Thursday, September 29, 2005

Excuses, excuses ... they just don't cut it

There are no excuses. Either a picture is interesting or it isn't, and it does not matter what the photographer had to endure to get it, what skills they've got, how many hours they had to wait, how cold they got, why something happened or didn't happen - it's all irrelevant. The only thing that counts is the final image.

Many of us have been there. We go to great pains to get an image and the final result is OK, but just not a hundred percent. The image goes into the portfolio and we keep it there because we know just how hard it was to get it. All the time it should actually have been binned. Just not good enough.

You've got to be ruthlessly honest, your own hardest critic and then you've got to go out and find tough experienced photographers, curators and picture editors, and subject yourself to their harshest critques. Not all of them will be right but you'll soon learn which are your weaker images.

Cut them out of your portfolio. No excuses.

You've also got to look beyond the merely technical. When I started I rejected many images in an almost mechanical way because they did not live up to technical dogmatic requirements. Yet they had something special, something that touched people. I've retrieved them from the bin of obscurity and they're now back in my portfolios.

So you've got to really look at every aspect of an image, but never consider the effort it took to get it.

Paul Indigo

Sunday, September 25, 2005

How much should I charge?

How much should I charge? It's question I've seen numerous times on forums. Photographers facing the prospect of their first professional commission wanting help to figure out how much they should charge for a piece of work.

You could write a book to cover all of the aspects involved and of course each type of photography brings its own set of criteria. Instead I'll mention a few things here that should be considered. It's up to you do detailed research about pricing in your own field. Don't even think of taking on a professional commission without finding out more and it's vital that you should agree prices up front with your customer. Research your market.

The short answer to the question of how much to charge is that you should ask for what you can get without over charging or under selling your services. Most keen amateurs charge far to little for their work because they don't need to live from selling their photography, they're flattered that someone wants to buy their work, they're anxious to win the commission, scared of making an error, they don't really realise the value of a good image to their customer and they don't value their own skill highly enough. It's a sad set of circumstances.

Even professional photographers often under charge because they lack confidence in their ability and feel under pressure to win the work.

Yes, market forces do determine how much customers will pay for a photograph but there's absolutely no sense in complaining about how little you earn as a photographer in one breath and then in the next sell your work for an extremely low price. Both photographers and customers need educating about the value of images.

The age old market force of supply and demand also plays its role. If a customer can get the same quality from another photographer for half the price then why pay more. So at the end of the day it's up to the photographer to deliver more value to the customer and to explain how they are delivering more value so that the customer understands the specific benefits they're getting from hiring you do their photography.

I'd be delighted to hear your comments.

Paul Indigo

Saturday, September 17, 2005

More on copyright

I published an article on copyright recently. You can read it here. There's something that I should add. Beware of imitating the work of other image makers. If your image plagiarism someone else's work you are infringing on copyright you could be sued.

There's a fine line between doing a parody, using an idea and copying someone else's image. Each case is judged individually.

If you'd like to take a more cynical line then something Franklin Jones said may appeal. He said, "Originality is the art of concealing your source." It made me smile. Still though, I do I try desperately hard to ensure everything I do is unique. There's nothing more devastating than discovering someone else has had a very similar idea.

Paul Indigo

Fine art photography

What is fine art photography? A friend recently gave an interesting answer to this question. Photography becomes fine art when critics and curators decide that it is. Once they've decided then your work is endorsed and promoted.

I see 'fine art photography' which is technically, emotionally, conceptually and basically on every level absolutely terrible. Perhaps that's why some curators support it. Oh, it's a fickle world alright.

I've had moderate success especially among private collectors who just like what I do. Perhaps one day the mainstream will take to my work. We'll see. All I can do in the meantime is remain true to my artistic vision.

The picture below is part of a series. I think it is thought provoking. It's about bringing the outside world, particularly nature, into ourselves. Or it's about whatever you choose to see and discover.

I think art is 50% what's on the wall and 50% what the viewer brings to the experience.

Paul Indigo

Artwork all done in-camera.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Photographer's technological obsessions

I'll probably sound like a voice from the wilderness with this one. Yesterday I read a detailed review about the new Canon EOS 5D, full frame digital SLR. It sounds great and slots in nicely just below the top professional Canon digital SLRs. Hooray!

Now here's the thought that once again struck me. Why are so many photographers continually chasing after the best and latest equipment? Do people really fall for the myth that they will make better images with more advanced equipment? Are the pictures that Ansel Adams, Cartier Bresson, Brassai, Matthew Brady, Francis Frith, or any of the other greats any less interesting, emotive, powerful or less brilliant because they used the technology available during their time? What's the difference between a beautiful image made on a glass plate, a 35mm piece of film or the latest CMOS chip?

Yet so many photographers spend so much time, effort and money pursuing technology. As far as I can see all that technology does is increase convenience and speed up the process from taking the picture to seeing the printed image. Both aspects have got nothing to do with making better images. That lies in the 'heart' and vision of the photographer.

A good image taken a hundred years ago on primitive equipment, by today's standards, remains a good image. I can understand that for a sports photographer a camera that shoots 5fps is going to give them the edge on someone using an 8x10 view camera. And still there are some wonderful sports portraits taken using large format (but perhaps not at the height of the action). So for different tasks new technology can be helpful.

Ultimately what really counts is the photographers ability to see, visualise the result and then capture the image.

I also find it quite amusing that so many photographers spend a fortune on the latest cameras and lenses capable of achieving the sharpest images and then they spend hours in photoshop blurring, manipulating colours and otherwise messing around with images until they look like they were taken with a toy camera and film that was 15 years out of date. Of course the people that usually resort to such drastic measures are the photographers who're trying desperately to get something out of an image which is truly awful in the first place.

So the moral of the story. Stop worrying about having the latest cameras and lenses. Start concentrating on producing superb and meaningful images, whether you're using a disposable camera with film or a Hasselblad H1 with the latest digital back.

I'd love to hear your opinion. Click on my name below to email me or the link below to leave a comment.

Paul Indigo

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lomo update

In the previous article I talked about the Lomo phenomenon and mentioned Dave Waters. Today he won the lomographic site of the day award. Pretty good going out of 13 000 sites.

Well done Dave.

Paul Indigo

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lomo photography

Ever heard of the Lomo LCA camera? It's a world-wide phenomenon and there's a very proactive organisation the Lomographic Society promoting the use of this 'cheap' little camera developed in the old Soviet Union.

There are websites which eloquently describe the history and attitude associated with being a lomographer but fundamentally what it comes down to is that this little camera, because of its lens and design produces saturated colours and it's own particular quirky visual style. The camera has been used to produce work for major advertising campaigns by top professionals but fundamentally it is, as was the original designer's intention, a camera for everyone to snap away with.

A friend, Dave Waters happens to be a great lover of this art form and his site on the Lomographic Society website is well worth a visit: an excellent introduction to lomography.

Have fun. That's the spirit of Lomo.

Paul Indigo