Intro by Skip Cohen
Sheila and I were in Sedona in March and got out to dinner one night with Bob and Holly Coates, hitting a restaurant/nite club I've heard about for a long time, Sound Bites. Imagine an entire room decorated with images like this. It had sort of a "hall of fame" feel for all the musicians. In fact, so much so that some of them have now requested a photo shoot with Bob Coates as part of their compensation package when playing at the club.
The growing revenue stream that Bob talks about in this guest post is a nice thing to have happening, but there are two additional benefits. First, the idea for the work came out of a new technique he was working on for a personal project and now word is getting out in the community. Second, he's got a great relationship with the owner of the restaurant and their food and wine list are terrific! LOL
Check two previous guest posts from Bob on the process and follow Bob through his website. Also check out Bob's blog for the latest on what he's working on. There's a lot going on in the not-so-little town of Sedona.
All Images Copyright Bob Coates. All Rights Reserved.
I'm teaching a class at SCU's Summer Session on Fine Art Photography, Personal Projects and how to take the work generated to market and make some money on it. Photographers don't always understand how this can work. Here's a case study on how one of my personal projects, a fine art technique I call 'Photo-Synthesis', has been turning itself into income.
I've been playing with this technique in creating fine art images that have a painterly feel in order to create a unique look for wall decor for businesses and fine homes. I've only just begun to sell these outright to the market I was originally thinking about.
I was contacted by a restaurant to photograph their build-out upon expanding and taking over new space. I suggested I could create some original art for some of their decor needs and was subsequently commissioned to create five art pieces. Following their seeing these images the owners asked if I could do that same style in an ongoing fashion to document the live entertainment performing at the club. I agreed.
They asked for a discount and to trade for some goods, because it was going to be an ongoing project. I've learned never to give a discount unless I am getting something in return. My 'return' for the discount was being able to brand all the art pieces with my logo and web address. I now have a high traffic business that is displaying my work and promoting Bob Coates Photography on a regular basis. We are soon going to offer images with this technique for sale on site and through our web sites.
Extra business is being generated by the artists being exposed to my work and wanting to either use the images already created or have me design new work for their CD's and promo photos. Income from the past year from just the restaurant alone was just under $10,000 and it's growing more for this new year.
All of this happened because I was experimenting with new techniques for a personal project. There's a wonderful side bonus when it comes to working on a personal project like this. I really have to stretch to push my techniques further in order to create a unique look and feel to the images, which is forcing me to continue to grow as an artist.
by Skip Cohen
While this is a guest post, Dawn Davis didn't really send it to me for the purpose of posting.
With the WTF series, Bob is always in the spotlight, but having been around these two for a lot of years, I know it's always been a team approach. When I got these images a couple of weeks ago I was going to ask her about doing a guest post and then just got tied up. It slipped my mind and then today I was watching episode 11 in the WTF series and realized the connection in the first few seconds of the video.
Bob takes you through the first image and what Dawn has done, but the video doesn't do the work justice and I decided it was time to post these on their own. The work is stunning and they deserve their own moment in the spotlight!
Bob and Dawn will be teaching at SCU's Summer Session in August and you can catch more of their work and educational programs by following their workshop series. And if you haven't seen Episode 11, it's just a click away. (I wonder how many aquariums will be purchased in the next few months for people who will never own a fish!)
I'm not sure when Levi Sim came into our lives, because he's one of those personalities you just feel has always been around. While he's only been shooting for four years, the passion he has for people and imaging simply knows no bounds. Walk into any program that Levi's attending and he'll be the first one you'll meet.
What's amazed me is the enthusiasm and appreciation he has for life. The first year he met my wife Sheila at Skip's Summer School a thank you note arrived just a few days later, thanking her for the support to all the projects I work on. And it's that quality of appreciation and caring about this industry that's made him so legendary in such a short period of time.
I heard Levi speak for the first time at an Unconference for TAP (Technically Advanced Publishing) last January. It's the best line yet for explaining how everyone should behave with each other,
"Act as if your grandmother is always watching!"
Levi, couldn't come from more humble beginnings as a professional photographer...he knew virtually nothing, but had the passion and pulled together one of the strongest Smugs in the country...manages a photography club he started of his own with over 600 members and is President of SCU's advisory board, the Student Council.
He's a prime example of somebody who's simply a sponge when it comes to education and is constantly studying with some of the finest instructors in professional photography today. Skip Cohen
I have owned a camera for four years, and I've learned everything I know about photography in that time. Before my camera even arrived, I had read Joe McNally's The Hot Shoe Diaries and attended a terrific workshop with David Ziser. So I'm not one who started in photography by shooting landscapes and learning everything over time; I dove into people pictures from the start with a focussed effort on lighting things well.
The trouble I ran into was finding subjects to photograph. I knew I needed to get some practice and really understand how the things I thought I had learned applied to my work, and I knew I needed lots of practice before I could hang out my shingle and claim to be a pro. My only solution was to ask! I turned to the people I sat next to at church and asked if I could invite their daughter (a senior in high school) for a portrait session. They said, "Yes, please!"
We ended up having a great time, and I learned volumes (for instance, don't clamp your speedlight to a dumpster and then leave it there when you switch locations...)
That summer I wanted to get the word out I was available for business, and I thought the local Garden's Market would be a good place to meet people. I rented a space and set up a tent with a backdrop and stood there smiling, waiting for people to come into my booth. It wasn't long before I realized that I'd be waiting a very long time for folks to approach me. So, I starting asking everyone who walked by if I could make a free portrait, and again they said, "Yes, please!" I spent the whole morning photographing kids and siblings, and I learned volumes (for instance, green grass underfoot results in green shadows under chins).
Still, I didn't get any bookings, so I thought it was kind of a flop. Until a few months later when Beth called and said I had asked to photograph her daughters at the market, and could I come and do a portrait of them before Christmas? I said, "Yes, please!"
Beth has since become a great friend and I've photographed all her daughters' senior pictures, and we made a terrific portrait of her and her five girls just the other day. And it's all because I asked if I could.
Shortly after my session for Beth, I started traveling all over the country for my job. My first trip was to Alaska, and I saw the guy sitting next to me on the plane had great light shining in his eyes from the window, so I asked if I could photograph him.
Later, I was just finishing up my work, and the guy who owned the place had good light in his face from the window behind me, so I asked if I could make a portrait. The next day, I was done with the job, and the sun was still up (Alaska in the summer!) so I climbed a mountain nearby and met a father and son on the trail who were camped in a beautiful spot, so I asked if I could make a picture.
Before leaving town, I drove outside Anchorage down Turn Again Arm and was shooting a waterfall in bad light when the high school's cross country ski team came riding into the parking lot on bicycles, so I asked if I could make a picture. And they all said, "Yes!"
I was on the flight home from that trip and my seat mate told me about his time in the Vietnam War, and about how he was recruited from college by the state department and was promised he would not be sent to the war, and about how he was not only sent to the front but was there for five years instead of the shorter term army recruits were sent for and about the terrible things he witnessed and the secrecy and the awfulness of war, and he was thoughtful and the light was great in his face and I'll never forget speaking with him. But, I was kinda tired, so I didn't ask if I could make a picture. That's one of my few regrets.
Have I been turned down? Yes. I was in a restaurant in Atlanta having lunch when a few moms came in with their daughters, like a girls' day out. The light was great, and these 8 year old girls were super cute, acting like ladies at their own table, so I asked if I could do their portrait. Actually, as I recall, I said, "Hi, do you mind if I make a picture of your girls?" "Um, what are you going to do with it?" "I dunno, maybe put it on my blog..." (this is when I realized what a creeper I sounded like) "Uh, yeah, not such a fan of that--thanks, though." Bless those southern ladies.
With the exception of those times when I was sounding creepy, people have almost never turned me down for a portrait, including people I've run into around the world from Seoul to Riyadh.
This is how I learned to find great light, and how I learned to talk to people, and how I learned that talking to people makes a better picture than anything else on the planet, and shows more about places and cultures than any landmark ever could.
Just ask, and always ask. It'll change your life.
"Arthur" by Arthur
Once upon a time, long long ago.....life was simple. There was film. There were nice black boxes to put it in, all pretty much the same – they made pictures. There were nice labs that processed the film and made really nice pretty prints...presuming we gave them latent-ish (that’s a word isn’t it?) images that were relatively well exposed and cropped. And we were Professional Photographers, revered by one and all and we saw it was good and we rejoiced in it for a very long long time. For this was the time of BC – Before Computers.
And then, out of the black n blue, it was a dark and stormy night. The time.......AD – Adobe Dependent. There were pixels – millions of ‘em. There were incredible new boxes to put them in that focused for us in a hundred ways...all at once... and exposed in even more ways... better than we ever could with 20/20/20/whattheheck20 vision....and had untold bells and multiple whistles and cost a whole family of arms and legs.....
But wait...there’s more....
And because times they are a changin' the need was felt to make hundreds, yea, thousands of exposures....just because we could.
And because times they are a changin' pixels couldn’t just get shipped off to the lab like film...we had the good fortune to be able to “Play With Them” and our world thought.... life was good. And Photoshop led to Painter led to LightRoom led to NIK Filters led to godknowswhat...and life was good...wasn’t it? And the poor labs could print on paper and on canvas and on plastic and on metal and on godknowswhat...and life kinda was...whatever.
And now it’s time for the inevitable sequel... THE REVENGE OF THE LAND OF THE LOST.... and the life of the photographer – strike that – Image Creator – is perhaps becoming less grand.
Yes technology has marched on, society’s likes, dislikes and demands have, paradymely (is that a word...it is now) changed, and, well, the view of the world of what a “Professional Image Maker” is has all but crumbled into the proverbial potty.
But wait..... what’s that streaking across the horizon? Is it a grain...NO. Is it a pixel....NOOOOOOOOO. It’s a streaming gleaming full blown HD-ta-Boot VIDEO!!! And it landed on You-Tube and on someone’s Face....book and is tweeting ta boot and we again saw it was good and we rejoiced in it for who knows how long (please God cut us some slack here, amen).
Ok, I know...the last thing you needed was to have to embrace change once more in your lifetime. But as they say, whoever they are...
You can’t stop the waves; all you can do is learn to surf the inevitable.
Please understand, I have no desire to be a naysayer, no doom and gloom a-la-carte in the throws of despair deliverer of bad tidings here.
I only offer a watchful eye, a coy smile and the pledge of being a hopeful romantic and prognosticator.
Our precious ‘stills’ on our precious ‘paper’ will - and I do believe this with all my heart – never go away. But the world of technology is of course here to stay. And a whole new audience of short-attention-span-theatre consumers will more and more cry out for the latest and greatest....and sure as I’m spoutin off here – that could be a wild and woolie moving picture show on their new fangled IWatch or maybe a nice little Hologram of a loved one sleepin’ in the corner lazyboy.
Does it truly matter if it’s film or pixels or flickering fancies on the screen?
Isn’t it the message that counts? Were you not put on this earth.....
To leave a tender trail.....by whatever means the day and age affords?
So this is our challenge, our quest – to be revered (and paid) for the taking like the alchemists we should always be viewed as.
We can of course, choose to ignore the obvious. Or we can start now to set a course for the next generation of Professional Imagery, there will be a tomorrow.
You have been empowered with God given rights to make choices. You can build a stone wall as a laborer or an artisan. You can choose to duke it out with the peasants for a 99 cent photoburger or you can choose to become the Kobe Beef of the image world.
It’s time for a New You – Choice Agent Extraordinaire !
By Arthur Levi Rainville M.Photog., Cr., CPP, API
And that's why I love talking with Arthur! I became a diehard Arthur follower years ago after hearing him give the very best presentation I'd ever heard on creativity at a program in Boston. Take the time and enjoy his podcast, his first guest post here at SCU and a classic video thanks to Tamron on classic posing. And if he's speaking at any convention you're attending - RUN don't walk to get a seat!
His quote on his faculty page sums it all up...
Live, Love, Laugh…you were put on this earth to leave a tender trail.
I asked each faculty member to answer the question, "What advice would you give new photographers?" Doug Box gave me so much great information that it deserved its own blog post. There are six outstanding points here...whether you're new to the industry as a professional photographer or you've been at it for years, each one has so much validity in building strength for your business.
Follow Doug on his site and check out his faculty page! Skip Cohen
#1. Spend as much time marketing, learning marketing, selling and learning selling as you do learning and doing Photoshop. There are two ways to make more money in our business, save money on expenses or bring in more income! Doing your own retouching and printing “saves” you money – not much, but some. Developing a marketing plan and selling to your clients instead of taking orders can bring in thousands of dollars. Which is a better use of your time?
#2. Learn to run a business – develop a business plan, then a yearly marketing plan. Learn to love selling or hire a sales person. Consult with an accountant to set up your books and your business! Join a local, state and national professional association. They have tons of resources and, you will foster friendships and relationships with fellow photographers and vendors alike.
#3. Do what your clients can’t do! If you are taking close up photos of small children with no lighting or posing techniques, your clients can do that themselves! Be creative! Use different backgrounds, props, poses or even different lenses than you’re clients don’t have access to. Look for a niche – who do you know? Does your son play baseball or is your daughter in the local ballet. Then develop a plan to work with this niche business. What are you interested in? Do you love babies but live in an area that is full of older families? Then babies may not be the best niche for you. Three hot niches that are hard for clients to do themselves are families, pets and photo restoration.
#4. Be realistic – there is nothing wrong with having a small part-time photography business. Going full time, having a studio space, hiring full time employees is a BIG STEP. Remember, it is not how much money you handle, it is how much money you keep that determines success!
#5. Watch the trends. If putting a couch in the middle of a field and photographing a family with lens flair is hot, then do it! If clients want the files so they can share them on Facebook, etc, figure out a way you can still make money and give them what they want also! Try a sliding scale – the more your client spends on photography, they less the files cost.
#6. Don’t listen to negative naysayers. You have the same right to start your own photography business as the photographer who has been in business for years! They were new at some point and got better and so will you! Don’t undercharge – you won’t make money, you will go out of business and you will dilute the market. This is where an accountant, your professional associations and fellow photographers can help you. Figure out what you need to charge to make money, establish that as your price. Then when you are starting out, you can give a discount in some areas as you learn and build your business, but you have established a fair price for your work. As you grow, your discount gets smaller. This is much easier than starting cheap and having to raise your prices to make money.
I guess the most important thing I can tell you about having a photography business is Never Stop Learning!
Introduction by Skip Cohen
In my college days I took a course on public speaking. On the very first day of class the instructor had us try and explain to him how to put on coat with the assumption that he knew absolutely none of the components of what made up the jacket. Imagine trying to explain something this simple if the person you were talking to didn't know what a sleeve or collar was, let alone which side was up on the jacket.
Well photography is no different and so often we completely miss the appreciation for the complexity of teaching or explaining something. Just because you can create a great image, doesn't mean you can explain the "how to" aspect going on behind the scenes.
I've known Stewart Powers for a lot of years, but we've never really worked on anything together. Well, I love the way he's about to take you through the process of adding another dimension of complexity to your images. This is another way for you to raise the bar on the quality of your work and separate yourself from your competitors and the Uncle Harry's of the world.
Take the time to wander into Powers Photography. You're about to go on a journey into some outstanding images. Personally, I love his wedding section. Just watching the slide show was enough to to nail the "wow" factor on every image. Is he a photographer, an artist or a creative genius ? I'll let you make the call.
Another thing most photographers don't realize is what it takes to build something like SCU and this site. It takes great partners and a commitment to education. A big thanks to Tamron USA for stepping up to the plate and bringing some great educational elements to the SCU party! Special programs, workshops, conventions and even this blog couldn't happen without the dedication to the craft by companies like Tamron!
Circle the Dates: Check out Stewart and Susan's upcoming program at the Florida School of Photography, part of FPP (Florida Professional Photographers).
Imagine a nice PB&J sandwich without the J. Or a bagel and cream cheese without the cream cheese. It’s a one dimensional experience and it’s just not as tasty. Photographically our brains can interpret many levels of complexity and in some photographic compositions I prefer to make it more interesting by adding another subject dimension/element - a secondary subject. This secondary subject is usually not sharply focused. I make it game when I photograph a wedding to find more tasty compositions. (Potentially there can be foreground, middle and far subjects if you like.)
The trick is to see the potential quickly so you can pose the subjects to create two dimensions. This means the bride is not actually in the gazebo, or leaning on the limo and the groom may not be in line with the groomsmen, ( see image 1 below). That creates a one dimensional composition. The bride, groom or couple need to be in front, or behind and on a different plane from the secondary subject. The magic of a wide angle lens or telephoto compression will create the tasty composition. I think a zoom lens is crucial so the final composition can be quickly realized.
You can train your mind to look for these in many situations – from the cake cutting, B&G at the gazebo, couple with the limo, bridal party group, etc. The juxtaposing of two elements often makes an overall stronger and more interesting visual statement. Visually literate people will appreciate this.
On the job I use a Black Rapid strap that holds two full frame Canon 5D II’s with my two favorite lenses ready to go. The Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC SP lens and the Tamron 70-200 F2.8 VC SP lens. These are absolutely first tier professional gear. These lenses cover 90% of the images I capture at a wedding. The other 10% are with a 300mm, 90 macro, and a 16-35mm.
The distance between the subjects and the total space you have to create your composition will make the lens selection easy. If I work at the limo and it is a classy Rolls Royce I might have the couple in a kissy moment with the RR hood ornament in the foreground in focus with the B&G as a secondary out-of-focus (OOF) addition. ( see image below) The 24-70 works great in this situation. It is a similar composition when I place the couple behind the wedding cake. I do not use a wide open f-stop because the couple can get too mushy. Better around f 5.6.
This image is a bit wonky and romantic. It was made using the 70-200 f2.8 Tamron performance zoom at the 80mm mark. The camera was on a tripod and I used the depth of field preview button to select f9 as the fstop that made the composition work. (The DOF preview is the button you never use.) Faster fstops made the flowers too blurred – there needs to be some definition in the OOF secondary subject. This is also an example of selected focus. Isn’t the art of photography FUN!
This last image is one of my recent favorites because of the new friendship between little Katie and Cinderella bride Katie. Little Katie was magically enchanted. They are over thirty feet in front of the limo. This was captured at f4.5 and the RR limo is very OOF but sharp enough for me because of the tele compression of using 200mm. Using different fstops will give different effects and you should experiment to discover what you love. It’s a bit like the icing on a cake – there are a few rules to consider but lots of room for creativity. Go forth and be secondary.
Images copyright Powers Photography. All Rights Reserved