I've been working - a lot.
Don't get me wrong, I love the work, but one thing has disturbed me, I picked up two additional weddings this year because the photographer that was booked originally canceled with little warning.
Now, I understand that sometimes really horrible things happen and they simply cannot make it, but both of these persons canceled because they simply didn't want to do wedding photos anymore, they found out that there was too much work involved.
Yes, there is a lot of work involved, which is one of the two reasons we can charge for, and get paid for the work we do - the work involved and the quality of the product.
Without getting preachy, I'm starting to understand why some of the veterans have so much pent up rage about how 'everyone with a dslr thinks they are a pro photographer'. I'm also starting to appreciate the groundswell of support for the certification of professional photographers, and I think I'm going to be attempting to get my certification sooner than later.
There's an upside to all of this though, is I got two additional clients, and they are pleased with my work, and the level of service I provide. I didn't charge them extra for the short notice, I wasn't booked already and I don't see the need in taking advantage of someone who is already in a stressful position, so at the end of the day, I came out looking like a super-hero.
So, a word about customer service, if you say you're going to be there for your clients, BE THERE, I mean really be there in every sense of the word. Show up on time, be professional, be focused, and do the best work you can possibly do. If you deliver as promised, you'll do well. If you don't, well, you won't be around long, and the herd will thin itself out naturally.
Happy Fall, and I'm Back, Baby!
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
I've been working - a lot.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
This shot is my favorite from today's shoot at the university.
I want to talk about some of the influences on this image, because like so many my work is inspired by other people.
David Hobby - the Strobist (www.strobist.com) who's online tutorials and DVD set are a wealth of information.
Joe McNally - Author and another online tutor for budding photographers (www.joemcnally.com/blog)
Trey Ratcliffe - (www.stuckincustoms.com) an amazing HDR travel photographer & author.
These three gentlemen take the time to share their techniques, tips, tools and tricks with guys like me, so that I can pull off shots like this that are so warm, rich, full of detail and have so much feeling that the only way to express it is to show it off.
Guys, your work has been inspirational, your books are great, your DVD's are a wealth of information. I hope you know how much guys like me appreciate what you do.
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Upgrades, they're much less expensive than full installs, but they usually still cost money - Usually.
Topaz labs has provided a free upgrade to users of Topaz adjust 3, free like no money, and it's worth the effort.
I've become pretty fond of Adjust, it pulls some otherwise ho-hum photos into the realm of WOW, and lets you do good things to your good shots, and version 4 is a decent improvement over version 3.
First of all, they somehow made it faster, not sure how because my 64 bit system is pretty quick already, but this is much faster. When you apply changes on any of the sliders the changes are displayed in near realtime. Colour me impressed.
There are a host of new presets, some of which I still have to play with under the right circumstances, and the addition of a wonderful "I'm feeling lucky" button, which when your creativity has hit a slump is always good to kick start your juices.
Lastly, of course is the new interface. Gone is the old grey CS4 plugin look, hello Lightroom clone. That may seem superficial at first, but for those of us that do much of our work inside of lightroom, the transition is nice and comfortable.
And let's not forget it's a free upgrade for version 3 users, so go download it right away at www.topazlabs.com. Go ahead, we'll wait for you...
Sunday, February 7, 2010
February in Winnipeg is not a pleasant month. It's cold, the days are short, people tend to hibernate and not get out much.
...And I get rusty...really rusty.
So, to keep myself in shooting form, and to get out of the house I reached out to some people who do a lot of Cosplay and said "hey, why not get together with some other photographers and overrun Level 3 Studios for a night?'
They jumped all over it, and by the end of the evening, a full 5 photographers, 8 models, 1 Make Up Artist and 1 willing assistant were taking photos, having laughs, and snacking on munchies. The event was so much fun, that Angelica here, proclaimed as we were packing up, "I can't wait till the next one, there's going to be a next one, right?"
Of course there is, everyone had fun and we got some great photos, why would we not do another one?
When I first got back into photography it was to shoot landscapes. Landscapes are great, but putting people in front of the lens is much more fun, the only problem is, it can be a little intimidating finding strangers to put in front of the lens.
However, if you really want some neat, creative ideas, sniff around and find some cosplay people in your area, and reach out to them. Cosplay people love doing photos, and they're the most fun you'll ever have in your studio. For them, time for prints is a double bonus because they have an excuse to get dressed up AND they get photos out of it. You get some really great and original shots and you might just make some new friends.
So, even thought I've already done it on Facebook, I'd like to pass out a big thank you to everyone who was involved in this great photo mixer:
(and even that Jerk Rahim the Photographer showed up)
Thanks for a great night, everyone, and we will be doing this again.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Last weekend was the Central Canada Comic Convention, a huge event that I volunteer to shoot every year.
To improve the quality of many of my shots, I carried around a single strobe inside a 24 inch soft box on a really lightweight stand.
I had the strobe manually set to 1/4 power, and set my camera accordingly to have the strobe about 2 meters away from the subject.
Knowing this, I could simply park my stand wherever, and catch much better lit subjects, like this reproduction of a WW2 uniform.
The really great thing about this kind of setup is once you set your light, it doesn't really matter where you shoot from. I shot this fellow full length and up close and personal, and I didn't have to change the settings on either my light, or my camera.
The final result is my floor shots, which would have normally had all the ambiance of a school gymnasium, instead had great directional light, and I could create drama and much more interesting shots.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
These social mediums are great ways to make contacts and for causal communication to keep your customers and potential customers in the loop with what you're doing and what you can offer them.
There's a dark side to this though, not only can the customers see the positive things you can do, they can also see the negative things you do, those hidden actions that give away your true intent. This morning on Facebook, for example, I got two notices that a couple aspiring local photographers I know have joined this Fan Group.
I was kind of flabbergast at the idea, as one of them works at a retail photographic store here in town and has marked not only myself, but multiple other professional photographers in town as friends, meaning we all see exactly what they now think of the customers that they serve, which isn't very flattering.
Some time ago, a 'new idea' started making the rounds in the world of big business, a concept commonly referred to as 'the waiter rule'. Loosely summarized, the idea is that if you're out to dinner with a customer or vendor, and they treat the waiting staff poorly, then this is probably a person who you may not wish to do business with. The logic is that everyone puts their best foot forward when they want to impress someone, but when they think no one is looking their true nature comes out, and someone who is disrespectful to serving staff will be disrespectful to you when you're not looking.
Back to the groups within Facebook and other social network sites, these particular items are much like a digital date, you get to see what your potential business associate is like when they let their guards down. Certainly, if you have a consultation meeting with the client, they'll be on best behavior, but if you have skeletons in your closet (Halloween reference) on your online presence, well, customers may not be so keen to work with you.
Granted, this particular group is a little less offensive, and anyone who has worked retail, or food service, knows that it can be a very trying experience, but this is no secret to anyone. Revisiting it regularly, and in particular participating in publicly mocking or complaining about it casts a poor light on you as a person, and a glaringly bad light on you if you're trying to market yourself. It demonstrates to the customers that you're only going to be as professional as you need to be, and beyond that you don't feel a need to care.
There are worse groups to join than this one, anyone on Facebook sees them come up from time to time, groups that actively promote hate, distrust, arrogance and social discord, but for the sake of professionalism in this blog I'm not linking to any of those.
The next issue that should be addressed, while I'm here speaking to the point, is netiquette. There are certain rules for posting on the net that are similar to how one communicates in a business environment. Some rules should seem obvious, but they're often ignored, and doing so may cost you credibility in your business venture. In particular, two that are most overlooked are the use of vulgarity and poor spelling.
It's pretty easy to spot the difference between a seasoned Pro online and a young passionate start-up simply by the language chosen. Professionals will keep the language conversational and upbeat, and most importantly, unoffensive. Spelling, which I struggle with, is also important, take the time to try to get it correct, at least that shows an effort to be professional. The worst thing you can do is completely ignore it in hopes that everyone out there will think you're too cool and savvy to care. Keep in mind that often your clients (particularly in Wedding photography) are getting financial help from family members, and if their aunt who has offered to pay for the photographer sees posting where you cite things in text slang an vulgarity, she may be offended or insulted and insist another more professional shooter be contracted.
In summary, online networks are great, they are inexpensive and reach far more potential customers, but they must be used with intelligence and professionalism. Keep in mind that the waiter rule works both ways, as well as the fact that because you and your friends may think it's okay to slap about vulgarity, not everyone feels the same way. These are small details, but as the saying goes - 'the devil's in the details', and ignoring these simple rules could be costing you credibility, respect, your reputation and in the long run, money.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
My first season as a professional is drawing to a close, and it's been a very good learning experience.
My work has developed a great deal, and the learning curve continues it steep grade, but not as steep as it has been.
If I have any pointers for people out there who are thinking of getting into this professionally they are:
Practice, and vary what you shoot. Taking the same kind of shots all the time hones your skills to a fine edge on that particular style, but practice other things on the side. A specialty is good to have, but you need a range to be competitive, and the broader the range the better.
Work with someone else - get on with a seasoned professional and learn from them. They've seen and done a ton of things, and they know tricks to make your life easier.
Don't get hung up on the quality of your gear - fancy expensive stuff does not equal creativity, but soaking too much money into hardware before you can be profitable is a quick road to a failed business.
Set reasonable prices that are profitable for you and fit into the budget of your clients - if you do this, both parties benefit and come out ahead in the long run.
Keep it fun - when it stops being fun and starts being work that you don't want to do, it'll show in your work. The best photographers I've had the pleasure of meeting all enjoy it, even after years of doing it.
That's about it for me for now, I have a few more projects to wrap up in the next few weeks, and then I can turn my sights on next year, which is already starting to shape up to be another productive and fun season.