When I thought of a subject to write about for my first ever guest-blog for Scott Kelby (totally honored, btw!) I wanted it to be something extremely useful, yet brutally honest. Perfect, I’ll answer the number one email I receive in my inbox: “Hi, I’m a photographer and want to do what you’re doing. How do you make money?”
If you’ve never heard of me, here’s the rundown on who I am and How I Became a Nomad: Normal girl goes to school and loves taking pictures. Graduates college, moves to China and back. Gets married, starts a career in a camera store, and quickly falls into the 9-5 suburban lifestyle. Becomes depressed, gets divorced, life turns into work. Sees the sunrise over the mountains and has a life-changing epiphany. Quits job, gives away material possessions, moves into a tiny teardrop trailer chasing her dream of being a professional landscape photographer.
Whew! Sounds like a dream, right? Just giving it all up and moving to the open road? In a sense, yes, it is “the dream.” But I’d like to shed a little light on the reality of this lifestyle and what it takes to be successful.
As of this very moment I have officially been “on the road” for 907 days. In the beginning I made next to nothing, but it has grown into a healthy career which I can now live and thrive from. The truth is, there is no one answer to “how to be successful on the road.” It is going to vary with each person. That being said, there are some general tips that I have learned over the last few years and would like to share with you now.
Follow Your Passion First and foremost, whatever you dedicate yourself to in this life should be something that you have a true passion for. Something that brings you happiness and makes the world a better place. If you consider the percentage of our lives that we spend “working,” it seems appropriate to make that something we are passionate about.
Without passion, we have no purpose. Remember when we learned about “mission statements” back in high school? That’s a real thing! The first goal I accomplished when I moved to the road was to define my purpose. That gave me something to work towards and kept me from treading water for months until I sunk.
My mission statement:
“Show people things they wouldn’t normally see, to inspire people to do things they wouldn’t normally do.”
Work Hard I have met a lot of “full-timers” on the road, and most of them last anywhere from 6-12 months before running out of money and giving up. They made the biggest mistake of all; romanticizing road-life by thinking it is akin to a long vacation with a bit of work tucked in between adventures.
Yes, traveling is fun – but I guarantee that the moment I began working for myself, I turned my 9-5 job into a 24/7 job. I work harder now than I ever worked for any company… but you know what? That’s okay! All of the hours you put into your own business only serve to grow YOU – so why limit your own growth?
The best advice I can give someone who is about to go full-time is don’t give yourself a plan B. Have plan A and work your bum off until it works! DO NOT go onto the road with any more than 3-months savings. If you live too long on savings, you begin to rely on it. With 3 or less months you are forced to find another means of survival.
Don’t be disillusioned that life on the road will be easy. You will do yourself the biggest favor of all if you remember: You are your own best and worst employee. You do everything. It’s going to be a lot of hard work.
Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket In this day and age, there are many corporate positions that allow you to work remotely with benefits and job security. If you have one of these jobs, congrats! But let’s be honest, most of the people reading this blog are photographers or other creatives working on their own solo ventures. This puts us at the disadvantage of job insecurity, but alternatively it gives us the independence to do the things we are passionate about.
Here is the meat and potatoes of what you are here to learn, how I make money:
Sell Prints online: We are photographers/artists. Find the best fulfillment solution and start selling your wares!
Teach: A large part of my income comes from teaching photography. Can you offer unique classes teaching your skill?
Speak: I offer myself up to speak both educationally and as a keynote at events relating both to photography and living tiny. Value your time and knowledge.
Promote Products: Once you’ve established yourself as a trustworthy source of information, many companies will work both in product trade and in payment for promotion. Just remember the key here is to stay true to yourself over the dollar signs. Promote the products you truly believe in, not the ones that just want to pay.
Multi-Industry Advertising: Obviously, I focus on advertising to photographers, but because of my lifestyle I am also open to the RV/Camping world, Tiny House enthusiasts, and even other full-timers. What other industries does your art cover?
Budget Living on the road is a great way to minimize bills, but by no means does it eliminate them! Do NOT move on to the road thinking it will be a “free” way to live. I still pay nearly every bill I paid when I had a brick and mortar home. Replace the “rent bill” with the “gas bill” and everything else is pretty much the same.
That being said, living in a tiny home does put your possessions into perspective. You only own and keep what you need rather than what you think you need. The simple thought of “where will I keep this?” keeps me from buying a lot of things.
Define Your Idea Of Success My favorite all time video blog that I have ever posted is one I created after only 5 months on the road (when I was just a road-baby!). It is titled “How to Be Successful on the Road.” Right from the start I learned one of the most valuable lessons I will probably ever learn in my whole life: if you want to be successful, redefine your idea of success.
Growing up, we are all taught that the successful “American Dream” is to go to college, have a long-term career, buy a house, get married, have kids, make money, make money, make money. If that is success, consider me a failure.
On the other hand, I have taken myself from barely being able to make it through the day without an anxiety attack – to being able to laugh at myself when I am alone. Now THAT is a feat. If I am able to die with a smile on my face, I will be more successful than any amount of money can ever bring me.
In Case You Missed It Join Serge Ramelli as he shares his secrets to creating amazing cityscapes. Great cityscapes start with great captures, and Serge begins the class with a discussion of camera settings and his approach to being in the right place at the right time. After the photo is taken, Serge steps through his editing workflow in Lightroom. Starting with the global edits that lay the foundation for a strong cityscape, Serge moves on into a detailed look at how to use all of Lightroom’s local adjustment tools to take your photos to the next level. Whether you are shooting with a DSLR or smart phone, and from stitched panoramas to merged HDR, Serge shares the tips and techniques that you can use in all kinds of situations.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in taking a landscape photography workshop with Ramtin Kazemi and Scott Kelby next month in the Canadian Rockies, there’s a registration link and a discount code at the end of this post!]
5 Tips To Help Us All Make Some Awesome Landscape Photos This Winter
Ramtin Kazemi here! Just wanted to share some tips with you all about making the most of your landscape photos if you have a minute.
We’re all on the go. More and more people are traveling the world because of the transportation and technology that’s available to us now. As photographers, we want to capture and share its beauty with everyone. I don’t blame us; it’s what we’re born to do. But, in order to get the photograph that is unique and has your signature on it, we must venture out.
Places like Iceland have increased their tourists and visitors by millions. The thing about these locations is that the same composition has been shot a million times. This is why I venture out to find the right spot with unique compositions and photographic opportunities. The best part about this is that some of these locations aren’t hard to get to at all. In fact, some of my best shots in my portfolio that are my personal favorites were shot literally 5 minutes from where everybody else stood. All you need to do is to put a little bit of extra effort into it with your composition which I’ll get to in a sec but, first planning is a big part of successful landscape shoots yet not enough people talks about it.
1) SCOUTING AND PLANNING BEFORE YOU SHOOT
Scouting and planning is the start of a successful landscape photograph. As landscape photographers, our main light source is the sun (or moon) and the weather has a huge impact on when and where we can shoot. I sometimes spend days walking around before I even get my camera out. It takes time, passion and patience
In order to scout a location properly, we must understand some key elements. First, we have to figure out when and where we’re going. Seasons change things dramatically, so once we figure out what our goals are, we can decide when to travel. For example, if you wanted to have wild flowers in your foreground with snow-covered mountains in the distance in Switzerland, you might want to go there late spring/early summer. Or if you wanted to photograph the Northern lights in the Yukon, the best time to travel is winter and the shoulder seasons around winter.
Let’s say that you know where and when to travel. Next step would be to understand the light and the sun/moon. Where and when does the sun rise and set? What about the moon? Wait, don’t worry, there’s an app for that! I personally use Photo Pills. It gives me all the information that I need, including the position of the Milky Way, stars and the moon at a given time. And use Google Earth! Even Google maps is a very useful tool because you can see exactly where you’ll be standing and which way you’ll be facing when it’s time to shoot.
Next, I need to talk about dressing appropriately for weather. It might sound silly, but these details are very important and, believe it or not, some of the most common mistakes are silly ones. So, understanding the location, position of the moon, sun and stars, understanding weather and cloud formations at a given time of year, preparing both your body and your soul, and finally studying your composition and your spot before you put your tripod down.
Once all is set and you are on location in the field, then it’s time to figure out where you’re going to position your tripod. Use your camera’s viewfinder and walk around until you’re happy with a composition using the tips that I’m going to give you below. (more…)
Get Your First Commercial Client with Social Media Video: 9 Simplified Steps to Shooting and Editing Your First Stop Motion Video
A few years ago I started sending some sweaty emails. What’s a sweaty email you ask?
The ones that make you sweat when you press send because you know what it means for your career if your recipient responds with interest.
The first client email I sent was to Levi’s. I wanted to shoot a campaign, so I sent an email that was most likely very embarrassing. I never heard back. Fast forward a few years, I’m assisting another filmmaker on a commercial shoot in California and I give a soft elevator pitch to the company saying, “Hey, I also create social media content, check out my work.”
I got the gig, then they sent a shot list of images. A part of this shot list they wanted was some “boomerangs.”
Educating the client is an important part of establishing credibility as an artist.
Clearly, you know creating a boomerang from scratch isn’t just a thing we do on our phones.
I informed the client that in order to produce a professional quality “boomerang” it’s actually a series of individually edited images which are then stitched together into a video. Mind you, I had never created one of these for a client before, but I knew it was possible and that this was a new way to make more money.
The first stop-motion video I created took me at least two hours to shoot and eight hours to edit. I really struggled with how to put it all together. But I’ve got it down now, and I think you can too if you start somewhere.
How to shoot and edit your first stop motion video:
1. Conceptualize What is the storyline, what message are you trying to convey, what is your subject?
2. Plan the Production Assemble the resources: do you need props, models, back drops, space, lighting?
3. Light the Scene Bounce a strobe off of a white ceiling for the most consistent lighting or use LED continuous to create consistent lighting on your subject.
4. Stage the Scene Imagine you’re creating a miniature movie. If you’re using props, find a way to secure them to the backdrop. If I’m shooting top down for a flat lay scene, I will tape down non-moving elements.
5. Set your Camera First, use a tripod. This is important. Bring the subject of the image into focus, then set your camera to manual mode and don’t mess with it. Here are my most recent camera/lighting settings:
Alien Bee strobe at 1/2 power pointed at a white ceiling. Nikon D750 with a 24-70mm f/2.8 set at 1/160th shutter, 100 ISO, f/5.0
The best way to guarantee consistency is to literally not touch your camera. I use the Nikon D750’s wifi paired with the WMU mobile app via my iPad to trigger my camera. I also use the Tether Tools tethering cable connected to my computer and utilize Lightroom’s tethering capabilities to trigger the camera. This automatically imports images so I can review any subtle changes on set.
6. Action Take the subject of the scene and move it 1-2 inches with each frame captured. Pro tip: don’t breathe. Ok, maybe I’m half joking. This part is the hardest part of the process because any small accidental movement will be noticeable in the final product. Stop motion is a meticulous process. For a simple stop motion I will only shoot about 12-16 images. With this number of images, your final animation will be about 3 seconds. If you want to create a boomerang, you only need 2-3 images to be duplicated multiple times in post-production.
7. Edit your Images Import your photos into Lightroom. Make sure everything is edited consistently. Here’s a quick tip. Once you get your perfect edit on one of the photos. Copy that preset, and paste onto the whole set of images.
8. Edit your Stop Motion Video I take all of my selected photos from Lightroom, right click, open as layers in Photoshop.
Once the photos are in Photoshop, I go to the motion workspace and then click create frame animation, then go to the right tab and click make frames from layers.
Your photos will appear into a timeline. Now you can choose how long you want each frame to appear. On average I choose between 0.1 and 0.2 seconds per frame.
Depending on if you shot your stop motion from beginning to end or started at the end and removed elements from the frame, you may need to reverse your frames. Now, press play and watch your stop motion come to life!
Once you create a frame animation, you have to convert this to a video timeline and export as a video, because social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram don’t allow actual GIF uploads yet. So, although you made a GIF, you will be uploading a video.
Lazy stop motion shortcut: export all of your images from Lightroom and open them in your preferred video editing software. Create a compound clip (Final Cut Pro) or nested sequence (Adobe Premiere Pro) and speed up the entire clip to wherever it feels right, then export as a video and call yourself a pro.
9. Upload and Start Conceptualizing your Next Stop Motion You did it!
Using Stop Motion Video for Social Media Marketing According to a Nielsen study, Social Media usage and Video Content are becoming pertinent in reaching today’s audiences. The chances that consumers are going to engage with content is 100x more likely if the content is visual over text. Video content gets more engagement than photo. So as a brand or a marketer, just knowing that consumers are spending any percentage more time interacting with video content should be a cue to get on that bandwagon and get creative with social media video advertising.
With the direction of social media marketing, your time is now; and by now, I mean yesterday. As an artist wanting to step into commercial work, the time to start is now. Start anywhere. To practice, help a friend with a small business take photos of their product. The versatility of how stop motion video can be used is a perfect reason to start adding it to either your social media marking strategy or to your service offering.
I hope this simple how-to has inspired and motivated you to pick up your camera and create your first stop motion video.
If you’re a creative and you enjoyed reading this, you may like this article, too.
McKenzie Hanson is a commercial photographer and stop motion artist based out of Chicago, Illinois. She juggles a camera in her hand and a toddler on her hip. Keep up with her on social @itskenziejean and check out more of her work at McKenzieHanson.com.