Category Archives Guest Blogger

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Photo by Justin Bettman

surviving as a freelancer

I’ve been working surviving as a freelance artist since 2010.

I attended Kutztown University and was enrolled in their Electronic Media program. Going into my final semester at Kutztown, with 12.5 credits remaining to graduate, I had (what I thought was) my ‘golden ticket’ to becoming a true freelancer.

I can remember the night like it was yesterday. I was in upstate New York filming a live concert for a singer-rapper duet on my winter break. I got a phone call from one of the artist’s managers who was also a film director/producer in Texas. He offered me an opportunity to direct/film a behind-the-scenes documentary that was going into production that April, which happened to overlap with finals at school. After returning from New York, I approached my professors about the opportunity and they insisted that I should take a leave of absence from the university to pursue my dreams.

At 21, getting my professors approval to just leave school and being offered $15,000 to shoot a documentary without a degree, gave me this overwhelming sense of entitlement. Not good, considering my work at the time didn’t show that kind of value.

That was the death of my life as a college student.

After filling out the paperwork to take my leave of absence, it became a waiting game. The waiting game then became a game of cold calls and being ghosted by the producer that was offering me this once in a lifetime opportunity.

This was single handedly the best lesson I learned as a freelance artist. Sometimes, the only person you can trust is yourself.

The film never ended up going into production.

I spent the following year refusing to go back to school, but instead trying to make a way for myself, and ‘survive as a freelancer’ without a typical day job. I did a lot of free work that year, slept in my car and on a lot of my friend’s couches. It was not glamorous.

SWADE – Highway 27 // Music Video (contains strong language)

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Behind the scenes of SWADE “Highway 27” video

When you’re first getting started, sometimes you need to do free work just to get your name out there and let people know that you exist. There is a time and place for everything. It would be foolish to expect $15,000 without a single completed project to your name. Do you see where I’m going with this? I played the fool. I played the fool and learned a lot from it. So instead, I made it a point to get as much work under my belt as possible to a point where I could put a demo reel together and give people a reason to pay me to do work for them.

During that time, with the evolution of DSLR cameras, I was able to shoot both videos and photos. So I thought it would be wise to really attack both fields with full force. I would offer to shoot wedding videos, wedding photos, music videos, band promotional photos, concerts, senior portraits, commercials, and just about anything and everything that could be done with a camera. I didn’t consider myself a specialist in one particular field or another, in actuality; I was quite mediocre at all of them.

Exactly one year after I left school, I was approached by an agency that wanted to hire me for a freelance job in Indonesia. That opportunity is what truly got me started as a “freelancer.” The company I was hired to do work for was Mars Chocolate (M&M’s – Snickers – Twix – Skittles), and this gig in particular was a 9-day job; with 6 days of flying, 3 days on the ground filming.

Regardless how qualified or unqualified you think you may be, if people are approaching you to do work for them, you’re qualified.

After a successful trip to Indonesia, I continued to do freelance work for Mars for another year and a half, and I learned so many invaluable lessons during my time with them.

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Stills from upcoming BROTHER CEPHUS “New York” music video

A common belief in freelancing is that there are rainy seasons and dry seasons. I don’t believe in the latter, in fact, as a freelance artist, the second there is a “dry season” – I think you’ve given up on yourself. There is and always will be opportunities out there for you, and they can be paid or unpaid. Unpaid doesn’t mean you’re not getting anything out of it. Those unpaid jobs will likely give you opportunities to show your value, open other doors, and give you the chance to network. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, “Give value. Give value. Give value. And then ask for business.”

The work with Mars slowed down, but I refused to let that slow me down. If there is one piece of advice that I could give to any aspiring freelancer/freelancer, it would be to have some stability in your life. By stability, I mean financial stability.

It is extremely uncommon for someone that’s just breaking into the freelance market to be able to make a living and survive as a freelancer, myself included. What I’ve seen work best is to have and maintain a stable 9 to 5 job in a field that you love and that you’re passionate about, and pick up freelance jobs outside of that. The goal, if things go well, is that you will be able to transition into being a full-time freelancer. One thing you have to understand is that it won’t happen overnight.

Sacrilege right? Working a full-time desk job in order to do freelance work? Well, that’s exactly what I did, and it’s one of the best career decisions I’ve made.

LIMBS – Behind The Scenes // Photo & Video

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Behind the scenes on set of upcoming LIMBS music video

I moved from Pennsylvania to Michigan and started working full time at the University of Michigan as a videographer, photographer, and editor. That job afforded me the stability I needed to pay for my everyday expenses, like rent, electric, phone bills, and groceries. Consequently, I was able to be selective with the clients I was choosing to work with and it also gave me the headspace to be a little more creative with the projects I was working on.

I was no longer stressed about getting a gig, finding new clients, or even surviving. Without the life or death pressure, it allowed my freelance business to grow more organically. Client’s were finding me and approaching me, instead of me searching for jobs in desperation. You can stop chasing the money, but instead focus on following your heart and the things you WANT to create.

After years of freelancing, I’m still working a 9 to 5, but now in Tampa, Florida. I moved here blindly, not knowing much about the area or the people here. I did everything I could to dive into the community and into the culture here in hopes that I could create a name for myself, and my work.

It may sound silly, but one thing I chose to do was to challenge myself to post at least 1 photo a day to my Instagram account for 365 days starting December 23, 2015. This was one way I was hoping to get connected with the community and start networking. By taking and posting photos each day, I was able to curate a lot of photos from the St. Pete/Tampa area and turn around and sell them at a local market in Tampa. By selling prints and canvases at the market, it allowed me to network and create relationships with a lot of makers and doers in the area.

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Stills from upcoming commercial “UNDER” for an eyewear company

As a freelancer, networking is everything.­­­ So many doors opened from that single action of putting my work out there. Challenge yourself, take some risks, and let people know you exist.

You can see more of Dan’s stills and motion work on his website and YouTube channel, and follow him on Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

Mouldy Plum Cake

Today, I would like to invite you to a journey through the surreal photomontages I create to confuse people…

Buy Your Tickets Now

Terrace Guilt

Teach Doctors

Behind The Scenes

All the photos I use in my compositions are from my own portfolio (holidays, trips, family, friends, myself), except from a few space images I took from Google (like planet Earth and galaxies). My method of work is quite random; I have all these pictures I took and I try to combine them in a cool, surreal way. I especially love creating images that distort the actual sizes of things, for instance my miniature mum waterskiing in a coffee cup…

Slide To Unlock

…and my cousin skateboarding on a miniature Switzerland (where I’m from).

Circling Anchor

 I also love playing with the materiality of things, i.e. my white towel becomes the foamy waves of a seashore…

Department Of Radiology

The real world appears finite to me, whereas the surreal world is infinite, has so much more potential, is so much more fascinating!

Stale Sheep

Empty The Bins

My ultimate aim is to create the perfect optical illusion. I have to say I would not be able to do it without Adobe Photoshop, which I have been learning how to use throughout the years.

Thumbnail Office

The 8th Extinction

In the process of creating my photomontages, I have absolutely no idea how the final composition will be read. My work is open to all interpretations. Like I said before, I almost randomly juxtapose images; and my aim is to create an illusion, not necessarily a feeling. But I love how people feel something different for each image. I am often asked why I choose such random titles for my artworks; and the answer is to confuse people even more. I believe it doesn’t make sense to give a descriptive title to a surreal artwork, because the latter means something different for every single person.

Irreducible Markov Chain

Customs Regulations

Godfather's Candle

You can see more of Monica’s work at MofArt.wordpress.com, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

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Thanks, as always, to Scott for having me back…whether I’m popping up in member-only events, recording courses or writing here, I always enjoy access to Photoshop’s most passionate and knowledgeable users (you guys teach me at least as much as I teach you – thank you).

In just days, I’ll see many of you at Photoshop World in Las Vegas! This month marks my 17th year at Adobe; anniversaries are a reflective time, especially for a sentimental fool like me. During that time, I’ve been to more Photoshop Worlds than I can count – for over a decade, I’ve visited regularly as an instructor, keynote speaker and attendee. Like releases of Photoshop, the memories all sort of blend together…but they’re all remembered with a smile.

The industry has changed a lot over the years: from film to digital; from desktop to laptop; from applications that were once individual, separate islands, to a deeply connected creative universe. Photoshop World has changed quite a bit too, social media connects and informs attendees and shares the experience with those who can’t be there. In many ways, Photoshop World represents the Creative Cloud Photography Plan, as courses are the ultimate boot camp for not only Photoshop, but Lightroom too…and increasingly, the growing body of apps and services which connect them. With more ways to capture images than ever before and a more affordable and flexible inroad to editing, it isn’t a surprise that I meet attendees both older and younger than in years prior – I love that we all have so much in common.

This year, I’m thrilled to teach a combination of my favorite courses. I’ll start with a full session on Photoshop Mix, our free, mobile app which allows you to create powerful composites, wherever you are. Even exploring all of Mix’s hidden tricks, I’m sure to have plenty of extra time, so that’s just some of what I’ll showcase on mobile – there’s a LOT more.

Mix

My next course is a deep-dive on the Creative Cloud Photography Plan, not only is this the best deal going, but the offering has grown far beyond just Photoshop+Lightroom.

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For many years I’ve taught a course on black & white in Lightroom and Photoshop, this too has expanded to mobile apps and third party solutions.

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Last, I’ll teach my favorite course, highlights from the Photoshop Playbook. The Playbook is a year-long series that I recorded, designed to solve problems quickly; with millions and millions of views, it’s proven very popular…this link is both a great preview and resource.

So, as you can imagine, I’m more excited than ever for Photoshop World. I love that so many people are able to enjoy photography and creative imaging. For all that changes, my favorite part about the show is the people…so whether I’m fielding questions for a large group, having a hallway chat or enjoying my breakfast with Scott…the conversations always lead to fixes, features, insights and understanding.

See you in Las Vegas!

-Bryan

Bryan O’Neil Hughes is Adobe’s Head of Outreach & Collaboration, closely working with product teams, partners & press. Bryan spent fifteen years on Photoshop, a decade as Product Manager (CS3-CC) & then drove the expansion to mobile with Photoshop Mix & Fix. Bryan is a regular keynote speaker, author & 5X MAX Master – his videos have enjoyed over 12 million views. He lives with his wife & two boys in the Santa Cruz Mountains, where he’s slowly restoring an old truck. Bryan was inducted into the Photoshop Hall of Fame in 2011. You can follow him on Instagram and reach out to him at bhughes@adobe.com.

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Hi! It’s Justin Wojtczak of 375 Photography Inc., from Atlanta, Georgia.  I work with my partner Justin McGough, and we are commercial wedding photographers. I am also an instructor for KelbyOne.

Before I get started talking about how we use drones in our work, let me get a couple of things out of the way up front:

  1. We are responsible drone pilots. No need to say anything more about what you should and should not do.
  2. We take the safety of others seriously.

So, now that we’ve got that out of the way – we love drones! And who doesn’t? Having this amazing tool in our Creative Toolbox is another way for us to get creative and offer our clients phenomenal shots! So we wanted to share with you some ways we are taking advantage of drones, as well as give you some insights from what we have learned.

Weddings
Using a drone at a wedding is a very difficult balancing act. You certainly want to take things to the next level, but you also want to be mindful of the safety of others. So let’s break down this shot:

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We shot a wedding down in the Dominican Republic and it was out of this world! When I found out months beforehand that the ceremony was going to be on a pier, I knew I had to bring the drone. I spent months thinking about how to get the kind of shot I wanted to get, and developed a general idea and plan. But after a couple of practice flights the day before the wedding, I had a completely different vision.

Did you notice how the sun hit the palm trees? I did too, and knew I wanted that to be my shot. Because the ceremony only lasted 8 minutes I had to make a decision on whether or not to risk getting the shot. I knew we were down in the DR (a unique opportunity), the drone would be over water (so if it crashed no one would get hurt), but more than anything, the bride really wanted it. Would it be worth it?

YES!

So before the ceremony I took one more test flight to make sure I knew the extract controls and maneuvers I needed to get everything in one shot. As the ceremony started, I had one camera rolling video, my wife taking pictures, and I picked up with my drone. It was already powered on and ready, so there was no delay, and I ran to my take off spot and got the shot in 57 seconds. I landed the drone, secured it, and rushed back to the ceremony on the pier.

A couple of quick observations: first, be sure to communicate with the bride and groom your vision of using the drone during the ceremony so they understand and expect the noise of the drone. Secondly, you need to have another shooter to make sure that the ceremony is covered, because it would be bad if you got drone footage but missed an important part of the ceremony.

To recap, balance the next level shot with the safety of others, and figure out what you need to beforehand. This turned out to be a great shot because the bride and groom were so blown away by the result.

Best Time to Use
We love using the drone footage to augment our snapshot videos.

(Wait, what is a snapshot video you ask?  It is a combination of video and stills highlighting the best parts of the client’s day. We are teaching a course at Photoshop World this year called Snapshot Videos: Creating Small Videos that Create Large Opportunities. This is an amazing class on how these snapshot videos have generated some crazy opportunities for us…but you’ll have to come to PSW to find out more!)

So, as I was saying, we use the drone to add value to the footage we already have. Here are a few times during a typical wedding day that we like to use a drone:

 

– Intro shot for the snapshot video
– B-roll
– Stunning shots of the couple
– Exit shot to end the video

We’ve also found that drones are unbelievable tools when working with golf courses. The aerial footage really allows us to gain a new perspective of each course. In fact, one of the ways we’ve developed relationships with several courses is by building a relationship with the wedding coordinator when we shoot a wedding at a country club. Once that relationship is built, we can give them a sample of what we can do for that club for their marketing material. Showing a country club from a different perspective is very attractive for the club managers.

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And that’s a great tip: Don’t be afraid to be proactive and be on the hunt for potential new clients. Get comfortable with putting yourself out there, because you just never know what opportunities you might generate.

Okay, final recap:

Drones add a huge value to our work!!  In fact, just having a drone has brought us jobs. But what sets us apart is how we use it. Here are three things we do to help make our footage stand out:

  1. We take time to build a relationship with our clients and invite them to watch us while we capture footage. We get excited when we shoot and that excitement carries over to the client, especially when they connect the emotions from that moment with the footage we provide.
  2. We set ourselves up for the best possible light.  Having an amazing sunrise will make any project look even more amazing than it already is. We plan very carefully so we can capture that golden light as much as possible. Sometimes things don’t work out, but that’s okay. We’ve learned to stay calm, be flexible, and do our best to still get dramatic footage. Even if you have to come back, it will be worth it in the end.
  3. A little touch of color grading.  We are not color grading experts, but we are trying to understand how to get the best results we can. Tweaking even a few settings on the drone and in post can make a significant difference (but that’s for a different post).

If you have any questions, please let us know. If you’re going to Photoshop World, be sure to check out our two classes, Snapshot Videos: Creating Small Videos that Create Large Opportunities and DSLR: Video Basics for Photographers. Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

You can see more of Justin’s work at 375Photography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and check out his videos on Vimeo!

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Photo by Nadra Farina-Hess

It’s good to be back here on Scotts’ blog. Thanks Scott and Brad. Photoshop World is fast approaching, and this year I’m thrilled to be presenting on Night and low Light Photography and Concert Photography. I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss an aspect of concert photography that those not in the business probably don’t even know about, and that is the Photo Release we are often asked to sign before photographing the band.

If I ruled the world and made up the rules, there would be no photo releases, but sadly (for me) I don’t rule the world (yet) and these releases are a part of doing business. Let me walk you through the typical steps involved with shooting a concert. I am going to talk about the recent 91X-Fest as an example because it is the perfect example of all the types of releases we get to deal with.

The Young Wild performs at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
91X-Fest lineup t-shirt on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA

The 91X-Fest is the summer concert by the local radio station, and I have been photographing it for a variety of outlets for the last few years. This year I was covering the event for the radio station but since the actual concert was put on by Live Nation at a Live Nation venue, I still had to go through the local Live Nation representative to get permission to shoot the individual bands. I emailed my request to shoot the show, stating who I was shooting it for, and what the images would be used for.

The Frights perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
The Frights perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
SWMRS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
SWMRS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA

There were 11 bands on the schedule, and the local Live Nation rep would compile a list of all the photography requests, contact the bands and get approvals, then get back to the photographers and let them know when said yes and who said no. The local rep was also in charge of sending out and collecting the signed photo releases for the bands that had them. The photo release is a form that stipulates where the images can be used and how they can be used. Most times, they restrict the photo usage to the specific outlet that you site when applying for the photo pass. So for example, since I was shooting for 91X, the images would be used on the 91X websites and social media accounts. If I was shooting for a magazine, then the images would be limited to that magazine. One of the bands headlining the 91X show was The Offspring, and they had a photo release that limited the images to just the outlet I was shooting for. Here is an example of what that looks like.

91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA

The second headlining act was Cheap Trick, and they also had a photo release. Their release is what’s known as a rights grab release where they allow you to shoot the concert but for that privilege, they then expect to not only be able to use the images for free, they expect the photographer to sign over the rights to the images without compensation. That wording looks like this.

91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA

Not only does the band expect to approve each photo used, they expect copies of all the images (you can tell how long the band has been using this release by the wording as there is no mention of digital files but instead still reference negatives and transparencies. So even though I was working for the radio station that was putting on the show, I refused to sign the Cheap Trick photo release and did not shoot their set. One of the reasons that bands get away with this is that there were other photographers who were quite happy to sign the release as it meant they got to photograph the band even though they were not earning a dime from the work. I can’t think of any other job where people would be happy to work for free, then give away the rights to their work, just because of the subject matter. (Notice I said work for free AND give away their rights). It’s a crazy idea, yet as concert photographers we seem to think it’s pretty normal.

The Shelters perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
The Shelters perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
Chevy Metal perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
Chevy Metal perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
The Shelters perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
The Shelters perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA

Out of the 11 bands that performed at the 91X Fest, there were three bands with photo releases. The third band with a release was WOLFMOTHER, and their release was a first for me. It was a photo release that actually stipulated that I could use the images for self promotion, on my social media outlets provided that it was representative of my work as a whole. It also allowed the band to use the images for their social media and websites and non-commercial use. I was good with that.

The rest of the bands that day did not have any photo release at all. You can see some of the images from their sets in this blog post. So if you have wondered about the rules when photographing a concert, I hope this cleared up some things and why you don’t always see the images from the shows I shoot on my social media or website.

WOLFMOTHER perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
WOLFMOTHER perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
The Shelters perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
The Shelters perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
IRATION perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
IRATION perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
IRATION perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
IRATION perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
KONGOS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
KONGOS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
KONGOS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
KONGOS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
KONGOS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
KONGOS perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
WOLFMOTHER perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
WOLFMOTHER perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
WOLFMOTHER perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA
WOLFMOTHER perform at the 91X-Fest on June 5, 2016 at Sleep Train Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, CA

You can see more of Alan’s work at AlanHessPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram and Twitter. You can also see him live in person at Photoshop World Las Vegas on July 19 & 20!

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Two Things Photographers Can Do to Make Their Work Better
If you have an iPhone, the start of this story should sound familiar… I was having an argument with Siri. It was about trying to get Siri to play some music on my phone. After I asked Siri to play a certain artist/album combination, first without, then with, profanity, for a moment I imagined that I might never hear music again.

That got me thinking about my desert island disc (or I guess, download, these days). The one or two albums that you would want to have if you were stranded on a desert island. On the surface, it seems like a pretty easy thing to do. Just think of your favorite music/artist/album and pick. Of course, it is never that easy. Too many choices. Jazz, Blues, Rock, Indie, Hip-hop… Not to mention which artist or album.

As I sat pondering what my selections would be (at least what they would be today), I began to think about how this relates to photography. I’m lucky to be able to not only be a full-time photographer but to also have the privilege of getting to teach and mentor other photographers. In almost every workshop or class I teach, I’m asked questions that I think of as desert island photography questions. If you could only have one, which camera would it be? Other than palm trees, what would you want to photograph? What software program would you want to have? What light modifier would you want? And the list goes on.

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At one point I posed the question: “If you could only do one thing to improve your photography what would it be?” The responses are as varied as people’s taste in music. Get a new camera. Take a particular class or workshop. Get a new lens. Make more time to shoot. And the list goes on.

I’ve found that my own answer to this question hasn’t changed much over the years. It doesn’t matter if I’m teaching a Lightroom workshop or about to create images with alternative processing. These are the two things that I think every photographer can do to make their work better.

#1 Learn and Apply Lessons from Photographic History (and not just the textbook version)
I got my initial interest in photographic history researching how to print old alternative processes (wet-plate, platinum, salt, etc.). I was looking into how to combine modern digital technologies with processes that were there at the very beginning of photography.

Some of the earliest indicators of people working with a camera date back as far as 400 BC. Mozi in China and the Greek philosopher Aristotle both made references to the concept of a camera obscura. In case you aren’t familiar with such old technology, a camera obscura is the precursor to the modern camera. It is a box with a hole on one side, and as light passes through the hole, an inverted image is projected onto the back of the box. You find this same technology being used in pinhole cameras today, and this same principle is used in modern day digital cameras too.

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Photography, as most of us know, it also has its roots in France. In 1816, Nicephore Niepce successfully coated a piece of paper with silver chloride and created one of the first latent images that we would consider a photograph. Over the decades that followed, Daguerre, Fox-Talbot, and others pushed the chemistry of photography forward ushering in the age of photography. From my perspective, the biggest change was created by John Herschel. He not only coined the term photograph in 1839 and created a number of advances in photography, such as cyanotypes and the foundation of platinum printing, but he figured out how to stabilize those latent images so that they would last. By “fixing” Talbot’s and Daguerre’s processes, he made it possible to create lasting images. This process of fixing, by using hyposulfite, is why we still use the term fixer when working in the traditional darkroom to stabilize film and prints.

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From the beginning, photography has been used to tell amazing stories and record the history of everyday life. Even before George Eastman released his Brownie camera in 1900 making it easy for anyone with a spare $1 to have access to create a picture, photography was changing the way we saw the world. With an ever-increasing number of photographers with access to cameras, film, and printing supplies, the moments, objects, and people of everyday life were put in front of a lens.

We became able to capture and share amazing things and amazing moments in everyday life. Not only could we record them, but we could infinitely reproduce the captured image, which in many ways separated it from painting. Photography was really something special.

Beyond capturing the everyday, photography was, and still is, used to explore areas of culture, race, gender, and social status in ways that weren’t possible before. From the essays written by Frederick Douglass in the 1800s―who was the most photographed person of his time―on the equalizing power of photography to deal with racism and civil rights to Lewis Hines’ work with child labor issues in the 1920s to Diane Arbus’ willingness to examine the issue of mental health in the 1960s to Florian Schultz’ work on environmental issues of today, photography has allowed us to see, share, understand, and experience the world in ways we didn’t, or couldn’t have, before.

Although photography is a relatively new art, it has had immeasurable impact. When you broadly study photographic history, you learn about more than just one way of seeing. You can learn so much how photographs have been able to shape our understanding of who we are as a society. As you look at photographers from current and past times, you can see how aesthetic, social issues, storytelling, and passion all come together.

You also have a chance to expand your own understanding of how events from the past have been seen through the eyes of all the photographers of that period. Much like the rest of history, you won’t necessarily find the best of photography in popular history books. Recorded history has often glossed over or entirely ignored people because of race, culture, social status/class, gender, and so on. However, because photography as a tool is so accessible, if you take the time to look, you can find amazing photographers who have/are making a difference in all aspects of life.

Several years ago I had the privilege of getting to meet the amazing photographer Matika Wilbur. If you’ve met her, you know that she is 100 percent high octane. Matika is a Pacific Northwest photographer and member of the Swinomish and Tulalip tribes. She is working on project called 562. Matika has taken on a project of huge scale. She is photographing the people and cultures of all 562 registered Native American tribes. Her work is important for so many reasons, but in the context of history and photography, the work is even more significant. Most of the images that you have seen in history books and stories of Native Americans are images taken by Edward Curtis in the early 20th century.

Those images have—for good and for bad—shaped the stereotypes, identity, and cultural awareness of Native Americans for the past 100 years. At the core of Matika’s work are wonderful stories about Native cultures, traditions, and opportunity. Through the use of photography to educate the world with new Native-created images that aren’t 120 years old, she is able to help redefine and reshape Native cultures and the broader social culture in ways that are more relevant today. If you understand the history of the portrayal of Native American cultures in photography beyond even just Curtis’s work, you can better understand her work and its context in the broader photographic community.

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She is just one example of the thousands of photographers who have looked at the history of photography and used what they have learned to shape and direct their own work. Beyond the technical information, by digging into history we learn how photography shapes ideas and values. The history of photography re-teaches us the power of the photograph and its ability to shape how we think, what we know, and how we respond to the world around us. It always expands us when we look at those who have found a passion, and through research, dedication, and hard work are making photographs that will last long into the future.

We have to break out of looking at the same things over and over to find how all the voices of photography have shaped who we are. Look at the work of Magnum photographer Eli Reed and see who influenced him. Who did he influence? Same goes for Alec Soth, Lorna Simpson, Matika, Helen Levitt, Berenice Abbott, Stacy Pearsall, and countless others. You likely already know the work of Ansel Adams, Cartier-Bresson, Weston, Frank, and the other well-known photographers in history, but I challenge you to find the amazing photographers whose work you don’t know. Study their work. You will be surprised by what you learn.

#2 Print Print Print (Did I mention print?)
A few years ago, I was watching a movie with one of my roommates, and she said that she was going to make cookies and asked if I wanted some. I love fresh-baked cookies, so I was like “Oh HELL yeah!” Ten minutes later she walked into the living room, handed me a spoon with cookie dough on it, and said “Here’s your cookie.” With a blank look and totally confused, I said “Uh, this is cookie dough. Not a cookie.” She said “Same thing!” and proceeded to eat a bowl of cookie dough. In my world, cookies are like photographs: if they aren’t baked, they aren’t done.

For me, the print is the photograph. It is the final stake in the ground that says “This image is done. I am finished editing, changing, and adjusting.” I am willing to say that I am confident enough in the work to make an artistic commitment. Part of photography is about your commitment to sharing your way of seeing the world. Only after you capture an image, make all the edits (from none to full-on compositing), and are willing to say that the image is done does your way of seeing the world or being in the world become realized.

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In the old days (forever ago, like before Game of Thrones, Facebook, and fancy Greek yogurt), if you weren’t shooting slide film, you had to print. It was the only way to see the positive version of the negative. However, as digital became the norm, we moved to images being on the screen. In that transition, amazing tools have come along that allow us to make never-ending changes to the negatives. Some of those changes might be small and others huge but this transition also allows us to experience our work without having to ever be done with it. We never have to put a stake in the ground. It never requires that we commit to being done enough to create a physical object.

Now you might be thinking “Daniel, I don’t print because my work IS digital. It is my way of being in the world.” That’s great, and I would still postulate that printing on occasion will help you see behind the camera better, understand color better, understand composition better, and help you understand how others might see your work. It is a big piece of the feedback loop that tells you how you are doing behind the camera.

Another reason to print is that when we work with tangible arts, we respond differently than we do photons and electrons. The brain relates to the information in the print differently than on the screen. We see differently. This is no different from any other art form. It is always a different experience to stand in front of a Monet or Van Gough than to look at a reproduction. Photographs are no different. As photographers, we are all about seeing, and seeing differently can help push you forward.

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When you print an image, you can look at it up close and from far away. You can see how it looks under different light. You will start to see things that you didn’t see in the digital file. Relationships between objects and subjects. How color shifts across hues and tones. When you are not worried about hi-pass filters, noise reduction, and masking, what do you actually look at first in an image? How does your eye move around the frame?

When you have to look at an image that you can’t immediately edit, it requires you to really think about what is working and not working rather than just reacting. Having a print allows you to see the same image over and over again over time. The image isn’t lost with the closing of a window. The more time you spend with the image, the more it will teach you. In this way photographs are superior to cookies because they never last.

Getting to look at your images at the actual size you imagine is another advantage of printing. I work on 27-inch monitors (13×23-inch screen size). I am limited to seeing my images at that size. Printing allows me to experience the images at the size that I imagine. I can’t fit that 24×26-inch image on the screen.

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Printing also forces you to think about how you want your images to be seen and experienced. Do you like a matte paper or luster paper? What does the paper do to the saturation of the colors? How are gradients shown? What does the texture of the paper do to your feelings about the image? What if you print the image big? What about small? How big should the border be? How white should the paper base be? All of these issues matter in how your audience will ultimately experience your image.

Printing also ensures that the image looks exactly how you want it to look. If you have ever sent an image off and looked at it on another computer screen, you know what I’m talking about. You do not get to control the brightness, contrast, or calibration of someone else’s monitor. Things can go wrong in a hurry. Think about how much your monitor shifts when you calibrate your own monitor, and imagine monitors that have never been calibrated. After you get your final print, you don’t ever have to worry about the print going out of calibration.

You might be thinking that it costs too much to print. I can tell you that at a place like Mpix, Bay Photo, or Costco, an 8×10 print is about $3. That means that for the price of that new $1500 camera you can get something like 500 prints. I can promise you that you will become a 1000% better photographer by looking at and learning from what you see in those 500 prints than you will working with a new camera and creating the same errors over and over again.

So there you have it. My two desert island tips for photographers. Print your work. Commit to finishing the work. Learn your history. Not just the textbooks, but really learn everything about the photography you love. If you love street work, find every street photographer and learn from them. It doesn’t matter what type of photography you love: if you study beyond textbooks, you will fall more deeply in love with it.

Thanks to Scott and Brad for allowing me to come back and do another guest blog post. It’s always fun to get to be a part of such a great community. If you are heading out to Photoshop World (and why wouldn’t you?), I’d love to see you in one of my classes. Or just stop and say Hi. Hope to see you in July.

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Oh, and assuming that Siri and I ever get our differences worked out, the music will be some Miles Davis and the Beatles.

Editor’s Note:  there are still a few spots available in Daniel’s Photoshop World workshop: Hands-On Portfolio Prep.  In this workshop, you’ll have one-on-one time with Daniel where he’ll help guide you in discovering your own motivations for selecting what you photograph and why. You’ll also learn how to sequence your photos for the best possible presentation of your images.

Daniel j Gregory is a Whidbey Island, Wa based fine-art photographer and educator who often creates images using modern digital tools and historical processes. You can see more of his work at DanielJGregory.com, listen to his podcast The Perceptive Photographer on iTunes, his KelbyOne class Visual Literacy, and follow him on Twitter and Instagram. You can also see him live in person at Photoshop World in Las Vegas from July 18-21!

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