10 MORE WAYS NOT TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL PHOTOGRAPHER

In 2010 I wrote, in one long caffeine-fueled night, an article that would become the most widely shared piece that I’ve ever published on my blog called 10 Ways Not To Become A Successful Photographer. It was part missive, part rant, and part confession about what I saw a lot of people doing wrong in the photography industry at the time – the mistakes and toxic misconceptions that I saw myself and photographers around me, both emerging and experienced, making every day that were poisoning our minds and our work. I’ve read and re-read it so many times over the years, because in many ways it became a litany to stave off my own negativity when things got tough or I felt myself slipping back into those shitty patterns that were holding me and my friends back when I wrote it.

It’s five years later now, and I sometimes find myself wondering if that piece I wrote all those years ago is still relevant, I’ve changed a lot, and this industry constantly evolves. I find myself thinking more about issues that never occurred to me when I wrote the original piece, and in some cases, issues that grew out of those original ten points. The last few weeks on the road I’ve been making tons of notes about the things I see happening in this business – both with myself and others who’ve spoken with me about that original article when the felt they had gotten a bit off course.

No one can tell you how to be successful in this business, that’s up to you, but here are ten more thoughts on how to NOT fuck up your chances of making it in this industry.

11. Don’t Understand Your Relationship With Stress

We all have our own ways of reacting to and dealing with stress. Personally, there are times when I can thrive on it for short bursts, I can handle unexpected turns on a production and adapt with a smile on my face, I like when the pace of business gets brisk and I feel like I’m spinning a lot of plates. I do okay with that kind of stress. It’s kind of exhilarating. On the other hand, I can get tripped up and really freaked out by little things. I’ve lost sleep because I’ve been anxious about the wording in a client e-mail, I made myself sick with worry in the days leading up to a few big jobs – that kind of constant background worry is the kind of stress that can get me really wound up,

We’re all emotionally invested in what we’re doing (at least you better be if you want to create good work) and that naturally leads to us getting stressed about it, but beyond that we have a whole host of practical stresses that we deal with every day as small business owners and creative entrepreneurs: money, staff, professional relationships, client retention, and vendors that can all affect our stress levels. Combine and compress all that creative and professional anxiety and it can really start to have an effect on your health, mindset, relationships, and career to the point that it starts to tear you up a little (or a lot) inside. Identifying what stresses you out, why, and how badly can give you some major insights on things you might need to work on personally, professionally, and creatively. It can also remind you of the importance of building a support team who can help you better deal with those tasks and situations that creep up on you. More importantly, you also need to have a means of dealing with your stress when it does show its face that hopefully isn’t of the “I eat a whole order of cheddar bay biscuits and chase it with a bottle of gin” school of stress management. Some common options are exercise, meditation, obsessive collecting, cooking, and music, but whatever works for you is cool – just go easy on those cheddar biscuits.

12. Get Caught Up in Defining and Quantifying Everything

It used to be that I couldn’t get online without seeing some pointless argument about Canon vs. Nikon or Mac vs PC – but in the last few years I think we’ve actually become more micro-obsessive as an industry when it comes to categorizing, segmenting, and ranking everything. The discussion isn’t about what brand of light is better, but what KIND of light is better, and even more disturbing, what kind of photographer is better. I see statements like these pop up all the time:

“I’m a natural light photographer, it’s a more honest way of taking pictures”

“I only shoot film, shooting digital isn’t photography”

“If you don’t know how to use speed-lights you aren’t a professional”

“If you only make 49% of your income from photography, you aren’t really a photographer”

“If you use composites in your work, you aren’t really a photographer, you’re just a retoucher, REAL photographers do everything in camera”

Unless you’re describing a genre that you work in – like fashion, food, or journalism, I can’t remember a time when the word “photography” needed so much modification. There are a million stories of how each of us came to photography, and a million different interpretations of the medium – to try to distill it all down into a linear ranking or a tidy little package seems not just absurd, but a rejection of all the ephemeral and intangible things about someone’s history, taste, and experience that make their individual images so compelling. Finding a unique way to frame your experience is a great way of setting yourself apart, and it’s best done with your work itself, but I feel like at some point there was an inversion, a moment when we started to use these defining terms in a really negative way – and rather than focusing on pulling ourselves up, the focus has shifted to pushing others down by encapsulating them in classification and categorically invalidating them.

13. Don’t Take Ownership of Your Mistakes

Ever met someone who just can’t take criticism?

I don’t mean in a “OMG they read the comment section and are handling it really poorly!” way, I mean the sort of criticism that matters – constructive criticism from clients, respected colleagues, and even themselves. You have to be willing to accept that you are going to fail in this business, likely many times over, and that it’s the ones who use these failures as learning experiences that are going to survive and hopefully thrive. The last thing you want to do is stick your fingers in your ears, shut your eyes, and start screaming “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MY ART!”

It gets shared a lot, but there’s a part in Zack Arias’ Transform Video that’s always stuck with me where Zack reminds his audience that “Avedon sucked, Karsh sucked, Adams sucked…  …Every photographer in all of history was a horrible photographer for some period of time. They learned, they grew, they had dark days, they persevered. That is the way of the artist.” I think it’s one of the most important lessons that any photographer can learn in this business that is so saturated with ego and defensiveness. It’s okay to screw up if it makes you better in the end (just try not to do it when clients are watching, and if you do, own it).

Every single one of us is going to make mistakes at some point in our career – some will fall flat on their faces and suffer comical embarrassment, others will slide headlong into the cavernous maw of catastrophic error, but all of us can recover from these situations if we can honestly identify and accept what we did wrong and work to correct it. It’s the ones who dig a hole and start to pull the dirt down on top of themselves, looking to shelter themselves from having to face their mistakes that have to worry most – because after a while that safe hole you’re hiding in starts to look an awful lot like a grave.

14. Spend More Time Talking About Your Work Than Making It

I don’t like to break things down into archetypes, but sometimes it seems like there’s a revolving cast of common characters in every creative community, fellow photographers who seem to almost accidentally fall into these roles.

There’s the photographer with a million good ideas and two million excuses as to why they can’t ever pull them off: “Plane tickets are too expensive,” “I don’t have a studio,” “My camera isn’t good enough,” “I need better lights.” This guy can talk himself out of anything before he even gets close to starting,

There’s the photographer who is so enamored by past successes and gripped by the fear of ever having to outgrow them that all they ever talk about is that one amazing shot they grabbed in 1992. Photographers like this also tend be the kind of people who complain about the industry a lot. They’ll be the first to give crazy-eyed reactionary rants about how things have changed but do very little to grow and adapt.

There’s the one who is actually pretty talented, but so consumed by self-sabotage or impostor syndrome that sometimes they seem frozen in place, unable to actually create anything without tearing it to shreds moments later. These are the ones who spend a lot of time beating themselves up verbally and can’t take compliments very well. They tend to make just as many excuses as the first guy, but focus on more internalized factors than the external scapegoats. You’ll hear a lot of “I suck,” “I don’t deserve this,” “Why don’t you realize that my work is awful” from them.

Worst of all, we’ve likely all been (or will be) these people at some point in our careers, where we seem to be spending more time talking about our work than actually making it – and that’s actually pretty natural for people in creative careers This isn’t a job where you punch out at 5:00 PM and go home to play video games without a care in the world. We tend to internalize a lot of what we do, because what we do is so tied to our own emotions, thoughts, and experience – so we often take this job home with us. It’s not surprising that sometime doubt, hubris, fear, helplessness, defensiveness, and a whole host of other dark feelings can creep in, and a byproduct of that is shifting our focus from creating to talking about creating – becoming a photo wantrepreneur.

I want to take a second here to be clear that I am not at all discouraging people from talking about their work or photography as a medium. I think a discourse about the changing nature of photography and how it relates to communications, society, commerce, and art are more important than they ever have been, and In many cases, talking through some these issues frankly, with an honest colleague, friend, or mentor can be both therapeutic, cathartic, and exactly what you need to right your course. It’s when talk becomes a surrogate for your work, a smokescreen, that you have a problem. Talking about creating images is often lot easier than creating images, and we as humans tend to take the path of least resistance.

15. Not Knowing When to Say No

There are so many draws on your time, finances, and sanity out there, and you’re going to get pulled in a lot of different directions in this world. Sometimes the exuberance of starting to gain recognition for your work can lead you to say yes to everything: Annoying Uncle Frank promised a friend you would hook him up with some new portraits? Done. Restaurant you get lunch at needs some food shots on the cheap? Why not. Regular client offers you an assignment you know you can’t make money on? Ok, but just this one time…

Saying yes is a great way to gain experience, but as your skills and ambition grow you’re going to start to develop both focus and the experience to recognize red flags. The reasons might be time, interest, or money, but understanding the power of those two letters can do wonders for how you think about yourself as both an artist and a business person. Don’t be a dick about it, but find a way to say no that is firm, but polite, and leaves the door open for future communication.

The cool thing about learning to say no with style and grace is how much more it lets you say yes to the things you really want to do – the ones that really can be life changing. Do you really want to shoot those three freebie jobs for friends that your heart really isn’t in? or do you want to spend a week going on that fantasy road trip to photograph America’s last drive-in theatres? Do you want to spend a month photographing that fastener catalog you know you won’t really turn a profit on? or do you want to spend a few weeks shooting personal projects that will get you noticed by your dream clients? Saying no is scary at first, but over time it gets easer, especially as you better develop your sense of when you need to say it.

16. Trying Too Hard To Be Someone Else

Back when I played music there was always this one guy around obsessed with being just like whatever flavor of the month rock star he was obsessed with at the moment. He bought the same guitars, played the same way, adopted the same style, and really went out of his way to avoid ever having to do anything that didn’t directly emulate what he saw as a surefire formula for success. His idols and obsessions would change over time, and he would reinvent himself totally every couple of years despite actually being a pretty talented guy. He plays in a cover band now.

Do you want to be in a cover band?

There’s a fine line between influence and obsession, between creating an homage to someone’s work and outright re-creating their work –  but the message here isn’t about copying, or influence, or biting someone else’s style or ideas. I could write a whole other post about all of those things that would be just as long as this one. What I want to warn you about is losing yourself inside of someone else’s creative vision – becoming so wholly consumed and fixated on other’s work that you lose everything about YOUR work that’s interesting. I love Rodney Smith’s work, but the world already has a Rodney Smtih, and I’m a lot more interested in telling my story than trying to relive someone else’s. If you force yourself into a mold that was meant for someone else you’re going to really break off a lot of the edges and corners of you that don’t fit, and those little jagged pieces are what makes you great and unique. Keep forcing it and you might break apart completely.

17. Be Careless With Your Choice of Mentors and Critiques

Find an amazing community to be a part of, and learn from people whose work excites you, but be wary of the homogeny and sameness that can result in taking the advice of people who want you to be more like them and less like you too seriously. You’ll see this in a lot of online groups where unsolicited critiques run rampant. There will be a push for the images presented to fall in line with that group’s status quo, an urge to keep everyone on the baseline. Often, it seems like it isn’t even conscious, but if you watch someone comment on someone else’s work long enough, after a while you realize that a lot of the suggestions and comments they make are ones that will bring the work more in line with their own worldview of photography. Do you really want to aspire to be more like someone who’s work you don’t really like that much?

Critique can be an unbelievably important tool, especially for a developing artist, but the crowd of people out there willing to share their opinion on what you’re doing gets bigger every day, and a lot of them don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. When you’re looking for a critique or mentor to help you refine your vision you need to be conscious of avoiding the masses that lean towards the average and unexceptional.  Instead, be discerning and search for those singular and unique voices – the ones with a real opinion and point of view. Be vocal about what you want to improve and specific about what you want them to comment on so that you can grow with purpose and urgency. Consider the lessons you learn from them and take what helps you, but never be afraid to try to prove your mentors and critics wrong – not through words and argument, but by action and result – as you see your own vision through.

18. Get Too Comfortable

Complacency and stagnation can be incredibly hard things to recognize when you’re deeply mired in them. We gradually slip more and more into our routines and comfort zones until they smother us. One of the most common examples of this that I see is when a photographer starts to get a good amount of work in – they’ve worked hard to develop their marketing and contacts, their work is at the top of its game, and they have a look that’s in demand. Over the course of a couple of months or years they think they’re doing great but maybe they let their marketing slip or stopped pushing their skills – figuring that they’ve made it. All of a sudden there is a pivot in the industry, staff changes at client offices, perhaps a new agency takes over an account, or their look now seems dated and out of step with the market. All those months they went without marketing or developing new skills will come back to haunt them as their work dries up and they have to scramble to bring in some income just to keep the doors open. Getting too comfortable can leave you in a very uncomfortable position.

19. Don’t Manage Client Expectations

Once you get the basics of this photography thing down and start bringing in work, you suddenly realize you have a whole host of new problems in regards to communication and the ability to actually deal with clients – the kind of problems can lead you to complain in internet forums where a bunch of other people who have similar problems will pat you on the back and say “You know what? You’re right, your clients suck, and so do mine. It’s not your fault.”

But you know what? It’s kind of your fault.

Sure, there are bad clients out there, the legitimately dishonest or unethical type that give you 99% of your headaches for 1% of your income, the ones that you’ll probably fire after a couple of harrowing months. But most of the clients you’re going to end up having problems with aren’t out to get you, they are decent and honest people who just don’t know the ins and outs of your business as well as you do. Clients like this have a different vocabulary and a different background than you – some might be making their first foray into working with a professional, others might be used to different policies and working arrangements because they collaborated with a different creative for a long time, and some might be new to a position in an agency and still learning the ropes.

You need to work from the mindset that all of your potential clients have varied backgrounds and experiences, have radically different wants and needs, and are all going to ask different questions – and it’s up to you to know when they aren’t asking the right ones. Your client didn’t bring up a stylist? Ask if they need one anyway. Client doesn’t know what their responsibilities are? Give them a timeline. Client didn’t mention exclusivity? You better ask. Client doesn’t understand he difference between editorial and commercial licensing? Define it in the contract. Not using a contract? FUCKING START! Every time a freelancer works without a contract an angel kicks a puppy.

Make communication the most important thing in your business besides the quality of your work. Be patient with your clients and take the time to ensure sure that everyone involved is in synch. Ask as many questions as they do to make sure they understand your position before a problem arises. Otherwise, despite all the client blaming you do online, you’re the one who’s going to look like an asshole.

20. Go it Alone

You need a support team in your life, because there is only so much you can carry on your shoulders without getting crushed – this goes for both your professional and personal life.

On the personal side, you hopefully have several layers of support – friends and family who stand by you are a great and valuable resource, but don’t underestimate how much your local community of colleagues and photographers, the ones who understand the stresses of being a freelance creative, can help as well. Chances are they have been through the same issues you’re going through now. They’ve dealt with doubt, shaky finances, bad shoots, rough relationships, and a whole host of other problems that might be affecting you, and you can rest assured that there are scores of photographers who are going to come after you that are going to have these problems as well – do what you can to pay it forward in your community.

On the professional side, there is often a sense that the photographer is a lone-wolf, and at the beginning of our careers we do have to wear a lot of hats under both the artist and entrepreneur banner. We find ourselves doing design work, writing copy, taking care of scheduling, taxes, payroll, etc, all on our own. It’s a lot to handle, especially if you aren’t as expert in those fields are you are at photography, but sooner or later you have a revelation that there are people out there who put just as much time and passion into developing these skills as you do yours. Over the last couple years I’ve started working with a designer, a writer, a marketing consultant, a retoucher, and an amazing assistant. I’ve also developed really good relationships with my accountant, insurance broker, and banker on the business side of things. It’s made my life simpler, made me more focused on the quality of my images and servicing clients, and improved the quality of my brand and marketing across the board. Being able to find a group of people, whose skills I trust and respect, has been so important to growing my business in the last few years.

What mistakes are you making? What do you see holding you and others back from really being successful? What are you doing about it?

REQUIRED READING 1.30.2013

Ink Mixing with Water - a due Colori - Alberto Seveso
Ink mixing with water – From the project a due Colori by Alberto Seveso

Required Reading is a monthly roundup of things that catch my attention: news, links, videos, blogs, and cool projects by other creatives that I want to share with you – fun, inspiring, and a little addictive. 

Sometimes there is no secret trick or easy route, sometimes you just need to work harder than everyone else. 

My newest Tumblr obsession is this surreal and hypnotic stream of Kim Jong-Un looking at things. 

You can find some of the best pulp and fantasy illustration around in this gallery of Heavy Metal Magazine covers from 1977-2013.

For guys and girls who are a little nerdy about their neckwear – how to tie an Eldredge knot

Federico Garcia presents a fun animated listing of important architects and their famous buildings.

Proving that getting used to hearing “no” can get you closer to hearing a “yes” – Jia Jiang tries to desensitize himself to rejection in 100 Days of Rejection Therapy

Mike Joyce of Swissted.com has a new book coming out that features 200 of his redesigned vintage gig posters, you can pre-order it here.

Shooting with vintage and expired film seems to go in and out of vogue every few years, but what about making images with ruined film that has never been exposed. The results are somewhat… cosmic.

A look at The Beat Generation through the annotated photographs of poet Allen Ginsberg. 

Four things to stop doing at your desk this week.

Design Jargon Bullshit is a repository to collect all the horrible buzzword/adspeak/marketing double talk that needs to go away.

The one hundred most appreciated Behance projects of 2012. My favorite of the collection is a project called a due Colori by Alberto Saveso.

A really clever look at the editing process of Kwaku Alston, specifically a shoot with Drew Barrymore.

Done | Not Done is a clever concept for a to do list to remind you of the things that you want to do rather than what you need to do. Seems great for media junkies like me who easily lose track of their expansive movie and book queues.

A frighteningly large (90+ pages) library of skateboard ads from vintage to modern at Skately. A lot to explore, but there are some real gems here.

Strangely Compelling is one long stream of amazing black and white fashion and portrait imagery curated by Simon Engström, very few feeds ever live up to their names like this one does.

Seven tips to survive an unexpected photo assignment with the always entertaining Benjamin Von Wong.

The Amazings is an incredible concept that taps into one of the greatest sources of knowledge out there – experience. I really hope this spreads into a larger movement.

Zack Arias is back from his social media hiatus with a sort of sequel to his incredible Transform (which had a huge effect on me when I forst saw it) called Signal & Noise. We all need a reminder like this sometimes.

REQUIRED READING 11.3.2012

Required Reading is a regular round up of the news, images, words, and videos that inspire me during the week.

• Another facet of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy is exposed as the art world starts to realize the extent of the potentially irreparable damage to several galleries in Chelsea

• A look back at the highlights of Scott Hansen’s Instagram Photo Favorites posts, there are some great streams featured here that you can follow.

• A provocative collection of portraits of Playboy Bunnies of the past.

Seven different types of storytelling that brands put to use.

• Surreal, beautiful, and mildly disturbing images floating bodies wrapped in plastic.

Enlist is a cool new app from Campaign Monitor for growing your marketing list with a great visual presentation.

• Bob Gruen and Kevin Bacon talk about photography with Mark Seliger in the newest episode of Capture, which hands become, without a doubt, my favorite photography interview series.

REQUIRED READING 10.5.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week.

Instead of a list of links I have a video to share with you this week. Take a look back at the business of photography over 60 years ago with this vocational film from the 1940’s about options for students thinking about photography as a career. I always get a kick out of the old career films and PSA’s from this era.

 

REQUIRED READING 9.7.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.

Marqueed is a service that lets you markup and annotate images with collaborators online, a great service for discussing retouching with clients.

• A very DIY take on truly analog photographic filters from A Beautiful Mess

• These well choreographed dancing army men made me smile all week.

• Chase Jarvis explores the low angle shots of Quentin Tarantino

• I must have missed this when it first came out, but I really dig Zack Arias’ Creative Mornings talk on not trying so hard to inflate others perception of you.

Make It For Yourself

If you had unlimited resources and unlimited opportunity, what would you do with it creatively? What kind of project would you dream up if it were a fact that nothing was standing in your way? What story would you tell with the restraints of practicality, insecurity, fear, and realism completely lifted?

If you had an unyielding drive to share something, would you fight to make it happen, even if you had no resources other than the ability to genuinely express your desire to give this idea form to others? Would you put in the work to make it real? Could you improvise your way around any obstacles?

Do you remember those wonderfully energetic days of exploration when you first discovered your love of photography or writing or painting, days when you would take on a subject simply because of your interest in it, and you experimented with reckless abandon – having tons of fun doing it? Even if you look back at those creative acts now and scoff because your technique was rudimentary, you were filled with adolescent angst, and your interests have radically changed since then, there was something primal, cathartic, and amazingly fun about frantically scribbling lyrics alone in your room at three in the morning or long days spent in a studio with only your headphones to keep you company. There was no start or stop time and there was no concern for work/life balance because what you were doing wasn’t work, for those hours or days you threw yourself into your project. It was your life and you were exactly where you wanted to be.

I was surprised when I started to realize how many working creatives I knew that were not regularly working on personal projects. For many of them it seemed that the challenges of putting their creativity to task for others on a daily basis had robbed them of that initial spark that brought them joy through the act of creating. Some were burned out and bitter, others still loved what they did but found themselves running in place creatively – always moving but never advancing towards their goals. Many of them had lofty ideas for projects that they never seemed to start, while others drowned their simple and easily executable ideas beneath an ocean of doubt and fear.

There have been countless articles written from the viewpoint of every creative discipline about why you should dedicate time to personal projects. Some focus on the need to alleviate burnout, others propose it as part of a marketing strategy to engage potential clients on a more personal level, and the more introspective ones see it as a way to define your creative goals through self-exploration. These viewpoints all have their benefits and advantages, but few of them focus on the core of why many of you started creating in the first place…

…because you cared about something.

I have talked to photographers and artists at all stages in their careers, and I have heard a few common excuses as to why they aren’t exploring their own ideas:

“No one will like my ideas”

Don’t make it because you think others will like it on Facebook, or because you think it might get you work, or noticed by the art world, or turn a profit. These are byproducts, not goals. Make it because you give a damn about it and want to tell everyone else that you give a damn about it. You might even convince some of them to give a damn about it too.

“I have an idea but it is too difficult to execute”

If you need help, ASK!!

There are people out there who respond to genuine no BS passion – real passion is infectious. Some people fear the word “no” so much that they give up before they even get started. Don’t be one of those people who berates others into helping you either. Instead be so genuinely driven in what you are doing that they can’t help but want to be part of it. You will be surprised when you realize exactly how far unbridled enthusiasm can take you.

I guarantee that there are people out there who want to help you already – people who are going to be excited about what you are doing and want to get involved. They could care about your subject matter or cause, they might be fans of your work, or they may be friends who don’t even get your idea but wholeheartedly believe in you.

“I don’t have any ideas”

Yes, you do – you have an unbelievable variety of ideas that are swimming just below the surface. You have ideas every day and forget them in the rush of your daily life. You weigh them against the perceived expectations of others and discount them as invalid or stupid before they even get off the ground. If it means something to you, it is worth exploring. Think big, but don’t be afraid to think small either – you don’t have to change the world with every project. They can be silly or funny or painfully sad, they can be all about your nerdy passions, or they can start a worldwide movement. There are no rules. There is no minimum or maximum. You can travel around the world or stay in your bedroom. You can create it in an afternoon or spend your whole life pursuing it. What is important is that you give that idea in your head a tangible existence – make it as real to the rest of the world as it is for you.

The important part is starting.

Start recording your ideas – it doesn’t matter how. Keep a notebook, start a file on your computer, etch it into stone tablets, or go all Twin Peaks and record it into a dictaphone for Diane. Just as important is to start to pursue and act on these ideas – don’t just seal them away in some vault where they are out of mind. Revisit your notes and your ideas. It might feel like the most daunting thing in the world, but if you can take small actions towards starting you will build momentum in no time. Projects like these are an outlet that allows you to build something around your own passions and interests – something that you feel strongly about. People respond to these ideas because you are sharing something that you are 100% behind, that you are willing to take a risk for. The act of putting something out there despite your fears of how others will receive it is courageous and amazing.

A blank page, an unexposed roll of film, and an empty stage are full of all sorts of potential – they want to be filled.

Fill them with something that you think it is totally cool, or something you believe in, or because you want to make a change, or have to tell a story. Everyone will find their own method. I just want to light a fire under your ass – you need to find a process that works for you. Whatever it may be, throw yourself into it all the way and start something new.

Where is your creativity going to take you next?

Required Reading 5.18.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.

Above: Yours truly, on set a few weeks back, trying to look serious with poor results. 


• This is what happens to innocent bystanders when you trust a photographer with an industrial strength wind canon.

• I really enjoyed Kathryn Shulz’s missive on being a night owl writer.  I think all creatives have had those desperate and explosive moments of creativity at 4:00 am, I know I have.

I re-read this a few times this week when things got hard, when I was trying to get some deadlines finished in spite of the fact that I should have been in bed resting and trying to recover from the nasty stomach virus I came down with this week ( Danielle LaPorte’s blog has become the first stop on my reading list ever since I picked up her book The Fire Starter Sessions)

• Is scientific curiosity part of our nature that leads to understanding and creativity? Is originality different in science vs art?

• What do  you do when you start to hate your own blog?

• And people complain about Photoshop now? dig into these before and afters from Pin-up paintings of the 1950’s.

• If you are going to play it safe it is time to quit.

• A very cool collection of vintage portraits of young royals in India over 50 years. 

 

Required Reading 4.20.2012

Supreme General

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.

Above: Musician Supreme General on location during a promo shoot for his new album to be released this summer. 


My friend Scott Gable has been busy photographing the antique medical oddities of Dr. Touma’s Medical Museum in West Virginia. His Behance gallery of antique instruments and curiosities makes me a little jealous – some of these items are so cool I wish they were decorating the studio space that Scott and I share.

I had a moment of delirious excitement when I saw the VICE had conducted this interview with filmmaker and author Kenneth Anger – the director of amazing short films like Rabbit’s Moon and Lucifer Rising that I became enamored with in my teens and still greatly enjoy watching today.

As I was getting ready to post this edition of required reading I realized that this is the third time in as many months that I have featured the work Of Andrew Shaylor. I keep stumbling across his work and really connecting with his aesthetic without actively seeking it out – one of my favorite feelings is when I fall in love with the project first without realizing who actually photographed it until later to find out it is an artist I am fond of – and this series on the Hells Angels is no exception. 

Could the nature of a rainbow be the perfect model of human consciousness? I think Ricardo Manzotti’s ideas could easily be applied to the nations of creativity as part of the natural process of the world which creates a new whole rather than something distinctly separate from it.

Wow! what a cool concept for a music/promo video for Benga’s I will Never Change– a stop motion live waveform of the song created using individually cut vinyl records.

A simple and elegant use of shapes and design to express complex philosophical theories. These are beautiful in their execution and effectiveness.

I have, at times, been guilty of committing many of the sins chronicled in The Curse of the Freelancer – but I have been trying to tackle these issue more and more readily to make myself less susceptible to these panic moments that many freelancers suffer. But Isaac Hindin-Miller does have some great insights on how to work through these feelings and get back on track to making things happen. I think it’s just the shot in the arm that freelancers and small business owners need from time to time.

It is really weird to me to see fellow photographers who seem legitimately perturbed by the commonality and widespread use of camera phone apps like Instagram. I find these apps to be great fun and a medium unto themselves for exploring a more casual and instinctual type of image making than what I normally produce in my professional life. This aggressive rejection is indicative of the fear and reactionary attitudes that I sadly find all too common among photographers. However this article that subtly parallels the rise of Instagram and the decline of Kodak does bring up some interesting points about how the landscape of not just of image making, but the mindsets behind imaging technology has changed over the last few years.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of seeing Colleen Wainwright speak for a second time. Much like the first time I saw her, I left completely inspired and energized by her stories to go home and create something awesome. You should definitely be following her Communicatrix blog if you are not already.

Required Reading 3.23.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.


Who would have thought that hacking a Piccolette Contessa-Nettel (1926) on to a Canon 5dMKII would yield such pretty results. For the hardcore retro gear nerds out there.

After a coffee/keyboard incident earlier this week I have decided that one of these is a necessary addition to my office.

Photographic explorations of a singular subculture always fascinate me. I really like Andrew Shaylor’s study on the rockabilly scene that I found on Behance recently.

I nerded out pretty hard when I saw these behind the scenes photos from Metropolis. 

Douglas Sonders on the utter importance of keeping busy as a key to success in a creative field.

The Art of Self Confidence is one of the best blog posts I have read in weeks.

Required Reading 3.16.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.


Always one to be intrigued by what shapes great minds, I found this look at Alan Turing’s high school reading list to be especially intriguing. | Brain Pickings

A look at the five types of work that fill our work and creative lives. After doing the suggested work audit I was honestly surprised by how much reactionary and insecurity work I could let myself get sucked into – I am going to try a few of the suggested techniques over the next few weeks to see if some small changed can have some big benefits for my mourning mindset. | The 99%

A collection of broken collodion wet plate images of patients suffering from “Glass bone disease” | How to be a Retronaut

I am so glad Lenlee Jenckes from Lenlee Represents turned me on to this (soon to be shipping) custom cereal service. My studio is downwind of a cereal factory and the amazing smell of fresh Corn Pops regularly filling the studio has turned me into a rabid cereal junky. The only question is what blend to order first: Puffed quinoa, cocoa nibs, and chia seeds? or the ever tempting cookies and  peeps blend? | Cerealize

A brilliant approach to having creative directors give your work their complete and undivided attention | The Toilet Book

Swallow.com has become my favorite online food magazine since its recent launch with its funny and sometimes scathing look at food from an insider’s perspective. Founder Ivy Knight posted earlier this week about her recent experiences eating and traveling in my hometown that included doing shots of Fernet  at one of my favorite bars (Vera Pizzeria – which seems to have become the defacto photographers bar of choice in the city) The incredible art collection of the Knox, The explosively good dining scene, and thankfully did not involve a single chicken wing at any of the tourist traps. | Living the American Dream in Buffalo, NY.

I really like animation and stop motion in music videos, I have ever since I was a little kid. Videos like Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer and Big Time always fascinated me, I still get so excited when I see them today. Gotye’s video for Easy Way Out, directed by Darcy Prendergast gives me that same kind of exuberant fascination.

Forget the iPad,  I want to read all my books on this device from now on | How to be a Retronaut

The tools that allow us to be more plugged in and efficient have caused us to become completely disconnected and over-reliant on information to the point of addiction. They are often our number one time killers. |  A Survival Guide for Beating Information Addiction.

Sound advice | Do Fewer Things and Do them Better

I really get excited about these Three Panels Open projects that are featured on Warren Ellis’ blog, especially this most recent collaboration by Esquivel, Godlewski, and Cody. We should all aim to  live our lives so hard that we wound consensus reality! Check out the rest of the Three Panels Open entries as well for some | Warren Ellis

Taking a look at famous brands through hipster tinged glasses. Pretty funny, till you get to the proposed KFC branding and seriously  wonder why they didn’t adopt it years ago | Hipster Branding

My friend Rhea made this delightful video during a Canadian Road trip for Mazda | Anna Logue

Promise Tangeman’s blog is often full of universally relevant creative thinking that keeps me coming back week after week – but this article on identifying your own creative style though the act of creating and evolving and not consciously “finding” or adopting your style and ending up with someone else’s is fascinating – one of my favorite pieces on her blog. | Promise Tangeman 

A quick and accessible rundown of the 2012 PDN 30 winners and links to their sites. I think this years group was made of of some astronomically talented photographers and I have been spending a few days on some more in-depth exploration of their bodies of work. | Aphotoeditor.com

I saw that Nubby Twiglet linked to this yesterday and it was too good not to share. As a photographer I love seeing the end uses and layouts my images are used for – so layout and design are pretty important to me. This tumblr catalogs an astonishing collection of very cool magazine layouts that I could spend hours browsing. | Magazinpiration

This is important – this is about submarines, werewolves, and bad Russian accents… things that matter! Red Moon is an incredibly entertaining and delightful short by Sirocco Research Labs.

Required Reading 3.9.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.


This one is for Aaron Ingrao, the biggest pop tart addict I know. | Pantone Tarts by Emilie de Griottes

A look at how we better ourselves, and how trying to make only good work may ultimately hamper our growth. |  Getting Better vs Being Good

I wish these mistakes were not so common that it warranted writing a blog post about it | How to be a freelance failure in seven easy steps.

Richard Wade’s ghostly exploration of people lost in thought in the self contained universe of their cars. | Human Chasis

I am so happy to have found this, Alfred Hitchcock interviewed by Francis Truffaut for 12 hours, this is the stuff that film geek dreams are made of | 12 Hours of Truffaut Interviewing Hitchcock

Creativity is subtraction

This song has been stuck in my head for days | Where SSION’s Love Grows

There is something contextually fascinating about looking at the stationary of the famous and villainous figures and brands | Famous Letterheads 1900-1997

Happiness is not a destination.

Do we confuse window dressing and ornamentation with substance? | More is Usually Just More.  

Required Reading 3.2.2012

red leather chucks

red leather chucks

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.


Terrifying images of children in animal costumes based on funeral photographs that prey on my natural fear of dolls. | fStoppers. 

Has the interpretation of the word Freelancer changed into a negative one? | Freelance = Unemployed Starving Artist?!?

A new installment in the always impressive Made By Hand Series | The Beekeeper

25 inspiring thoughts on making ideas happen | The 99%

For the tech and workflow efficiency obsessed out there ASMP has launched the new version of their DPBestflow program laying out best practices for video and photography workflows | DPBestflow.org

Douglas Sonders is featuring a behind the scenes look at a cool music video he recently directed and produced for Crash Boom Bang  | Adventures of A Commercial Photographer

Amazing images from Bonneville Speed Week

I think that this might become the most democratic way to serve everyone’s musical taste at the studio – this might be my new favorite app | Anthm

iPhoneography just got legit | Nick Laham photographs the New York Yankees with his iPhone

A Kickstarter project that I can really sink my teeth into, My favorite taco truck in the world is looking for funding to expand their empire of delicious | Lloyd Taco Truck on Kickstarter

My nerdy passions know no bounds | Cheesy Typography Humor

Eye opening images from the 70’s oil crisis | How to Be a Retronaut

1000 likes ain’t gonna pay that rent – but more importantly – if you stop doing what you truly love you might die || Stop Writing On the Internet to Make People Love You

One thing Chase Jarvis does really well is distill thoughts down into simple forms, I love his take on becoming a professional | How to Become a Professional Photographer in Five Simple Steps

The always inspiring Nubby Twiglet on Making Lists and Dreaming Big

Required Reading 2.24.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.


• I don’t think I could ever stop loving Polaroids, and this collection of images only reaffirms that love | A Collection of Helmut Newton’s Test Polaroids

• An interesting article on how those in the often abused roles of interns are starting to fight back | Get Your Own Damn Coffee!

• Promise Tangeman’s thoughts on the downsides of ranking and scoring yourself alongside others In your field, and how you are better served by focusing on who you are | Comparing Yourself To Others

• My favorite freelance switch comic in weeks | Self Discipline

• Adam from the Angriest Critic shared this trailer with me the other day – and I have been mildly obsessed with it ever since. I can’t wait for the full release of this film so that I can see even more of its impressive visual style | Beyond the Black Rainbow

• Taking a look at western consumption through photography | Scott Gable Blog. 

• A lifetime infatuation with circus themed imagery has made me an instant fan of this portrait series by UK Photographer Andrew Shaylor | Behance Network

• This new documentary on Wayne White has me so excited to see some importance given to the idea of art actually being fun and exuberant.

 

• Social media overload can become an enormous detriment to the creative process if it starts to become too much of an addiction – I like this articles take on it as an un-winnable arms war. | Feeling Social Enough yet?

• Light is  surreal, meditative, and beautiful – Sunday Paper has been killing it lately with these provocative video pieces. Also worth checking out is their insightful and sympathetic take on zombies in their recent film Rest.

Required Reading 2.10.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.

I have also added a subscription feature to the blog – now you can stay updated about new posts and what is going on with my creative life via e-mail. To receive updates just add your email address to the box under Subscribe on the sidebar and voilà! you will be getting regular updates from me in no time. 


• Attorney and consultant Leslie Burns is raising funds for her new project – The Plain English Legal Handbook for Photographers on Kickstarter. This could be a greatly needed tool to help creatives better understand and communicate the legal needs of their business. | Kickstarter

• I am not normally one to share photo roundups like this, but I do love me some minimalist beauty, I love those lonely wintery images  | 25 Examples of Minimalist Photography

• Some strong suggestions for bloggers about some new rules you might want to integrate into your blogging program. | If I Were the Blogging Police

• It seems like animated music videos are surfacing all over the past few weeks, one of my favorites has been this one by M.Ward – The First Time I Ran Away – directed by Joel Trussel.

• Another animated video that has been on my mind this week is Jonsi’s Gathering Stories. created by Crush Creative.

• Leonard Cohen – How to Speak Poetry | The Grumpy Owl

• The top five regrets of the dying is short but sobering look at traits that many embrace during their life and regret as death draws near – perhaps we should strive to learn these lessons earlier. | Five Regrets Of the Dying.

• Nick Cave on withdrawing awards nominations, treating your muse with respect, and refusing to compete with anyone but yourself. | Letters of Note

• For my fellow mobile photography enthusiasts – some tricks for shooting with the iPhone you might not know. | fStoppers

• There is something exceedingly beautiful about this collection of mug shots from the 20’s – I have shared posts and collections like this before, but there is something about this aesthetic that captivates me every time.  | Twisted Sifter

Required Reading 2.3.2012

Required Reading is a weekly listing of all the bits of visual inspiration, cool videos, news, hip links, and miscellaneous information that rattles my head during the week. The stuff that’s worth bookmarking and gets my brain-juices flowing.

I have also added a subscription feature to the blog – now you can stay updated about new posts and what is going on with my creative life via e-mail. To receive updates just add your email address to the box under Subscribe on the sidebar and voilà! you will be getting regular updates from me in no time. 


Nubby Twiglet was interviewed by photography consultant Amanda Sosa Stone about her design process and helping to build brands for photographers (including me) | I Love Designers on the Scoop with Sosa Stone

• A hand drawn quote from one of my favorite books, The Little Prince. | Brain Pickings

• The most important article I read all week. A lot of you know how I feel about the awful negativity that is pervasive in the photography industry, I am glad to see blogs like that that are taking a stand against it and showing what they love about photography instead. | I love Photography. 

• While I don’t think the the first equine themed costume would fly today (except for some very specific and scary clientele) this look back at exotic dancers of the 1890’s is a fascinating exploration of changing aesthetic ideals and preferences. | How to Be a Retronaut

• Documenting the creation of an outdoor street art museum in the Wynwood district of Miami, FL. Check out this trailer for the docuseries Here Comes The Neighborhood below.

• John Keatley’s series of portraits of master bartender Murray Stenson are some of the best images I have seen online in weeks. Seeing stuff like this is like visual caffeine, it wakes you up and pulls you out of the online static. | Keatley Blog. 

• Think of how much more interesting everyday life would be if other cultures treated such mundane objects as works of art | The Art of The japanese Manhole Cover

• Eiko Ishioka recently passed away, she was a monumentally talented and Academy Award winning costume designer who is responsible for unforgettable outfits in the films of Tarsem Singh, Bjork videos, Cirque du Soleil performances. I love the work she created for Singh’s The Fall (one of the most visually intriguing films I have ever seen) | R.I.P. Eiko Ishioka

• David Ogilvy – in his own words – on his writing process and why he feels he is a lousy copywriter. Editing is a key skill for all creatives, you need to be able to cull your own bad ideas from the good | Letters of Note

• For all those photographers who are just starting to move into video, Chase Jarvis has posted a quick guide to audio and mics just for you| Buying Mics and Hacking Audio for Your DSLR Video Setup

• For my fellow camera nerds – a hidden camera look inside the B&H conveyor system by Lense. 

• The Affectmedia 2012 Calendar has me in stitches, I wish more companies did fun pieces like this. Oenophile Pinhead was my favorite of the bunch | Photography Served

• Stop aiming for the middle | Prepared to Fail by Seth Godin

• A mega-mix of all the overhead shots in Wes Anderson films cut together.

• Want to get going in the morning? Skip coffee and start listening to film scores while you get ready, by the time you are dressed you will feel like a badass western gunslinger or a spacefaring rogue – after that the rest of the day is easy! I suggest starting off with this one | Elmer Bernstein – Main Titles of the Magnificent Seven. 

• An extensive collection of film stills where the subject is breaking the fourth wall | Look at the Camera

• Rooftopping in Toronto – an incredible vantage point from above a city I love. | Thestar.com

• I am in love with this video of a five year old discussing her impressions on the logos and brand marks of different companies by Ladd Design

Lessons For 2012

Vintage Konica Camera

Vintage Konica Camera

For my last blog post of the year here are some small lessons I learned in 2011 that I hope help you in 2012.

A to-do list is a tool, not an accomplishment

You might clear those tasks out, but that list will fill right back up again. Don’t become addicted to efficiency, leave some room in your life for the random and to let your passions direct you.

If they can’t see you, you don’t exist

You need to get out there and start making calls, doing lunch, and getting your work seen. You can wait forever for your website or portfolio to be perfect, but there are people who want to hire you right now who can’t find you. A portfolio is a living thing, it needs to grow with you and be honed by feedback and experimentation – Perfection is a journey, not a destination.

This is a social business

Your work may get you in the door these days, but your personality is just as important in how you are perceived. Don’t exist outside your brand; make yourself a part of it. When you do you will take more responsibility and pride in your work.

Be wary of who you get feedback from

Listen to your clients’ needs and thoughts, and be selective about your mentors. Taking homogenous online and group critiques too seriously results in being a better them, not a better you. Your goal is to be the anomaly, not the average.

ACT! – No one else will do it for you

You can spend all the time in the world talking about your great idea or planning your dream project, but unless you take action and make it happen it’s all just theory. Or as Joey Shithead puts it…. TALK-ACTION = ZERO

Care

If you are truly passionate about photography as a business then don’t treat it like a mindless job – Genuinely care about your work, your business practices, your clients, your community, your subjects, your stories, and your team. It will pay you back in the long run.

Have the courage to fail

If you are not making mistakes you are not trying hard enough.

Never Stop Learning

Never be too prideful to learn something new – consume knowledge and media like it’s the air you breathe. I have seen veterans of this industry learn new skills from first-year students because they were open and excited about growing. Make study, experimentation, and shared mentorship a part of your regular routine to better understand how the world around you works. You never know where your next inspirational goldmine may come from.

The path that worked for others may not be the one that works for you. 

If success in any creative industry were as easy as following a roadmap laid out by bloggers, educators, and experts, then everyone would be living their passion. Never be afraid to deviate from the prescribed path if you feel that it is the right choice for you. Take responsibility for your choices and never be afraid of making some noise.

Say Yes

Don’t let fear and apprehension stop you from doing something you really want to do. Start saying yes more, especially to your own ideas, even if you think they are crazy – those will be very often be your best ideas. Saying yes is the first step to really making things happen.

Say No 

Conversely, don’t let a misplaced sense or duty, obligation, or desperation prevent you from saying no. Stick to your own path and learn to walk away from a bad deal.

Stop hanging around people who have given up

I see it all the time on blogs, on forums, at industry events, and any other place that photographers and creatives might gather en masse – an overwhelming sense of negativity that pervades this industry like a virus. What the finger of accusation is pointing at seems to change weekly, and complaints about clients, rates, technology, MWACs, pro-sumers, students, the internet, micro-stock, and the economy all start to sound the same after a while – a jumble of depressing but comforting noise that can suck you in and have you spouting the same rhetoric back at others. But, if you listen to that noise long enough, one crystal clear idea starts to creep through – that this is ultimately about blame. The underlying mantra behind so many of these complaints can often be reduced and simplified to one statement; “This is not my fault, this is caused by something beyond my control, so I do not have to act to fix it.” This kind of thinking may bring some small amount of cathartic relief, especially when joining in with the masses collectively laying blame on something else, but it will do absolutely nothing to remedy the situation.

I am so over it, and I don’t want to be part of that culture of excuses.

That is why I am so grateful to have made a conscious decision over the last year to surround myself with people so against this type of hive negativity that the idea of giving up and giving in is completely alien to them – either because of their unrelenting positivity, or their indefatigable passion pushing them to take actions that they believe in to find answers to their problems.

I have seen a thirty-plus year veteran of this industry have one of his most successful years ever by adopting new technology and marketing strategies in a time when many of his contemporaries languish in dwindling careers lamenting “the good old days”.

I have been amazed by the positivity of a friend as I watched her struggle and grow as she worked through her first year in business when so many people were telling her to give up – now she is profitable, growing, and excited for the future.

I am constantly inspired by the unrelenting creativity and passion of my studio partner, Scott Gable. And I have seen so many people start to leave their negative attitudes behind on a professional forum I moderate thanks to the support of a group of  unbelievably determined people.

These are the people I surround myself with because they want to be better, and that pushes me to want to be better myself. If you take anything away from this blog post, this is the one lesson I hope you take to heart.

Moving / Editing

Simplifying my life by editing the clutter

Simplifying my life by editing the clutterMoving blog post header

I mentioned earlier this week that I am finishing up my move across town from my downtown apartment to a townhouse in north Buffalo. It has been quite the adventure, but the benefits of moving into a new space have already had some serious benefits for me. My old apartment had the strangest layout, instead of having rooms it was essentially two long hallways that ran parallel to each other. While you might imagine a hip open floor plan, the space was narrow and long, anything but open. One hallway contained my bedroom, bathroom, and workspace. The other contained my living room and kitchen. My new house has a workspace separate from my living/sleeping areas, it has only been a few days and I already love having a dedicated space for work when I am not at the studio or on location.

The process of packing and moving motivated me to do something that had been on my goals list for a long time – to eliminate clutter, edit my belongings, and simplify a lot of stuff prior to the move. I found myself taking inventory and making a lot of decisions on what went and what stayed.

• Clothes were culled in a classic closet edit, with the remnants going to charity. Managed to cut out a lot of stuff I just hadn’t worn in years but was still holding on to.

• Office materials, old papers, forms, files, and more were scanned and archived to get rid of a lot of the paper clutter that always seemed to be obscuring my actual desk when I was working from home. Trying to keep as paperless as possible at the new place, in fact I was able to consolidate down everything down to one lean file box.

• Old furniture (some of which I had since college) was deleted, especially the old busted couches that had essentially become Frankenstein’s over the years as they were broken and rebuilt. I am working now on tuning up my workspace and living areas keep things cleaner and leaner. I was also able to travel a lot lighter during the move.

• I even got a chance to revisit and edit some of my notebooks that I jot shoot and project ideas down in, copying the ones I was still really passionate about over into new files and editing down some of the older ones that I had lost my taste for.

So many things were cut, edited, given away, tossed, and repurposed – aside from the obvious benefits of having less stuff physically to bog me down, I have also found that I mentally I have become a lot more agile the past few days. trimming that fat has let given me a lot more focus as I realized that all the clutter and chaos that can build up in our lives was often distracting me and keeping me off task.

I think that taking stock of your clutter, both physically and mentally is a great goal, and often a necessary one for creatives. It lets us clear out the excess baggage that can often get in the way of us generating and following through with new ideas. How many times have you intended to take on a task or start a new project only to get delayed because there was some sort of perceived mental or physical clutter that in the way of you getting to your destination? Make it a point to lighten your load a few time a year in the name of simplicity and sanity.

Speaking of editing and refining, I have made some substantial changes to lukecopping.com the last few days. New work has been added, old work has been culled, and some other elements have been twisted up, mixed around, and spit back out in new updated forms. My online portfolio totally leveled up.

My Mini Vacation

my-mini-vacation-toronto

my-mini-vacation-title

Never underestimate the effect that twenty-four hours can have on your outlook and attitude. After a grueling week a sudden decision was made by me and my girlfriend Erin to jet up to Toronto for an overnight respite from our respective work. Being that we are both freelancers who have schedules that can be difficult to synch these mini vacations and day adventures become more common diversions for us than long overly planned vacations, we are just up for a good spontaneous adventure. Armed only with my iPhone we left on friday afternoon to de-stress, have fun, and go on a short notice adventure before returning to Buffalo and jumping right back into a busy week before opening the new studio. I feel recharged, renewed, and am bursting with new ideas from such a short trip. I sometimes forget how important it can be to just step away for a few minutes, especially during times when I am juggling many projects, both personal and professional.

my-mini-vacation-boat

Driving down the QEW from Buffalo to Toronto and other destinations north, I have always been fascinated by this replica of Jacques Cartier’s Grand Hermie that has been sitting in the water just off the highway for years. It used to be more substantial, but the main hull of the ship has been reduced by rust and fire to little more than a shell, still, the masts rising up over the tree line have long served as a marker for those making frequent trips back and forth from Toronto to Buffalo like we do. I even used to use it a location for some more unorthodox engagement and bridal shoots  back when I regularly shot weddings. It is one of those great roadside quirks can easily spark imagination.

The last leg of the trip, coming into downtown Toronto, is the point where I could feel like our mini-vacation had truly arrived. Some of the quick hit highlights of the trip follow:

• Checking into the hotel and standing in what felt like the longest check in line in history (Note to all – always a good idea to not check in at the same time that two entire conventions worth of people in town that weekend are trying to do the same)

• Walking, and just being out in the open air, wandering the streets, taking pictures, and laughing our asses off at inside jokes just melted away weeks of over-focus and living by a schedule. This is where I re-centered myself the most.

• Taking tons of pictures of me and Erin at her request ( The dreaded mirror shot, everyone loves/hates them, but I will acknowledge how much fun they can be)

• Spending time with my cousin Ryan on our second day there (an older photo above that I took of him a few years back, one of my favorites)

• The food!!! Toronto in always a gastronomic wonderland for us, we have our favorites we always like to drop in on, but are always looking for new spots to get great food and hang out. Toronto has some of the best Indian food I have ever eaten, so friday night we managed to drop by a restaurant close to our hotel for a very late and very relaxing meal. Saturday on the other hand, was all about sitting out in the sun and taking in a long… long lunch. My cousin took us to a Portuguese restaurant with an amazing patio where we spent most of the afternoon drinking beer, eating whole grilled sardines, sausages, great bread, and the most delicious grilled chicken.

Even just one day away from in a different place, a brief change of scenery at best, can be an amazing change for your outlook. Get out there and just go somewhere… anywhere. Even if it is just for a few hours, go have an adventure, eat at the restaurant you always wanted to, get in your car and drive for an hour in any direction, then spend 2 more hours just walking around and exploring where you arrive at, the destination doesn’t really matter, it’s about making the choice to break your routine and just go. Take that same thought process and apply it to the project or image you have been thinking about creating. Just get out there are do it!

Coming Soon

The studio is almost done. We will be holding our opening reception this week, As the image above illustrates – I am sure that Scott will be glad to be finished with the painting.


We have finished the final retouching and post-production on the project for Anatomy, and you can expect to see the finished images in just a week or two.