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Few destinations make me voluntarily get my bags ready and happily embark on a forty to forty-five hours flight mission with all the hassle and sleep deprivation it entails. Among those, some selective and still relatively unexplored dive areas remain, promising enthralling marine environments of a certain kind that cannot be found close to my home town of Half Moon Bay CA. Raja Ampat in Indonesia was one of these irresistible places to dive and photograph before its present-day remoteness, to some degree shielding it from the risk of environmental degradation, perhaps turns less inaccessible to more people. Simply put, I wanted to go there before it changes.
Raja Ampat diving is all about the small creatures and critters, the abundance of fish life, and most certainly its diversity of soft and hard corals. A marine biologist’s dream no doubt. This environment in many ways is the polar opposite of one of my other favorite escapes Cocos Island; the Island of the Sharks with its ferocious currents and large pelagic fish life which I wrote about recently on this blog.
Though I love capturing the action of large pelagic marine life, I also think that macro expressions below the surface captured as photographic images are somewhat overlooked. With exquisite anemone species, the intriguing solar powered nudibranch and peculiar orangutan crab, a walking shark at night (or more like running when we spotted him), pygmy seahorses almost indistinguishable from their surroundings, and an explosion of color in soft corals and the magnificent hard coral, there was so much to explore. And I loved every bit of it.
Raja Ampat, or the Four Kings, is an archipelago of about 15,000 square miles, comprising over fifteen hundred small islands and cays surrounding the four larger islands from Waigeo in the north to Batanta, Salawati and Misool in the south. Instead of heading north as planned, we headed south towards Misool because of a typhoon over the Philippines stirring up the water. Though December is the monsoon season, we were lucky with sunshine and the calmest water I have experienced over the years living on dive boats for several days taking these types of trips. Nonetheless, the visibility was only fair at times and for macro captures the currents complicated matters when using the macro lens at its edge.
This time I experimented with lighting and focused on macro expressions. I wanted to capture the beauty I see in the marine life, the splendor which is surely there but perhaps only perceptible when you look closely. There is an intimacy so tangible in this environment, one that you can truly feel when you are down below if you take the time to appreciate and interact with what surrounds you. The trick is to focus on what you “see” and not merely on what it “is” directly appearing in front of you. In an endeavor to express the feeling I wanted to convey, I also used the depth of field differently from how I have previously captured the macro life.
I believe that people generally tend to care about what they see and what they can relate to. It is my hope therefore that images not focusing merely on epic wildlife encounters, including what to many would be experienced as scary imagery of large pelagic sharks for example, will spark an interest in the marine environment among people not otherwise aware of its wonders. Find my series “Amphimone” “Eudora” and “Amatheia” captured during this trip at www.lifethrills.com.
Tell us about your book Infinite Worlds: the People and Places of Space Exploration?
Published by Simon & Schuster, Infinite Worlds: the People and Places of Space Exploration, is a coffee-table designed photography book of an historic era in the human and robotic exploration of space involving the Hubble Space Telescope.
In the annals of these kinds of books and American spaceflight, no photographer has ever been extended the degree of quality access into three NASA flight centers for nearly three years to reveal a portrayal of the astronaut crew that essentially saved the Hubble Space Telescope.
In addition to a Foreword by former Senator and legendary astronaut John Glenn, 18 unscripted self-written essays from the Hubble labor force and crew weave a narrative where I seek the humanity in both the human and robotic exploration of space.
How did you come to work in the field of space exploration photography?
I am a fine art documentary and portrait photographer whose interest is the human and robotic exploration of space.
I studied to be a planetary geologist but discovered that I was more interested in the visual qualities of the field rather than impersonal chemistry labs and calculus classes! Once I earned my MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in photography I became an editorial fashion and documentary travel photographer. I worked in Brazil, Italy and New York. Over the years I collected, edited and studied decades of space-themed images for my own interest and for various publications, and that led me to more substantive portrait and documentary work on American space exploration.
In 2004 I photo-edited and co-authored What’s Out There – a visually themed index on astronomical phenomena – and I even got Stephen Hawking to write the Foreword. While working on documenting the people and places of NASA’s New Horizons mission to the Pluto system in 2005, I discovered that the servicing mission to the Hubble would be reinstated.
Ultimately, Infinite Worlds evolved out of these chance occurrences. History was unfolding and I wanted to discover the meaning and art in human and robotic spaceflight.
How and why did you begin documenting the effort of those prepping for the last Hubble servicing mission?
I didn’t begin this project with a book in mind. It began as an editorial story for Discover magazine that started with an unprecedented three-hour portrait session of the STS125 shuttle crew. From that I earned the trust of the crew as well as the NASA engineers and scientists who were creating, training and managing this multi-year mission to save the Hubble.
As a photographer what inspires you?
I would point to Kubrick’s “2001, a Space Odyssey” as a transcendent life experience. My inspiration for Infinite Worlds was a product of many interests (films, short stories, music, history of art and photography, science) and a personality driven to always want to be behind the scenes.
As a photographer, my early influences continue to be my inspiration: the works of Cartier-Bresson, August Sander, Aaron Siskind, Walker Evans and Irving Penn.
What did you find to be most challenging about putting together a book of this nature?
The time, patience and discipline to know why I wanted to tell this story, as well as being able to edit 3 years worth of work into a visually coherent narrative.
How did you compile the essays? Why did you decide to include them?
The notion for stories written by various individuals in the shuttle and Hubble labor force was influenced by Working, a remarkable book written in 1972 by the Chicago based broadcaster Studs Terkel. He wrote about people talking about their work and how they felt about doing it, an approach that felt like verbal snapshots. As I got to know the people behind the STS125 mission better I would often find myself in a discussion with one of the crew and support staff. I loved hearing them speak about their work in an unscripted way.
During the subsequent months when I was beginning the daunting task of editing years of photographs, the notion of individuals from the labor force writing their own story became a significant element in planning Infinite World’s narrative. The 18 story-tellers recalled many common memories and had many individual stores, but the common thread was the need to make a contribution to an end result larger than themselves.
Based on your experience please describe what goes into getting a book published?
Tenacity is crucial. Although I had a project based on exclusive access, I needed to know my story and that took about two years to develop. I also needed a marketing plan – to identify my audience and what my plan would be for exhibitions and magazine articles. A New York-based literary agent was critical to having the contacts at the various publishing houses. My initial proposals were ultimately shot down.
This caused me to look at myself and think about how I could tell this story in a more compelling way. Seeing Hertzog’s “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” — a documentary film about the oldest human-painted images in the Chauvet Cave of France, as well as my documentation of the space shuttle’s flame trench beneath its launch pad, helped to reveal the narrative sub-text: time, distance and light.
About a year and a half later Simon & Schuster made an offer. Creating the book took two years. It involved collaborating with the production department to achieve the quality we ultimately experience in Infinite Worlds. It also involved an enormous amount of work with my editor, the art department, copy editor and the marketing and promotion folks.
How has your website helped your business? How has it helped this project?
I chose liveBooks because I could have a custom designed site and a web hosting relationship responsive to my evolving communication needs. I couldn’t be happier with the collaboration and the responses I receive from the print and electronic media, aerospace industry and art community. Currently Infinite Worlds is my most visible project, so design flexibility to respond to the marketing of my book was essential and liveBooks provides that flexibility.
What other events are you doing in conjunction with the book release?
There are many events that will provide varying degrees of visibility. The holiday season and the run up to and through the 25th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope in April 2015 will provide many public and exhibition venues.
My ten-year project portraying the people and places of NASA’s New Horizon’s Pluto mission will come to it’s crescendo beginning in spring 2015 when the probe passes within thousands of miles of Pluto and its moons. I’ll be there photographing the project scientists and flight controllers.
In addition I will be speaking at the IMAX theater at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on January 21st, the National Air & Space Museum on February 13th and the Smithsonian Institute on April 11th. Exhibitions of my work are currently at the Kennedy Space Center’s Atlantis pavilion, in Hubble @25 at the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, and in Outside the Spaceship: 50 years of Extra-Vehicular Activity.
Additional information on media and events may be found on my (liveBooks) custom designed website www.michaelsoluri.com.
1. Add Fresh Content
With the new year on the horizon, our design experts recommend refreshing the images and content on your website to make sure you are displaying recent and relevant work. “So many people like to build their site and forget it. We’ve found that the most successful websites are those that are updated regularly,” says Ryan Maher, designer at liveBooks.com. Just like a store changes the display window each season, we recommend refreshing the work displayed on your site two or three times a year.
2. Keep Mobile in Mind
It’s no secret that the world is going mobile. As more and more of your website traffic comes from smart phones and tablets, you need to make sure your website is optimized for those visitors. Whether you use a responsive website platform or enable a mobile-optimized version of your desktop site, you need to be sure your website looks good –and functions well– across all devices.
Expert Tip: Design with mobile in mind. The mobile visitor behaves differently than the desktop visitor- make sure your site looks good for both!
3. Use Clear Navigation
Website Designer Adam Royer advises, “Function over fashion. User-friendliness is a must!” As you build your website, have an idea in mind of what you want your visitors to do when they land there. Do you want them to view your portfolio? Contact you? Watch a video? Whatever your answer, make sure your navigation and layout makes it easy for people to go to the pages you are hoping to highlight. A clean navigation menu is one of the easiest way to accomplish this!
Expert Tip: Make sure the text is legible! Use fonts that are large enough to be read on all devices.
4. Blog Regularly
Since we don’t all have time to change the photos on our website every week, a blog is a great way to add fresh content to your web presence without altering the look and feel of your website. Make it a goal to generate one blog post per week. You can start short and simple, just try to get something out there. Not only will new blog posts engage your visitors and showcase your recent work, it is also a huge benefit from an SEO perspective, as search engines tend to favor sites producing new content.
5. Let Your Images Do the Talking
Your photos are your calling card, show them off! One of the biggest trends in website design for 2015 is large, full-bleed photos that extend across the entire page. We recommend choosing a few photos that convey your vision, and displaying them (in a rotating slider or stacked) on your homepage. A great website design that uses this full-bleed feature is the STATURE template within the liveBooks Professional Design Templates.
Search Engine Optimization is considered one of the most important things you can do for your website. No matter how great your site looks, and how user friendly it is, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are not going to display it in their results without the proper keywords, tags, backlinks, etc. While search algorithms change constantly, (making it nearly impossible to “game the system”) one thing you can do to help your ranking is to name your images. Since most photographers websites are portfolio based, you can counteract the lack of keywords with naming and alt tags in your images.
7. Make it Easy to Contact You
You’ve worked hard to get visitors to your site- make sure you’re making it easy for them to contact you! Whether you utilize a traditional contact form or simply write out your contact information, our experts recommend having a way to contact you listed from every single page of your website.
Expert Tip: Contact forms with fewer than 5 fields perform best!
8. Showcase Videos
Whether or not you have a videography component to your work, including two or three videos on your site is a great way to engage your visitors and bring your work to life. Each liveBooks template allows for vimeo integration, providing you with the ability to have a video grid, single video, or full-page video embedded into your site. Some suggested video types include: behind the scenes footage of a shoot, a welcome video of you talking about your work or a promotional video featuring your work.
Expert Tip: Videos perform better when they are integrated into your site, rather than requiring a pop-up to play.
9. Track Visitor Behavior
In order to ensure that your website is performing the way you want it to, you need to understand what people are doing (or not doing) on your site. Google analytics is one of the easiest (and cheapest- it’s free!) ways to track the behavior of visitors to your website. Once you understand how visitors are engaging with your site, you can adjust photos, content, and calls to action to maximize each visit. Notice that people keep hitting your pricing page after visiting a specific gallery? Highlight that gallery on your homepage to increase conversions!
10. Choose the Right Photos
Some photos resonate better than others when put up on your website. Designer Ryan Mahar recommends that you have a portfolio editor or even some friends or colleagues go through your images and pick out their favorites. Then choose what to upload accordingly.
When it comes to the end of October most people are thinking about their latest Halloween costumes and stocking up on candy for the parade of ghouls and goblins about to descend on their doorsteps. For those of us in the photo industry the end of October is also the time of year when 22,000 photographers and enthusiasts from every corner of the country converge on the Jacob Javitz Center in Midtown Manhattan for the annual PhotoPlus Expo in New York City! With tens of thousands of square feet, 220 exhibitors, 80 conference seminars, myriad special events, and a ton of parties, attendees have a lot of ground to cover in just 4 short days. As a longtime denizen of PhotoPlus, here are my top 10 recommendations for getting the most out of this great expo:
1. Pace yourself
As mentioned above and below you’ve got a lot of ground to cover during PhotoPlus, there’s a ton to take in. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day, take it slow and resist the urge to try and accomplish everything the first day. Slow and steady wins the race here.
2. Bring snacks
Full conference and expo days easily top 10 hours, definitely qualifying them as endurance events. You’ll need energy and hydration to keep up, brave the crowds, stay on your feet, and explore the miles of exhibitors without falling over. Cover your bases and bring snacks like protein bars, apples, nuts, and bottled water to provide the fuel you’ll need.
3. Staying on track
An iPhone is my go-to tool for staying organized and on point during the show. At a glance I can view the expo schedule, keep track of planned meetings, locate exhibitors, take notes and photograph cool new gear to reference later.
In late October early November the weather in New York starts getting chilly and windy so come prepared. During the expo you’ll be dealing with two temperature zones, one outside the show where it’s potentially cold and windy and another inside the expo where it’s not! In this situation a backpack to stuff an overcoat or a few extra pieces of clothing into is your best friend. This way you can layer up and down as needed. A backpack is also indispensable for holding show collateral and snacks.
5. Go for comfort
This isn’t the time to break in that new pair of killer shoes you’ve been dying to show off. Comfortable shoes rule the day during PhotoPlus! That doesn’t mean you can’t be stylish if that’s your thing, just be sure and choose shoes that are well broken in. Consider using a padded insole for extra comfort and pack a few bandaids just in case things get dicey with your dogs.
6. Make a plan
With so many classes and exhibitors all in one place knowing where to start can be overwhelming. It’s easy to miss the important and get diverted by the trivial. Make it a point to have a plan and prioritize. Let the exhibitors list be your guide. Map out the manufacturers who’ve got that must have gear you’ve been considering. This is your chance to see it all up close and personal, get your questions answered, and take advantage of show discount specials!
7. Take at least one class
PhotoPlus isn’t just the place to ogle the newest lust worthy gear, it’s also your opportunity to meet and learn from your photography heroes. Consider arriving prior to the trade show to take advantage of one or more of the many great classes being conducted. Be sure and reserve ahead of time, seating is limited.
8. Network, network, network
PhotoPlus is your chance for some rare face time with everyone from photography executives, marketers, manufacturers and other photographers, famous and not so famous. If you’ve been dying to get on someones’s radar this is your opportunity. Bring your A game, an iPad portfolio and plenty of business cards!
9. Affordable lodging
Accommodations in NYC typically run the gamut from expensive to very expensive. However there are deals to be had if you know where to look. Many people prefer the Pod for reasonably priced digs, but if you’re a good camper like I am and don’t mind a shared bathroom arrangement, you’ll love Larchmont Hotel in the West Village. At about $100 a night it’s hard to beat. Airbnb is also a great option and the one I opted to use myself this year. For $70 a night I was able to book a room in a clean, modern, well reviewed apartment with a full kitchen located in midtown, a stones throw from the Expo.
10. Enjoy NYC
Fall is one of the best times of the year to visit New York. Set aside some time to enjoy the city and all it has to offer. Explore the beauty of Central Park, check out a museum, take in a show, hang in the village, dine in Tribeca, take a ride on the Staten Island ferry – there’s no shortage of options in the city that never sleeps.
Bonus tip!! Don’t forget your Badge
I hate wearing a badge almost as much as I hate forgetting my badge back at my hotel! There are a lot of things you can do without during PhotoPlus, your badge isn’t one of them. Save yourself the headache and double check to make sure you have your badge with you before leaving for the expo.
If you have other suggestions please leave them in the comments below. And don’t forget to visit the liveBooks team at Photo Plus in booth 566!
Most marketing experts say you need to strictly adhere to a plan and adopt specific tactics and objectives in order to be successful. Well, as a photographer with a creative soul whose spirit prefers shooting wonderful images more than being awash in spreadsheets, I follow three pretty simple rules: I cast a wide net in the right waters by having a great website, practice targeted email marketing, and make sure to stay in touch with current and potential clients.
By practicing this style of marketing, I have been able to maintain a thriving studio in today’s competitive environment.
Casting the Big Net
The Internet offers a huge sea of potential clients, so one of the key things for me is to cast a wide net with a great website. This net is my 24 hour presence and my virtual storefront, so it’s important to show my best work. Personally I love the way liveBooks displays large, high quality photos and permits me to change or move around images in a snap. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a potential client tell me they decided to call because they saw my site. Since I switched over to liveBooks, my revenue has risen over 50 percent. One client even told me he looked at more than 250 photographers’ websites before narrowing it down based on site views alone. It came down to me and one other candidate. I got the job.
Of course you can never be sure who’s surfing the Internet, so that’s why I make it a point to constantly include fresh images and keep the range of displayed photos wide. I can point to an example where just after updating my site I reeled in a big client, the National Mango Board, who in turn referred me to their agency. I was hired to shoot a campaign for them including recipes and beauty shots of mangos. As it happens, the account executive that we worked with loved my photography and decided to tie in the American Lamb Board and sent them to my site for their feedback. Once again my website came through for me without my knowledge. That union led to another client through the same agency, the National Peanut Council.
Consistent Email Marketing Pays Off
Besides this wide cast, I like to use personalized email marketing to nab or influence individual targets—the ones I know. I call this my narrower net. My list is up to three thousand names, mostly clients, peers, people I have met and think might one day be a source of business or referral. My email marketing is not highly polished or sent out at consistent intervals. I send out HTML emails that feature a fresh image whenever I have the opportunity. My images are simple and clean with appetite appeal! I add a few personal sentences and hit the send button. I think recipients appreciate the sentiment and see this as a greeting card, not a marketing push. Just staying in touch reminds people of your work. A few holidays back I sent out about 500 emails with the martini glasses. Nearly ten percent responded with well wishes and I netted two big jobs. Today I count 80 percent of my clients to be repeaters, so email marketing is a real inexpensive mainstay for me.
Face to Face is a Narrow Net
The old fashioned way which is geographically limited is getting out there as much as possible to network face to face. People like working with a photographer they have met and are comfortable with. I always carry my business card that has a mouthwatering photo on the back. Combine this with a great website and consistent communication through the Internet and you have a winning recipe.
As I carefully work my way to the tip of a 300 foot crane boom perched 200 feet over the water and swaying mightily as it unloads a giant container ship, my biggest challenge is to not smash a camera against one of the huge steel girders that surround me. More importantly, be careful not to slip on the minefield of grease blobs that wait to slam me into the sharp metal catwalk that is below my feet.
Surrounded by giant machinery that will roll over you in a matter of seconds or alternately drop their 2 tons of cargo right where you are standing, my work environment can be extremely dangerous. An ear splitting array of sounds in the midst of controlled chaos, a container terminal plays a roll in our daily lives that most people have no idea about.
The vast majority of our clothing, household goods, electronics and even some of our food are shipped around the world in 40 foot steel boxes on ships longer than four football fields. For twenty years as a corporate industrial photographer I have concentrated on this specialized world. The incredible scale of the ships, the colorful containers and the opportunity to travel captivated me immediately. With a background in photojournalism, telling my client’s stories was easy, but it was doing it dramatically that became my signature style.
Combining my storytelling ability with a strong artistic approach, I create images that are driven by their composition, color or quality of light yet still successfully illustrate the theme or message that they were ultimately created for. This concept has become my brand, with my client’s relying on a unique vision of their industry to differentiate themselves from the competition.
My approach to an assignment always begins by gathering as much information as possible. Very simply, I ask a lot of questions! Working on location is about finding solutions to challenges and still producing the best possible images. In an environment where shoot sabotaging last minute schedule changes are the norm, and cooperation is the key to my success, knowing the right questions to ask is what enables me to produce the types of images that I do. Armed with information, it is easier to make decisions about what I am going to shoot and plan for potential opportunities.
Speaking the lingo and having a great deal of knowledge about what I am photographing has served me well in being able to do things that would usually be greeted with a resounding NO! I am persistent and have been given some incredible access to produce some very difficult shots.
I have been on a lot of cranes, but on an assignment in Cartagena Columbia for the manufacturer, I really wanted to shoot from a different perspective. Making giant steel structures look as impressive as they are in person, showcase my client’s brand, throw in some bad weather mixed with uncooperative local authorities, just another typical assignment!
When working in a setting that has massive scale, finding an elevated vantage point is my favorite way to create a dynamic image. Shooting from on top of a container crane is the simplest way to get above this giant world. My client’s crane in Columbia offered a potentially incredible vantage point that I have never shot from before. A small platform at the tip that was actually below the boom, difficult and dangerous to get to while the crane was working, became the place that I absolutely had to shoot from.
While I work in dangerous environments, I am not a daredevil and safely doing my job is the number one priority. Noticing several minutes of lag time in the cycle of unloading containers, I realized it might be possible to get to my elusive vantage point without risk or interfering with productivity. I was just going to have to convince my escort who really didn’t want to be up there in the first place, that everything would be fine! Utilizing the always-effective bargaining tool of time, as in “we will only be there for a few minutes” I was able to make an image that offered an amazing perspective of my client’s product in operation.
One of the more unusual aspects of a typical assignment is that often I will be shooting for more than one client at the same time. I discovered many years ago that if a project or assignment involves multiple companies, it works very well to combine everyone’s needs into one assignment. Interconnected as vendors or customers of each other, sharing production/travel expenses is always appealing to them. On this type of shoot I provide each client involved with their own custom set of images mixed with selections that are useful for everyone.
Adding this additional level of complexity to my normally challenging assignments has actually enabled me to be more creative. Focusing on the different needs, I’m seeing the situations that I’m shooting in ways that may have been missed. During a recent shoot documenting the delivery of five gigantic automated cranes in New Jersey, I made one of my favorite images by seeing my subject a little differently.
In an environment that is filled with giant impressive industrial machinery, it is easy to focus only on that. To enhance the story, I will often include people in the frame adding both scale and a connection. On this particular assignment everything came together when the project manager for one of my three clients put himself right in front of me, blocking my shot. With this extremely large man obstructing my perfect angle, I was just about to move when suddenly I saw a great shot. Placing this giant man clad in yellow coveralls in the center of the frame with his back to me while the action happened beyond him told a great story. It would have been really easy to not see one of my now favorite images when the shot I had in my mind was completely obstructed.
With persistence, luck and a lot of patience, I am constantly searching for more interesting ways to photograph an industry that I have been looking at for a long time.
There are many hidden wonders in the world still to explore even for the most adventurous. As a photographer and scuba diver with the love of remote dive-areas, my passport is filled with all kinds of destinations which makes immigration officers at the airports on my return raise their eyebrows. Places like Komodo, Alors and Northern Sulawesi in Indonesia, Papua Guinea and Sudan’s Red Sea waters to mention a few. One of my absolute favourite escapes is located about 35-40 hours of open water travel by boat off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Its name is Isla del Coco, or Cocos Island, at times referred to as the Island of the Sharks.
The abundance of marine life surrounding Cocos island, which is the only emergent island of the relatively minor Cocos Plate, comes with some of the strongest currents you will encounter as a diver. Thus in many ways this marine preserve not only provides one of the most intensive adrenaline rushes but also some intriguing challenges for divers and underwater photographers.
In August of this year I made my fifth trip, deliberately choosing the rainy season – and does it rain in Cocos Island! – with the hope of encountering enormous schools of scalloped hammerhead sharks that grace the pinnacles around the island. There may not be a real on or off season for encountering these sharks and we all have to remember that the sea gives you what the sea wants to give you, not what you desire when descending into its depth. My preferred time though is between July and September, which also coincides with the time of the year when in the past I’ve encountered the giant whale sharks. And for this year, my trip truly became the trip of whale sharks.
Even though we saw scalloped hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, tiger sharks, whitetip reef sharks, yellowfin tuna, the enormous school of jack fish that is always present, bottlenose dolphins and humpback whales on the surface, the mantra “May the whale shark be with you” was forever coined among some of us. There are several destinations around the world known for whale shark encounters but most only permit encounters while snorkelling or scuba diving in fairly shallow waters, when they come closer in to feed on plankton. Yes, the biggest shark on the planet lives on the smallest plankton, which is quite incredible in the bigger scheme if you think about it.
Compared to other encounters with whale sharks, what mesmerized me the most diving with them in Cocos was the thrill of mingling with them in the greater depth of the ocean and how gently, gracefully, they interacted with us divers. How they were curious and almost inquisitive, and not anxious or troubled by our presence. The monsoon rain pouring down over the island affected the visibility most times, making lighting quite challenging for photography but it also creating an opportunity to capture these magnificent creatures in the mysterious fashion they suddenly appear from the depth.
See more images from her trip in her series “Gentle Giants of the Deep” and “Galenaea” at www.lifethrills.com.
If the top priority for your photography website is to get your best images out there for the world to see, next on the list should be having a unique About page. Your About page is your chance to incorporate a little extra personality into your work which will help you stand out from the competition.
For many of us it’s second-nature to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more, but when it comes to talking about ourselves and writing a few paragraphs about what we do we often just throw something together about our education, qualifications and experience. This is a huge lost opportunity!
Imagine, as a potential client, that you’re looking for a photographer for your wedding day. You’ve narrowed it down to two photographers with comparable talents at the same price range, but one has a typical About page and the other shows some personality and makes you laugh. Who are you going to choose?
Clients are getting savvier every day, and with a run-of-the-mill bio you risk looking like someone merely going through the motions rather than a photographer full of ideas and energy who is ready to deliver amazing photos. Don’t be afraid of posting something a little quirky and off-beat. A little something different is a breath of fresh air.
In addition, from a photographer’s standpoint, having a unique About page works great as an extra level of pre-qualification. We all know that the best, most rewarding shoots are the ones where the client shares our tastes and sensibilities and therefore trusts our vision and judgment. By having a unique About page, you will attract clients that see the world as you do and also weed out clients who may not be the best fit. We’ve heard from countless photographers that people who mention their About page in their initial contact are almost always on the same page as they are when it comes to stylistic choices for their shoot. In this age of fast, fast, and faster, with so many decisions being made based on what can be found online, a unique About page is critical to help you stand out from the masses.
The Truth Told Project
One girl or woman is raped every minute in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The rape is not random, as you might think. It is a power play that targets those who are not in a position to fight back. The rebel and military groups use rape as a scare tactic and way to control and destroy local communities. The DRC’s society is so broken rape is now “normalized.” Millions of girls, women and men have been raped. Many more will be raped in the time it takes you to read these few paragraphs. More »
The internet is constantly changing and as creative small business owners we need to evolve as it changes. It seems like everyone is touting the importance of the mobile experience these days – and for good reason!
The number of smart phones in use worldwide has exceeded 1 billion, and it’s only continuing to climb. In fact, although only 1% of small businesses have optimized their website for mobile viewing, 50% of all local searches are performed on mobile devices. By the end of 2014 mobile is predicted to overtake desktop Internet usage. With consumers using mobile devices and tablets more often, it has become more important than ever to have a well-designed mobile website for your business. More »
A climber and visual storyteller, Cory Richards was named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year in 2012. Cory’s camera has taken him from the controlled and complex studio to the wild and remote corners of the world, from the unclimbed peaks of Antarctica to the Himalayas of Nepal and Pakistan – all in the attempt to capture not only the soul of adventure and exploration, but also the beauty inherent in our modern society.
Cory dropped out of high school and was practically homeless by the time he was just 14 years old. His education came from observing what was happening around him and discovering the richness that comes from struggle. His video “A Tribute to Discomfort” takes you through his journey from recounting the avalanche that almost took his life and led to the moving self-portrait that appeared on the cover of National Geographic, to describing what drives him to tell stories of people and places.
“My job is communicate a real raw visceral experience. Despite the fact that we are experiencing massive problems as a human family we are still experiencing each other, loving and having a ton of fun. I mean life is fun.” – Cory Richards
Your company’s brand is one of its most valuable assets. It represents the core of who you are and why you do what you do. It’s about the promise you make to your customers to provide a product or service, to do so with consistency and quality, and to do it better than your competitors.
To build a successful creative business it takes more than artistic vision and talent. The reality is that you are a small business owner and as such you need to understand business. For many of us that’s not the fun part – but it can be! More »
Each of us defines a moment in a different way. For food photographer Penny De Los Santos a moment is where people, culture and food come together.
“I am inspired by and in love with that space where a scene vibrates with an energy. And when it’s combined with light, composition and color – that’s when I make a picture of a moment.” – Penny De Los Santos
In her TEDx Talk she takes us from a candlelit dinner table in war torn Lebanon to the grave of a loved one, asking us to stop, connect and take the time strengthen and honor the bonds between us.
Brand Advocates can create some of the best value for any small business or emerging brand. Advocacy for your brand has a vital impact in driving awareness, creating conversation and generating more business. Cultivating brand advocates who are excited to share their experiences with others can be a low-cost, high-return marketing strategy.
Essentially a Brand Advocate is someone who enjoys your product or service so much they are eager to tell others about it. Brand advocates can be online influencers with a large social media audience, people who are active or well-respected in their industry or your customers. Here are some ways to turn a customer or industry influencer into an active, engaged advocate for your brand: More »
Keep it simple! I’m continually reminded of this tried and true maxim. Being a dyed in the wool lighting geek I like nothing more than throwing a ton of lights into a setup, and creating complex, layered lighting. It’s the puzzle solver in me. Sometimes that’s completely called for and the only way to produce the desired result. However solving the lighting puzzles doesn’t always have to involve a kings ransom worth of strobes, power packs, etc, quite the contrary. In fact, 90 percent of my lighting solutions end up using between just 1 to 3 lights. More »
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Staying organized throughout the year is the best way to be prepared for tax season. Utilize accounting software like Mint.com, Quicken or Quickbooks. Set aside time each month to download and classify the activity from your checking, savings and credit card accounts. At the end of the year 90% of the work required to prepare your tax return will already be done.
If you can’t make time to keep the books yourself on a regular basis or if you aren’t inclined to learn an accounting software package, find a competent bookkeeper in your area with whom you can build a relationship. A good bookkeeper shouldn’t cost more than $40-50 per hour and depending on the size of your business you should expect to engage them for 3 – 4 hours per month. More »
How does one transcend the “I was here” imagery that is often associated with travel photography and create fine art images of places near and far?
From the dozens of workshops I’ve taught on the subject and carefully studying the work of and talking with many of the great globetrotting lensmen and women in the field, I have developed a methodology, that when applied, should yield impressive and at times spectacular results. More »
Writing a photography proposal is a learned process. I still learn something new every time I need to write one. Everyone has a slightly different way of doing things, so you have to figure out what works best for you.
Writing an estimate is essential for large advertising jobs. Editorial jobs for magazines and newspapers often approach you with a predetermined budget. Wedding and portrait photographers often structure their form and fees differently. No matter what type of photographer you are, being able to appropriately charge for your time and expertise is essential. These tips will help you think about what, and how much, to charge a prospective client. More »
In August 2013 a group of 7 climbers, 5 Americans and 2 Myanmarese climbers, traveled to the farthest reaches of northern Myanmar to make a first ascent of Gamlang Razi, Southeast Asia’s disputed highest peak. All told, the climbers traveled over 270 miles on foot through some of the harshest terrain on the planet, braving extreme heat and moisture, as well as the gambit of jungle creatures. Despite these challenges, they were rewarded with rare access to one of the most remote and untouched corners of this planet, living with villagers along the trail that have never seen westerners before. In fact, there have been less than a dozen or so westerners in history to have ever been to this part of the world, and only one climbing expedition in history have been to these mountains. More »
Is Instagram revolutionizing photography? This is a stale question at this point. We all know that Instagram owns the right to use your photo if you post it with their app, and that it has potentially democratized photography – everyone can be a photographer now, and the photographer with the most followers wins! (What they “win” we have yet to know). Nevertheless, while iPhone and Instagram-only weddings have occurred, they are still by far the exception. Photographers that hope to make money from their photographs – and not just from contests sponsored by corporations – can use Instagram to help establish their personal brand without giving all their work away for free. More »
What was your most memorable moment this past year?
Taking an overnight train from Budapest to Bucharest…
What is your main goal for 2014?
To find gallery representation in NYC.
What is it that keeps you picking up your camera everyday?
Admittedly it’s not “everyday” but the adventures that my camera allow me to have keeps me picking it up as often as possible!
Connect with Claire and view more of her work on her photography website.
What was your most memorable moment this past year?
There are so many memorable moments in a year of photographing weddings. It’s such an intimate job where so many things are happening all around you at the same time. It’s hard to name just one! So I’ve included a few of my favorite images.
What is your main goal for 2014?
To keep getting work and making my couples happy.
What is it that keeps you picking up your camera everyday?
What I love is the feeling I get when everything seems to align, when the perfect moment is in front of you, when the light is just right and the right camera and lens are in your hand. When the sun and the stars align perfectly, so to speak, to me, that’s photography magic and that’s what keeps me picking up my camera everyday.
Connect with Karen and view more of her work on her photography website.
What was your most memorable moment this past year?
I’ve got a few! Becoming a Nikon Ambassador, the release of my second book, hoop: the american dream, and completing my 8th film for The Oprah Winfrey Network.
What is your main goal for 2014?
To keep growing as an artist and to keep creating art.
What is it that keeps you picking up your camera everyday?
I’m at a point in my career where I’m just focusing on creating fine art. After being a “hired gun” for everyone else my entire career it’s my turn. Finding out what I have inside me is very exciting! This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my career.
To connect with Robin and view more of her work visit her website.
What was the genesis of this book?
My publisher approached me with an idea to create a piece that would celebrate New Mexico on its 100 years of statehood. But really, this book is a natural progression of my work. It presents a selection of my photographs, made over the nearly three decades that I have lived and worked in New Mexico. Some of the images are from my archives while others are newer, based on my desire to have a more complete geographical coverage in order to best represent the varied landscape of the state. More »
What was your most memorable moment this past year?
My most memorable moment in 2013 was being named the Director of Photography for the Los Angeles Angels. Twenty five years of hard work paid off and I couldn’t be happier!
What is your main goal for 2014?
My goal for 2014 is to show the Angels in a new way. I want the fans to see more intimate, quiet moments away from the field. In this photo Los Angeles Angel Mike Trout gets a haircut 90 minutes before a game. Most fans didn’t know this even happened and very few people have seen this photo till now. Check out the Angels photo blog for more candid shots.
What is it that keeps you picking up your camera everyday?
I’m a super competitive person and that drives me to make the best photos day in and day out. Plus I get really grumpy if I don’t shoot!
Taking time each week to leverage your contacts is one of the most basic things you can do to ensure that your business continues to grow. Even though they are already in your address book, maximizing your relationships takes time, consistency and focus. Your network includes past clients, current clients and all of your prospects.
Mantaining Your List
Did you know that 40% of creatives at advertising agencies change jobs each year? 40%! So that great Art Director that you worked with last month may not be there next month. Where did they go? Who took their place? More »
Melissa Dubasik: How did you get started in photography?
Kike Calvo: This question makes me sad as it was one of the worst moments in my life that drove me into photography. I was studying economics in Spain when my father, a radio personality and one of the most fascinating characters I have ever met, was diagnosed with cancer. I dropped everything and devoted that year to join him on his last journey through hospitals and chemotherapy. Before he died I promised him I would graduate. And I did. More »
Where the endless plains are abruptly transacted by the dramatic Rocky Mountains lies Blackfeet Country. A small community of people call this place home and this project is about the young people of that community. It is a glimpse into their world as they see and live it. Through my photographs, I want to show the triumphs and struggles that are unique to these youth. This project explores the power of place and illustrates how the natural environment and the challenge of reservation life affect a child’s experience.
These challenges unite the community and further strengthen family and neighborly bonds. In the absence of material excess, the children’s imaginations flourish. Without tightly packed schedules of extracurricular activities or the latest video games, children are drawn outdoors to explore and adventure.
My goal in this body of work is to honor the enduring strength, resilience and wisdom of these youth. The project speaks to a universal childhood. More »
We had a great Q+A webinar with many members of the liveBooks community last Monday. Thanks so much to those who were able to attend!
For those who weren’t able to join us, the focus of the conversation revolved around the future of the liveBooks brand, the state of our support team and the new features and platforms we hope to add to liveBooks in the future. To illustrate some of these items, we’ve listed some highlights below.
If you missed the webinar and are interested in receiving a copy of the full recording, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s been a crazy few weeks over here at liveBooks, and we are extremely grateful for your patience and understanding through this process. In spite of all the exciting news, things are finally starting to settle down and return to life as we remember it. While you may still have some questions about the acquisition (if so, we encourage you to join this afternoon’s Q+A webinar), rest assured that the liveBooks brand, team, and core values remain intact!
From a support personnel standpoint, not much has changed around here. Patrick, Luis and Laura are back online to help answer your questions and manage your accounts. They are joined by Catherine, Senior Customer Satisfaction Manager. We want to ensure that we introduced you to her, in case you see her name pop up on any of our channels. When Catherine isn’t managing our support teams, she is mastering the art of pilates (well… almost… she fell off the pilates machine yesterday.) Catherine’s email is email@example.com.
We are excited to utilize our new resources to increase our offerings and deliver an even better product to all of you. Please feel free to email Patrick, Luis, Laura or Catherine with any questions you may have (allow 48 business hours for a response).
Dear liveBooks Community,
It is a huge thrill to be joining forces with the liveBooks team. Together, liveBooks and WeddingWire are able to take action with our shared commitment to continue the amazing work that liveBooks has been doing in serving photographers and creative professionals around the world. I wanted to share insight with you on where liveBooks is headed in the months ahead, as well as introduce myself and WeddingWire.
Where We Are Headed
Andy Patrick and I share a passion for helping small businesses succeed online. As both of our teams work together, we are committed to providing you with the level of service for which liveBooks has been known. In the coming months, our technology teams will work together very closely to build a more powerful liveBooks platform to serve your business needs for years to come. Whether you are a commercial photographer or creative professional, we look forward to delivering success to your website and your business.
WeddingWire is a company dedicated to helping small businesses succeed. We have extensive experience in working with photographers, videographers, venues, and other small business owners and are focused on understanding their ever-changing business needs. In fact, many members of our team are creative professionals themselves. The company was launched in 2007 from my living room and has continued to expand in staff, space and innovation with a priority to serve our clients.
We initially began by creating an online marketplace for the wedding industry, connecting consumers with event merchants efficiently online. Today, WeddingWire.com is one of the largest wedding sites in the U.S. Furthermore, our technology platform powers portions of leading industry sites such as Martha Stewart Weddings and CondeNast’s Brides.com.
Next, we launched EventWire.com, dedicated to helping event planners find the best resources for their corporate and social events.
We are always innovating our current offerings but most recently, we extended our software suite to include features like social media management, digital contract signing, online bill payment, mobilized sites and more.
Today, our platform powers over 140,000 small businesses across the globe. We have become the leading technology company in the industry and our team is laser- focused on driving product innovation for our professional community. If you’d like to learn more about our company or our products, please visit: http://vendors.weddingwire.com.
On behalf of the entire WeddingWire team, we are incredibly excited to join the vibrant liveBooks community and we are grateful for the opportunity to serve you and your business needs. I look forward to connecting with you over the coming months; however, should you have any questions, comments or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org and you will receive a response within 24 hours.
We’ve been busy over the past few months preparing for some exciting news. liveBooks has been acquired by WeddingWire, Inc., which operates the leading wedding and event sites such as EventWire.com, WeddingWire.com, ProjectWedding.com and many more. Furthermore, the company features a comprehensive online business marketing and management solution, called eventOS, which offers businesses the opportunity to enhance their marketing, customer relationships, reputation and more. We are confident that in WeddingWire, we have found a great partner and a steward of the liveBooks brand.
Our sincerest apologies for any bumps you may have experienced during this transition period and for any inconvenience it may have caused you. In tandem with WeddingWire, we are dedicated to making this transition as smooth as possible and we are committed to answering your questions. Our staff is available and here when you need us. We look forward to this new chapter as we deliver more value to YOU, our valued liveBooks customers.
Here’s a note from Andy Patrick to the liveBooks community:
We are thrilled to announce that liveBooks has been acquired by WeddingWire, Inc., the leading online marketplace for the wedding and events industry. They are an amazing group of people, passionate about being great stewards of the liveBooks brand, and focused on maintaining our leadership role in all aspects of the photography and creative professional industry.
What does this mean for you?
You’ll continue to receive the same great service as always. For anyone who experienced frustrations during this recent transition period, our sincere apologies. We will be working hard over the next few weeks to make the transition as seamless as possible. This week, support staff is in full force and ready to help with for your support questions, custom design and new site enhancements.
liveBooks brand will remain.
We’re excited to partner with the WeddingWire team to continue to serve the liveBooks community. The acquisition means more resources will be available for product innovation and we will be sharing the details of these developments in the coming months. We’re working to bring you more value as a liveBooks customer.
We appreciate your loyalty over the years and look forward to this exciting next chapter—we’re committed to bringing you stellar business solutions to boost your online presence and success.
Keep doing great work and having fun.
All my best,
For more information about WeddingWire’s platform for merchants, which includes lead management, social media monitoring, digital contracts and more, visit http://vendors.weddingwire.com.
Family portrait sessions should be fun! As photographers we can do more than just create beautiful images for our clients – we can make sure they enjoy their time with us. Ultimately, the experience families have while they’re with us is what determines if we are gaining clients who will want to come back to us again and again.
Growing up, I hated getting our family pictures taken. Uncomfortable clothes, stressed-out mom, cranky kids, and someone almost always ended up crying.
Until a few years ago, I dreaded taking my own kids’ pictures. I was the stressed-out mom, they were the cranky kids, and if someone was crying it was usually me. Why I decided to pursue family photography after all the itching and whining and the poking and the crying is anybody’s guess, but I’ve learned some things over the years, both as a mom and as a photographer, that have completely changed the family portrait experience. Now, I love family portraits – I love shooting them, I love being in them, and I adore looking at them after the session. My clients and my kids look forward to them. I’ve found that taking the time to prepare parents for their family portrait session can turn a potentially stressful situation into one that’s a lot of fun.
Make sure your clients know exactly what to expect from a session. Explain what will happen from the time they arrive at the session until they leave. Remind them that their children don’t have to be perfect at the session. The camera captures 1/250th or less of a second at a time – in between the wiggles and the goofiness and even the “I don’t want to!” there are always sweet moments. Ask them to trust that you can capture those.
I frequently tell my clients that I hope their family portrait session doesn’t cause them any stress, but if it does, all of that stress should happen before the session. Stress and tension have no place at a portrait session. Thoughtful selection of their photographer, their wardrobe, and a session date and time that works with their family’s schedule will definitely lead to beautiful images. However, once the session starts there isn’t much more parents can do to ensure success, other than having fun and showing affection to their kids.
Kids have minds of their own. Let clients know that you’ll try something for a while, and if it’s not working out you’ll move on to something else. Reassure them during the session that their child’s shyness or silliness is age-appropriate and that they’re not misbehaving.
Bribing a child before a portrait session almost never works. I explain to parents that by offering a reward to children before a portrait session, they’re often sending the message, “This is going to be painful. So painful, in fact, that I’m going to have to take you to ice cream/buy you a toy/let you play video games to make it up to you.” The problem with bribes is that children under the age of 5 don’t understand delayed gratification, thus the reward is ineffective and can quickly turn into threats, “Uh-oh, no ice cream!”
I believe a child over the age of 5 is completely capable of participating in the session without the promise of a reward. Ask parents to please not mention any rewards before the session. Find out prior to the session if they’re comfortable with you offering a small treat or prize to win the child over to get that last shot at the end of the session. Let everyone know that the session itself will be fun – no one needs a reward for having fun!
Remind parents that comments like, “This is really important to Mommy, we really want you to cooperate,” instantly gives the child complete control over the session. Instead, I encourage parents to say something like, “We’re going to go see Jessica today. She’s going to play some games with us and take our picture. It’s going to be so much fun!”
As the mom of many highly sensitive children, I encourage parents to make sure they’re not setting themselves up for unnecessary difficulty by asking their children to do things that make them uncomfortable. Sessions should be scheduled, as much as possible, when children will be well-rested and fed. Ask parents to make sure their children have tried on clothes before the session so that any problems resulting from uncomfortable clothing can be addressed prior to the session date. I also let parents know that we can always take a break from shooting if children just need a drink or a snack, a snuggle, or time to play for a bit.
Practice makes perfect. Ask your clients to make sure they let the new big brother(s) or sister(s) hold the new baby every day. If the older sibling is too little to hold the baby, he should be lying down next to the baby, kissing the baby, or at least talking to the baby every day. This gives the toddler or child a chance to get used to the baby. It also gives the parents an idea of how much cooperation they can expect from their older child or children. The clients will then come to the session with a much more realistic idea of just how cooperative the older children will be, which is especially important if the new big sister is still pretty much a baby herself.
Giving them just a little bit of guidance, we can help our clients avoid some of the common causes of family portrait stress. The less stress at the session, the more time there is for fun, and the more likely you are to win over a client for life.
Jessica Washburn’s images are pure, intimate, and above all beautiful. Finding and accentuating the beauty of her clients is always the inspiration for every session. While she enjoys photographing families and children of all ages, Jessica’s attention to detail, patience and absolute love for her subjects has made her especially gifted at newborn portraiture. Her newborn images display a unique sensitivity and sense of peacefulness.
To see more of Jessica’s work visit her website.
After all the lead-up to WPPI in Las Vegas last month, it seems strange that it’s really over. But as I look into the rear view mirror, I see it getting smaller and smaller as we drive our brand forward toward new product launches and what will likely be a healthy wedding season.
This was my first WPPI and everything that I was told to expect turned out to be true. The crowds were massive, the energy was high, the sessions were informative, and Las Vegas was the perfect town (and the MGM Grand the perfect locale), to host the event.
Unlike Imaging USA in Atlanta last January, Pinhole Pro’s presence at WPPI was as an integrated brand beneath liveBooks, Inc. and alongside Fotomoto. For the most part those who were looking for us managed to find us just fine, and when they did they were pleased to note that all of the Pinhole Pro products they’d come to love were on display to touch and feel.
You Asked. We Delivered.
WPPI also marked the unveiling of our brand new Horizontal Panoramic album, which is now available in Pro Studio. Log on to check it out now. You can even save 25% off it and all other Pro Studio product through April 15th when you use promo code PROWPPI. Enjoy!
All-Star Speaker Lineup
We were fortunate enough to have a wonderful lineup of speakers at this year’s event, including Wedding Photographers Stacie Kirkwood, Barrie Fisher and Jared Platt, commercial photographers Michael Grecco and Mark Wallace, and liveBooks CEO Andy Patrick. Our own Patrick O’Connor walked attendees through all the great custom tips and tricks available to all of us in Pro Studio, and Fotomoto Product Manager Piam Kiarostami spoke about the benefits of Fotomoto. Speaking of which….
Start Selling with Fotomoto
Trade shows are nothing if not an opportunity to sample and demo product, and one of our major points of discussion at WPPI was the integration of Fotomoto into liveBooks websites. It was great to see booth attendees’ faces continually light up as we showed them how they can sell photos through their liveBooks websites for free. Think of it as an extra source of revenue that you can set and forget.
For a sample of what I’m talking about, visit Jared Platt’s site and click the ADD TO CART button at the bottom of the screen. If you like what you see, and I think you will, I’d be remiss if I didn’t let you know that you can now save 50% off a Professional predesigned liveBooks website, which includes the integrated Fotomoto shopping cart option, by visiting liveBooks.com and entering promo code LBWPPI at checkout.
Our next major industry event will likely be the PhotoPlus Expo in New York in October, but we are looking into creating a trimmed down booth experience for smaller shows throughout the spring in summer. Please be sure to ‘Like’ us on Facebook and check our Events tab to stay abreast of our upcoming appearances.
Joe Franklin is the Director of Marketing at liveBooks and Pinhole Pro. When he’s not sending emails, optimizing landing pages and organizing events, he’s running the trails of the SF East Bay Regional Park district or shooting photos of whatever catches his eye.
Being able to create and deliver an elevator pitch is fundamental to any good marketing plan. In the final installment of a 4 part series, liveBooks Inc. CEO Andy Patrick discusses the value in being able to state your elevator when it counts.
Being able to manage and grow your contact database is essential for all working photographers. In part 3 of a 4 part series, liveBooks Inc. CEO Andy Patrick discusses some effective ways to manage and grow your database.
One of the greatest challenges new photographers face is learning to bridle their excitement to show everyone, everything they shoot. The difference between a good photographer and a great one is not what they shoot, but what they choose to show the world. Learning to edit your work is paramount to being a great photographer.
In the last century, there was a buffer between the amateur photographer and the rest of the world: the science of photography itself and the cost of production and distribution. Expensive labs, chemical heavy darkrooms, and the complexity of publishing one’s work made it difficult to publicize. Those who were willing to make the effort and spend the money did so very carefully, with assistance from industry professionals to insure their work was well received. These hurdles to publication slowed photographers down and forced them to reflect on their work before displaying it to the public at large.
Today, you don’t have to go through a gatekeeper to have access to the world. With the advent of Facebook, blogs and Instagram, the public is only a click away from seeing your latest shot. A photographer can snap a shot, alter it in Snap Seed and post it to the world in a matter of 60 seconds, for free, without any oversight, second opinions or editorial review.
And the world will act as your editor by following and un-following your feeds. Now you (the photographer) need to learn how to be a photo editor. You can do it, you have the skills, but you now need the discipline to be your own harshest critic and to accept nothing but the best, even when it hurts to hit the delete key.
After all, photography is the art of selection. When you are out in the field photographing, you have an infinite number of frame options available to you, and with your photographer hat on, you choose the location, the angle, the moment and even the exposure settings for each image you capture. When you get back to the Lightroom, you now have a smaller number of frame options available, but it is still the same act of selection that occupies your attention. The only difference is that the decisions you make in the computer can be contemplated over and are not as permanent as missing the shot in the field. If a photographer approaches the act of selecting in the computer the same way she approaches selecting at the camera (with confidence), the act of selection will be far less intimidating and much more fruitful.
I offer a few suggestions for being a better photo editor:
First, photographers select in the field by reviewing options in comparison to one another. In the old days, we used to make our selections in the darkroom using a contact sheet with 15-36 images being compared to one another at the same time. Reviewing images one at a time will never yield quick or informed selection decisions. The art of efficient, accurate and quality selection begins with this comparative review principle: we make better decisions when we see our options in comparison to each other.
Second, photographers in the field take an infinite number of options and select images from that infinite set. When options are placed before you in comparison, one option will catch your eye and that is the option you will explore. Back in the studio, the selection process is hindered when photographers scrutinize every possible image. Instead, determine what you are looking for (i.e. children in action, brides dressing, politicians lying, etc) and set those images in front of you. As you compare them to each other on the screen or in print, let the great images jump out and grab you. Those that do not are unworthy of your attention.
Third, you must be willing to “kill your darlings.” Too many photographers keep too many images because it cost them time and money to produce. But if the image is not impressive, it should not be shown. Your goal as a self-editor is to promote your great work and, like the gatekeepers of the 20th century, deny entry to the rest. Shakespeare’s character Polonious reminded his son that “brevity is the soul of wit,” and I am reminding you now, that brevity is the soul of a potent portfolio. Protect your brand by protecting your portfolio.
Don’t just think of your portfolio as the book you show your clients, or a website for potential clients. Your portfolio is anything and everything you put out into the public’s eye. This includes your printed products, magazine publications and advertisements, your Facebook pages, blogs, image galleries and Instagrams. This is where you make your impression on the public, which is why it is so important to be more critical of your own work.
Fourth, find someone you trust to review your work on a regular basis. This could be another photographer, a mentor, your print lab, a portfolio review session at a trade show, a camera club or even a password protected web forum. You don’t want a “yes” man to butter you up, but an honest and harsh critique. The public will be more than happy to critique your work, but getting that critique means that you have to show the world your mediocre work. Henri Cartier-Bresson said “showing your contact sheets is like taking your pants off in public.” Don’t take your pants off in public – it’s not good for your brand!
The world knows that you are putting your best foot forward. So, when you share images that are merely good, you are telling your potential clients that this is the best you’ve got. If you are not willing to reject the good that is mixed in with the great, you will be seen as mediocre at best. If you won’t judge your own work harshly, the world will.
Jared Platt is a professional wedding and lifestyle photographer. He has lectured at major trade shows, photo conferences and universities on photography and workflow. Currently, Jared is traveling the USA and Canada teaching photography and post production workflow.