inspiration

A New Video Show!

One of my goals for 2017 is to build out my YouTube channel a little bit, and I started the process about 5 weeks ago with a new video show. In it I plan to talk about tips, tricks, reviews and more, all related to photography and painting. I've posted a quick little synopsis of each episode over on the fine art website blog here. But if you'd like to go to a particular episode, here's a graphic/link below for each one of the first 6 shows. If you like the content, I'd really appreciate a share, like and/or a subscribe to the channel. I hope the information is helpful - thank you!

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100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years, Part III

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Note: this is the final post in my 3-part series titled "100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years". You can catch part 1 here and part 2 here.

I hope you've enjoyed this series. Today it's time for the epic conclusion :)

Here we go with the the final group of 40:

61. Keep a folder/journal of the times when work you’ve created for someone has truly made a difference. Maybe you created an image of a family member of theirs that has recently died. Or a special newborn shot. When that heartfelt appreciation comes in (and it’s noticeably different than regular appreciation), take note of it.

62. Remove the ‘sent from my iPhone’ or similar email signature from your mobile device. Leaving it shows people that you are available to read/reply every moment of the day.

63. Your word is everything among clients and colleagues. Treat it as such.

64. Creating your style may take a while. It took me from 2005-2009 to narrow my focus to what I liked. And I’m still refining parts of it with every shoot.

65. Play with a ring flash, and then try using it only for slight fill.

66. If you get into off camera lighting, you will find yourself preferring either speed lights or strobes. Try to use them both for different shoots. You’ll quickly learn the pros and cons of each. Eventually you’ll use both on the same shoot for some particular reason.

67. Research your commercial clients as much as possible. Knowing what they’ve got going on is a great conversation starter.

68. Keep an idea file of shoots you want to do. I use Evernote for this.

69. When you come across cool shots/poses, take a photo and then store it in Evernote. There you can use tags (for example “female, standing”), and always reference it later if you need quick ideas.

70. Experiment with all sorts of lights - strobes, flashlights, pen lights, fluorescent, etc.

71. Anytime a client suggests having drinks or a meal after a shoot, take them up on it. More relationship-building happens here than during the shoot, usually.

72. If you put a light on a stand, use a sandbag. Always. Trust me on this. If you travel for a shoot, consider purchasing 'water/sand bags' that you can fill up with water on location. That way you can fly with just the empty plastic bags.

73. If you have children, you still need to take the time to photograph them doing their thing, even though after a long shoot the last thing you want to see is a camera.

74. Wired tethered shooting has always worked better for me than wireless.

75. Pack snacks/bars/etc in your bag for every shoot.

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76. If your client has images from a prior shoot that they don't like, seek to understand why. This will give clues on how to approach your shoot with them and what to avoid.

77. Don't be a picture taker, but rather a problem solver. The former just pushes a button until the client is happy. The latter wants to understand the needs of their client before they even get to the photography part.

78. Every image can be critiqued on some level, so don't think that a critique is always correct. Over time, you will be able to judge your own photos. And you will worry less about what the professional 'critiquers' have to say.

79. Shoot for free if you are so inclined. I've done it before and have learned a lot from each of those shoots. Not every gain is monetary.

80. The value that you bring isn't just equal to the time you put in, so don't price yourself that way. My pricing is based on 10 years of experience, not the fact that I can do a shoot and be done in 2 hours.

81. Spend some of your time working with a charitable organization. For a few years I photographed for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (infant bereavement). Those sessions showed me the true power of photography.

82. If you must watermark, make it small and out of the way.

83. Selective/spot color went out a long time ago.

84. Avoid the cliched shooting locations (railroad tracks, I'm looking at you).

85. Music can be great to set the mode during a shoot. Streaming services like Spotify are great for this, as you can have all sorts of styles and genres at your fingertips (vs. purchasing a bunch of music).

86. Learn about Facebook dark posts.

87. Study up on Pinterest's promoted pins.

88. Consider using Periscope/IG Live/FB Live for BTS/Q&A streaming.

89. Respond to comments/questions on your blog and other social media channels, *especially* if you started the post with a question. It doesn't make you 'look cool' to not respond.

90. Keep a log of the time you spend on various projects. It will help you determine what to keep doing yourself, and what you can outsource. It will also help you provide better estimates for shoots.

91. If you have completely different 'lines' (for example, commercial photography and pet photography), consider splitting them into completely different websites. You will also end up marketing and promoting them both differently. I do this for doggettstudios.com (commercial work) and austinchristmascards.com (holiday work).

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92. Long-term relationships pay off. As I write this, I'm currently on a flight for a shoot that came about because I worked with a guy several years ago on a band shoot. That guy is now a Creative Director at an agency. Because of that long-ago shoot and my continual work, he suggested me for the shoot.

93. Don't listen to the naysayers scream about the death of photography. Families and businesses will always need images. It won't matter that iPhone 12 takes pictures as good as your Canon 5D Mark 3; what will matter is that you have years of experience and know what to photograph and what not to.

94. Figure out where your best 'idea spot' is. For me, it's the shower, hands-down. Lots of great ideas came from there (although so did high water bills).

95. Print your images. They do nothing if they just sit on a hard drive. I am still working on this.

96. If you are nervous about an upcoming shoot, it doesn't show that your weak - it actually shows that you care.

97. If you don't feel nervous about any of your projects, you probably aren't being pushed outside of your comfort zone. Find a project that will push you there. That's where all the growth is.

98. Be helpful to those coming up behind you. Never spoil their excitement for reaching a photography milestone that you completed several years ago. Share in their joy and excitement.

99. If you have a question about these tips (or anything else), email me at eric@doggettstudios.com and I'll do my best to answer it.

100. Always remember that God has given you this special gift and it's up to you to use it to create wonderful works of art - enjoy the process!

What do you think?. Were there things that have worked for you that should be included? If so, leave a comment below. I'd love to hear about things you've learned!

Also, if you'd like the whole list as a downloadable PDF (along with my other PDF titled "How To Shoot For A Magazine" and my Art Wall Photoshop templates), just sign up for the mailing list and you'll get it right away!

 

100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years, Part II

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Note: this is the second in my 3-part series titled "100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years". You can catch part 1 here.

I hope you enjoyed part one of this multi-part post! Today I was having a conversation with a wedding-photographer friend about backups, which reminded me a lot about #16 from the last post. You can never have too many backups. Heck even this post has a couple backups. :)

Here we go with the the next group of 30:

31. Send a new client a gift after your first big shoot. I send cookies.

32. When you like one image over another, really study it to figure out why you like it. Then check out other people’s work to see if they made an image similar to yours that you don’t like. Did they make that pose work? Why? How?

33. Be professional and confident, but don’t be bossy or arrogant.

34. Find out when you can share the images online, and make sure your client is ok with you doing that.

35. Assistants ‘assist’ you, not ‘do all labor’ for you. Get in there and help them with setting up stands/etc. Good ideas can come about during that time.

36. Know when your idea isn’t working and move on. Don’t be afraid to say that it’s not working.

37. For your website, don’t have more than a few images from a particular shoot unless the images are incredibly different. You don’t want prospective clients looking at your site and thinking “there’s that girl again”.

38. Try to record as much behind the scenes footage on a shoot as possible. Even little snippets with an iPhone are great.

39. Come up with a personal series (or 2 or 3) to shoot. Creative Directors love to see that you are passionate about different subjects and will make a shoot happen just for yourself.

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40. Editorial and music photos won’t pay a lot, but they are a great place to experiment and nail down your style.

41. Discover your favorite photographers and learn their style. Once you’ve figured it out and practiced it, combine it with another photographer’s style and see what you like of the results.

42. Nobody ever buys chicken dance photos from a wedding.

43. Figure out what you can outsource. For weddings, you can have someone else edit your whole shoot and produce the album. For commercial/compositing work, you can use a service like ColorExpertsBD.com to cut a subject out from a background. I’ve used them for years and they do great work.

44. Build a ‘resource’ list in your address book or email client. Have a list of assistants, retouchers, stylists, etc ready to go.

45. Take photos of potential photo spots and build a location image library inside of Lightroom/etc. When someone says they want to shoot in front of a purple wall downtown, you’ll know right where to go to find it.

46. Build an email list. This should be your first priority over Facebook, Instagram, etc.

47.A lot of colored gel can scream ‘1980s’. A little bit of colored gel can add character/dimension.

48. If you want to use a smoke machine in a building on a shoot, make sure to turn off the smoke alarms first.

49. Experiment with all sorts of gear by renting it first at places like lensrentals.com and rentglass.com.

50. Look for ways to collaborate with other creatives on personal shoots. For example, you do the shoot and they do the retouching, or vice versa. This gives you both great images for your portfolios.

51. Take the time to create a great bio page. A video here is a plus.

52. Get BTS videos on YouTube. Or interview videos. Or any type of videos.

53. Experience the difference of having a makeup artist on a shoot with you.

54. If you are traveling with your gear as a carry-on, be sure to pack a small bag just in case your rolling bag is too big for the overhead or they are out of overhead space. That way you can put the most important pieces of gear into a small bag which you hold in your lap or under the seat in front of you while they check the roller.

55. Become part of a local photography group in your town, or start your own (as I did with austinphotogs.com). It can be a general interest group, or something specific like a portrait or newborns group.

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56. Build up a referral network of other photographers in different styles, and pass work around if it’s outside of your skill set or interest.

57. If you have the opportunity, hit up a conference like WPPI, Photo Plus, Imaging USA, etc. You’ll learn a lot, establish some great relationships, and probably get a good deal on some gear.

58. Become a content empire (I’m still working on this one).

59. Find mentors. Mentors to help you with technique. Mentors to help with business. Mentors to help with being a good person.

60. When you make a promise, immediately think to yourself how you can over deliver on it.

The series epic conclusion is coming Tuesday, 6/23. However, if you'd like the whole list as a downloadable PDF (along with my other PDF titled "How To Shoot For A Magazine" and my Art Wall Photoshop templates), just sign up for the mailing list and you'll get it right away!

 

100 Things I've Learned about Photography in 10 Years

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Note: Part II is posted here. It's taken me 10 years to write this post. Well, not exactly. More like a few weeks. But it comes from a decade of experience.

10 years ago this month, my son Brandon was born. That was the month that I started learning photography. I didn't go to photography school or anything like that. I just had a voracious appetite for all things related to photography. I read books, watched videos, and took tons of images.

Just getting to that starting point was a big deal. My wife had given me a film camera somewhere around 2001, and I gave up on it because I couldn't understand what was happening and how I could improve. The birth of my son and the purchase of a Canon 20d changed all of that. Now I could see every improvement (and mistake) I was making. A path forward became much more clear. Every shoot brought about the tiniest of improvements.

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Not that I didn't suck as all get-out initially ---> :)

Since those first bad images I've gone on to shoot weddings, families, seniors, newborns, magazine covers, headshots, advertising images, and more. I've had to weave through all of those styles and subjects to define my style and approach. As with all creative pursuits, you have to put in the time to figure out what you like - what is fulfilling.

And what you define as 'fulfilling' one year can be less-interesting the next. It's always-evolving. It's a process I've gone through for 10 years, and one that I anticipate will continue for the next 10.

So here, over 3 parts, are the 100 most-important things I've learned about photography. I tried to include technical, creative, and client-relationship tips. And I'm sure I've left some out that I would include had I written this post a year ago or a year from now.

Here we go with the first batch of 30!

1. Often the simpler ideas are better.

2. Don’t just shoot what you’ve set up - walk all the way around it, shooting above and below it.

3. Have backups for your backups.

4. Shoot for the end product - not everything needs to be photographed in the highest RAW setting.

5. Clients like regular updates while you are doing the post work on their images.

6. Learn to sketch, even if just a little. It can really help sell a photo idea.

7. Don’t be afraid of lens flare - just be sure to photograph the same angles without flare.

8. Tethering can show you what’s in or out of focus much better than the back of your camera.

9. Don’t keep shooting the exact same angle over and over until you think of the next angle to shoot. Clients don’t need 20 shots of the same pose.

10. If possible, scout locations ahead of time and write/sketch out your ideas. This applies to commercial work as well as weddings.

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11. Knock the safe stuff out of the way first before the fun/exciting stuff. This way you can get the trust of your subject/client first.

12. Remember that it gets tiring for a subject to hold a pose/position for too long. Give them rest breaks while you check images/discuss plans.

13. Always capture as much as possible in-camera. Trying to create lighting in Photoshop is hard and often fake-looking.

14. When shooting for magazines, remember to back up and give space for text around your image.

15. Let the shoot requirements (number of images needed, available time, etc) inform your lighting/gear decisions.

16. Employ 3-2-1 backups (3 copies, 2 locations, 1 of which is offsite).

17. A phone call to follow up after you sent a potential client some info can be a good thing. Just hearing your voice means you are a real person and not just an email reply. And the same is true for hearing their voice.

18. If you want to get into celebrity photography, check out this post by my friend Doug Sonders. And then practice nailing a shoot within 1-5 minutes.

19. Don’t be afraid to ask others at your shoot for their thoughts/input. I’ve lucked out with a ton of great ideas this way.

20. Try to bring an assistant to every shoot if possible (definitely for commercial/editorial work). It gets you into a team mindset much more quickly.

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21. You will get hungry and thirsty after an hour or two. Plan for it. Never be embarrassed to need to eat.

22. At the shoot, always remember who is your client and who’s not your client. Try to help the latter when they have questions/suggestions, but remember you are always responsible to the former.

23. If you have any interest at all in compositing, collect your own images, starting with clouds. Those are what you usually always replace first in an outdoor scene.

24. Tag your image collection, but don’t go overboard with it. For example, “clouds” is fine. “clouds, puffy, white, midday, wispy” is overboard.

25. Only tag what you might need later. It makes no sense to tag 500 wedding dance images as “dancing” if you wouldn’t use them later on for some other client or project. Otherwise tag only your favorites from that event.

26. Experiment with the slightest amount of fill, both on and off axis. Just enough light to help define the subject.

27.  Keep yourself educated with the ‘top 3’ photography education resources I can think of: Chase Jarvis’ CreativeLive, Scott Kelby’s KelbyOne, and Jeremy Cowart’s SeeUniversity.

28. Someone once said that photography is 10% shooting and 90% moving furniture. This is true.

29. Show your subject how to sit/stand/etc. - don’t just tell them.

30. If you love an image, ‘compliment’ it to your subject. Let them know why you like it, even comparing it against images you’ve already shot of them. If they know what makes them look good, they will repeat it.

Note: Part II is posted here. If you'd like the whole list as a downloadable PDF (along with my other PDF titled "How To Shoot For A Magazine" and my Art Wall Photoshop templates), just sign up for the mailing list and you'll get it right away!

The Quality of the Story

Too many times we (myself included) love to rush into the technical/production aspect of whatever we are trying to create, when we should really be focusing more on the quality of our story first. It’s a unique problem in ‘still-image’ visual arts (for example, writers don’t have this problem. They are completely focused on story). We love to create ‘the image’. Our mind is filled with color, or lighting, or mood, and often we use the creation of an image as the excuse for a particular technique. Have you ever thought “I just learned how to do x, so I should figure out an image I can use that technique for”. It may be cool and stimulating, but it’s not story-focused. How can we use story to enhance an image?

I’m going to rattle off some ideas for you to think about:

- Changing the angle of your presentation (i.e. camera angle, or the viewpoint of your artwork). - Alternate variations of color/tone in the image. Or one color. Or no color. How does one look impact story over the other? - What/who is the subject? What are they focused on? How would changing their gaze, pose, mood, etc. tell your story better? - Time of day. - Lighting. - Contrast or lack thereof. - Focus/depth-of-field or lack thereof.

storyThese are technical solutions to a narrative problem: how to enhance our story.

Not everyone who likes your story will love your technique. And vice versa. There is a subset of people that will love both.

If you’ve tried variations of the list above and nothing works, your story isn’t strong enough. If multiple options work, pick the one that best-connects the viewer to your story.

People react to the stories of our images more than the techniques. Photographers might tell you your lighting is cool. But more people will connect with the idea that the boy in the photo looks scared and alone.

Don’t show technique. Show story.

can you still be creative in today's world?

photo sketchI've been thinking about this the last few days. It's a challenge, to say the least, and it's not just limited to photography. Think of every creative service industry that's been affected by a transition to digital: photography, music, art, advertising, etc. They've all been inundated with new talent that's able to learn and produce at a rapid pace. If you can see the results of your work right away, you can progress through those 10,000 hours much quicker. The baseline for what is considered acceptable work changes as well. As an example, look at audio. When the digital revolution started, audio professionals slammed MP3 for it's crappy compression and frequency response. And where are we now? The pros still slam MP3. And MP3 is the dominant audio format. Not "cd quality" files. Not HD audio. This kind of market 'attitude' adjustment has happened in every field affected by digital. And it's not completely a bad thing. It's great, for example, to be able to get a beautiful print out of today's printers without worrying about CMYK or color separations or any of that stuff.  So how can you stand out in your field among all this change? I'm going to focus this specifically on photography, although there are aspects that apply to other creative disciplines. The first thing to recognize is that we as photographers MUST push our creativity in order to survive. Technical knowledge isn't enough. It probably hasn't been for almost 10 years.

Let's say that you've got your technical stuff down, and you're looking for ways to explore what's inside your head. Here are some things that I've tried, all with varying levels of success.

1. Sketching/Drawing. First off, stop right now with the "I can't draw" comments. Have you seen Joe McNally's sketches? Just get a pencil and draw what you are thinking. And then draw it again with something different (the angle, the light, etc). My sketches, as crappy as they can be, are the basis for many of my shoots. If you want to go further and learn about composition, lighting and drama in sketches, check out Feng Zhu's videos where he breaks down his concept art for games.

2. Using Current Events As a Springboard. This is an approach that can give you new ideas almost every day. Check the news. What stories are people drawn to? Why are they drawn to them? Is it the emotion? The characters? The setting? Is there a feeling or idea from a story that could translate into your work?

3. What Would Happen If. This is a fun one. It comes into play a lot when I draw out new humor shoot ideas. For example, what would happen if a woman was in the delivery room giving birth, and yet she was so tied up in her iPad that she wasn't even paying attention? Maybe something like this. This technique is great for bringing together disparate ideas and concepts. The most obvious would be the standard 'fish out of water' idea. But you can go further than that by refining your ideas to be closer together/more feasible. Don't go for the obvious setting or situation, but rather start there and then put your spin on it.

4. Bedside Ideas. Chase Jarvis interviewed a photographer who wrote his dreams down and then turned them into photo shoots. How creative! Try keeping a paper and pen by the bed in case you wake up at 2am with a crazy idea. I really need to do this more - I know I've missed some good ones that I didn't remember the next day. I also laugh sometimes when the ideas seemed so perfect in the middle of the night, but are utter crap in the morning.

5. Test. Take the lighting and modifiers you have and spend several hours testing combinations. How does relative flash power affect the look? What about mixing ambient and flash? What modifiers work good with certain body/face types? Zack Arias did this and posted the results a while back.

6. Recreate & Move On. If you find an image/technique that you are really drawn to, try to recreate it. I know that we often get caught up in 'it's that other photographer's image, so Ill never post something similar because I don't want to be copying their style.' That very well may be true. But that's not the point. The point is to get the technique down, so that you can mix those skills with your own for your own unique vision. Keith Richards once said something along the lines of 'there is no unique music. It's just a player's interpretations of other musicians they've heard before'. That wasn't the actual quote, but it's the general idea. Recreate what you like, and then move on.

7. Keep track. Store images that you like in a place that you can reference easily. I use Evernote for this. So does Jeremy Cowart. My collection is tagged in various ways, like men, women, group, standing, seated, etc. I also have a "photos I want to shoot" category where I store some of my favorite images.

So there you go - 7 ways to help stay creative in today's digital world. If you have your own technique, I'd love to hear it in the comments. I'm always looking for new ideas :)