Sharing experience, advice, and photos to all with the shutterbug.

opinion

Instagram – My thoughts


I’m an Android user. I see no reason to spend several hundred dollars on an iPhone that will be replaced in 8 months and most of the apps that I use are available cross platform.
When I first heard about Instagram I had the reaction that I think most photographers had: “Oh boy, an app that lets your shitty camera-phone take your shitty camera phone pictures and put a less than shitty filter on it.” I admit, I was on the train of “This app is ruining photography” for a brief period and the millions of users annoyed me to no end with their “artistic” photos of their food and coffee and every day household items. But then Instagram came out on Android 2 weeks ago.

And I *LOVE* it.

To me it harkens back to when I discovered photography for the first time. I was using a point and shoot, and the camera would do all the work for. I would simply push the shutter button and get the photos developed. Easy.
It all came with this sense of wonder, of not knowing and the excitement of seeing those images for the first time was palpable.
These days with all of my digital equipment, computers and photoshop taking that snapshot isn’t as simple as a task as it once was. Part of that is me, wanting to put out a polished finished photo is part of who am, it’s what makes me “professional.” So when I want to upload some photos I took to facebook it’s a bit of a pain. I plug in the card to the card reader, download to the computer, open in photoshop, process, downsize and export and then finally upload them to facebook. With Instagram I point, shoot, select a filter and I’m done. It goes to my followers primarily, but it can share them on Facebook and twitter if I want. And it’s so easy and fun.

If you are simply interested in sharing your day to day life with your friends in photographs, I would highly recommend Instagram. No need to lug around big cameras and laptops, all you need is a smartphone. It came out just in time for my big trip to the Salton Sea last week and I shot the road trip, the locations and the shoot days and they were promptly shared.

You can follow me if you like, my user name is what_an_ahtist. I think my favorite filter is either Hudson or Sierra. I have yet to take a photo of a meal, but I have taken a picture of my morning coffee.

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Set your standards

Last week I was talking on the phone with my mother and she mentioned that the most recent photo she had of me is over 6 years old. As photographers we never think much about going in front of the camera. It’s not that I don’t like getting my picture taken or have some kind of phobia about it… I’ve helped out a lot of friends with shoots and have been a model in some cases. So I asked a few close friends if they would be willing to set aside a small amount of time to take a portrait of me. I offered a trade of services, a portrait for a portrait but I understood that they were working professionals and may not be able to make the time. So to keep my options open, I decided to place an ad on Craigslist to see what the local area had to offer. I knew I would have to pay for quality and I said that I would pay “Market rates.”

What happened next sincerely horrified me.

I promptly received 30+ emails from people claiming to be “Professional Photographers” and offering me their services for as low as $55.00 for a 2 hour session with 5 poses and all images on a CD. NO career can be sustained on one off 55.00 jobs and that doesn’t even begin to cover your operating expenses let alone pay you a living wage. Not only that, the people that are offering such rock-bottom rates are hurting the local market by lowering people’s expectations and standards of photography.

Not all of the photographers were bad or anything, some of them were pretty good but were charging far too little. Turning the tables like that has opened my eyes on what it’s like to be one of my own clients. Not all but most of the websites were terrible, a flickr page or completely unusable. The emails were extremely unprofessional and poorly written. Some of them didn’t even contain links to portfolios, they just had attached photos. Photography is a service industry – first impressions, even via email are EXTREMELY important.

If you are unsure what to charge for your photography services PLEASE go here and figure out your operating expenses and then ask around about what other photographers charge in your area. You are doing no favors to anyone by being “The cheapest” and you certainly don’t want that to be your reputation. You get what you pay for and this venn diagram sums it up nicely:


Now pick two.


Practice makes (picture) perfect

After nearly 4 months of traveling the country working on my Occupy Wallstreet project, “Portraits of the 99%” I have finally taken a bit of a break to recharge and get the body of work seen by the world. Upon doing some non-occupy wallstreet work, I’ve noticed something has happened: I’ve become REALLY good at making portraits.


Now, I’ve always considered myself a portrait photographer so of course I MUST be good at making portraits, right? Since working on the “Portraits of the 99%” series I’ve become much more observant of the nuances of the human condition within the confines of my frame. Gesture, facial expressions, body language. When I was on the road I had to work really fast because more often than not I was working on limited time and with people who were on the move so I became very sensitive to all of those things. Now that I’ve got the time to slow down and work with my subject things are much different. It’s hard for me to call my 4 month long and counting occupy project “practice” but I think photographers are always practicing while on the job or off. It’s really worth the effort and has made me much more aware of what I am photographing.


So go out and practice, it will improve your photography in every way imaginable.


Portraits of the 99% on TV and now in COLOR

Quick post today, I wanted to share the interview that KTVU Channel 2 in Oakland did with me on the project last night. (I can’t post the video but you can click the thumbnail and watch it on their page)

Click the thumbnail for the whole story and the video!

 

I’m very excited at the opportunities that could come of this, some of you know that I have been shopping around for a gallery to hang these images in and this has already gotten me a few phone calls.
The other thing I wanted to share was the jump into color:

I’ve been working on a new promo to send to magazines showing that I am a portrait photographer. I thought what better way to do this then use some of my most well known work but something felt a bit off to me. So now I’ve been playing with really tight crops and color images from the “Portraits of the 99%” series. Let me know how you like it!


My 12 favorite blogs for pictures, industry news and a good laugh

My google reader has blown up in the last year. I personally hate getting my inbox loaded up with emails from blogs and RSS feeds, so when I discovered that Google Reader lets you put everything in one place along with providing apps for your iGoogle, android phone and tablet, I was all over it. So today I want to share my Google Reader list with you guys, the blogs I read cover a broad range of things from industry news to awesome photographers to hearty laughs. I won’t be sharing my ENTIRE reader list of course, because not everyone wants to spend the entire morning reading blogs as I get 40-50 entries a day. So, without further ado;

Pictures

500 Photographers‘ Pieter Wisse digs through archives and various forms of media around the world and finds the most unique photographers that I have ever seen in one place. The collection is eclectic ranging from fine art to documentary to commercial photography and is worth a look for anyone looking for some inspiration. As of 1/17 the list is at 427.

Feature shoot showcases a small body of work from various user submitted photographers. They also have a great section called “Photo du jour” which features a single strong image from user submissions. Alison Zavos, who runs Feature Shoot also works in the photo industry as a photo editor, photographer and consultant.

Industry News

A Photo Editor is hands down the BEST industry blog I have ever read. Rob Haggart is a former director of photography and he shares his stories, opinions and advice for all to take in and absorb. He shares interviews, magazine spreads, real-world photo job estimates and quotes from industry leaders. You’d be doing yourself a disservice to not read and subscribe to his blog.

Stella Kramer is in the same boat as Rob Haggart, she’s a seasoned veteran of the photo industry and she offers her views and advice on a broad range of topics. A large portion of her blog is dedicated to the politics of the industry, especially in relation to historical context.

Strictly Business is the ASMP’s industry business blog and is run by several established professionals. Obviously the blog covers business related topics but believe me, it’s not some boring business 101 class, it’s some of the most useful blogging I’ve read because the professionals who write for it are working NOW, rolling with the punches and adapting to change.

Technical education
David Hobby runs Strobist and he’s all about using small lights to shoot big assignments. Mostly the blog features tutorials on how to shoot certain subjects with speedlights but there’s also great advice on how to tackle the organization of a shoot and how to use your software to the best of it’s ability.

Weather you’re on a budget or looking to to test out your crafting skills, DIY photography shows you how to build any light modifier or tool you can think of, on the cheap and with things you can find around your own home.

Humour

Photoshop Disasters features so many hilarious “How did they get away with that?” moments that most of your time spent on this blog will be spent boosting your own photoshop confidence.

We’ve all had difficult clients and Clients from Hell lets you vent about them and read about some of the most ridiculous requests, fits and naivety that you can’t even imagine unless you’ve been there.

Miscellaneous

If you’re looking for inspiration for your next promo look no further than No Plastic Sleeves. The feature some of the most original and creative promo pieces I have ever seen ranging from a simple series of post cards to box sets with branded disposable cameras in them.

Everyone loves gear so Nikon Rumors is my go to place for upcoming Nikon equipment. The author finds, through various tips and speculation, new Nikon Products and news and presents his findings. It’s really interesting to see how often speculation becomes truth. For those of you non-Nikon users there’s also a Canon Rumors.

This is another really important blog especially for those just getting into the industry. Photo Attorney has articles about copyright, contracts and laws and situations that we will all find ourselves involved with in some way or another.

Thanks for taking the time to check out these great sites. They have been a huge help to me and my own work in Photography. What are some of your favorite blogs?


Crowdsourced funding – Putting your audience in the spotlight

Those of you who were there at the beginning of my “Portraits of the 99%” project probably saw my IndieGoGo page, which I was using to raise money to continue the project. The fund raiser was successful, I raised almost 2500.00 between donations at the site and private donations from funders in San Francisco. This allowed me to travel and work on the project more or less full time and get it published in numerous print and online publications. It’s a pretty interesting resource that’s become available thanks to the internet. It’s especially useful for Photojournalists who rarely get their travel expenses covered by magazines and newspapers anymore.
Crowdsourcing is great because you can show something to the public that you’re excited about and if they’re excited about it as well – you can raise the money to make your vision happen. But there’s a few things you need to consider before you start spamming your friends with a link to your kickstarter;

Know your audience

Since your audience is your source of funding you can’t just start a project about anything. You need to think about your project and who your audience is. Who else would like to see this project happen? What age group does this project appeal to? Are you photographing the rise of the hipster trend in foreign countries or are you covering elderly men adjusting to retired life at home or in a home? These obviously have different audiences. Do some research – find out who’s already involved in the things you want to explore and get funded.

Make it awesome

You can’t post up a few scans of some sketches and drawings of the photos you want to take – you need to already have the project going. This shows initiative on your part, that you’re actively working on the project and will make potential supporters more likely to help you out. It has to have some semblance of completion and it has to look good, it has to look AWESOME. Below is my video pitch which featured me shooting and interacting with people, as well as photos and interviews with protestors. Make sure you keep it short and sweet.


Have rewards

Your audience needs some encouragement to get involved aside from the satisfaction of helping you fund your awesome project and a tax write-off. The best way to do this is reward them with different things depending on the amount they donate or pledge. For a donation of say, 10.00 supporters can get a nice hand written thank you card or a “thank you” credit in your project. Other amounts can get them access to behind the scenes stuff, prints, posters, books… the possibilities are endless.

Follow up, be involved and deliver

This is the most important thing. Be actively involved with your audience. Send them updates and pictures of work in progress. And ALWAYS deliver on your promises. Don’t just say you’re having an exhibition of the completed project at the MOMA if you actually don’t. You’ll upset your audience and it’s just plain dishonest. Always be upfront and transparent with what you’re doing, what you’re capable of doing and how you’re doing everything.

Resources

IndieGoGo: Takes 4% if you reach your goal, 8% if you don’t. Disperses within 7 business days after fundraiser has ended.
Kickstarter: Takes 5% and disperses ONLY if you reach your goal. Seems to be more focused on products and inventors.
Emphas.IS: Tales 15% and disperses ONLY if you reach your goal. You must get your project approved before you can begin funding. It seems to be THE place for serious photojournalists so it carries a lot of prestige.

Great video on crowdsourcing:


BART Protest, Powell St Station 9/8/11

The group “No Justice No BART” staged a protest on 9/8/11 about the killings of 2 men in the last year. They demanded that the BART police retire and they proceeded to attempt to block the turnstiles so that no commuters could come and go. They thought this would force BART to open the emergency gates to ride for free, but with the clipper card system in place if you don’t “tag off” at your final destination you are charged for the entire line whether you traveled it or not. This simply upset commuters and BART and so the SFPD shut down the entire station, locking the protesters inside. There were at least a dozen arrests.
The only reason I did not stay inside the station when they shut it down was because I did not have press credentials because I don’t usually do this sort of thing. I was simply at the right place at the right time. Some will say that I’m taking sides with No Justice No BART but to be honest I don’t agree with how either side handled this situation. I Think it was very foolish of No Justice No BART to think that they could get away with blocking the turnstiles or that it would even make a difference beside anger and inconvenience hundreds if not thousands of commuters.
I also believe that the SFPD were far too aggressive – I was shocked when they locked everyone inside the station and surrounded the protesters. I saw at least 2 people get beaten up and dragged away. The protesters were all very young – 18, 19, 20.

Gathering for the protest

SFPD preparing for what's coming

The arrival of some masked protesters

Banners arrive

Police forming a peremiter around the turnstiles

Protesters rushing the turnstiles

Locking up the station with the protesters still inside

A girl calling to her friend who is inside, being arrested.