It’s Guest Blog Wednesday featuring Glyn Dewis!
So who is Glyn Dewis? Well believe me, that’s a question I’ve struggled with more times than I care to remember. Don’t get me wrong, I know who I am as a person: I’m Glyn, 40 years of age (only just I hasten to add), I’m married and I live just outside of Oxford in the UK…that bit is easy. What I’m talking about here is who am/what am I when it comes to Glyn the Photographer?
Roughly 7 years ago one of my Uncles, who was always known as our family photographer, showed me how he could remove ‘red eye’ from his photographs using a piece of software called Photoshop. Literally in a split second it was gone and I was like ‘Wow!’ Now as someone who was brought up using computers, my first being an Amstrad CPC464 with the green screen monitor no less, I was immediately hooked.
Anyway, I managed to get hold of Photoshop 7 as it was at the time, but being the kind of person that I am I couldn’t just ‘play’ at it…oh no, I had to totally immerse myself and learn as much as I could and as quickly as I could.
I remember the first time I used Photoshop though; I was sat there with a coffee at my side all excited but rather than the expected ‘Hallejulah’ moment when it started up it was more like ‘Now what?’
My immediate reaction was to scour the internet for some kind of tutorial to set me on the right path and that’s exactly what I did. On the very first page that came up there was a link to something called the ‘National Association of Photoshop Professionals’; it looked really good, and the 3 guys Scott Kelby, Matt Kloskowkski and Dave Cross seemed to know a thing or two. So on complete and utter blind faith I signed up and became a member.
A few months later Photoshop CS was released and I found myself in Las Vegas, my very first trip to the USA, on my own at Photoshop World. Well, I say on my own but in no time at all I’d met up with and was hanging out with other attendees; people who to this day are still very special friends.
Photoshop World was incredible…I learned so much, made so many great friends and came home completely fired up. The motivation led me to studying for the Adobe ACE qualification which I took and passed. My knowledge of Photoshop grew to the point where I started retouching other photographers’ work and then eventually doing more with my own camera, a Nikon D200. I went on quite a few courses both in the UK and abroad and started building up a client base. However after a year or 2, feelings of confusion, frustration, wanting to throw the towel in and everything else that comes with it set in.
You see I’d started to feel lost…I didn’t know what I was as a Photographer. I mean was I a Wedding Photographer or a Portrait Photographer? Or did I want to take family photographs?…I just didn’t have a clue. One thing I did know though was that I needed to start making some money and fast… if not just to start building up the bank balance, but to show to my wife that she was right to believe in me and that I could make it happen and we could make a very good living out of my photography.
It didn’t help when all around me everyone else seemed to be having a ball; a never ending stream of clients, shooting loads, everything they touched turning to gold and never suffering doubt and frustration. So when Zack Arias released his Transform video it was like ‘Thank God…finally someone is telling the truth!’ Knowing that I wasn’t the only one who had feelings like this made a huge difference to me and was definitely one of the turning points.
So there I was knowing that the feelings I’m experiencing are normal, but still not knowing who or what I was. I certainly didn’t want to be known as a one trick pony, but I did atleast want to be able to give a credible answer when someone asked ‘What are you?’ Did I say Portrait Photographer, Editorial Photographer, Commercial Photographer? What did I specialise in…Family Photos, Headshots, Weddings, Sports, Music or Physique? Oh and one more thing ‘what was my style?’ Oh my god I hadn’t even thought about that. Not only did I not know what I was, but I didn’t know what my style was either!
So what about now?
Well I do now know who I am when it comes to my photography and my Photoshop. I’m nowhere near where I ultimately want to be, but knowing who I am and what I am means I can concentrate on constantly working on me, my business, and my skill level rather than having a head full of confusion and frustration. On that note I’d like to share a few thoughts with you that have certainly helped me to reach the point I’m at now, and I hope may in some way help you too…
Finding my Style:
On my blog I have a regular feature where I interview well known photographers and pose certain questions. One question concerns style and how on earth you get one. Each and every time I get the same response in that it just evolved; no conscious effort was made to have a style but rather it was something that seemed to appear over time. One person I interviewed put it another way in that he said he believes each and every time we take a shot we’re taking a photo of ourselves. Initially that was like ‘Whoa heavy!’ but when he explained it, it made perfect sense. Style is very much influenced by your life and your experiences, and once you’ve become competent in the art of photography and know your equipment like the back of your hand, then your style will begin to show itself. Up to that point it’s more a journey of discovery and for want of a better word ‘copying’
Style I believe isn’t something you can force. So if this is something that concerns you, take some of the stress away by just accepting that if you continue to shoot regularly it WILL reveal itself. Come to think of it look at certain photographers around the world, Zack Arias and Alan Hess for example…seems kind of natural they shoot what they do and the way they do right? I honestly don’t think it’s a coincidence but rather photography has naturally led them there.
Very much like the power of association in that you become those who you associate with, your style comes from the life you lead and the experiences you’ve had.
I can’t for the life of me remember who it was said this but:
Madness is defined as sitting at home on your computer and expecting to be ‘discovered’ and for the clients to come knocking on your door
Marketing is something I find doesn’t come naturally to me. In the past I’ve struggled with it and still do to some extent, but it’s an area I’m constantly working on. Facebook and Twitter are great tools but honestly…how many clients have you gained from them? Sure I do get clients that way but certainly not enough to sustain a healthy business, so it means I have to get out there face to face and meet people and do things the old fashioned way; scary stuff however…
An average photographer who’s great at marketing will make a fortune but a great photographer who’s poor at marketing will make very little
My goal, and this is something I always explain to people who come to my workshops, has always been for clients to hire me because they like what I do and they like ‘me’ as opposed to looking around and seeing that everyone is doing the same kind of thing, so who’s the cheapest…does that make sense?
Spinning too many Plates
When I first started my business and put my website out there for the public to see I thought the best thing to do was to show everything. My portfolio was made up of all kinds of sections: Portraits, Weddings, Food, Physique, Commercial and Personal but I soon found out that this was doing more harm than good; let me explain…
About 3 years ago Air New Zealand were scouting for a photographer to work with them on their new advertising campaign and my name was put forward by a previous client. Long story short, I didn’t get the contract. Out of curiosity I asked for feedback as to why I wasn’t picked and was told quite bluntly “We don’t know what you are.”
You see, by me showing all kinds of work on my site as opposed to focusing on a particular expertise, I’d confused a potential client. The answer? I slimmed everything down and resorted to one portfolio…Portraits. Fast forward 12 months and Air New Zealand are launching another campaign, so I put myself forward and guess what…I win the contract, and the email from the same art director 12 months previous said ‘Now we get you’
Practice, Practice, Practice
Apart from him being a complete wizard with Photoshop,. one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my good friend Calvin Hollywood is to practice, practice, practice. Calvin is one of the hardest working guys I know…constantly pushing forward not just his skill level, but developing his business and himself.
Taking his advice I now put time in my diary every day where, for 30 minutes, I have to read some kind of self help, personal development or business skill book. At the moment I’m reading ‘The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs’ by Carmine Gallo, which I highly recommend if you ever give presentations or teach.
On the subject of books, anyone who knows me would testify that I am indeed a serial book buyer, but rather than before when I was almost behaving like a Trainee Librarian filling up my bookshelf with books I had hardly touched and some I hadn’t actually opened, I now set myself a goal of going through 1 complete book a month. I’m a slow reader so that to me is realistic but that’s still 12 books a year which is heck of alot of extra knowledge. Audio Books are great too; understandably not so for the Photoshop but as for self help, personal growth and business they work a treat.
I also set aside 30 minutes each day where I’ll concentrate on learning something new in Photoshop. This could mean spending time in forums, watching some kind of training video or simply experimenting and seeing what I can come up with.
If I don’t do something every day (however little), then how can I expect to improve?
Inspiration and Motivation
I’m always looking at other photographers work that I like for inspiration but try not to make the mistake of comparing myself as I used to do…a lot! This only creates negative thoughts and I liken this to my bodybuilding days in that it didn’t matter how big and strong I became there would always be someone bigger and stronger so there really is no point comparing.
The Answer to my Dreams
One of the biggest lessons regarding ‘gear’ I learned came from Zack Arias. Photography is one of those things where new kit is being developed constantly. The latest all singing all dancing bit of kit that will be the answer to your dreams seems to be invented on an almost daily basis. Zack’s philosophy is to use what kit you have so much that you get to the point where you totally know its limitations. Then and only then go out and get that new piece of kit because you’ll understand why you need it. Up until I’d followed this advice, I had a camera bag that was literally overflowing with kit that I very rarely used…if at all.
So who am I?
I love what I do: the process of making photographs, working through challenges to get exactly the shot I need, being creative with Photoshop, teaching others and all the people I’m meeting and friends I’m making along the way; genuine, good, honest people, the calibre of whom I’d never encountered before becoming involved in this industry.
The Photography world can be a frustrating one at times for sure, but I love it. It feels right and natural to me that I’m doing what I’m doing, and I truly wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. Sure there are many ups and downs and challenges ahead, but that’s just the nature of beast and I embrace that.
Within this wonderful community are people who will support and guide you, people who genuinely want to see you move forward and do so because they totally love what they do and this blog you’re on now belongs to one such person.
Thank you never seems enough, but there are people I’m proud to call friends and without whom I may never have picked up a camera and progressed with Photoshop, let alone have my own business: Scott Kelby, Calvin Hollywood and Matt Kloskowski amongst others…each of whom epitomise friendship.
It’s bizarre to think we’ve only known each other a relatively short time but meeting and becoming close friends with my buddy Dave Clayton was definitely a highlight of 2011 and then of course there’s my beautiful wife Anne: my ultimate motivation and motivator.
So who am I? I’m Glyn Dewis: Photographer, Retoucher, Trainer and Photoshop World Instructor :)