Should You Really Keep the Sun Over Your Shoulder?

I’ve seen a funny shift in the perceived value of front lighting since I began writing photography books. When I started writing about photography three decades ago, the general rule was “keep the sun over your shoulder,” which meant, in essence, to always use front lighting. Then, as consumers became hip to the value of different lighting directions in “creative” photography, front lighting fell out of favor.

The Ethics of Surcharges and Kickbacks

I got a call recently from a wedding planner acting on behalf of a couple who were looking for a photographer. During the course of the call, I was told I wouldn’t be able to contact the couple directly. 

Recharge Your Brand by Photographing Your Customers

Do you ever wonder if your corporate message has gotten a bit stale? Sure, you know your company’s strengths, and there are lots of reasons why it is successful. Your communications team probably routinely utilizes a specific set of phrases that describe your company’s distinctiveness. But after a while your message begins to sound just like a dozen other “unique” organizations.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Planning the Big Day

Third in a series.

OK, you’ve booked the photographer for your wedding. You’ve signed a contract and paid a non-refundable retainer to ensure your reservation. You’ve planned ahead, so it’s still six to nine months before the big day. 

Teaching Is a Great Way to Learn

After Tiger Woods won the Masters the first time, he felt he could still improve his game. Tiger went back to golf’s fundamentals; he worked on his swing.

Tiger is not the only professional athlete practicing the fundamentals of his game. Each year, Major League Baseball teams go to spring training, where they discipline themselves in the fundamentals of baseball. They’re doing pretty much what your kids in Little League are doing — running, hitting, catching and throwing.

The Stock Industry May Be in Freefall, But Assignment Photography Lives On

As recently as 10 years ago, I thought making photos on assignment was like putting money in a retirement account. “My stock is my retirement,” I told people then. Times change. Stock photography, as operated by corporations bent on record profits every quarter, is in decline. That does not mean that photography is in decline — just one aspect of it. Assignment photography lives on.

The Google Way — and How It Devalues Photography

Robert Thomson, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, recently said something that was spot on in describing Google’s impact on photography.

“Google devalues everything it touches,” Thomson said. “Google is great for Google, but it’s terrible for content providers, because it divides that content quantitatively rather than qualitatively. And if you are going to get people to pay for content, you have to encourage them to make qualitative decisions about that content.”

A Seven-Point Checklist for Hiring a Corporate Photographer

Congratulations! You’ve gotten the green light to do a photo shoot for your new advertising campaign. Now, all you have to do is book a photographer.

But before you hit the Rolodex or call your contacts for recommendations, do you really know what you should expect from a quality corporate photographer?

Eye on Image-Making: Five Ways to Tell if a Photographer Is Really in Business

What does it mean to be in business? When I lived in San Francisco, I worked as a corporate and editorial photographer and also taught a course in business practices for photographers. As a dedicated member of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), I felt it was appropriate to practice what I preached and visa versa.

VIDEO: Google Analytics for Photographers

In my last two posts, I explained how I expanded my business by redesigning my Web site, and some of the techniques I’ve used to attract prospective customers to my site. In this post, a three-minute video, I discuss the benefits of Google Analytics and how to install it on your Web site.

Don’t Turn Your Event Photography into a High-Wire Act

A good friend of mine works for a leading European events company, responsible for summoning the organizational and logistical know-how required to give smooth operation to those huge product launches or corporate events that all seem so effortlessly flung together. Recently, he told me that a major telecommunications client was throwing a thank-you bash for its top customers. Champagne would flow, acrobats would fly through the air, and contortionists would … well, contort.

The Art of Annual Report Photography

I recently offered two posts with advice for clients tasked with shooting executive portraits. Portraits focus on a company’s personalities. But a corporation also has a personality of its own, which can often be even harder to capture than that of a small team of leaders. It’s a feeling that’s ingrained in the company’s work sites, products, employees and brands.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Meetings and Prices

Second in a series.

After investigating photographers online and receiving referrals from friends or planners, the next step in finding the perfect wedding photographer is to contact your short list of photographers and schedule an appointment with each. 

Fake Chuck Westfall Gets Under Canon’s Skin

The “Fake Chuck Westfall” was a blip on the blogosphere — until Canon USA got wind that its “camera evangelist” had an anonymous doppelganger. Then Canon’s lawyers tried to have Fake Chuck’s blog shut down — and failed miserably.

How to Take Candid Group Photos

Taking candid group photographs is all about timing — and patience. You have to choose your moments carefully.

I was at Connecticut’s Mystic Aquarium and had been watching a small group of people interacting with a Beluga whale, and I thought it would make a great shot. Provided, of course, that I could get everyone–including the whale–to look attractive and do something interesting at the exact same moment.

Six Tips for Managing a Seasonal Photography Business

As a wedding photographer, I like the seasonality of the business. With my work concentrated in the summer and pleasanter months of the year, I can take some time off in the winter months. I still have meetings and portrait sessions, but I can get away with working a few hours a day versus eight to 12.

A Good Photo Agency Makes Coordinating International Shoots a Snap

Here’s the situation: You’re head of corporate communications for a Fortune 1000 company. You just received a directive from the CEO to coordinate the creation of new office and leadership photos across your entire organization for use in your next annual report.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer

First in a series.

‘Tis the season for couples to begin their search for the perfect wedding location, dress, florist — and, of course, photographer. Over the years, I’ve read a lot of the advice offered in wedding magazines, and I thought this year I would provide my own set of tips. 

Eye on Image-Making: Portraiture Now

What is a portrait? I thought of this question as I wandered through an exhibition of portrait photography at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibition, called “Portraiture Now: Feature Photography,” runs through Sept. 27 and contains the work of six cutting-edge photographers: Katy Grannan, Jocelyn Lee, Ryan McGinley, Steve Pyke, Martin Schoeller, and Alec Soth.

Which Photography Workshops Are Worth It?

How many of you out there have received an e-mail this week about a workshop, seminar or convention that you just “can’t miss” because it is going to change your whole life? I seem to get one or more a day, each promising to hold the key to a successful photography career. So, how do you decide which of these are worth your time and money?

How to Take Wildlife Photos from Your Car

Getting close to birds and animals is probably the toughest part of capturing good wildlife shots. Most animals see us as predators, so at the first sign of a human being, they’re gone. Interestingly enough, though, animals generally don’t see automobiles as a threat, which allows you to get much closer to animals if you shoot from inside your car.

Three Ways to Avoid the “Class Picture” Look in Executive Portraits

Does anyone really like having their portrait taken? With the exception of movie stars and rich heiresses, most people don’t relish the idea of getting dressed up and posing for the camera. Sitting under the lights and turning this way and that can be downright intimidating.

Using Facebook to Grow Your Photography Business

On Christmas Day 2008, I joined the more than 150 million active users on Facebook. I did so because Google search results for my name displayed another Sean Cayton’s Facebook profile on the first page, about three listings from the top. Since I didn’t want people to mistake my doppelganger for me, I set up an account and embarked on my Facebook adventure. 

Newspapers Are Running Out of Time to Solve the Problem of Content Theft

Say what you will about the RIAA. Ultimately, it made the trains run on time.

The Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the U.S. music industry, has made many enemies in the Web world for its draconian approach to copyright. It killed Napster and has tracked down and snuffed out one peer-to-peer file-sharing service after another. It has also famously sued random college students for their file-sharing misdeeds, scaring the bejesus out of parents everywhere.

The Art of the Executive Portrait

A successful company may be the sum of its employees, their work and its products, but the human face of a company will often be represented by a small number of people: the CEO, the members of the board, and the officers who make the key decisions. Shareholders, clients and partners may love a company’s brand — but they still want to know who lies behind the strategy and who is setting the direction. They want to know who they’re doing business with.