Pro Bono Photography, Karma and Me

Six months ago, if you had told me I’d be volunteering to do a full-day photo shoot and a half day of editing for free, I’d have laughed and called you crazy.

Things are different now. Call me a soft touch, but I’ve become a believer in pro bono karma.

Make Me Listen with My Eyes

Can you speak photo?

Many photographers can’t. You look at their images, and they are fine — properly exposed, nicely framed, perfectly lit. But they are boring. They do not speak. They do not convey any message or meaning. They are as flat as a line on the screen of a heart rate monitor attached to a dead man.

VIDEO: Google Analytics for Photographers: Setting Goals

In this part of our video series on Google Analytics, I show you how to set conversion goals for the visitors to your Web site, and how to track your progress in reaching these goals. (You can find the previous posts in this series here.)

Six Tips for Switching from Newspapers to Weddings

As sad a fact as it may be, the newspaper staff photographer is fast becoming an endangered species. I’ve recently spoken to several current and former newspaper staffers contemplating the move to wedding photography, and I thought I’d share some of the advice I’ve offered.

I’ll Never Tire of Telling Stories That Matter

I left the newspaper world five years ago. There are things I miss about it, and things I don’t.

I miss receiving a steady paycheck to go out and about on new assignments every day. I don’t miss the restrictions and frustrations that came along with that paycheck.

Starting My Own Photography Business: Early Lessons

On March 17, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — Seattle’s first newspaper, founded in 1863 — ceased its print edition and laid off most of its staff. Four of us who had been staff photographers there decided to form our own business, a full-service photography studio called Red Box Pictures. While I’m the first to admit that we still have a lot to figure out, my colleague Scott Eklund and I thought we’d share a few things we’ve learned so far.

Wedding Photography Is About Commitment — on Both Sides

As a photographer, I make my living shooting subjects for magazines, advertising campaigns and large corporate clients. I’m generally given a brief, everyone involved knows what is required of them, and the aims and objectives are clear from the start.

Photography Contests: License to Steal?

As digital cameras and online photo-sharing spur greater interest in photography among hobbyists, I’ve followed a trend that I find increasingly disturbing: photo contests that reward you by stealing your photos.

Catch the Light to Improve Your Flower Photography

I was in my backyard the other day and happened to notice the late-afternoon sunlight coming in behind my Japanese maple. I’d been outside for about an hour and hadn’t really paid much attention to the tree. But when the sun got low enough, the leaves and tiny buds just began to catch fire. It was really striking.

Eye on Image-Making: Video in the Corporate World

Last year I wrote two columns about videos on newspaper Web sites. Following a discussion with one of my academic colleagues, Dr. Bruce Konkle, I decided to drift around cyberspace and see what corporate Web sites have to offer in terms of video.

Finding the Beauty in Dandelions, Sewage Plants, and Manhole Covers

The author C.C. Vyvyan wrote, “As one grows older one should grow more expert at finding beauty in unexpected places, in deserts and even in towns, in ordinary human faces and among wild weeds.”

Which is one reason I’m glad I don’t take better care of my lawn.

Five Questions to Ask Before You Redesign Your Web Site

Today, your Web site is your first impression for most prospective clients. And just as you update your albums and portfolio periodically, it is important to update your site to keep your online image fresh.

When Only Assignment Photography Will Do

I’m sometimes asked by prospective clients, “When do I really need the kind of corporate photography that a photographic agency can deliver?”

These days, with so much cheap and free photography flooding the Web, it’s easy to forget what quality corporate photography is all about.  Assignment photography may not be a company’s lowest-cost option — but it often delivers the best value.

Things My Cat Has Taught Me About Photography

My cat is one of my favorite subjects to photograph. She sleeps next to me while I write, so she’s an easy target. But she can be a difficult challenge, too. Fortunately, challenges are a great way to learn.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Preserving Your Memories

Last in a series.

There is no better way to preserve your wedding day memories than with a wedding book displaying your photographs. Unfortunately, it’s one aspect of choosing a photographer that many couples overlook.

The Best Photographers Are Troublemakers

Great photographers are fundamentally unhappy people. Not suburban-housewife unhappy, waiting to be swept away, a la Madame Bovary. No, the best photographers are unhappy with the world around them and how it functions. What bothers them is the way reality is commonly perceived: normal, bland, boring, uninteresting.

The True Cost of Free

With alarming frequency, I receive e-mails asking me to provide my services for free. Very often they state that a “great opportunity” has knocked on my door and that, once that door opens, a myriad of fame and fortune will come pouring in. In other words, if I just do this one job gratis, it will invariably lead to paid work.

Invest in Preparedness with a Point-and-Shoot Camera

The making of great photographs requires an investment. We need a camera, computer, software and, possibly, we need to attend classes to learn how to use all this equipment.

Should we buy a Mac or a PC? Which camera should we buy — Nikon, Canon, Leica, Hasselblad? Which workshops or photo books do we require? We’ll need to read reviews of these products before making the investments.

What to Do When You Don’t Have Access

If you photograph anything that has to do with people, you will inevitably come across this word: “access.”

Access is the difference between getting close enough to make a decent photograph and being so far away that you can’t even see your intended subject. It’s the difference between being given permission to bring a camera on the grounds or keeping it in your trunk.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Getting Down to Business

The pace of academia is usually exceedingly slow, but on rare occasions it accelerates like a Maserati. I recently volunteered (was drafted?) to design an experimental course for fall 2009 here at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The course title: “Freelancing for Creative Professionals.” In other words, how to start and operate your own successful freelance business.

Braving the Sight Unseen: Interview with Blind Photographer Timothy O’Brien

As photographers, our eyes are our most prized possession. The very nature of photography is visual; even the camera lens itself is an invention that attempts to duplicate the operation of the human eye.

What Your Tax Return Can Teach You About Your Photography Business

Every year the process of filing taxes teaches me the true cost of doing business as a small business owner. My tax return also establishes a baseline for my business and shows me where I can improve.

I began my business 10 years ago. That’s when I started work as an independent contractor for a large metro newspaper — although I thought of myself as a freelancer rather a business owner at the time.

VIDEO: Google Analytics for Photographers: Using Filters

In this part of our video series on Google Analytics, I show you how to improve the value of your traffic statistics by filtering your own visits to your site out of the results. (You can find the previous posts in this series here.)

Why Chris Usher’s Loss Is a Defeat for All of Us

If you thought the money you contributed to this or that photography trade organization was a worthwhile investment, think again. ASMP, APA, EP, PPA, WHNPA, SA, and their siblings are guilty of the same crime. Silence.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear

We spend a great deal of time in my office thinking about how to communicate to clients.  For example, “I need to get my contract to you to review and sign before I can get started on your assignment” can sound off-putting.  Instead, we say, “We’ll send along some paperwork for this assignment, and once  you sign it, we’ll be all set.”