When I received an email from Brad asking me if I wanted to write a guest post for Scott I was psyched. I screamed some colorful words like the ones coming out of the Master Jay Maisel's mouth and I quickly wrote back saying YES! I was honored to even be considered to write on Scott's blog. But then I panicked…. What could I possibly write about?
Well, I have been shooting for only 3 years, I've had my up and downs, I've tried several photography genres, and I kicked and whined just to think about specializing in just one thing. Then I realized what I enjoyed the most was shooting people. So far this is what has worked for me.
Between now an then I experimented a little with landscape photography, long exposures, macro photography, food photography, concert photography, and I even had the great opportunity to work with a motor sport team (8 Star Motorsports) and cover a couple of events and do their pictures for their sponsors brochure. By trying all of this I learned things I couldn't have learned if I had said I that only specialized in portraits, and I would have missed all the amazing experiences I had by playing around in different genres. I don't mean I don't enjoy photographing cars, food, flowers or landscapes, I just think they look way better when there's a human in the frame. But that's my personal case.
Personal projects have been a huge part of my photography. When I got my camera in 2011 I took over the garage and built a little studio, then I annoyed everybody at home so I could practice with my new set of lights. After a little while people gave up on being my subjects and I had to try a new genre…. The Selfie. Along with the selfie I discovered my crafty skills, and soon after the Hamburger Hat was born. After 3 years of making the hat and using those pictures as my avatar in every social media platform I really enjoy when a client ask me if they can have their picture taken with the Hamburger Hat. It's my personal ongoing series.
Almost every single one of my images have a sentimental meaning to me but I couldn't just fill my portfolio with selfies. I've put myself in front of the camera because I have a huge need to create, to try new things, and, heck, I enjoy taking a selfie from time to time too! I will say my camera is my Xanax, creating pictures is how I have kept my sanity the last 3 years but I think it was necessary for me to have more subjects than myself in my book.
After listening to a zillion opinions of how to build a portfolio, I decided I was only going to show the kind of images that I wanted to be hired to do. The kind of work that I enjoy doing the most. Portraits with a creative twist and beauty. At the time I was doing mostly corporate portraits (what paid my bills), so I had to find a way to get those creative pics I had in my head into my portfolio.
Then we come to one of the questions I get asked the most…
How do you find your models?
Social media. Facebook. To date, most of the models I've worked with I have met through groups or friends on Facebook. Yes, I've heard of Model Mayhem, I have an account but honestly I have never used it. I kinda feel safer using Facebook because you have more access to personal information so you can see who you're dealing with.
Always be clear when contacting models if your doing TFP, (time/trade for print) and talk about terms and expectations before the shoot. And always, always, always get your model release signed. Make sure all of the parties know what the use of the images are gonna be and it's a fair trade.
Keep your dirty laundry in the hamper!
Working in a positive creative environment is extremely important to me. I've been contacted several times to collaborate with different kind of artists and when I see their posts on social media I just get completely turned off by erratic behavior. It doesn't matter how good somebody's work is, a bad attitude can easily screw up a deal.
Remember this is my personal 5 cents on the topic, this is the way I work.
Building a killer team.
I was extremely lucky to build a killer team when I was in Orlando with a hair and make up artist, Valeria Angelino. We met on a shoot and since then we started working together. It was magical. We were always on the same page and we really enjoyed creating together. She's fantastic, she has toured with Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and she's currently touring with The Voice. I miss her to death.
Chances are there are lots of local artists looking to build their portfolios too, don't be afraid to contact people, the worst thing can happen is somebody says no. Know the value of your work, know what you have to offer, and think of a deal that can be beneficial for both of you whether it's prints, digital images, editorials, etc.
Remember all these collaborations can bring something for your business in the future.
The best way to stay inspired is to keep busy. Whether it is planning shoots, shooting personal projects, making props, learning new techniques, experimenting; If your butt’s on a sofa waiting for the magical powers of inspiration come to you, chances are you're gonna get frustrated and nothing is gonna happen. Connect to people, scout new locations, find new subjects, heck do something!
You don't need to break the piggy bank.
We all dream about a huge production budget for a shoot but in real life you don't really need to spend a huge amount of money to have a successful shoot. Use a piece of fabric, make bubbles, shoot through a window or a glass, use powder or flour, make hair or makeup the main focus on your subject.
Choose your battles.
The not very fun part of becoming a photographer is educating people. I still get invited to parties and then right after the invitation I get the, "Oh and bring your camera" comment. I get lots of "exposure" payment offers even for people that are trying to use my pictures for commercial purposes. Sadly some people don't take photographers seriously and this can become very frustrating. Choose your battles, sometimes it’s better to just walk away than try to prove your point . Value your work, your time and your talent.