Experiment, try, fail, succeed. Don't sit still.

I went out to Willie Nelson's place west of Austin with Selena to take a few images to promote her band,  Rosie and the Ramblers.  We didn't use any lights for the images shown here.  I'd just bought the two Canon 1Dmk2's and I tossed them in the bag along with the three Zeiss ZE lenses:  The 35mm f2, the 50mm 1.4 and the 85mm 1.4.  I tried every permutation of available light shooting I could think of and then some.  The top image was shot, hand held with the 50mm lens, wide open.  Or close to it.

I'd always heard that this lens was "dreamy" and "unsharp" wide open and while I admit that focusing it on one of the cropped frame cameras can be.....challenging I think the center sharpness of this high speed optic is pretty damn good.  Another myth in the trash basket.

I heard the same thing about the 85mm 1.4 lens.  All of the well known photo test sites sing the same mantra on this lens:  "It's soft and dreamy wide open."  The shot above was taken, handheld, with that same 85mm 1.4 lens, used at its widest aperture.  I think it's pretty wonderful.  All fast lenses are designed to be sharp in the middle at wider apertures.  Because,  that's where we need them to be sharp.  If I listened to the pundits I would never have purchased the lens because I would have been told that it's only usable above f4. Pretty crazy if you ask me.

While I rail a lot about the futility and silliness of heavy post processing I recently bought a copy of Topaz Adjust and I've been playing around with all of the filter presets.  They are all too heavy handed but I find that I can fade the filter result in PhotoShop and then I like the effects much better.  Not sure it's any better than what I could normally do by myself in PhotoShop but it's a lot of fun to experiment with.

Part of my new experiments have to do with microphones for video production.  I bought a Sennheiser wireless microphone system and I've had very, very good results so far.  In the next week or so I'll write a review about the microphones and transmitters.

I know that dipping my toes into motion might scare off some readers but, c'est la vie. I think the whole market is moving to motion and the sooner we come to grips with stuff that moves around and makes noise the better.

Off to see Michael O'Brien sign some books.  Hope you're having a great week.

Best, Kirk


Michael O'Brien kicks it up another notch and shows why he's the real deal.

Get this book of images by Michael O'Brien and Poems by Tom Waits and understand that there's a whole step up in the art of photography beyond us geeks that write blogs and use 50 flashes to show off.

I guess it's easy to lose track of what you got into photography for.  We let clients side track us and we let trends corrupt the way we really should be shooting.  I'm as guilty as everyone else.  But it doesn't feel so bad until someone with a laser focus and a gift for digging in and shooting the hard stuff comes along and rubs our faces in it.  Then all of a sudden a book about LED's or a trip around the country flashing the rubes doesn't seem like such an incredible deal.  That's not to say that Michael is the type to rub anyone's nose in anything.  As far as I can tell the man is a saint.

Michael O'Brien spent four long years meeting the homeless people he photographed (with dignity)  for this book.  He didn't do it because he was sponsored by an equipment manufacturer.  He didn't do it for the money (there rarely is any in art books...).  And he didn't do it as a way to claw into "social media" and show off.  He did it because no one else was doing it and he felt that these were faces that comfortable people needed to see.  We needed to understand a different and pervasive reality outside our limited suburban comfort zones.

He did the book in concert with the singer and poet, Tom Waits.  It's out.  It's there now.  And since UT Press subsidized some of the production you'll be getting a book for $40 that would have cost closer to $70 if produced by one of the bigger, for profit publishers.

I talked to Michael today and he told me he was surprised to find that the final printed work was as good as the original prints he made.

The images were done with a 4x5 view camera and on Polaroid materials.  Check this book out and you'll understand why the world still needs photographers who care less about booking the next workshop or shooting trendy slop for a blog that's peppered with affiliate advertising.  We need them because they are the "bar."  And every time they raise it they make everyone think harder.  And hopefully, work better.

August Osage County. A look at the finished piece.

About a week and a half ago I posted a blog about photographing actors for an upcoming Zach Scott Theatre play.  Here's the link:  http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2011/03/cant-get-enough-of-those-crazy-leds.html.   I showed you the "behind the scenes" raw images that I shot of each actor.  Some were accented from one side and some on the other.  They were all shot against white.

I thought it would be fun and instructive (and a good way to procrastinate) to show you how the designer, Rona, put all the photos together for the promotional postcard.  The combination is much more powerful that the photos individually.   Having a client that does good design work and uses photography well is especially good when they add in two other things:  A big bold credit line coupled with distribution to 20,000 carefully selected trend makers in the community.

You'll probably remember that I shot all the images with the antiquated Canon 1dmk2n cameras and a Zeiss 50mm lens.  You can see that, given the size this will ultimately be used, that we didn't need any more pixels than what we had and that the workflow was quicker and smoother with the smaller files.

Tonight I'm going over to the theater to photograph the dress rehearsal.  It's a long play.  Nearly 3 hours. There are two intermissions.  There's a lot to shoot.  I'm told that the set is pretty cool and I already know the cast is great.

Tonight I'm thinking of shooting a one lens/one camera system.  Make it as easy on myself as possible, commensurate with good results....

So I'm leaning toward the Canon 5Dmk2 with the 24-105mm f4 L lens.  I'm taking the 7D along as well and if the play is such that I need more reach I'll go with that body instead.  For documentation, where expression and timing is more important than ultimate technical quality, I trust both cameras up to 3200 ISO.  The reach will be the determiner.  Just to hedge my bets I'll stick the 70-200 f4L in the bag, as well.  You never know when you might really want to "reach out and touch someone" with your lens..."


It's all part of the process of life.

We were so busy back in the late 1990's but I never neglected to spend as much time as possible with my son, Ben.  I'd come home from a morning shoot on a bright Summer day and corral Ben and his mom, Belinda, into my old, green BMW and we'd head out for a lunch adventure.  To this day Ben doesn't get that other dads don't take time for a long, lingering lunches with family.  On this particular day is was in the 90's already by noon.  We were all in the mood for burgers so we headed to Hilbert's on north Lamar Blvd.

We ordered our burgers and fries and grabbed seats at the counter.  The bright sun diffused itself thru a yellowed sun barrier on the floor to ceiling windows that looked out over the picnic tables and the parking lot.  Ben was eating french fries and his mom and I were talking about vacation.  Where we'd go and what we'd do.  I looked down at Ben and he looked at me with such love and adoration it almost made me cry right there on my vinyl covered stool, in the run down burger joint.  I lifted up the camera that accompanied me everywhere, like an oxygen tank on the surface of Mars, and snapped one or two frames.  I've cherished the memory of that warm and ultimately happy day ever since.

Ben has grown up to be a wonderful 15 year old.  He still gives me a warm and happy look from time to time.  We still go out for burgers when he's not at school.  I look forward to summers in Austin.  We each have our own activities but we come together at lunch and dinner to catch up and just exist together.  I'm grateful for photography because it captures these wonderful moments for me and sticks them in my face to repudiate times of self pity or narcissism.

Kodachrome 64.  Scanned.  No lighting.  No tricks.  No layers.  Only unconditional love in both directions.  That's the reason for photography.

I love this portrait very, very much.

I had the perfect assistant for a while.  Her name was Renae.  She was telepathic.  She could sense what tool or prop I needed it long before I even thought about needing it.  And she would occasionally say, "You need to do a beautiful portrait now.  I'll have a friend drop by."  And one day she announced that I should photograph Amy.  And since I never thought to argue with Renae I dutifully prepared the studio for Amy's arrival.

I was still shooting film at the time.  Early years.  Maybe 2000 or 2001.  We had digital cameras but we used them for quick stuff.  Not for art.  We shot this on Astia.  With an R8 and a 90mm Summicron.  We shot all our fun stuff on Leica R cameras back then.

The lighting I used was my favorite.  A big soft light high up and to my left.

I took one look at Amy and fell in love with her face.  She was remarkable.  A natural beauty.  We shot a lot of portraits.  And we played with the light.  But that was secondary to our banter and back and forth.  It was a seduction plain and simple.  From both parties.  Eventually it all got silly and Renae broke up the moment and we all had a few glasses of wine.  Then everyone went home.  And that's the way the best portrait sessions go.  Men or women.  You meet the sitter.  You mutually conspire to fall in love in the safety of the studio, both knowing that it won't progress past the last roll of film.  You flirt, you engage, you tease.  And when you get good images you give your subject good feedback and they push closer to the invisible edge and then the moment passes and the energy ebbs aways and you become friends.  And you know you've taken a wonderful portrait.  But you know you could not have done it if your subject hadn't submitted in some way to your advances and responded in kind.

And that's when you know the magic of portraiture manifested itself to you.  If you can't fall in love with your sitters you are doomed to make documentations instead of art.  In commerce it's different.  That's why it's important to do work that pleases you and the private sitter and not worry about the masses.  Not everyone is lovable and not everyone can fall in love.......

As Renae pushed our sitter out the door she gave me a look.  She knew just where the edges of the process blurred and how to enforce her own mystical idea of inspiration.  I've never known a more prescient person and I've never had an assistant like that again.  She made herself part of the process.  And she was so valuable to my vision that I gladly let her.


Um. Shut up and shoot. Social hour's over.

Here's what the web has done for us (me).  Allowed photographers to share their images, thoughts and words all over the world.  We've spent the last five years talking about shooting until we're all blue in the face (and I thought that was just the result of a bad profile....).  And for every hour we spend talking about how to perfect the images we may take in the future we've loped off one more hour that we could be making those images.  Every hour spent in one direction is a lost opportunity in another direction.

Habit's a bad thing to fall into.  I have a couple of friends who are photographers of a sort.  I used to have coffee with them.  All the time.  There's always something you could talk about with a common interest like photography.  It was always fun in the first go around.  You got to share and they got to share and world seemed interesting.  But then we fell into habit.  We met even when there really wasn't anything to share.

With a couple of friends I felt a trend happening that's a running joke when it comes to doctors.  You know,  you run into a dermatologist at a cocktail party and show him that curious mole.  He says,  "Interesting.  Why don't you call on Monday for an appointment?" And then he wanders off to find drinking companions that aren't looking for free medical advice.  So, with me, having the curse of having written a few books about the craft and having practiced it as a business, the fun talk evaporates pretty quickly only to be routinely replaced by, "Which lens?"  "Which setting?"  and in the old days, "Which Film?"  And there is no right answer.   To them photography is different from work.  And what I do is different from what they do.

And I get frustrated.  Because all the talk is aimed at making the "how" more and more quantified without a care for the what and why.  Technique has become the big idea.  And when technique is the big idea there is no idea.    I'll be happy to hear someone talk about what they want to actually shoot but I don't want to hear about an amazing new HDR discovery or the way they mapped their printer profiles or how they lit something.  Believe me,  after all these years all I have to do is look at the photo and I'll be reasonably certain how someone lit something.  My photo friends might be interested in what PhotoShop can do but we don't need to talk about it.  For me it's a tool like a hammer or a wrench.  It's not a muse.  It's not an inspiration.  Look outward for that inspiration.

So many people use the idea of mastering all of the technical shit inherent in photography because it gives them an excuse not to mount up and ride off in search of the magic.  Because the fear is that they won't know the magic when they see it, and,  they're afraid that their magic won't resonate with their audience.  And I can't help anyone with that.  I shot for one audience:  ME.  And believe me, if I see a photograph of someone I've loved for over a quarter of a century, standing in the Louvre in a gray beret, all I see is the smiling eyes and all I take in is the happiness of the moment.  And my audience feels it all in a very real way because I am the audience and the photograph was taken for me.  To capture, in the amber of time, a vanishing moment that I wanted to preserve and look at again and again.  Not something I need other people to admire.

And every time talk turns to  HDR, gradients, techniques with multiple inverted layers and all the other quasi-techno goo that seems to make our actions and intentions more viscous,  I'm trading that time for the opportunity to please my solitary audience with one more image.  Tell me about your exciting idea to photograph models in Milan, or feral cows in Des Moines but don't bore me with details of the flight and how you plan to process the files.

The only way to gain magic is to give up control.  And giving up control is hard.  And fraught with uncertainty.  And not everything will work out just right.  But in the times that you let chance guide your  hand instead of the tight brace of technical "mastery"  you might occasionally stop thinking long enough to allow your spirit to create.

I shot the image above on ISO 64 film on a cloudy day in Paris way back in 1986.  I know what camera and lens I used but it doesn't matter because the scene will never happen the same way again.  Belinda and I were walking through a room at the Louvre that was filled, at the time, with sculpture.  I'd just photographed an Italian man disregard the multi-lingual signage and lean over the rope to lecherously run his hand over the smooth, marble hip of a tasty nymph statue.  I turned around to say something to Belinda and the light washed over her in a beautiful way.  I saw her eyes sparkle.  I doubt I noticed the out of focus shapes behind her but I've come to love them very much.  I clicked one or two frames of precious film, looked into her beautiful hazel eyes one more time and we moved on to look at a different genre of art.  

When I go back and look at frames like this I'm overwhelmed by the concentration of emotion I see in them.  Lost to me are meaningless issues of sharpness or lens curvature.  Lost to me are discussions about the seemingly random noise of the grain.  All I see is Belinda as I saw her in that moment.  That's why it's art to me.  

If you have to explain, fix in PhotoShop, render in layers, etc. you've captured something much different and while I might like the taste of that dish I don't need to hear the exacting particulars of the recipe recited.


What If You Thought You'd Done Your "Ten Thousand Hours" Only To Find That You'd Only Done One Hour Ten Thousand Times?

People ask me all the time,  "Why do you change gear so much?"  "Why are you constantly experimenting with new lights and new ways of lighting?"  "Where do you find such interesting models?" But what they are really saying is, "Why don't you find a comfortable rut and stay in it?"  The idea being that you get to have one big idea or style in your career and once you hit that point you should keep endlessly reiterating it in order to squeeze all the juice you can out of that particular turnip.

So much chatter on the web last year and the year before about Malcolm Gladwell's observation about the need to log ten thousand hours of practice before you master your (fill in the blank) art/craft.  And I think, at the core, it's a useful concept with eddies of truth and substance.  But it never ceases to amaze me how our western culture wants to distill everything down to quantifiable results, with a maniacally singular focus.  But that seems to grow from our linear and metrically obsessed modalities of gauging business success and, by extrapolation, everything else.  We tend to equate quantity with good and speed with success.

With the rise of corporations the general goal seems to be the reduction of any craft or art to a series of production steps that can be isolated and repeated, ad infinitum, always finding a way to cheapen or condense the product while remaining profitable.

This applies so handily to the craft and hobby of photography.  In books, at workshops and online the constant demand from would be artists is for the "formula."  It's always couched in these questions and requests:  "What's the correct ratio?"  "Give me a diagram showing me exactly where to put the lights?"  What's the best (lens/camera/tripod/lightstand/modifier) to use for XXX?" And my favorite:  "What is your technique for getting people to look interesting?"

Once many people have run the gamut of workshops and books and on line forae they narrow down the stuff they've learned about each niche in photography and then slavishly follow it.  And if they follow the same course of action over and over again for ten years or ten thousand hours they are generally no closer to their goal of making their own art.  They've done the hour or twenty hours of instruction and practiced the same small things over and over again.

The goal, perhaps, should be to abandone any sort of formula and rely on your own intuition and taste to augment your experimentation and your growth as a collaborative and empathetic human being.  That might be the secret people are really looking for.  And it has a formula:  experiment and refine your own vision.  Hold the camera your own way.  Make the most of your ten thousand hours.  Even if it means sitting quietly and listening to the person you'd like to photograph.


Beauty Dish. Fotodiox Amazes me Again!!!

Earlier this month I posted something about a huge (70 inch) Octagon Softbox (similar to an Octabank) that I ordered from a company that sells on Amazon.com, called Fotodiox.  The octabank/octagon softbox was a whopping $75 and, after I assembled it and shot with it a few times I considered it to be the bargain of the year.  Amazing.  A few of my friends read my little blurb and bought them as well.  We are now a fan club.  Here's a link to the eightsided softbox.  You can pay up to $1100 for a similar light modifier from a well regarded european company.  But even more amazing is that the price included a speedring.

That's background info.  A quick intro into my previous purchase from this online store.  Here's this week's "Oh my gosh!  It costs how much?"  from the same supplier.  I've shot with Profoto for years and in the mid 1990's we shot a lot of stuff with the Profoto beauty dish.  And it did a great job.  But when styles changed I sold it with a bunch of older Profoto stuff and my lighting went off in a different direction.  For almost ten years I did almost everything with giant diffusers and soft lights.  Except for my little forays into battery driven flash and LED mania (which is the future of lighting....).

Now we come to this week.  I've been shooting a ton of portraits outside with my Profoto 600b Acute system and frankly, with any wind at all, it's a pain in the butt to use umbrellas and softboxes outside.  The umbrellas especially have a nasty habit of going "airborne" and messing up the illusion of calm and reserve that I work hard to build.  My clients love the look of the outdoor portraits and I confess that I do too.  I usually try to put a scrim between my subject and any direct sun and then wail away with the 600 w/s seconds at my disposal.  I could do this with my Elinchrom Ranger RX system but it's twice as heavy.  The trade off is battery life.  The Ranger has reserve you won't believe but the Profoto is just the ticket for a one man show.  I bought three new batteries for the Profoto and now I can go thru a full day, shoot tons of stuff and still have back up power.  But none of that seems to help keep umbrellas in place and working.

I remembered reading some rationale for buy a very, very pricey plastic beauty dish being offered for shoe mount flashes and the one thing that rang true was the idea that a beauty dish with a diffusion sock on the front holds together better in the wind than a comparably sized umbrella.  Makes sense.  It's rigid and locked on with a speedring.  I put myself back in the market and started looking at the Profoto version.  My, the price has gone up.....

On a lark I checked in to see if Fotodiox offered one.  They offer two!  A 22 inch and a 28 inch.  Being a soft lighter I always go for the bigger unit.  Unlike the Profoto version the inside is metallic.  The Pfoto is matte white.  At 1/3rd the price I couldn't pass the Fotodiox 28 inch beauty dish up.  It came today and I couldn't be happier on many levels.  First, I saved money and that's critical to the continued happiness of my CFO.  Especially two weeks and change before tax day.  Second, the unit it very well built with a nice interior deflector and an interchangeable speedring set up.  With one inexpensive adapter I'll be able to use this light on both the Pfoto and the Elinchrom lights.  And finally, it comes with a well made diffusion "sock" that fits over the front.  The whole system is a whopping.......$109.

If you buy it with a less pricey speedring, say for an Elinchrom, Alien Bees or Bowens unit the price drops to an even sillier $89.

While I haven't done any exhaustive tests I have put it on a monolight, fired it up and looked carefully.  It's just the way I remembered a beauty dish to be.  Considering that my last Profoto speedring purchase cost more than this whole unit I am very, very satisfied.

Now I'm off to shoot in the wind......


Happy, Happy Fun Time. All Fun All The Time.

    Hanging out in the studio, surrounded by super models.  Being photographed for Rolling Stone.  Grooving on the new ethos of ultra coolness.  Chilling, thinking about poverty......in a good way. (Taken with Swiss light you can't even imagine yet with cameras made for the fashion Special Forces...)

Filling in for Kirk tonight is famous photographer, Mark Focus

Want to take better photos? !!!!!!!!!  Here's my TOP five list of ways to excel:

1.  Make sure your camera is in focus.
2.  Think about pretty backgrounds and then find some.
3.  Take pictures that will make everyone happy.
4.  Make sure your batteries are happy and they'll treat you like a king.
5.  Think happy thoughts and wish them into your photos!!!!!

(Kirk will return tomorrow.)

High Value Content. The Returning Market. All Change is Ephemeral.

I think I'll start with a single declaration that may or may not be true and will, no doubt, drive many people a bit nuts.  The advertising model we grew up with as photographers is dead.  Officially dead.  There will still be a residual blurble of work being created in the old paradigm but the change is pretty much complete.  Here's how it used to work:

A client would need to move more product, get more market share or make a bigger profit.  He would go to an ad agency and they would advise the client to advertise to certain demographics and to use certain media to effectively reach the market.  In the early days the medium that was most cost effective was print.   There were lots of magazines,  everyone read the newspapers in their towns and the cost to mail promotions was reasonable.  Sure, ad agencies also spread around the marketing dollars to TV and radio but for most businesses print was king.

Once the agency and the client agreed on a creative approach they hired an illustrator or photographer to create the visual messaging that would drive the campaign.  A large part of the effectiveness and value of the print ad campaign was and is based on the allure and impact of the image.  Photographers charged fees that took this value into consideration.

Eventually, television took a bigger bite of the budget and there were the typical economic ups and downs that effected the photographic industry but the basic paradigm remained unaffected.  Right up until about 2001.

At that point "Social Networks" emerged,  the economy collapsed in the face of the "9/11" attacks,  and the entire business and industrial marketplace paused to reflect.  At that point a group within advertising who were convinced that all advertising would move to the web and to screens made their move.  Over the last eight years they crowed louder and made more glitter and flash about their "grand ideas" than adherents of other media did.  The old guard was caught flatfooted. They'd never had to make a pro-active defense of their media's basic value proposition.  The momentum built against them and even non-players took up the cry that "Magazines are dead."  "Newspapers are dead."  "Print is dead."

And businesses, who are no smarter than any other entity, took these "new prophets" at face value and shifted more and more of their marketing budgets into "Social Marketing" and "Web Based" marketing.  The promise was quick access to a world market at fractional costs.  Businesses had already beaten a lot of the profit out of traditional media buys from ad agencies.  The days of 15% commissions for media placements are nothing but a whimsical memory of an era that ended in the late 1980's.  Now everything is fee based.  And a fee base is an arduous thing to scale.....

Internal Marcom departments saw the move to the web as a way to gain more control within their own companies.  In no time newly appointed CMO's (chief marketing officers) were driving new and unproven initiatives in every part of the their host's businesses.  Catalogues went from paper to the web.  Direct mail became e-mail blasts.  Ad campaigns became microsites and viral Youtube videos.  Annual Reports became blogs.  And downloadable PDF's.  And at every turn the pronouncements were:

1.  It's only for the web so we no longer need to pay more for "production value."  It's only for the web so we shouldn't have to pay more traditional usage fees.  It's only for the web, it doesn't have to have depth, only splash.

2.  If we remove production value, depth and usage we don't really need all the services of an agency.  Nor do we need traditionally expensive custom images.  We can almost always use stock.

3.  We can crowdsource this.  That way we can get what we want pretty much for free and even if it's not the same quality we used to get we don't need to care because it's just going to be on the screen and no one will really look at it that hard.

4.  While we are losing our brand's individuality we'll make it up in the volume of new "eyeballs" that we'll get.  Hey look, over 2 billion people are on the web and if they're not on the web we don't want them.

But what if the whole shift of the market is all based on something that's not really true?  Or, not really true at this time?

And here's what companies across America are starting to realize, almost in lock step with the nascent economic recovery,....they've been sold a program that was unproven, doesn't bring in sales results, is destroying market share and it largely uncontrollable.

An article in Ad Age Magazine (online) http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/pepsi-burger-king-news-signal-end-social-media/149523 basically echoes what I'm saying.  That a wonderfully popular and viral campaign in social media for Burger King coincided with SIX QUARTERS OF DECLINING SALES!!!!  In another  article in the same magazine an industry expert makes the case that corporations with more diverse media campaigns all did better in the last year than their rivals who invested more in online marketing to the detriment of conventional media.

What brands need in order to survive is not to build a more intimate conversation with consumers but to build a call to action that moves consumers to go into stores and buy.

So, ad agencies, driven by a need for more fee income, drove their clients with vigor into investing more and more treasure into social media, social networking, viral online videos, on line campaigns and large, complex and passive web promotions.  And in  the process their trained their clients to disparage the products and services the agencies had become experts in for many decades.  Experts in products that actually caused the sales of real products.  And each of the recklessly abandoned media were and are proven performers.

Agencies, losing the income from print production and placement rolled over on the writers, producers and photographers and rolling-pinned the profits right out of them.  And as a result the print campaigns that they grudgingly produced were less effective than they could have been had the corners not been cut, had the value to stick eyeballs to pages had been present.  In short, if they had provided High Value Content the metrics would have proven the mix.

Instead what we got was a trickle down creative coma.  Everyone from the CEO's to the coders was petrified to do anything new and different.  Everything hinges now on how many click throughs you can get on whatever we promotion you have in front of consumers.

Here's a nasty little truth.  We think a new generation of ultra millionaires is sitting out their right now gaming on the web and cruising the websites and generally participating in the "ether markets"  but the real truth is that the largest concentration of sheer wealth in this country right now resides in the pocket books of people over 40.  And a large part of it resides in the hands of people over 50.  And the majority of these people (65% of the real money in the system, and liquid to boot) still acquire their buying information and impetus from a mix of media that includes traditional and web based.

We think that Amazon.com rules commerces because we as photographers and consumers of trendy digital stuff frequent the web looking for reviews and opinions about products and that's where we buy stuff.  But Walmart sells in about a day what Amazon sells in a year.  And that includes digital cameras.  Target sells more in a day in their stores than they do on their website in almost a year.  And so it goes.

I'm not postulating that the web is totally ineffective and I certainly don't deny that it's a growing window into the buying motivations of consumers but right now, to a large extent, big companies are getting exactly what they paid for out of web marketing, not much.

And so this leads me to declare traditional commercial photography to be dead.  Does that mean it's gone and we should hang up our Sekonic meters and take up the happy hobbies of coding endless lines of code drivel to make the next "My Pretty Pony" app?  Or brain surgery?  Or retail coffee preparation?

Not at all.  But we need to understand that everything changed when the marketing trendsetters flipped the switch and asked people to believe in the web instead of in print.  Because even though they envisioned a landscape where they could transfer the old ads onto a cheaper and unlimited media they never really understood that it was just a matter of time before video became first possible and then impossible to do without.   And they initially envisioned content on the web to be 480 by 640 at high compressions and didn't visualize a time when everyone would have a 30 inch monitor on their desk and the ability to stream 1080i video at the click of a mouse.  No, at the sweep of a finger.

Now we come full circle.  In a matter of months production quality will be back in vogue.  Because consumers will demand it.  Think about it.  If your target market sits in front of 50 inch flat screens, digesting full HD programming with incredible production values, remarkably good sound and content they are willing to pay for will they be happy to sit at their kitchen tables looking at 1000 pixel wide, binary animation banner ads and static pages?  Gosh-arooni.  Probably not.

And while it's easy and cheap to throw cheesy videos onto YouTube and every high schooler can animate his own banner ads it's not so easy to provide really High Value Content.  The agencies will need to go to the people who have an institutional memory of what High Value Content looks like and they'll find the suppliers who can give it to them.  And when it requires incredibly complex editing the dollars allocated to the projects will go back up.  And when it requires $2,000 microphones on quiet sets the dollars allocated to the projects will go back up.  And when it requires ideas that fit the media and really hit with specific target markets the budgets will really go back up.  In short, when advertising makes the current leap from blah internet with tiny videos, bad sound and dead type to highly kinetic, brilliantly created and compelling content that delivers, all the creative markets will be re-energized.

But what does that mean for photographers? We need to be pro-active.  If we are truly "of" the medium we need to create the ideas that best leverage the power of the medium.  We need to step up our games and become more involved in every step of the process.  Because "desk coders" can't do this.  The agencies are killing off their inspired and inspirational creative people and replacing them with drones who code.  Drones who follow the pack.  Drones who fill orders.  They are the factory workers of the creative industry.  When it became more important for a creative to check of the blanks:  Adobe Premier? Check.  DreamWeaver? Check.  SQL? Check.  AfterEffects?  Check.  They lost the people who read novels, looked at paintings, went to challenging movies, enjoyed something other than pizza, and generally translated culture into  advertising.  Now there's a growing void, driven by the market.  Created by misguided budget allocations and misperceptions about media and reach.  And we have become the visual translators.  We are the creative conduit from reality to the media.  We are the ones who drive trends how and agencies look thru flickr and endless photographer's websites in order to discover the "new look" the "new sensibility" and their path to the next ad.

Agencies must re-invent themselves by bringing back what they really had to sell: Creativity.  And that means creating a different look for their clients, not copying a prevailing idiom or trend.  It means re-growing the balls to say "no." Or to say, "this is challenging and it will work."  And having the ovaries not to just roll over and let clients pick one from column "A" and one from column "B".

And until they do that it's an open invitation to ignore them in the creative process.  To throw down their self appointed "gate keeper to the clients" status that they had earned in decades past and squandered in this decade's love affair with "free marketing on the web."

Now, when I approach a client I'm not just selling photograph.  If they just want that I'm happy to comply.  But I want to know who's writing their creative,  who's doing their television, who's overseeing their brand, who's their designer.  And I want to have as much control as I can get.  Because it makes business easier for me.  And it makes it more efficient for the clients.

You might not be a writer but you can team up with one.  You may not be totally conversant with video yet but you can find collaborators to fill in your blanks.  You can find an editor to make your camera work sing and a sound guy to make your audio beautiful.  Everyone should know and cherish a graphic designer because, done right, their work is present in everything you do for a client.  You build a team of collaborators and the next thing you know you're going toe to toe for the good stuff.

But this means we need to stop being passive.  Stop just sending a mailer out to the art buyers and AD's and CD's and start looking for the end clients who might adore your creative vision and your organizational vision.  Your holistic ability to translate marketing messages into visual poetry.

Because, if you haven't figured it out yet, everything changed.  And it won't come back together again in the same way.  The money will come back.  And the need for clients to move products and services will come back.  Hell, a taste for beautiful prints might even come back.  But it won't be as part of the old paradigm of waiting for a rep or an art buyer.  It's time to saddle up and be part of the new process.  And that means taking ownership of your direct relationship with clients.  You need to introduce them to your creative stuff.  You need to own the HIGH VALUE CONTENT and share it with them.  For a price.

The old web is dead.  Be the first wave of the new, high production value web, translate it all to print and even television and you win.  Sit back and wait for the that ad agency mailer to bring in results and pretty soon you'll be destined to hear,  "can I have that to go?"

And remember:  Good print.  It's the new differentiator.  Everything comes around  the circle.


We were talking this morning about how to do portraits.....

Not really the kind of portraits that portrait studios make.  Not so posed.  Maybe not so formulaic.  And certainly not aimed at a huge audience.  One person on my favorite private forum asked how people approached portraits.  What did they think about lighting and how did they pose people?  What did they think about when they stood behind the camera and tried to pull together the session?


Project "Post Partum" Depression. Ouch.

Shot in Willie Nelson's private saloon, somewhere west of Austin.  Canon 1dmk2N and Zeiss 50mm 1.4 ZE lens.  Daylight thru a dirty window.

I'm pretty sure most photographers and writers, and just about anyone else embarking on a lengthy project, confront an sense of ennui and lassitude when they finish up their work and send it off to wherever it's supposed to go.  There's a sense of freedom and elation as you become aware that you've been freed from your obligation in the best possible way:  You saw it thru and completed it.

But if you've been working on a book as both the writer, photographer and creative director you've had to shift your life around to compensate for the inevitable deadlines.  You delay some things.  Put off commitments and reposition yourself to be most efficient and focused until the project ends.  When you are the one who pitched the book there's always an extra onus on you to do it well and do it on time.  You're submerged in the process of proving the value of your undertaking at every turn.

So when you finally emerge you probably do the same silly thing I do and send out an e-mail announcing your triumph.  You're done.

But most people (all of them?) didn't put their lives on pause just waiting with ever ripening anticipation for you to prevail and shower them with wisdom.  On the contrary, if they were friends in your social sphere they probably (barely) tolerated months of conversation that was always just a few degrees removed from "the book" and they were happy someone finally stuck a stake in it's heart so you could get back to holding up your part of the social bargain.

So even though you've announced your triumph in the loudest possible way you should consign yourself to getting back a few well intentioned "attaboys" and not hold your breath for a flurry of congratulatory bottles of good champagne, and month long string of celebratory dinners at the best restaurants in town.

When Steve Pressfield finished his first novel he rushed to tell his mentor.  His mentor said something along the lines of,  "That's great.  Now you'll want to get started on the next one tomorrow..."  And that was it.  And that's the way it works.  But today is the monday after I put my most recent project to bed.

I shot for Zachary Scott Theatre on Saturday and Austin Oral Surgery on Sunday but I still feel a little lost and anxious.
Michelle on medium format Tri-X.  One tungsten beauty dish as fill.  One diffused tungsten spot as a main light.  Hasselblad.  180mm Carl Zeiss lens.

That's when I know it's time to re-group, have a cup of coffee and work on my marketing.  But I always think it's time to work on the marketing.  And that's how we start the cycle all over again.

Don't worry about me, though.  My publisher already sent a contract for the next project.  I've assured myself that I'll take some down time though.....How about I start on April 1st?  That should work.

Reminder.  I'm not a paid reviewer.  My readers don't pay me and the manufacturers don't pay me.  I write stuff because I'm genuinely interested in what I write about.  I turn down the "opportunity" to play with/review ten times more stuff than the stuff I write about.  And in most cases what I write about is stuff that I own or will own.  And I'm very upfront about the fact that I don't give a crap about charts, graphs and test numbers.  I only care about why I might like something, not whether you will like it too.  And I can't think of another way to do it because I don't have a clue what each of you hold to be critical priorities and what you think is fluff.

Someone named Steve took me to task yesterday for not sounding the alarm about the damn "red dots" in my EPL-2 review.  Implied that I was some sort of elitist who had so many cameras at my disposal, and bought so many new ones, that I wouldn't care if a camera were tragically flawed.  I didn't like his implication,  I didn't like the way he stepped over my line.  But here's the deal:  The visual science lab is me thinking out loud.  Really loud.  And if you don't like the angle or the way I think (out loud) you can demand a refund of my "lifestyle consulting fee" and leave.  I'd write this stuff even if I only had an audience of 25.  And I have......

But I won't homogenize what I write to fit a "one size fits all" faux "objective" audience.  I'm not going to invest in test gear and if something doesn't pop up in my tests, and fun shooting periods, I'm not going to spend my time tracking down and brutalizing my gear so you can have a "worst case" scenario appraisal of a $500 camera.  That's just bullshit.

Honest difference of opinion with respectful writing?  Your comment gets posted.  Call me stupid?  Your comment gets flushed and I take you off the sweepstakes list to potentially win big.  Sounds fair to me.  


Can't get enough of those crazy LEDs.

Regular readers will know that I am the "official" photographer for Zachary Scott Theatre, here in Austin, Texas.  I was reminded today of why I like doing photography there so much.  They have great actors and the actors can make great faces.  And I get to capture those great faces and show them to the world.  It's a wonderful collaboration that makes me painfully aware that "out there" in the "real world" our sitters are generally nervous, self conscious and reticent to do anything that might make them look....."creative."  In the theatre we work toward "creative."  

The other reason I like working with the folks over at Zach is that the whole environment is one that's open to experimentation and "edge." To art as process and process as art.

Next month they start a new run of August: Osage County.  I don't know much more about the play than anyone else.  I know it's being billed as "one bitch of a family reunion" and that most of the characters have their share of social and mental dysfunctions.  That's about it.

The marketing people for the theater are going to collage all thirteen characters together for the advertisings materials and our job for this morning was to shoot each person in character against a light background so that they would be easy to select in Photoshop CS5.  Two years ago I would have meticulously lit the background a solid white to make the drop out easier by the new selection tool (with refine edge) in CS5 is soooo good I don't need to worry about a little tone in the background areas.  And if I use the images without dropping out the background I find I like the image better.

As it is Saturday I went to swim practice first and then headed over to the theater's giant rehearsal studio a little after 10am.  Even though I stuck the LED book manuscript in Fed Ex yesterday I was still excited to use the LED panels for the shoot today.  Something about tossing them on stands and covering them with a gauzy layer of diffusion then plowing right into the shooting really appeals to me.  The big panel (1000 LEDs) works so well as a main light.  Almost as soft as a beauty dish and harder than a small softbox, it has a certain authority I've come to enjoy and it's a look I don't get easily with flash.

Here's the basic lighting set up:   One 1000 LED panel with a thin layer of diffusion positioned so that the bottom edge is at the subject's chin level.  Just to the left of camera and about five feet from the subject.  I placed a 500 LED panel back near the plane of the seamless background facing back toward the subject.  I would use one of the other but usually not both depending on which side of the collage the person would appear.  I wanted that "rear lit" highlight for a change.  The ambient light levels were fairly high in the space so I didn't need to add any fill to get what I wanted.

The final addition was a little 160 LED battery driven panel on one side of the seamless paper, just behind the subject's plane, kicking some extra "clean up" light on the background.   The direct and I ran the actors thru their different emotional affects and we shot a ton of frames.  Our final tally was close to 1200 and the whole shoot lasted about and hour and a half. 

No filtration over  the lights and they were still a really nice match for the cool daylight that came fluttering down from the ceiling skylights, two stories up.  What did I learn?  Nothing.  I re-visited the idea that I love continuous light because the actors don't "play" to the flash.  There's nothing to cue them besides direction from the creative staff.  And, in my usual contrarian manner,  I used the Canon 1dmk2n instead of one of the newer, higher pixel count cameras  like the 7D, or the 5Dmk2.  

The shot just above is my favorite.  It shows off the effect of the light falling off as it cascades down from head to toe.  His face is well lit and by the time our eyes get half way down the frame the exposure on his coat pockets is a stop and a half, or two stops down.  And I love it.  I also love the idea of cocktails.....

While I have a bunch of cool lenses sitting in various toolkits in the studio, for some reason I'm having a brief infatuation with the Canon 50mm macro lens.  Yes, the cheap f2.5 version with the "noisy" focusing motor.  It's sharp, impressively well behaved and very sharp at f3.5 or f4.  My exposures on this shoot were approximately this:  ISO 800,  1/200th of a second,  f3.5/4.  

After "meeting" the characters I can hardly wait for the running shoot (dress rehearsal) in a week and a half.

Buy some tickets.  Come out and see some live theater.  I can pretty much guarantee that it's better than just about anything you'll see on TV.....  And it's real 3-D!!!!!!  The 3-D effects are incredible.  It's just like you are sitting in the audience......

Why the older camera?  Why not? It focuses at least as fast as the 5Dmk2 or the 7D, the files are just the right size for most of our marketing uses and it just feels so sexy in my hands.  


Nerdiest LED configuration of the day. Kirk Tuck's nutty contraption with a nod to Syl Arena.

I know now that I have become truly a lighting nerd.  I was reading Syl Arena's good book on Canon flash when I came across a small section in which Arena needs more power and manufactures a "light bar" out of wood and nuts and bolts and proceeds to festoon it with six or ten Canon 580 EX2 flashes.

Not being a carpenter and not owning power tools I meandered over to Precision Camera, looked thru their bewildering collection of lighting stuff and found an already assembled and ready to go model that was under $50.  With shoe mounts.

I came home, put four of the DLC-60 LED units on it, threw a sheet of diffusion over the top and lit a portrait.  Those four little guys can really belt out some light.  Don't know what I'll do with the assemblage now but I'm sure it's enough to earn me membership into the GEEKS OF LIGHT private club.  If I can just  scrounge up a couple dozen of these units I could probably go toe-to-toe with Joe McNally himself......

Done. Finished. Happy. Satisfied. Complete. A-Okay.

If you haven't written and photographed a book I'm here to tell you it's a sneaky undertaking.  By that I mean that it sneaks up on you, sucks away your time and energy and makes you a bit......compulsive.  So what's involved?  Well,  over 42,000 words,  a distillation of 12,000 images,  lots and lots of experimental shoots,  four very patient professional models (whom you've seen from time to time represented here in the blog.....),  approximately 260 captions and lots of time spent learning everything there is to know about buying and using LED lights for photography.

Of all the books I've written this is far and away my favorite.  It's a subject I  really wanted to write about because I think it will overwhelm and engulf the whole practice of photography over the next two or three years.  I think it will also make good video accessible to so many good photographers.  It's cool technology, literally and figuratively.  It's also available at relatively low cost for people who want to experiment with it.

For the past two weeks I've been declining social invitations, missing some swims and spending way too much time with a laptop burning my thighs.  I'm sitting here burning DVD's full of images for the people at Amherst.  In an hour or so I'm heading to the Fed Ex office to send out the whole bundle.  And that includes my hand drawn lighting diagrams.

All of a sudden the post partum depression is settling in.  What will I do tomorrow?



Getting really clear on what you WANT to do.

Life is really strange.  There's a lot of stuff that sounds like good ideas.  But then you try it on for size and realize that while it might be a good idea for someone else it's not necessarily a good idea for you.  Take social networking for example.  One of my friends insisted, a couple of years ago, that I would be left behind unless I embraced Facebook. According to him all social information would essentially migrate there and  if I didn't have presence and lots of "friends" I'd probably never get another invitation to........anything.

You may be having a different experience but I think most of the stuff that makes it to Facebook is pretty lame.  And since I never check the mail there I'm probably missing out on incredible parties I'll never know about.  But interestingly enough we still get lots and lots of invitations from Evite and we actually have friends who still know how to use e-mail and even the U.S. Postal Service to get in touch with us and tell us about upcoming actual (face to face in the same room) social networking activities.  We just don't call them "social networking activities" we generally call them "dinner parties."  Some of the functions we call, "Cocktail parties."  Those functions  have more alcohol than most of the dinner parties but much less food.  We talk to each other instead of sitting around "tweeting" about sitting around.....

I tried Tweeting but it makes me feel like......a twit.  I don't have a lot to say to people on Twitter except, "Go and read my blog!!!!"  Or the always popular (with me), "Go buy my books!"  And people get tired of reading that over and over again, even if I do it in only 140 characters.

Most of Twitter is different now.  A year ago it was all, "I'm Mike and I'm watching a train wreck here in North L.A."  but now it's mostly retweets of links that refer to something like:  "Ten ways to be a better photographer."  Or "Don't make the mistake of charging for your work when you can easily give it away for free."  Or,  "Tune in tonight for my Podcast of how to edit Podcasts."  And, of course, my favorites,  "Come to my workshop."  "Here's a link about my workshop."  "Here are ten things I learned at Bob's workshop." "365 ways to use social netwhoring to build new business."

It's basically become a clearing house for corporations that used to write press releases but  can no longer afford stamps, or lone photographers, writers, and IT people who want or need attention.  And who doesn't need a little attention?  But really, at some point "Give me Attention" Fatigue (GMAF) settles in and we realize it's mostly marketing messages disguised as "useful???" information.  Shouldn't there be "social" pressure to limit "Tweets" to ten a day?  Or fewer?  And please,  stop texting while you drive.

So what does this have to do with photography?  Well, we have a  tendency to believe we should be doing what everyone else is doing when it comes to marketing and even the kinds of photographs we should be taking.  We assume that the people who got there before us are more steeped in the magic and lure of the latest "social marketing" thang and that, if we only work at it hard enough and diligently enough, it will make us successful too, and clients will beat a path to our doors.

But does it work?  Does it ever work?  One could bring up the examples of Chase Jarvis or David Hobby.  They've made social networking pay.  But chase is talented, and driven, and connected enough to have made it anyway so we'll never know how critical tweeting was for him.  David needed a new gig and he did a great job of inventing it.  But he did it early, and often, and established himself before the big crush.  And, to his credit, he brought together a depth of understanding about lighting and a different set of tools about blogging, the combination of which propelled his Strobist.com to stardom.  Could he do it today?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  We'll never know.

But here's the real question:  If you wanted to be a photographer,  were passionate about actually taking photographs,  felt the greatest satisfaction when in the process of making photographic art,  would it make sense to re-launch a new career doing something totally different because the tides of marketing made it sound like a great business idea?  To wit, giving up shooting to stand on a stage, or tinkle a keyboard "teaching" other people to light or shoot, and growing older by the day?

All the time you spend tweeting and holding workshops in the icky ballrooms of "second tier" hotels in secondary markets is time you'll never get back.  All the time you spend "loading" more stuff into Facebook and the countless other supposed social marketing media are days and weeks that you'll never get to spend working on the stuff you love.

When money managers talk about one thing displacing the other they talk about "opportunity loss."  If you spend $50,000 on a new BMW you end up with a depreciating product but you lose the opportunity to make money with that $50,000.  When you decide to monetize your social network the very act skews you to aim toward whatever market you think you have prayer of hitting and dilutes both your spirit and your creative "true nature."

And it's easier to justify that the money you bring in will pay for shooting trips and opportunities of time but there's only so much time to go around.  If you sell your art you sell your art.  But I'm beginning to think that when you try to leverage social media into a money making machine you sell a little bit of your soul.  (Apple doesn't make money by giving stuff away.  Or wasting time on Twitter.  They charge for everything they do.  They are old economy kicking new economy's ass.)

And, I'm not pointing the finger at anyone else.  I'm as guilty as all the rest.  I write this blog because I hope it will help me sell books I've written in the past and books that I'll write in the future.  I hope that people click thru to Amazon from time to time and buy diapers, or mail order wine, or a car and that I get a small percentage of that.  And it's true that I'll never get the half hour a day that I devote to writing a blog back.  When you multiple that lost half hour by all the other half hours that you dribble away because it's "expected" of you, or because you think you are participating in the "new economy" they start to add up.

How does it help me do my art?  How does it help me connect with clients?  How does it free up my time to print or find new subjects?  The answer......it doesn't.  It helps sell books. But even though we all do it let's try to be honest with ourselves,  and by extension, to our potential clients.  We all wish we had the courage to say, "Screw it." to everything else and spend our time doing the projects we love.  We don't live and breathe just because we're sooo excited about the next workshop or, even for that matter, the next unexciting headshot.  Some of what we accept is because of our fear that no more money will come in if we don't  but mostly it is because we believe the current of information that ricochets around the web and tells us how important it is to be.......there.  Enmeshed.  Engaged.  Connected.

What if being un-engaged and productive with real (non-virtual) projects is even more important?

In case you haven't guessed......I've finished writing the LED book and I'm sending it off on Monday.  I'm going to read it one more time to see if I can catch any errors.  Then,  I'm getting in the car and going off for a long weekend to shoot some stuff that I like.  Even if no one in the entire webspace likes it or even cares.  Because I want to be really clear about what I like.  For me.  You might think of doing the same.

To wrap up, the photo of Jana, above, was done for the new book.


Coercing people to work for free and then calling it "crowdsourcing" doesn't make it moral or ethical or profitable.

I don't have a photo to go with this one but I do have a king sized rant.  Recently on Twitter a local photographer, who loves the idea of being an social networking guru, posted a link that pumps 99 Designs, a company that "crowdsources" design, logos and a lot of different graphic design work.  I think it's wrong to advocate "crowdsourcing" because it damages the fee base by which most designers earn a decent living.  It's a price grab that really only benefits  99 Designs.  The designers lose out on their normal income and security while the clients lose out on well thought out, custom designs from the real pros (who wouldn't touch this crap with a thousand foot pool).

So, what is this flavor of "crowdsourcing"?  The company mentioned invites you to throw a "design contest" (which they host and profit from)  and suggests that hundreds or thousands of designers around the world will slave away working on a design just for you.  Hey, logos start at $249!!!!  It's disingenuous to call this a contest.  It's speculative work.  It's a tiny carrot.  On a hundred sticks.

So thousands and thousands of man hours (and women hours) get thrown into creating a logo.  And you get to be the final arbiter.  And the capper is, if you don't like any of the hundreds of designs you get your money back!!!  How exciting.  The problem with all this is two fold:  First, it pushes people to work for free in a slow economy with the hope that something will pan out. And second, since the "design contest" initiator sets the price, even if you win it will be for a price that isn't enough to sustain a decent standard of living.  That means fewer dollars into the local school taxes, the city taxes and the state taxes.  More people marginalized.

But it also sends a message to every potential client who explores the market that there is some sort of fixed price for design and art.  That the creative process has become a commodity.  Sound familiar?

Oh yeah, stock photography!  Which led to "dollar stock" which led to the decline of the an industry.  Now the only people making money in stock photography are the stock photo companies themselves.  And even they are now victims of their every shrinking price/value bullshit.  They initiated a race to the bottom and now seem surprised that most of the value has been sucked from their companies.

So,  it takes a good, committed designer many hours to create a truly creative and valuable logo that provides ongoing value for a client.  Technology doesn't make the process of creative design any quicker than it was ten years ago and there's certainly no way an artist who licenses intellectual property can industrialize their process and earn additional revenues by increasing throughput.  There are no efficiencies of scale in real custom art.  All this new process is able to do is to deteriorate the perceived value of art in order to debase the pricing.  And the value of debased pricing works in only one direction.

This is a win/lose proposition.  It hurts even more when people who are ostensibly related to the art process side with the aggregators to push an idea that harms an entire industry.

Some will say that this process separates the wheat from the chaff but what it really does is separate highly trained, insightful and hard working people from their income stream.  It's a cold, callous and calculating business model that Goldman Sachs would love.  As long as they are on the other side of the equation from the artists.

The sad thing about self appointed experts with big microphones pointed back at the web is that they have an audience they didn't earn and their sole intention is to monetize their bully pulpit.  Sad days for real artists.  Thankfully, lots of clients can see thru this kind of horse shit and still hire professionals to design, create and help them market successfully.

I guess in a pure market driven economy the thought is that naked cannibalism is good and ordained by some god somewhere. At least some of the population will get fed.... When did the actual value of art exit the market?  When did it get replaced by a bunch of Ayn Rand clones bent on destroying all markets by reducing them to the equivalent of pork bellies?

This is not a question of being unable to compete on talent.  It is a moral question of who should benefit from true value.  There is an intrinsic value in all we do.   There used to be an understanding in marketplaces that you would sustain your providers and they would sustain you.  Now is it just every man or every business for themselves?

Thank goodness that this drivel on the web hasn't penetrated into the general public consciousness, yet.  Not all of us nor all of our clients have walked up to Jim Jone's table and drunk the Koolaide.  Not every author has given away their books to drive their corporate speaking engagements.  Not every photographer has walked away from their copyright to embrace a royalty free existence (and impoverishment).

If someone offered you a contest instead of a job would you take it?  If you were a freelance electrical engineer and someone came to you and said,  "Design the next great cellphone for us on spec (with 1,000 other engineers)   and if we decide to build the one you design we will pay you a wildly reduced fee?"  If you were a chef and someone came into your restaurant and said, "Make us your best entree.  We'll sample yours and those of all your competitors and then we'll pay the check at the restaurant whose food we liked best.    What a great opportunity for you to connect with diners!"  I hope you would have the gumption to throw them out of your restaurant or tell them to stick their cellphone contest someplace where only trained proctologists could recover it.  Because what they are basically saying is,  "Let me exploit you."  And we're supposed to pretend this is the new economy.....?


I find the most interesting people just walking thru life.

Amulya, sitting in my studio for a portrait.

It's fun to find new people willing to spend the time to come into the studio and sit for a portrait.  Just for fun.  Every semester I get invited to come to one of Dennis Darling's classes at the University of Texas college of Journalism to do a slide show and talk to students about the profession of being a "High Value Content" provider  .  I generally talk about what I like to shoot and why.  I always talk about how to "monetize" my passion, as well.  According to Dennis I am usually entertaining and never give the same speech twice.  The students seem to like the talks.  But sometimes Dennis and I don't communicate (it's probably me, I should listen better.....) and this was one of those times.  You see, I'd been doing little, intimate talks about the business of photography for Dennis' and Michael O'Brien's  graduate students.  Usually no more than ten or twelve people in a class.  We could grab a topic and throttle it and then move off to another topic that the students wanted to know about.

When I left my office I grabbed some self promotion pieces to show and the incredible book, Commercial Photography Handbook, (which is like a blue print for constructing a financially successful career in photography.......) and I put my favorite HD infested DSLR (Canon 60D) in my bag and I started free associating a speech-let about the "exciting" convergence of still photography and video.  But it was not to be.  Instead I was escorted into a big theater style lecture hall and I smiled and said "Hi!" to well over 100 students.  Now I know how a comedy club performer must feel when they walk into an unexpected audience.  You know, like Eddie Murphy walking in to entertain a church full of southern Baptist ladies...

Picassa online albums to the rescue.  I found a gallery I've uploaded in order to put photographs in my blog and there were over 900 fairly fun photographs, each with a funny story attached.  I was saved by the ubiquity of the web.

But at the end of the talk, after most people filed out of the room (still laughing?) I stood in front of a small group of people who wanted to ask me some questions.  Most of the questions were about how to get started.  Or how to make money.  Or how to get started making money.  But one young man (on a campus of nearly 50,000 students and a female/male ratio of 58/42%) actually asked me how I found people to photograph.  Really?  Ummm.  Look left or right?

So I turned to the cute and exotic young woman standing in the middle of the crowd and I said,  "You have a wonderful look.  Would you consider coming to my studio so I can do your portrait?"  She quasi blushed and then said, "Of course."  (Later she called to see if she could bring a friend along....which is always fine.  Especially if they are attractive as well.)  I turned back to the young man who asked me the question and he seem mesmerized that things could be so easy.  But there it is.  Life is as easy as you make it.  Finding people to photograph is a practice of playing the odds.  Ask enough people and you'll have enough models/subjects.

Today I finally made a web gallery for Amulya.  It's important to remember and keep your promises.  

The lighting was one giant Octabank with a Elinchrom flash head plugged into the lower output plug of a Ranger RX AS pack.  I used the Octabank as close as I could get it.  It's the Fotodiox bank  that's all of $65 I talked about in a blog about a month ago.  An amazingly great, cheap modifier.  I love the light.  It's groovy.  Used the Zeiss 85mm and an older Canon 1dmk2n.   Fun stuff.