At the Theater with a camera and a big lens.

One of my favorite clients is Zachary Scott Theater. Their marketing director uses photography well and they appreciate my style. I do a lot of straightforward, set-up images throughout the year for their website and print collateral. But one of the things I've been doing for them for over sixteen years now is "running shoots". These are documentary shoots of the dress rehearsals. We usually do them the night before each show opens. We do them straight through. No stopping and starting. I have access to every part of the stage but there are no "do overs". These are the photos that the theater sends to the lifestyle publications and the local newspaper to run with reviews and announcements.

What we're trying to do is give a potential audience the feeling of what it's like to be there. To be in the audience.

When I first started doing this the publications wanted black and white prints. We shot black and white Tri-X in Leica M series rangefinder cameras. This took a lot of concentration on the changing stage lights. Since the cameras were unmetered I was constantly checking things with a spot meter. It was quite an undertaking. Our hit ratio for well focused and well timed images was much higher than our ratio for proper exposure.

At the end of the show I'd head to my darkroom to develop film that evening. The next morning I'd make contact sheets and try to meet with the marketing team around 11 am to get their input for needed prints. By mid afternoon I'd have ten or fifteen 8x10 inch black and white prints ready to be picked up and sent around.

Over the years the cameras changed but the deadlines never did. Last year I was shooting the shows with a Nikon D700 and assorted lenses. As you may know I changed systems and now I shoot with the Olympus e series SLR cameras. I really like them but they don't handle high ISO noise as well as the Nikon stuff. I was nervous about using them on a show like the one I've included images of. The stage light isn't bright and everything is knocked down a bit by colored filter gels. I have trepidation in shooting anything over ISO 1600 with the e3 or the e30 so I didn't go there. But while I was getting ready for the shoot I remembered shooting at ISO 400 with a manual focus Leica. Things have gotten better.

The standard lens I used for 80% of my stage shots last year was the Nikon 70-200 f2.8. The Olympus equivalent is the 35-100mm f2.0. The Olympus is a full stop faster and at least two stops sharper. By that I mean that the images I get at f 2.0 seem on par, in terms of sharpness, with the images I used to get from the Nikon at f4. I packed an e3 and an e30 and just two lenses, the 35/100 and the 14/54mm.

I shoot a lot during rehearsals so I tend to shoot large/fine/jpegs. I set both cameras to ISO 1600 and I set the color settings to "natural" with a minus one click on contrast. I use the spot meter in both cameras. One 4 gb card for each. (I've settled in at 4 gb because they fit nicely on one DVD.....).

Since both cameras have great IS (image stabilization) I forgo the tripods and monopods. This year my 14 year old son, Ben, joined me with his Pentax istD camera and short zoom lens. 14 year old non coffee drinkers seem to be better at holding a camera still than some adults....

While I missed focus more often than I would have liked I found that the lens performed very well at f2, f2.2, f2.5 and f2.8. I rarely had to go below 1/160th of a second and found that most of the time I was working around 1/250th of a second. Not a very perilous range for handholding. Most of the actors were African American and nearly every background was dark and continuous. A ready made torture test for noise in the shadow areas.

Non of the examples above have had post production noise reduction applied. The noise reduction in camera is "standard". Please take a moment to blow a few of them up on your screen and evaluate the noise. While I'm the first to admit that the Nikon's are less noisy I don't think the noise in these files is at all objectionable. I took the time to print a few and found them to be just right.

When I pick up the 14-35mm f2 SWD I'll stop worrying about noise altogether.

The magic thing seems to be that the lenses have enough depth of field to cover what I need at nearly wide open. Not the case with full frame which requires me to work around f4 for satisfactory sharpness and focus depth. Amazing how you can never compare apples to apples in this craft. If Olympus made a few f1.4 or f1.2 lenses for this format I'd sure give the whole thing a try with the older e1's and e300's. If I could use them at ISO 400 it would be fun.

So, sheer square inches is a nice thing to have when you need to shoot under low light but.....it's just one shifting side of a changing paradigm. Olympus figured that out when they started designing lenses for their small sensor system. I can hardly wait to try my hand at some architecture with these little cameras. The 7-14 and the 9-18mm lenses have reputations for being some of the sharpest and best corrected wide zooms around. Couple the lens performance with really wide DOF at f5.6 and f8.0 and you really have a totally different way of looking at that field. Should be fun.

I suggest you head out and support your local theaters during the holidays. Live theater is something special. And while not as polished as a movie or a television show there is a tremendous value in the unexpected and the energy of live performances. Many theaters depend on the holiday cash flow to help subsidize chancier work during the rest of the year. And if we let theaters die off all we'll be left with is television and YouTube. Don't you want a nice excuse to get out of the house?

Final Note/Request: If you are looking for the perfect gift for someone who is really hard to shop for, like a really hot girlfriend/boyfriend, a generous aunt, a demanding boss, your sainted mother, etc. you might want to consider a really original gift. My third book, Commercial Photography Handbook, comes to mind. Beautifully illustrated and full of good, solid business info. You never know when your great grandmother will give up knitting and pick up a Leica S2, ready for business. You'll be happy you got her the book when she starts turning a major profit. Heck, she may even share tips with you. Thanks, Kirk


The Anatomy of a Corporate Portrait Shoot.

Dell Executive onsite at Dell Headquarters.

When I read various forums about lighting and photography there are presumptions about the way professional work is done that are just plain wrong. When I used to post images as examples in discussions about lighting people would always demand that I post "the set up shots." What they wanted was a step by step photographic build, or instruction manual, of the way the image was constructed. People also wondered, "why didn't you try this, and this and this???" And, of course, the constant assumption that I would have hours to put everything together while a highly paid VP or CEO stands around waiting for me.

Well. Uh. No. When we hit the client's hallowed halls our one intention, with laser like focus, is to get in, get the images we need and then get the hell out before we overstay our welcome.

So, here's how I do executive portraits in 2009. The call comes in from the Vice President's administrative assistant and we begin the planning process. Here are the questions we cover:

1. What kind of images do we need to end up with?

Answer: We need a standard headshot against our regular blue background. Then we'd like a series of images shot across a conference table in our briefing center. On some of these we'd like to do an interview style where he appears to be answering questions for a magazine or other interviewer. Finally, we'd like two or three different environmental shots in our beautiful briefing center.

2. How much time will we have with the executive?

Answer: Can we do all of this in one hour? I'll push for an hour and a half but that's going to be the outside limit.

3. How much earlier can I have access to the locations?

Answer: I can get you into the conference room where we'll do the headshot and the conference table shots about an hour before the VP arrives. Will that work? As to the public areas we'll have to set up and tear down as we go. Sorry.

4. Can you have him bring several suits, several ties and several shirts?

Answer: No problem. What about make up?

My Answer: We'll bring our "Barbie" case and I'll powder him if necessary. I don't think we have time to put him into a standard make up routine.

5. How will the shots be used? What kind of rights license are you looking for?

Answer: We'd like unlimited public relations use for a period of three years. Can you send me an estimate for the shoot?

My Answer: I'll have an estimate to you before the end of the day.

At this point I'll sit down and figure out how I'm going to produce the job. From arrival to the point where I'm loading stuff back in the car. Now my budget is approved and we've set the date and time.

I make sure my assistant has her driver's license with her. They will ask for it at security check in. We meet at my studio at 11am and load all the gear into the Honda Element. We drop by Starbucks for coffee and snacks and then head north to Dell. We discuss the shoot, step by step. We've both done jobs in the conference center before and we have a good working knowledge of the layout and what to expect in terms of existing lighting.

After clearing security and meeting up with our client we head to the conference room with a ton of gear on a cart. We set up a blue background on background stands and put together a standard three light portrait set-up. We always bring our own posing stool for these situtions since high backed conference chairs are horrible for headshots. We test the lighting set up with the assistant sitting in and then, satisfied that we have it nailed we move on to setting up a second set of lights for the conference room table shot. Before we move on to the second lighting set up, however, we pull out the little notebook and jot in the shutter speed, aperture and other settings so we don't have to waste time when the VP sits down.

The conference room table shot calls for a Chimera Lantern (large size) over the table with a Profoto Acute 600b head and pack. The back wall is lit by several shoe mount strobes with home made grid spot adapters. A third gridded, hot shoe flash is used as a hair/rim light. That's an effect I rarely use and I keep it powered way down for a subtle separation. Once these two set ups are in place we go to scout the other locations. Along with our client we decide on three looks in one really great room. Shooting from three different vantage points will give us three completely different looks. We pull out the notebook and I sketch out how we will light it and where the camera and subject will end up.

Our subject shows up right on time and we start moving. We select a suit and tie combination that looks great and he does a quick change in the restrooms down the hall. We get warmed up with the headshot, get to know the guy pretty well during the conference table shots and build a sense of collaboration by showing him the best images from each set up. By the time we get ready to do our environmentals we're all part of one team and everyone's fairly excited about getting the best stuff in our last three shots.

While I was shooting the conference table shots my assistant was tearing down the headshot lighting set up and moving those lights into the first position we'd sketched out in the final area. She's got the lights set and ready, metered and color balanced by the time we finish with the conference room.

The VP, client and I move to the first set up in the new room. I do test shot and quick tweak and then we start in earnest. The real goal in portrait photography is to let the real person come out in the photograph. At least all the good stuff... And in this case our subject was really wonderful. Very engaging and very savvy about the process and what we hoped to get.

After the first set up in our new area I sent the VP off to change clothes so we would have a different wardrobe look. My assistant had wrapped the conference room and we set up the second lighting design for this room. In each position we're shooting fifty or sixty images in order to have a good selection to work with. While I've carefully metered and white balanced using a Lastolite gray target disk I'm still shooting raw because if we've missed anything we're going to have a hard time getting back on this VP's schedule.

As we're finishing our third set up in this location the VP looks at his watch and starts to look a bit...impatient. We're right at the hour we'd been promised. I know we've got a lot of good stuff so we shake hands and he sprints off toward his next tightly timed meeting.

While my assistant begins wrapping equipment I talk over payment schedules and delivery schedules with my client. Then I help with the packing and the load out.

On the way home we discuss the shoot. I'm looking for feedback and she's looking for answers to several technical questions. We hit the studio and unpack all the gear. I write a check to the assistant and sit down to back up the raw files in several places and then fire up Capture One for a first pass editing session.

The stuff looks good. I have a web gallery, with globally corrected images, up for our client inspection and selection and I send her the link before 5pm. Along with an invoice for our services and usage license. This shoot has gone like clockwork. We have enough gear to keep two different set-ups rolling all the time.

We got what the client needed in the time we were given. The next step was finishing out the selected images and delivering tiffs and jpegs. Since we don't know in advance the number of files they'll need we have a la carte pricing for finishing out the raw files. They're generally delivered by FTP.

This job was done with Nikon D700's and assorted Nikon Lenses. Lighting was mostly Profoto Acute 600b's which are battery powered, light and portable to the extreme.

At no time was it either appropriate or feasible to step back and shoot step by step images of our entire set up. The client's needs are primary. That's just good practice and good marketing.

All the best, Kirk


A gear assessment after three long days of shooting.

This photograph has nothing to do with the blog. I shot it for a client that changed their mind and went in another direction. But that's another story. This story is about examining process.

Everyone does photographic work differently and we tend to work in such isolation that I thought it would be fun to deconstruct a job I just finished and explain why and how I did what I did the way I did it. But first, a little history.....

Up until 2001 there was a big category of corporate photographic work that fell under the general label of "events". These might be sponsored trade shows, technical conventions, sales meetings, annual technology showcases or incentive trips for top performers. Whatever species they were they generally hired a photographer to go along and document the event. The images (as color prints) were often provided to the attendees as souvenirs of their own participation in the event. The images were also used to promote next year's events (in the case of technology showcases and conventions) and the branded showcases generated images that would be used on corporate websites and blogs. Photographers were kept busy serving a number of masters which may have included: The marketing team, a separate event team, the PR people for the client, and the sales team.

It wasn't unusual to start early (6:30am) at to work well past midnight covering VIP dinners, speeches, break out sessions, product demonstrations, documenting decor and signage and thousands of other related photo jobs. Some jobs required immediate processing and proofing or even scanning to provide fast images for "breaking news" PR stories.

When 9/11 hit it decimated the event photography market for corporate photographers and had just started to recover by the end of 2006 when the growing recession started to push down dates and billings. By the time the whole market went south in 2008 anyone in the business might have been better off looking for "retail" clients (weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc) or just exiting the business.

Recently, my company got booked to do a corporate event. I can't talk about the actual client or the actual event but that's not important. What I want to talk about is how I handled this event and the things that I learned about shooting after the paradigm shift.

Here's a description of the event: One location, three days. 250 extremely high demographic VIPs from several continents. One day of casual meetings capped with a social event and a live performance by a name performer. Second day, wall to wall panel discussions in the same ballroom, from 8am to 6pm, followed by a cocktail party.

Second day, non stop panel discussions from 8am until 2pm. Event ends. My requirements: Photograph every speaker, every event, every session. Wide shots of the ballroom in session. Wide shots of each panel in session. All keynote speakers. Entertainment documentation. Candid shots of guests interacting.

Signage shots, food documentation, property shots for future events. All the images shot on Sunday had to be post processed and delivered by Monday morning, before the start of the session. Shots from day two and day three didn't need to be delivered until two days later. The client emphasized: A. They wanted plenty of choices. B. They wanted complete discretion. (no lighting, no stopping for photo ops, no set ups) and they wanted the photographer to blend in with the crowd. Forget the photo vest and the dockers khakis with running shoes, this was suit and tie all the way. C. They wanted great images. (which client doesn't?).

Here's what I packed: a. Olympus e30 body b. Olympus e3 body c. Olympus e520 body d. 35-100 mm f2 lens. e. borrowed 14-35mm f2 lens. f. 14-54mm lens. g. 11-22mm lens. h. 40-150mm lens. i. 50mm Macro lens. j. 25mm pancake lens. k. two Metz 48 flashes. l. one Speedlight Prokit diffuser for the flashes.

As I was getting ready for the first day's shoot all the horror stories I read about the Olympus noise issues at high ISO crept into my head and made me anxious. I knew that they were no match for a Nikon 700 but hubris demanded that I stand my ground and accept my choice from this past summer.

The first day was casually paced and the cameras and lenses acquitted themselves nicely. The 35-100 f2 (ff equiv = 70-200) was wonderful at capturing the performer on an outdoor stage. The e30 worked perfectly with the Metz AF48 flash for quick candids and the Speedlight Prokit diffuser was noticeably better than other flash diffusers I've tried in the past. Day one was a "no issues" day. The post processing was done in Lightroom 3.0 beta and went off without a hitch.

Up at 6 am (two hours too early by my reckoning) to shower, breakfast, get coffee and show up to deliver the DVD from the night before. Now the real fun would begin. A large ballroom with low room lighting and a wide stage lit with an array of tungsten spots on a truss suspended in front of the stage near the ceiling. a row of computer controlled LED's behind the stage for floor level accent lights and another truss behind the stage to rim light the participants in the panel discussions. The panels were as large as 12 people plus moderators. They were spread across the stage in swivel chairs. Comfy, padded swivel chairs. To each side were giant screens that would show magnified views of speakers as well as charts and graphs. The standard power point content.

I chose a table near the front of the ballroom and staked out a small area. I wore a dark suit, subdued stripped shirt, red knit tie and a pair of black dress shoes. So did nearly everyone in the room. Including the women. If I had not dragged along the cameras no one would have guessed that I was the "odd man out". When you are going low profile you need to choose your gear wisely and keep it close. Flash was totally out for the sessions. I needed speed and reach so I put the 14-35mm f2 on one body and the 35-100 on the other body. Set both at ISO 1250 and waited for the conference to begin.

I didn't want to move around for no reason and I didn't want to keep my camera bag at the table or on the floor where people might trip over it so I put two extra batteries in my suit pockets along with two extra 4GB CF cards. I kept a small notebook in my pocket along with a Sharpie and my old fountain pen. Unless I needed a back up the two cameras and two lenses would do for the entire daylong first installment.

What I found. With both cameras set to their default sharpening positions and with gradation set to normal and noise filtering set to low the cameras did a decent job giving me sharp files with very little blurring from the noise filtration. The only problems I had in post were images that were more than one half stop under exposed. These files showed more noise than most other brands of cameras would show. Knowing the production company was using tungsten as their main light source allowed me to preset a WB that was reliable. The only variation came when shooting the moderators who were seated in front of laptop computers. The blue of the screens caused a mild color cast and the mixed colors were impossible to totally correct. But certainly not a big issue nor an issue endemic only to the Olympus cameras.

The 35-100mm was the most used lens and therein lies an issue I am grappling with today, the day after the show. My left arm and shoulder are sore from holding up the lens and body. I guess I'm out of shape but nine hours of four pound weight lifting certainly do take their toll.

Let's talk about exposure for a moment. Someone will probably wonder why I didn't use ISO 800 if there was a noise concern at faster settings. Here was my math for the longer zoom lens: I wanted to use an aperture of 2.5 (two thirds of a stop from max aperture) or f2.8. That would allow me to render the back curtain out of focus and on the Olympus Super High Grade glass even wide open apertures are very sharp and well corrected. While it's true that the built in Image Stabilization would have allowed me to use shutter speeds down to a tested 1/50th with good results the real caveat is subject movement. And my experiences in the film days and the early days of digital taught me that, to stop subject movement of a speaker, would require shutter speeds of between 1/125th or 1/160th at a minimum. Given the light levels on the stage that pretty much dictated an ISO of 125o. The optimum max setting on both cameras is really ISO 800 but post processing counts for a lot (while adding time to the back end of the process).

Wearing the dark suit is always good for the times when you need to move and find different angles. In the dark of the ballroom you present a less distracting contrast. When it was necessary to move for better or different angles I followed a pattern where I would move straight back several rows of tables and then head to one side or the other of the room. I would move in for side shots and then head to the back of the room for a wider view and then circle around the back of the room to the other side for opposite side shots.

I brought the 11-22mm lens but never needed to use it. There was ample space to move around the periphery of the stage and still get wide enough shots to include all of the stage and the side screens. None of the other backup equipment was used either. I brought a monopod with a Manfrotto ballhead but soon discovered that I got more "keeper" frames with the IS off the monopod than on. If I turned off IS the monopod worked but the movement wasn't abated as much as with the IS. When I used IS on the monopod the focusing accuracy began to suffer. I dumped the monopod in the production area at my first opportunity.

The e3 and the e30 are supposed to share the same AF system but the e3 was by far the better focuser. It seemed to hunt less and lock in quicker than it's brother camera. I switched lenses between the two cameras to see if that was the differentiator but no. I did not experience any front or back focusing from any of the combinations except when I tried to use IS with my monopod.

The cameras are set up differently and many people comment on the fact that the e3 has a "push the button and then swivel a dial" control for changing modes while the e30 has a manual dial. I must say though that I generally use both cameras set to manual so it's something of a non-issue for me. There is a menu display that can be brought up (with both cameras) on the rear LCD and that makes it easy to make quick changes in everything from sensor selection, iso changes, color balance shifts and even drive speed. It was very useful.

Not useful was the swivel screen. I would only use that capability with live view and this was decidedly not a situation for live view. The most useful thing about a swiveling LCD screen in the ability to face it back into the body so it doesn't get scratched in transport.

The smaller mirror and shutter in both cameras made them much more stealthy than the shutter in my D700 and just a little quieter than the sweet shutter in the Nikon D300 (that is a nearly perfect camera....).

I had lunch both days with the attendees. I did not bring along the cameras to the on site dining room and even though they recognized me from the conference the participants did not rush over to talk about camera crap like they do at most high tech functions. These people had their agenda thoroughly sorted and were the no nonsense sort of people who might think that hobbies and hobby jobs are a waste of time and resources. Nice for me as at other shows I sometimes can barely do my job because so many people come over to chat about cameras and other photo accessories, oblivious to the fact that I'm usually running on a tight schedule.

In retrospect the job would have been easier with a Nikon D3s and the 70-200mm but they don't make a fast, normal zoom with VR and the mirror noise is more than I would be comfortable with. It's also a much heavier and larger package to walk around with.

What would I wish for from Olympus? Not much. A cleaner high ISO. And I'm sure that will come. A price drop on the incredibly good 90-240mm 2.8 lens (the equiv. of a ff 180-500mm f2.8) that's sharp edge to edge, wide open! That's about it. I love the small and light profiles of the bodies. The e3 finder is as good as any I've seen for the price. the files had great color with very little cast to the flesh tones.

In fact, after years of nursing Nikon files through the process with their attendant flesh tone difficulties, I found the files from the Olympus cameras to handle flesh tones superbly. And, after all, flesh tones are 90 % of what I shoot.

The visual differences between the e30 and the e3? The 30 is more saturated. The e3 is more neutral. Noise wise they are so close that the noise results become more subject and exposure driven than camera sensitive. Of the two I like the more demure out of camera color from the e3.

I used Lightroom for post because of the range of tools it has but if there were substantially fewer files than the 2500 I shot I would have preferred the color and noise tools in the latest rev of Phase One's Capture One software. It's amazing where the Olympus cameras are concerned!!!

Most important gear? According to the client, who expected that the images would be good, the three nice suits were the standout accessory. She mentioned that in the early days of these conferences they often wound up with photographers who showed up dress in battered khakies and a "ratty fishing vest". According to her they stood out like a pig at a horse race.

This led me to a train of thought that's stayed with me all day today as I sit in a dark room and stare at a monitor. We're in a profession where, if were are practicing at the top of our craft and in good markets, we can expect to charge fees commensurate with other professionals. Perhaps a bit more than accountants and various corporate managers and perhaps a bit less than our GP doctors and family practice attorneys but can you imagine any of them showing up at a business function NOT wearing a suit and tie? Interesting. I wear a suit and tie or jacket in nearly every intersection I have with a corporation's top people, both out of respect and because it breaks down one more stylistic barrier between our industries. It's a short hand way of requesting that they treat you with the same respect that they have for other professionals.

When I was younger I thought dressing for success was bullshit. I didn't have clients who dressed well. I also wasn't able to charge nearly as much as I do now. Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

The job is wrapped, the files have been edited, color corrected and converted (in that order). They'll be delivered as max quality jpegs. I'll deliver them on a small, USB hard drive. The job has already been billed.

Wow. Two cameras, two lenses and one flash. That's it for all three days. No tripod. No other lights. No exotic wide angles. No extreme telephotos. Just straightforward stuff. Love it.

The final steps are to burn three sets of DVD's and then push the files off one of the two hard drives they reside on now. I'll keep one set handy just in case. Everything else will get files. I noticed that one pair of shoes needs a shine. The shirts need to go to the laundry. I'll clean the cameras and clean out my brain.

Then I get to work on some product shots for a designer friend. That's here in the studio. ISO 100 and all the light I could ever want. And I get to wear my ratty jeans and a pair of sandals. I could even wear a photo vest if I wanted to...........

Just thought it would be fun to devolve a job while it's fresh in my head. More later.


The Hottest Thing in Town


So, now that Canon and Nikon have video capability everyone is running to become a DP. Been there, done that. A dozen years ago I was asked by Steve Mimms of the Austin Filmworks to be the DP on a music video for Billy Joe Shaver's "The Hottest Thing In Town" music video. We did some amazingly low budget stuff to make this all work but we didn't scrimp on the camera. We rented a 16mm Arriflex, a bitching 12-120mm Zeiss zoom lens and a video assist (AKA early video mode also known as "full motion Polaroid".

I designed and built the fixture over the pool table, inserting two 500 watt lowel tota lights that could be switched separately. The tracking shot of our female star outside the Continental Club was done using a cart with pnuematic wheels. I learned a lot about lighting a tracking nighttime shot but we did pull it off.

We shot the video in one long, long day with about a week of pre-production.

The video won the Country Music Television "best of" that year. Do I know how to shoot a video production? Yes, I think so. Do I think photographers will make good videographers? Only if they understand that they have to light so that everything moves and everything matches. I've done commercials and industrials but this is the funnest of the video projects I worked on with the exception of my Rene Zellweger, "Coffee: Is it a gift from God or a tool of Satan" video. But that's a story for another day..........


Combatting the Oppressive Sense of Isolation Many Freelance Photographers Feel

In talking to friends and peers who are photographers and have been photographers for many, many years, the undercurrent that permeates conversations these days is the overwhelming sense of isolation many of us feel. While this has always been a loner's sport the recent economic upheavals have played havoc with our sense of being connected to the world outside our studios. In recent years the stream of jobs and contact with assistants and suppliers provided an almost daily intersection with people.

The first erosion of this feeling of belonging came as an unintended accessory to our embrace of PhotoShop and post processing. In our haste to control our digital files (and to leverage the fictive cost savings of electronic image massage) we inadvertently killed off the labs.

Our logic driven (but totally misguided) demand for the lowest price on everything we bought for our businesses effectively killed off most of the good camera stores. With the labs and the retailers gone we lost two points of intersection that were part of the fabric of the freelance life.

Now the recession has taken away a large percentage of our human contact with clients. I don't know about you but we're booking fewer jobs and the ones that come in seem to be produced and negotiated and delivered all on the web. Once again diminishing human contact.

It's a recipe for depression and anxiety if I ever saw one. And unlike our Latin and European counterparts who have rich history of men socializing over coffee during the day or drinks in the late afternoons our Calvinistic society demands efficiency and frowns on time spent that can't be quantified and its productivity measured.

In order to preserve our sense of well being I think photographers must adopt new strategies to reincorporate ourselves into the every day fabric of communal life. We need to leave our dark caves and reconnect.

I have a ten point program and I'm following it as well as I can:

1. Coffee outside the house. Find a coffee shop or diner with a fun crowd and go there for your coffee in the morning. (yes, I understand the accountant driven "Latte Factor" of economics, but have you priced psychiatric care lately? Believe me, two bucks for a cup of coffee is a bargain.)

2. Have at least one lunch a week with a friend, peer or comrade. Complain, celebrate, talk nerd talk. Connect.

3. Have at least one lunch a week with a client or potential client. Having to shave and take off the sweat pants and put on a reasonable outfit will at least make you feel like you still get the drill.

4. Join a group of runners, swimmers, bowlers or whatever. The health advantages of regular exercise are enormous and the mental health advantages of doing your "whatever" with a group are even greater. Interesting thought, put together a "walking group" and do it as many mornings a week as you can muster.

5. Have a project to work on. My fall back is to plan and put up shows of my work. It puts me in the public and is a workable, sustainable goal.

6. Find a cause you feel very strongly about and donate your photographic talent. You'll get practice, exposure and move the game forward for your cause.

7. Help someone else get their project done. You get karma and you might learn something new.

8. If you've been thinking about getting into video but clients just don't get that you're the next Fellini or Spielberg you might want to find some actors and do your own project. You never know where it might go.

9. If you need more clients do what the lions and cheetahs do and find out where the clients hang out. You'll have more fun hunting if you look in the habitats appropriate to the species. You're sure not going to find busy art buyers on those flickr forae!!!!


10. Stop making lists like this and get out into the world. Life is still swirling around and if we stop tying our self image so tightly with our business success we might make better art, meet nicer people, and be a lot less isolated.

Just some thoughts on a bright, Tuesday morning.