If you want something, go and get it! Find a way or make one!
I’m Dave Williams and, as always, I’m here on Scott’s blog for #TravelTuesday for you! I aim to enlighten and inspire every week with something to do with photography, Photoshop, and life. Today, I want to provoke you to take last week’s personal project and monetise it, either directly or indirectly.
When we shoot as professionals, that is to say, we are making money from our photography, we are doing more or less everything with a goal in mind—a bill that needs paying! Removing that element of life and shooting for self-development allows a relief of the stresses and pressures placed upon us (by others or by ourselves), so we can afford more of our efforts on the creative aspects of the shoot rather than the “end goal.” It’s important to have that creativity in the moment, to enjoy the moment, rather than simply aiming for that end goal, and it’s an aspect of photography that is worth incorporating into everyday life. Here’s why: –
Whilst it’s good and often important to have a goal in sight, staring at that goal won’t get you anywhere on its own. Concentrating your energy and efforts on the here and now is what makes things change and ultimately what shows your value as a person. It’s what shows your commitment and understanding, not of what you want to achieve but how you’ll achieve it.
I’ve found that whilst I can take a good image of a place the first time I visit, I often think of better images and better techniques and want to revisit until I nail it. It’s this which prompted me to undertake personal projects, which develop my skill as a photographer (and storyteller) and allow me to get better images the first time around. But, that said, the second visit (and third and fourth) will never go away because…
“There’s no such thing as ‘just one last shot'” –Peter Treadway, 2014
This kinda has a few meanings to us photographers. It can mean that we’re usually such perfectionists that an image is never really finished, or it can mean that, actually, it is finished but we just find it hard to recognise when! That’s something to think about.
Here’s my current go-to example of second visits: –
Mont St-Michel, France. The image above was taken about five years ago, and the below image was taken a couple of months ago. I’d like to think both images work, and they’ve both sold so each has their own merit, but that is the very point—each has their own merit. Each shows the same place but in entirely different ways. It’s going to my development as a photographer that that’s happened, through grit, determination, practice, perseverance, and through personal projects! So, what about that one word I just said: “sold.” Let’s talk about that.
I’ve been talking to a few photographers lately about this, and whether it’s for the purpose of paying your bills or simply for funding new gear for your hobby, I implore you to get involved with monetising your photography. The people I’ve been talking to have been largely successful in the first stages of getting into stock photography, but there are other ways to monetise your photos. The world is a small place; you no longer need to be “famous” to make a living from photography, nor do you need to drive from home to home with a strobe and a backdrop in your car shooting family portraits. Here’s the thing: –
All those photos you see on billboards, in magazines, on leaflets, in menus, in newspapers, in brochures, on packaging, on computer screensavers, in books, on ads you scroll past online, literally everywhere, they all came from somewhere. Why not come from you?
Signing up for stock photography for these things is easy—all you have to remember is to play by the rules. For example, a test submission to a stock agency will state “common theme, not overly retouched, no brand names. in focus,” etc., etc., and as long as you stick to the rules (so that you pass the test submission), you can start to sell your images! It doesn’t have to be stock, of course. You can monetise your Instagram account in a similar way—find agencies who are looking for people and, again, follow the rules! Perhaps the rules are a common theme, signature look, 5,000+ followers, good engagement—follow the rules and you’re in! How about postcards? Take a look on the back of postcards next time you see a display rack and you’ll see the company who produces them printed on the back. Why not send them an e-mail? Send a few of your best images over and see how you get on—at worst, they say “no thanks,” and at best, you’re making money!
Seriously, no more excuses! It’s 2k19; it’s time to make your photography pay!
The cover image here is of me 13 years ago when I was living in South Africa. I was busy shooting thorns in the Klein Karoo area with my SLR (yes, SLR, no screen) and working out what kind of a photographer I was. Essentially, a whole series of personal projects, one after the other, finding a niche through the process.
Want to do something for you and for your photography journey that will absolutely, positively make you happy on so many levels? Then stop what you’re doing, and right now take two minutes and let’s make this a Monday to remember…by making a print. You have to, it’s “Make a Print Monday!” (I just created this fake holiday, but at least it’s a pretty good one).
If you don’t have your own printer, send it to an online lab (I use both BayPhoto Lab and MPIX.com — both make great prints and both have world-class customer service, and if you don’t already have a lab, try either of these — you’ll love them). You just open an account, upload your image, choose your size and they take it from there. In a few days, your print arrives. Couldn’t be easier.
If you upload a print to a lab, not only will you feel awesome today because you stopped and actually sent off one of your images for printing, but you’re setting up a major boomerang effect because that feeling is coming right back again in an even bigger way in just a few days when your beautiful print arrives.
Don’t just get a print. Get a big print! You can get a 16″x24″ print from BayPhoto.com or MPIX.com for around for $24. There are few ways you can spend $24 today and effect you or someone you love (a gift?) that can have a bigger impact than a print.
If you’ve ever wanted your work to live on, to have a bigger impact than it does by just sharing it on Facebook, and if you want those pixels on screen to become something real, something you can hold in your hands, something that will make you feel great inside, join me today (I’m doing it!) for “Make a Print Monday.” :)
A few weeks back I got an email asking about what can be done in Photoshop if you caught your subject with one eye partially closed when you pressed the shutter. I’ve had that happen so many times over the years that I already had a fix for it. In fact, it literally only takes two-minutes if that (well, maybe three minutes the first time you try it, but after that, you’ll have it down to two-minutes flat). Here goes:
Above: Here’s our original image and her eye on the left is partially closed (it was the only one I shot that day where her eye was like this), but luckily the fix is easy because her other eye is fully open and that’s what we’ll use to do our quick retouch.
STEP ONE: Zoom in tight and use Photoshop’s Lasso tool to make a very loose selection around her open eye, as shown here. Now press Command-J (PC: Ctrl-J) to put that eye up on its own separate layer.
STEP TWO: Using the Move tool, drag the copy of her open eye over so it covers the partially closed eye (which is what I did here), but you can just leave it at that because she’d have two right eyes (and that would look weird). To fix that, press Command-T (PC: Ctrl-T) to bring up Free Transform (it puts a bounding box with handles around that copy of her eye) and then right-click anywhere inside that bounding box to bring up the pop-up menu you see here. Choose Flip Horizontal as shown here. Because she’s leaning over quite a bit in the image, it won’t be a perfect match to the other eye — you’re going to need to rotate the flipped copy into place, so move your cursor outside the Free Transform bounding box and your cursor changes into a two-headed arrow cursor. Click and drag in a circular motion to rotate her eye to where it looks about right (as seen here as well).
STEP THREE:To really make sure you get the eye at just the right position and angle, here’s a trick I use that works wonders. While you’re still in Free Transform, go over to the Layers panel and lower the Opacity for this layer down to around 60% or so. Now you can see through this copied eye, to the original eye’s position on the layer below it, and you’ll now be able to rotate the eye easily to the exact right amount, and then move your cursor inside the bounding box and drag the eye copy until it lines up perfectly (as seen here). Now press Return (Windows: Enter) to lock in your transformation, then raise the opacity of this layer back up to 100%. Before we move on, you can see the problem here — the shadows aren’t right, and that’s because the eye we copied was on the side of her face that was farther away from the light, and was partially in shadows. This isn’t going to be a problem, because we don’t need all that area around her eye; all we really need is the Iris and whites of the eyes to make it look open (which we’ll fix in the next step).
STEP FOUR:Hold the Option key (Windows: Alt key) and at the bottom of the Layers panel, click on the 3rd icon from the left to add a black Layer Mask over your image (its icon looks like a white rectangle with a black circle in the center). This hides the eye-copy layer behind that black mask so you can no longer see that layer, but that’s exactly what we want. We don’t want to see the whole eye copy — just the Iris and whites of the eyes. Set your Foreground color to white (if it isn’t already); choose a small soft-edged brush from up in the Brush Picker on the top left side of the Options Bar across the top, then paint over just the areas where you want to reveal the eye on the top layer. Here I pained over her eye on the left with that small soft-edged brush and it reveals just that part of the eye from the top layer. If you look closely, you can see my circular brush cursor painting on the far right side of her left eye. I’m careful not to paint in too much or it will start showing those shadows, so I’m pretty much just staying inside the eye area and not going onto the eyelashes or lids too much. We still have a problem. The catch-light in her left eye is on the wrong side.
STEP FIVE:To fix the catch lights, first we’ll create the missing one. Get the Clone Stamp tool; choose a soft-edged brush and make the size of the brush just a little larger than the white catch light in her right eye. Move your cursor over that eye; hold the Option key (Windows: Alt key) and click once to sample that white catch light. Now move over the left eye, where you catch-light should be (on the upper left side of her iris) and click once, and it clones the white catch-light from the right eye over onto the top left of her iris on the left eye. Of course, now she has two catchlights in the left eye, so we’ll need to remove the extra one so it matches the other eye.
STEP SIX:Get the Spot Healing Brush tool; make your brush size cursor just a little larger than the extra catch-light; then click once to remove the extra catch light. Easy peasy!
Above: I zoomed out here so you can see the final retouch, quick and easy. :)
Hope you found that helpful.
I was in the studio all day today… The shot you see above was from a few years back — today I was in our studio at KelbyOne HQ making new images while recording an update to one of my most-popular online courses, it’s called “10 Essential Studio Techniques Every Photographer Needs to Know.” This new course will replace the original which was recorded nearly 8 years ago. The recording session today went great, and I was really tickled to get to redo the class using today’s tools and today’s techniques, and applying some of the things I’ve learned in the past eight years. I think (well, I certainly hope) it will help a lot of photographers who want to break into shooting in the studio. I’ll let you know when it comes out — shouldn’t be too long now.
Hope you all have a fantastic SuperBowl weekend. Don’t forget, when the Patriots lose, America wins! #GoRams!
A little more than six years ago I wrote my first guest blog post here on Scott’s website, and it’s incredible to see both how much has changed, and also how much has stayed the same. Since my last post here I got married, moved five times, adopted two dogs, traveled to eight new countries, checked off a few items on my bucket list, and I’ve also grown my photography education business into a full-time job. While my life looks a little different than it did in 2012, my excitement and passion to grow as a photographer is the same.
One of the things I love best about my job as a photographer is that I get to call all of the shots. I have gone in a solo direction with my work and get to photograph what I want and make books and tutorials that are of my own creation. It’s fulfilling, but it also takes a lot of self-determination and a good work ethic, and I’m constantly forced to stay at my own very high level of expectations. Here I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned during my time as a photographer.
Forge Your Own Path When I was in high school, I can remember wanting to be a sports photographer. I had just taken my first class in photography and joined the yearbook committee as a staff photographer. I found my “thing” and knew that photography was something I wanted to do long term. Then, when I joined the military, I chose a path other than photography. I was worried if photography was my full-time job that I would fall out of love with it.
Now, a few decades later, I realize that I had nothing to worry about. Because of the Internet and digital photography, I was able to find a way to make photography my career. A path that began as with stock photography has evolved into a career in photography education. I wasn’t following someone else’s path or anything out of a book. I discovered the way on my own.
Whether or not you make photography a business, you’ll likely still go down a certain path with your work. Maybe you enjoy landscapes, architecture, portraits, or flowers. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you enjoy, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new types of photography that may be vastly different than your current photographic interests.
Should you stick to one genre? Maybe. It depends on your goals and what you want to achieve as a photographer. This is a very personal decision and is entirely up to you. Personally, I enjoy photographing almost everything. Many people know me for my food photography, but I also do a lot of landscape, nature, and travel, as well as macro and water-drop photography. I’ve even done some underwater photography as well. And thankfully, with the job I chose, having a diverse set of photographic interests can be beneficial. With a wide genre of photographs in my portfolio I am able to write books and create video training that appeals to a larger audience. And I also love the challenge of learning something new, and sometimes that involves going down a creative path that is completely different from the photography I’ve made in the past.
You will probably hear a lot of strong opinions on whether or not you should stick to one niche, along with many other topics relating to photography and business. Maybe they come from an anonymous voice in an online comment, or from a trusted photographer friend. I know I’ve heard my fair share of opinions from photographers who think they know what is best for me and my business. But in the end only you know what’s best for you and your photography. Listen to your gut and don’t let someone else steer you in the wrong direction.
Find The Best Social Network For YOU With social media so prevalent in our digital lives it’s sometimes difficult to keep up. Staying fully engaged on social media can be a full-time job, and very few are able to have a team of people working this job for us. Personally, I’m pretty awful at keeping up with it, so now I’m doing my best to determine which of the current platforms to spend more of my time and energy on.
I also have my own social network, so to speak. One of the best forms of communication I have is my newsletter. While social media is good for sharing photos and other information, so much of it gets swept away only moments after it is posted. With email, however, my messages are going directly into the inboxes of my subscribers. It’s understood that each message I send is about me and my work, which is why people signed up in the first place. And while I offer a lot of free downloads and tutorials to my subscribers, I don’t hesitate to ask for a purchase. In fact, I make nearly all of my income from what I offer my members through the newsletter. It’s my most personal—and profitable—form of communication. It also allows someone to get directly in touch with me, just by replying to one of my emails! That gives me the chance to chat one-on-one with someone, and their message doesn’t end up getting buried by the endless flood of social media streams.
Challenge Yourself Many of the photographic skills I have are from trying to learn and master something new. In fact, I quite enjoy the challenge of seeing whether or not I could really learn how to photograph something on my own, only using books and the Internet as my guide. And I’ve discovered some very enjoyable genres of photography that I will continue to pursue into the foreseeable future.
Food photography is one example. In my early stock photography days, I decided to give it a try, even though I knew nothing about how to properly photograph food. My initial images were awful, but as time progressed and I learned more about lighting and food styling, my images improved. Eventually I would write two books on food photography—Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots—as well as a video course on the KelbyOne website.
Another good example is with waterdrop photography. In fact, I came across this just by random interest. There is a device I was purchasing—the Pluto Trigger—to use for photographing lightning, and while researching it I saw that they also sell a water drop valve as an accessory. The valve was not too expensive, and I thought it might be fun to try my hand at photographing water drops. After getting the valve and doing some research online, I was able to create some beautiful photos on my first try! It’s now become one of my favorite things to photograph.
Practice, Practice, Practice Whether or not your goal is to become the best photographer you can be, we tend to enjoy something more when we’re good at it. The best way to become good at something is to practice as much as possible. Not only will you help create muscle memory with your camera, you will solidify your technical knowledge about your gear, settings, and even your surroundings and subject matter. And this also applies to processing your photos and using software. I’ve been an avid Photoshop user for a very long time, but even those skills can get rusty! I make sure to create my own personal projects on the side to keep my “Photoshop muscles” fit.
Even I have had my moments where my camera sat around collecting dust for a little too long, and I remember feeling rusty when I finally picked it up again. If you enjoy photographing landscapes but live somewhere that is lacking in natural beauty, maybe you can experiment with a different type of photography that is not dependent on the environment. Or maybe you could sign up for a 365 challenge, where you create a new photograph each day for an entire year. I attempted this one (and didn’t make it all the way), but it did encourage me to create a handful of good photos that otherwise would not have been created.
There are a lot of other opportunities to encourage you to pick up the camera. If you’re on Flickr, you may find groups that motivate you to get out and use your camera. I even have my own “Nicolesy” group where I run monthly photo challenges (click here to check it out on Flickr). Or maybe you’ve joined a local photo club, a photowalk, or an online forum. Find something that works for you and inspires you to get out and create something.
Whatever route you end up following, if photography is important to you, the best thing you can do for yourself is to create. While photography is my main focus, I am a fan of creating so many other things and have quite a few hobbies. I love to knit, I’m a big pottery enthusiast, and I also enjoy the process of working on my website and creating books and video training for my business. When I’m creating, I’m happy.
Not every trip I take is about making money. Some are about bettering myself, challenging myself, and throwing myself out of my comfort zone in the interest of self-development. Personal projects are key to staying on your A game in photography, or in fact, in any creative art. As such, it’s very important for us to take a break from what is “normal” in our style of photography to learn some of the transferrable skills in other aspects of the art that we can translate into our own, everyday work, thus improving ourselves.
Personal projects are the leading method in this self-improvement. Have a little think about it and you’ll notice, consciously or otherwise, that there are so many personal projects out there ready-made for us to jump on. The “photo-a-day” challenge, the alphabet challenge, the colour challenge, the season challenge, they all serve to help us criticise ourselves, and this self-critique inevitably leads to improvement (although, in rare cases, it may lead to us throwing our gear down in frustration as well!).
If we are to stand out among a crowd, which is ever-growing and ever-changing, we must be noticeably different than the rest. If, in this industry, we remain stagnant, then we risk collapse. Everybody else will be racing forward, while we’re still stationary and stuck in our ways. Here’s a case study: –
Kaylee Greer, a great friend and an all-around amazing human being, told me about a problem she had. Her dog photography is world-class and she employs a simple setup and simple technique to create amazing portraits of doggos. She was approached by KelbyOne and asked to teach this technique, which she did. This meant that her “signature look” was being emulated the world over and she had a whole foray of photogs essentially catching her up. She was being joined by a crowd, from which she needed again to stand out! She told me what she did to step her shoots up a gear—I won’t elaborate, but needless to say, it was a personal project that was copied into her everyday shoots, and it worked!
At Imaging USA, I noticed that Joel Grimes was demonstrating a technique that was traditionally reserved for architecture photography, however, he was using it to photograph people! Models! And, in applying this technique from what was undoubtedly a curious personal project, he’s come up with something that is, for all intents and purposes, groundbreaking!
The cream of the crop, as you can see from these very specific examples, are pushing themselves with personal projects rather than simply “riding the cloud” because they know how very important they are. For me personally, I try to occasionally take whole trips which are “personal projects”—not having any prior knowledge of a location and testing myself in seeing what I can get, pushing the content to things I’m not comfortable shooting, and deliberately trying to make the best of bad light. It’s these personal projects which have carried me to where I am as a travel photographer, and if I may reference it, it’s my past life as a wedding photographer which has helped me understand composition and given me the ability to see light, alongside batting ideas off my partner in crime, Peter Treadway.
So, here’s my challenge to you: –
You may only venture 50 paces from your front door (communal front door if you live in a block) and I want to see you photograph light. Portray light, show that you can see light, read light, represent light, and use the experience to improve your skill as a photographer.
Then, I want you to upload a photo to Instagram using the hashtag #lightpp as part of this personal project, so we can all see.