A post in two parts. 1. Putting together photos for a book is drudgery. 2. I had a blast at Bill's class today.

Writers (pretty much all "pure" writers) have it dirt easy.  They need only string together 30,000 or 45,000 well chosen words (for an instructional photo book) and they're off to the races.  I contend that's the easiest part.  You pour a big cup of coffee, sit down at your computer and type till your fingers cramp.  Then you walk it off and come back for more.  If you've done your research, and you've actually used the techniques and the gear you are talking about, over and over again, the words should flow like water onto the screen.  In the world of pure writing there are several layers of "lifeguards" who police the turbulent literary waters and keep writers out of trouble.  There are editors who suggest things to keep writers safe from future embarrassment.  And there a proofreaders to make writers seem smarter and less error prone than polite society.  But they are relative wimps when compared to the all terrain vehicle which are the writer/photographer book producers.  We actually have to kick start both sides of the brain with that single cup of coffee.

I would have finished my LED light book before Christmas but I felt like I needed lots of examples to show what I was talking about.  I'm an okay writer but I still subscribe to the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words.  When I went over the flow of the book in my mind I figured I'd need a couple hundred decent photographs to prove......I mean illustrate.....many of my points.  From the basic, "No! used properly these new lights will not turn your watchband green..."  to "Look, the models are cute no matter what you light them with."  

The cheat-y thing is that writers can just make stuff up and write it down and few people nudge them on the fine points.  But when you write book aimed at other photographers they can be merciless photo experts.  They sometimes demand image quality over content but are happiest when they can have both.  

My brain can't do both things at once so I have to write everything out first and then go back and re-translate everything I've written into a language called, "Photo."  And, unlike pure writers,  I wanted images of beautiful people in my books which meant that I had to find said beautiful people (talent scout), work with their schedules (project manager) and negotiate for their appearance in the book, with signed model releases (lawyer work).  In the end it's the temporary acquisition of models that's most vexing.  Did I mention that novelists are free to just make up people?

I tend to overdo  stuff so when I sat down to edit thru the folder I'd set up on my computer for LED book photos I was shocked to find nearly 12,000 to choose from.  Don't feel inadequate, most are not life changing images.......

I came over-prepared, like the test taker with five hundred, sharpened #2 pencils.  Once I edit them all down and match them up with the right words I have two more tasks to complete.  I have to caption everything and I have to create lighting diagrams for the "hard of imagining."  But it's fun to know that it's not been in vain.  I've learned so much about lighting and new technology.  Anybody need an LED consultant?  

The photo above is the set up I had for shooting the image below.  I wanted to light and shoot a camera and lens because that's the product I end up with in my hand most days.  The 60D is my favorite video camera.  I wanted to show it off.  And I love the way the lens looks.

Part Two:  I've been speaking to students for the last two weeks.  I'm getting some good practice at public speaking and now I don't get nervous when I walk into a big auditorium full of people, or, like today, when I walk into an intimate setting with nine students and one very well informed professor.

With big groups all you can really do is entertain.  Thank goodness "50-something" people have actually done enough to have stories to tell, but are young enough to remember and to tell them without mumbling......

With small groups you really need to show up ready to rumble.

I love what Bill Woodhull (the photography dept. chair at Austin Community College) does with his associate degree plan.  He makes students take an intensive course on the business of photography.  No gear, no gorgeous models, just:  How do you make money, save money, grow a business, calculate your real cost of doing business, market yourself, protect and leverage your intellectual property and  so much more.  Bill needs to take his course on the road and hit the other thousands of college students whose four year programs never touch this stuff.

Anyway, I'm on the advisory board at the college and I get invited to come in every semester to tell them what I think the imaging industry is doing and how I deal with the same concepts I've outlined above.  Usually the class sits silently and I talk and then we all go home.  Today's class was exceptionally focused.  They asked tough questions.  They engaged.  And that always makes me think.

Here's my "take away" thought from the class:  I think the market for corporate and advertising photography is returning.  And doing so in a big way.  Marketers have a desperate need to re-brand, re-launch and reinvent themselves and imaging is a big, big part of branding and customer communications.  We've got pent up demand from almost four years of radically declining image replenishment.

In a word, I'm "OPTIMISTIC."  But this new energy and demand is meaningless if we let the emotional context of the last three years keep us fearful in the face of re-emerging clients.  We need to stand up and be strong about keeping prices commensurate with the value we create.  And we need to be extra vigilant about keeping a tight hold on our intellectual property ownership.  We need to mirror our clients and ramp up OUR expectations.  Because the way we handle business during this recovery year will doubtless set the stage for the way this business will go for the next ten years.  Time to "spine up" and charge based on your value and the value of your IP and not how many hours you can work.  We bring value beyond commodification.  It's time we got back to acting like it.

Thanks.  Having fun in Austin, Texas.  Wish you were here to pick up the tab for the next round.....


Dave Jenkins said...

"Writers. . .have it dirt easy."

As Porky Pig once said, "Th-th-that's easy f-f-for y-y-you t-t-to s-s-say!"

Throughout my career, writing has been an important adjunct to my photography. I've written several books, more than 125 audio-visual scripts, many magazine articles, and a few reams of copy for brochures and such. For me it has never been anything but slow, painstaking, grind-it-out work. I greatly envy your ability to churn out yards of copy quickly and with what seems like little effort. I would like to blog, but if I did, it would probably take up all my time.

Anonymous said...

People who can write really well are like gods in our largely illiterate society. Everyone can string a few words together but the people who can make them sing seem more and more like magicians. You're not bad either.

Bill Beebe said...

In a word, I'm "OPTIMISTIC."

Good for you. Here's hoping you're right. Now here's a word from one of your pessimistic fans in Orlando. Gas has spiked over $3.50/gallon, and I suspect it will spike to $4 by the weekend. That's 50 cents in just three days. I base this on comments from associates who are already paying $4 and more/gallon in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago. This is going to hurt us again. You won't see it happen overnight, but you'll see it within the next 90 days, I guarantee it. All this brave talk about new opportunities with re-emerging clients may be just that - brave talk. You don't live alone in Austin, and neither do your clients. You're going right back in the same pain barrel you were in in 2008.

I so desperately hope I'm wrong...

Bold Photography said...

Kirk - I do think it IS my turn to pick up the tab... :-)

steveH said...

I spent 32 years as a technical writer, and most of your description of the writing process rings true. Except that I never had to deal with beautiful people, at least not in my books.

The only thing I'd add is that after a couple months working on a complex project (which meant several books each by a small group of writers working with a gaggle of engineers), I'd get to the point where rather than seeing what was on paper/screen, I'd see what I knew *should* be there. As in, if my own name was mispeeled, I'd probably miss it.

Hooray for good editors to bring writers back to earth.

And having read (so far) one of your books, if you're your own editor, I doff my hat to you. Don't stop now.

Dave Jenkins said...

Just to be clear, I should have said in my above post that I envy your ability to churn out yards of great, readable copy quickly.

kirk tuck said...

Bill, Interesting counterpoint. I think there will always be catastrophes, wars and natural disasters but the last recession (the OMG big one) was caused by bankers and governments and the scale and scope dwarfs the effects of a momentary price rise. New, disruptive technologies are starting to emerge. Economies ARE recovering and it's not just in Austin or Texas.

I hope you are wrong and I am right but only the sage and (somewhat) neutral hand of history will tell.

Anonymous said...

I paid close to $4/gal yesterday in SF. Today, it's over $4 in some stations. Hang on!

kirk tuck said...

$3.49 in Austin. We put it in the Honda, drive to the job and bill the client down the road. The client bears the cost of fuel increases. The only driving I will curtail is personal, unnecessary driving. Also got new tires for the bike. The Starbucks is less than a mile away, the pool two miles away. Why was I driving a car there in the first place?