I’ve always tried to add humor to my projects. Recently I came up with an idea for an ad campaign and approached one of my long-term clients about putting it together.
There have been studies suggesting that people with symmetrical faces are generally perceived to be more attractive than those without. It’s also commonly accepted that most people have some form or another of asymmetry. Either an ear or an eye is lower on one side, or perhaps you’re prone to the “crooked smile” and have a few extra wrinkles on that side.
As a professional photographer, I regularly engage in discussions about my career choice. Sometimes it’s mentioned how lucky I am to be in a business where I get to take pictures all day and don’t really have to “work” like normal people do. Other times I get to hear inspirational stories from industry up and comers – how they took senior portraits of their neighbor’s nephew and realized they should open a photo studio.
The adventure through the career of a professional photographer is exhilarating to say the least. From photographing squirrels with an iPhone to shooting for National Geographic in a matter of months and from a fixed income to a 6 figure salary in less than a year, a professional photographer is truly blessed.
For career photographers the world over, there are a number of perks that make it a dream job. I’ve compiled 20 of the top benefits:
1. Anyone can do it.
The phone on your camera produces images 12 megapixels and up. With Instagram filters, it’s easier than ever to express your own unique view of the world with any of the built-in presets.
2. It’s a great career for shy people and loners.
The beauty of a camera is it creates a barrier between you and your subject. Just bring the camera up to your eye and all you have to do is watch and push a button. No more worries about actually having to interact with a person!
3. It’s all about the gear.
Photography is the great equalizer. It all comes down to the camera. As long as you have a better camera than the next guy, your pictures will come out better. It’s simple science.
4. One decent portfolio will get you any client.
People looking for a photographer tend to be incredibly open-minded. It’s natural and easy for people to look at beautiful pictures of wildflowers and instantly know you’re the perfect photographer for their upcoming fashion shoot.
5. All professional cameras are incredibly user-friendly.
Hi-end professional cameras (commonly called DSLRs) come with different “modes” that make shooting in any situation a breeze. Taking little Billy to his soccer game? Just turn the dial the icon for the person running. Showing off that stunning new azalea bush? Switch it over to the flower icon. So easy a child could do it!
6. Almost every photographer finds their true passion in a matter of weeks.
Portrait photography, advertising, and commercial product shoots make up for a surprisingly small amount of business in the photographic industry. The images that usually sell the fastest and for the largest profit are macro pictures of flowers and insects (which can be commonly found in your backyard), sunsets, any landscape shot from a moving vehicle, and cat pictures.
7. Social media pretty much handles your marketing needs for you.
Facebook, Instagram, Flickr… these are only a few of the hundreds of outlets at your disposal. With today’s rigid internet security measures in place, it’s never been easier to safely and securely show off your work. But even with today’s regulations on pirated imagery, you can never be too safe. Be sure to always add a large watermark of your company’s logo to the center of every picture.
8. If you can shoot one thing, you can shoot anything.
After all, it’s the same camera for each picture – there’s really not much difference. Weddings, fashion, and photojournalism all come down to the people. They’re nearly identical.
9. Customers are more than happy to let you express your individuality.
When it comes to photographing people, you’ll find very few customers have pre-existing ideas of how they want their pictures to look. Asking a photographer to replicate a picture they saw one time or to make their images look like a Vanity Fair ad is a terrible faux pas. Nearly everyone understands this breach of etiquette and it’s unlikely to ever hear such a request.
10. Copyright and licensing laws are surprisingly easy to understand.
Unlike the United States tax or legal code, the laws governing ownership of artwork is very straight forward. “The person who takes the picture owns the picture.” It’s so clear and to the point, hardly anyone will ever be confused about their rights to reproduce the images.
11. The money’s great!
It’s a standard of business that a quality product demands a respectable price. When it comes to cherished images of loved ones, advertisements for the season’s hot new product, or coverage of a once-in-a-lifetime event, you’ll find customers are more than happy to spend that little extra.
12. It’s all about the art.
Paperwork isn’t for everyone. One of the best reasons to become a professional photographer is knowing all you have to think about is crafting award-winning images. As a professional, I spend the majority of my days in “the field” capturing fleeting glimpses of the beauty in the world around me. In fact, writing this list is probably the most I’ll even look at my computer this week.
13. It’s one of the easiest jobs to talk about.
Imagine an efficiency expert meeting a new group of people. By the time they explain the intricacies of their job, people might be more confused than when they started. But, as a crafter of unique imagery, all you have to do is tell someone you’re a photographer and they’ll instantly understand that you take pictures at weddings.
14. Getting constructive feedback of your images is an almost effortless process.
Everyone has an inherent ability to determine what makes a picture aesthetically pleasing. All you have to do is send an email of a few dozen full-size, uncompressed pictures to a friend and they’ll be able to tell you what works about the images and what doesn’t. A few sources of good advice might include your grandmother, your neighbor, open-content online forums, Jim in the cubicle around the corner, and 4chan.
15. General education doesn’t really matter when your business is art.
Remember, a successful photography business is about the pictures. There isn’t really a reason to know mathematics or finances. That’s what an accountant is for. If you were never great in English class, don’t worry yourself too much. As we already discussed, photography is a business for “the lone wolf.” There aren’t many instances where presentations or one-on-one meetings come into play.
16. Contracts are a thing of the past.
Gone are the days when simple things like a stay at a hotel or joining a gym require pages and pages of paperwork. Integrity, honesty, and a sense of moral right and wrong are all people need to uphold a deal. The only legalese and business savvy you need to know is how flash those pearly whites and deliver a firm handshake.
17. Once they start, jobs don’t really change.
The professional art industry is one built on mutual respect. You’re offering a service that your customers are paying for and they understand the boundaries of what that means. One of the most delicate situations in a customer-photographer relationship is asking for more than the initial agreement. If at any point your customer asks you to shoot longer or include extra files, happily accept the request. Once the project is done, they will be eager to compensate you fairly for your extra effort.
18. Photoshop will fix any mistake.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a burger flipper, a federal judge, or a heart surgeon – people make mistakes. The beauty of photography is those mistakes don’t have to be permanent. Let’s say you’re photographing a bride after the big dance and her hair is stuck to her forehead sweat. There’s no need to interrupt everyone’s fun to brush the hair aside, just open the file in Photoshop and click the “Fix Hair” icon in the tools pallet.
19. Career advancement is virtually guaranteed.
Just like professional athletes, many of the highly successful photographers are “discovered” by talent agents. By utilizing photo-sharing websites like Instagram and Flickr, It’s easier than ever for agencies to find your work. Just upload a few photos a week and you’ll be solicited for projects in no time!
20. It requires almost no specific training or education.
In the end, your career is all about creating show-stopping images, conveying your unique view of the world around you. If you have an expensive camera, you’re guaranteed to craft masterpieces. Just throw it on “auto,” click away, then sit back and wait for the money to come rolling in!
A big thank you to Ben C. and Elayne G. for their inspiration and help with this list!
Hooray! I’ve been waiting quite a while to share this one with you guys, but I had to iron out the finer details first.
Way back in the spring, I began doing video work for The Michigan Animal Rescue League. The promo spot caught the attention of one of their sponsors, The Urban Dog, an all-natural dog food and supply store out of Rochester Michigan.
After a fairly lengthy amount of planning and conceptualizing, we settled on an advertising project that would include a promo video, a series of ad posters, and a collection of interviews about the store.
Then the fun started.
Probably a good 80% of the dog owners I know graciously allowed me access to their furry family members. After a couple months of video, photography, editing, audio selecting, and post processing – the project is locked, loaded, and ready for you, the loving audience.
Also, be sure to swing by TheUrbanDogStore.com to see what they’re all about. I learned a lot on this project I wish I had known years ago about maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle for your dog.
And I’d also like to mention how massively thankful I am to everyone who helped my out and let me borrow your dogs for the afternoon.
This Tuesday my golden retriever, Murphy Riley Kopacz, passed away. He is 11 & 3/4 years old.
It’s sad. The events of the last 3 weeks cycle through my head on a loop and it hurts. But that’s where it stops. Everything else is happy and, frankly, hilarious. I just have to think about who he is and not about what happened.
He pooped on a shrew at the park in February. That kind of thing doesn’t happen. He hunkered down just as the little guy popped out of its hole to see what was going on… imagine what went through that shrew’s mind. Hilarious.
We ran out of dog food one morning when he was about 5. So we gave him a can of SPAM. You ever see a dog try to eat a cube of SPAM? It’s terrific. Every time they try to take a bite it slides across the floor.
I was about 22 when I was hanging out with him on the beach. A couple of rather attractive young ladies walked past and exclaimed how “OMG absolutely adoooooorable he was and if they could PLEEEEEASE pet him.” Knowing precisely how to use my dog’s charm for my own gain I of course said that they could…. then he brought them half of a rotting dead catfish. That one was probably funnier to him than it was to me.
Here are a few of the things he was by my side for:
- The end of high school
- 2 cataclysmic exes
- The best relationship anyone could ever have (her name is Ashley and he ran to HER when he was in trouble).
- – Fun fact: Ashley was terrified of dogs until she met my 100 pound, teeth filled, carnivorous beast. Now she loves dogs. Yeah – Murphy did that.
- 2 degrees
- The entirety of the development of my career.
- weight loss
- weight gain
- He was also the inspiration for me to undertake the longest-running project of my career.
He’s my hero.
If you knew him, you already knew how awesome he was. For those who didn’t, here’s a look at Murphy
While a small handful knew some details, the campaign went live this weekend, so I can officially unleash (as it were) the project.
A few weeks ago, I was hired by Pedigree, these guys –> https://www.pedigree.com/
For a bit, now, they have held a national competition where a number of rescue shelters receive free dog food for a year. The event is divided up regionally and during this round, Metro-Detroit was one of the picks.
Those you who know me know I am an animal lover and have a very hard time dealing with, knowing about, or being exposed to the many ways people mistreat animals. That said, I understand the feeling a lot of people have when they visit a shelter. It seems depressing and hard for the animals – and it is. It is especially hard when a dog or a cat is used to having a home and is suddenly thrust into what probably seems to be a jail.
I could keep explaining the negative side, but you’re on Facebook, you see the news, and you watch the commercials. So, I won’t drive my point home any further. What I WILL do is tell you about the other side of the story. I want you to know about the people that make these shelters work – the staff and volunteers.
The definition of volunteer tells you a bit about a person right from the start. They aren’t being paid, they aren’t receiving time off work. These folks are giving up their time to help with a situation a lot of people don’t want to even hear about. More than that, they LOVE these animals. When a dog has been at a shelter for five years, you might look at it and think it has nothing left and it will never be happy again. Then that one person – THAT DOG’S volunteer – walks in and it’s like he’s a brand new dog. Tail wagging, ears up. It’s his favorite person in the world and they’re there just to see him.
The “staff.” I don’t like that word. It implies that this is simply a job. Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s their job, but it’s also their life. At each of the shelters I photographed, I found out the staff members regularly foster dogs at their homes, teaching positive behavior and building emotional bonds, knowing that they will have to give up the friendship so that the dogs can have happy lives. Trust me when I say this is a LOT more than a job for these people.
While this project is all well and good, I’m using it as a platform for something much bigger. Confirmation on a few planned events should come down the line early this week – so stay tuned for the updates. Plus, a few videos are on their way soon.
In the meantime, check out some of the shots from the three shelters.
To vote for the region to win free dog food, swing by the Facebook page, here.
This campaign may change the lives of a number of dogs, but there are tens of thousands out there that could desperately use your help. Shelters are constantly in need of things like food, cleaning supplies, newspaper, and bedding. Those last two are things you probably have sitting in the corner of your basement waiting to get thrown away.
Please look up your local shelter and drop off a thing or two. It may only take a second of your time or a bit of spare change, but it can make all the difference in the world to a pet that need s home.
If you would like to see the full gallery of images from the different shelters, click here. All the pictures are for sale and half of all proceeds are donated to the shelter where the picture was taken.
A question I get a lot is “What have you been up to?” or sometimes “What projects have you been working on?” There are assorted variations of this question, but they pretty much all mean the same thing.
I usually respond with… OK – no. There is no usual response, because it’s so rare that I have more than one current project sharing similarities that we can just pretend it doesn’t happen. Next week I may be working with an architectural-agricultural hybrid company, a local animal shelter, a community-based restaurant, and a national organization conducting a student competition. I mention these examples because there was a week last summer where those were the open projects I was working on. (It was a busy week).
So when I answer the first question and describe my current clients, I’m almost always greeted with the same follow up question, “Oh, wow. So you’re taking pictures for ALL those? What are the pictures of?”
This seems to be the general consensus about my company and I figured it was time to elaborate a bit on what I do.
Let me begin by saying this is a completely understandable thought process and if you glance up to the those giant words at the top of this page, you’ll agree with me. I began my company as a photographer and for all my dabbling and involvement in other forms of media, if I find myself going a week at a time without using my camera I get all shaky and my hair starts falling out… OK it’s not THAT bad, but I do find myself daydreaming about the next project in which I’ll actually get to create an image.
So, honest and true, when I’m face to face with a person and they mention that they’ve heard I’m a photographer, I don’t mine. In fact I actually get a bit of pride out of hearing that.
But when it comes to clients (we’re talking businesses, here) I regularly find that they’re trying to put out new media and have over half-a-dozen contractors assigned to as many different things… and none of them are even talking to each other.
It makes sense for each person to have their own style and that’s what gives a healthy dose of diversity to any good marketing campaign. But for the finished collaboration to come together in a clean fashion there has to be… well, collaboration.
That’s where I come in.
I may be a photographer, but I’m also a videographer, graphic designer, consultant, and advertising professional – and my client list is rather, shall we say, varied.
More than that, I work with a tight-knit group of media professionals that specializes in everything from web design, branding, and marketing to layout, copy-writing, and packaging. So when a project on a massive scale comes along or when six assignments come in at once, that are just too much fun to turn down, I can still guarantee success and some top-notch quality.
In the end, when I explain what I’m working on for a certain client, people aren’t usually expecting my answer.
So, I made this to help me explain things a bit more clearly.
Through a fortuitous chain of events, I was recently introduced to an acting group in the Canton, Michigan area by the name of the “Spotlight Still Got it Players.” They are the senior acting troupe associated with The Village Theater At Cherry Hill. Recently the Still Got It Players, picked up a stage play by a Mr Howard Kingkade called “One Foot In The Gravy.”
They, being performers, and I, being a photographer, naturally found ourselves in a mutually beneficial situation. A couple nights ago, I stopped by the theater to get some headshots and a few candids for their promo in the local news outlets. Of course none of this seems terribly interesting, but please try to remember that I am (somewhat) unused to the presence and mindset of actors, backstage.
I arrived before my contact – the only person from the group that I knew or had ever even spoken to. When I went in to study the building and find the best place for lights, I met a rather friendly gentleman who had no idea who I was, why I was there, or even that I was planning on taking pictures.
He also happened to be holding 3 incredibly over-padded bras, trying to decide which was the best fit… Also keep in mind that I had no real idea what the play was about or who the actors would be portraying.
So of course, as friendly custom dictates, he inquired as to my opinion on the bras and which he would look best in. That was my introduction to these people.
These folks are HILARIOUS.
We started off with the head shots and I don’t even want to elaborate anymore. They each sat down, INSTANTLY got into character, and I got awesome shots in less than a minute per person. Straight “pro” all around.
Yesterday, I got a chance to revisit my childhood. It was an… altered experience.
Went up to Crossroad Village, in Flint, Michigan. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s kind of like Greenfield Village (a city of historical reenactments) set in the mid to late 1800’s. This time of year is specifically interesting there because they break period-character a bit and deck the entire place up in quite a lot of Christmas lights.
When I was a wee lad, it was just crazy to go to a village in the middle of nowhere and see people who still live just like they had 100 years prior. I would take the train ride out into the country and wave to Santa, who would have, of course, been kind enough to grace us, and only us, with his presence as we rode the tracks, listening to the most traditional, old-timey of Christmas carols (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).
Now the illusion is a bit lost on me, but that’s not to say the experience is not enjoyable – far from it. In my current mentality of “if there’s something I can learn, you best be sure I’m gonna learn it,” the magic of the holiday spirit has been replaced by super-fascinating historical facts. As an example: The train you can ride (on the Huckleberry Railroad) is actually a real-life coal-burning engine from the late 1800s, pulling a dozen cars from the same period. This, of course, is quite an accomplishment, since people have had to maintain the machines in working and aesthetic order for over a century.
A little side fact: Reindeer are ticklish… let me explain. In the spirit of all things festive, a reindeer had been brought in from a local farm for photo opportunities. As you enter the barn, there is a sign near the entrance instructing you not to touch the reindeer as it is “too ticklish” to them. Being a reasonable adult, I deduced that the comment was a friendly, whimsical way of keeping children from taking an antler to the face. Of course, if I were to wait for the impressionable youth to leave I could have an adult conversation with the reindeer’s handler and explain that I would very much like to pet the reindeer and that I would not do something stupid like hang my coat on it. She informed me the sign wasn’t actually a joke and demonstrated by VERY VERY LIGHTLY petting the reindeer. If the reindeer could have spoken it would have said something akin to, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?! Get away from me.” In conclusion, reindeer do not like to be petted.
While the antique train and the reindeer with personal space issues were fascinating, the clear winners of my trip were the historical actors. It wasn’t so much the convincing illusion (they didn’t wear Wolverine work boots back then) but the nerdy factoids these folks had in their heads. I got to see a 100-year old typesetting machine printing a news article, found out that frontier towns sprang up based explicitly on the vicinity to the blacksmith, and learned how to use a straight razor (which I was just recently gifted).
And, OF COURSE, there were some pretty nifty photo opportunities. Here are a few of my favorites.
Hey! I made a book!
In fewer than 2 months, a handful of things will happen: Christmas pandemonium will be upon us, I will engage in my first “holiday break” in years without molecular bonding between myself and a Zelda game, and I will participate in a portfolio/career show – where I will be presented to prospective contract-ees much like a slab of cow-meat is waved at overweight Americans on the 4th of July.
But I suppose I’m clinging too strongly to my personal feelings about the whole thing. In the end, I could wind up in a contract with Diesel Jeans or something… I guess we’ll see.
The super-awesome-fantastic-great-plus side of the whole ordeal is that it has forced me to finally make the portfolio book I’ve been avoiding for quite some time (years). Of course the benefit of me waiting this long is that the thing is rather up-to-date.
I could explain the finer aspects of the ProLine Paper, the beautiful image-wrapped cover, or even the hours of nervous twitching as I meticulously determined which image to place next to which. But, in the end, you probably don’t care and may not ever touch, caress, stroke, or in other words fondle this glorious, printed, eye-seducer.
So, I’ll just show you an Issuu render of the thing.
(OH- and in you’re interested in a superb coffee table book, shoot me an email and we’ll make some magic happen!)