Those who want to teach (or sell?)

Facebook and YouTube seem to be overflowing with photographers who think they are great educators. Too much of the time the "instructor" is just hawking gear in the form of "education". Some of them are just plain silly in their presentations. A few things from recent experiences:

"There are no rules" and "it is science" both used to justify a way of doing something. Make up your mind. Things like "the rule of thirds" may not be hard science, but there is a reason they are out there. 

Just because your spouse/roommate/significant other has a PhD in a subject does not mean you are qualified to speak in that field. 

Doing a "dumping" video where you claim you are concerned with a company being able to continue innovating. Then becoming a spokesperson for another company to endorse a cheaper knock off of the product you left. 

To counterbalance this I would look at photographers like Joe McNally. He does a lot of paid gear endorsements, but he maintains a high degree of credibility in what he says. Others I enjoy are Moose Peterson and Jarid Polen (Fro) to name but two.






Gear and more gear

I have to echo what many have said: If you cannot get a good picture with the least expensive DLSR or mirrorless camera on the market, you won't do any better with the best of the best.

People like the latest and greatest, when they need to be spending time learning the skills and practicing. It only takes a few minutes, three or four times a week, to learn a new skillset. Pick up your camera and shoot some pictures.

When you get to the point where your gear is actualy holding you back, you will know it.  

Youtube teachers

There is a lot of great information out there. On the video sharing site "YouTube" there are tons of great videos on photography and related technologies. Some very talented people are very generous in sharing their knowledge and I take every opportunity to learn from some of the best.

But one thing that bothers me is people who are changing professions, from photographers to YouTube content creators and/or photography instructors, becoming gear salesmen on the side. Along with the shift are some practices that bother me a bit. Claims of "I paid for this with my own money", which are 100% true, but leaves out the part about getting back channel compensation or deep discounts to publicly "switch" brands. 

What is back channel compensation? Deals for future paid engagements as speakers or instructors, exposure on the company website as one of their celebrity endorsers and the like. There is no doubt there is some "quid pro quo" involved in many of these "defections". Often the photographer/content creator is the one taking the lead. They have a reasonable YouTube following and then make the "Why I switched to Brand X" video. A number of Sony endorsers come easily to mind.

It seems to be pretty common for things like lighting and other accessories. One "celebrity photographer" can simultaneously endorse cameras, lights, modifiers and tripods from different companies. When that happens you see a shift of focus from "how a tripod works" to "why this tripod is the best one on the market." 

Is this wrong? Sometimes. Often when someone endorses something it is because they believe the gear is the best choice for them. Any compensation that comes along afterwards is just icing on the cake. But it can reduce the objectivity of the teacher. The result is that other options and considerations may not get brought up or explained. It is at best, a fine line to walk. If the teacher is including the fringe benefits, then at the least they are being honest.

What can you do? Take everything with a grain of salt, and don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. A good teacher may be endorsing a brand, but that does not mean you have to follow their every move. Learn what you can, do your own research and in the end make decisions based on what is right for you, not someone else.

Just my opinion, but I hope it helps. 



Used camera gear for sale

No not mine. When you are starting out as a photographer you always want the best. The latest model with the best features. If you can afford to do that, great! But if you cannot, don't be afraid of looking at the used gear that is out there. 

When you think about the pictures that blew you away last year, remember that they were taken with "old" gear. Fewer mega-pixels, slower frame rates, less features. Today they will still take those great pictures. But the cost can be substantially lower than what you would pay for a quality camera in the "new" section. 

Maybe you just want a backup rig. Something to have in case your primary goes down at the worst possible moment. A well maintained used model can fill that role and provide years of service. It can also let you bring in a second shooter if you need a little help. All for a much more modest outlay than new gear.

Maybe you just want to cover a different use. I currently have a full frame camera that is big and heavy. It is not the best rig to use for street photography or other times when you want candid shots. So maybe a used mirrorless camera will let you gain that capability without going into debt. 

Adorama, B&H and many other shops have good used gear. They let you buy with a bit less risk. If you are comfortable with the risk then you can try Craigslist or Ebay. Use good judgment, check everything twice and if a deal looks like it is too good to be true, it probably is.  


Learning the gear

When people get interested in photography they tend to start thinking about gear. What camera do they need, what lens, what flash. They look around and read about the latest and greatest. How many megapixels are enough? What should I spend on a tripod? Do I need more than one strobe?

Funny thing with gear, the pictures you like the most were probably taken with technology several years old. The camera did not have as many megapixels, the photographer may have only had some simple gear, it was done with less than is available today. And it worked.

I am not saying quality does not matter, don't waste your money on junk. But at the same time don't spend money where it will not help you. A few dollars more on a lens may be more important for what you want to do than a hundred dollars more on a camera body. The right lights may be worth more than any tripod for what you want to do.

The first step is to learn how great pictures are made. To do that you need to invest in yourself. Study, take lessons and then practice. What could be more fun than going out and doing what you love?


Learning your camera

What would have been a professional grade camera 5 years ago is available for around $500 today. They have the mega-pixels. They have the features. They have words you don't understand. While many aspects of photography have not changed in 100 years, some things have. And while nasty chemicals in the darkroom are a thing of the past, we now have digital files and software to deal with. 

You have many options here. You could spend days and weeks trying to figure things out on your own. Or you could take a four hour introductory class that will teach you how to take top notch pictures by the end of the day. While we cannot cover everything in a half day, we can lay a solid foundation for you to build on. This is small group instruction and I do not take more than four students in a single session. Here are the details:

Cost $200.00 per student. 

What you need to do and bring:

  • Dress in clothing appropriate for the weather, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, etc.
  • A digital camera, the camera's owners manual., memory cards , batteries, etc.
  • A notebook and writing instruments.
  • Optional: A laptop computer.  

Contact me for details and to schedule a class. 

New Gear

It is always fun when the packages arrive at the house. For most people reading this post a list of the new equipment and its specifications would be fairly boring. But it is an important part of any vocation to have the best tools for the job at hand. So every few months research is done, orders are placed the truck arrives out front.

Then the hard part begins. Owning gear is a lot easier than knowing gear. Learning the ends and outs of each piece so that work will go smoothly at a customer's location. Packing and unpacking, setting up and tearing down. It all has to become second nature. That all takes time to learn. Then once you have all that down, you have to learn how to use it to take pictures.

Once integrated into the kit, everything has to be checked and rechecked before use. Remembered before leaving and not left behind. Returned to its place after use. Cleaned and maintained as needed. One day it will wear out and need to be replaced and the cycle will begin anew.

Getting new stuff is fun, but it is a lot of work as well.



The competition

I spend a lot of time looking at what other photographers are doing. That is one advantage of this industry, people like to share their work. There are a lot of skilled professionals out there and it is just plain enjoyable to look at their work. That is why I love this industry.

It is also an industry where the very best share the techniques that work. I spend a lot of hours watching and listening to what they have to say. You can never stop learning. I try to spend at least 8 hours a week in formal learning. That can be a seminar, a web class or just something on Youtube. But it is important to keep learning, so I do it.

Of course, a lot of those offering their advice are also competition for me. In theory anyway. But in reality this is not a one-size-fits-all world. My pricing, location and talents let me bring the right value to my small place in the world. In the end, it makes it all the best possible world for the clients and that is what is important.  

The new web site.

Over the years I have built a lot of web sites. The back end of them anyway, that is what I do for a day job. The front end I leave to the professionals in that space. That is why I went with the Square Space hosting. I get a very attractive site with just a little work on my part. That lets me stay focused on what is important, rather than spending time getting a page to look just right.

I am now well into setting up my new venture in photography. Over six months getting things ready. Still a lot of paperwork in progress and getting all of my ducks in a row. But the work is enjoyable and the results are promising. I am still working the online classes, at least one a week. Many hours a week of practice as well, I still have a lot of room for improvement. It amazes me how much information others are willing to share, and for that I am grateful.