When the Teacher Becomes the Student

When I go out in public to shoot, people often approach me and ask questions. Many times the initial query is about my camera or lens. From there, however, the conversation can go anywhere and, invariably, the individual will share a personal anecdote or pose a question based on their own experiences.

Eight Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Photographer

Anyone with a DSLR and a Web site can present themselves as a professional photographer today. So how can you, as a prospective photography client, separate the contenders from the pretenders?

Here are eight questions to ask yourself before hiring a photographer for an assignment — be it a corporate shoot, an editorial assignment, a portrait, a wedding or other event.

Pretty Girls, Ugly Weather and Other Distractions in China

As I looked through my viewfinder to shoot a group of railway passengers at China’s Guangzhou Railway Station, I suddenly felt a cold splash of water on my neck.

Rain! Where was my umbrella — and the photographer/assistant who was supposed to be holding it over me and my gear?

The Only Thing Photography Has to Fear Is Fear Itself

One of the leading explanations for the disappearance of the Neanderthals was that they could not adapt their tools to the new conditions surrounding them. They stubbornly (or stupidly, considering their limited brain capacity) continued to use the ones they had. Then, they vanished.

For the Self-Confident Photographer, All the World’s a Stage

In a previous Black Star Rising post, I discussed overcoming self-doubt in client negotiations by tapping into a reservoir of confidence — the one you have earned by developing your talents as a photographer.

If You Can’t Be Original, You Should at Least Be Honest

Many photographers start out with lofty goals. The budding artist wants to be an original — to immortalize something unique with his or her camera.

These beginners soon learn that there are very few “secret” locations that have not been captured in photographs (particularly now that a camera is part of most everyone’s mobile phone). For some, this realization makes them not want to step outside or hold a camera up to their eye, because everything they see has been photographed so many times before.

Photos Sear the Memory in a Way that Video Does Not

In today’s world of Internet publishing and streaming media, photographers are increasingly expected to practice multiple disciplines — namely, to provide both still and moving images from an event. Of course, I understand the desire for video, and I appreciate that it has its place.

Nine Dos and Don’ts for the New Camera Buyer

Whenever I buy a new camera, I have a tendency to leave it sealed in the box and eye it warily for a few days — or even a few weeks — before I take it out to play.

Even though I’ve owned dozens of cameras in my life, I still find myself somewhat intimidated when there’s a new addition. As familiar as I am with what most camera features do and the new surprises I can expect to find, there’s still that awkward “new gizmo” hump I have to get over.

The Three Phases of Camera Ownership

If you remember buying your first DSLR, you probably can also recall your thoughts and the research you did. You can graze the Internet, find most anything about any camera and read reviews before making a decision.

Should International Photographers Register Their Images with the U.S. Copyright Office?

Black Star Rising reader Richard Cave sent us the following question:

Being a U.K. freelancer, if I as a U.K. resident put my pictures on the Web, do I need to register my images with the U.S. Copyright Office? The reason I ask is that we are no longer local, but now global.

Eye on Image-Making: Financial Planning, Part 3

In my previous two columns on financial planning, I discussed three tools that should be part of any business plan — the break-even analysis, the profit/loss forecast and the cash-flow projection. Now it’s time to consider a fourth essential tool: the capital spending plan.

Sometimes, Even the Best Lenses Need to Be Replaced

I’ve used cameras for most of my life, and I have really enjoyed what photography has brought me. This science and art requires attention to detail and ongoing maintenance. If you are serious about what you do, you probably spend many hours taking care of your gear. We know it’s important to keep dust off of our lenses and sensor, because any foreign matter degrades the quality of the image.

Will the iPad Save Photography?

I admit to being a gearhead. I love tech toys, and that includes not only photography gear but also computers and mobile phones. So you can imagine how excited I was about Apple’s big announcement on Wednesday: the unveiling of the iPad.

Never Underestimate the Power of Your Camera

Every time you pick up your camera, you have the potential to perform a revolutionary act.

Photography should be a kick in the establishment, a cure for the commonplace, a powerful explosion of new ideas.

Don’t Let Self-Doubt Hold Back Your Photography Business

If you are a new professional photographer or new to a different photographic genre, you most likely have some doubts about your ability. It’s not only a common feeling, but quite worthwhile in personal development.

Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Photographers?

I see a lot of skepticism about social media from photographers in various online forums. A recent comment on the business forum at NatureScapes.Net, for example, stated that there are “no clear examples of anyone ever having any success marketing in this fashion,” that social media has never helped sell “hundreds of units of anything,” and that, therefore, it is a waste of time.

Don’t Be Scared of the F-Word When Exploring New Business Models

The f-word, as in “free.”

In reading Black Star Rising recently, I came upon Harrison McClary’s post asserting that “A Photo Credit Doesn’t Pay the Rent.” In the piece, Harrison states pointedly, “I don’t give away my work for free.”

My Six Favorite Photography Podcasts

Over the past few months I have immersed myself in photography podcasts. I’ve found them a great way to catch up on industry trends, get reviews on the latest camera gear, and find out what other photographers are shooting.

Why I Chose an E-Mail Marketing Service to Boost My Photography Business

To help market my photography business in 2010, I decided to try an e-mail database and distribution service called Adbase. This post shares my reasons for choosing a service like Adbase (there are similar ones out there, such as Agency Access), along with my initial experiences. In future posts, I plan to share the results of my e-mail marketing program.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: The Knight Case Studies Initiative

Case studies have long been used to teach business, law, and medicine, but do they have a place in the journalism classroom?

Kirsten Lundberg, director of the Knight Case Studies Initiative at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, is betting they do.

How to Get Your Images into Galleries

(The following is excerpted from 99 Ways to Make Money from Your Photos, by the editors of Photopreneur.)

Gallery representation is the goal for many photographic artists who see exhibitions — even shared exhibitions — as a vote of confidence in their abilities as both artists and photographers. While there are lots of different ways of selling your images, few have the cachet, the satisfaction or the profitability of selling them through a gallery.

Supply Science Pictures for Photo Researchers

(The following is excerpted from 99 Ways to Make Money from Your Photos, by the editors of Photopreneur.)

Photo Researchers is a highly specialized niche stock site that has been offering scientific photos for more than 50 years. In the past, most of the images it supplied came from doctors and scientists. Today, about 80 percent of contributors are photographers.

Keep Your Cool — and Use Your Smarts — When Dealing with Meddlesome Clients

Some days, everything goes according to plan and the assignment seems relatively easy. The assistants and talent do their jobs and you do yours — and even your coffee mug stays magically full.

Other times, however, working through a shoot is like slogging through thick mud; problems seem to crop up at every available opportunity. Be in the game long enough and you’ll have your share of both.

Ask the Photo Business Coach: Where Is the Industry Going?

In this month’s “Ask the Photo Business Coach,” I answer the following question submitted by a Black Star Rising reader: “Where is the industry going — and should I be worried about it?” It’s a question I get a lot.

A Great Photo Shoot Starts with Your Network

Sometimes with our focus on gear and technique, we forget that the most important resource we have is people. They help us to produce our work, they are the subject of our work, and ultimately they determine the value of our work.