Category Archives Guest Blogger

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That’s Phil Barnes on the left and Brad Moore on the right. We’re Phil and Brad. We make videos.

A Look Into The Making Of Matt Wertz’s SnowGlobe Shop Videos

Most of you here know me, Brad Moore, and that I moved to Nashville earlier this year. Since coming here, one of my new ventures has taken me into the world of video. I met Phil Barnes, seen above, when we both arrived at a mutual friend’s concert with the idea of making a video for him. Rather than make two videos, I asked Phil if he wanted to work together on one, and he said yes. Through the experience of working together on this one video, we decided to team up and keep making videos together. Thus was born Phil and Brad Make Videos!

Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when we were approached by Matt Wertz, asking if we’d be interested in making some videos to help him launch his annual online holiday store, The SnowGlobe Shop. Each year, Matt launches this shop to sell some of his own merchandise, but also some other items that are made locally in Nashville. He wanted Phil and I to help tell the story behind each of the locally made products… Why he’s working with each company, the care that goes into making each product, etc.


The introduction video to The SnowGlobe Shop. This was actually the last video we made as it’s mostly made up of clips from the other six videos we created.

For each shoot, I filmed with a 70-200mm f/2.8L lens on the Canon 1DX, shooting at 60fps for slow-motion footage. Since I was shooting at 60fps, my shutter speed was at 1/125 and my f-stop and ISO varied depending on the shooting location. Phil filmed with a 24-70mm f/2.8L lens on the Canon 5D Mark III, shooting at 24fps for a cinematic feel. His shutter was at 1/50, and his f-stop and ISO also varied from on location to the next. We both shot handheld and only used available light since we had to move quickly and had limited time at each location.

Our first shoot was at ThreadCo, a startup fashion company that focuses on creating high quality closet staples at an affordable price. This was where we found our groove and dynamic for this project. I started off shooting wide, then quickly switched to shooting tight once we got into the space and realized what exactly we needed to focus on. As long as I was shooting tight and Phil was shooting wide and we stayed out of each other’s shots as much as possible, we knew we had wiggle room in the edit.

The next day of shooting was when we filmed the vast majority of the footage we used in the videos. We started the day filming with High Fancy Paper, owned by Matt’s sister Bekah, then visited Consider The Wldflwrs, Humphreys Street Coffee and Soap, and ended the day at Ranger Station Candles.

The last bit of filming was spent getting vanity shots, both video and stills, of each product. Throughout the process, Matt was also recording voiceovers for the videos, either spoken by him or one of the people involved in making each product. Once we had all of these pieces captured and created, it was time to put them together. To the edit!

Phil and I have a pretty great dynamic figured out, which allows us each to play to our strengths. I tend to be the primary shooter, then he drives the edit once we have all the footage. Once he has a pretty decent cut ready, I’ll take a look and give notes and we’ll discuss what fine-tune tweaks we need to make.

So, once we have all of our footage downloaded and backed up, we start making our way through it to find the best shots that are both visually attractive and help tell the story of how each item is created. We bring it all into Adobe Premiere Pro CC and delete the clips that are garbage, and cut and trim down the clips that aren’t.

We put the clips together in the order that made sense for the story of each item and slowed down the 60fps footage to 40% for the slow-motion effect, and also scaled it to fit the frame (the 1DX shoots 60fps at 720p, but it looks fine when scaled to 1080p). We also added in the graphics and credits at the end of each video.

Since we were working with a musician on these videos, we knew we would be using his music as the underlying track. He gave us the instrumental title track from his Snow Globe album, and we trimmed it to fit the length of each video. Once we had the voiceover for each video, we did some minor editing to take out the distracting elements (ums, breathing between sentences, etc), then added those to each project. Even once they were in Premiere, we were able to cut them and space them out to be better timed with the pace of each video.

After we got everything just right, Phil mixed and mastered the audio to make sure levels were good and, honestly… I’m not sure what all he did so I could just make up a bunch of technical stuff to sound smart, but just trust me when I say that he made everything sound great ;-)

All that was left from there was to export each one, send it to Matt, get his notes, and adjust each one accordingly! The final edits for each one are here, and I hope you enjoy them. Matt, Phil, and I all put a LOT of time and effort into making these, and I for one am pretty happy with how they turned out. I honestly can’t wait until our next project, whatever it may be.

You can see more of Phil and Brad’s work at PhilAndBradMakeVideos.com, find more of Phil’s music at PhilBarnesMusic.com, and find more of Brad’s work at BMOOREVISUALS.com.

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Photo by Conrad Meyer

Capturing the Shot of a Lifetime

On July 26, 2016, after several weeks of slowly progressing miles down from the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent on the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, lava entered the Pacific Ocean creating the world’s newest land. This was the first time in nearly three years that lava had returned to the ocean. It was a moment that I had waited oh so patiently for years on, and when it happened, the frantic search for flights began. Photographing an active volcano was the number two item on my bucket list, right under photographing the aurora borealis.

Unfortunately, money was a bit tighter than I had hoped for at the time, and with a few previously planned trips to teach, it looked like my excursion wouldn’t be able to happen for at least a month. It was an extremely hard pill to swallow. Would the lava still be flowing in a month? Would I miss capturing the shot I waited years for? Who knew, but I have always believed that everything happens for a reason and patience pays off.

In early September, I was finally able to catch a flight out to the Big Island in hopes of seeing the lava ocean entry up close and personal. During that painstaking month of waiting, I did an ample amount of research on how to safely approach the ocean entry from both land and sea. Needless to say, both were dangerous, and to be honest, I was never very good at the game “the floor is lava,” when I was a kid. There was definitely a bit of anxiety and fear on my behalf when the time came to actually head out to the lava flow.

With only three days to be able to visit the 61G lava flow, I put together a shot list of what I hoped on capturing. It was quite simple, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing like what I captured on one of my last frames out in the field. I honestly just wanted a nice long exposure of the ocean entry, a close up shot from the boat, and some sort of surface flow with a nice sunset. I wasn’t asking for much in my opinion.

On the first two days, I was able to document the lava entering the ocean from the cliffs near Kalapana, as well as from the ocean thanks to a ride from Ocean Lava Tours and Captain Shane. During those days out though, surface flows were non-existent except for a distant flow just coming down the Pulama Pali, a good couple of miles away from the ocean entry. That area was my only chance of being able to get close on foot to the lava, as any chance to get close to the surface flows going over the cliffs was impossible due to the area being closed off for safety reasons. The hike was going to be long and included crossing some areas that may still be hot from recent flows, vents with volcanic gases, and collapsed lava tubes. Needless to say, it had its risks. After consulting with some local photographers and national park rangers about the trip out there, I felt I had enough of an understanding on how to safely make the trip.

On the evening of the last day of the trip, it was go time. The trek began with a four-mile bike ride down the emergency access road from Kalapana to the ocean entry point. After that, it was another two-and-a-half mile hike across the old lava flows where with every few steps, you risked twisting an ankle or falling and getting cut (which happened several times). Once the bottom of the Pali was reached, almost all hope was lost as the lava that was seen coming down that morning, was nowhere to be found. I used a pair of binoculars to scope out the area in hopes of seeing even the smallest of red glow coming from somewhere accessible.

About fifteen minutes into searching, it happened, a small breakout about 300 yards away grabbed my eye. It wasn’t the river of lava that I was hoping for but dang it, it was lava. I quickly made my way across the terrain and when I turned the corner around an area of uplifted lava rock, I was greeted with the crackling sound and scorching heat of a slow moving surface flow. The lava, at nearly 2300ºF, was so hot that I could only stand within a few feet of it for about five seconds before the hairs on my legs would begin to singe. It was an amazing moment to see something so beautiful and powerful, right there in front of me. I began to shoot away and as daylight faded, the fiery sunset I was hoping for was nowhere to be found, as the sky was cloudless from horizon to horizon. I was left longing for a more interesting shot than just a surface flow with a blank sky.

In the world of a landscape photographer, many of us know that it is a love/hate relationship with clouds. We want clouds for that stunning sunset, but then we want clear skies for our astrophotography images. With the clear skies available for the taking, I decided that it would be nice to try and create an image with some stars above the lava. After analyzing the sky, I noticed that there was a small crescent moon off to the southwest and it was still Milky Way season, so the celestial center should be off to the south somewhere. The question on my mind though was, would the crescent moon be too close to the Milky Way and wash it out, or would it be the perfect amount of light to add a nice element to the sky while being able to retain detail in the Milky Way core?

As twilight faded, I began to set up my composition and quickly realized another issue. The surface flow in front of me was way too bright and I wouldn’t be able to properly expose for both the Milky Way and lava in one frame. As easy as it would be to shoot the image in two parts, one for the Milky Way and one for the lava, I didn’t want a blended image if I could avoid it. I decided to move away from the larger surface flow breakout and towards the area of the lava that was cooling but still had a glow from just beneath the crust. This worked out perfectly.

The lava was bright enough to show through the cracks in a vibrant red color, all the while allowing the night sky to come through beautifully. I rattled off my first frame and then encountered another problem. The glow from the larger surface flow area was too bright and was flaring my frame so badly that the image wouldn’t be useable. I was shooting on a Nikon 14-24mm lens, so there was no lens hood, which meant I had to create one myself. All I did was simply stand a few feet to the left of my lens and positioned myself until my shadow covered the front element of my lens, and boom…human lens hood.

I rattled off my second image and noticed that I needed to move just a tad further back to be completely out of my frame, but besides that, everything was technically exactly where I wanted it to be. I took note of where I should stand, triggered my timer on my camera, and then stepped into position. The shutter opened and I took in the moment. Listening to the lava crackle like Rice Krispies, the moon and Milky Way shining above, and then in the blink of an eye, I saw a meteor streak across the sky. It was too good to be true and I almost ran to my camera to see if I captured it all before the shutter closed. Thankfully, I caught myself before I moved, which would have resulted in the whole image being lost due to that evil lava flare.

When I heard the shutter close, I quickly ran over and waited for the noise reduction to render out. After what seemed to be the longest 25 seconds ever, the LCD lit up with the image and had all the elements there, perfectly tack sharp. An active lava flow glowing up from the surface, the moon shining above, the Milky Way glowing brightly, and a meteor streaking through starry night sky. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I knew I couldn’t top that shot, no matter how long I stayed out that night. So with that said, I packed up my gear and began the long seven-mile trek back.

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After posting the image online, the shot went viral. It was published all around the world, including National Geographic – Russia. With the image getting so much attention, comments and messages began rolling in questioning the reality of the image and claiming that even if it were real, there would be no way possible to capture all those elements and differences in light in one shot. Well, as the guy who melted part of his shoes off while standing as a human lens hood near 2300ºF lava, I can attest…it is 100% real and 100% possible. It simply took an understanding of light and how to work with it. Oh yeah, and a little bit of luck and dedication.

The image you see here was shot at f/2.8, ISO 2500, and 25” shutter. Basically the settings that were needed to properly expose for the night sky. For post processing, minimal adjustments were made. I corrected the white balance, added a bit of clarity and contrast, and did a bit of dodging and burning. I hope this article enlightens you all to how this image came to life with so much planning before the shutter was even clicked.

You can see more of Mike’s work at MikeMezPhotography.com, and follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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The Value Of Your Image Has Nothing To Do With These Three Things
Karen said she needed to call me with some exciting news, but what she told me broke my heart.

She had an exciting opportunity — a request from a national news publication to use her photo — and she planned to give her image away. Karen decided that her photo wasn’t worth any money because of her lack of experience and because she shot it with an entry-level camera.

I know the feeling because I have thought that myself. This photo can’t be worth much because I didn’t really work that hard to get it. I don’t deserve payment. Fill in your own reasons.

If you have ever nursed one of these seeming innocent untruths, I have three messages for you.

1) The value of your image has nothing to do with the length of time you have been a photographer.

Have you ever walked into a gallery and saw a great photo? There’s usually a card under it with relevant information. You will find the photographer’s name, the title of the piece, and the price.

There is nothing about how long you have been a photographer. Why? It’s not relevant to the buyer.

I don’t know of anyone who has proudly described art hanging on her walls by bragging that the photographer has been shooting for 20 years.

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2) The value of your image has nothing to do with your skill level as a photographer.

Magazines and news organization charge their clients advertising based on an established rate. Nothing on that rate sheet identifies the skill level of the photographer. You pay for how many people see, read, or click.

When an editor decides to take up a page of valuable real estate in the magazine with your photo, the editor has already assigned it value. By selecting and placing it in the layout, she has decided that it has value in illustrating the story.

If your image leads more people into the article, that is the value. Nothing in the equation factors your experience level.

3) The value of your image has nothing to do with the camera you use.

When Time Magazine wanted to cover the destruction of Hurricane Sandy in New York City and New Jersey, they outfitted their reporters with iPhones.

Did that hamper them? Not at all. In fact, one photo was good enough to make the cover of the magazine. The value of the images was in educating 3 million readers not that it was shot on an iPhone.

How do you determine the value of your image? There are two ways I might measure its worth — one is intrinsic value and the other is market value.

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Intrinsic value – Because you created the image, you can assign your own value – to you.

Take the late Prince as an example. One of Prince’s legacies is, even after his death, you couldn’t play his music without paying for it. You couldn’t rock out to Prince on YouTube or Spotify. You couldn’t satisfy your nostalgia without paying his price.

In an environment that says you have to give away your music to be heard, Prince placed an intrinsic value on his music that wouldn’t allow him to do that.

Hip Hop artist Sir Mix-a-Lot shared some insight on why it might be harder to place intrinsic value on your art.

“You have a generation of fans who have grown up never paying for music, and you have a generation of artists who have never been paid for their work,” he said. “Everybody has been subconsciously taught music has no value.”

You can say the same thing for photography. Pictures have become so plentiful, we are being conditioned to believe that they have no value.

It’s up to us to assert that our images have value, if only because we created them.

Market Value – Just because you think your photos have value doesn’t mean you can extract any sum of money for them.

The market will tell you the monetary value based on a variety of factors.

Exclusivity – Let’s say you are at a wedding and notice the bride and her mother in a tight embrace. You see a single tear trickling down the bride’s face.

You are the only photographer who rushes over and captures that photo. When the bride and mom see that photo, will they demand to know what kind of camera you used before they purchase? Not likely. The value to them is in the moment you captured.

Supply And Demand – If you are at a news event and capture the one-millionth view of an evolving story, most editors will not care. If you have the only photograph of the news story of the day, you can begin negotiating.

Technical Expertise – If you have perfected a technique that looks interesting and few people can duplicate it, you can charge for that.

Marketing – Don’t underestimate your marketing’s impact on the value of your images. Your ability to tell your story in a way that is compelling can also create the perception of value.

If you want to know what your photo is worth, ask what is valuable to the recipient? How is your photo being used? What impact will your image have for the purchaser? Those are your key metrics.

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Money isn’t the only way to measure the worth of your image, but it doesn’t mean you have to devalue your photography.

Have you ever have someone ask for your image and offer you exposure in lieu of money?

Sometimes it might be worth it, but remember exposure can be quantified. How many people will see your image? Are the people seeing it the ones who you care about? Will they see your byline? Will you get a link? Is there an equivalent ad rate?

Relationships have a value that can be leveraged appropriately.

My mom asked me to photograph her event. Naturally, I’ll do it for free. The guy I just met at a networking function gets an invoice. My old college buddy? It depends.

Here’s an easy test. Would you lend them something you value? If you aren’t close enough to lend them something you value, why would you give them your images, something else you value?

Generally, friends who value your talent won’t feel entitled to your work.

Are you volunteering for a cause you feel strongly about? Give them the gift of your images and send an invoice showing the value of your donation. They’ll appreciate your gift and understand what it is worth.

There are so many ways to decide how to value your images, but none of them have anything to do with how long you have been a photographer, your skill level, or the type of camera you use. Don’t let anyone else use those reasons to devalue your work.

Lynford Morton is a photography coach and founder of the Shutterbug Life podcast community. He teaches beginner and enthusiast photographers how to create great photos, build an audience, and make an impact with their images. Follow him at ShutterbugLife.com, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.

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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.

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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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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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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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