Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tallest tree in Pennsylvania?

Could this be the tallest tree in Pennsylvania? Maybe not, but it is certainly the highest tree top in the state. I photographed this tree yesterday from atop the Mount Davis observation tower that soars more than 50' above the mountain summit that is the highest point in Pennsylvania. It was my first trip there yesterday and I enjoyed the solitude and absolute quiet up on the tower with no people around for MILES. From atop of Mt. Davis you can see far into Maryland and beyond Somerset. Though the mountains in the background APPEAR taller, it is an optical illusion and they are not as high as the photo vantage point (at least that's what some old bronze plaque said...) The leaves are turning very nice at the higher elevations in Western PA!

The best pictures differentiate themselves by nuances...a tiny relationship-either a harmony or a disharmony-that creates a picture. Ernst Haas

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story concludes.

I awoke Friday morning to more darkness and gray skies. I was hoping to get a nice exterior at sunrise for my client that would show the convention center and the outdoor balcony that was packed with television crews, but alas my plans were not to be.
I did shoot from the Northside across the river before heading up to the Mellon Arena to go through another round of security, but my heart wasn't in it as I knew even the best of Photoshop tricks would give my exterior photos an average look at best.

The security check point was more crowded than the previous morning and I had to wait quite some time after walking through the metal detector for my equipment to be poked, prodded, and sniffed. I passed the time talking with a photographer whom I met a long time ago on a shoot for Alcoa. We were both in the same location, but working on different projects.

The convention center was abuzz with activity when I arrived. Because I attempted to photograph the exterior, I missed Obama's impromptu press conference where he announced the US and allies would be cracking down on the nuclear program in Iran. This conference actually stole the G20 thunder and remained the headline throughout the rest of the Summit.

The next photo opportunity would have been the "family" photo session where all the heads of state are on a riser for the historic photo. Unfortunately, I was lead to believe by the State Department that no additional credential or "underlay" would be needed to photograph this event. Of course, when I showed up at the door I learned that if you didn't have a special credential you weren't getting in. No one sent me the memo. I did get the "shot" by sitting in the US Television control room for about 45 minutes and photographed the live feed off from a large monitor. I was able to get the convention center in the background as well, so I figured my client would be pleased.

Shortly after I went into the White House Press Corp briefing room where Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary and Gary Samore, the White House expert on WMD's were holding court. I entered the room half way through the conference and thought it was a little strange that I was the only photographer. I went to the back of the room and shot about 8 frames. I was then approached by some freshly scrubbed White House press office intern who told me that this was a "no photography session". I told her I hadn't got that memo either...I did quit shooting since I already had what I needed and quietly left the room in my walk of shame. I don't think anyone really cared that I was shooting, for the press was taking notes and typing on their laptops, trying hard to keep up with the breaking content that was being thrown out.

The rest of the day was mostly uneventful till I did the final Obama wrap up press conference photos. We waited on risers for about 45 minutes waiting for a late Obama to show up. The video people were all complaining because whomever built the risers didn't make them sturdy enough and everytime someone would so much as take a step, all the video cameras started getting vibration problems and un-stabilized shots. The only other thing that I thought was out of the ordinary, was that powerful quartz lighting was turned on aimed directly towards us in the back of the room and in to our camera lenses. I couldn't imagine why anyone would design lighting like that as light in your lens isn't conducive to great photos. It then dawned on me that they were there so the Secret Service could keep their eyes on everyone as they didn't want to be staring in to a black hole. I didn't really hear much of what he had to say, as I was concentrating on getting a good shot, not vibrating the riser, and fighting the body odor of the French videographer whom I was standing next to that hadn't taken his weekly shower yet.

The day was finished after I photographed two other smaller conferences with the Canadian Prime Minister, Swedish Prime Minister and the Secretary for the European Union.

All in was a good two days. Despite a closed downtown and business losing out on two days of revenue, the Summit was considered a success bringing in a conservative 35 million dollars to the economy. There was very little protester damage done, though a few dopey anarchists broke some glass in Oakland. From what I heard many of the people who clogged the streets wearing black and face masks were shouting, "HERE WE GO STEELERS!" and "LET"S GO PENS!". Note to protesters: Next time don't bother coming out and making a nuisance of yourselves. Just put a cogent thought or two together and send a letter to someone who CARES...The violent protesters NEVER get their point across, since the criminal actions always out weigh any message the protester might have. Of course the news kept showing a video of a stupid girl throwing her bike at some cops where they quickly introduced her to the pavement. They might have been just a little over zealous in their actions, but I figure you better stay on the porch if you can't run with the big dogs...Maybe next time she'll take my advice and write a letter, but somehow I doubt it.

In the end the G20 finally turned out to be profitable for me which was what I was hoping for all along. Not only did I land a great assignment, but a local hotel bought 150 copies of my book for dignitaries and VIP's staying with them. My only disappointment was that I was not able to curate a Pittsburgh photo show in the convention center which I thought would have been a great opportunity to sell our region to the throng of captive media. Maybe I'll try again in a couple of years. I hear rumblings that the G20 would like Pittsburgh to be a host again!

Thanks for following my blog and being interested in this event!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story. Part Two

So Thursday finally arrived and it was showtime! I woke earlier than normal, downed a banana and some OJ and started my drive into downtown. Traffic was extremely light and it was apparent very quickly that most of the people who worked in the city had stayed home to work from their laptops, mow their lawns or just take some time off. I arrived at the Mellon Arena and parked after trying to give a very surly parking lot attendant a twenty dollar bill at 7AM. I never get why they should be mad a me when I give them legal currency...I DIDN'T set the parking rates!

Security checkpoint was interesting. We had to pass through a metal detector after emptying our pockets. Unlike the airport, I was able to leave my watch and shoes on. My equipment bags were checked by TSA, Border Patrol, and Secret Service people and a bored German Shepherd. I must say, even though there were many people and camera bags to sift through they were very professional, treated the equipment with kid gloves and were gentle handling all my thousand dollar tools. I wish that crew worked at every airport. After checkpoint we loaded into a motorcoach complete with Secret Service agent riding shotgun to assure there would be no funny stuff. I made a comment that the agent's Revo sunglasses were the same ones that I had. Of course, I wasn't wearing mine since it was still DARK outside...The agent grunted something without cracking a smile. So much for any conversation...she was clearly on the case.

We rode quietly into downtown and viewed the empty streets, high steel barricades, National Guard on every corner, and more black SUVS with tinted glass than I could count. I felt like I was on a movie set of some sci-fi flick, but this was the real deal.

Upon entering the Convention Center I started looking around for interesting angles and interesting things happening. The outside of the Center was shrouded in gray soup clouds and fog. No beautiful morning sun light was going to take place, much to my disappointment. I set up camp on the first floor media room. It was an ugly room that had been converted to a media center with tables, internet connection, large screen monitors to watch CNN (I'm more of a Fox news person but I didn't think anyone was about to change channels for me), and a small lunch counter. Also along one wall was a riser for TV crews to do shots of their reporters with the anticipated 1500 media spaces on the tables filled in the background. I sat next to some writers from Canada and they were fun to speak to and I shared some Pittsburgh hospitality guiding them where I thought they would enjoy dinner and drinks that evening. Right behind me, KDKA's political reporter, Jon Delano was holding court and stayed busy gathering info and doing interviews. Eventually Jon would even get to ask President Obama a question during the final briefing. I thought it was great that the Prez would call on a local reporter along with his trusty White House Press Staff.

The remainder of Thursday was spent mostly photographing media who was photographing and interviewing media. Most reporters as well as photographers were quite bored, for there just wasn't much going on and the entourages from around the world had yet to arrive. I did get some strong photos of the Center with people in the foreground, shots out the beautiful windows, and many media in action photos on the balcony where all the networks had set up to do live shots. Most of their cameras were pointed towards the "Golden Lady" bridges and PNC Park. However, I noted on my Twitter page, that some European crew had pointed their camera towards the ugly rusted brown and black rail road bridge that runs from the Amtrak station across the Allegheny. I wanted to say something to them, but fearing an international incident...I kept my mouth shut.
My client, an international architectural firm was mostly interested in seeing their building in use with lots of people and photos that showed media technology, so I had to incorporate the building in my shots whenever I could. Though I did leave the Convention Center for a bit in the afternoon to get an obligatory protester photo. The Tibetans were angry at China in a peaceful march on Liberty Avenue, so I shot that for about 10 minutes and quickly got bored of all the screaming and drama. Apparently, nobody told all the protesters that the China delegation was still sitting in their 747 sipping tea, or whatever it is that they drink. One thing for sure was that no delegate member ever saw a single protester for two days. The worst part about going outside was that meant me walking back to the Mellon Arena and going through security again and taking another bus ride back to the Convention Center to regain access. But by then, the sun had broke through the clouds and it was nice just to get some fresh air.

It was fun talking to a few photographers that I knew. Ran into Post Gazette shooters, Steve Mellon and Bob Donaldson, former assistant Steve Dietz, and makeup artist, Patty Bell who is ALWAYS working wherever there is something cool going on. Patty was working for the Eurovision crew and looked as bored as everyone else. We spent time swapping family stories and social media ideas. We both are seeing payoffs from the heavy social media time we've been putting in and it was interesting to compare ideas. Also spoke at length to Tom Buell from Global Pittsburgh, a fellow Twitter Tweep, avid photographer, and Ben Avon resident. I also got to corner County Executive Dan Onorato and pestered him asking why the county hasn't purchased a few hundred copies of my, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait book. He said I should call his secretary...Thanks, but been there, done that...

This is a photo of Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner. I wasn't listening to him as I shot, but I'm guessing he's explaining that all our tax dollars are being spent with the utmost care and that investment house bailouts with no government oversight is good for the United States...

Part 3 to follow...

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit...My story.

With much fanfare, anticipation AND trepidation, the G20 is now over. My personal quest to cover and photograph the G20 Pittsburgh Summit was an interesting one and fraught with frustrations, excitement, anticipation, and many personal experiences. Now that it's over my story can be told. It probably isn't the most interesting to journalists who cover events on a regular basis, but for me it's a story of having a plan, having it unravel, and then come together just like I had hoped it would from the beginning. It's a story of myself digging to find an assignment opportunity and a lesson of how the photography business has evolved to one of making your own destiny instead of waiting around for something to happen. Of course, as always, some luck is a huge part of the story.

When the White House announced that Pittsburgh would be hosting the G20 Economic Summit four months, I immediately started to try to figure out how this historic event could be my economic stimulus in what has been an extremely slow year for commercial assignments due to a horrible economy and changes brought about by the new web 2.0 business models. Since I am NOT a photojournalist, the first thing I needed to do was to find out how I could get credentials for the Summit. I knew that having credentials would be the key to landing an assignment. Most freelancers tend to wait to the last minute to start asking around and then applying. I knew that this wouldn't be possible due to security measures, and general government bureaucracy. There would be NO gate crashing this event, unless you were prepared to be shot.

Social media was a huge help for me. I spent much time blogging about the G20 and also reading other blogs and websites where I could pick up as much information as possible. I attended a couple of open meetings for the public where we were invited to submit ideas to the city and county governments on what the citizens could do to make a better impression on the world media. By doing this I got on an official email list and learned how to apply for credentials, deadline, etc.
Through officials channels I learned that my credentials would be approved. Though I didn't actually HAVE an assignment or
press connection to list when they asked for what organization I belonged to, I did list my professional affiliation with ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers). After all, I DO BELONG to this organization and it has "Media" in the name and I do have a laminated card with my mug shot on it. So this was the extent of my "media" connection. I probably could have called up one of my business magazines that I shoot for once in awhile and asked if I could use their name, but I really hate involving anyone that doesn't need to be involved in my business since I know how busy photo editors are.

After hearing I was approved I started firing off emails and promos to various national business magazines, Pittsburgh travel and visitor organizations, corporations doing international business, and anyone else I could think of that might need or KNOW someone who might need event photo coverage. I was asked to put together a photo estimate for the European Union, but that fell apart when they decided to fly a photographer from Europe to cover the Summit. I made contact with a few people who were from the company that designed the staging and lighting for the Summit, and was encouraged to stay in close touch. Then I found out that they had an in-house shooter who would be taking care of their needs. Unfortunately, it appeared I was speaking with the wrong people. My chase for a client was hitting a wall and time was running out. Then of course, the LUCK factor comes in.

My former assistant, Alex Denmarsh who is now an architectural photographer was contacted by one of his clients, an architect firm that helped designed many features of the LEED certified, Convention Center. By this time, Alex was in no position to take on the assignment because he did not have a credential. He then recommend me and I secured the contract to shoot on the Friday before the following Thursday and Friday Summit. Credentials were to be picked up on Monday according to an email from the State Dept.

I arrived early Monday morning to pick up my badge. No badge. Lots of excuses, no eye contact, and bureaucratic speak. I was told to come back the following day at 2 PM and my badge would be ready. The request was more like "maybe, possibly, it might happen, if you're lucky..." Not what you want to hear when you see your assignment fee gradually being pulled out of your pocket like just about everything else that the government likes to take from us. I showed up the following day at 9AM and they said they wouldn't have the badge and wouldn't know when they would be getting it. "But what about when you said for me to show up at 2PM?" I asked. Again...lots of excuses and lots of double speak as why I should come back another day.
"But...I have a client...and they are getting nervous about their assignment..." Gee...too bad..."Who's next please?" Now I'm starting to think who I might have pissed off so badly sometime in my life that somehow the Secret Service got word of it and thought I was some kind of security risk. I knew I didn't have an arrest record, but I have had a couple of "spirited conversations" with private security guards (not naming any names...but their company rhymes with Pee Pee Gee)

At this point I could only hope I still had an assignment. Fortunately on Wednesday, after an email sent to some black hole department with no human name attached pleading my case, I showed up around 4 PM and with little fanfare and no apologies or reason, my laminated yellow badge complete with my ugly face was handed to me. I felt like the "fasten seat belts" light had just gone off when I'm sitting in a middle seat in coach and I need to use the bathroom NOW...

Part two to follow....this is getting long in tooth...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A few more photos from last week's sessions

I've been quite busy working on logistics and trying to figure out what it is going to take to photograph the Pittsburgh Summit in a couple of weeks. Credentials, VIP contacts, State Department, vendors supplying the G20, etc. It has been a lot of work with unfortunately, no payoff insight...YET.... I'm confident that as the G20 gets closer the phone will start ringing for my event services. It has been fun meeting with various people who are in charge of the summit.
I did have some time last week to get a few photo sessions in. Here are some pictures from them..

Make it a great day!

Monday, August 3, 2009

PIttsburgh G20...Coming soon to our town!

I've been very busy planning and marketing for the historical G20 Summit that will be taking over Pittsburgh on September 24-25. For the week prior to that time expect to see journalists from all over the world come to our city to start their reporting. I have already put one estimate out for event photography during the summit and I'm sure that more event opportunities will present themselves. It will be easier for media to rely upon local photographers than trying to book non existent rooms and have strangers dealing with tough travel restrictions. It will take a local to get through the streets and to their assignment with a minimum amount of hassle. I have also put together a proposal for the Pittsburgh ASMP chapter to have an awesome photo show at Pittsburgh International Airport. I'm waiting to hear if we can hold the show there, as it would be an amazing place for International travelers to get their first taste of Pittsburgh as seen through the eyes of some of Pittsburgh's best photographers.

For more info on the G20 feel free to stop over at another one of my blogs:

I'm also looking for partnerships that are interested in my book: Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait. The book would make a great gift to dignitaries from county offices, politicians and corporate hosts. It would be great for hotel gift baskets, a take away from dinners, etc. If anyone knows of any connections, I'd greatly appreciate hearing any information you might have!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Is Print dying AKA publisher's myopic views....

Read this great article from Mr. Magazine Blog. It gives suggestions what media needs to do to help print co-exist with the web.
Great read!

El Rio theater in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Industrial photography

This was photographed for the Japanese company, Mitsui. It was at an Alumax aluminum forging facility someplace in the Southeastern part of the United States. I think the hands pretty much show what manual labor is all about. It was photographed on location, for a capabilities brochure for a NYC graphic design firm. Shot on classic Kodachrome film which Kodak just ended production on.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Industrial Light

Industrial photography for Tube City. Scrap metal recycling yard in West Mifflin, PA.
Making something out of a not real exciting subject. Backlighting is always a joy to work with!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A couple of landscapes for the weekend...

Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada and Big Moose Lake at sunrise, Adirondack Mts., New York...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pittsburgh G20 Summit is coming!

I am excited by this major opportunity that will be called the Pittsburgh G20 Summit! What an amazing opportunity for Pittsburgh to show the world what a great city this is and maybe for once, dispel all the out-dated notions of us having a smoky steel city with a dying steel industry. The steel industry DID die...only quite some time ago and we are in a totally different business environment now. Education, research, medical, robotics, and high technology is where we excel. I'm looking forward to photographing the numerous events that will take place during the G20 and being actively involved not only shooting assignments, but making my book: Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait available as gifts to participants and VIP's. I am also looking for partnerships and business alliances with planning committees and convention managers to help with their photography needs and logistics.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Latest edition of The Pittsburgh A&E Book has been published!

Congratulations is due to Jim Richards for his latest installment of The Pittsburgh A&E Book. This book is available in print and also a PDF version online. It will be extremely helpful for anyone producing film, commercial, or print jobs. It lists numerous crew, talent, location, grip, and venue/location information and I keep a copy handy for my print production work.

Jim is having a kickoff party Saturday, June 6th at the Mogul Mind Studios at 77 31st Street under the bridge. Party starts at 7PM and anyone in the biz is invited. You can RSVP Jim and check out the PDF version of the book on his website linked above.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

How to hire a photographer AND get the price you need! Part 2

In part one of this article I discussed relationship building with your photographer to maximize your return on investment and get the professional job that you and your client deserve. What I’d like to discuss today is specific ways that you can get the most bang for your buck when hiring a photographer and how to negotiate a win-win with your chosen photographer.

There are many things that determine a photographer’s fee. Among them include overhead, experience, specialization, reputation, and demand. These items are for the most part locked if you are dealing with a pro that knows their worth. And I would suggest you ONLY dealing with these photographers, because awarding assignments purely on price is bound to come back and bite you down the line. An exceptional pro brings much more to a shoot than just camera. He should be your partner and be involved in your clients brand and desire to make both of you look at good as possible for as long as possible.

So you have determined the photographer you want to use, but one small problem...they want more money than what is in your budget. Don’t hang up the phone yet or trash your estimate. You have chosen the photographer because you feel comfortable in their approach and secure that they are professional enough to bring you home a great job. It’s worth a few more e-mails, calls, or eye batting before ( works sometimes!) before you give up and start your search all over.

Usually the place in the estimate that can be adjusted is the fee that is based upon the client use of the photos. Insisting on owning the copyright to all the photos is going to be justifiably expensive, and most likely the place where it will be easiest to bring the price down and still meet your needs without anyone being worse for wear. You should license ONLY the rights needed for your client’s immediate needs. If your client isn’t going to be running airport kiosk ads in Malaysia, you shouldn’t be asking for unlimited world wide use because the fee is going to reflect all the possibilities of those uses.

Instead do this: License what your immediate needs will be. Then get the photographer to let you know what the additional reuse license will cost for “someday” uses. Get it in writing. If the time ever comes (and it rarely does) where your client needs to use them for something you weren’t aware of when negotiating, there will be no surprises. You can ask your photographer when doing your estimate to list a menu of pricing. What I do on almost all estimates where the client isn’t sure of all the uses for the photos is to give a menu of fee pricing ranging from exactly what they want (which is usually unlimited rights) and then a couple of other options that are less expensive, but only list the rights I think the client REALLY needs. Since I am fairly liberal in the bundling of uses my photos can be used for, the price is almost always reduced to the client’s satisfaction. Also, be sure to voice any concerns about exclusive use and the photographer using out takes of your shoot for stock, self-promotion, and fine art showings. These are issues that are very important to photographers and there are very easy ways to negotiate to make sure your client is protected, but yet the photographer can use his work to build more business. Whenever severe limits are placed on the photographer’s ability to use his work as self-promotion you can be pretty sure it is going to cost you more money. The ability to show what we have done in the past is very important for securing business in the future, similar to a creative firm showing a website, reel, or portfolio with completed jobs to land new accounts.

Another way of getting your cost reduced is to pay the photographer. As in...NOW. The production costs that it takes to do the job are going to be billed to the client. So for the sake of everyone, why not consider a cash advance on all expenses instead of paying an additional necessary markup on those expenses when a photographer has to wait 30 or more days to get paid?

Cash advances are the life blood of any studio. It allows the photographer to finance YOUR job and to spend more time creating and less time wondering how he’s going to do the job without maxing out his credit cards, line of credit, etc. As a location photographer, I have heavy travel expenses. When I get cash advances for my estimated production and travel costs, I bill everything at my cost with no markups. This is good for saving anywhere from 20-25% on travel costs that will need to be paid for sooner or later anyway. Sooner will help keep more money in the client’s pocket and your photographer and crew happy. Consider paying your photographer C.O.D.

Photo fees need to be adjusted by savy photographers if they know it will be a long time before seeing their invoice get paid. You’d be surprised at how many photographers would be happy to knock something off their fee if they knew they weren’t going to be waiting 30-90 days(or even more...) to get paid. Doing this also builds trust which is the cornerstone to a long term relationship with your vendor. If you are worried about YOUR cash flow suffering if you use this practice, then you should probably be more aggressive in getting advances from YOUR client.

Cash flow can be an ugly house of cards, and it only takes one party to make the house weak. If you cannot find the will to ask your client for an advance, than at least give the photographer the option to bill your client direct for services rendered. Sure... maybe you wont’ get the markup on the photo fee, but you will have the opportunity to save your client some money and it will help the photographer knowing that predictable payment cycles help his/her cash flow planning.

Here are a few more ways to entice the photographer to lower his fee and/or save money:

If you are using stock along with assigned photos, try to incorporate the assigned photographer stock library instead of automatically calling a stock agency. If the shooter knows they can make some money with additional licensing of their library images, then they just might be happy to come down a little on their assignment fee. You also get the added advantage of a more unified look to the project by using the vision of one instead of several photographers.

Offer the photographer additional manpower for things like cleaning, unpacking boxes of merchandise, prepping clothing, packing merchandise to be shipped back to client, etc. Bottom line:
Someone has to do this, and often it’s cheaper to have company people do this instead of an expensive photographer or skilled photo assistants or stylists.

Offer to let the photographer design a promo on the end of an odd sized press sheet that is just blank when your client’s project runs. You aren't paying anymore for the paper or ink, and that space could be very valuable to the photographer.

Feel free to offer your client’s product or services as a part barter for the job. Depending on what is offered, it could have more value to the photographer than your client and the cost to client could be minimal. I once bartered a stock photo license for a magazine cover in exchange for a little cash and a 4 day trip to St. Marteens. It was a travel magazine that had unused press junkets falling out of desks, and I was more than happy to go there and shoot some stock and practice my horribly bad French.

Allow your photographer to book through your corporate travel office. Often the deals are better with the buying power of a corporation compared to a small business. Again you can save a lot of money of a project by letting the photographer go directly through your agency and billing direct. One word of caution however...Let the photographer see and OK the travel arrangements before finalizing plans. Corporate travel agents are very effective getting a person with a brief case on a flight, but not so much with a photographer traveling with 500 pounds of lighting gear and a crew with additional gear, props, etc. An experienced location shooter will need input or the travel is sure to be a disaster.

I hope these tips have helped. I realize some of them seem pretty basic, but in these times it is good to be reminded of how we can all save and still create for our clients and our souls! I’d love to hear of ways you have saved and welcome your comments, advice, and tips!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hiring a Photographer (and keeping your hair)-Part One

The economy is a bear. Your client is demanding more and wanting to spend less. Cash flow seems to be headed in only one direction, and unfortunately, it’s not the direction you need it to be flowing. Now, more than ever, having strong relationships with your vendors is important to the reputation of your work and for getting the job done with a minimum amount of stress and maximum amount of creativity.

Don’t be fooled...though everyone is going through some tough times,better times are sure to follow and you will be remembered for your creative problem solving when the money becomes available again and the purse strings are loosened. Short change your client now, when it seems that “good enough” is the flavor of the day, and you could find yourself outside looking in down the road.

As a professional photographer, I’d like to offer a little advice on the best way to procure your photographer and create a win-win relationship that will last. Here are some thoughts...

Try treating your photographer as a partner, not a vendor. You will find that professionals like to be involved and be aware of the very REAL obstacles you face. We can offer solutions to problems, but need to be aware of the full story. Transparency in your business dealings with your shooter will go a long way in getting the most bang for your buck. Sure you can find a cheaper shooter. In fact...if you look long and hard enough you probably wouldn’t have too much trouble getting the shooter to pay YOU to shoot your job. I don’t recommend this, but be my guest....Just be sure to have an understanding banker, client, and cardiologist on stand by, because you are guaranteed to need them.  An experienced pro brings value to your assignment and should never be considered a liability or unnecessary expense. If they are, you need to keep shopping.

Hire the photographer who is suited for the assignment. Not someone whom you know will give you the price you want. When an assignment is matched correctly to the proper photographer, you will be amazed at the loops shooters will jump through to work with you.
Some of the loops, involve the cost to produce the assignment. If you have a budget it, share it. Instead of milking every last drop out of the budget, do a great job and then get more follow up work from your client who has fallen in love with your talent to bring home a creative job, solve problems, and stay within budget. Pros build their reputations with tomorrow in mind and do not rely on a “get what you can today” attitude. Make the photographer aware of the money on the table and let him/her figure out how to produce/shoot/deliver for what there is to work with. It is possible that you will find your concept is simply too expensive to produce. If so, great...It’s better to find out before hand than to be halfway through an poorly produced job that LOOKS like there was no money available to shoot it. The old saying: “KISS”-Keep It Simple Stupid says it all.

Hiring the right photographer means using shooters who have extra talent in the area you are looking for. It seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had calls to estimate jobs for food, still life, and hospital work, none of which are to be found in my portfolio! I wonder what the person on the other end of the phone line is thinking?  We all know that for every job, there are 100 competent photographers to shoot it, and within that number probably ten photographers will knock the assignment out of the park! Again, stick to a specialized photographer, and you’ll reap the rewards of a great job and someone who is EXCITED to be working with you. we’ve narrowed down who you should be calling. Now what?

First, don’t assume a photographer costs too much for the job or will be booked. This is a very crazy business and we WANT to work. We do not enjoy telling you that you can’t afford us or that you should have called 4 months ago to get on our calendar. Now sometimes we MIGHT have to tell you that, but believe me we HATE doing it.  When phoning, start with some niceties.Telling us what your name is, your company, and position is the considerate thing to do instead of starting the conversation off saying, “What is your day rate?”. You are looking for expertise, experience, equipment, and enthusiasm. You are NOT buying a pound of peaches. We also appreciate knowing where you heard of us because we like to thank people who referred us and we also like knowing how are hard earned marketing dollars are working.

A brief description of the job you have in mind, time frame it needs to be completed in, and who the client is helps us determine if we should get more info from you or perhaps refer you to someone who might be better suited for the job. Time is valuable and we do not want to waste yours nor waste our own. If there seems to be a connection, then the job can be discussed further. Preferably by meeting or phone supplemented by an emailed shot list and/or layout. Without a shot list, or at least a concept, it will be impossible for the photographer to provide an accurate cost estimate. What you don’t want is someone blurting out, “I’ll do the job for x-dollars” before they even hear all the details. My advice is to RUN from this photographer, because they are setting themselves and YOU up for problems down the line. Estimating photo shoots is an art in itself, you will know how experienced and professional the photographer is just by looking at the estimate he/she provides. And by the way, don’t just look at the last number at the bottom of the page. All of the stuff that comes before and after that number is important. It shows you how well the photographer has thought through your job and can show an approach that you might not have thought of.

In any event, the estimate should be thought of as a starting point, open for discussion and an excellent opportunity to reevaluate your concept and the logistics of doing a professional shoot. If you have a problem with ANY part of the estimate, you MUST bring it to the attention of the photographer or rep. Don’t wait till after the job begins or even after the job is completed to start asking questions that needed to be asked before the job was awarded. Good photographers don’t like surprises when it comes to business and you shouldn’t either.

Stay tuned to my next blog entry where I’ll discuss specific ways to save money on your photography project and bring home an amazing job for your client.  As always, I encourage your comments, questions, suggestions, or topics you’d like me to cover!

Stay focused...

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Stickers CD cover

Just finished editing environmental portraits of, The Stickers, for their upcoming CD cover. The guys were great to work, talented musicians, and just plain fun to be around. I look forward to hearing their new music which is in the process of being mastered in Memphis right now. Thanks Rachel Geary, for your hard work and styling!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rest In Peace Harry Burns

Harry was an awesome instructor that taught me at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where I studied photography from 1976-1978.  I recently learned of Harry's passing and am sad about loosing a truly great educator.  From Harry's classes I learned a great deal about color theory, composition and color psychology.  Lessons that I still draw from on a daily basis in my career.
My favorite class was every Friday when we brought our assignments in, hung them up on a board, and then class critique would start.  It was brutal.  Sometimes not very nice.  Sometimes a huge lift to the ego.  But it was always honest and fair, and Harry kept it that way.  He knew we would be leaving soon and the real world would be a lot tougher on us than academia.  His "hippy" demeanor and soft spoken words seemed a little dated at the time, but his words were always thought out and mentoring in his own way.  Later in his career he took up travel with a gusto, and traveled all over the world photographing his trips with passion and interest for the world of man.  Harry also was one of the few instructors that I had who really cared about his students after they left school and on numerous occasions he would call me to ask advice, refer an assistant, or to just say "nice job" on something I had been working on.  Photo students have a lost a true friend and educator.

I've posted a foggy picture again today, because that is how I'm feeling...Shooting later today at Federated Investors, so I guess I'd better get "un-fogged" quickly...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Foggy Photo

Rosh Sillars Lecture, Wednesday Night

Pittsburgh ASMP chapter is sponsoring a lecture on March 25th at 6PM with internet social networking expert, Rosh Sillars.  The lecture is open to the public and I have a feeling it should be very interesting.  As of late, I have been spending a large amount of time blogging, Facebooking, networking on LinkedIn and web browsing in general as an attempt to increase my photo assignments and re-connect with former clients, art directors, designers and long lost art school buddies.  It has been fun, exhausting, and interesting all at the same time.  I do have a fear that I may spend too much time doing this, but when you can't get clients to pick up their phone when you call, you have to shift to "Plan B".  I heard last week on a radio news show that for the first time in history, more people are logging on to the internet to check their social sites than are users logging on to check their email.  I'm looking forward to seeing what he has to say and meeting up with fellow Pittsburgh photographers.  Hope to see you there!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bad News for Photographers

This information has been brewing on the pro photo forums for the past couple of days, and
it is VERY disturbing.  Ad agency giant, OMNICOM, now thinks that photographers should happily take all the risk for not getting paid by THEIR clients, like GM and who knows who else?
There aren't any photographers that I know of who can produce an auto shoot without an advance for at LEAST the expenses which can run into hundreds of thousand dollars depending on the complexity of the shoot.  This practice almost assures photographers working under these conditions will have a strong possibility of financial ruin.  It has become very apparent that much of corporate America does not believe in fiscal responsibility (see AIG...)  I urge all photographers to start demanding cash advances on ALL jobs and not just larger ones.  We simply can no longer afford to work as we have in the past.  Here is ASMP Executive Director, Gene Mopsiks view on this mess: ASMP STATEMENT

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Go Green for Our Furry Friends...

Here is a great place to get rid of all your outdated electronic gadgets and at the same time help out the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society.  I rate this idea "4 Paws Up"!  (be sure to click on poster to see it large enough to read)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

McKees Rocks Bridge

This image of the McKees Rocks Bridge was licensed for set decoration on the television series, The Guardian, starring Simon Baker.  The image hung on the wall in Dabney Coleman's office.  The original image was shot on Fujichrome Velvia, but I scanned and processed the image as a sepia toned image and did select diffusion on it as well for a more dreamy look.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Closed For the Season

A little landscape photography shot this winter at Moraine State Park.  The image is called,
"Closed For the Season" which was taken from the sign attached to the restroom.  With the temps in the 70's today, summer cannot come quick enough for me!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Some Pittsburgh Beauty Photography

I think I'll start posting more pictures and writing less.  The former is what I'm better at anyway!
I worked with Pittsburgh makeup artist Patty Bell and hair stylist Sandee Scott to create these images.  They both worked incredibly hard and I love the creative energy that surrounds us when we all work together.  Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Panoramic photo of Pittsburgh

This was shot on a foggy morning for my book, Pittsburgh: A Photographic Portrait. It didn't make it, but one that was warmer and showed the sun did. It was an amazing sight to see!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Becoming More Social on the Internet

It seems like lately anytime I start writing for my blog, it begins something like this:  "sorry I haven't written anything or added to the blog....".  Unfortunately, this entry isn't a whole lot different.  One of the reasons for my lack of white noise here has been that I have put some recent energy into my LinkedIn and Facebook pages.  They are both quite different from each other.  LinkedIn is far more professional and has been a nice tool to help me keep track of old clients, future clients and fellow professionals.   Facebook is more for friends and family and old college chums that like to re-live the good old days.  Both have their place and I've really enjoyed the instant feedback that you get on those types of forums v. the Blog where sometimes I think I'm just talking to myself!  I will keep posting on occasion here when I think I've got something interesting to talk about or show.  I hope if you are a regular reader here, that you'll stop by on my LinkedIn page or Facebook page, check out my profile, and make me a "friend" or "connection".  I'd love to hear from you! 

Since I've been trying hard to eat a little healthier lately and shed some pounds, I was inspired by this panoramic photo I shot some time ago...Enjoy the day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Mark Bolster speaks at Avonworth High School

I had fun yesterday meeting students from Avonworth High School and speaking to them about my work, life lessons, and tips on how to improve their photography. The yearbook staff was especially involved as they appreciated tips on how to make their camera be a more natural tool to use as well as composition help. The students really are amazing, and one of the things I enjoy so much about speaking to groups, classes, and doing book signings is that I always learn something. If not about photography, then I learn a little about myself. The kids at Avonworth are engaged and very polite. This comes from great parenting and excellent teachers that really care about their students. It was an absolute joy to be around them! Thanks Mrs. Frau and Mrs. Fox
for your hospitality and thank you to the library staff for helping with the a/v needs!

Also....congrats to the 6 time world champ, Pittsburgh Steelers! You gave us the best Superbowl I can ever recall seeing and made this past weekend way more fun than a human should be allowed to have! The game helped us all forget about a gloomy economy and crummy Pittsburgh weather for at least a few hours. The only downer was Dan Rooney thanking President Obama for the victory. If anyone can tell me what the Prez had to do with anything, I'd love to hear it... Sunday was NOT the time for politics. The parade was today in downtown Pittsburgh and hopefully everyone can get back to business now. Sunday's are going to be missing something for me (at least till Speedweeks in Daytona later this month!)

Here is a photo from last week's snowstorm taken in Butler Co.  Stay warm!