Pimp the work

I watched a live stream interview today from photographer Chase Jarvis, where he had some discussion with Creative Coach Allegra Wilde about photography portfolios, or The Book that photographers present to potential clients. The conversation was about photography, but some of the ideas have to do with other businesses too.

3 short takeways:

1. The subject of a photo is less important than the emotion or story that the photo provides the viewer.

We also hear this about other products and services; people don’t want to read a book so much as they want to be entertained; many people buy Apple products for the ‘cool factor’, not the tech specs. The bottom line is that we want people to react in a positive way to what we do, and a good story helps them do that.

2. If you are trying to shoot the kind of photos that are selling, how are you going to differentiate yourself from all the hundreds or thousands of others doing the same?

So true, especially when your product is approaching commodity status. These days we differentiate our products and services through our voice, or the personal touch we put on them. Shoot (or do) what you love and the money will follow (or so they say ;-).

3. Wilde suggests: How can creative work have a target market? Creative work is pretty much subjective work and you never know just who is going to like it. Better to shoot or write what you love and market the hell out of it. The right clients will find you.

This is an interesting contradiction to the usual marketing wisdom, but it could very well be true. Everyone won’t want, need or even like what you create, so your job is to find those that do and pamper them as much as you can. As Jarvis says: Shoot what you love; pimp the work; repeat.

Jarvis does some amazing things, and it’s worth following his work. Just a warning…you’ll wonder where he finds the energy to do all the stuff he does. Good stuff.

Time for a Change?

I’ve been humming and hawing about what to do next with this blog (physically, that is). It’s not that I don’t like where it’s hosted, it just seems some other options may have more flexibility or be easier to set things up. You might say I’m reassessing.

I’ve spent the morning looking at WordPress (both .com and .org) and Squarespace as alternative ways to host it. Some options are more expensive and some are definitely cheaper, so that brings me back to the question of just what I want to do with it and how much I want to spend. The trouble is, that all seems to keep changing right now.

On one hand, I’d like to have a photography portfolio that shows off some of my best work. I also want a blog and a few pages that highlight the business and the relationships that business might build over time.

As time goes on and more income starts to flow, I expect I’d move the photography portfolio over to one of the commercial sites dedicated to that and keep the main site as a blog and information pages – all integrated, of course.

I know most bloggers swear by a self-hosted WordPress site. I just don’t know if I want to spend my time keeping it and all the plugins up to date and secure.

Time will tell, I guess. I might explore a bit more with Typepad and then use up some free trial time at Squarespace and That might answer my questions about what I actually need and how the backends of those sites facilitate that.

We’ll see how it all goes. Lots to think about over the next while.

What do you do?

Asking “What do you do?” seems like an odd first question in a networking session.

For extreme networking, I guess it’s appropriate. But if we’re trying to get to know, like and trust others before we do business with them, why do we ask for the sales pitch first?

Just sayin.

Which Path Are You On?

Leading me down the path

There are times in life when you have a goal, and the path to get there seems pretty clear. You head in that direction, and with minor corrections along the way, you get to where you hoped to go, or close.

Other times the goal is less clear, but the path seems to lead you along. Along the way there are corrections, forks in the road where each possible path seems equal. Given that you have no clear goal, it doesn’t really matter which path you take. To paraphrase a famous cat (or was it a queen?), “either way, you’ll get there”.

Both scenarios can be satisfying, and it’s good to mix them up. Following the first keeps you focused, and following the second helps you explore.

I’ve spent a lot of time exploring, with occasional periods of focus. That’s served me well.

How about you? Do you take time for both?

Awards, Awards, Awards

It was quite a treat two days ago, when I got a call from SBofT asking if I was able to cover their Business Excellence Awards (BEA) on November 3, at Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey. Their usual photographer, my shooting buddy, was unable to work that night. He usually has the event well covered.

The shoot covers a VIP session, where the nominees get to meet and greet before dinner, general networking before dinner, speeches and the award presentations themselves. There are usually several photo requests after the event as well – winners and the family, winners with the employees, people with the keynote speakers, etc.

Just for a bit of a change here, I’m going to link off to the SBofT photostream on Flickr. Photos from the event are up. I spent the morning doing some post-processing work and put a photo disc together by 2 pm. Heather, in the SBofT office, had them posted in about 5 minutes. She’s quick!

Unfortunately, none of the photos have titles, but you can find out who won what via the SBofT website.

Overall, I was happy with most of the shots. I used Nikon’s newish 24-120 f4 lens, which offers a good focal range for event work. Compared to a f2.8 lens, the f4 is a bit of a trade off with weight, but the focus is quite responsive.

That said, there were a few shots where I didn’t seem to get the focus where I wanted it. It could have just been camera shake, but it could also have been a combination of f-stop and focal length not giving me the depth of field I needed with the subject(s) I had.

I’ll have to experiment more with the lens. Each one has it’s own foibles; it just takes time and practice to get use to them to advantage.

How did you get started in photography?


Being one of two staff photographers at my day job has re-kindled my love of photography. 

No, I haven’t always been interested in photography. I was in my twenties before I picked up a Kodak Instamatic. Taking pictures with that was pretty basic and not very satisfying. After exploring the craft and reading a few photo mags, I quickly moved up to a Pentax Spotmatic and a Seagull Twin Lens Reflex. I loved that Pentax for a couple of years, until my ex dropped it in the salt chuck one day. Photography was never the same.

About the time my camera went swimming, manufacturers were introducing electronic aperture and shutter controls. I tried a Konica and then an Olympus, but to me, they never really lived up to the hype. The Olympus, for instance, ran through batteries faster than I could charge them. I found out (much later) that there was a fault in the circuit board. Of course by that time I’d given up, because you couldn’t find a new camera without all the electronics. Oh my, how things have changed 😉

In the 90’s, I tried a Kodac digital and then a Nikon Coolpix 990. They were fun for a short while, but the resolution was lacking and I needed more control. The cost of a prosumer DSLR was too much for me, and I found film boring, so that was about it for another 10 years.

In 2006, I started working with the local Board of Trade. The gig was supposed to be a few hours a week on contract, but soon grew to a full time affair. Part of the job was to take photographs at over 80 events a year with a little Fuji S-something. Out of frustration a few months later, I bought a spanking new Nikon D80 and a bunch of gear. That led to a D300 and now a D700 and lots more gear (sigh).

So that’s my story. I’m currently focused on event and nature photos, and I’m learning more about vision and light.

What’s your story?

Another round of kudos to SIWC

Over the last 17 years, the Surrey International Writers’ Conference has grown from filling a school classroom, to packing the largest conference centre in Surrey, at the Guildford Sheraton Vancouver Hotel. Over 500 writers, agents, editors and students from around the world filled the hotel again this year for an immersive celebration of writing.

This conference is more of a craft conference, than say the Vancouver International Readers’ and Writers’ Conference. At SIWC, there’s more one-on-one interaction between new or established authors, and their potential editors and agents. Workshops make up the core of the event, with dinnertime keynote speakers adding inspiration and stories.

This year’s workshops ranged from writing historical fiction, to using social media, and everything in between. There really is something for everyone, and there is little chance to get bored.

For more experienced writers, Master Classes lead off in the days before. At the conference itself, daily opening sessions, workshops and lunch speakers fill up the day, and evenings are punctuated with Night Owl events, like this year’s Shock Theatre.

Everyone shares, everyone learns, everyone has fun. You hear that again and again through the weekend, as you wander the halls during breaks.

Other than a one year break, I’ve been attending SIWC since about 2002. For various reasons, this year I only managed a basic pass, with no meals. While the workshops were worth it, I missed much of the camaraderie you get with the full meal deal. Sad, but it’s a lesson learned. Next year it will be the full pass, with all workshops and meals included. I missed that immersive experience I’ve learned to associate with SIWC.

So, kudos to Coordinator kc dyer, the Surrey School District’s Tara Holt, and all the other staff and volunteers for putting on another great show. Hope you were following all the tweets posted via #siwc2009. The tweeters were sure enthusiastic, and I think you’ve expanded the audience for next year.