The Hardest Part of Running a Photography Business…

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I’ve always said that the hardest part of running a photography business…is running a photography business.

For the most part, I try and remain free of the online armchair quarterbacking that will straight suck the creative life right out of you, but, within all but the most elite levels of photography,  there has long been a misconception in the creative world that artistic prowess is somehow a portal to weakness when it comes down to the nitty gritty of doing business.

There are many veteran photographers in the industry that are incredibly wary of what the future holds. While completely justified in their grim outlook (vs. the glory days) Toronto lawyer , I can say with assurance that I believe the future to be bright, albeit very different. The bottom line has always been “adapt or die”. That’s a tough one for sure–I believe adaptation, in this sense, walks a fine line between relinquishing standards and understanding what is a sustainable new way of doing business. Adapt in a way that benefits both parties involved, understanding that there will need to be compromise from both parties.

My new bottom line? CAN YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT WITH THE DEAL YOU JUST MADE? Is it good for both parties involved? Is it ridiculously lopsided? Look out for numero uno Contractor Accountants , while keeping the health of the industry a close second.

Head back to adambarkerphotography.com.

 

 

 

We’re Back!

Skier Parker Cook rallies some classic Alta powder.

Skier Parker Cook rallies some classic Alta powder.

Or maybe, I should say…I’M back. Funny how so many of us photographer/entrepreneurial types throw that plural form around like it’s half-cooked noodle–just waiting to see if it sticks. “We” like to make you think that there’s a huge entourage of bustling interns working themselves to the bone each and every day while this well-oiled machine of a photography brand is in cruise control, taking the world by storm while I field calls from clients that want to overpay me for work that is far easier than it looks.

The truth is, the “we” that I throw around so often is basically me, my wife and my three boys. There. I said it. SURPRISE!!! The other truths?

1. I could never work this hard for anyone else but myself.

2. I’m not rich.

3. But I make a fine and decent living.

4. I have a quality of life that far exceeds anything I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.

5. I have a creative appetite that must be fed whether it’s being paid for or not.

6. This means I love what I do, and I do what I love.

7. I drink way too much Coke.

8. I abhor mediocrity.

Every day I wake up and think that I must be one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I wonder, for a moment, what my life would be like were I not to have taken that enormous leap of faith and chosen to follow my heart and pursue a career that would make me happy for the rest of my life.

I have been pushed to the brink of sanity and then welcomed back with a nugget of success. I have progressed at alarming rates, only to then face the same simple challenges I did as a rookie. I have achieved and I have failed. I have been buoyed up and I have been incredibly let down. And through it all, I continue to believe that the path of photography as a career is viable, noble, engaging, feasible, crazy and super cool.

So why the introspective diary entry of a blog post??? Why the hell not? As in so many other cases, I do it because I can. And on this Tuesday morning, it felt right. I have many, many of you to thank. You really do know who you are. I have many that have inspired me, and in turn, I hope to have been a source of inspiration and aspiration to many of you at some point in time.

Whatever pursuit it is in which you are engaged at this moment. If it is worthy, don’t ever stop. Go till you can’t manage another labored breath, and then pick yourself up, and go some more. It is all worth it.

Photography: Vision & Problem Solving

The Osguthorpe Barn near Park City, UT. Captured by Adam Barker Photography.

For those of you who live in or near Park City, UT, you will quickly recognize this barn. It is certainly one of the more photographed structures in northern UT. And rightly so! The Osguthorpe Barn (or McPolin Barn depending on who you talk to) has greeted visitors and locals alike traveling in to Park City since 1921. Simply put, it is a classic.

I have photographed here many times before, I’ll

do so many times in the future. It is the utmost in Americana, and I enjoy the challenge in finding new ways to capture the barn and its surroundings.

I arrived at this location later in the morning, and low fog was just beginning to thin out. I was excited to be at this spot with conditions I’d never seen before! I worked through several compositions, but none of them really worked as a whole.

Finally, I settled on a wider angle image, utilizing cattails as my FG subject. I’ve shot from this exact location before in the winter, but this time the grouping of cattails seemed more elongated towards the barn, and a vertical composition seemed more appropriate.

I actually began composing this image with my 16-35mm lens. I wanted to incorporate a more complete wide angle foreground, but I still wanted to maintain emphasis and hold the viewer’s attention on the barn itself. With the 16-35mm stopped down for maximum DOF, the scene felt busy, and my eye simply wouldn’t settle on the barn as I’d like it to.

Finally, I chose to pull out my 24mm tilt shift lens. By both tilting my plane of focus and shooting at a wide open aperture of f4.5, I was able to have my cake and eat it too.

The cattails are selectively blurred, giving context and providing the FG filler that I was looking for. Yet the sharp contrast in sharp vs. blurred takes the eye directly to the barn. Why didn’t I just shoot my 16-35mm wide open? Being a super wide angle f2.8 lens, it wasn’t giving me quite the separation that I needed from a DOF standpoint. Why didn’t I throw on a longer lens and utilize a shallow aperture to achieve that separation? Throwing on a longer lens would have effectively flattened this scene. I would have gotten that separation, but I would not have achieved the depth I get from a wide angle composition–I would not have that immediate, engaging FG element grab the viewer in the same way it does from a wider angle approach.

Much of photography is about simple problem solving. It all begins, however, with a clear vision of what you hope to capture. Know what you want out of a location. Know what type of image you hope to come away with. This will serve as your mental blueprint as you work through the small problems to achieve your final photographic goal.

It’s About Light…

This photography thing–it’s about light!

I’ve had many people ask me throughout my career how I achieve “that look” in my imagery. My answer is always the same–it’s about being where you need to be when Mother Nature puts on the light show, and it’s about understanding how to capture it.

Skies were gray and stormy last night in the Salt Lake valley, yet there was a sliver of sky on the horizon that gave me enough hope to get out and shoot some trail running imagery. We …
shot some stuff with killer clouds, and then we watched (and proceeded to run around like chickens with our heads cut off!) as the sun slipped into that sliver of sky and proceeded to bathe everything around us in a hue of gold nearly impossible to describe.

The image comparison here is perfect for illustrating the immense power of golden light. You can’t replicate it. Two shots, nearly identical save for the ridiculous gap light in the image on the right.

This is our winning lottery ticket. This is our jackpot. This is our payday. This is our pie in the sky. Light like this is what we live for. Find it. Shoot it.

You’ll spend the rest of your lifetime chasing it.

Recap: Pictureline Seminar–Conquering Composition

I want to take a quick moment and thank everyone who came out to the sold out event last night at Pictureline Inc. As always, it was a fantastic experience with a wonderful audience that was engaged and full of energy. If you didn’t make it out last night, you can check out my presentation above, thought it obviously won’t include my commentary throughout the presentation. As always, many thanks to all of my sponsors that help to do what I do! Thank you Arcteryx, Suunto, Mountain Khakis, Singh Ray Filters, Manfrotto School of Xcellence and Mark Miller Subaru!

Fall Photography Workshop, Sept. 21-23 2012

Who loves photography in the fall? I do! And I can imagine you do too. It’s one of my absolute favorite times of year to capture Mother Nature at her finest. Join me this year in one of the most scenic locations for fall photography (as noted by MSN.com!) in the spectacular Ogden Valley. Click on the image for workshop details, and I hope to see you there!

Pictureline Presentation Aug. 23

I’m very pleased to announce a special evening at my favorite camera store, Pictureline–coming up in late August. I’ll be discussing one of the biggest challenges we face as photographers–creative composition. Check the link below for details and to sign up for the seminar. My last two presentations at Pictureline have filled up quickly. Get your seat now!

http://www.pictureline.com/events/conquer-composition-adam-barker-seminar.html

Quick Tips for Underwater Fish Photography

Underwater image of brown trout and fly fisherman with net by AdamBarkerPhotography.

Good times on the water yesterday. Once again, I can’t bring myself to pass up an opportunity to shoot some imagery underwater.

For the most part, the fish were somewhat uncooperative yesterday (can’t really blame em’!), but this healthy brown trout posed for the camera for nearly a minute after its release. This lighting conditions and exclusion of most of the angler lend a mysterious quality to this image. It begs the viewer to study it for a moment. Upon further inspection, it all comes together–fly fishing, small creek, catch & release, nostalgic moment, etc.

There certainly is a learning curve to shooting UW photographs. It’s taken me some time to dial in my methods, and I finally feel like I have a routine under the water, just as I do above the water. Two of the key steps in my UW approach:

1. Shoot in manual mode and pre-adjust your exposure before shooting. Most of the time, I point my camera down in the water and set my exposure for the UW light reading. If I’m shooting half in/half out shots, I may underexpose for UW by 1/2 to a full stop in order to maintain detail above water as well. If lighting conditions are just right, the two environments will actually balance quite well in terms of dynamic range.

2. Utilize your camera auto AF selection mode. This is a big one. One of the hardest parts of UW photography (without looking through the viewfinder or at the liveview display) is ensuring proper focus on the parts of the image that you want to be sharp. I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to let your camera select the focus zones, as opposed to pre-selecting a focus zone and trying to place the fish (or more precisely, the fish’s eye) in the perfect spot. This is literally the only time I ever use this function on my camera, as I generally want to have say over what the camera focuses on.

If you happen to venture into UW photography, the above tips should be useful. Most importantly, shoot a lot of images–the throw-away to keeper ratio is significant…

Are you creating teasers or pleasers with your landscapes?

Sunset image with storm light in Lake Powell, UT

Are your landscape images teasers or pleasers? I ask this question of my workshop students all the time, as it really requires us to think about HOW we construct an image, and ultimately what kind of viewing experience results.

Think of each image as a visual journey. Just simply associating your image with a journey implies that there is a destination at which the viewer will arrive. Does this destination live up to the journey?

Take this image for example. Photographed during a particularly dramatic evening in Lake Powell, I was ecstatic when the storm clouds parted on the horizon and allowed for several minutes of intense gap light.

This visual journey begins in the lower right hand corner of the frame, winding up and through the image, finally arriving at the climactic “destination” of intense light on the sandstone butte above.

Think about the visual journey in each of your landscape images, and you’ll be creating pleasers, and forgetting the teasers.

Tech Tip: Why I Use Time Machine…(and why you should too)

Powder skiing image of Parker Cook at Solitude Mountain Resort, UT

Alright. I’ll admit it. I’ve long been both a consumer and yay-sayer of all things Apple. As much as despise the cult-like following (of which I’m admittedly a part) and the near idol-worship of anything with a clean-cut apple logo on it…they do, in fact, make stellar products, especially for those of us in the creative field.

One of the most sensible and useful products from Apple is one that you don’t even have to pay for if you’ve purchased a Mac in recent years. For those Apple-filiacs out there, or for those less-informed, here’s the nutshell: Time Machine is an integrated backup system that (when configured) automatically backs up your hard drive (and other external drives if you so choose) every hour. Cool? Sure–cool enough. The best part, however, is that you can actually then enter “Time Machine” and travel back to the state of your HD at the given time of backup. Why does this matter? Because we all screw up, and if we back up BEFORE we screw up, all is not lost!

I’m in the thick of submissions for all the ski mags for 2012/13. Upon relentless inspection of my library from this winter, I found one file to be (gasp) absent. How could this be??? There’s no way I would have knowingly tossed this file (shown above). With palms sweaty and heart rate rising, I dialed up Time Machine and toggled back to the date just after it was shot, but BEFORE the shoot day was edited. Annnnd….VOILA! File found. (Visualize: triumphant music filling my office, fists raised, tears of joy, victory speech…etc.) Apparently, I had edited and processed the file and somehow stripped it of its ranking. At the end of every edit, I delete every image that hasn’t received a (self-imposed) rating of at least one star or higher.

Is this the next Powder/Skiing/Freeskier cover??? Probably not. But it’s sure as hell worthy of finding its place in a submission (especially in a year lean with powder days).

Bottom line? Back up. Often. Better bottom line? Use Time Machine. It’s ridiculously easy, and, most importantly, if you do it right, it will cure you of sweaty palms and a racing heart the next time you realize you blew it. Now don’t blow it, and go back up.