I had fun last night and I still have respect for my little camera in the morning.

My friend, Lane, organized a fashion show to benefit the Aids Services of Austin organization. The theme was summer swim wear. I went to show my support, toss some cash into the donation jar and to have dinner. The show was held at one of my favorite, new (to me at any rate) restaurants, Garrido's.

I didn't have any involvement in the show and I was thinking about leaving my camera in the car but, hell, I took my camera along with me the last time I went to an emergency room, why wouldn't I take it along for a fashion show?  It wasn't much of a  camera by most people's estimations. It was just my toss around camera, the Sony a58, with a pedestrian 50mm 1.8 DT lens clomped onto the front. I shook hands with people and had a glass of red wine and got bored waiting for the show to start so I went off looking for the show. And the models.

They were getting ready, doing make up and all that jazz so I introduced myself, told them my connection to the organizer and the restaurant and then asked them if I could take a few photos, just for fun. Busman's holiday? Compulsive photography habit? I hate to go out without my camera even if I end up never using it.

Open shade is certainly a flattering light source. I think this kind of light makes everyone look just a little bit better. 

I was going to take photos of the actual fashion show but the main venue wasn't well lit and I knew from experience that any images I took would either be grainy and noisy from being shot at ISO 6400 or the camera shake from trying to use too slow a shutter speed would ruin the impression of sharpness. If I had been the photographer for the show I would have added supplemental lighting in the "sweet spot" areas of the show, tested it and shot that way. I'm finding that I can't control everything in life, only my own assignments.

The a58 is a bit noisy at ISO 6400 but it's still very, very usable. At ISO 100 it's just darling.
And even near wide open that cheapo 50mm DT lens is pretty nice. You can click on the images to blow them up to their 2000x2000 pixel size and see what you think. I'm looking at  100% thru the large files and find them satisfying. Amazing what $500 bucks will get  you in a camera these days....


I have my marketing hat on today. I'm figuring out how to sell the benefits of one person providing both video and still photography to a client.

Edit: Original Video Removed. Feedback good and overwhelming. 

My premise is that clients pay, in time, money and lost productivity, for a duplication of resources when they source video and still photography from two different vendors. Now, there are lots of situations where the expertise required means that two different creatives makes sense. Like a sporting goods company who want to have a high end video made with lots of complex moves and perhaps a Phantom camera for smooth, super slow motion work. Alternately they may need a certain style that for which a photographer is well known.

But many times, in the realm of basic website content, a client is looking for good solid work in both camps but with no really tough problems to solve. The example I've been getting a lot lately is the client who wants to have portraits made of their key people. The agency wants a lighting and background treatment that we've done many times in still work but they now want the same style and look to bridge across and be implemented into video interviews as well. The client is looking for competence and experience as well as good value. They don't want to re-invent the wheel but they don't want to pay for on the job training either.

My solution is to use one continuous light lighting set up, create a lighting design and compositional style and then carry that across in both the still images and the interviews. It's a classic: Light Once, Shoot Twice solution. What is the benefit for me? Well, I'm adding more services to my bill so I'm adding more income in each job. If I do the editing (or outsource the editing) that is a secondary source of income.

My ability to solve two problems for a client means that I'm less likely to be cut out of the deal entirely by a video production company that also offers photography. The benefits to the client are several. First, they have the comfortable convenience of only having to deal with one vendor. That means only one pre-production or creative meeting instead of two. It means less total time elapsed to do both sides of the project. It's very appealing to most clients to be able to schedule their key people into one slot that accomplishes both creative goals rather than having to schedule two different encounters for a busy executive. So, Schedule Once, Shoot Twice.

The next benefit is a little dangerous. Most photographers are used to traveling light when it comes to crew. We can make good use of one assistant but most of us aren't that hot on having a different position for every little task on the set. I can act as camera operator and director while my assistant works well as a lighting grip and a sound man. The videos we're shooting are not so complex as to require laying dolly track or bringing an entire truck full of HMI lights.

We can't scrimp where it makes a  difference and so this benefit varies by the job. But if the two of us can set up the lighting we need and create good sound then, for 90% of the projects we do we are in good shape. But there is a real benefit in not having to tromp into a busy office or factory and set up lighting at two different times. There is tremendous benefit in getting everything you need, stills and video, in one episodic encounter with the subjects in the video. And there is an additional benefit in that the still imaging can act as a warm-up for the live video work.  And most people need a bit of time in front of a camera to feel comfortable.

Finally, there is a mindset difference in terms of gear between the two worlds. The dedicated motion guys might be smarter than us because few of them own their own inventory of lights, grip gear, cameras and lenses. They rent everything. They mark-up the rental fees and bill it all back to the client. We have a tradition of owning our everyday gear. We tend to own our cameras and lenses, as well as our grip gear and our lights. On web-type projects we tend to include the use of the gear in our overall price. We should probably charge a rental fee for each project but that's not the tradition in our part of the industry. While our clients understand the need to rent (and pass along the costs) of generators, specialized lighting and esoteric video cameras they choke a little on the rental of basics like microphones and lightstands. We offer more value in the simple, hybrid projects because we are using the same tools for both halves of the assignment.

And since we own the gear and practice with it every day we're pretty good with it.

So the marketing is: Light Once, Shoot Twice. Budget Once, Shoot Twice. Schedule Once, Shoot Twice.

In the end all that marketing can do is get you in the front door or get you invited to solicit an estimate. The next step is proving that you can do the work, you can mesh with the client's team and that you truly understand their creative direction.

I put together a minute and thirty second video to show off some of our work. We'll flesh it out as we do more contemporary stuff. Hope your marketing efforts are coming along smoothly. Mine are coming slowly, like wisdom teeth being removed by small tweezers. But that's all part of the game...



 Portrait by Kirk Tuck.

"Sometimes, Soft is a Good Thing."

Wright Bros Dairy Truck, by Kirk Tuck

When I walk around with my camera I like to photograph the silly topical things I see, like this food trailer/truck just off 3rd St. When the food trailer fad fades it will be a nice reminder of what downtown Austin used to offer. I also like double entendres. 

Nex 6. 50mm. 

How do I light headshots on Wednesday, May 29th? (Caveat: I change it up all the time...).

Kirk Tuck, Self Portrait. 2013

I was lighting a portrait today in my little West Austin studio and the photographs of the attorney would was my subject this morning turned out very well. They're not great art, they are good, straightforward headshots that he'll use in his business. I wanted to write about today's session because I used a mix of lights and modifiers that aren't necessarily mainstream. I didn't use monolight flashes or battery powered flashes. I didn't use softboxes or umbrellas. But I'm happy with the colors and the results I was able to get.

The image above is to give you a general idea of how the lighting worked out. No big deal. I used the smile detection automatic function (glorified, semi-intelligent, interactive self-timer) in my Sony a99 in order to get the camera to fire for this test. I had a different, more glowering expression in mind but this was as close a compromise to a "slight smile" that the camera would accept.... For a client portrait this would be step one of three or four steps of retouching and post processing. I wasn't paying myself so I decided I didn't deserve the extra steps. :-)   (humor implied--note added for the linear thinkers).

My lighting for this set up consisted of three lights, one reflector and one diffusion panel. (You can click on any of the images in the blog to see them larger).

Kirk's basic headshot lighting setup.

I started with a gray background at the far end of the studio and a Sony a99 with a 70-200mm f2.8 G lens on the other. I figured out how far I wanted the subject from the background and I set my posing stool there. Then I back away until I got the right head size at around a 100mm focal length. That's the basic starting strategy for me. Once I know where my subject will be in relation to the background I can set up my main light.

Fotodiox Day-Flo Max DF-1500 Fluorescent.

I really like the light I'm getting out of the new generation of fluorescent fixtures. The one above, the one I'm using for my main light, is a six tube version that belts out a lot of power. Today I was running it with only two of the three banks engaged since that was all I needed to get a base exposure of 1/60th of a second shutter speed and f4 @ ISO 320. The light is being diffused by a Chimera ENG panel outfitted with a one stop diffusion sheet.  I'm pretty old fashioned. I set the light by looking for a little triangle of light on the subject's far cheek from the light. I don't want the triangle to exend much below the subject's nose and I want a small shadow under the nose as well. I've probably been to conservative with my light direction lately and should move the main light further off axis to create some bolder shadows. But then, we are all creatures of such habit.

Kirk Tuck's easy fill light...
My preference is to always use a passive fill. That basically means that I don't use a separate light fixture to fill in the shadow side of the face, I use a white card, or in this case a white fabric panel on a frame to bounce light from the main light into the shadow side of my subjects faces. The one above is a Westcott Fast Flag frame and fabric. I like them because they fold down small. I am able to quickly move the "flag" in toward the subject or back away from them in order to control the amount of fill and hence the amount of contrast.

Kirk Tuck's Portrait Lighting Set-up from the side.

Please note that even in the controlled environment of my own studio that the main light and the diffuser in front of it are both anchored with sand bags for the safety of my studio guests. If you are using heavy lights and metal frames yours should be anchored as well..."a gram of prevention.."

Kirk Tuck's Net Covered Hairlight.

I used a second light in the set up to backlight my subject. He was wearing a dark jacket and I didn't want him to merge with the gray background, especially if I decide to add a bit of vignetting in post production. I used the smallest of the Fotodiox lights which features one bank of two tubes. There's no dimmer on these units so we dim them in the traditional film school fashion by adding "nets" to the then. In the example above I'm using a two stop net from my 4x4 foot Chimera ENG panel kit to make the backlight more subdued and rational. Set you backlit in the right place after you get your subject settled.

A close up of Kirk Tuck's "Net Technique."

The use of panels and diffusers, reflectors and nets gives me a lot of flexibility when it comes to fine tuning light. But not everything in the studio is given over to fluorescents. I'm using one of the best LED lights on the market today as my background light. It's the Fiilex P360 and I wish I had the budget to buy a box full of these guys. I'm using the fixture with a Broncolor grid to give me a centralized spot of light on the background but with soft edges. Almost light what you might get with a fresnel spot light spotted in tight.

Kirk Tuck's amazing Fiilex P360 LED light with grid and C44.

Why do I like this light so much? Well, it's very, very bright, small and handy, kicks out nice, direct light that's different than the panels and can be very well color balanced for just about anything. Today, set just a little under it's maximum (coolest) temperature setting it was the perfect balance for the fluorescents. And having a background light that can be dimmed without changing color temperature is great. Why the grid? The light spread would have been to wide and too sharp edged if used unmodified...

You can see by referencing the clothespin
that the Fiilex is a small fixture but it has 
high, clean output. And a cooling fan that's quiet 
enough to be used near a video camera recording 
sound. Amazing.

Kirk Tuck's portrait lighting from the background position.

The panel to the far right of the frame is black on the other side and I use it to keep light from spilling around from the main light and lessening the contrast on the background. If you look through the windows in some of the shots you'll see that the lights are very color neutral in relation to daylight. That's how my lighting rolled today. Slightly conservative to match the personality of the sitter and his intended uses for the photographs. But done with continuous lights instead of the old iris pounders.

A perfect blend of lights for someone who likes shooting with an EVF. Comments? Derision? Weird, disconnected comments that attempt to direct readers to weirder online shoe stores? Leave em below.

Edited in later: The cheating version:


Sunday walk on Monday with an old favorite combo. Well, not that old...

Poster in the window at Garrido's Restaurant.

File the top image under: This is going to be fun...  I recently did photographs for Garrido's Restaurant's website which you can  see here: http://www.garridosaustin.com/ I've had a great time discovering different fun things on their menu and I would say that they also have one of the best happy hours in town. But on Thursday, the 30th of June, their marketing consultant is taking things up a notch, albeit only for one evening. They will be hosting a "Sexy Summer Fashion Event" as a fund raiser for Aids Services of Austin. It will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 pm and it should be a lot of fun. Just imagine a hip, downtown Mexican/Fusion restaurant, with a big, long patio and lots and lots of very beautiful young models walking through in various swim suits. Dinner, drinks and a head start on your beach wear shopping all at one go.

I don't usually go in for this sort of spectacle but.....I think I should grab one of my cameras and head over there. Just to document the event for the owner's, of course...

I shot the image above yesterday afternoon. I'd spent the morning cleaning out the studio office. I've been tossing out all kinds of crap that I will never need again. Like the notebook of invoices from 1998 which showed me just how precipitously the slide of monetary return of traditional photography has been in the ensuing fifteen years. I made the mistake of looking in the book and the associated ledger. I was shocked to see that we'd done 168 jobs in that year and our assignments took us to three other countries over the course of the year. By comparison we counted up just 60 photographic jobs last year (2012) and for far less income. But such is life. Thank goodness for book revenue and now, corporate motion pictures.

It was purging to toss a bunch of the past because looking at the past is about the least productive thing I can think of. But the accumulated weight of all the stuff I wanted to toss, both physically and mentally, became overwhelming and I had to take a break and take a walk. I never pass up the inclination for a good walk...

I was going to take a different camera but I brushed against an open drawer on the equipment cabinet and looked down into the Sony Nex drawer. There sat the cute and most proficient looking Sony Nex 6 camera festooned with it's shiny, silver 50mm 1.8 lens. I grabbed it and an extra battery and headed to the car.

Yet another new hotel comes to Austin. Right on Congress Ave.

I think it's funny that I spend my weeks shooting images of people and walking people through video interviews but when I head out the door to shoot for myself I'm nearly always drawn to shooting unpeopled landscapes and city views. Maybe the prevailing ethos in Austin now is the moving of dirt and vertical longing...

A river of rocks. On the way to the convention center.

It is amazing to me to think that I've been walking down these streets with a camera in my hand since 1978. Nearly 35 years. In some notebook I still have old Tri-X negatives of a much smaller and much scruffier downtown. Pre-gentrification. Nothing really open after nine or ten in the evening and the Stephen F. Austin hotel and the Sheraton at First and Congress Ave. were the only downtown hotels. Then the bars came, then the banks and finally the giant office buildings, and, in only the last few years, the gigantic residence towers. 

We went from free parking everywhere to valet parking or the endless ramps of the $20 parking garages. And when I walk through the city with my camera in my hand I see myself in the reflections of the buildings. And I've aged with the city but no matter how much I try to re-invent myself I'll never be able to make a transformation like downtown because I won't survive the endless demolition. But on some level I don't think I've changed; it's just everything around me that forgot to honor whatever pact we might have had to stay the same. But even that is silly. 

It's not just the cameras that changed it's also the things we point them at....

This will sound shallow and politically incorrect but I have to say it. People don't look as good as they used to. I've looked through old slides of political protests and music festivals and life in the streets and I compare the way people looked back then with the same situations today. The majority of people have become enormous. Just enormous. Easily 30 to 50 pounds more than the average thirty five years ago. Their bodies have little definition and their faces are puffy and indescript. And people's clothes have become uniform and boring.  It's almost as if the more popular our city becomes the more people default to the kind of clothes we used to wear to change the oil in our cars or mow our grass in, but now it's standard, everyday wear.

It's hard to make beautiful photographs if everyone looks like they just ate two dinners and got out of their pick-up trucks in the Walmart parking lot to head in and shop for wardrobe. Don't get me wrong, there are still people in Austin who run, swim, bike, eat vegan diets and hover around the perfect BMI for their body type but as the population expands so do the majority of the people. Tough times for photographers looking for classic beauty... (no picture supplied).

Light beams across the ceiling.

But some things seem eternal, like the light beams playing across the ceiling in a public building, the grafitti and the clear blue of the Austin sky after days of thunderstorms and wind...

The Littlefield building was looking spry and patriotic on Memorial day. And the flag was whipping in the breezes.

This afternoon, with momentum left over from yesterday, I emptied one Craftsman rolling tool cabinet and took three film cameras and two digital cameras to the Goodwill electronics drop off. Hadn't used any of those cameras in five years and don't know when I ever would again. Then I dropped off the rolling tool cabinet. And some lamps. And a couple older, battery powered LED lights. And the more I got rid of the more space I have to move around the office and make things more comfy.

Once again, the Frost Building. I shoot it because I like it but I post it because it pisses off one particular guy in the U.K. who thinks Austin buildings suck. Maybe true but they're all we've got.

All in all it's good to make more space for yourself. Fewer things to inventory in your mind. Fewer impediments to change.

A lonely tree.


Has the tide of "I'll do it free for my portfolio" photographers broken?

I think it's interesting to look at the numbers for the camera industry. Camera sales by unit peaked in 2010. They were 18% below the 2010 level by the end of 2012. Who won? Sony, Canon and Nikon. Who lost? Everyone else. I think what we saw in 2010 was the trailing end of a lot of people in I.T. and other tech fields being laid off and thinking that, maybe, photography would be a good, easy and carefree gig. What 2012 numbers tell us is that a large number of the temporarily unemployed finally got jobs and breathed a massive sigh of relief that they wouldn't have to depend on freelancing in the imaging industry to make a living. It's a tough slog to make it as a freelance image maker. It takes time and persistence to build a clientele, and even more time and persistence to craft a discernible style.

The recession and the total transition to digital have decisively decimated all of what used to be entry level jobs. That actually makes it much tougher on the newcomers, kind of a new barrier to entry, based on experience this time instead of gear. Without a broad based pyramid of entry level work it's harder and harder to gain critical steps of experience both in defining a vision and in dealing with the art of the business deal, imaging-wise. The only work left for the inexperienced is as event shooters and kid sports contractors and that pays about as well as working at a coffee shop....but with none of the fringe benefits.

When clients have the budget to do something that transcends cellphone documentation they are loath to risk their budgets on the untested. The remaining, weathered and experienced pros get the nod because the clients know that their money won't be wasted or squandered. Yippee! Hurray for those of us that made it over the hump.

So, what makes us different? Well, we learned the craft step-by-step and we've got years of trial and error under our belts. We know how to use lights that don't come permanently attached to our cameras (exception: Terry Richardson). We understand not only what we're doing but why we're doing it. We have the right gear and we understand the legal liability (and reputation liability) of not having redundant back-up gear for jobs that can only be done once. (I read some idiot arguing that back-up gear was B.S. because new entries into the market couldn't afford it and because cameras never break....yeah, and hard drives never crash.)

And how about this? We actually have liability insurance. Real insurance that we buy in case we accidentally destroy someone's property or injure someone. Just like real, live business in other fields. And we don't get bored, sidetracked or otherwise distracted from delivering just what our clients need within the deadline they've specified.

Sigh of relief, enough of the business remains to ensure that it still is a business.

The image above? Another one of super muse, Lou. An example of the idea that real professionals are constantly testing, shooting on their own dimes and creating work to show clients where they might like to go next. What a great concept.

A bit of bad news for Olympus shooters. WallStreet24/7 was predicting companies that will probably exit the U.S.A. market by 2014. Along with J.C. Penney's and Volvo sat Olympus. They've just announced that they are jettisoning all of their cheap, point and shoot cameras and that they are losing significant market share elsewhere. While the OMD EM5 was a smash hit one hit in a product line isn't necessarily enough to float the whole boat. I hope they are dead wrong.

Finally, a few websites have been (for years now) floating the thought balloon that real pros shoot with medium format digital cameras. And I'm sure that some do but it's wishful thinking on someone's part when you realize that in total, combining all the MF camera makers, last years sales of large sensor, medium format cameras were barely 6,000 pieces. About a week's worth of production for the typical Canon Rebel.

We're coming back from the holidays and getting ready for Summer. Sandals ready. Tech shirts ready. Heat resistance training has already commenced. Welcome to Summer 2013.


What do we do for fun around the house? Well, we shoot video, of course.

I'm not sure what other, average Texas families do on cloudy Friday evenings. I guess some of them cook up some frozen pizza, dump some salsa on the top, grab some beers and watch TV (lite beers for the kiddos...). Others pull on their ostrich skin boots, grab an appropriately goofy cowboy hat and head out to the kicker bars for an evening of boot scootin' merriment. The new Austin hipster families probably head to south Congress Ave. to hang out around the food trailers and look disaffected. And the wealthy head out to the hotels for whatever fundraising gala will provide them with the highest visibility. Maybe they'll meet that guy who has had three face lifts by age fifty and writes about "society" events in that breathy and overdone prose. 

Around our house we fire up the video cameras and get to work. Well, maybe not all the time but at least we did on Friday. My kid Ben has been taking a film course all year long at his high school. They shoot on various video cameras, edit in Final Cut Pro X on big iMacs, and they finish off their projects with After Effects. Ben already turned in his end of semester, documentary project on the impact of iPads on education and he needed to knock out one more short piece. He decided to do a paean to food preparation. Kind of a montage.

He pulled out his primary production camera: A Sony a57, along with his Rode Videomic and then asked me for the loan of an 85mm lens and my bigger, fluid head tripod. He's used the a57 to record an award winning PSA on early onset diabetes, PSA's for Zach Theatre's kids programs and a ton of fun projects with his friends. He knows the camera forward and backward and even though he's a teenager the camera doesn't have a scratch on even---though it's been his primary imaging tool for well over a year.

Love those big, soft continuous lights.

On this particular project he wants to do a montage of food being made. He was working with his mom to document all the chopping, mixing and seasoning for a White Bean and Tuna salad with freshly roasted, red bell peppers. He leveled the tripod, figure out his best angle, took one look at the existing light from the little MR-16 spots in the kitchen and then asked for some "good" light. We used one 6 lamp fluorescent fixture up high and to his left. 

Ben works with manual focus and loves the focus peaking in the a57. Manual focusing is his standard operating procedure.

He loved the light from the big fluorescent light. I asked him is he wanted additional diffusion but he just looked up and said, "No thanks. I don't fear contrast like you do..." And, in fact, the images he was shooting do look a bit crisper than what I usually turn out.

With the celery chopping, pepper roasting and assemblage complete he's moved on from salads and his next video targets are: Extreme close ups of sizzling bacon in a frying pan, flipping an omelette, putting canned whipped cream on a dessert (for the "awesome" sound effects) and maybe even the sizzle of a steak being put on a grill. I can hardly wait to see how he edits it all together.. 

My suggestion for a close up wine pour was more or less dismissed out of hand. Not really in the "food preparation" category.  Hmmm.

The a57 is a great, cheap camera but now I'm partial to the a58. Ben's happy with what he gets from his current camera. 

Now if I can only convince him to use the EVF...

The stretch at the end of a long sequence.

I asked him about his interest in video but the long and short of it is that he enjoys the concepting and writing much more than the actual shooting. While he understands it from beginning to end he's just not interested in being a technician. Somehow I feel I've been dissed.

Commodities or precious resources? It's all a question of context.

I guess photography can be a lot like water or gas. When you are surrounded by more than the market can absorb it becomes just another commodity. When you need something really special it's much harder to find and becomes a precious resource. I guess everything has to be considered in context.


The death of the professional photographer.

We like to talk about trends here. And a trend I've heard a lot about is the death of the "professional" photographer. It's true and it's not true. The problem with the discussion is that lay people think of photography through the lenses of their experience. It's the "big, all encompassing tent" concept. To the typical family in America that is not directly involved in imaging or advertising fields, or publishing, the "idea" of a professional photographer is a cliché. It's a guy in a bad suit who photographs weddings and bar mitzvahs. It's a chubby woman in a black outfit who does "available light" weddings and it's a bunch of blue collar guys who swarm around children's soccer, baseball and Pop Warner football leagues snapping a zillion photographs of Johnny and Suzie kicking the goal or sliding into home plate and hoping to sell some prints to moms and dads who want something more, photo-wise, than can be snapped with an iPhone.

Depending on your generation your stereotype might include "Animal," the scruffy and unclean photojournalist on the TV show, Lou Grant; Ron Galella, the paparazzi photographer who stalked Jackie Kennedy Onassis, or some chubby girl in bad boots giving an online class on "Boudoir Photography" on Creative Live. The pervasive idea conglomeration is that all photographers work for retail customers or for newspapers. The generic American knows that newspapers are a dying medium for the very reason that they no longer subscribe and neither do any of their friends....

Most Americans either can't afford the luxury of a classic portrait session or they don't see the point. They've been able to embrace immediate gratification results with their iPhones or a cool, new Canon Rebel. And in many instances and in many locales the "professional" who handles baby photos, senior photos and other portraits is so far behind the cultural cool curve that the products offered are aimed at markets that stopped existing in the mid-1990's. Along with cassette tape players. And answering machines.

Is it any wonder that a whole generation has come to think of photographers in the broadest sense as no longer relevant? And when I look at the work of most generic "shooters" I am reminded of the Kodak books on portraiture I used to buy in the 1980's. Some of the styles were wonderful in the moment but the rest of the world seems to have moved on.

So the person whose pressing need is an image for Facebook will turn to their network of friends and invest in a bit of quid pro quo rather than looking in the Yellow Pages (do they still exist?) to find someone who they can go to and pay to get something that doesn't look as cool, in the moment. All the simple imaging stuff has migrated to the handheld devices of friends and family.

But there is a different reality that most people don't see. It's the reality of professional photographers who are lighting architecture and shooting it with tilt/shift lenses (and good taste). It's the reality of bright young (and older) advertising photographers who still routinely command low to mid six figure incomes per year co-creating a new visual language for national and international clients. And it's teams of image makers who are delivering hybrid collections of still images and wonderful motion for more and more companies and agencies. The people who can light impeccably and topically. The people with a good radar for style and trends. The people who can see (or help make) a visual future. What's the next chapter? Instead of "let's re-read the classics."

I'll conjecture that between advertising, catalogs (OMG, have you seen the massive, new Restoration Hardware catalogs???? Shot in the USA and absolutely amazing!!!!) corporations, retailers, healthcare and travel and leisure clients those photographers (not wedding/baby/senior = retail) who serve those markets are thriving just as in the "golden years."  When you add in the massive increase in video and even short motion pictures the profitable market is probably far larger than it was in the go-go 1990's. It's just spread out a bit more.

Most of us (photographers) took a giant hit in the last recession because most of the country (USA) snapped their wallets shut and wouldn't answer the doorbell, much less the telephone.  And there were two trajectories that photographers seemed to take: One group tried doing what they had been doing for the last twenty or thirty years and they saw their markets shrivel and die. The other group changed direction and served up a whole new recipe for servicing clients. They zigged with the clients and then zagged with the clients and now they are busy and business is growing.

We didn't have to dumb anything down because we're not working with the masses. We had to smarten things up because we're working with professionals who both see the value of our work and who also want much more. Give it to them and you win. Whine about the glorious past and you lose. Count on it.

The image above was taken many years ago in Paris. Back then a man with a plain camera and some boxes of film could make a living shooting couples on the Place de la Concorde with Kodacolor film and mailing them the prints. Cameras were hard to use back then. Most people didn't carry them about. But you can see that the street vendor/photographer in the photograph was hedging his bets even then. The box over his shoulder was filled with one use, disposable cameras for sale. And sell them he did. 

Photography is changing. You can jump into the river and swim with the current or you can cling to temporal rocks and hold on tight until you succumb and drown. The choice is yours but the market for interesting, new and exciting imaging with always exists. And people with checkbooks will want it because it says something interesting about them or their businesses. 

We're all visual creatures. The power lies with those who keep reinventing the visual language. Professional photographers are not dead, they're just not as visible to the masses as they used to be...the ones that remain or have recently arrived just found better clients.