends for a whole lot of years. Many of you, if you've attended IUSA or WPPI have met them as regular volunteers at both conventions. He recently moved away from the wedding side of photography to focus on commercial and fine art. Well, last fall he was here in Sarasota, and as I posted last year, the work he showed me just blew us away.
There's a multifaceted message here and it applies to everything you do. First, it's so important to stay focused on special projects as an artist. You need to keep doing something in your life that keeps you focused on the importance of the craft. For example, you might be unchallenged with your business as a school photographer, but that doesn't mean you can't be working on a special project that keeps that passion to capture the ultimate image alive.
Second, this is all about pushing the edges of the envelope and combining your creative spirit with the tools technology keeps giving us. It's about experimenting and constantly asking yourself, "What if?"
Third and last, it's about being happy. If you haven't watched it already, check out "The Happy Secret to Better Work with Shawn Achor. As an artist in photography you can't create images that tug at people's heart strings if your heart isn't in it!
Bob needs to be in your network. You'll find more images on his website . Last November he had an article in the Professional Photographer, called "The Art of Play", with a subtitle that says it all, "Creativity expands exponentially when you embrace the possibilities of Textures, Layer Styles and Blend Modes". He's an excellent instructor and available for seminars and individual coaching on artistic techniques. Plus, we're really proud to have him on the faculty of Skip Cohen University! Give him a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travel. For a photographer it's awesome. For a photographer's spouse traveling with a photographer, not so much.
Travel for a photographer is a wonderful experience. It's almost like we are given a fresh set of eyes. New vistas, color and subject matter all play into a great visual experience he or she wants to capture. The problem with travel? The portability, or should I say the lack of portability of the gear. It's really hard to capture an image with the camera one leaves back at home or in the hotel room because it just got too heavy to haul around all day! Or, in my case left behind because my wife was tired of me carrying extra cases of gear on our vacations.
In order to keep peace in the family I bought a point and shoot. Yeah! Happiness in the spousal world. Boo, unhappiness in the photo world as I tried to work with files that fell apart when I tried to push them to larger sizes. Sell that point and shoot camera. Yeah! Buy new point and shoot camera with more mega-pixels and pro features built in like bracketing. Disappointment once again when trying to push files to a larger size. Seeing too many of those pixels in mega size. Sell that point and shoot and enter the Panasonic Lumix micro 4/3rds GH2 camera. My prayers were answered!
The Lumix GH2 is a different animal in that it's a small, lightweight, and best of all has an interchangeable lens system and produces a file I can push almost anywhere I want to go with it. I took this system to France on a twelve day trip and carried it constantly, all day - every day. No discomfort or sore shoulders. As a bonus the camera is more like what your everyday tourist is carrying so there was less hassle from officials because the gear does not look 'pro'.
The GH2 even has a couple features I would like to see on my regular 'PRO' camera. There's a touch screen that allows you to access camera settings without having to scroll through multiple menus. One of my favorites is being able to preset the bracketing of exposures for three, five or seven stops in 1/3, 1/2 and full stop increments, then with the flick of a switch on top of the camera shoot a single exposure or choose to use the bracketing. When on holiday I can't always take the time to measure exposures or add light to a scene so a multiple exposures are the order of the day to cover your butt, especially in places like cathedrals where a seven stop bracket just barely covers the luminance range of the scene.
I'll talk about the processing of the images for this look in another post but wanted to share how I was able to capture the original files in this one.
PS The GH2 is now my go-to camera for many of my 'PRO' jobs especially as more fast glass is becoming available for the micro 4/3rds system.
All images copyright Bob Coates. All rights reserved.