One of the difficult parts about being a photographer is that you can't fake what you do. One can fabricate ideas of what one hopes to photograph or how far we wish to travel to create the work we feel best illustrates our talent but if all we do is talk and write about it without having actions to coexist with our statements, then people will surely see through that.
Unlike a writer, there's only so much we can do as photographers with our laptops sitting pleasantly behind a desk. We spend this enormous amount of money on our camera equipment alone for a reason and it’s sure as heck shouldn't be for the purpose of bragging that we own it. There's no way around the fact that a photographer is identified by the work they produce out in the field and not what they daydream about in the comfort of their mind or in their office.
I've been victim of falling into this trap in the past. The value of an idea is not simply having purely conceptualized it. The face value of it lies in the ability to execute it regardless of what comes out on the other end other than knowing that you experimented with something you've been thinking about way too long.
Beginning anything is grueling. Saying that you haven't because you're absolutely busy is worst.
This is not to say I'm not pleased with anything I've photograph thus far but I've noticed that the more I read, the more people I meet the more I discover the type of work I'm drawn to and the more pressure I feel to dedicate time to produce work that's a direct result of my inspiration as oppose to daydreaming too much.
Prior to visiting Cartagena, Colombia this year with the family for vacation, I had done some research on one of Cartagena's last neighborhood boxing gym that survives for the love of the sport. I had managed to communicate via Instagram with the owner and he was more than welcome for me to stop by and photograph a typical 6am training session with a few of his up and coming fighters.
The situation of boxing in Cartagena is very different today from the way it was when the gym was established in 1986 which is why Gonzalez says that if he lived in that sport he would "die of hunger" - hence why he alternates his passion with welding and blacksmithing work. These side jobs allow him allow to survive.
In addition to photographing, I managed to shoot video with the pocket size Sony RX100 V I typically carry with my for video purposes because I wanted to at least walk away with moving visuals that captured the experience of having seen raw fighters in such a raw setting. View the full gallery!
David duChemin has always been one of those photographers who speaks about the emotional aspect of photography. He's written word is as captivating as his work behind the camera and I've personally learned so much from reading his book Within The Frame and VisonMonger which I often peruse on days when I've been in need for some creative direction. David's blog is no exception either - I subscribe to it and recently, he dropped this golden nugget that I just had to share with you because it spoke to me from a perspective I've never contemplated:
To me, the more important question will never be whether or not your photographs have style, but whether they are yours. Whether they say the things you need in your heart to say, whether they reflect your tastes and opinions and individuality. And if they do those latter things, they will eventually do the former. The reverse is not true.
Think about that for a while, especially in those moments when you find yourself following a trend with your work as oppose to recognizing who you really are.
Networking is an essential skill to cultivate as a creative. It applies whether you’re a full time freelancer or someone like myself who currently maintains a day job and side hustles with photography. Nothing beats meeting people face to face regardless of how many DM outreaches you get.
What immediately comes to mind when you think of networking is that mentality of chasing leads to secure the next big job but what I’m referring to in this case is the ability to sustain relationships with like-minded creatives who broaden our perspective in our craft, the industry and life.
Back when Instagram meetups were a thing, I easily found myself in multiple coffee shops a month meeting local New York photographers who I had befriended via Instagram. Depending on location and time, a few photo walks and portraits would result from the meet but ultimately the focus was upon genuine conversations on projects one or the other may be working on. Nowadays, at least for me all of that is non-existent. As the saying goes, “it takes 2 to tango” and I’ve certainly haven’t done my part to maintain potential fading relationships afloat.
Life will always happen, we’ll always have obligations, work and family will forever keep us occupied, so at some point that justification can only take us so far until we make the time for what we value important.
Back then I cared a lot about who I met up with. Perhaps too much where an entire day or week would transpire and my attention was too focused on who I could potentially meet as oppose to what I can create with that same time. Ultimately I stopped caring and it was in that very instance where I feel I found myself creatively.
Instead of reaching out to photographers to meet, I began reaching out to people who were influential within their industry such fitness or in the arts; all in areas that interest me. Developing relationships with these individuals is where I found myself to be alive with my camera because not only was I brewing conversations the same way I always admired Anthony Bourdain did but I was simultaneously creating work that enabled me to exercise my photography skills. It was and continues to be a win, win situation!
I’m not insinuating it’s no longer worth it for me to meet fellow photographers because I do miss it but it’s certainly no longer an obsession of mine because just like I may always be busy, I'm sure I’m not the only one who constantly weights their options in terms of how to spend the little time we all have. Something always has to be sacrificed.
I don't make it out to the Bronx as often as I would like but when Krystal DeLeon extended the invitation to Crossfit Concrete Jungle I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see in person the gritty gym I've come to admire on her Instagram Stories. View the full gallery from our shoot as she snuck in a workout in between clients!
Back in April at had the pleasure of being of the photographers at an event entitled The Mind Body Tribe Experience put together by Jess Glazer, a Manhattan based personal trainer. MBT Experience is "a day dedicated to women, for women, by women, to make a massive impact and for women to be able to step out of their comfort zone while tapping into their highest self through mindset, fitness, and connection."
The Keynote Speaker to the event was Nick Pags who I had briefly met at a Theragun Training Seminar earlier in the year. At the time I wasn't aware Nick was also an inspirational speaker or at least that it was a passion of his outside of being a personal trainer. Right after he stepped down from his speaking engagement, I walked over and all I could say at the moment was, "I didn't know who you were before but I sure as heck won't forget anymore." His talk was absolutely which I highly encourage you to take the time to watch. It was during this moment after that I had the opportunity to take a few portraits.
Your portfolio is not your resume, it is your COVER LETTER. It shows who you are and what you would bring to the party. There is no need to showcase every image you have ever taken. Show only the best, and show the images that project boldly, “this is who I am, this is what I do!
Nothing excites me more than to view any photographer's work. As a photographer yourself you understand what it's like to use your creative muscle and shoot anything. You make not necessarily agree with that photographer's aesthetic or their approach to a particular subject matter but you at least value what they've put out into the world. I know I do.
My questioning comes more into play when a photographer shares too much of anything. There should be as much deliberation put into what you shoot as much as what you publish anywhere. "Show only the best" says Andrea Stern from SternRep which is an international boutique agency representing talented commercial photographers.
It completely drives me crazy when I see a photographer publish 15 equivalent images from a shoot as if they're doing us a favor in attempting to display everything when in reality what I'm doing as a viewer is attempting to visually eliminate the bad ones and find the good ones. I feel as if I'm doing their work in editing. "There's no need to showcase every image you have ever taken" is the recurrent theme in my head while I edit down anything I've shot because in the end I rather have 6 amazing images to share than 15 mediocre ones.
With photographers starting out, I don’t think a professional website tells me much. I can often get a better sense of how a photographer thinks by scrolling through their mass of Instagram posts...currently it's the only way I spot new photographers...and a great way to stay up to date on...projects and new work.
Regardless of how you choose to use your Instagram feed, as a photographer one thing remains the same. Your work. In my opinion it should reflect and define who you are a creative because the reality is that it's usually the first point of entry anyone tends to have when it comes to stumbling upon your work. I personally pay a lot of attention to what I publish to a point where I keep a private account in which I publish photos with the intention to get a visual sense of what my Instagram looks like prior to publishing on my main account.
My specialty revolves around lifestyle, active and travel work and so it's with great deliberation that I blend all of them together while still always keeping a creative mind open as to where a random interest may take me because in the end you never know who may be looking, especially photo editors.
A few years ago The Oculus at Westfield World Trade Center Mall was the most talked about development in New York. If you had not seen it in person yet, you had certainly at least seen a multitude of photos of it on Instagram and regardless of whether you were interested in architecture or not, it was worth the commute to experience in person.
This year is all about The Vessel at Hudson Yards. It's "a sculpture you can walk around in. Conceived by British designer, Thomas Heatherwick, Vessel is the standout attraction of the epic development that has taken over the Midtown westside of Manhattan." There's been a lot of talk on how it's practically impossible to even experience The Vessel all the way to the top because tickets, while free, have been sold out for weeks and the turnaround to even be considered is around 3 weeks.
With that in mind my wife and I headed out to at least see it in person. To our surprise, we saw a line, we stood on it, and 5 minutes later we were immediately granted 2 tickets. Not sure if it was luck or the fact that it was just the 2 of us but either way we were fortunate to have been there early morning and enjoy a beautiful Spring stroll as we explored the impressive architecture of this hexagonal structure that you couldn't resist marvel at.
The majority of commissioned work I've done has stemmed from clients who have reached out via Instagram. Without sounding boastful the usual inquiry has been “I love your work! How much do you charge to shoot?”
With time, I quickly learned that the speed in which you answer this question can determine how people will view you as a photographer and how successful you can potentially be regardless of how good your work is.
To the “how much do you charge?” question, I could instantly reply with a number that sounds about right but without considering the variables, I wouldn’t necessarily be setting myself up for success from a monetary perspective. There’s the potential of being too focused on answering the question as oppose to you asking the salient ones first before committing to anything.
For example, do I have to rent a studio? Does the shoot require for it to be a full or half day job? Will I need to rent any equipment? How many people are involved? Does it require for me to do some legwork on my end to scout for hair and makeup artist or will the client provide their own? Overall, there’s variables to consider.
Without the attention to detail the most unwanted scenario could result in you spending more money out of pocket covering unanticipated expenses for the shoot as oppose to having done the proper research upfront.
Anyone who reaches out to you or me for photo work has done so because they’ve already seen it our work. They’re hopefully enamored by it and so there’s already an expectation as to what their shoot with you could look like. But of course they won’t know for sure unless you paint a picture first. That’s where mood-boards come into play.
The moment you take the time construct a visual with your creativity and mock up ideas based on feedback you’ve gathered from your potential client they will instantly stop viewing you as a expense and more as an investment by virtue of the value you’ll be providing them with your work.
Get your client’s excited about working with you by painting a picture of what you can do for them so there’s complete trust from point A to point B.
Rarely have I had a potential client turn me down when I’ve created a vision via mood-boards with what we can do together. Once you’ve presented them with a visual and a breakdown cost for a shoot, I assure you they’ll be much more understanding of what it takes to do what you do and the artistic value you bring to the table.
If what you prefer to do is to simply answer their “how much do you charge?” question right off they bat, you’re left with very little control as to what their decision can be and ultimately it’s not the best way to sustain a business and develop confidence towards your own work.