It has been a long time since I have been a guest blogger on Scott’s blog, and it’s fun to write a blog for someone else for a change. I just returned from photographing my 6th Olympics for Team USA and was writing blogs at least once a day from PyeongChang.
I have been home for two weeks now and I am finally recovering from the month-long marathon that is the Olympic Games. The days there are crazy long with many of us photographers pulling 18-hour days full of shooting, editing, and moving from venue to venue. But I am not complaining at all! Even though this is my 6th Olympics, I am always excited about the opportunity to photograph some of the best athletes in the world and from the best spots one could ask for.
People often ask me, “What is your favorite sport to photograph?” I usually answer that it is anything new. I live near San Francisco and we do not have a whole lot of bobsled or speed skating in our area. Having a chance to photograph these sports is really fun for me.
The sport I am most invested in during the Winter Olympics is ice hockey. Not only do I shoot for USA Hockey (both men’s and women’s teams), but I play the game as well. This helps me predict the plays and know where to focus my camera during the action. I also get to know the athletes pretty well which makes it more personal for me.
So this leads me to the highlight of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, watching the women of USA Hockey win the gold medal. You see, I photographed for the team 4 years ago in Sochi and watched the ladies lose the gold medal game to the Canadians, even though the U.S. had a two-goal lead towards the end of the game. It was one of the hardest things to watch as the women cried while receiving their silver medals, knowing that the gold was almost in their hands. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. Before I left for these Olympics, I told my friends and family that the one thing I wanted more than anything was to watch the women get redemption for that loss in Sochi.
So that you all can get a feeling of what it is like to photograph the Olympic Games, I am going to take you through my day when I shot this epic battle.
I got to the Gangneung Ice Arena around 10am to photograph the women’s locker room before the big game. After shooting for 15 minutes, the ladies were arriving and I hightailed it out of there to edit the images and post them to my team contact. I then prepared both my Canon 1D X Mark II cameras for the upcoming game. On one camera I had a Canon 70-200mm lens with a rubber hood (which is great for pressing the lens up against the glass), and the second camera had a Canon 8-15mm fish eye lens for getting shots of the athletes if they were right in front of me. I also made sure to bring my Canon 24-70mm lens for a potential gold medal group shot if the ladies won. Even though the game did not start until 1:15pm, at 11:30am I made my way from the press tent to the ice to scout out the cleanest glass panels and request my shooting location. Since I was the official photographer for the team, I got preferential treatment in getting my choice of shooting locations.
Before the game started, the women would come out for their warm ups. The team had requested images from before the game and really wanted a shot to show the intensity on their faces so that they could post a shot on social media leading up to the big matchup. Before they got on the ice, I ran over to the tunnel where they entered the ice and got this shot of Maddie Rooney exuding that intensity.
Learning The Emotional Investment In Your Work For Greater Success I’ve never met a passionate creative who didn’t put a part of themselves in the shots they share with the world.
It’s a fortunate curse we put on ourselves, the gift of being able to inject our love into the medium that is photography. And through that medium, we connect the eyes of the world and share something that is normally intangible. It comes to no surprise that it’s rich with emotion, feeling, and a part of us!
When you put money in the mix, things get complicated. I am a photo retoucher by profession and passion. It’s something I love to do, but also do because life has driven me to this position. People started seeing the level of detail I put in my work and naturally, but unexpected at the time, I started getting more attention. Many inquiries later, I found myself glued to my chair racing toward deadlines and things became almost too normal. I no longer did this just for fun, but as a hired artist made to meet deadlines, and deliver consistent quality day in and night out.
As I began to have more eyes on my work and what I was producing, I realized quickly that I had to cut my emotions off from feedback while still being passionate about my work. This is a balance that became something I had to learn quickly, but took years to truly master. I write this post in hopes for other creatives who put their heart in everything to find a balance to when you get critiqued in a professional or social setting. It’s easy to say, “Don’t take it personal!” but you can’t help yourself if you’re the type of person to.
What I learned was that it was okay to be confident about the work I produced, but I had to also be in a mindset to be open-minded to improvement, otherwise it would eat me up. It’s not something I could put into effect just by thinking about, but I had to put it into practice.
People are so different, some out there already come into the field with this mindset and they’re very fortunate. Others like me can never get past that hurdle and end up not making any progress from fear of rejection. But I just want people to know that if I was able to transcend that barricade of being scared of negative feedback, so can you.
I think ultimately what got me over it was realizing that when I was getting feedback, they didn’t hate what I did, but they were in the position of giving me feedback because they liked what I had done, and wanted to see it met to their vision. After all, working for someone else is partly about you, and about them as well.
From a public perspective, I also had to learn that before I took anything to heart, I need to consider the source. On a scale of troll to pro, I had to ask myself who was giving me critique on the web, and what level of work they produced or experience they had. If they had nothing to really back up their opinion, then it wouldn’t be considered as much as someone who could comment from a personal space.
With these two things in mind, I no longer had to compromise and set a balance, and I could still do what I did with all my heart and not take offense to feedback. When I realized that is where growth takes place, I began to seek feedback from the right sources and started growing beyond what I imagined. People who are too proud of their work often won’t consider feedback, and those too scared for feedback will avoid receiving it. Being right in the middle will be where your growth occurs and it will take time to get there. But once you’re there, being a creative becomes a lot less draining emotionally.
PODCASTS CHANGED MY WORKING LIFE Hello, it’s great to be back here on Scott’s blog and this time I’m talking about something different. So, this title, what am I on about and why?
We’ve all grown accustomed to binge watching telly now on channels like Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Amazon (takes drink) Prime. We decide our channels and viewing habits, if we fancy a comedy day we can plow through a season of Friends, have a marathon Star Trek session or educate ourselves with BBC’s Blue Planet and the English treasure that is Sir David Attenborough.
I’m going to go back a bit and explain the situation that has got me to the point of enthusiasm over podcasts…
HELLO ASTUTE GRAPHICS! Since changing my role last year by stepping away from being in a full time graphic designer position for the past 20 years, I am now the Training Manager at a UK company called Astute Graphics. As a designer I have always used Adobe Illustrator, and Astute Graphics have been making powerful, professional plug-ins for Illustrator for the past 11 years. I first met them at Adobe Max in 2016 at the San Diego conference. For those that don’t know what Adobe Max is, it’s the major Adobe conference held annually and usually on the West Coast of America.
Astute Graphics (our illustrious owner, Nick, our “absolute 10” Marketing Manager, Camilla and top Photoshop, Illustrator and AG instructor, Sebastian), were there to teach a full class to 300 people on how their plug-ins help professional designers, I was blown away and knew I had to include this workflow in my design life, as should every designer!. We got chatting and got on really well over the week, parted as great friends and I became a customer.
On the return to UK we met up again in London at an event I had set up in conjunction with Adobe UK to bring designer Aaron Draplin over for a post Max creative event. At the same event was a hugely talented Photoshop artist called Dan Mumford. Both Aaron and Dan are big names in the design industry. They may not be familiar to you but in the design world they are. As Von Glitschka has said, a ‘famous graphic designer’ is like a famous plumber. You are generally only know within your own industry. It’s a great quote! And Von Glitschka is another great Illustrator/vector designer.
What’s my point? And what has this got to do with podcasts? I knew of these designers but I didn’t ‘know’ them. I didn’t know much about their backgrounds other than recognising their work. Roll forward a few weeks and I get offered the role at Astute Graphics, a huge factor behind the appointment was my ability to identify, contact, network and learn about the people in my chosen industry via the associations I am also proud to have, particularly my long standing relationship with KelbyOne. Nick, our owner, was impressed by my enthusiasm, knowledge and willingness to learn and train (also KelbyOne).
But now my job wasn’t designing anymore, it was identifying designers and businesses that could use our plug-ins effectively and improving their workflow. It felt quite weird not designing on a daily basis but this wasn’t a bad thing. I still get to write for Photoshop User magazine, design book covers for Rocky Nook and work with my best mate, Glyn Dewis. Now my focus is educating myself about other design mediums, styles and workflows. So that I can share this new found knowledge.
I had been a casual podcast listener but never really anything focused. I had picked up on a podcast or two about Aaron Draplin and Von Glitschka before to find out more about them when I was communicating with Aaron to bring him over. I then realised that these weren’t just one off interviews, these were established podcasts who were regularly interviewing designers on a frequent basis. I started researching how many there were, which had the kind of guests I though I would be interested in and quickly started to build up a playlist of favourites.
The laziest thing I could do is just listen to the ones with people I knew but you quickly realise some designers and some interviewers run through the stock questions and stock answers. So I started to listen to episodes with people I had never heard of and what an eyeopener it has been for me. I commute to the Astute Graphics office in Hereford twice a week, its a 90 minute drive each way so I get 3 hours to listen to these podcasts and educate myself, sometimes I will listen to someone like Tim Ferriss or even Marc Maron to change it up but for the most part, its 90% graphic design related content.
I have discovered so many talented and successful people in the design industry that I would probably never have know had I not opened up to widening my listening habits. I have now made some good friends and contacts from listening to their interviews, reaching out them and now some of them have become Astute Graphics customers and collaborators.
I have learnt so much from these shows, they have great hosts, they research their guests and this makes for a much more interesting show. I am learning about web design, UX design, poster print and clothing design, hearing from business owners, legendary designers and people just connected in some way to the industry. This is audio fuel for me, especially in my role. Now, when you start to get into something like this you start to enjoy it and begin to wonder “could I do a podcast that would be interesting?”. If you are photographer you know that feeling with gear, very quickly after that thought you are knee deep in it and full of enthusiasm!!!
So roll on a few months into my job and I decided to start a regular podcast with my ex-Adobe and amazing designer buddy, Tony Harmer. It’s called The Vectorgenerians ( Vectors + Octogenerians, yep, two old fellas chatting about design based on our knowledge, experience and relationships, mostly around Adobe Illustrator). We are even working on an exclusive Illustration event in the UK this year. Watch this space!
Like most ventures, you start off rusty but we are getting into the flow of it and have some design guests lined up, such as the previously mentioned Dan Mumford, Aaron Draplin, Von Glitschka and more to come. We try to record at least once a month at the moment but its fun and I am learning this new medium by listening to others and learning.
At this point I am set up with my playlist, I am contacting these designers and hosts and its really helping with my role at Astute (and the podcast..and my own design methods)…
What happened next… Then out of the blue I get contacted by two of my favourite shows, MasterOf1 and Creative South. Both ask to interview me! Yeah, cue gobsmacked me! They want to know about my background, my experience in the design community, my history with KelbyOne and my role at Astute Graphics. I really enjoyed the experience and honoured to be considered interesting enough to be alongside previously interviews design greats. The MastorOf1 episode can be found here, the Creative South episode is released Feb 14…..aah, Valentines Day, talking about my love of design! Plus I also got interviewed by the This Design Life blog – interviews are like buses, you wait for ages for one and then three come at once :)
But still the story still doesn’t end there! Most of you know my relationship with my best mate, Glyn Dewis. We met via Scott Kelby on October 14th 2010. We have experienced so many awesome things over the past 8 years with Glyn’s photography expertise and my design expertise. It is immense and still astounds me how much fun we continue to have.
So guess what?
We are doing our own podcast starting in February, called He Shoots, He Draws (see what we did there!).
We’ll be talking about how our respective worlds, how we both experience similar things and we talk about our loves and loathes in the industry. We’ll be discussing listener questions, talking about things we’ve learned that have helped us and recommend things we have found and use. We’ll have guests and have some great sponsors lined up including RockyNook.
This new world of podcasting really excites me (and anyone who knows about my twitchy eye, I definitely have a face for radio) and I hope you can find the time to check out the ones I have recommended, subscribe to them and please love reviews on iTunes if you like them, tell them Dave Clayton sent ya ;)
And I would really appreciate if you would not only check out what we do at Astute Graphics but also the two podcasts I now co-host, The Vectorgenerians Show and He Shoots, He Draws.
If I could end on a thought it would be, whatever is your world, design, photography, business, gardening, even plumbing, research as much content as you digest to help you become better. Read blogs, listen to shows, reach out to people and never be afraid to ask for help and advice. To quote my buddy Sebastian Bleak…. NEVER STOP LEARNING!
So, what am I doing writing a blog post for Scott Kelby’s website? Scott Kelby’s website is the big league and I’m just an amateur photographer.Asking me to write this blog post is like asking a minor league rookie to take his first at bat in the World Series. However, I do have a story to tell.It is not often an amateur photographer has to hide the names of people and places to protect the life of a local guide in a foreign country.
I travel a lot, mainly in Asia and always with my cameras looking to photograph people. In this blog I am going to describe my most recent trip to two countries, Myanmar and Bangladesh.My narratives from the two countries are quite different.
Also WARNING – there are descriptions towards the end of this blog that some may find disturbing.
Planning this trip began a few days after I was awarded a solo show at “The Gallery at KelbyOne” on December 9, 2017.I received an email from a filmmaker who had seen my Instagram Site and was scheduled to do a documentary for the United Nations starting as soon as in three weeks.She wanted me to take stills that could be used for publicity and to create a poster for her film.The documentary was to be about Rohingya, the ethnic group in Myanmar that has been the worldwide subject of many recent reports.I was most interested.
Both the New York Times and BBC had been writing extensively about the Rohingya fleeing for their lives into Bangladesh as the Myanmar Army burned down their villages in southwest Myanmar.Doctors without Borders estimated 6,700 had been killed since last August.Horror stories were being recounted daily, straight out of the mouths of the Rohingya as they flowed into Bangladesh, by the hundreds of thousands.
The photography would be pro bono work for a good cause and it was a way for me to gain entrance into the Bangladesh refugee camps run by the United Nations. I agreed to work with the filmmaker on the promise that I could get four days in the camps, two days shooting with her, and another two days of independent shooting with a guide/translator I was planning to seek out once I got to Bangladesh.
I also decided on a side trip to Myanmar, a place I have taken some of my best photographs.I wanted to make the trip to the other side of the world worthwhile and four days in Bangladesh was not enough and so I contacted my guide in Myanmar, who works at Santa Maria Travel and Tours in Yangon.His name is Mya Min Din but I call him M.M. He is simply the best photographic guide in Asia. He was available and we made plans to meet-up in Yangon and fly together to Bagan, Myanmar.Bagan is the home of 4,000 ancient Buddhist temples.This would be my fourth visit to Myanmar.
Normally, before I go into a new country, I seek guide recommendations from other photographers.I then contact the guide directly who would handle the arrangements for hotels, a driver, and a car. By not going with a photo tour group I save several thousand dollars, have a private guide, and the flexibility to change my schedule at will. Photo tours do however offer professional photographers to help you improve your skills and also offer an additional layer of security.I recommend Karl Grobl of Jim Cline Photography Tours for those wanting a photo tour group in Asia.But if you are more adventuresome and don’t need a professional’s help you can save money by traveling without other photographers.
This trip was different.While I knew M.M. from trips to Myanmar, I knew no guides in Bangladesh.As I had to be there in three weeks, I was not able to find and prearrange a guide.I would have to play it by ear when I arrived in Bangladesh, which in the end, was to prove challenging.
Part 1: Myanmar It takes three flights, two layovers, and 24 hours to make my way to Myanmar from Phoenix, Arizona.The longest leg is the fifteen hours from Los Angeles to Guangzhou, China.I spent a night in Yangon, and then flew with M.M. to Bagan.
M.M. is the reason I take my best photographs in Myanmar.He travels through his country many times a year with eyes open for places with good light and good backgrounds. He also has good relations with the monastic Buddhist schools throughout the country. This allows us to borrow novice monks to serve as our models.
We’re Still Blue in the Face Over Stuff The two of us want to thank Scott for the opportunity to spread the word about some new and mostly terrible changes in copyright registration rules. As soon as we called Scott he immediately saw the need to get the news out. Ed and I as usual talk until we’re “blue in the face” about copyright issues, and these changes are making us “bluer than blue.” These new copyright registration changes will have a huge impact on photographers registering their copyrights. Understand that these are not changes in the copyright law itself but rather to the procedures you must use to register your works.
These changes have been instituted by the US Copyright Office (USCO), which is the only place you can register your images in the United States. Those whofollow us know registration is critical in protecting your copyright rights. With very rare exceptions, without a registration you cannot bring an action in court to prosecute a case for copyright infringement. The registration received from USCO is the “key to the courthouse’ you need it to pursue your case. Photographers that have deep pockets loaded with Benjamins will cope with the new rules easier than the vast majority of creatives who are not flush with cash. Let us explain, in plain English.
The three words we dread to see on our favorite products when we hike to the grocery store are, “New and Improved!” (Always with one or two exclamation points). Uh oh. Usually, it’s a new box design around our cereal or a new jar holding our peanut butter. And gloryoski, the price and the taste are still the same. But wait a minute; any shopper over 8 years old knows what’s coming next. There is less cereal in the box or less peanut butter in the jar, it tastes exactly the same. What the……? What’s “new and improved” is the smaller package and better bottom line for the manufacturer, not for us.
The Copyright Office has announced substantial, “new and improved” changes to the registration process. New? Yes. Improved? Not so much…at least for photographers. These changes will take effect on February 20, 2018.The new procedures will affect the registration of both published and unpublished images. Details have been promised by the Copyright Office and should be downloadable at Copyright.gov by the time you read this. (That is the official USCO site. Ignore commercial sites with similar addresses).
But excuse us as we’re “burying the lead” in this story. The major change, that which will really impact photographers, is not the fact that the $55 application fee (which not too long ago was $35) will not be going up. It stays at $55. That’s the good news. The bad news is akin to that new and improved cereal box, where you’re getting a whole lot less value for your money. And we mean a lot less. After February 20th, you will be limited to 750 photos on a $55 application. That 750 is the cap, the maximum number of images which will now be permitted per $55 application. Like these guys never heard of a motor drive on a camera?
To some photographers 750 images is a big number and more than adequate for them. If however you’re a professional photographer, like a wedding photographer or an advertising photographer, shooting 2,000 or 4,000 or more on multi day shoots is not unheard of. Before this February 20th change, you could register thousands of photos with one application. Jack talks at our lectures about a photo shoot in Africa where he shot 13,000 images. He registered all 13,000 as a single collection for $55. At the new 750 limit it means that Jack’s 13,000 images from his Africa trip would take 17.3 applications to register. OK, let’s edit a bit and call it 17. That would cost him $935 dollars to register his Africa images rather than $55. One of our friends shoots beauty, fashion and cosmetics. Shooting 4,000 or 5,000 images in a two-day shoot is pretty common.
For another example, let’s look at the amount a wedding photographer would typically shoot. Experienced wedding photographers (as opposed to the Uncle Bobs) tend to shoot tight, knowing that if they over-shoot, the editing and postproduction time costs them time and money. Let’s say that wedding photographer clamps down, turns off that motor drive, and shoots just 1,500 images in a day-long wedding (without kicking in the engagement shots). That registration of 1,500 now doubles to $110 for that registration, rather than $55 it would have cost to register 3,000 or 4,000 files previously. Try and pass that on to the bride and groom who are already upset at what the rose petals for the ring girl cost them.
Two of the reasons we advocated registering your entire shoot, all the images, no exceptions, all of the time is that first, it assured that everything you shot was registered and secondly, it speeds up the process. Registering it all took away the big speed bump of doing a tight edit. Well, welcome to the speed bump. Unless you have very, very deep pockets, you will need to do very tight edits to limit submissions to 750 or fewer which will inevitably delay your registrations.
As they say on TV: But wait! There’s more! When registering you now have to submit an Excel spreadsheet, a PDF, or some other accepted listing of all file titles of each image separately. New Rule (10): “The applicant must submit a sequentially numbered list containing a title and file name for each photograph in the group…”
All that can be easily accomplished, it’s just another added step for some. This was always required for registering published images, but not for a collection of unpublished images. Not a big hurdle, but still something that from now on will have to be done. More work…as if you needed it.
Some of the new directives seem to be written with someone’s tongue firmly planted in cheek. The one we really like is they point out while there is a 750 image limit now, you can submit as many registrations @ $55 as you want. The wording states: “But it is important to recognize that the final rule does not impose any limit on the number of applications that may be submitted at a given time.”
In other words, feel free to spend $935 rather than $55 for those 13,000 images. The Copyright Office will not limit, will not put a ceiling, on how much it now costs you. So if you want to buy the smaller volume cereal box at the same old price, you can buy as many boxes as you want. Yeah, thanks. No limit to my added overhead expenses. It is as if that “$55 All You Can Eat Buffet” now has new signage, “$55 All You Can Eat On This Small Size Plate Buffet”.
We have found that no single factor has encouraged photographers to register their work than the ability to register thousands of images at one time and for one affordable fee.
Another issue that is adding a shade of blue to our faces is the buzz around Blockchain technology. This part reads better if you put on a recording of Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang.” (Hooh aah) (Hooh aah). We think the technology of Blockchain ledgers could be revolutionary for our industry. The technology is very promising if and when computer speeds improve, and especially if the Copyright Office embraces it for registration.
Now, we’ve seen some private companies advertising that their blockchain technology “registers” your image. All we can say is, “no,” it does not. Only a registration with USCO has any legal weight. Other “registrations” are misleading and serve little to no purpose. It’s the equivalent of the old copyright myth of putting your photo in a sealed envelope and mailing it to yourself. All that proves is that you mailed yourself a photo. These private company “registrations” have no legal benefit as far as copyright protection is concerned. Just the use of the word “registration” is in our view, inherently misleading.
Take Kodak and their KodakOne business model. Our once beloved Kodak (Oh Kodak, Kodak, wherefore art thou Kodak) has taken a strange turn into using blockchain technology. You’d have to be a blockhead to get involved there. Kodak has been slammed in the trade press and in the NY Times about how what they’re offering is a bit of a scam. You can read more in this NY Times article that slams Kodak titled Kodak’s Dubious Cryptocurrency Gamble. Unless Kodak can demonstrate otherwise – none of our money on that bet – we tend to agree with the Gray Lady.
Kodak is hardly alone in attempting to pull cash from photographer’s pockets these days. There are now numerous “search and rescue” service companies where you sign up to their terms (which no one reads) and they use their “technology” to find infringements of your work and collect settlements. How alluring it is for someone else to do all of the work. Most people signing up, who don’t read the fine print, don’t realize that they are giving up their Constitutional right to pursue a litigation with an attorney of their choosing and if they prevail, are entitled to seek an award of attorneys fees. These search firms staffed by non-lawyers with little to no expertise have first crack, the right of first refusal, at resolving the infringements and then they take 50% of the settlement. Lawyers who know the value of your claims are omitted from the process unless the infringer is smart enough to force the search firm to hire one, and any sophisticated IP lawyer representing an infringer knows that these search firms like to settle early and cheap.
The short version is that the company will attempt to collect much less than the infringement is worth so long as they can do so quickly and without hiring a lawyer whose fees bring down the amount of any net recovery. When needed, they hire the cheapest lawyer they can engage who will sometimes screw up your case. On this Reddit thread, you can read about someone who was told over a period of time that these legal matters take time. They kept saying that right up until the time they said, “Awww, forget about it. We’re dropping the pursuit of this infringement. Not worth our time”. When Ed gets calls from photographers who now have to pursue such a case on their own, he generally refuses to take them, because negotiations with the infringer were started at unrealistically low amounts and you can’t suddenly restart pre-existing negotiations with new proposals, which would now reflect true worth. The legal real world doesn’t work that way. It’s not a board game, once started, you can’t go back to go.
These “services” rely on illustrators, photographers and artists being ignorant of the USC Title 17 – The Copyright Law. We address issues about these services in our article “Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” located on our blog TheCopyrightZone.com.
These services hire inexperienced, non-lawyers to evaluate and typically settle early claims, the true value of which they know not. Early, quick, cheap settlements mean little to no work on their part. Artists like to avoid conflict and think that these services will make them money. Naively they do not realize that any competent attorney will put far more money in their pocket on any viable case. That takes some work. We like to emphasize that one should never, ever assigns the right to pursue or defend their copyrights to anyone.
These “search and rescue” services are simply not law firms. Staffers at these services need no level of expertise or experience in the industry, they have no “legal” experience. And when and if they decide to employ a lawyer, they hire lawyers without your input. When a company with a lot of business to throw around, hires a lawyer, said lawyer might see more of an allegiance to the company, rather than to the individual. If you retain you own attorney, that lawyer has one allegiance and it is only to you. The business model of these “search and rescue” services – frequently located in the EU – makes no sense for anyone who registers his or her images and has any understanding of copyright law. If, heaven forbid, you required major surgery, wouldn’t you prefer to select your own surgeon based on the suggestions of other doctors? Here some kid can be selecting your attorney for you, and guess what, you are stuck with that lawyer whether you like him/her or not.
Sorry to have to be the bearers of bad news on this blog piece, but an informed photographer is a prepared photographer. Prepared photographers come out with good results they’re happy with. And prepared photographers don’t call us crying on the phone because they’re getting the shaft instead of the goldmine.
Over the past few years, my career path has transformed from studying business in college, to one as a freelance photographer and designer for major brands and top musicians. But, that’s not what I want to talk about today. Today, I want to talk about taking pictures of “boring things.”
As I was starting to dabble with photography in college, I did a year-long one-a-day photo challenge to try to capture my everyday life with a unique perspective.
Some days I very quickly found the shot. I’d be going cliff jumping with my friends, or would be at a concert with cool lighting. Those days were easy.
Other days, however, were the days I really learned how to see. How do I take a cool photo of me writing an essay, eating breakfast, or what is aesthetically interesting about the walk back home that I had seen so many times?
I accidentally dropped my breakfast in that last one actually. Instead of letting the moment go by as an inconvenience, my one-a-day challenge mindset allowed me to see it as an opportunity for a photo. The year long photo challenge of photographing “boring” ended up playing a huge role in changing the way I see the world, and in turn the way I grew as a photographer.
I want to encourage you to grow in the same way, and I want to start with a few questions:
Have you ever stopped and looked at the aesthetics of a pencil? The color of the side and eraser, the hexagonal geometry, the way the edges transform when it is being sharpened?
Because of my one-a-day challenge, I finally did.
Or have you ever paused while cleaning the dinner table and noticed the patterns of plates, the tones of the leftovers, and the way it quietly tells a story of the conversations just had moments before?
This was post-thanksgiving a year ago.
There is so much potential beauty to be found in the little moments around us. We just have to take the time to step back and see how not “normal” everything is. We get so accustomed to seeing stoplights or puddles, but if you actually think about what you are looking at, those things are ridiculous! A candle for example:
I want to challenge you guys to find something today that you overlook and try to capture it in a new light. You don’t have to capture the whole thing either. In fact, I find that simplicity in aesthetic helps highlight what is often overlooked.
Look for things like pattern, texture, color, composition, juxtaposition, and especially light. Also, consider including a human element to your photos by directing a friend or capturing a stranger. It’s the little things you wouldn’t normally notice that can set your photos apart.
No matter if you are in fashion, sports, landscapes, or somewhere in between, intentionally stopping to notice the beauty around you will begin transforming the way you see the world, and especially the way you photograph.