On Wednesday, we will feature articles from some of the most inspiring personalities in various creative fields. Watch out for excellent posts by leaders in photography, business and social media marketing.
I got to talk people photography (See the interviews here: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.) with Chris Marquardt last year for his top audio and video photography podcast, Tips from the Top Floor, and now this multi-talented media producer, photographer, and videographer has been kind enough to join me to contribute today’s guest post :) In this article, Chris talks about the unexpected benefits of limitations on your photography. It’s hard sometimes to make the argument for analog over digital – I can’t imagine living without the magic of digital photography anymore! But, Chris explains what a difference adding constraints can make, and his images make the point for him.
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Post + Photos by Chris Marquardt
I produced some of my best work when I had to use some of the most limiting tools. Like many, I thrive on constraints. They force me to leave the beaten path and stretch beyond my boundaries. This leads to growth, and whenever I grow, it makes me very, very happy.
My happiness has also to do with choice, but in different ways than you might think. When I watched Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert’s TED Talk about happiness, it changed my approach to photography. It’s hard to put his talk and its implications into written form, but in short it is about choice and how we tend to set ourselves up for misery. I can only recommend you watch it! Possibly the best spent twenty minutes of your life: Dan Gilbert, Why Are We Happy?
The essence of Gilbert’s talk is simple, but the implications are huge: Choice is good and desirable, but only up to a certain amount. Choice beyond that level will make us unhappy. Which is pretty much at odds with most people’s expectations. Is more really better? After watching the talk, you might end up at a very different conclusion.
But what does that have to do with photography?
Whenever I talk photography and how to get to the next level, I also mention how limitation and constraint help me discover new creative ways in my photography. If I don’t challenge myself, I stay inside my comfort zone, I won’t grow. Today I often shoot with one single prime lens, I restrict myself by working along an assignment, I try to squeeze out the last bit of composition that a single location has to offer. And as a result I return home with a deep feeling of satisfaction. And with better photography.
About two years ago I started adding another constraint. I re-discovered film photography and its inherent limitations. I kicked it off with a used medium format camera that gets fifteen shots to a roll of film. Without a built-in light meter. Fifteen shots! All of a sudden every single shot counts. Initially that hurt. Then over time I learned to trust the medium, because I had to. I learned to trust my instincts, and I learned to trust my judgment. “If you load black and white ﬁlm into your camera, your whole world becomes black and white until a new roll is loaded.” C.J. Chilvers said that.
And then here’s choice again. Digital photography is all about choice. When working in the digital mind-set, a lot of my decisions come down to increasing choice. I avoid strong contrasts, more choice during post. I frame a bit wider and make the choice about the final crop later. I shoot in color and then convert to black-and-white. I sometimes even bracket and make the exposure decision later. The list goes on.
At this point I usually get the question, “But isn’t choice what makes digital photography so wonderful?” Absolutely! I can quickly try out things, do several “developments” of the same picture and compare versions. I love digital photography for its speed, its surgical precision, its endless ways to get to the result, its super cleanliness and its way of being a wonderful learning tool. I owe a lot to the digital SLR.
But whenever I spend time in the analog realm, I am making a choice. A choice for a more conscious approach, a choice to be less casual about what I shoot and how I shoot it, a choice for a type of film and with it, a picture style. And all of a sudden, the limitation of film turns into an enormous freedom.
There is now a new generation of photographers who have never shot a single roll of film. It might sound old-fashioned, but I believe they could really benefit from spending an entire weekend with one single camera, one fixed focal length and two rolls of film in their pocket.
I have had the pleasure of working with landscape and travel photographer Colby Brown through TWiT Photo, both as a guest and as a judge for our Guest Quest contest. In this guestpost, Colby talks about what passion can do for your photography, and he couldn’t make a more fitting example. After picking up his first digital SLR just 5 years ago, this ambitious newcomer has already amassed major clients such as The Sierra Club and National Geographic, and his infectious enthusiasm for the art has made him a leader in the growing Google+ community of photographers. Just look at the pictures below to see what Colby means when he says that each of his photographs “tells a story of life on this planet.”
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Post and Photos by Colby Brown
There is no doubt that the digital age has left its mark on the photography industry. Not only are cameras and lens more affordable for the average photographer, but the increased popularity of social networks has allowed photo sharing unlike ever before. Google+, for example, has only been in existence for just a few months and already it has hosted over 3.4 billion photos, which is a ridiculous amount. Because of these factors, and others like it, the act of taking photographs has never been easier or nearly as popular.
However, like many other art forms, photography might be easy to pick up, but it is also difficult to perfect. One of the most asked questions I get from students of my photo workshops is, “How do I take my images to the next level?”. For most photographers, I believe that it is easy to grasp the concepts of exposure, light reflection and even all of those fun “guidelines” we all read about, such as the rule of thirds. But a photograph is much more then a mathematical equation or a set of tips to help with composition, right?
You see, many of us who do this for a living learned a very important lesson at some point throughout our careers. We realized that while an image can be a dime a dozen, our passion as artists was truly unique. All the great photographers of our time were not only passionate about their work, they learned the importance of capturing that passion in each of their photographs. Have you ever looked at a photograph and been drawn to it, but not sure why? I believe that certain undefinable aspect is the artist shinning through. Anyone can take an image, but not everyone can capture a photograph.
Now I am happy to answer your next question, which most likely is “How do I do that?”, but I think you might be a little disappointed, because it is as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. For many of us, it took years to fine-tune our creative vision and learn to truly find our passion within this artistic medium that we love. While there are certainly many aspects of running multiple photography businesses in the photo industry that I do not enjoy — such as marketing — as a general rule of thumb, I try not to work on projects or accept contracts where I am not connected to the subject matter. If I don’t care about what I am documenting, why should I expect others to?
At the end of the day you should always try to follow your heart when it comes to your photography work as it is the first step in attempting to take your images to the next level.
I moderated a round-table discussion, touching on the importance of storytelling and the intricacies of lighting, where Colby, while reiterating his distaste for artificial lighting, shared some fantastic tips for shooting in natural moonlight. On the other end of the spectrum (there’s a pun in there, isn’t there?), we had Dave and Wil of Elevendy, known for their highly produced style, sharing their perspective of their artificially-lit world.
The variety in our panel played out nicely when we switched gears to critique some of the work you all contributed. From cropping to composition to lighting, and even wardrobe selection, these guys offered expert advice on the work of a few lucky viewers. Colby even opened up his work humbly for critique by the others.
See what they had to say! Thanks to Keith Barrett, who streamed the hangout live and made it available to view at the Vidcast network.
Thanks for contributing your questions, topic suggestions and images for critique, and thank you Colby, Dave, Wil, Elia, and Mihailo for joining us. And of course, Leo Laporte ROCKS, for opening the office to us. I look forward to the next session in the Brickhouse – get your questions ready :)!
Paul Roetzer and his PR 20/20 public relations and marketing team offer great online marketing strategies to help strengthen your brand and bring more traffic your way. As a business owner in the 21st century, this kind of insight is vital to my success. Many other photographers are charged with the task of running a business, as well, and it’s hard to know where to start when it comes to marketing. PR 20/20 has created a set of “laws” to guide their marketing consultants that have made the firm the premier in the industry. In this post, Paul shares these basic guidelines with the rest of us, giving us the opportunity to, as he says “differentiate [ourselves], and become leaders” in this ever-expanding, ever-evolving industry.
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Post By Paul Roetzer
When PR 20/20 launched in November 2005, we set out on a journey to, “lead and create leaders,” as our mission states. My theory to grow a wildly successful and influential PR firm was to hire talented, intelligent and motivated professionals, provide them with the systems and infrastructure necessary to succeed, and then get out of their way. We wanted to develop and retain the industry’s premier public relations and marketing consultants. Professionals whose services and expertise bring immeasurable value to our clients, and directly contribute to their growth and success.
The Marketing Consultant Laws were originally created in August 2008 and distributed as an internal document to give us (the Consultants) direction and focus, and challenge us to become stronger and more valuable, individually, and as a team. I’ve decided to share them here (unedited) because most of the Laws have wider application to professionals in any industry, not just PR and marketing consultants. Hopefully the Laws provide some sort of motivation or guidance to professionals who are looking to differentiate themselves, and become leaders.
The Marketing Consultant Laws
Deliver Results: Tasks, milestones and activity reports are a means to an end. Our job is to deliver results.
Pay Attention to Details:
Maintain a vigilant focus on details in all communications and projects. Never make mistakes due to lack of focus or effort. Always ask yourself, “Is this the best I can do?”
Be a Proactive Communicator:
Don’t ever leave your clients or peers wondering. Anticipate their information needs and maintain a high level of communication at all times.
Challenge Yourself to be Great:
Always challenge yourself and those around you to improve. There is no limit to what you can achieve in business and in life.
“I don’t know” is not an acceptable answer. Your clients and your peers rely on you for solutions. Use your experience and the endless resources available to you to find answers.
Maintain a Career/Life Balance:
Your career affords you the opportunity to live a full and rewarding life, but don’t let it consume you. Maintain balance among work, wellness, relationships, community involvement, professional associations, friendships, hobbies and interests.
Grow Your Accounts:
The life-blood of every consultant is their client base. It is your job to retain and grow your accounts by maintaining an in-depth knowledge of your clients and their industries, building relationships, delivering results and keeping a pulse on opportunities.
Show imagination in your strategic thinking, and bring creativity to every project.
Be an Independent Thinker and Risk Taker:
Don’t get stuck in the rut of conformity. Look beyond traditional wisdom and conventional solutions. Be willing to take calculated risks and make mistakes.
Strive for Excellence:
Set high performance standards, and always strive towards personal and professional goals.
Challenge yourself to see the big picture. Always be analyzing —perceptions, audiences, objectives, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Find connections in seemingly unrelated news and trends.
Hunger for Knowledge:
Don’t ever stop learning. Consume the wealth of information that is all around you, and share your knowledge for the betterment of your clients and peers.
Stay in the Moment:
You will see and do things in your career others can only dream of. There will be highs and lows, victories and defeats. Cherish those moments, but don’t dwell on them. Your job is to stay in the moment, and appreciate it for what it is.
Positive energy is contagious. Bring enthusiasm and passion every day.