Most of us love to travel. The excitement of new locations, new scenery, fresh ideas. It inspires us and feeds our creative soul. If you’re like me, I tend to put a lot of planning and creative energy towards shoots that take place while I’m traveling. I look forward to it, marking these shoots as standout portfolio builders and points of growth. But, have you ever stopped to think about all the missed opportunities for amazing shots right in our own backyards?
If you love travel, then you have probably fantasized about traveling the world and getting paid to do what you love, photography. I still remember my first destination wedding. I was hired to shoot a wedding in Ireland and I nearly lost my mind. I couldn’t believe someone was willing to pay me money to travel across the globe to take pictures. I had already had the travel bug, but after this, all bets were off. I was hooked and would spend the next 10+ years looking for any and every way to travel the world doing what I love.
From a bird’s-eye view, this adventure looks quite glamorous and the end result of these productions most certainly is. But what folks don’t get to see are the 16-hour days in 110-degree heat put in to get the shot, the 4am call times for light, the intense pressure of clients’ high expectations, the cold-calling to get new clients, the all-nighters I pull to get retouched images over to a client before their print deadline, the endless hours my Dreamteam and I spend estimating and planning productions, and the hundreds of emails that go back and forth for each and every shoot. There are no sick days in this kind of work.
I am an artist—a creative soul that cannot be tamed, a dreamer with a big heart who refuses to allow societal rules to define me. But I didn’t pop out of my mother’s womb with big ideas and a nomadic spirit; it was something I fought for over the span of several decades. I was born into a world of manners and politeness; you are conditioned to believe the ideals of your community and are told what to say and when to speak. It was a toxic environment that killed individuality and creative expression, but I never realized that there was a different way while inside the comfortable confines of my hometown.
I’m on a mission. For some unexplained reason, I relish in seeing others experience the joy of being an artist and living their dream of making a living with their camera. Hang out with me for any length of time, and I will ask you a lot of questions. Such as: What do you love to do more than anything on the planet? How many non-paid, non-client self-assignments do you do a month? Are you working on a body of images in a series? How do you feel if someone tells you your work sucks? What are you doing to market your work? My goal is to get photographers to get off their butts, get out, and create their own path.
Video production is a complicated world. Even if you’ve been involved in the world of video for many years as I have, the speedy technological advancements on the production side and the changing conditions on the business side create a state of constant required learning. If you’re not abreast of these changing dynamics and techniques you’re likely going to be losing money. One aspect that probably changes faster than the advancements in technology is the expedient furtherance of visual styles. This is either the bane or passion of any video maker (depending on who you talk to) trying to create a profitable formula with their video work, whether it be weddings, commercial, feature-filmmaking or music videos.
Have you heard that the high school senior photography market and model programs are dying? I have … many, many times! Even from a photographer-specific business coach I once paid—needless to say, that didn’t last long. Let me tell you, those rumors have been around for several years, and they’re still wrong. So if you’ve heard that before, I have great news! As long as there are teenagers graduating high school, parents seeing their babies growing into adults, and professional photographers willing to provide a phenomenal experience for the senior and parent, there will be a market for high school senior photography and model programs!
Readers of this column know that I’m a big booster for the use of handheld light meters. I use them daily in my own photography and recommend them to every photographer interested in better lighting. In fact, if you want to take your lighting to the next level in addition to taking your light off your camera, learning to use a handheld light meter is the next best step you can take in that direction. I know what you’re thinking! “My camera already has a built-in light meter. Why do I need another meter, another expense, and another tool to worry about?” Those are each great questions.
In today's age of high dynamic range cameras and increased knowledge of post-production software, photographers are beginning to rely less and less on the fundamentals of lighting. I can tell you firsthand that our studio built a foundation of its success on the ability to use creative light in any situation. Lighting, in my opinion, is the first thing that we should learn as professional photographers. Lighting will dictate the location that you shoot in as well as the overall style that you are trying to achieve.
As photographers, you should focus on making your client look their best, but do not transform them into someone they won’t recognize. The rule of thumb with retouching is to be subtle enough that it’s not even noticeable that you did it. For this level of editing, I find myself starting in Lightroom or another RAW processing program, then retouching in Photoshop. In my opinion, there is no other comparable tool, and with actions, using a tablet for pressure sensitivity, and using a non-destructive post-production workflow, I can run through multiple images with ease. So if you need to dust off your editing skills, these are the five steps to brush up on retouching in Photoshop.