Posts By Brad Moore

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Hey there everyone! Big thanks to Scott for sharing the blog with me today, and for Brad for putting up with my constant delays in turning this in.

I’m not sure if you knew or not, but I’ve recently set out on my own. It’s the first time in my 43 years that I’ve been self-employed, and it’s been a wild ride so far. I can only imagine what the future holds. If you want to read more about it, I did a whole post over on my blog.

But today, I wanted to share with you a new series of stories I’ve been writing. It’s called “Photography Lessons for My Mom.” Basically, my mom has taken up photography over the last couple of years, and helping her along the way has been really enlightening for me.

By the way, these lessons aren’t in a specific order. I’m just writing them as they happened while I was helping my mom. Here goes:

Lesson 1 – How To Learn Your Camera

My mom had mentioned she wasn’t comfortable shooting because she didn’t know what she should have her camera set to and was getting confused by all of the settings. So we sat down and I taught her the camera, the same way I’d teach someone Photoshop. Just as I’d never teach someone just starting out in Photoshop about Curves or Calculations, I’d never tell my mom to worry about rear-curtain flash sync, or focus-peaking. Rather, I just spent that time showing her the basic things I thought she’d need to get out there and shoot.

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But here’s the catch, and this was my advice for her. She mentioned that it’d be hard to remember all of those settings, and that every time she goes out and shoots, she forgets them and where they’re at. My advice was this…

“Mom…You bought a professional piece of camera equipment. You purposely did not buy a simple point-and-shoot, and you want something with more creative control than your iPhone. But you can’t expect to master that complicated piece of equipment by going out and shooting once or twice a month.”

As we talked, I let her know there were two ways she could get better at moving around in the menus, and knowing her camera:

  1. Get out and shoot more. There’s no substitute for practice.
  2. However… shooting more really isn’t an option for her because she’s busy. So, I offered another tip. Sit down with your camera every day for 2-3 weeks for a few minutes. Go through the menus and settings that you use a lot. I promise you, that at the end of those two weeks, you’ll feel so comfortable with your camera that you won’t think twice about changing settings the next time you go shoot.

Lesson 2 – Just Shoot!

Next lesson… So, a few weeks later when I asked my mom if she had gone out shooting she said “Well, not lately… I’m going to try to practice these settings more, and maybe in a month or so I should be ready”.

That response really hit home to me because I hear it from a lot of people. It seems a lot of people own really good photography gear, but are almost afraid to use it. They think they’re missing something, and that studying more will help.

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Obviously I disagree. I don’t care where she focusses, I don’t care what ISO she has the camera set to, I don’t care if she shoots it at f/4 or f/22, or what metering mode she has, or if she’s shooting HDR brackets and all of that crap. All of that stuff is nice-to-know extras, that we all let get in the way of the most important thing – shooting. Get your camera to a good place, and shoot!

Why My Mom’s Situation Really Impacted Me?

Here’s a little back story to why this really impacted me, and I’d never even told my mom this story before that day on the phone. When I was a teenager, I played the guitar. I started when I was about 10-11 or so, and fell in love with it. I took lessons every week for years. I had 2 of the best guitar teachers in the state of NJ at the time. They’d literally spend hours with me each week. I sucked up information as fast as they’d give it out.

Like many photographers I meet, I became obsessed with the “technical” details of music. When most of my friends who picked up the guitar were just jamming away to Van Halen, Motley Crue, and Ozzy Osbourne (I was a kid in the 70s and early 80’s), I was studying music theory. I knew every scale, every chord, up down, left and right. I became an expert at the “technical” part of playing the guitar.

But one thing I never did was to create. I never created anything. I was afraid. I always thought I wasn’t ready to make music, so I just played other people’s music, and read/practiced the technical stuff (scales, chords, etc.). My friends would take their tape recorders and just play rock rhythm chords to them for 5 minutes. And then they’d play it back and just jam over it. Eventually they got really good at “creating.” I was jealous. I always felt that I “knew” more than them about music, and theory and all that techie stuff. But they were better than me.

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So why didn’t I do the same thing as them? I always thought I didn’t have the right equipment to lay one audio track on top of the other. I always thought I didn’t have the right amp, or effects pedal. I always thought I didn’t know enough about the song, or what scale to play in, or the music theory behind the song to really make anything that was my own.

Friends would ask me (much like other photographers may ask you to go shooting), to bring my guitar over and just jam out and play. I never did. Even though I knew I was good, I never felt good enough to actually go and “create” with them.

As a result, I eventually stopped playing. I lost interest because I got tired of not knowing enough to get good (or at least what I thought “good” was). I never created anything, and eventually I wasn’t interested in just playing other people’s songs so I dropped out of playing the guitar.

Lesson 3 – Stop Having GAS

I haven’t written about this one yet, so I’m debuting it here. My next lesson for my mom is to stop having GAS. I know, it’s not an easy thing for a 43 year-old son to say to his slightly-older-than-him mother. Oh, and in case you’re wondering what GAS is, it’s an acronym for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. Basically, it’s the feeling (and action) of a constant need for more gear. That some how, gear is what’s holding you back.

For a while, my mom was texting me all the time with questions of whether she needs this lens, or this filter, or this something-or-other. Where’d she get it from? Most likely her friends. She belongs to a camera club, where you have all different levels of experience and budgets. I can totally see how it happens, right? I mean, if you’re like me and you get a piece of gear the you love, what do you do? I know I go around telling people, “OMG! I love this new lens!” But I’m not necessarily thinking that they may not shoot what I shoot, or have a need for it. And so the cycle begins.

As an example, my mom came to me and asked me if she should buy a macro lens. First off, I have one and I told her she could use it anytime (for $100 that is) ;-)

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What I explained to her was that before going out and buying something new, borrow it if you can. Or make do with what you have for a little while longer. But don’t buy anything new until it becomes prohibitive not to own it. Until you get to the point where you know your photo was held back by not having that macro lens.

I also explained to her that many of the photos she was looking at were close ups, and could have been taken with her 24-240mm zoom lens with the right settings and composition. But the most important part about it, was to show her that the gear was not holding her back. In just about every situation she asks me about, I can almost guarantee you that she already has the gear she needs.

Thanks Mom!

I mentioned in the beginning that it has really been an eye opening experience for me. It’s changed the way I teach because I realize so many other people have the same questions that my mom does. So… thanks mom!

And thanks to all of you for stopping by to read my post today. If you like this article and want to follow up on the series, head on over to my website. While I post all the time, the best thing to do is just sign up for email updates, and I usually send them out every couple of weeks so you don’t have to keep checking back.

See ya!
– Matt Kloskowski

You can see more of Matt’s work at MattK.com, and follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

How to Remove Distractions in Adobe Photoshop with Scott Kelby
Don’t let distractions ruin good photographs! Join Scott Kelby for a class devoted to teaching you how to remove all of those distracting elements from your photographs. Whether it is unwanted bright spots in the background, power lines stretching across a sky, walls covered in graffiti, stray hairs on a portrait, or too many tourists in your landscape (to name a few), Scott has a technique to save the day. This class is designed to start you off with an introduction to the essential tools you’ll need inside of Photoshop, and then each lesson that follows is a project unto itself that demonstrates a wide range of techniques you can add to your skill set. You can even download the project files and follow along. Even if you’re familiar with some of the tools, Scott has included all kinds of little tricks he’s picked up over the years to help you get the job done faster than ever before.

In Case You Missed It
Don’t let bad weather ruin your next photo shoot. Learn how to make great photographs with Joe McNally, internationally acclaimed photographer, as he calls upon his years of on-location experience to give you the tips and tricks you need to get the job done in a variety of locations and uncooperative weather. Joe starts by introducing the gear he takes with him on location and then walks you through his process of making the most of whatever nature has in store at each unique destination.

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SEE LIKE A DANCER…
Many moons ago, I met a gorgeous young ballet dancer during rehearsals for a stage play. Naturally, as a young man myself, I tried my very best to impress her, showing off my (what I thought to be excellent) dance photography. She quickly glanced over my shots, a polite “hm” and “oh-key” here and there. Bottom line: She was far less impressed than I had hoped.

Since that day in February 1997, my ignorance (you may call it youthful arrogance) has given way to grey hair, and I’ve taken on board the many lessons I’ve learned in these 19 years. One of them is to “see like a dancer.”

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Of course we have to understand exposure, composition, lighting, and a bit of sharpness never hurts, but no matter what subject we photograph, the more we know about it, the better our images will be.

In sport, those who understand “the game” will be able to anticipate what happens next, where to position themselves, when and where to pre-focus, to get that “extra special” shot that others might miss. More than that, they know what moments and images will tell the finer details of the story.

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When looking back at the photos I’ve created during my time working as a sports photographer, it is clearly visible which of the sports I played myself (or at least had a good understanding of). As a boy I played tennis, private lessons and all, and as a Swiss native I followed Roger Federer’s career from the beginning. Not surprisingly, my tennis images turned out better than photos of other sports I covered. This in return allowed me to shoot higher ranked events over time, ending up accredited to shoot Grand-Slam tournaments from the sidelines.

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So – what happened to the gorgeous ballet dancer? We got married and enjoy life with two beautiful daughters in Australia. While my photography didn’t win her over initially, amazing food at a fine Italian restaurant, a bottle of red and a luscious tiramisu did the trick eventually.

Being married to a professional classical ballet dancer allowed me an insight view of the world of ballet, their training, their persistence, the good and the ugly, from endless repetition to perfect their techniques, bloody toes and training injuries to the magical ease and elegance during performances.

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As a man with two left feet myself, I was always in awe of the big jumps of dancers, their grace and balance, their beauty, strength and stamina. What I’ve learned over the years however is the fact that what impresses the layperson (me) may mean little to those who understand the finer details of what we photograph. When you look at dance photographs, do you see beauty, or do you analyse hip placement and turn out? Trust me: They do.

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ABDA Beach Photoshoot

Let’s be honest here, I’m the first to admit that I’ve been very lucky many times in my life. Sliding into sports photography, especially in an area where I actually knew what I was doing, certainly helped, and I completely understand that it is indeed difficult to gain access to the sidelines of the big sporting events. I was also more than blessed by getting married to a ballet dancer who eventually opened up her own dance academy, giving me access to photograph many amazing dancers over the years. All of this was not something you could plan for.

What you can do however is leave aperture, shutter speed, and ISO on the sidelines for a while and spend some time studying what you want to photograph. Learn the rules of the game, analyse the amazing images of those who have done it before, not to copy but to learn. If you’re just starting out, talk to the local junior sports clubs, the ballet school in your neighbourhood, ask if you could watch a few training sessions, offer free shoots, practice and learn. I don’t see it as “offering to work for free,” but “having fun at no cost” instead.

Nothing happens without effort. What happens afterwards is a question of time, passion, talent, persistence and an unpredictable whisper of luck. I certainly wish you all the above.

Layla Burgess

You can see more of Stephan’s work at StephanBollinger.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Camera Essentials: Nikon D500 with Larry Becker
Get the most out of your Nikon D500! Join Larry Becker as he walks you through the important things you’ll want to know about your new D500. This is not a class for seeing every menu option and obscure function, but instead Larry focuses on the things you need to know to get the camera to do what you want it to do, as if a good friend was showing you how. You’ll learn the basics of navigating the buttons and dials, how to access various shooting modes, where to find key settings, and along the way Larry shares a wealth of tips, recommendations, and insights to help you feel like a master user by the end of the class.

In Case You Missed It
If a Sony A7R II or A7S II is in your future or already in your camera bag, then this class is for you! Join John McQuiston as he gets you up to speed on everything you need to know to get started on the right foot with your camera. From getting oriented to all of the buttons and dials to changing exposure settings, and from explaining the focus modes to how to shoot video, John steps through the features and functions you need to know, while explaining its purpose and showing you how it’s done.

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The Good, The Bad, and The Great – How To Vet Your Clients In Order To Save Your Time, Your Sanity, and Your Career

I don’t think there is a moment associated with as many jumbled emotions in a creative’s career as the first time you tell a potential client, “No thanks, I’m going to have to pass on this assignment.”

On one hand, we want to work, shoot, and create. But on the other hand, we want our relationships with clients to be positive experiences that move our career goals forward and leave us feeling valued and respected – allowing us to make a living without bringing unnecessary stress into our lives (or in the case of some truly toxic clients, waking nightmares.)

Some clients are a dream come true – they value your contribution to their projects, are enthusiastic to work with you, have similar communication styles to yours, and are eager to pay your rates because they understand the inherent value of what you do for them. These clients are rare and beautiful – so hold on to them when they come along.

Most other clients are just fine. You may have a hiccup here and there along the road, but for the most part they act in good faith, are easy to communicate with, and are open to resolution when misunderstandings or disagreements do arise. With a good process in place that establishes realistic client expectations you will have no trouble dealing with clients like this throughout your career.

But there are some clients you should run from – the ones who devalue your work/process, overstep the boundaries you set in your professional relationships, make unrealistic demands based on unrealistic expectations, operate in bad faith, and drive you crazy with little to no rewards. There’s an old saying about “the clients who cause 90% of your problems will generate 10% of your income.”

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The simple fact is that most photographers get so excited by the prospect of even being offered an assignment that they rarely stop to think if the assignment is something that will be helpful or harmful to their careers in the long run. This lack of foresight is why you see photographers excitedly start relationships with toxic and in some cases abusive clients for little more reason than they are offering work (and in the worst cases, those photographers will end up working for these clients for free – either through getting on board the free work carousel or by plain being stiffed on payment.)

You need to put a system into place for identifying which types of clients and projects are the right ones for you. This system should be integrated into your client research/on-boarding process, be data driven, and based on key attributes and values that are important to you in a client. Some things that you may look for in a great client are:

  • Enthusiasm for working with you and your specific style
  • Trust in you and your skills
  • An understanding of what you offer that leads to them understanding its value
  • Responsive to questions about project specifics
  • Their deadline is one that will allow you to do your best work in the time allowed
  • An understanding of how your rates correlate to your output
  • An understanding of the goals of their own project
  • A realistic understanding of their budget
  • Are verbal and written communicators

A client who possesses many of these attributes is highly likely to be a dream client, while one who does not (or even exhibits the opposite tendencies) is one that, at best, may require a great deal of education and, at worst, may be a client you should be hesitant in working with.

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Another important skill to develop is learning to recognize red flags in how your potential clients communicate. A few months ago when I was developing Project Prescription For Photographers with Shauna Haider and Paul Jarvis we focused a lot on what data points and warning signs one could identify in client behavior to help them decide if the client was a good fit or not – and this became the core of our client evaluation module, a data-driven scorecard of sorts for photographers to use internally when deciding if they should work with a new client. Here are just a few of the major red flags we identified and what they could signify.

Have they at any point in your relationship used the phrase “We can’t pay you, but…”
I’m not a fan of working for free, except with a select group of non-profits where I truly believe in the organization’s mission and WANT to donate my time to it (mostly animal rescues these days), and never because of a vague promise of future work or credit. This is one of the easiest and most visible warning signs of a client who needs photography but simply does not value it (or you). And the worst part is that once you work with a client like this, they will have a tendency to call again and again – often increasing the scope of the free work and breeding further resentment over time that can lead to a very toxic relationship.

Have they asked you to provide prices before outlining the scope of the project?
While not always a deal-breaker, these clients have a tendency to see all photography as one-size-fits-all arrangements. You will often receive inquiries from them that are accompanied by almost zero information and followed by an immediate request for a price. These clients tend to be focused on price rather than value, service, and results.

Do they make a lot of “just” or “only” statements?
Clients will often use statements that include the words “just” and “only” as a means of devaluing their own needs as a means of getting you to lower your rates. Classic example phrases include “We JUST need a few portraits,” or “We JUST need you to shoot for an hour or two,” and “We are ONLY using them for social media.” By creating the sense that they don’t value the assignment/usage themselves you may be more inclined to assign less value to the work they are requesting when assembling your estimate.

Are they asking you to do work way outside of your specialty/comfort zone?
You likely have a goal in mind regarding the type of work you want to be shooting – and while they may be offered out of good intentions, not all assignments will move you towards that goal. For example, if you want to primarily shoot portraits, it is unlikely that you will want to take on several product photography assignments (unless you have a dire need for the money) because it will divert focus away from your primary goal, provides little opportunity to develop portfolio work, and may be time better invested in marketing to relevant clients. This can also indicate the client is unfamiliar with your work and just looking for ANY photographer.

Do they respect your boundaries?
This is a huge red flag that encompasses a large scope of behaviors. In its most extreme form it may include being inappropriate/rude towards you in speech or action during your collaboration, or asking you to do things that you find unethical. And in lesser examples it could include not respecting your business hours or calling you at inappropriate times. It is very important to be vocal and firm in setting the boundaries that you expect your clients to adhere to.

Do they want you to work without a contract?
This is business 101 – never work without a contract. I would be highly suspect of any client who actively insists that you work without some kind of agreement in place that sets the terms of your working relationship.

Are they asking you to do spec work?
Block their number.

All of what I just wrote comes with a caveat – I totally understand that rent needs paying, food needs buying, and families need taking care of. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and deal with an a**hole for a while in order to take care of your responsibilities (and hopefully these will be the first clients you cut loose once your situation is more stable). But once you are in a position where you are comfortably able to turn down work when it isn’t a good fit, being picky about your clients will allow you to do all of the above with more clarity and success as your business grows.

So say it out loud right now: “Not every client is the right client for me!”

You can learn more about the entire Project Prescription system here – as well as download a free copy of our client evaluation worksheet to help you find the types of clients you are best suited to collaborate with. You can also see Luke’s work at LukeCopping.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Vimeo.

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Seize the Night: Night Photography Techniques with Gabriel Biderman
Seize the night! Join Gabriel Biderman and gain a solid foundation for creating better images once the sun goes down. In this class Gabe discusses all of the tools you’ll need, the importance of scouting locations, how to play with time and movement, and how to shoot everything from cityscapes to fireworks and start trails to moonlit landscapes. All along the way Gabe shares insightful tips, guidelines, and techniques to help you get the most out of your gear and your experience. By the end of the class you’ll be inspired to venture out and do more night photography.

In Case You Missed It
Join Dave Black for some lightpainting under the stars in Mono Lake and Bodie Ghost Town. Dave starts off with a walk through of all the gear needed for lightpainting before taking us through the importance of a site survey. Over the course of six different shoots in a variety of locations Dave shares all of the steps and settings needed to create stunning lightpainted starscapes. Each lesson is packed with tips, tricks, and lessons learned from Dave’s decades of experience. Dave is a master teacher, and his love for creating these photographs is truly infectious.

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