mel parker for black enterprise magazine

Mel is an executive for Dell, so we photographed him at their headquarters in Round Rock, Texas.


Although it didn’t run in the story, I love this other photograph we took:


My Nik has been Google-ized

Google purchased plug-in company Nik Software today. It looks like they are already rolling out changes in Color Efex Pro 4 (click for the larger version).

Todd Hewitt

Todd is the CEO of Fifth Wall Roofing here in Austin. He needed some updated portraits and so we headed downtown to take a few. We decided to shoot with the Austin skyline behind him, as his company has done a lot of the roofing work for those buildings. A big thanks to Eric Kotara for assisting on this shoot.

Pin the Tail on the TOS

I’ve been watching the Pinterest saga for a few weeks now. Although I have an account, I haven’t used it yet (although I find it interesting that people have somehow found me there). As is the case with many social networks, the issue here are the terms of service that you agree to when you use Pinterest. Depending on your position (and your area of photographic expertise), you are either unbothered by these terms or you find them ridiculous. First, here are the terms as posted here (emphasis mine):

By making available any Member Content through the Site, Application or Services, you hereby grant to Cold Brew Labs a worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free license, with the right to sublicense, to use, copy, adapt, modify, distribute, license, sell, transfer, publicly display, publicly perform, transmit, stream, broadcast, access, view, and otherwise exploit such Member Content only on, through or by means of the Site, Application or Services. Cold Brew Labs does not claim any ownership rights in any such Member Content and nothing in these Terms will be deemed to restrict any rights that you may have to use and exploit any such Member Content.

You acknowledge and agree that you are solely responsible for all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services. Accordingly, you represent and warrant that: (i) you either are the sole and exclusive owner of all Member Content that you make available through the Site, Application and Services or you have all rights, licenses, consents and releases that are necessary to grant to Cold Brew Labs the rights in such Member Content, as contemplated under these Terms; and (ii) neither the Member Content nor your posting, uploading, publication, submission or transmittal of the Member Content or Cold Brew Labs’ use of the Member Content (or any portion thereof) on, through or by means of the Site, Application and the Services will infringe, misappropriate or violate a third party’s patent, copyright, trademark, trade secret, moral rights or other proprietary or intellectual property rights, or rights of publicity or privacy, or result in the violation of any applicable law or regulation.

Right off the bat, it’s obvious this is generic CYA legal speak: when in doubt, claim everything and you’re covered. And looking at the terms, it looks like they’ve claimed just about anything they can (except for ownership, which is relegated to near-junk-bond status after the pilfering of rights listed above). As listed, they can do pretty much whatever they want with the content you have. At first glance – who cares? If I’m posting a product link to B&H, I don’t care about this part. Where I do care, however, is with my content. My images are mine, and I don’t like such grandiose rights claims about them, especially on a site that won’t work without users submitting their content. Even more ridiculous is the second paragraph above, where they assert that you must either have the ownership to the content you post, or have secured the rights to post it. Who has such rights to all of the content on the internet? Of course, no one. Your interests are varied, and you want to share them. You’re not a ‘collector of rights.’

In this way, Pinterest’s TOS are at odds with its own reason for being: if you can’t share what you don’t own, you can’t pin, and if you can’t pin, Pinterest has no content. It’s like signing up for a 5k race and then being told by the organizers that you need to get the proper permits from the city to have a race. No one would show up.

Some photographers (Trey Ratcliff, notably) argue that you should stop complaining and embrace the wave of the future. This being the wave of giving away your work for free, hoping that exposure to the world (consisting mostly of, surprise, other photographers) leads to being hired by ‘other’ people (the ones that actually hire photographers)). Trey is an awesome, successful photographer, but he’s also an edge case. You cannot start a photo business today by self-funding shoots, giving those away for free, hoping for someone to hire or license them. It’s not a business plan.

Indeed, some photographers have begun to question their use of Pinterest, even removing their images entirely. Others (some wedding photographers, for example) have openly embraced Pinterest because it is good at driving traffic and getting your work in front of the public. This is why I said that it depends on the type of photographer you are. Family/couple-related imagery usually has no lasting commercial value, because (at least on the wedding side) most photographers license those images to the clients to do with as they please. There’s nothing to stop someone (nor should there be) from pinning their favorite image from their wedding.

What’s been missing so far in this is a response from larger commercial companies. Should the legal team of a large company be concerned that Pinterest claims an open-ended license of their assets? Maybe, maybe not. On the one hand, what would Pinterest do with them? I thought of this for a while. What if they put together a harmless television ad, showing a collage of content submitted by users? Do you think the Pinterest legal team might make some effort to license, say, this pinned image before featuring it in an ad? You bet they would.

Pinterest eventually will have to clarify their TOS (last updated March, 2011). We saw the same thing with iBooks Author when it was released. Pinterest can be a very powerful platform, with a lot of *trusted* engagement, if they do.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my account there open, with nothing pinned. Well, except for this article.

The irony of pinning this post, with accompanying Pinterest logo, is not lost on me. According to their TOS, I must own their logo.


By |February 28th, 2012|Photography|3 Comments

Blogs In The Sky Keep On Changin’

I decided recently that it was time to shake things up a little bit in blog land. I now have a snazzy new design thanks to the folks at StudioPress. I’ve also added some additional content at the top. There’s a page for Photog.TV, as well as my luminosity mask set. At the bottom, you’ll see some of my recent Instagram images (yes, I know, I need to use it more often).

And since a post can always benefit with a picture, here are a few shots of the boys taken while we were visiting some family in Oklahoma. They look so happy to be standing in a field.

10 ways you can kick your photography to the next level this week

Start a personal project
Some photographers do a 365 project (where they take an image every day). Unless that idea is super-appealing to you, I’d instead look for a way you can merge photography with an interest you find fascinating. Perhaps you volunteer at the local animal shelter, or you are an expert on Ford Mustangs made before 1984. Whatever it is, build a personal project out of it. I recently started one of these based on a shoot from over a year ago. It’s more of an endurance event than a short period of focused work, and I’m looking forward to the end product!

Take a class
This could be something as simple as a short workshop, a dvd/video class, or even a conference. Specifically seek out one that covers something you don’t know. Don’t get caught only going to classes that you know your friends will be at (this is super-important at conferences.)

Trade for practice
Come up with an idea for a shoot, and trade that (for free if necessary) just to get the practice in doing it.

Read non-photo-specific things 
It’s easy to collect a list of photo blogs in your rss reader to lean on for inspiration/etc. Try instead to read books about creativity and business that don’t specifically deal with photography. Some of my recent favorites include The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle by Steven Pressfield and The Power of Full Engagement
by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz.

Inside-out learning (on a lens, modifier, etc)
Pick a lens, modifier, or light, and spend a weekend learning as much as  you can about it. Some photographers recommend using that piece of gear exclusively until you know it inside and out.

Flat-out copy
Find a photo you love and spend the time to create an image exactly like it. Don’t worry about putting it in your gallery (since it’s a copy). The exercise of creating the image will be a great learning experience, and eventually you will take a small piece of that technique and merge it with your style.

Reach out to someone you admire
Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus have made people more accessible than ever. Find you someone you admire and reach out to them. You don’t need to send them a 5 paragraph email with a ton of questions. A quick “Hi – I really enjoy the work you’ve been doing!” can get the door open to future communication.

Force variation (at least 5)
Along the lines of inside-out learning mentioned above, try forcing variations on yourself. Shoot a subject the way you would normally, and then force yourself to get 5 different looks of the same subject. You could try different angles, lighting, nighttime vs daytime, lenses, etc. Getting into this practice is good for you, because it always comes in handy on jobs for paying clients.

If you haven’t rented gear before, it’s worth the effort. Most online rental houses have the process down when it comes to shipping you gear and making it easy for you to return it. With some sites you can get a special deal on weekend rentals (3 days for the price of 2, etc). And be sure to check out any local companies in your area that rent gear. I use a mix of online and local rental options, and I will always be renting certain types of gear vs. buying. I love online and Texas Grip locally.

Break from social media
This is the toughest one in this list, and I find myself struggling with it all the time. When I find myself spending too much time on social networking sites, I try to remember that there are plenty of incredible photographers who don’t have any interest in social media. Go try to find Dan Winters in some social network online, for example. Realize that great photographers get great ultimately by doing, not just by networking.


I hope some of these have been helpful. If there’s a technique that has helped you out recently, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.