East of Toronto

Good news for those of you east of Toronto: The Durham Region gets its own specials in Whitby.

They are:

  • April 11: Camera Skills for the Emerging Pro”, Half Day Special
  • April 12: The Efficient Photography Business (Intermediate)
  • April 18: ”Introduction To Flash” All Day Special
  • April 19: ”Flash In Practice”, All Day Special

These four courses are for committed amateurs or emerging pros. And they come with special prices for the books, also. See learning.photography/collections/training-misc for details and booking.

Book now: each course will go ahead if we get enough people, and there is strictly limited seating.


Business note for a changing world

According to Poynter in an article dated today, Sports Illustrated has just fired all of its photographers. Story is here (click).

A sad story, but it is perhaps not quite as sad as it seems at first sight. After all, the magazine will still be illustrated. Someone is still going to be sitting there with big lenses snapping away. The magazine will just have to use freelancers instead. Meaning varying quality levels and logistics challenges, but also meaning (or so the accountants in charge hope) savings.

No more vacation time. No sick leave. No travel cost, hotels, or airfare. Now, the freelancer has to buy his or her own lenses. No cost except a fee per shoot. An accountant’s dream.

But a manager’s nightmare: it also means no loyalty, no common approach, no consistency of skills. And debatable cost savings once all that is taken into account.

Uncommoditize Yourself

What it shows very clearly is that the accountants see photography as a commodity. The perception is that photography is what you do with a camera, so if you have the camera you have what you need: just aim and shoot. “My uncle has one of those” means “my uncle is therefore a photographer as well”.

So what you need to do if you want to make a living (or continue to make a living) as a photographer is to ensure that your product or service is not seen as a commodity. From beginning to end, you need to educate your clients and potential clients. Some of the ways are photography related; many are almost trivial:

  • My product says “quality” from beginning to end.
  • I use large cameras. Uncle Fred has a smaller camera.
  • I write this blog and I write books.
  • I have a good web presence.
  • I use techniques (like dramatic flash) that ensure I am seen as different.
  • ‘I develop a personal style, a recognizable one.
  • I produce prints, with a nice margin, on pro paper.
  • I handle them with gloves on.
  • My emails have a good signature file.
  • My envelopes have printed labels, not handwritten scribbles.
  • I do professional post work in Adobe Lightroom, again with a recognizable personal style.
  • …and so on.

It’s not so difficult to make your product stand out. But it is essential. The small, almost trivial things can in fact be very important (consider the “out of the box experience” or the magnetic power supply connection when you buy an Apple product). Offer value, and once your clients see this value, they will appreciate it.

It may of course mean moving out of photojournalism and into, say, weddings, or something else. The world keeps changing and nevertheless there will always be successful photographers. Just not as many of them as there were before. Start thinking now and you can be one of them.


By all means join the comments (above, click in the bubble).


Tip of the day: Events

For all of you, but for event photographers in particular, here’s your tip of the day: get one of these:

For about $10, you can get a battery tester like this. It is not a regular voltmeter; rather, it is a meter that tests batteries on load, with a load appropriate to the battery type.

And before each shoot, test your batteries: the ones in the flashes, and the ones in ancillary equipment like pocketwizards, light meter, and so on.

This way you avoid unnecessary changes while ensuring that you never run out mid shoot. There are few things as embarrassing. Ask me.


Wall Art

I held a Photographic Art Garage Sale today at my home. And it was literally a Garage Sale:

This taught me a few things. First, how important it is to have prints made of your photos. The tactile experience of holding a print is something special. Prints go on walls and add something when they do. Prints do not get lost when a hard drive crashes. They do not need batteries. They can be seen by many people at once. They have a certain value that an LCD display cannot approach.

Also, it reminded me that there is benefit in starting a wall art collection and adding to it over the years. Add a little here and a little there and before you know it you have a great collection. And it is “a little bit here, a little bit there” because there is a cost involved in prints, especially in framing.

Third, I was reminded how nice a wall looks with prints. Even my garage wall. Any wall livens up with prints, and its character changes completely when you switch the prints around. And the more you have, the more switching around you can do. Do not keep the same prints in the same place forever.

Fourth, I learned again how taste differs and how you cannot argue over taste. Sold prints included:

A sailboat and three urban scenes: Old Stockholm, Toronto under construction, and Utrecht. I can see the attraction of putting major cities on your wall in suburbia. But there are some prints I think are great that attracted no-one; conversely, there was a lot of attention for some photos I thought interesting.

In fact most people looked at the black and white photos, but bought colour photos. perhaps B/W is more artistic, but colour fits better in most people’s homes.

In conclusion, prints have something special, and I strongly recommend you buy, make, and shoot for prints.  You will not regret it.

Did you miss the sale? If you live in the Toronto area, come for a private viewing: the prints are still available.



Flash is for when it’s dark?

No, that’s not just what flash is for. Take this image, made on a sunny day:

That was a flash image. Without flash, it would have looked like this:

Of course I could have just increased exposure *(lower “f”-number, or slower shutter, or higher ISO). But then, the entire image would have been brighter:

That’s not bad, but it doesn’t emphasize the subject, and I lose the opportunity to shape the subject.

So there are many shots where flash is not necessary per sé; it just increases the creative options available to you. Always carry flashes, is my motto: it makes my creative life easier by giving me more options.


Today, I host a Photographic Art Garage Sale at my home (scroll down). There is a very special deal on the e-books (http://learning.photography/collections/books) as well. 9AM-5PM: Come by if you are near Oakvillle, Ontario!