Category Archives Guest Blogger

Photo by Robby Klein

How have your thoughts/techniques on lighting evolved? Do you find yourself using gear now that you didn’t think you would use when you started out? Or are you using the same gear but in different ways?

I worked very hard over the first several years of freelancing to perfect lighting techniques, and certain aspects of lighting have become second nature. I’m constantly experimenting to keep things fresh, but one big lesson that I’ve learned is that focusing on lighting alone doesn’t guarantee a great photo. We often get too wrapped up in technical perfection, and I’m certainly guilty of that myself.

As a portrait and lifestyle photographer, I want to make the talent look amazing- and sometimes that’s largely based around the lighting. However, even more important than the lighting, is connecting with whoever I’m photographing in order to create a compelling portrait. Thinking my way into how to make that happen has proven to be more beneficial over time than stressing too much over what type of lighting I’d like to use.

As for gear, though every shoot is different, I try to use a fairly minimal gear pack. Lighting has evolved quite a bit over the last five years, and the Profoto B1 in particular has changed the way I’m able to work on set. It’s enabled me to work lighter and faster than ever before with access to a massive lineup of light shapers for any scenario imaginable.

Justin Bartha

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made that has proven to be a valuable lesson? Has learning from that mistake saved you in some way on another job?

The biggest mistake I made when starting out was saying yes to everything. We’re all hungry for work, and oftentimes seriously undervalue our talent when we shouldn’t be doing so.

Almost every single time I’ve taken a low paying job just for the money, it’s been soul sucking work where there’s zero respect for the creative process.  I’ve been learning this lesson all along, but am just starting to consistently turn down jobs for this reason.

Some of those clients have gone away entirely, but I’m okay with that. The truth is, I believe it to be more valuable to spend my time shooting something I’m invested in creatively.

Bonnie Raitt
R.L. Stine
Quincy Jones

What kind of balance do you keep between editorial and commercial clients? If commercial clients pay more than editorial, what value do you see in working for editorial clients?

About 75% of my client base has been commercial since day one. I never really marketed myself to one type of client more than the other initially, but because my work is commercially oriented, that’s been the majority of the work I’ve gotten. Brands tend to pay a lot more than editorial- which is cool since I live in Brooklyn and the cost of living here is less than ideal.

There is a huge amount of value in editorial work though, and I thoroughly enjoy diving into these jobs when they come in. There’s generally a lot fewer people on set for editorial jobs (sometimes just an assistant and myself), and I find that I can use the talent’s time much more efficiently when that’s the case. There’s often a lot more creative freedom on editorial jobs, and I try to dive in as deep as possible to create something I want- which isn’t always possible on commercial jobs.

Elvis Costello, Marcus Mumford & Taylor Goldsmith
Vintage Trouble

What’s the best business/technical/other advice you would give yourself if you could talk to five-years-ago Drew?

Accept the fact that work comes in waves, and that there will be times where you have absolutely no work. For the first few years, I consistently had a few months per year where I had zero work coming in, and I struggled to deal with it. We’re all somewhat insecure artists, and it’s easy to assume that we’ll never work again. It’s tough to make it through this.

Instead of getting into a funk, the only thing that’s ever fixed this for me is picking up a camera and shooting. It always brings me back to my love of photography and reminds me of why I do this in the first place.

Dej Loaf
Ed Sheeran

If you could re-do one shoot, which one would it be and what would you do differently?

I’d really love to have an opportunity to work with Kendrick Lamar again. I spent a day with him about 4 years ago just before ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ was released, but didn’t completely get what I wanted. I was shooting a media day for Reebok in a hotel suite filled entirely with Reebok branding, so there was very little in the way of candids without logos surrounding him.

I managed to shoot a quick portrait on the terrace, I wish I had pushed a little harder to have some more time with him outside of the hotel suite.

If I were to ever have another opportunity with him, I’d love to shoot something more journalistic.

Kendrick Lamar

What would you consider your most successful shoot and why? How do you define a successful shoot (your happiness with the final product, how much you made on it, the size of the production, the biggest name client, etc)?

I was assigned to photograph David Byrne of the Talking Heads, in his Soho studio earlier this year, and it’s definitely one of my favorite shoots in recent memory. David is a true icon, and I did tons of research to make sure I knew what I was getting into. I watched documentaries, interviews, and gathered photographic inspiration to share with him on-set. He was an incredible collaborator, and I shot a few frames that feel very true to who David is as an artist- which was the ultimate goal, and the sign of a successful shoot for me.

This particular shoot was not a moneymaker (in fact, I spent some money on it), but I’m really happy with the photos and the entire experience with him.

David Byrne

How do you keep your creativity fresh? How do you avoid getting visual burnout (consuming so much imagery you just get tired of it/numb to it)?

Personally, a lot of it has to do with being in New York City. As crazy and as living in the city is, there’s more inspiration here than I can imagine just about anywhere else. I feed off the energy, grit, and hustle of the culture constantly, and that’s what keeps me pushing forward.

You can see more of Drew’s work at DrewGurian.com, and keep up with him on Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

The above photo by the insanely talented Robby Klein

I never know how to begin, but it’s definitely an honor to be back here on Scott’s website doing a guest blog. The entire photo community is better because Scott is in it. He’s as good a communicator and educator as he is a human being and a friend, so thank you Scott (and Brad) for having me.

You may know me from previous posts, or perhaps you’ve seen me in the background helping some photographers much more talented than myself (like the awesome Robby Klein who took the photo of me), but people usually know me as a sports guy. And yes, most of my living comes from shooting sports. If you are disappointed to find that today I won’t be talking about sports, hit me up on Instagram and we can talk sports all day long.

Today I want to talk to you about a job I recently did for the international non-profit organization BGR. It has always been my desire to do this type of humanitarian work, and I am thrilled to share some images from my time in Guatemala earlier this month. As with any organization, visual content is needed to both document the current projects and increase awareness of the work being done. In addition to this, I was helping to create stills content for their gift catalog that I will talk about later. As you could imagine, I was thrilled when they chose me to help them with their mission and tell some of their stories.  (more…)

Blue Demon Luchador for HBO Habla and photographer Monte Isom

Unlike many guest posts you have read here I am not here to pimp my own images or career. Rather, I am here to push how much money you make on your images, and most importantly the money you can make on photography as a career. Warning: this my contain the least amount of photo information of any guest blog post… but hang in there if you like to be paid for photography. Doesn’t matter if you are in a small city or Los Angeles.

Photos are like baseball cards, they are only worth what someone is willing to pay for them. Some may value a Jodie Davis rookie card and some may not – a little trivia there for anyone outside of Chicago alive post 1984. How to put a price on your images is a tricky business that many assume only photo reps and art buyers understand. I have news for you, the value of your imagery is between you and what the client is willing to invest to go to market with the message your images are included in.

Now how do you drive at that magical # that a client will pay and you as a photographer will accept? That is the million dollar question… or sometimes the $2,500 question. Getting to the answer starts with you as the photographer asking informed questions of your potential client.

The first questions to ask follow this format: who, what, where and how long.

Who?
Who is the client? Getting a sense of the budget based on who that client is starts with understanding the scope of their business and how much marketing they have done in the past. Are they a regional client with 12 stores across 3 states? Are they a local jeweler trying to make their first marketing materials? Are they a multi-national corporation selling carbonated beverages on 6 of the 7 continents? We all know that the latter may have more budget than the jeweler. Start your creative fee on what you think the client will and can pay per day.

What?
How is the work going to used? Is it Out Of Home/Outdoor (OOH), Point Of Purchase (POP), print, digital only, internal, broadcast, Business to Business (B2B) or any combination thereof? If a client is at the stage of pricing photographers, then most of the time they also have a media plan of how they are intending to use the ads.

More and more clients are asking for unlimited use in all media in perpetuity. This tells you one of three things:

  1. They are planning on using the ads for a huge integrated media buy across many mediums.
  2. They do not know what their media needs are, so they just want to be covered from the beginning.
  3. Or their company’s lawyers said that is what they were supposed to ask for.

It is your job to find out which of the three it is. Often times you can get to that answer by suggesting in the initial reach out that you can quote for unlimited use in all media in perpetuity (often known as a buyout, complete buyout or all rights), but that usually is too expensive for a client’s budget. As a solution you can quote for more limited usage rights that include a time period and more specific media so the bottom line will be more approachable. This is when the client’s request goes from being vague to giving you a better grasp of their intentions. If you are not familiar with the usage terms I started this section with, it would be to your advantage to become versed in them stat so you know what you are talking about. 

Where?
Where are the images going to appear? This refers to locality. In Chicago only, in the state of Maryland, USA, North America, Asia Pacific, worldwide? The territory also indicates how big of a campaign you are working with and how much these images are worth. Now Maryland does not mean 1/50th of the price that USA would garner. Think of it like buying socks. You cannot buy 50 pair at the same the price per pair of 1 pair. Anyone in the world would pay more for 1 pair vs bulk rate on 5 pair or even 10 pair, let alone 25 pair.

For instance, the images below were licensed for 7 countries specifically. Wieden + Kennedy, the advertising agency, and EA Sports, the client, knew that the imagery would appear in only 7 countries and would tailor the colors and text to each country the ads would appear. This is a case of an agency and client knowing specifics regarding their media buy. Hats off to their strategy department prior to calling a photographer. But these are the things you are sniffing out before giving a quote. This saved them money by not asking for worldwide usage and got specific.

Brazilian soccer fan splashed with paint. Photo by Monte Isom for EA Sports World Cup 2010
Brazilian soccer fan splashed with France’s colors. Photo by Monte Isom for EA Sports World Cup 2010

How Long?
It is exactly what the title of this section suggests… How long does said media plan to be in circulation? 3 of 5 times the client will expand the length of usage or territory if the campaign is successful. If you have given unlimited use in all media in perpetuity, a complete full buyout of all rights, then you have given up any possibility to make more money based on the success of an ad.

Entertainment photography for a movie poster will always be a complete buyout as that image will always be associated with that movie or project. For instance, my work for HBO’s Hard Knocks falls under this situation. The client knows that it will appear in billboards, in print, digital and on HBO GO, which may keep that program available forever. We price the image on the front end understanding that I will never receive any renewal license for the work.

Photo of Hard Knocks one sheet for HBO 2018 Cleveland Browns. Photo by Monte Isom.
Hard Knocks artwork appearing on HBO GO navigation. Photo by Monte Isom
Billboard of Hard Knocks one sheet for HBO 2018 Cleveland Browns. Photo by Monte Isom

With these four questions, you will have enough working information to then assemble the usage and licensing to put in a bid. It is also helpful to gauge your usage fees in relationship to your creative fee/day rate to shoot. It is difficult for a client to understand you charging $25,000 usage if your day rate is only $750.

You my think you are not “big time” enough to license your work and simply include usage in your day rate. I only say you are selling yourself short.

You as a photographer are only worth as much as you are willing to convince your client to pay you. If you feel your days work is worth $85 then that is what you worth. It is your confidence based on information that will dictate your fee and usage $$$ regardless of the market you are in.

For example ask Gregg Shipman, photographer from Tulsa, OK. He purchased my tutorial Making Real Money: The Business of Commercial Photography, and after watching the tutorial, he increased his a bid for a local client by $26,000 from where he was going to bid prior to heeding advice from the tutorial. If you think you are operating in too small of a market for this information to help you, then you have never been to Tulsa.

Monte Isom is a sports and entertainment photographer based in NYC who loves to share information about the business of photography. He offers a 14-hour video tutorial covering in-depth and with real life examples of estimating, invoicing, marketing your work, and even taxes. Isom interviews people who actually hire photographers and gets extremely valuable information working photographers need. This tutorial can be purchased here.

Monte’s photography can be viewed at MonteIsom.com, and you can keep up with him on Instagram and Twitter.

How I Became a Pro
Never in a million years did I think I would become a professional photographer and shoot for brands like Sony Electronics, 1800 Tequila, Pei Wei and Toyota. Being a first-generation immigrant from China, I was always told to play piano or violin, or I would be beaten mercilessly with bamboo reeds. In 1985, my parents left a country where they didn’t have much and moved here with nothing but a dream. Even though they had no formal education, they were entrepreneurs and always believed they would succeed in America. These principals have always stood with me and guided me when I most needed it.

My foray into photography is a story that will make most photographers cringe. When our daughter was born, we wanted professional pictures taken. At the time, I didn’t realize how much photographers charged and thought they were wildly overpriced. So the next day I decided I’d just do it myself, and went out and purchased my first DSLR. The irony of this is, of course, that I entered photography as the epitome of everything a photographer despises – someone who undervalues the art and thinks they can do an equally good job on their own.

Thankfully, my ability and appreciation of photography steadily grew from that point. At first I used it as a stress reliever from the everyday trials of the corporate world until I realized I had a true passion for it. I would head out on my lunch break and after work and just shoot whatever I could find. I worked on my compositions and shot everything from landscapes and cityscapes to portraits and street photography. I just loved learning about photography and would spend countless hours on the internet watching YouTube tutorials and reading forums for tips and tricks.

Education has become an important element in my life. I went on to earn a Bachelor in MIS and Master in Business Administration. I was never a great student, but always remained driven to complete my degrees. I went on to work for a few Fortune 500 companies in different areas: sales, education, and healthcare. Each position taught me extremely valuable lessons in how I apply myself to my everyday life and business.

As my passion for photography and content creation grew, so did my urge to leave my 9-5. Conventionally, I had a “great job.” I was the Director of Marketing and Operations at a multi-million-dollar company with benefits and flexible hours, but it just wasn’t fulfilling. I was doing some freelance work as a creator, but I still felt like I was a slave to someone else’s dream. So I started my exit plan and waited for the perfect opportunity to present itself.

With a wife and two young children to think about, there was a lot on the line. But about two years ago, I decided to take the leap to become a full-time creative. Thankfully, I was able to take a lot of the lessons I learned from the corporate world and apply them to my new life as a full-time creative.

Here are some things that have helped me through my transition:

Five Ps – Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance
Have a plan of action. It’s a lot harder to jump into things and try to make it work, so I plan before I jump. Ask yourself, how will you quit your full-time job? Do you have enough money saved? What is your plan to scale your business? Do you even know what type of photographer you want to become?

Hustle
Understand that your talent alone will not make you successful. The business side of things is a lot harder than you think. Remember you have to do your own marketing, accounting, and creative work.

Network
Building relationships and networking is probably the single most important aspect of your business. Get out to networking events and talk to people. Everyone needs a photographer for something. Understand your niche and where your business will come from. Bring business cards or create a vCard.

Be Social
Many people use social media in different ways. Take advantage of it and create a brand that represents you. Having a great portfolio will go a long way. Also, keep in mind that the images people respond to on social media don’t necessarily translate into commercial work. Editing and shooting for social media and what agencies look for are two different things.

Know Your Value
At first, you may feel you need to undervalue yourself to get business. Stay firm in your self-worth. But at the same time, remember this is an incredibly saturated field. In short, be honest with yourself, and you’ll arrive at an honest price that properly values your work and time while still staying competitive in the market.

You can see more of Quay’s work at AroundQ.com, and keep up with him on Facebook and Instagram.

 

Rama Cay, Nicaragua. 2013.

When did you fall in love with photography? Can you remember the moment of perfect cohesion when your brain and heart infused the clunky object in your hand and the wild world was captured through a lens? It stirred something inside you and you realized, “There’s my voice. There’s my sight.”

Were you once too shy to step out before you allowed your camera to become a buffer, a connection when you felt so disconnected? Were you too unrestrained and scattered, yet the camera benevolently forced you to slow down, listen, and compose order from chaos?

Yeah, me too.

And then there was this one day in 2009 as I sat on the floor of an orphanage in New Delhi, India. I handed my Canon 30D to an 8-year-old named Simon and taught him the essential functions of the camera. I watched him move about the room, interacting with his friends, and focusing with such intent concentration for an 8-year-old. I saw this familiar spark begin to grow in him and expand with each shutter click and smile as he viewed his images on the dusty camera screen.

Simon. New Delhi, India. 2009.

“My God, he gets it too,” I thought, amazed.

And though I was in India to use my photography as a “voice for the voiceless,” Simon helped me discover that he already had a voice, he just had no way to express it.

Over the next few years, my job title shifted from photographer to educator to non-profit-person in rapid succession.

Jinja, Uganda. 2017.

I founded Picture Change in 2011 in response to the realization that the people in front of my camera were able to tell their own story, they just lacked the education and resources to do so.

“Mi Madre” by Magdiel Castro. Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. 2015.
Magdiel and his mother. Chichigalpa, Nicaragua. 2015.

Picture Change invests 6 – 10 weeks in students living in areas struggling under poverty or social injustice. We begin with photography basics and then move into documentary storytelling technique and basic business skills. They choose someone in their community to feature in a photo story, implementing listening and interview abilities they’ve learned while documenting the lives of their subject.

Barbara on assignment. Jinja, Uganda. 2017.

The students facilitate a “giving back day” in which they use their new photography skills to benefit others, such as photographing and distributing family portraits or  “glamour pics” for widows in the village. For many recipients, it was the first printed photo they had of themselves.

Kalpana photographing residents at the Ashia Home for the Physically and Mentally HandiCapable. Ooty, India. 2012.

To conclude each project, we host a community-wide gallery show championing the students’ hard work and celebrating the lives they have documented in a fun, public event. We make every effort to bring in local professional photographers during the project and connect our students to further opportunities in the months following. The donated gear is entrusted to our partner organization so the can students continue their photography and have an opportunity to earn their own camera. Thus far, Picture Change has worked in India, Montenegro, Uganda, four unique projects in Nicaragua, and with refugees resettled in Nashville, Tennessee. 

Kate and Gloria during the very first Picture Change gallery show in Padre Ramos, Nicaragua. 2011.
Chang and his family during our “Redefining Refugee” gallery. Nashville, Tennessee. 2014.

Most of our students have experience being in front of the camera and though, undoubtedly, most of the photographers/missionaries/NGO’s were well-intentioned, the results left a negative impression.

I asked our students in Uganda, “Based on what you see on social media and the news, what is a stereotype about Africans?”

“That we are all poor! We are all dirty beggars! That we all have HIV!” they responded.

“Is this true?”

“No!!!”

“Then show me with your photography what is the truth. Show me Africa by Africans.”

Jackline documenting a women’s farming initiative in Jinja, Uganda. 2017.
“Africa by Africans” by Yusuf Musambu. Jinja, Uganda. 2017.
Yusuf and Gideon. Jinja, Uganda. 2017.

One of our students has taken her photography education further than anyone ever imagined. Rosa Lisseth Umanzor Diaz lived in a small fishing village in Nicaragua and had learned English by attending school in El Salvador. She was my translator and first photography student in the village of Padre Ramos, Nicaragua, our flagship project in 2011. With the skills she acquired and equipment donated by Picture Change supporters, Rosa adopted the vision of Picture Change as her own. She built a business as a freelance photographer, taught classes in her community, and has been hired by international companies and photojournalists. We also recently hired her as Picture Change’s social media manager.

Kate and Rosa. Ometepe, Nicaragua. 2016.

In 2017, Rosa flew (for her first time) to Uganda to work as an assistant teacher with Picture Change. She was a true cultural ambassador and an incredible inspiration to our African students. She, like them, grew up struggling to meet day-to-day needs and overcame enormous obstacles for an education or finding a decent job. Yet, because of photography, she has been able to support her family, meet needs in her community, and eventually found herself traveling halfway around the world to share her skills and story with others.   

Rosa teaching class. Jinja, Uganda. 2017.
Rosa (from Nicaragua) led a group of our Ugandan students in distributing and documenting solar lights donated by MPowerd Inc. 2017.

In fact, Rosa recently told me, “I have only cried of happiness twice in my life. The first time was when I had just finished a photography job in the northern part of my country and was on the bus coming home. There I was, a Nicaraguan woman traveling alone, earning my own money, and using my skills to help others.”

Photography is communication without words. It can be a tool for empowerment and activism, bringing hope that things can change and YOU have a role, a voice, in changing the world for the better. Not all of my students become professional photographers but all learn to see themselves and the world around them with more clarity and greater understanding. It is my privilege to work with (rather than for) those in poverty and share this gift which has changed my life – the power of storytelling through photography.

Albijon photographing his family in Konik Refugee Camp, Podgorica, Montenegro. 2016.
Solar Light distribution documentary team. Jinja, Uganda. 2017.
Ooty, India. 2012.

Thank you.

If you’d like to help Picture Change empower more students to have an impact through photography, you can find out more about donating equipment (such as camera gear, smartphones, or laptop computers) or financially right here.

You can also help Picture Change by using your voice via business connections, relationships, or social networks to raise awareness of Picture Change and champion the work of our students.

To learn more about Picture Change, see student photography, or find more ways to be involved, visit Picture-Change.org or email Kate at info@picture-change.org.

“You are important because you exist and your circumstances do not define you.”

Kate is available for speaking engagements via kategazaway.com. You can also see more of her work at Kate-Gazaway.squarespace.com, and keep up with her on Instagram. Be sure to follow Picture Change on Instagram as well!

 

On My Birthday, I Am Deleting My Instagram as a Gift to Myself.
When I was approached by Brad to be featured on this guest blog a few months ago (back in June to be exact) I had a whole different set of ideas for what I wanted to talk about to a community of photographers and photography lovers alike.

Well, when I sat down to get to it in the more recent weeks, I realized how ever changing our entire worlds can become in just a matter of months, and where my head is at now…it is a very familiar place for all of us creatives in 2018. This may feel a lot more like a journal entry then advice about photography or a career related conversation topic, but I think that is what we all seek anyway when we create anything; a way to connect to others, to empower each other by sharing stories, and share things that we feel are important to us.

I spend the last minutes/hours of my night like a lot of you, on Instagram. Getting inspired, growing upset, laughing, sending memes to my best friends, or all of the above. I was born in 91’ and am a millennial through and through. BUT I am a millennial type who has hopes and intentions of using my technology powers for good in this world, and not to replace life happening in front of me, or a reason for utter laziness.

As some of you can likely relate, how I feel hours after perusing “the gram” is really just a crap shoot, it could be wildly inspired or it could be utterly disgusted at my own pathetic work. It really started to grow increasingly upsetting night after night to find pages of models, photographers, actors, and just humans in general that I had never heard of with millions, MILLIONS of fans/followers. Most of whose posts felt contrived, ad-based, and disingenuous in content. It is not some ground breaking social analysis to say that we have in large part come to the conclusion that a social following doesn’t equate to success or happiness.

But in my world, as a full-time freelance photographer, and maybe in some of yours, it does mean visibility, social currency, more potential clients, and some validation that your imagery/work is widely liked. That being said, I jumped for joy when my photo page it 1,000 followers this year… and I have spent the last 6 months toying with the idea of deleting my account all together.

I can’t seem to settle on some middle ground of using it for work, but ignoring the temptation to scroll endlessly and not to let comparison day after day steal the joy of where I reside in my own journey. Which at the very least is as a full-time photographer making a living! BUT, I have settled on a birthday gift (on October 15th) to myself, of removing it from my phone, I will keep it on my iPad to continue sharing work I am excited about.

Here Is Why:
I need to feel free again. To be on my own journey. To stop comparing myself to every other creative person out there and wondering why I feel stuck at times. I need to stop looking for validation and visibility and magazine covers and stick to shooting endlessly and growing my network along with my technical tool box. Making local connections. Keep finding what is beautiful in my world and capturing it. Collaborating with people that I am inspired by. Leaving my phone at home and taking a friend and a roll of film out to a new place. Making mistakes, ruining a roll or 2 and feeling that sting. I need to be intentional with my composition and make technical choices that make the photograph work for me.

And so do you.

I guess I am here to say, wherever you are in your journey, that is my wish for you. That you can take a moment and look at how your work has grown over the last year, or 3, or 5 and be excited for what is to come without worrying about your age or your own personal timeline compared to those around you. Keep sending emails and taking meetings, reaching out to people you think may never respond.

My most successful shoots have been where preparation met luck in some sort of creative sweet spot. I am going to keep chasing that magic pocket, and peddling along, and not worry so heavily about what external validation I can find from the work. I hope you find your magic often enough to never grow tired of looking for it too.

You can see more of Nicol’s work at NicolBiesek.com, and keep up with her on Instagram, Instagram, and Facebook.

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