If you know my work you probably also know I photograph a lot of kids in my commercial work. You can’t ask for better subjects. Kids are, well – real. Sincere and pure emotion. Raw life in the moment. Either you create great shots that capture their essence – or they skipped a nap and you get what you get. (More likely you go to the backup model kid – cold as it may seem . . . . ) And if you know me you understand that I like working with kids. Ok, I have patience too. So here’s the funny thing. All this has gradually led me to also do a whole other kind of photography work as well. Not commercial, but certainly drawing on that for my “look” I also now have a business working with families creating a different kind of portrait.
More like the stuff I shoot for tourism accounts or insurance ads – very active but clean lifestyle imagery. I get commissioned by discerning families to photograph them in “my” way at their homes, on vacation, the boat, etc always trying to capture more “real” images than posed. I also built a pretty impressive studio and gallery to not only photograph in but to display all the print options. Pretty cool stuff. I call this business Big Fish Studios and have a dedicated website and a brand new Facebook Fan Page for it. I really enjoy it. It’s a very nice fit with my ad photography. And much more personal too. It’s very relationship based and after living in the same town for 15 years, I finally feel more a part of it. But the amazing thing is the new life it’s breathing into my commercial work. Working with real kids – not model kids – has forced me to develop quick, pure and simple approaches to get the images I’m looking for. I was always a KISS (keep it simple stupid) kind of photographer anyway. This is reinforcing that approach. No lighting. Not even reflectors. Just working with what each situation offers. Reminds me of my early work when I’d run off to some country for weeks at a time – or shoot on the fly for Newsweek Magazine. Just cleaner. It’s making me a better photographer too. No crews or extensive gear on most shoots – just me. Almost like personal work at times.
It has taken some time to shoot a whole new portfolio for that business as well as learn about the fine art display options, working with the public and more. Very exciting. I’ve even been referred by some of my family / child work to commercial jobs. Now that is weird – but in a good way! So, I’ll try to not mix my audiences too much with blog posts etc but I just had to share at least this much . . . Change is good. Or, as my friend creative consultant Ian Summers says “Grow or Die”.
We’re all either doing it – or trying to figure out how. Maybe trying to figure out how much is a better description. Some people have figured it out it seems. Chase Jarvis was a successful photographer I’d not discovered – until I started hearing about his active online persona. Now I hear about him everywhere. This guy is wired. If I accidently discovered him, think how many art directors have. Stock photographer extraordinaire Jack Hollingsworth is aggressively exploring all social media and doing what he calls “Toginars” – weekly podcasts with subscribing photographers. Former news photographer Jim MacMillan has 46,000 twitter followers. David Hobby has a great educational / technical site called Strobist and makes a six figure income from it with 350,000 readers.
Maybe the most interesting approach to me is wedding photographer Christopher Becker. He’s booked work from his Facebook account and has a plan for doing so. He also has an online wedding photography site called [b] school, aimed at pro photographers who pay $10 dollars a month. So far he has 1600 subscribers. Do the math. It’s clear some photographers have made social networking and their internet alter egos profitable. Some very profitable. Photo District News has an article with what they call the Five Biggest Photographers on the Internet. I think Chase and Jack should be in there too.
Me? I dabble. Facebook and Linkedin for the past year, this blog, but that’s about it. (Feel free to friend / connect) I can see youtube working. flickr scares me because you pretty much give up rights to your photos there. Then I discovered clients had set up accounts for their clients – using my photos. The art directors are pretty good about warning me. I appreciate it and just ask for proper photo credit and hopefully copyright notice. Twitter. Not sure what to say about that. I see myself possibly using it for part of my business. Maybe – we’ll see. I did set up an account. The surprising thing is I get nearly daily notices that I’m being followed. I’ve never made a single post. Go figure. Maybe getting to 46,000 is not as amazing as I thought. And if it seems like the future in photography is not in creating images – but rather in creating things of interest for other photographers – it may just be. Yuck.
The new Workbook directory of creative talent is out and this is my ad. Always a struggle to decide what to show. I’ve been advertising in this book for exactly 20 years as well as Blackbook and others less consistently. It could be my last Workbook though. So much is online now. I’m on several portals or portfolio sites including Workbook Portfolios which is probably the best and one I’m sure many of you use. This is my WB online portfolio. So, if you’re an art director, etc and want to share if and how you still use print directories, shoot me an email or post here. Many, many photographers have stopped advertising in print annuals. Love to get your input. Knowledge is good. All of these shots were retouched by Michael Jordan, one from a portfolio shoot and the other two from jobs.
This just went out today from my Rep as an emailer to promote their photographers. You can see the other two photographers on the promotion Jennifer Pottheiser and James Quantz here in the WM Blog. Their work is excellent. It feels like there’s suddenly more activity the last couple weeks – estimate and portfolio requests are up. Anheuser Busch and Gatorade jobs – maybe people are just thirsty . . . . Or maybe things are turning around(?) We’ll see.
Either way, I like working with Wonderful Machine. There’s a lot of trust involved in a Rep / Photographer relationship though – I may not select these shots or that copy (although I am a cloud freak as my kids will attest) but sometimes its good to have other people making the decisions and doing the work. Peter Clark designs the emailers. He’s working on new ones for me too. The shots below are from a Cigna health care shoot, editorial for Power & Motoryacht, personal work in the Bahamas and a test shot for my portfolio.
What is Wonderful Machine? It’s a web portal & photographers representative that according to them is “dedicated to connecting the world’s most talented photographers with the industry’s most discerning clients”. They’re also my new rep and I couldn’t be more excited. Great, talented group of people that run WM (including producers, retouchers, marketing). Excellent photographers represented. Creatives looking for photographers can search by city and any of a number of photo specialties. The portal then links with the photographers website. Very cool. They currently have just over 150 photographers in the US as well as others around the world. They have me in the categories: lifestyle, kids, travel, action/adventure and sports/fitness. They also have a great blog (which, like mine you can subscribe to . . . . hint, hint).
WM is the creation of photographer Bill Cramer. I asked him how he chose the name: “I was reading Little House on the Prairie to my daughters one night three years ago. We came to a chapter called Wonderful Machine, about a mechanical wheat thrasher that allowed Pa to clear his whole field in two days when it used to take two weeks. I thought it was a perfect name for the company that we had just created. At that time, I had been a photographer for 20 years and over that time I had worked with several different picture agencies and all the major marketing portals. Though they all have their place, I thought it would be more useful for photographers if there was a portal that had a limited number of photographers, was actively promoted, and offered production support as well as marketing. So that’s what I built (with a lot of help from Marketing Director Neil Binkley, who has worked with me for about 5 years).”
Over a year ago when my oldest child was completing college applications (and was completely stressed) I saw a common sense type article describing ways to take better control of your life. The part that had an impact on me described “controlling the controllables”. Basically, don’t stress over things you have little or no control over and concentrate on the things you do control. This is so true in photography (and applying to college I think). Things like weather, budget, fickle subjects, etc are out of my control. Sure I have to be prepared as best I can for unforeseen situations but you get the idea. So what are the controllables? Lets use this race car image as an example. I knew time and access could be an issue on this shoot. The ad agency Propeller Branding’s racing team client Primetime Race Group had rented Road Atlanta Raceway for a day to shoot a commercial, do stills, and test cars for the upcoming race season. I could see who might get the short stick here . . . So, we controlled the controllables. I arranged for a camera car to work from so I could get the angles I wanted quickly. I discussed options with a retoucher before shooting. I booked extra crew. We had scout time in advance. I convinced the ad agency we needed it all. And boy did we. A car crash, hot hazy mid-day light, and drivers more into testing cars than completing shoots (can’t blame them !) meant we had one third of the time we were promised. The first image shows one of the completed, retouched shots. The second is the same image with processing only – no retouching. I like control. And my son? Just successfully completed his first year of college. Guess he’s figured it out too.
Update: Propeller Branding is in the process of, well, disappearing. Got those nasty creditor papers from a bankruptcy court the other day. I’m a creditor! Cool. Wait a minute . . . .
I had to be different. To be fair, I love the Livebooks website product. Really nice stuff. Just not for me right now. I looked everywhere to find websites I liked. And there are lots of great photographer sites. I wanted a clean, minimalist look and that led me to iHouse Design. iHouse is basically Arseni – a very talented Russian designer who spends time all over the world as he’s working on this stuff. Truly the new way to work. Our only issue was time zones but we certainly got past that. Great work Arseni – thanks. Check it out: www.robertholland.com I discovered after originally posting this that there is also a new player: Rob Haggart of A Photo Editor has an impressive new option too and its downright inexpensive.