Monthly Archives June 2020

The Story of Working with Square (and how luck can play into landing your dream job) 

Like all the best and very worst stories, this story begins with Twitter.

I opened my phone one morning to see that a few friends had tagged me in a long Twitter thread asking for photographer recommendations across the country by one of the creatives running socials at Square, the San Francisco-based tech company who manufacture and process credit cards though the little white credit card readers and iPad stands you see everywhere.

Given that this was such a broad ask and the list of photographers was so long already, I didn’t think much of it – I tweeted my website back, sent a thank you to my friends, and promptly forgot all about it. About a month later, I saw I had a direct message from the official Square Instagram account, asking if I was interested in taking on a project with them and if I could hop on a call in the next few days. Hello and yes! 

Fast forward a few weeks, and I learned that Square had been creating a series highlighting small businesses across the country and partnering with local photographers in honor of commemorative months. I was so impressed by their dedication to storytelling for both small business and minority communities and I was instantly on board.

My dream work is when photography is combined with social issues and radical movements that I deeply care about, and that is truly what brings so much meaning and substance for me behind the camera. Our project was going to be profiling a woman owned small business to highlight Women’s History Month for March 2020, and it was so fun when Laura Lemon of Lemon Laine in East Nashville was chosen. See the full set here

Something that isn’t talked about much in creative circles is how random it can be to land a job like this. Sometimes (honestly, often) it really comes down to luck in our industry – like being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right person, or having a friend of yours grab drinks with someone who works at x company, and they just so happen to mention that they have a new campaign where they want to hire a new photographer (enter you). Or the right designer seeing your name tagged somewhere in a shoot you did three years ago and never thought it’d see the light of day, but then you get an email about a new project with their studio because they liked the feel of the images. Or your name gets thrown out in a giant Twitter thread and somehow it sticks. 

I always feel both a little bummed and relieved when people talk about luck influencing creative opportunities – it can be a partial breath of fresh air to feel like getting these big jobs is little out of my control, but also it can be incredibly frustrating to feel like all of your hard work alone isn’t getting you as far as you want it to. However, I’ve learned that there’s so much we can do to make sure both you and your work are ready for when those opportunities drop into your lap. 

Three quick bullet points of advice — 

  1. Keep showing up. As frustrating as it is that luck is a player in this game, you can make yourself as ready as possible when the right people find you. Trust that the work is good in the meantime! And continue to make it better – keep pushing, keep learning, keep developing your skill set in the meantime. And, make sure your online presence and website is ready for those people to find you — if your dream client were to land on your website today, would they see the kind of work they need in order to reach out to you? Keep going. 
  2. Be a good hang. I stole this from my husband who always says this about the music industry, but you and your personality are just as (if not more sometimes) important as your work when a creative team is considering hiring you. Remember, if you get hired, you’re probably going to be hanging with these people on a set for hours at a time. Make sure they’re excited to be around you as a person as well as excited about your work. 
  3. Invest in the people around you for the sake of the relationship. Are there photographers in your community that you’ve been following online for years but have never met? Reach out and connect beyond socials! Same goes for creative directors, photo producers, art buyers and more. Start with a simple email, and then see if they’re available to meet in person so you can hear more about what they do and how they do it. Not only will this absolutely lead to some great connections and maybe even a few stepping stones, but more than any of that, relationships are a meaningful life value that goes way beyond photography.

If something like this can happen to me, it can definitely happen to you. Over the last few years, I’ve found a lot of freedom in letting go of control (did I ever have it?) of trying to force my dream jobs to manifest. Instead I’m choosing to trust that if I keep showing up to the work wholeheartedly and investing into relationships in my community, these jobs will continue to show up too. 

And sometimes it pays to have friends that are on Twitter more than you. 

Nicola is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Nashville, TN. You can see more of her work at NicolaHarger.com and can keep up with her on Instagram and Twitter.

It’s #TravelTuesday, I’m Dave Williams, and I’m a professional photographer. But what does that mean?

One commonly asked question in the industry these days is around the definition of what actually constitutes a ‘professional photographer.’ The usual definition is that it is somebody who is shooting for pay. I suppose in the strictest sense of the definition, that is true. A professional person gets paid for what they do. What’s more important though, is professional conduct and skill.

What I’m going to attempt to do today is express my own views on what I believe constitutes professional behavior in photography. This is my opinion and although it may be shared by others, it isn’t shared by all.

I think a large amount of the confusion stems from education, or more specifically, the lack of it. If standards are not clear to photographers themselves, it becomes very difficult for the general public to have any idea of what to expect when engaging or working with a photographer. I have no photography education from ‘the institution,’ my education comes from self-teaching, trial-and-error, online training, books, workshops, etc etc.

Professions are trades or crafts that have enforced standards, regulatory bodies, certification requirements, and some sort of formal training. Medicine, law, accounting, architecture, etc. are all good examples of this; each of these professions has one or two major internationally-recognised accreditation bodies which uphold standards and ensure members comply with minimum requirements and, more importantly, educate customers about what they should expect.

This set of standards is not reflected in our industry. It makes our industry more accessible, more competitive, and the door is opened for photographers with less integrity and lower skill. It makes it harder for all of us. This also means that most photographers do not bother with certification. I will tell you now, I’m one of those people. The increased costs and requirements do not translate into increased revenue, customers, or profitability. It serves as ‘club membership’ and an internal status symbol.

There are some exceptions to this — The Photographers Guild, The Societies, Royal Photographic Society, NPS, CPS etc. for instance — but even that tends to be rather fragmented with mixed standards and virtually zero general consumer awareness. Perhaps part of the problem is that, because the nature of our work is so subjective in the first place, it becomes difficult to apply quality control standards to the result itself. This is obviously not the same for, say, medicine.

There are agency or brand associations, too. The public perceives acceptance to these groups as a stamp of quality (or minimum quality). Generally, this is reasonable. The caveat though – just because a photographer takes excellent portraits for one agency, or for their portfolio, it doesn’t mean that their standards for portraiture also apply to architecture, or travel, or product photography.

Perhaps a better solution here is not to look at the quality of work, but the conduct of the photographer. I firmly believe that, regardless of occupation, there are some minimum standards required of all humans who offer a service. There is a level of trust and commitment given to you by your client on the basis of belief that we will deliver as we promised to, and it is our duty to ensure that we deliver on that promise.

Will you, as a photographer, take this pledge?

Professional Photographers Pledge

  • I will deliver on time and to spec, as promised
  • I will uphold my agreements and if I can’t, I will say so in advance, and will try to mutually work towards a solution
  • I will do my best, and will not accept compromise unless there is no other choice, in which case I will inform my clients so there are no misunderstandings
  • I will do my best to try and work for my client’s needs. For whatever reason, what they think they need may not be the same as what they actually need, and I will find the best solution
  • I will deliver at a consistent level of quality regardless of external circumstances that may affect us personally, and I will never compromise that quality – it is better to under-promise and over-deliver
  • I will uphold basic standards of courtesy, including timeliness and professionalism of communication via any medium
  • I will respect my clients time and timescales
  • I will respect my subject — whether this be treating models/talent/fauna/flora with courtesy and friendliness, or carefully handling product and props as if they were my precious things
  • I will maintain my integrity and be fully transparent in my pricing, even if I get things wrong. If there are big variances or changes in scope, then I will communicate this and reason with the client
  • I will clearly detail the scope and deliverables of all assignments
  • I will do my part to educate clients where necessary, whether this be to do with technical or creative choices, licensing or otherwise
  • I will respect the creative rights of other photographers and clients so that they will respect mine
  • I will value my own work and will not fight others on price alone, retaining credibility and economy for the entire industry rather than damaging it
  • I will have spares and backups
  • I will make a contingency to meet eventualities that are within my control to resolve should anything go wrong
  • I will not ‘fix it later in post’ when this would mean delivering a sub-standard result that could be remedied in camera
  • I will maintain my skills and training to ensure I am always at the top of my game

There are stories all over the internet on photography media sites. It’s clear that photographers are not observing any of these standards. In turn, the expectations are lower, trust is not there, and the overall lack of confidence in our industry from the client’s perspective translates into lower value all around. A few bad apples spoil the barrel.

I think you can see why we have a recurrent crisis in our industry. It doesn’t help that a lot of the practicing photographers have no work experience outside of this; it means that they have no idea what’s to be expected in a normal professional workplace.

All we can do is ensure that we do our best to adhere to our Professional Photographers Pledge, and make an effort to educate those who are not where possible. In the long run, it’s in everybody’s best interest.

Much Love
Dave

When you open your RAW image in Lightroom or Photoshop, it displays your image with the White Balance you chose in camera, but of course you can change your White Balance at this stage to anything you want. So, if the White Balance you chose in camera isn’t “baked into the shot,” and you can easily change it after the fact, is it a waste of time to set the correct white balance in camera?”

Above: I was shooting with the white balance set to Fluorescent because that’s the last white balance I had set in my camera and I didn’t change it at the start of this shoot.

I recommend getting it right in camera…

…but not for the old school reasons you might be thinking. When you’re shooting and you look at the back of the camera and you can see the white balance is off , and you know you can fix it later in LR or PS, does seeing that totally “off” image inspire you? Is there some value to you to seeing the image with the correct color on the back of the camera? I think there is.

Don’t you want to look at the shot on the back of your camera and be like, “Yeah, this looks great!!!” because when you see the image looking right on the back of your camera, it inspires you. When you’re inspired, it helps unlock your creativity; it helps you to make better images, and it’s less work later in LR or PS. When the images come into Lightroom, the color is already right so you’re starting in a good place right from the beginning with one less step (correcting the White Balance) on your editing plate.

Above: Here’s what it looks like with the White Balance set correctly in-camera.

So, how long does it take to properly set your White Balance in your camera. 15 seconds, 20 seconds? In this case I would just press the the WB button on my camera, switch my White Balance setting to “Flash” and I’m done. Even if it took a minute (it won’t), wouldn’t that one minute be worth it if it helps inspire you, helps to make you make better images and saves you time later in post? That’s why I recommend to photographers to set their White Balance right in the camera. Worth considering. :)

Here’s wishing you an awesome, safe, fun, color correct June. :)

-Scott

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