photography

Portfolio Refresh & New Work Section

I don’t usually make big changes to my portfolios halfway through the year, but after some soul searching and various feedback, I realized I needed help in refining my vision. It’s easy to get personally attached to your own work and lose site of it’s marketability. After reading and listening to many photo marketing experts, I decided it was time to ask someone who really knows the business.

Enter Suzanne Sease. I’ve known about Suzanne for many years and always respected her opinions and advice. She was an Art Buyer at The Martin Agency (GEICO, Hanes, PING, etc.). She helped my mentor refine his portfolio years ago. And she’s a featured contributor to A Photo Editor. She also helped me bid on a job for Diet Dr. Pepper and which I would have been lost without her guidance.

As a photographer, I’ve always considered myself a generalist with a unique style, rather than specialist. I like shooting lots of different subjects, but I shoot them all in a way that’s my own vision. I gave Suzanne over 800 images to weed through. I included my current portfolios as well. When she edited this massive collection, she reorganized it in a way that identified one trait I had never thought of: product. Lots of my work has product in it, though it’s not a product shot per say. It’s interiors with furniture. It’s people with ice cream. It’s ingredients in food. The products in place are natural and real. Something you can identify with. When her edits of my portfolios came to me, I saw this new trait right away and was amazed that I missed it before. Now I have a focus and now I know who I should be marketing to. If you need help with your portfolio, I highly recommend Suzanne Sease.

In addition to new portfolios, Suzanne suggested I create a Work section to highlight projects I’ve shot for clients and tearsheets. Though many of these are on my blog already, this puts it front and center and easy to find. This is my new favorite addition to the site.

So, what are you waiting for?

Click Here for New Portfolios or Click Here to See Some Work!

Digital Processing Fees

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of pressure to reduce my digital processing fees and, in some cases, even hand off my RAW files and let a third party deal with the post processing. Well, let me state this once and for all:

I won’t do that.

If I’m hired to create images that are like those in my portfolio, then I have to be the one to do the digital processing. It’s part of my creative vision. I’ve spent years honing my look and style and I’m not willing to let go of control of that.

For example, here’s what one of my shots looks like before I put my touch it:

Gross, huh? But I see a RAW file with potential. Here’s what it looks like after:

Much better! Could someone else do this? Possibly. Would it look like my work? Probably not.

There are many reasons to charge for digital processing. The main reason is to recoup the costs of owning the fastest computer, the latest software, and the best camera. It’s expensive. I’d say to keep up with it, I spend an average of $5,000 to $10,000 a year on it. And that’s just me. As my business grows, I’d like to hire an employee to do the post work and so the digital processing fees will have to pay for their salary in addition to adding a second fastest computer with another copy of latest software.

The problem is there are few standards out there for digital processing. And so, many photographers don’t charge anything for it or pull numbers out of the air. We need a standard folks!

In the old film days, you would charge for film and processing usually with a significant markup. Shooting film was a profit center of the business and you needed to mark it up to cover the overhead of keeping film on hand. If you also scanned the film, you would charge for that too because of time, equipment, and labor. Either way, you were charging and getting paid for the image in its final form. Just because a digital file is ones and zeros, doesn’t mean it’s cheaper.

So, here’s my standard digital processing: Feel free to use this, tweet it, whatever. Just spread the word.

$1 per capture to shoot digital
$1 per MB of final image(s) delivered

Don’t charge by the hour. Charge by the unit.

Here’s how it works in practice hypothetically:

Say from the shoot above, I shot 108 RAW files and delivered 6 final RGB Tiff files at 60MB each. I would bill:

$108 – Capture and Processing (108 x $1)
$360 – Final Image Delivered (6 x $60)

$468 – Total Digital Processing Fees

To help you explain what all comes with digital processing, I would say it’s anything you do to create your vision plus captioning and keywording each file for you and your client.

I don’t do a lot of Photoshop, so $1 a MB covers my editing time. But if you do a lot of heavy Photoshop and compositing, then you might need to charge more. Like a $2 a MB. If you shoot a high volume of RAW files (fashion, lifestyle, kids, etc) maybe you charge $.25 a capture or just charge $1 for the selects. My point is that you should charge something and you should charge by a unit, not time.

Does that sound fair? Does that make sense? It works for me and if everyone did something like this, it would become a standard.

Fingers crossed.

Photography is just like…

…music. You hear a pop song in commercial, but that company doesn’t own the song.

…software. You buy software, but that doesn’t mean you own the code.

…blueprints. You may own the building when it’s built, but the architect owns the design.

…sculpture. You can buy art, but you can’t copy and sell it as your own.

The intellectual property is an intangible asset, that is, it is intangible as well as it cannot be defined or specified by its physical parameters. It is created by human intellectual or inspirational activity. Therefore, the intellectual property must be defined in some discernible method to be protected by the laws.

via Intellectual property valuation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

What’s your simile for photography licensing?

Attach a Digital SLR to a View Camera

So, imagine for a moment that Canon really does come out with a full frame  square sensor. Imagine it’s around 40mp. Now imagine putting that camera body digital back on a view camera and being able to use Rodenstock digital lenses (some of the sharpest and clearest lenses I’ve ever used). That would be sweet.

For architecture photography, this is not a great solution. The widest digital view camera lens is a 28mm and it’s very dark with not a lot of movement.

But, for food and product photography, this is a life saver. You can pick up a used Sinar pretty cheap and this adapter is about $1,870. It’s pretty inexpensive solution for high quality view camera system. The newer digital lenses though, are not cheap. I wonder if anyone’s done a shootout between older view camera lenses and newer ones.

Check out PDN’s Gear Guide post: New Sinar Mount Lets You Attach Digital SLR to View Camera Body.

Architecture – Design & Spirit

Earlier this year, I was invited by Newspace Center for Photography to teach an architectural photography workshop. I was very honored and humbled that they thought of me. I’ve done a few other classes/workshops, but this was a full day class and much more involved than what I’ve done before. The class consisted of a presentation on the basics of architecture photography, followed by an afternoon photo walk where I helped each student set up their shots and demonstrated how to use tilt-shift lenses. I then gave them all various assignments to shoot on their own and we met the following week for a review.

It was a really great experience and I hope everyone who took the workshop got something out of it. It was certainly great for me to go back to all the basics and refresh my memory. As they say, “The best way to learn something is to teach it.”

Here is a PDF of the presentation I gave at the start of the class. I thought it would be worth sharing