Re-reading an article about EVFs on theOnlinePhotographer...


From time to time I get e-mail from people who aren't understanding the appeal the EVFs (electronic viewfinders). I wrote the article above for Michael Johnton's the online photographer. I think the fun thing about the article is all the commentary following it.

If you don't know Michael's blog.....you should.

Crazy Day at the Studio with Some Jeckyll and Hyde Self-Portraits....

Or....What do hyperactive photographers do when they catch a cold, can't swim and don't want to infect their clients? Mostly find silly crap to do around the studio.

I felt it coming on yesterday, late afternoon, as I was leaving from an assignment location in the executive suite of a multinational, high technology firm. I sneezed as I got into my car. My nose stopped working right on the drive home. And then...BAM. I woke up with a head cold. Yuck. 

I decided that doing the outside, 7:00am, master's swim in sub-30 degree weather was contraindicated. (My GP will be so proud). So I've been stuck in my studio since 7am cleaning, filing and drinking way too much coffee.  Way too much. Client called this morning to tell me they'd gotten the files I sent them via Drop Box and that everything looked good.  I cancelled a lunch appointment and wished someone beautiful would come over so I could make portraits. But with a meaty cough and a drippy nose I decided I'd have to look for talent closer by. I elected myself.

In the process I've decided that self-portraits can be as revealing as a visit to a psychiatrist. You have to reconcile the self image (24 years old, perfect skin, handsome, with thick curly dark brown hair, athletic to a fault) with the reality that everyone else experiences when they interact with  you....(57 years old, too much sun, too much skin under the chin and grizzly grey hair). It's almost like a fresh brush with mortality.  Here's my sinister and nordic rendition:

The serious face that goads VSL readers into writing, "Don't you ever smile?" But I like the way the light works on the shadow side. Good cheek definition, for sure. Notice the engineer style adaptation of the glasses, just above my right eye. The screw in the hinge fell out nine years ago and I've been meaning to get the glasses fixed but the smallest size paper clip seems to work fine....a fix straight out of electrical engineering school. I also like the way that the hair swooping up makes me look almost as though I've got little satanic horns on my head. All the better to scare the people in account payables. In truth I had just coughed was attempting to re-arrange my face when I accidentally trigger the wired remote... really....

But I did include a softer look just in case.

If you haven't tried a self portrait lately you might want to save the money you've been spending on your therapist and come face to face with your own reality. It's actually kind of fun. I didn't think about doing this until I saw some really cool self-portraits that my friend, Frank, did. 

While my model is not up to the standards (by any measure) I usually set I do like the lighting in both images very much. Neither is lit with anything other than the natural light (indirect) that's coming through my studio windows. I have a ten foot by ten foot square set of windows that faces northwest. They start about four feet off the ground and go up to fourteen feet. If you position people in just the right spots you can use the windows as a flattering source all day long.

Gear.  I put my Sony a99 camera with a Tamron 28-75mm SP lens on the biggest, meanest, oldest and stoutest Gitzo tripod I own. It's an ancient, three section, five series. It weighs a ton but once you clamp something on it there's NO movement. I plugged in a cheap, generic, wired remote, flipped the LCD screen around to the front so I could compose easily and then banged away. The light isn't strong so I used ISO 200 at 1/4 second, f8. The wall behind me was painted gray 16 years ago. Maybe time for a new coat of paint.

That's all I've got. I get over colds pretty quickly but I sure hate living through them. Color me grouchy...

But animated...

What am I re-reading today?

I bought Vision Mongers, by David DuChemin, a couple of years ago but I was initially put off by his slightly patronizing writing style and (my bad) the fact that he was a poor enough money manager that he had to declare bankruptcy at one point in his career (pre-great recession). I read some of the book then, skimmed the rest and put it aside meaning to donate it to the library.

I don't know what, exactly, pushed me to pull it back off the shelf and give it another read. I guess I was heading out to pick up my kid from school and needed something to read as I sat in the car and waited for the dismissal, surrounded by the cars of the vast contingent of soccer moms. 

I know that the book hadn't changed in the interim so I can only guess that my brain changed since I last picked up the book. This time I had a different experience. While I still found a few things to critique (and what book doesn't have a few?) I thoroughly enjoyed my new read.

The parts I zoomed in on  were mostly about marketing and I'll admit that it was probably my own hubris that kept me from soaking in the information before. David is spot on whenever he talks about marketing. I've been running a photo business for a long time and even wrote a book about the business of photography but I was able to absorb and really learn several valuable ideas that will help me be more efficient and effective in the way I run my business from here on out.

Bottom line for me was his explanation of why we can't waste time being jealous because on of our competitors got a great job or a great account. He explained it in a way that just reached in and turned a switch in my brain.

Essentially he said that you and your competitor are like apples and oranges. If a client wants an orange and you are an apple, painting yourself orange isn't going to work. If the client chose the orange they were never going to choose the apple so you never would have gotten the job in the first place. The underlying message is also that if you are an apple, sell apples.

I wish I'd read the book with a more open mind in 2009. I could have used the information well over the last three years. It might have changed the way I market what I do. Maybe not but now I'll never know.

The book is full of success stories and interviews with people like Joe McNally and Zach Arias; two masters of social media marketing. But the real guts of the book are about being true to your photographic vision and your business vision.  And the golden core is the marketing.

If you work in a field where you must market stuff, services or yourself the book is well worth the twenty five or thirty bucks you'll spend. It's kind of fun when a book I've put aside comes back into my orbit with new life. But what I guess it really means is that I've changed over the last few years. Less pompous? Maybe. Open to new information? Definitely. All in all the book gets a "thumbs up" from me. I'm going to look for another one by David and see what he has to say in the present.