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How does one become a better photographer? To find the answer I decided to ask industry veteran Gerald Ratto. For over half a century Gerald has used film photography to capture the world. Gerald is a former student of Ansel Adams, Minor White, Imogen Cunningham and Edward Weston; the list of industry legends he has worked with is extensive. His work has been displayed at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and his client list includes some of the largest architectural firms in the world.

Gerald has worked with film since he was 12 and began photographing with a 15-cent box camera. Many of his most celebrated images (See his Children of the Fillmore and Vintage Collections) were shot traditionally. I began by inquiring about what differences exists between photographing with film and digital.

“Photography is really about seeing. We are in an age where people confuse photography with image capturing. When you hold up your phone or high megapixel camera are you really being a photographer? I don’t know. That depends on how intentional you are in the process. It’s easy to capture a huge amount of space today and then use Photoshop to retroactively tell a story, but something is lost in that process. You can make adjustments in Photoshop but you lose some of the expression because you didn’t really consider the content and the story that is being told.”

Is there any correlation between the physical developing process and the creation of an authentic photograph?

“Developing isn’t really a huge part of the process because of previsualization; seeing the story in your mind before you capture it with a camera. If you are doing it right you already know what the story is once you capture it. Then, it’s about going through a process to bring it from a small format to something people can see and display. Each camera is really the same. Each is simply a different instrument. If your process is the same then you can use different instruments to more accurately tell the story.”

Herein I realized the error of my initial question. The question is really not of whether we gain or lose something using film or digital methods, the question is how we remain intentional in an age where technology removes our limits. What are we doing as photographers to keep our content intentional and relevant?

I ask what advice Gerald can provide for how to stay relevant as a photographer.

“Photography is like discovery; every time you look in the viewfinder you’re closing in on an image that is part of something bigger—a little vignette of the greater world. You don’t want to go into any project with preconceived notions of what you are going to capture because by doing that you impose yourself upon the subject. Authenticity is the key to staying relevant. Allow the subject to tell the story and use your mastery of the instrument to capture it.”

Gerald’s work over the last 50 years showcases many different thematic elements; a testament to the depth of his abilities as photographer. I encourage you to take a look at Gerald’s portfolios and pay special attention to his mastery of light. From architecture models to portraiture, Gerald’s work showcases the breadth of his abilities as a photographer. As we finish up I ask Gerald what his favorite photo is. He smiles and replies, “The one I’m taking tomorrow.”

Gerald Ratto and his wife Marla manage a studio and reside in San Francisco, CA. You can view more of his work on his liveBooks site; www.geraldrattophotography.com.

liveBooks wants to know: how do you view your work as a photographer? What tools/best practices do you use to stay relevant? Share a comment on our blog and start a conversation. “Like” us on our facebook page and be the first to receive exciting liveBooks news and content.

There are few areas of photography that are as crowded right now as the world of weddings. The portrait and wedding photography market has grown exponentially in recent years, and with more shooters shifting in from other shrinking markets, that trend is likely to continue.

For those emerging photographers who are passionate about wedding photography but don’t know how to distinguish themselves from the growing crowd, we’re happy to announce emerge, a new contest for emerging wedding photographers — and not just because it’s the brainchild of liveBooks ;)

The emerge Photo Competition is special because it gives photographers the opportunity to tell an entire picture story through multiple images, uploaded into website portfolios in five categories: wedding preparation, details, venue, the kiss, and favorite wedding. Winners will also receive a full suite of tools to help them get their business off the ground and take it straight to the stratosphere.

A panel of wedding industry leaders and magazine photo editors will crown 15 winners total, three in each category, who will receive a prize package worth $1,400, including:

a one-year subscription to a liveBooks predesigned website,
a one-year subscription to a Pictage account,
a one-year subscription to a ShootQ account,
a 2011 WPPI VIP pass,
a Think Tank Photo Belt,
and a $100 Asuka Book gift card.

The top photographer in each category will also receive an advertising package from TheKnot.com valued at $1,200 and a professional photography kit from Sony valued at $2,000.

Check out more details here. Deadline for entries is May 31, 2010 and we’re looking forward to announcing the winners soon after.  Good luck!

Every month on RESOLVE we ask a photographer to share a personal project they’re currently working on. We’re doubly happy to highlight Faces 4 Reform from Robert and Robbie Bailey, since it addresses a pressing issue for all Americans — the rising number of uninsured — and because the website liveBooks donated has helped bring extra attention to the project.

From the Faces 4 Reform project. ©Robert & Robbie Bailey

Name: Robert & Robbie Bailey
Website: faces4reform.com
Age: 42  & 41
Location: New York
Kind of photography we specialize in: Portraiture

Personal project name and short description: Faces4Reform – Portraits of America’s Uninsured. According to the 2008 U.S. Census Bureau, there were 46.3 million people living in the United State without health insurance.  This series of portraits gives you a close look at some of their faces.

When and why did you start it?
Towards the end of the summer, we began to pay close attention to the debate over health insurance reform.  As small business owners, we personally understand the plight of the uninsured.  For years, we worked 80 hour weeks but were still unable to afford the high premiums unfairly imposed on the self-employed.  We opted for a reasonable state subsidized insurance plan but that has increased by 65% in the last three years.  If something doesn’t change, we could be uninsured again in the very near future.

Aside from our own personal motivation, we felt compelled to respond to the misconceptions about the uninsured.  There are those that would like for you to believe that the majority are illegal immigrants or welfare recipients. In contrast, many of the uninsured people that we know are productive, hardworking individuals and families that are simply locked out of a broken system.

Sadly, political lines have been drawn, the spin-masters are hard at work, and the American public is once again at the mercy of entertainment journalism and those that specialize in misinformation. When that happens, those most affected get lost in the discussion and politics takes precedence over people. This series of portraits hopes to humanize the ongoing debate and encourage participation in the political process. As artists and small business owners, we obviously don’t have the money or influence to affect polices in Washington but we do possess a creative power that can be used to inform and inspire.

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
The power in this particular body of work lies in seeing the images as a collective.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
Finding the time to do it.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it? More »

Josh Maready’s multimedia portrait of an Inwood shop owner, who the photographer interviewed shortly before he died of cancer, is the essence of what a personal project can achieve. Josh usually shoots fashion and portraits, but in the end it was this documentary project that helped re-energize him about his own work — and helped keep a special person and his stories alive through his images.

Name: Josh Maready
Website: joshmaready.com
Age: 30
Location: NYC

What kind of photography do you specialize in?
I shoot mostly fashion and portraiture, but I feel really connected to photojournalism and documentary. I like capturing pieces of history that otherwise might have been lost or forgotten.

Personal project name and short description
Pic-A-Pet: This is a slideshow and interview with Mr. Madonna, the owner of a small plant and pet store named “Pic-A-Pet” in my hood in Inwood, at the very top of Manhattan.

When and why did you start it?
My old apartment was right above where the super put all of the trash overnight before he put it out on the street, and because of it there were always some stray flies that found their way in. I got pissed and went on a search to find some Venus fly traps that led me to Pic-A-Pet. I loved that place ever since I first walked in.

I have soft spot for old stores — the dirtier and more cluttered the better. Those places are so full of stories and have so much soul, you know?  I instantly wanted to take pictures of that place and hear some of those stories, so I grabbed my camera and voice recorder and sat down with the owner, Mr, Madonna.  Sadly, he had Stage 4 cancer and died a couple of weeks after our interview. It’s pretty amazing to think that because of the interview I did, a few of his stories will always be alive. That’s powerful stuff.

Mr. Madonna by Josh Maready

Mr. Madonna by Josh Maready

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
From this story, I like two images the most: a portrait of Mr. Madonna smiling and a picture of his cluttered cash register that he told me he hasn’t used since the first day he opened. In the portrait, maybe it’s the smile he’s wearing, even though I knew he was in pain, or maybe the sunlight hitting the dust on his glasses. The register, to me, is a perfect summary of everything I love about old stores.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
The most challenging part was the editing. I sat down and talked with Mr. Madonna for almost an hour and a half. So taking all of those stories and condensing them into 10 minutes was tough.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
Just what I said earlier — to know that I was a part of keeping someone’s legacy alive is a huge honor.  Mr. Madonna was loved by so many people. And even though this is a small and unworthy tribute for such a good man, at least it’ll give people a taste of what he was like.

In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
I hope this ends up in front of the eyes of people who appreciate the stories of the unknown heros of the world as much as I do.

Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
Totally. I try to find time to fuel the creative fire by shooting things that really mean something to me. This project was time consuming and finding free time is hard. Freeing up time is usually hard to justify. But to look back and feel like I’ve done something good for the world is worth it.

Wow – you wanna hear something weird? Right now as i’m writing this I just got an email from someone who had known Mr. Madonna. They told me they just watched the slideshow/interview and then poured their heart out about Mr. Madonna and told me a few of their own stories about him. That’s it, man! That’s why I love this stuff! That’s good fuel for the fire and motivation for the next few stories I have in mind…

For Lisa Wiseman, a San Francisco-based editorial and commercial photographer, it’s important that her portfolio convey her “eye,” the way she sees, no matter what camera she’s using. That’s why, despite her initial hesitancy, she began showing personal work as part of her book and online portfolio last year. This year she was named one of PDN’s 30 — in part because of her “New Polaroids” personal project, taken entirely on her iPhone.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

Name: Lisa Wiseman
Website:
lisawiseman.com
Age: 27
Location:
San Francisco
Full-time job:
Photographer

Personal project name and short description
The New Polaroid — This project is shot completely with my iPhone and is an exploration of iPhone as the new Polaroid. As the iPhone is becoming a ubiquitous and trendy accessory, on-the-go picture taking is now the norm. I see people using their iPhones to take spontaneous photos in the same carefree way that cheap Polaroid has been used in the past. In concept and ideology, the iPhone mimics Polaroid; however, it pushes the aesthetic forward by utilizing a new non-film (but technologically infantile) medium. Just like traditional Polaroids had a specific size and unique look, iPhone photos are unmistakable because the technology limits them to a fixed size and resolution and imbues them with a unique chromatic aberration that says “iPhone” and nothing else.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

When and why did you start it?
I have been shooting with my iPhone since I got it approximately two years ago. I started showing The New Polaroid alongside my portraiture portfolios on my website and in my book in June, 2008, along with other personal work including a project shot on traditional Polaroid film. It was important to me to show my potential clients another side of my shooting personality — I wanted creatives to have a feel for what the world looks like to me and what I photograph when I’m not shooting portraits. With a wider breadth of work encompassing still lifes and interiors, I wanted to show that my vision carries through everything I shoot. Showing personal work has directly led to jobs, and when I show my work in person my work seems to resonate more with the viewer because it includes the iPhone images and traditional Polaroids.

©Lisa Wiseman (2)

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. In today’s Tip of the Week, Gene talks about the importance of diversifying your business, like his friend Ann Hamilton, who is a successful wedding AND dog portrait photographer.

“One of the things I do to keep myself balanced is I teach.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. In today’s Tip of the Week, Gene explains how a regular email newsletter can help keep you connected with clients and colleagues, even when they don’t have time to check your blog.

“Photographers get busy and don’t always come to the blog for news.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. In today’s Tip of the Week, Gene reiterates the importance of clear, comprehensive contracts and outlines the main points a good contract should cover.

“We want to make sure we are as specific as possible to keep our business safe.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. In today’s Tip of the Week, Gene explains why it’s important to think like the people trying to find you online and he gives some foundational tips for search engine optimization to help them do just that.

“We have to put ourselves in the place of our clients.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

Gene Higa is a destination wedding photographer based in San Francisco, but he’s got great tips for all kinds of photographers. In today’s Tip of the Week, Gene reminds photographers that magazines are often looking for just the photos you have sitting on your hard drives — and getting published is a great way to raise your visibility.

“You have a hard drive full of beautiful images and there are magazines out there who may want to use them.”

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: Gene has some great tips lined up, but we’re always eager to hear what you’d like to know more about. Leave your questions in the comments (with a link to your website, of course) and Gene will be happy to respond.

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