Friday, October 8, 2010

Your Required Reading List

A few days ago on Twitter, I mentioned something about photography books, and named off a couple I thought were good reads. I half-joked about coming up with a required reading list. Then had a couple people tell me they thought it was a good idea. So here you go.


Ansel Adams-The Camera, The Negative, and the Print.

Classic read for someone starting out in photography. Some of the info might be slightly outdated with the advent of digital, but, if you can adjust your thinking a bit, you will see that the info is solid. Ansel Adams was the ultimate post processing guy. Anyone who tells you that real photographers don't post process-point them to Ansel.

Henri Cartier-Bresson- The Decisive Moment

If you are a wedding photographer, especially, and have not seen this one, you are missing out. Weddings are all about decisive moments, and Cartier-Bresson was the master. This one might be a little hard to track down, but it's well worth it. Really, any Cartier-Bresson greatest hits book will serve you well.

Joe McNally-The Moment it Clicks and Hotshoe Diaries

Joe McNally is one of the best photographers working today, in my opinion. What I like about this book is that he shows all his top shots, and then breaks it down on how it was done. A great primer on lighting, and how it all works. McNally is a bit self-deprecating throughout this book, which I dig. He doesn't ever seem to put himself up on a pedestal. He's just a guy with a camera, and knows how to use it.

David DuChemin-VisionMongers

I will confess that I have not read this one all the way thru, yet. I did thumb thru the some of the pages, and read the intro. I like how it's going, and have heard nothing but good reviews about it. If you go to Amazon, you can read the first few pages talking about just how hard it is to make a living at photography. He's right. It's a bitch. But, if you love it, you can make it with a lot of hard work, and a ton of luck.

Kevin Kubota-Digital Photography Boot Camp

If you are fairly new to digital, this is the book. Kevin covers a lot of the basic stuff that you may or may not know. I was fairly knowledgeable when I read it, and still picked up a few tricks. I passed this one on to my assistant a few weeks ago, and he dug it. He's just started taking Photo 101 classes, and this gave him a great background into digital.

Nannette Salvaggio-Basic Photographic Materials and Processes

This is strictly for you film shooters, and Zone System nerds out there. I feel you, I used to be one of you, back in the day. Hours and hours were spent developing film, and using a densitometer to test it back in school. This book is a SERIOUSLY dense read, and gets into stuff that you almost need an engineering degree to understand.

Herve Guibert-Ghost Image

I had a teacher in college give me this one. Less of an instructional book, but contains essays on photography, and life within photography. Come to think of it, I haven't pulled this one off the shelf in awhile. It might be time for a re-read. They essays are fairly short and can be read here and there without major commitment.

Well, there it is. I know there are dozens of great photo books out there, and to boil it down to this tiny list was tougher than I thought. If you have any other suggestions, drop in a comment. My door is always open.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just be upfront

I received this email today from a "potential client". Or so I thought:

Hello! I am a recently engaged bride
looking for an amazing photographer to shoot my wedding. I am unsure about a
date as of now because I am still in the planning stages. I have several
questions about your wedding photography and was wondering if you could help
me. Is there any information you could send me such as pricing, what's
in pricing, and how you handle weddings?

-How many photographers do you send to
shoot a wedding?

-How many hours do you cover of the

-If I was interested in purchasing a book
of all the photos after the ceremony, would I be able to? Is it included in
the wedding package?

-Are digitals of all the images included
as well, if not how much would they be?

-If i wanted a video of the wedding,
would this be included in the package?

I hope you can help me as I am clueless
about where to even start with this! I am hoping for an excellent

Thank you so much for your time.

Now, we get emails like this all the time. Most of the time we try and setup an appointment, and get a more accurate idea of what they need for their wedding day. This particular email struck us as a bit odd. It was completely vague over what they need. No specifics, nothing.

I got to thinking about it, and decided to take this person's email, and drop it in Facebook. Oh look. What do ya know? It's another photographer!

Why do people have to try and be sneaky about it? If you have a real question over pricing, or how to set up packages, be upfront. Tell me who you are, why you picked me to ask, and what you are trying to do. I'm a fairly open person about a lot of things. I might not give you my pricing sheets, but I'm usually more than willing to help you out.

A real letter should look more like this:

Dear Photodouche,

First off, let me tell you how much I adore your work. I am 18, and just getting started on what I hope will be an incredible career in the photography field. I am currently shooting pictures for friends-mostly headshots and couples. I would like to branch out and do weddings eventually, but I am not sure where to start with pricing, packaging, etc. Any help would be great.


Aspiring photographer in TX

And there ya go. Compliment me a bit, and tell me about where yourself. Maybe sent me a link to a few pics. Be upfront, and honest, and you will get some, (hopefully) good information back.

Just stop being sneaky about it. It just makes you look bad.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Thoughts on Escalate Live...

So, I, like the 1200-1800 people I saw online at any given time tuned into the Escalate Live workshop/seminar/experience. It went more or less how I expected it to go. I wasn't expecting much, but there were a few highlights in the mix, notably Jerry Ghionis, and Jeremy Cowert.

Here is the breakdown of what I thought by speaker.

Dane Sanders-There were some technical glitches, both in terms of audio and visual during Dane's talk. I'm wondering if it wasn't tested before to make sure things went smoothly. After about 15 minutes of hearing blips, and clicks, and watching the Ustream buffering wheel spin, I gave up, and went back to the Twitter stream until it resolved itself.

I will say that seeing Dane do a post talk interview with each person after they talked was a little lame. It sorta ruins the flow after seeing someone like Ghionis rock the room, and then Dane has his little question and answer session.

Becker-Becker is Becker. I've said it before, but, I have zero problems with him. He's a straight shooter, and when he spouted off about branding, "Pictage=Spam", he dropped a bomb that is still resonating throughout Twitter/Facebook. I've seen at least 2 or 3 blogs already dedicated to "fixing your brand" "second chances", etc. and I'm sure there will be more in the coming weeks. I still don't share Becker's love for U2, but, other than that, I felt his talk was pretty good and about what I expected.

J*-I've never heard Jasmine speak before. Sweet Jesus-is she always that hyper? It was as if she had 5 Red Bulls and a fat coke rail! Although, I'm not a huge fan of her photography, she does seem to know her way around Social Media, and getting people to talk about you. I believe I saw someone on Twitter say she could sell anything to anyone, and be successful.

Julianne Kost-I had to take care of something, and didn't get a chance to listen.

DAY 2:

Jerry Ghionis-OK, here is where it gets good. I've never heard Jerry speak, and although I knew his name, never really looked at much of his work. Lemme tell you. Ghionis is LEGIT. He pretty much set the bar about 12 notches higher with his talk. I especially liked the part where he was showing a pic, and taking some audience shouted questions. Someone had asked him what lens he used on a particular shot. He replied back with whatever lens it was, then proceeded to tell everyone, "Don't shoot a 50mm 1.2 because Becker, or whoever tells you too. Figure out the right equipment to use at the right time." This has been the cornerstone of what I've been saying all along. No one is educated in how to use their camera, or how to see and deal with light. Ghionis called it. Much respect!

Jessica Claire-I must say, I was less than impressed with Jessica's talk. Maybe it was because she followed Jerry, but it could basically be boiled down to "Show what you want to shoot. Get what you want to shoot, and then shoot what the client wants to appease them." She also went over some basic post-processing talking about using Totally Rad Actions (no knock, I use them too, and they are pretty good, when used properly). TRA should be getting a nice little sales bump this week!

David Jay-Wow. First off, let me talk about the mustache. Not sure if he was trying to channel Burt Reynolds or Ron Jeremy here, but he sort of looked like my dad, circa 1978. That being said, I'm a bit jealous, because I can't quite grow one as nice as that!

Now, onto his talk. I'm not sure if he planned what he was going to say or not. It started with him talking about crabs, rounding second base on some girl he brought up from the audience, and then rambled off a story about a guy that wants to jump from a bridge until people stopped to talk him out of it. Honestly, it was a bit of a downer, and other than the point of reaching out, I'm not really sure I got anything out of it. And from the reactions on Twitter and the Ustream chatroom, neither did many other people.

Jeremy Cowert-Jeremy seemed nervous as all hell up there, but he freakin' rocked it. I had heard his name before, but never really looked at any of his work. It is pretty damn good. He talked a lot of about influence, and looking elsewhere for inspiration. He did make a good point about wedding photographers looking at other wedding photographer's work and how everyone has become clones of each other. Jeremy being the only one on the panel to shoot commercially, and not weddings, it was pretty refreshing to hear, and just backs up what a lot of us have been saying for awhile now.

He talked a lot about how he got to where he is. Traveled in Africa, and had a book. And how the book got him gigs. Just goes to show, that if your work is good, people will hire you. Even if it is for jobs that don't necessarily look like your personal work.

Overall, for free, I can't really complain much. It was about 20% usable info, 70% fluff, and 10% product endorsements. Just about everyone up there also has something to sell, and they didn't disappoint in letting people know.

If I had to grade it, I'd give it a C-. Some decent highlights, but, overall, a little lackluster.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How the Douche came to be

How the Douche came to be
After seeing what was going on in the wedding photo industry, the fakes, the worship of "Rockstar" photographers, the get-rich quick being a photographer scams I saw bandied about. I decided to join the ranks of a few outspoken people on Twitter. From the start, it became apparent to me, there was a lot of deep seeded frustration at the "fake it, until you make it" types. The photographers taking advantage of newbs to both gain credibility, and popularity in the industry.

At the time I write this, there has been much said about a lot of these people. Most of it has been spoken from a place of frustration. Some of it, a place of anger. I can understand the anger. I really can. To me, the anger leads nowhere. If you don't believe me, head over to and read some of the comments.

Who is the Douche
At this point in time, I would like to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons. Mostly, because I have many clients that use both Twitter and Facebook, and what is going on in our industry is really none of their concern. Plus, if you are to Google search any of the people in question, all sorts of negative comments are coming up. Mostly from the past few weeks. This does not look good for potential clients to see negative things being said.

Who I am is a mid-level photographer who has been shooting for, roughly, the past 15 years. Before that I assisted photographers, learned the trade, swept floors in studios, got lunch, carried bags, ran film to labs (remember film?) and went to school. School? What's that?

What the Douche believes
I love photography. Some days it's the only thing that keeps me going, to know that, at the end of the day, I pay my bills with money I make pressing a button. Not many of the people I went to school with could say that. And somehow, I've managed to make a career out of it.

I believe that what has been going on in the industry the past few years has gotten out of hand. It seems that anyone with a digital camera, some cool Photoshop actions can be a photographer. Have you noticed that many newer photographer's work all looks vaguely similar? There used to be a time when I could look at a given photograph and tell you who shot it. Now. Not so much. Don't get me wrong. There are a lot of very talented newbs out there. Digital has quickened the learning curve and you can get better, faster.

Now, I may be labeled a "grumpy" by some people out there. In reality, I'm not. I welcome new people into the industry. People with great vision, and vast creativity. I just think that many people out there are not putting the time and effort in to be a good photographer. When this happens, it really brings the whole industry down. Lowballers, bad photographers, photographers who can't deliver the goods do nothing but give the wedding industry a black eye amongst the customers. Practice first, make money second.

I'm not sure how much I will post here. Possibly from time to time as the mood strikes me, and I can't get my point across in 140 characters.

Stay tuned