There’s nothing quite like a vacation, road trip, adventure, or combination of the three to get your creative juices flowing. Sometimes hitting the road is exactly what you need to get yourself out a creative rut. New surroundings– especially if they are outside your comfort zone– have a way of injecting your photography with the shot of adrenalin it’s been missing. When you’re planning these excursions, though, there are certain essentials you need to pack– items designed to protect your gear and images, while making sure that your shot of adrenalin isn’t wasted.
If you were here on Monday and I bored you half to death with my tips for improving your tax situation for the coming year, get ready for the other half. I know that nobody actually likes to think about this stuff. We’d all much rather learn how to make a kickass softbox with a box of matches, a flashlight, and a roll of toilet paper. Eventually, though, taking charge of your photography’s financial well-being becomes one of those cross-roads moments. Might as well rip that bandage off and grab the bull by the horns.
For those of you keeping score, that was three metaphors in a single paragraph. The bottom line? Just do it.
It’s that time of year again. The annual humiliation. Taking financial stock of the past 52 weeks in a feeble attempt to hold onto as much of my hard-earned cash as humanly possible. The accountant might as well be dressed as the Grim Reaper. The list of things I wish I was doing, rather than getting ready for the tax man, is long enough to make Santa’s look like a grocery list.
Hopefully, you had a successful year. Business is not only steady, but growing. You’re organized and keep good records. Unfortunately, the artist in many of us often takes the lead. That can be a good thing for your photography, but not so much when it comes to paying the piper. While it may be too late to improve your tax position for 2013, there are things you can do to help make sure that you’re much better off a year from now.
It’s that time of year again– when the ghost of a martyred, 3rd-century Catholic priest looks down upon us, whispering the 11th Commandment into our collective romantic consciousness.
“Thou shalt mark this day with greeting cards, heart-shaped boxes of candy, and the perfect gift for that special someone. Or else!”
One of the things that I try getting across to my students is that despite all of its amazing capabilities, the camera is just a box. Yes, it is programmed with a seemingly limitless number of exposure combinations, but when all is said and done it’s just a box. It has no artistic intent. We have to speak its language, telling it what we see, in hopes that the image in our head matches the image in the box. It is a box with a cylindrical window on the world. It’s the quality of that window that is often the subject of raging debate. Nikon or Canon? OEM or third party? Everyone has an opinion. Interestingly enough, the one thing that many– if not most– agree upon is that kit lenses should be avoided like the plague.
I completely disagree. I say go dig that kit lens out of wherever you’ve hidden it and put it to work. For those of you who’ve somehow been convinced that your photography can’t possibly be of adequate quality until you drop money you don’t have on a lens you can’t afford, I say that nothing could be farther from the truth.
The sound was a combination of high-pitched whine and intermittent clicking, with just a hint of angels and puppies crying in the background. My external hard drive was singing its swan song. Still in what should have been the prime of its life, my trusted backup drive was being taken from me– a victim of an insidious digital disease that attacks without warning or reason.
A little over the top?
In any event, as I was backing everything up to the new replacement, I found myself going through and taking the time to look at photos I’d not seen in a long time. Before I knew it, I was going through virtually every image in almost every folder, realizing that I should have done this a long time ago.
When I was still practicing law a lifetime or two ago, some of my colleagues and I used to say that the practice of law would be so much more enjoyable without the damn clients. Obviously this was just a form of letting off steam when dealing with a problem client– usually accompanied by copious amounts of bourbon. When I made the jump to photography ten years ago, It didn’t take long for me to learn that the same maxim held “true,” regardless of whether I was carrying a brief case or a camera bag. It appears that problem clients are everywhere.
Even in the mirror, if you’re not careful.
Let me explain.
Mythical creatures are a part of every culture on Earth. From yetis, mermaids, satyrs, and centaurs, to fairies, nymphs, sirens, and krakens– all of them inhabit our literature and spur our imaginations. The Loch Ness Monster of the Scottish Highlands, the chupacabra of South America, and Bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest have inspired pointless quests to prove their existence. Although I’m reasonably sure that vampires actually do walk the streets and back alleys of New Orleans, the rest shall remain a mystery.
There is one mythical creature, however, that I feel compelled to pursue. Although I don’t think I’ve ever crossed paths with someone who has actually completed a 365 Project, I’m told that such beings actually do roam among us.
The truth is out there.
In all seriousness, though, before I go any further I have to publicly applaud any photographer who has managed to complete what many consider to be the apex of all personal photography projects. If you are reading this and you are one of the precious few, please stand up and take a bow. I salute you.
Copyright infringement is one of those problems that never seems to go away. It doesn’t seem to matter how well we educate our clients or the general public. Unfortunately, there will always be people–photographers included– who just don’t seem to get it. Clients think that purchasing a photo grants them eternal, all-encompassing rights to whatever they choose to do with our work, wherever they choose to do it. People have it in their heads that just because a photo shows up in a Google Images search, that this somehow makes it open season for use on their websites, newsletters, blogs, and Facebook posts
As photographers, we know that we need to protect our work from all of these varying degrees of infringement. Unfortunately, too many photographers don’t take the relatively easy steps to adequately protect themselves from the unauthorized use of their hard work.
It sort of hit me from out of the blue the other night. There I was– hanging out on the couch, watching a hockey game, when I realized I’d forgotten all about my anniversary. Thankfully, I’m not talking about my wedding anniversary, a fact which should be obvious since I’m still alive to tell the tale. No, this was my other anniversary. With the holidays and wrapping up all my end-of-the-year stuff, the tenth anniversary of ditching my law career for one in professional photography had somehow slipped past me.
I mentioned it to my wife, who muted the television, looked at me, and asked, “So– what have you learned in ten years?”
The question caught me off-guard, but it got me thinking.
“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” I replied.
So, after much thought, I started a list of lessons learned over the past ten years. It is by no means complete, but here are ten entries from the list that particularly stand out for me.