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When The Work Doesn"t Come August 16 2014, 0 Comments

There are times when the work flows freely. The ideas overflow from within and there are hardly enough hours in the day to capture the images in a particular body of work. There are also the long term projects created over a period of months or even years. These projects can be inspiring and motivating as the visual progress comes to light and the tangible, physical photographs can be organized and shared as en exhibit or book.

But what about when the work doesn’t come? Occasionally, happily it has not been too often in my career, there are times when I am suspended in my work. Perhaps a photo shoot did not work out well, too many sand storms in the desert! Or perhaps a photo shoot was cancelled due to war breaking out in a country where I had planned a photo documentary shoot. Time passes and a sense of urgency rolls over me as I become concerned about not keeping my skills sharp. I realize it is somewhat ridiculous given my years of experience and knowledge of light. But never the less, the concern exists.

Although the art shows have been plentiful this year, the new work has been hampered indeed by sand storms, and trip cancellations due to war. Long term projects fill in a great deal of time but I have thrived on the creativity that comes with capturing new bodies of work.

So I offer to you a few substitutions that help fill in the gaps while I rework schedules, funding and ideas for some of the work that I have had to postpone. First, I tend to review all of my collections on hard drives. I often find “new” images that I have never printed. In the process of trying to limit a collection to 12-24 pieces, I sometimes chose one over another for the sake of not making a collection too large. Adding these “new” images or swapping one or two out can keep a collection fresh. After twenty some years I have thousands of pieces of work just waiting to see the light of day.

Secondly, I find substitute photo shoots. These are usually shorter trips but are on my list of eventual shoots. Substitute shoots often turn into beautiful collections of work. The unintended often does.

Finally, I try to visit art museums or if that is not possible, the art section in a book store. Studying someone else’s artwork helps give perspective even if it is a different art form from your own. Take it in and find the inspiration.

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Cataloging Your Work February 19 2014, 0 Comments

Having spent more than twenty years in film and digital photography, I have work in every corner of my home, and studio. Portfolios are piled high and new work is still locked inside the catacombs of more than a dozen hard drives waiting to be cataloged and printed. Cataloging your work should be a priority, just as backing up your work should be. Cataloging your work is akin to a finger print of your life’s work. These easy steps will help you to catalog your work.

Using your computer programs such as Photo Shop or Light Room, you can create your files online. (Make a print out so you have a backup copy.) Most photo software will allow you to catalog images as you process them. You will begin by creating a file name for groups of images but also, be certain when using this component of your software that you name your photographs individually as you process them. Your software will automatically number your photographs but numbers do not jog the memory when you have thousands of images. Your camera type, f-stop, shutter speed and color temperature will automatically be given. If there is a space to add the date the images were taken, the time of day the images were taken and the lens used, log that information in as well. If not, you will want to manually add this information on the print out. For images on film negatives, similar steps should be taken by recording the name of the image, the f-stop and shutter speed, film type and speed, and the camera and lens used. This can be done in a paper notebook or in Microsoft word.

Why catalog your work?

  1. Easy access to specific images. It eliminates searching when you want to present work to a client.
  2. Identification. As you build your body of work, your style will emerge. One of your goals as a photographer should be to make your work identifiable with your style. No-one mistakes a Van Gogh with a Monet. You can more easily nurture the development of your style if you are able to look at your work as a whole. Creating portfolios is the easiest way to do this and it catalogs your work at the same time.

Portfolios are bodies of work that display your skill as a photographer. I have twenty to thirty portfolios ready at any given time. Subject matter is grouped together. Product photography, such as images of food are one portfolio, for example, while images of still life are another portfolio. Do not make the mistake of mixing work in the same portfolio. You want your portfolio to be diverse but subject matter should be grouped together. A potential client who is interested in food images for their restaurant is probably not going to care if you can photograph real estate. When I meet with a potential client I always take with me what they have asked for but also take with me a few portfolios that they might want to see but didn’t know to ask for. However, I never mix the work into the same portfolio.

  1. Copyright. Work should be cataloged for the purpose of maintaining copyright. You don’t want to lose track of what work you have filed with the federal copyright office as you build your body of work. Making a catalog documents when and where photographs were taken but also the type of equipment used, the f-stop, shutter speed and color temperature.
  2. Insurance. If valuable work is stolen or lost in a hurricane or other disaster, details about the individual pieces make identification easier and may make filing an insurance claim easier.
  3. Finally, in the event that someone uses your work without permission, you have a log of all information regarding how, when, and where the image was taken. This is a great way to provide documentation that no-one else will have, hence “proving” the original work is your own. (Also see blog on Copyright)