For those of you who live in San Francisco who haven’t yet been to Adobe‘s Photoshop & you event at 550 Sutter St: Shame on you. Even if you’re not big into photoshop, or still shoot film – you should go. The event takes place over the course of 2 weeks from July 23rd to August 6th. They offer classes, lectures, demonstrations and raffles – all for free. You can view the full calender of Events at their website.
I’m really busy over the next week because I’m working on 2 films that are being submitted to Sundance, but I was able to make it to some of the weekend events – WOW.
Scott Kelby, if you don’t know who he is, is an educator, photoshopper, founder of NAPP (National Association of Photoshop Professionals) and an excellent photographer as well. He also tours the world giving his famous “Light it, shoot it, retouch it” seminar which he normally charges hundreds of dollars for. At the Photoshop & you event, he gave it to a room full of people for free.
It was an amazing talk, he worked with 2 models and did exactly what the name of the seminar says: He lit it, shot it and retouched it, all live. What was different about this session was he was working with continuous lighting so he let the crowd photograph the models as well. Personally, this is not something I did because I like to create my own things rather than work on something that has been done for me but it was still a blast.
After each shoot he demonstrated some retouching techniques in both Photoshop and Lightroom, and in the end did an amazing composite with the above model by placing her into a grungy alley and making it seem like she was really there, all in a matter of minutes. It was very educational and entertaining, Scott is a great presenter and a pretty nice guy as well.
After his seminar he agreed to do an interview with The Candid Frame’s Ibarionex Perello, which should be coming out next month.
Like I said, even if you’re not a photoshop junkie you should go. Go check out the calender of events, there are some great things happening there until August 6th. There’s some great people there who are happy to meet other photographers or retouchers and the chance to see and experience all of this for free is a really great opportunity.
I’m a photographer who’s afraid of taking pictures. There, I said it.
I’m afraid of missing that moment. Of not being able to recreate that light, or that expression.
I’m afraid of failure. Of not being good enough.
But every day, I pick up that camera and shoot. You have to, fear is a part of being an artist, a photographer.
Practice makes perfect, and if you practice enough, maybe you won’t be afraid any more. Or maybe you’ll
simply get used to photographing while you’re afraid.
We’re all afraid of something, and pushing your limits is the only way to over come your fear.
So for the last few weeks I have been working on my portfolio. Not shooting for it specifically, because you know, you’re ALWAYS working on your portfolio, what I’m talking about is physically ASSEMBLING a series of prints into a book to show to current and potential clients.
Building a portfolio is hard. You have to somehow set aside your pride and ego and look at your work objectively so you can edit, arrange and make it the best presentation of your work. Sometimes a favorite photo of yours has to be edited out, because it doesn’t fit with the rest of them. This alienates you, because you feel such a great attachment to this photo. So you go back and fourth and back and fourth and you question your worth as an artist and pretty soon you don’t even know who you are anymore.
So yesterday I made the mistake of saying “My portfolio is DONE. This is the most comprehensive collection of my work that I have ever put into a book.” Well first of all, of COURSE it is. It SHOULD be, being the newest work. Mixing in some old with the new, it should cover all the things I’m good at and show the new things I’m good at. Second of all, a portfolio is NEVER done.
I was showing this book to a client today, and between the time I had said that and this morning I had a little itch at the back of my neck. I kept going back and going through the portfolio, over and over again. By the time I got to the meeting with the client I was very nervous, and it was all because I declared to myself that it was “Done.”
So here’s a few tips to avoid that stress:
Your portfolio needs to show your absolute BEST work. Even something a little bit weak will bring the rest of the images down. Choice of subject is very important. If you’re a still-life photographer show-still life. If you shoot people show people. Your lighting, techniques and moods should be similar, but not the same for every image. It’s ok for you to take sensitive portraits of someone and later in the book show something with a sense of humor, as long as it still looks like it was taken by the same photographer.
Versatility and Flow
This is going to sound hypocritical, but you must display consistency AND variety in your work, or you won’t be getting any. It doesn’t have to be a huge shift, but just enough to get your client to look a second time. This also creates a flow throughout your book, you need to keep visual interest. The last thing you want the flow of your book to flatline, it’ll be boring. You want it to ebb and flow, rise and fall, over and over again.
Edit, edit, edit
Make little thumbnail prints of all the images you want to include in your book, and lay them out. Remove the ones that don’t work, and then do it again. And again. And again. Then have a few friends over for some drinks and have THEM look at it. Show it to a peer, or graphic designer friend. Your portfolio should contain no less than 10 photos (Any fewer would be too short) and no more than 20. (Any more would be ridiculous) And remember, nothing but your VERY BEST.
Hopefully this will help some of you out there deal with the stress of portfolio building and showing better. My meeting went fine, as long as you believe in your work (And it’s good work) and show confidence throughout your showing you will have a better chance than some of coming through and getting a new client.
When you’re trying to get work as a freelance or professional photographer, you really need to look at how your photographs look.
I don’t mean simply looking at them, I mean looking at them as a whole. Do they all have a similar “feel” to them? Something that will make people think of you when they look at it?
Photographers are hired based on a certain “look” that their work has. It’s what separates you from the other photographers out there (And there are a LOT of other photographers out there) and it makes your work unique and valuable.
I can’t stress this enough; Your work needs to have a consistent look across the board, they have to scream “I took these,” not “Anybody could have taken these.”
It’s all about practice. You won’t get your signature look over night, it’s something that photographers struggle with every day. Now don’t be dragged down by shooting everything “The same way,” it doesn’t really work like that. It’s about how you approach your subject matter. Take a look at these photos:
I took both of these photos, but stylistically they have almost nothing in common. The first image was taken very recently, after I felt established comfortable shooting things a certain way. The second image is from a long time ago when I was shooting senior portraits in small towns. These days, I couldn’t even imagine shooting something the way I shot this second image, it just wouldn’t feel right to me.
So here is a list of things you can do to help you establish a visual style for yourself:
Copy another photographer’s style.
This may seem like cheating to some, but it really helps. Pick a photographer who’s work you admire and make a list similar to the list you made before, of things that give him or her their visual style. Really analyze their images, what’s consistent? Low contrast? Strong side-lighting? After you have spent a good deal of time analyzing, attempt to copy this style.. You can either copy the visual style, or copy the image directly – either way you will be in for a huge challenge. If you really want to challenge yourself, take your favorite photographer’s style and use it to shoot subject matter that they never shot. If they shoot people, shoot still life or landscapes.
Pick 3 or 4 things you like to see in photography.
No more, no less. These things can be “high contrast” or “Low depth of field” or “Very saturated colors.” Make sure they are all based on photography, nothing general like “People” or “Landscapes” etc.
Then go out and shoot everything you can this way. If you feel you need to give yourself an assignment like “5 portraits in this style” then do so. Be a ruthless editor. Stick to your style like it’s a contract, and throw away any images that deviate (even slightly) from your chosen visual style.
Don’t get too comfortable.
After you have shot a lot of things in the visual style you have chosen, take your style write up and write down the exact opposite of what that style is. If it was high contrast, make it low contrast. If it was low depth of field make it high depth of field. Make sure you make the subject matter the exact opposite as well. Then go and shoot it.
I am writing this after coming off of doing a particularly challenging assignment. Over the weekend I was doing landscape photography of sports fields. It was hugely challenging for me – I had to use wide angle lenses instead of normal or telephoto. I had to shoot in low contrast light instead of medium to high – it was crazy! But overall I think it was good for me, and going out of your comfort zone will be good for you as well. I’ll post the “Recreational Landscape” series later this week.
You know what the difference is between a professional career photographer and an enthusiastic hobbyist is? Patience. I learned how to shoot originally with film, and when photography was a multiple-cost process of buying film, shooting and then paying for development you made your shots count. I love digital. I love how it’s finally maturing and how it’s bringing out a lot of talent in a lot of people. But as far as shooting goes, I hate how fast it is. People will shoot hundreds of photos and then dig out “the one” from this pile of what’s otherwise junk. When I shot film, I made each shot count. When doing portraits I would talk to my subject, get to know them and photograph them as they got comfortable. When I did still life I would study what I was shooting carefully and study the light and make it perfect before I even took a single frame. Ask anyone who has shot with a 4×5 camera – when it costs you about $8.00 per picture you slow down and work meticulously to make the image the best it can possibly be before you take that picture.
My advice to you is to put that digital camera away for a day and shoot some film. Pick up a Holga. There’s something very organic about loading, winding, spooling, developing, washing and printing your film by hand. You will learn a lot from this process and it may make you enjoy your digital photography even more so.