Archive for September, 2011
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In his decades-long career as a photojournalist then documentary photographer, Steve Simon has traversed the world, using his camera and passionate spirit to work on projects that bring about social change. His evocative portraits, such as his work on AIDS in Africa, have the ability to transport you into that exact moment, place, where you immediately get a sense of the raw emotions surrounding the circumstances of the shot. It was a great honor to have Steve as our TWiT Photo guest this week – where he doled out invaluable anecdotes on becoming a passionate photographer and always seizing opportunities for the perfect shot. Don’t miss Steve at the launch of his book, The Passionate Photographer, at B&H on Oct. 26 in New York. Here’s Steve’s top three tips during the show:
“Do the compositional dance and move in closer.”
“Boldly find your camera position.”
“Find a project or theme and dig deeper, an inch wide, mile deep.”
Have questions, suggestions or praises? Please email email@example.com.
It was May in Napa – and any other bride who has spent the last year planning the perfect celebration may get flustered by the possible threat of rain. Not Jen. She’s one of those girls who’s composed – and even gains a sassy feistiness – in the face of challenge. The teal-and-orange-themed affair had every bit the glamor of a modern Hollywood movie, yet there was also a casual elegance that made you completely at ease, especially around the bride and her stoic groom Bryan. You’ll never guess by looking at the gorgeous chic wedding – complete with Jen’s Oscar De La Renta gown, Bryan’s whimsical plaid blue sportcoat and crimson bowtie, the couple’s darling Golden Retriever Bauer, and the exquisitely designed invitations and orange tulips – that the bride and groom were ever nervous. Of course, the couple had tremendous help from exceptional coordinator Mary Ellen Murphy, who was always two steps ahead of everyone and even gave an excellent weather-related pep talk first thing in the morning. And this certainly came in handy when rain started falling during dinner – their 170 well-heeled guests proceeded one by one to seek shelter from their napkins. In what must be the most unexpected but utterly memorable end to the night, sparklers set off a mini fire on the floor of the tent. Below, Jen talks about how she and Bryan met:
“Although we lived 4 blocks from one another in San Francisco for over 5 years, we were not introduced until my friend Wes met Bryan at a mutual friend’s Bachelor party in Mexico and decided we should meet on account of our penchant for pink and plaid. Our first meeting was at The Comet Club during Western Wednesday in July 2008. Bryan was not wearing Western attire. By November, we had traveled to Morocco together – and I had not stopped laughing since Western Wednesday. Bryan proposed in Sonoma on a beautiful day in September last year… with a cherry ring pop. He said, ‘If I had asked you what kind of ring you wanted, it would have ruined the surprise.’ The proposal was preceded by a very Bachelor-esque helicopter tour of the valley.”
Wedding Coordinator: Mary Ellen Murphy, Off the Beaten Path | Invitation Designer: Passing Notes | Floral Designer: Erica Lewis | Photographer: Catherine Hall | Hotel: Hotel Yountville | Band: Black Market Jazz Orchestra | Catering: Elaine Bell | Bar: DrinkSF | Hair & Makeup: Sarah Hyde | Wedding Gown: Oscar De La Renta | Officiant: Steven Friedman
‘I, Zack Arias, am part of the oversaturated market,’ proclaims the Atlanta-based music photographer. Always a sharp shooter, Zack is one of the loudest and most vibrant movers and shakers in the new generation of our industry. Having met him before at industry trade shows, I’ve gotten to know him better recently when he was our guest on TWiT Photo and a participant in my Google+ Hangout on copyright and photo-sharing. My admiration of Zack and his phenomenal music and street portraiture has only increased after learning more about him – and I’ve constantly looked to exceptional and honest educators such as himself for inspiration in my own career as an educator and photographer. Here, Zack muses on the complaint that our market is oversaturated and pleads guilty to being a part of it.
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Post By Zack Arias
Everyone wants to be a photographer these days.
Let me warn you now that this blog post is currently in it’s third state of revisions. It’s a real rambler. If you’re up for it, I’m up for it. More after the jump.
If you hang out on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and the like enough you can “stumble upon” some trends without even trying to. Lately, I have seen a number of articles flying around about the over-saturation of the photography industry, the unsustainability of the microstock market, and the pros and cons of working for “free”. The “abuse” we photographers receive at the hands of our clients and totally absurd Craig’s List postings of people wanting work for free or photographers giving away the farm for nothing.
Here are a few of the articles that most people are talking about these days.
• Photo business guru John Harrington over at Black Star Rising talking about the 12 excuses for shooting for free. This article is the one that got me thinking about doing this blog post.
• David Hobby (Strobist) about working for free. Another must read.
• Rob Haggart (A Photo Editor) about the unsustainability of the micro stock industry. Canary in the coal mine?
Let’s start with the “over saturated” market premise.
I, Zack Arias, am part of the oversaturated market. I am one of the many who are filling the waters of this industry. Every job I take is a job off of the table of another photographer. I am a working photographer in large part due to the prevalence of affordable DSLRs, the expense of film and development being removed from my upfront overhead, and the Internet.
I’ll be so bold to say that if you have entered this industry in the last 10 years, then you too are part of the oversaturation equation. If you are thinking about becoming a pro photographer, whether part time or full time, then you are oversaturating the market as well. I would say the “standard saturation” photographers are the ones who have been in the game, full time, without gaps, for more than 10 years.
Let’s break this thing down.
In the days of Kodachrome and dinosaurs, there were some pretty set rules of engagement and paths of entrance into the photography industry. You usually started by going to photography school or you started working in a lab. You had to get your feet wet somewhere and school and photo labs were a good place to get started. Once you were ready to move forward you started assisting working photographers. Many times you would have done this for free. I have assisted and interned for free many times and I have met countless photographers who started by schlepping bags and fetching coffee for nothing or next to nothing in pay. It’s what you did. It’s how you got to see how a “real” photographer worked. It was called… get this… “paying your dues.”
These days those paths aren’t so clearly defined. You can go to school via blogs, workshops, YouTube, and DVD’s. You can upload pictures to flickr and suddenly get a message from an art director wanting you to shoot a job. You can be a kid from Canada, travel the world, shoot some bands and end up shooting campaigns for a company you aren’t even old enough to buy their product. You can be inspired by your own wedding photographer, buy a camera, a fast lens, and rise to the top of your zip code within a year. You can go to Wal Mart, buy a cheap DSLR, shoot your friends and family, shoot their friends and families, put a blog together, and start a business. There are so many easy entry points into the market now. There is an abundance of inexpensive cameras, free learning portals, and free advertising routes that allows just about anyone with a camera to get out there and make a little or a lot of money with it.
The worst part about all of this is you don’t even have to be all that good of a photographer to get into the game. That really is the worst part about it all but hang out at enough photography water coolers and you’ll hear stories from “back in the day” about the same damn things. Being a crappy photographer with a profitable business is nothing new. There were just more up front costs to deal with back then. Now it’s just easier to be a crappy “sucksessful” photographer. Add insult to injury… You can be a fairly mediocre photographer these days and have a workshop teaching others how to be just as mediocre as you are. Meh. Whatever. It is what it is.
Add to all of this the deteriorating morale in the corporate workplace, the need of many to make an extra $100 here and there, unemployment, the recession, blah blah blah, and the fact that a lot of people find it a whole lot cooler to say “I’m a photographer” at social gatherings instead of saying “I’m a systems analyst at a healthcare company.” Bring this all together into the perfect shit storm of an industry filled to the gills with Joe and Jane Photographers trying to do something cool with their lives AND make some money doing it. I mean, Quicken and Quickbooks didn’t really oversaturate the accounting market did it? Maybe I’m wrong.
I’m right here part of it all. I’m part of the oversaturated market. You’re part of the oversaturated market. Don’t bitch and moan and complain about it because you’re in it with the rest of us.
What do we do with that information? Here we all are. Up to our necks in each other. We watch 10 leave because they can’t take the pressure and 20 more take their place. It all gets just a little tighter around here. The last thing in the world you need to do is complain about the situation… unless of course, you’ve been at this for 20 or more years. In that case, my apologies to you. I know you’re feeling the pressure of all of us new kids in the pool but here we are and it’s the only pool in town for us. Complaining about us isn’t making us leave and don’t think for a second that I didn’t just notice the water around me get a lot warmer.
Blah blah blah. Metaphor upon metaphor.
So it’s competitive. Guess what? Photography has always been competitive. I don’t know of any other time in this industry when it wasn’t competitive. The nice thing about the industry these days is it seems that most of us are now open to share our experiences with others. Gone are the days of everyone playing with their cards close to their chests. If you are still trying to stay in this industry with that sort of attitude, your days are numbered. It’s a real hippy love fest around here these days and we young punk kids ain’t got no time for your old ways of doing things.
Us young punk kids actually really need you to stick around. We need the long established pros to help us out. I know you want us out of your pool, but that isn’t happening any time soon. The better you can adapt the better you can survive. Part of adapting is now requiring you to kind of be a lifeguard even though you would probably just be as happy to watch us all drown.
So. Yeah. Over saturated. Your attitude should shift from “This sucks.” to “So what?” Big Deal. More at the party, dude!
How can I run a business will all these $500 wedding photographers in my town?
That’s the next thing we are going to look at. I’ll let you in on this… I’m all for $500 wedding photographers. For many different and sometimes conflicting reasons. Then we’ll look at the micro stock situation. Is it the canary in the coal mine? Then let’s have a conversation about what it all means at the end of the day and will the industry adjust and what will that look like?
The dog days are over
The dog days are done
The horses are coming
So you better run*
*I actually like to listen to the song above as “The dark days are over” and the horses coming aren’t here for destruction.
At the nascence of my photographic journey, various mentors encouraged me to get my work in front of the right people and that contests have helped launch the careers of many of the top pros in the industry. I took their advice to heart and have worked vigorously ever since to submit my work to renowned contests. This image, created in the Nevada desert, is one of the award winners of the 17th Annual Photo Contest of National Geographic Traveler. See the feature here and read the accompanying description below:
“Catherine Hall was traveling in the Nevada desert when she met a man who was doing yoga in a tent. ‘His white, sand-covered feet had an amazing contrast against his dark skin.’ Hall, an assistant for professional photographers, says everyone in the tent thought she was crazy when she lay down to get the shot.”
In Greek Mythology, the muses were goddesses who stoked the imaginative fire of countless creative geniuses. My own creative energy has been inspired again and again by the myriad of intriguing cultures and the mesmerizing energy of people I’ve experienced throughout my photography journey. Last month, I kicked off my CHS Exploration of A Muse Contest to find the most beautifully executed shots and visually creative interpretation of the “Muse” theme. After reviewing the many exceptional entries, my editors and I narrowed down to 2 honorable mentions, who each get a premium 500px Awesome account.
Congratulations, Brenda and Ronen, both your entries blew us away. Of her portrait, Brenda (picture, top) from Long Beach, California, says, “My entry was shot in the Cenotes of the Mayan Riviera. Water is my muse. It has always been magical, mysterious, and otherworldly to me. I love to explore this realm (where few people go), and share how I see it with the world.” For Ronen (picture, bottom) from sunny Tel Aviv, Israel, his portrait “Master Magician” is part of an ongoing series he has been working on for the past 5 years titled “The Surrealistic Pillow” Project. “Reconstructing my dreams into visual creations – conveying happiness, sadness, exhilaration or sheer paranoia – as dreams often do. ‘Master Magician’ speaks of my muse – the art of photography itself – A tool in which we, photographers, like magicians – can spellbound and excite through visual trickery.”
See the 8 other finalists, including the Voter’s Choice Tamara, who also wins a premium 500px Awesome account.
VOTER’S CHOICE WINNER: Tamara Pruessner
Originally from New Mexico, but now lives in Tucson, Arizona
“My entry is called ‘Zeus’ Playground.’ My muse is Mother Nature herself. She has completely captivated my attention. I find myself hoping, praying, for lightning storm in the evenings. I have my tripod and my camera ready at a moment’s notice and will drag my family out at midnight to chase the awesome strikes she produces.”
“This shot is a great example of how I’m inspired in Photography. Travel is my Muse. I’m trying to find the less known places to see uncommon things. After getting lost on the Magdalen Islands I found this small fishermen harbor with this dramatic sky on the background.”
New Braunfels, Texas
“This photo represents who I am through an endless amount of aspects you might see in my picture. Not only does it reveal my physical features, it also helps to reveal my thoughts, aspirations, and creative outlook on life itself.
Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England
Annabel is my youngest daughter (almost 4). My kids are my muse. I love recording their development in pictures, and they are the reason I first picked up a DSLR – nothing special, just a Sony A200, but it suits my purposes.
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
“The photo is of my muse, my wife, Pamela. She is my muse because she always encourages me to follow my instincts and shoot what I find interesting, which is often not what others do.”
The ocean is my muse. This was a day that I was out shooting on the coast of Santa Barbara when a young boy climbed up on a rock in front of me. I decided to make the boy part of my composition because he looked so striking and confident. I named the photo “Rise Up” in honor of my friend Matt who had just lost his father.