(Photo above: Bert McCracken, The Used – Ace of Spades, 2012)
Just a warning, this blog post may get a bit rambling (much like my last few posts), but it’s all very spur of the moment stuff in my head right now. I’m also very tired. So just hang in there, I promise! Also: I’m not a lawyer, so take none of this as legal advice. Just sayin’. Also also: I’m not trying to talk shit, or call anyone out on this behavior, it’s all just anecdotal. This has probably been a long time coming.
Anyways. Just a short while ago today I started thinking about prints. Selling prints of live music photography, specifically. It’s something that every photographer wants to do, to be honest. To have someone pay for your image to hang on their wall is a great compliment as an artist, and it helps us put food on the table at the same time. It’s a win-win, right? You’d think so, but in all honesty it gets a bit sticky from time to time. Here’s what I mean.
I started up a Photoshelter account over a year ago in an effort to sell some prints to help recoup the cost of my gear (as well as hopefully fund future upgrades and new purchases). I chose Photoshelter after looking around at Smugmug, Zenfolio, and other sites. Photoshelter just seemed to be the best fit for me; I didn’t want a full-on portfolio as I already have that separately, but I wanted something that looked good, offered fulfillment automation, lots of print options, and the ability to accept credit cards. Long story short, I set it up and uploaded some high res files and just let it go. I haven’t sold much through it, but then again that’s partly due to the fact that I haven’t uploaded but a tiny sliver of my older photography from around that time. I haven’t really updated it much, and I also haven’t really promoted it. But that is, in turn, partly due to an experience I had from one of my few sales from the site. It was probably my first experience with the ugly business side of the music photography scene.
Here’s what happened. There was a local show, and I thought I’d go out and shoot a bit. There were a band or two on the bill that I’d seen before and enjoyed, and then there were a few that I wanted to see based on the recommendation of a buddy of mine. Shot five of the six bands on the bill (I don’t remember if I stepped outside, or if the band cancelled), all as personal work, basically. Figured I’d kill some time hanging out at the show, get some practice in with my newly-acquired 7D, and possibly get some cool photos for some cool local bands. It was a great show, had a lot of fun, got some cool photos.
I ended up uploading the photos to Facebook, made the bands aware of the existence of the photos, etc etc. Some of them went on to use them on personal profiles and band profiles, normal stuff really. Then I decided to upload them to my prints gallery. Not much activity or views on it, but one band in particular did start to receive some good views above the others. Someone shortly thereafter bought a print! I was stoked! And this was actually only 6 days after the show. The print was ordered, paid for, and then fulfilled and shipped out (all via Photoshelter, very cool!), no issues, customer was happy, and I was happy. Done deal.
So fast forward just after the print was delivered, about a week later, and I receive the following message (with identifying information removed):
It’s [Dude], the singer for [This Local Band]. I wanted to thank you for the pics you took of us at [Local Venue] but after some serious discussion in the band we don’t feel comfortable with you selling those pictures without our written consent.
Would you please take them off your for sale site?
We have no problem paying you for a shoot when we’re ready OR working out a deal with you to sell them. But without an agreement we can’t get behind you selling them.
Thanks man. We will be in touch about paying you for promotional shots.
This actually really upset me for a good while. I mean, I did all this for the band–shooting, editing, delivering photos for FB use if they wanted to–and then when someone else outside of the band decides that my work is worth some compensation, the band gets upset. Why? I guess they thought that since it’s their band, they should control it. And that would be absolutely fine if the product in question was an album I was selling wherein I covered one of their songs. That right there is a legitimate claim against infringing upon intellectual property. I would then be legally required to cease selling the album, or workout a licensing deal with them (provided they could prove copyright in court).
What CANNOT be done, however, is control an image of a person in a public space (for these purposes, venues count as public space as they allow the general public to enter), as long as it is not used in a defamatory, endorsing or commercial nature. What that means is that I cannot, oh, say… Photoshop penises onto the images. Or caption them with something like “I eat shit for breakfast!” similar to an image macro. Or use them to state that “So-and-so endorses digitalnoise|photo”. Or license/sell/transfer rights of the images for commercial purposes, like advertisements, packaging, catalogs, etc.
What CAN be done is to sell the photos as “fine art”, basically. You have to abide by the rules above, but you can legally sell prints. Hell, I can walk up to ANY person on the street right now, snap a picture, run back home, and upload that photo for sale as a print without legal issues. This also includes the ability to license/sell images to editorial magazine articles, web articles, wire service, etc.
So, with that distinction drawn, and this request put forth by a band that is known in the scene to an extent, however not a big band even for loose standards around the local scene, what’s a photographer to do? On one hand, you can stick with your legal rights as a photographer and artist and tell the band that you will kindly disregard their request and continue selling the prints as per your legal rights, or you can be Good Guy Photographer and take the images down at their request. One method has the possibility of earning you some extra money at the cost of your reputation in the scene, whereas the other option you save your reputation (possibly even build it a smidge), but look like a pussy at the same time and make less money.
It’s a really tough call. Especially if the band is a smaller band (I haven’t really heard much of anything from this band since a year ago, actually. Sadly, they were a great band.), as opposed to a major player in your scene or a national act. It all comes down to whether you value your reputation and connections more than the short term money that you MAY make. Hell, the band might actually post about the ordeal and say “Hey, this guy’s selling prints of us despite our polite request to pull them down. Fuck this guy!” And poof! Your name is now basically ruined with the fans of that band. Personally, I felt that it was in the best interest of my reputation and my future of shooting and working with bands, venues, and other industry types to honor their request. We’re all in this business as a business, and while I understand where they were coming from, I don’t think that under the circumstances it really harmed them to allow me to continue selling prints of them.
I sent the following reply back:
Photos have been pulled down from the print site for now, pending further discussions and/or legal clarification of rights of use/ownership.
Take it easy man, let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.
To which he replied:
Thank you for your understanding man! We will see you around town next we play.
In his original message, he commented on a possibility of working out a “deal” to continue selling prints of their band, and also future paid work. I responded with a friendly but curt statement hoping to foster some discussion with the band, and I didn’t even say anything about them using my photos on their Facebook page (turns out they’re also using them on their Reverbnation page, as well as a few other places I’d imagine). Out of the two possibilities between discussing licensing/rights of use and/or future paid work, guess which one took place?
Here’s the deal. Most bands are broke. They’ve spent their money on gear, recording, gas, merch, etc. And if they actually had enough money to get a good deal on merch, and their fans actually have money to buy the merch, and they pack venues and actually get paid for their shows, they’re almost always cheap. Very cheap. So this promise of “future paid work” usually never materializes. It’s a bummer, because most of the time these bands end up with subpar photography, horrible album art from aforementioned subpar photography, and their Facebook band page is littered with subpar fan photography from cameraphones and cheap point and shoots. I’m not saying that I’m the greatest photographer around (because I’m seriously not), but I do like to think that I produce images that shows the band looking as good as is possible in the given situation. That’s actually a rather valuable product, despite what many people think these days.
Anyway, I’m getting off track. I said I’d ramble, didn’t I? Right. So, here’s the predicament we face. Be the nice guy wimp, or be the asshole to make money in the short run (most likely). I can tell you right now that I will always fall to the nice guy side of things. That’s just how I am, in general. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to tell them to jump up their own ass from time to time, but it’s usually not worth it. What I WILL do if I get any more of these sorts of requests is to link to this article to start, give a brief rundown of paid options, and then request that the band cease using any and all of my photography on any of their web presences. I believe that’s fair enough.
I stated before that I didn’t believe that with the circumstances given, my selling of prints of their band didn’t harm the band in any financial or image-based manner. And it really didn’t. It actually benefited them more than they believed. If I sell prints of the band, the customer has this awesome looking photo on their wall at home, work, whatever. People ask about it, they’re going to say “Oh yeah! It’s this band I really love, check them out!” and then they hop onto le internets and show off the band. Every time someone looks at that fairly large 12″x18″ print, they’re going to think about that band. Possibly bounce over to Facebook to see what the band is up to. Post on FB a link to a Youtube video. Who knows. Either way, that’s some pretty powerful promotion right there.
What actually harmed the band, in my opinion, was requesting that I pull the images down. Once that happened, I basically didn’t care to deal with them anymore. Never went to another show, never posted about them, blah blah blah. Not because I disliked them afterward, but I just didn’t really care, either way. Photos were up online, out of my hands, and can’t sell prints. Nothing left to do, really. That said, I did really like the photos I shot from their set, they were some of my best up at that point, and still hold up in my book. Had I left them up for sale, who knows, maybe more people would’ve bought prints. If that’s the case, I definitely would’ve made a point to call attention to their shows, and would’ve gone out to shoot them more often, would’ve talked to them more. Who knows.
What I do know is that this is one of the many reasons why I stopped shooting for free (outside of my own personal work). I had believed that the possibility of subsidizing my costs with the fans’ money rather than the bands was a win-win for everyone involved. It still is a valid avenue for income, but I’m just hesitant to put more work up there and have more bands get upset. I don’t want bands to think that I’m going out and just shooting willynilly for my own profit. But, I do need to earn money off of what I spend my time doing. Just like the bands. And if the band wants to license an image to sell via their own mechanisms, I’ll be glad to license the image to them.
It won’t be cheap though. It won’t be a rip-off, but it won’t be cheap.
In June, my buddy Josh Amolsch of the band Misamore hired me to do a super-quick band portrait session. We busted it out pretty fast, and got him the image he wanted. I really like it, I think it works for the band quite nicely. There’s things that I wish I could’ve done instead, like have a bit more space in the room to shoot longer lenses and have a flat black background, but all in all, with the time constraints we had it came out great.
We shot 38 photos (including some tests), and after culling through those, I sent 14 images over for their perusal. The band ended up choosing two, both horizontal, with the second being very similar to the one above, but the guys were grouped together a bit more closely, and the image above won out as the better photo (at least in my opinion).
Since we had very limited space, and the backdrop wasn’t a seamless sweep, I didn’t really focus on verticals. But I still made sure to shoot one at the very end, just in case. It wasn’t selected by the band, and I’m guessing that the reason was because you can see the hardwood floor at the bottom of the image. Not an absolute dealbreaker, but a dealbreaker nonetheless, I suppose.
So here we are at the end of the shoot, the band’s happy, I’m happy, and the photo has been put out there on le internets for their promo use. So when it comes time for people to start promoting the band and shows, naturally they’re going to find an image and use it for the promotional materials. Such is the case with Submerge Magazine, using the chosen photo for an ad in the magazine for their show coming up today out at Powerhouse Pub in Folsom.
Hey, cool! Always glad to see my stuff be chosen over others for things like this. However, there’s one issue… Anyone who has tried to watch DVDs or online video with me knows that I’m a serious nerd about aspect ratio, and things looking squished. I most definitely noticed that this image has the guys compressed horizontally in order to fit into the boundaries of the ad posting. I’m sure no one else cares about this, but it’s just something that irks me. Just a little bit.
So that’s where we come to the second half of the title of this post. Always shoot more than what you think you need (or what the client thinks they need). They only care about horizontals? Shoot a few verticals once you’ve got the safe, desired shots in the can. They want to fill the frame up with their bodies? Try to shoot some with negative space to give room for magazine or flyer info copy (hey, you never know, right?). Had I had more headroom, I would’ve done exactly those two combined. Vertical with a bunch of negative space up at the top for flyer info. Alas, the backdrop ended JUST out of frame on these photos, which is where the ceiling began. But like I said before, made the best out of a limited situation.
But as you can probably tell, had the magazine had the option to run a vertical in that space, they might have, and it wouldn’t have been squished. It’s not that big of a deal for an ad for a show in a local magazine, but if you’re shooting for a bigger client, or for a magazine specifically with an article in mind, you will run into these issues. So once your “safe” shots are nailed down, make sure you get them some variety. Go the extra mile if it’s possible. They may not choose them, but you may like the results, or they may be usable for something else for the client at a later time.
I think I’m going to continue writing a bit regarding image and brand strength, as it’s something I feel very strongly about. I also have been keeping it pretty pent up over the past year or two, and I feel I need to get it out. This post will be following up on my previous posts regarding “image and style” (here’s part 1, and part 2). Whereas my previous posts covered more photography-centric aspects such as watermarks and portfolio design, this will be a bit more broad in its target. It’s something that is often overlooked these days, but it’s absolutely crucial to being taken seriously in business. And first up…
Technology now is accessible to everyone. Not just the nerds, professionals, and uppity educated folks that used to make up the bulk of users. Thanks to Facebook, iPhone and Android smartphones among others, a huge percentage of everyday people are now content publishers of some sort. Some create content, some curate content created by others. And many, many people run “PR” for something in their life. Most of my creative friends have Facebook pages for their various endeavors. Small businesses are often marketed directly by the owners, or someone in the core group of the business. And almost none of these have any sort of marketing or PR background. They just type and type and type in their goal of selling their wares/services.
Unfortunately, a lot of these people don’t understand the importance of communicating to their fans, customers, and prospective clients in a clean, professional manner. Just as the above technological advancements gave us all this easy access, those–along with texting–make it seem like it’s just like talking as you would on a personal level. Texting is actually a HUGE influence on how people communicate via words these days. People get lazy, develop habits; almost all of them bad, and shouldn’t be used in business communications.
What am I talking about? Texts like this:
HEY WAT R U UP TO MAN??? I WAS HOPING I COULD GET YOU 2 COME OUT GET SOME FOODD WITH ME,,,
I’m glad to say that I don’t get too many texts or FB messages like this personally, but when I do, it irks me on a few different levels. Fine, yeah, I know it’s a text, and it’s not being seen by the public. So that’s okay, right? Yeah. However, if you communicate the same way with people you conduct business with, well… It just looks immature. I was under the impression that we all learned a long time ago that all caps is akin to SHOUTING AT PEOPLE (or as the internet joke goes, “Caps Lock = CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL!”). Guess not. Well, if you weren’t aware of this convention, now you are. And yes, that cruise control joke is just that–a joke. Don’t take it seriously.
Other offenses that typically are accompanied by capslock are textspeak (abbreviating words when it’s really not necessary), obvious misspellings, leaving words out (or just typing in a way that generally makes no sense at all), and probably the most lame of them all: the use of a comma in place of a period. I don’t get what in the hell causes people to do this, but it’s pretty common. My experience says it’s mostly iPhone users. I think this is because when you hit caps lock, it shifts the period to a comma. Either way, it looks childish and unskilled in my book.
There’s really no excuse, in my opinion, for texting like this. And especially typing like this on a full keyboard. It should just not be done, especially in the business environment. You’d be surprised at the amount of people who don’t necessarily think about this though. Business/public communications should always be well written, grammar in shape, punctuation not obliterated. It’s not that hard, we all learned it in school, and looking around the rest of Facebook and/or the internets will usually give you a pretty good idea of what it should look like. It definitely goes a long way to improve your online presence–whether via email, or when posting on your Facebook page.
Now that we’ve covered the more rigid aspects of textual communication (grammar, punctuation, etc), let’s move on to something a bit less tangible, but just as important: Writing style.
I suppose you could argue that the above text example could be construed as a “writing style”. But no. Let’s just not. It’s an abortion of “style”. So, moving on.
Writing style is the “content” that fits within grammatical rules. Everyone has a different writing style, and sometimes it’s readily apparent. On the internet, most people write very casually–like you’re just talking to someone on the street, or talking to an acquaintance. I write this way, to a point. My writing style is a mix of casual conversation and stream of thought with a little bit of formality. That’s how I blog, that’s how I update my photography Facebook page. That’s how I’ve always written going back to high school. Unless it definitely has to be, I’m not so much of a “just the facts” writer, but this is what works for me. It gets my personality across to the reader in the best way I can, as well as usually making it the easiest to transfer thoughts in my head to words on the screen.
My personal page/Twitter/etc are much more relaxed, and I use a lot of internets talk there. But it’s appropriate on my personal page. I’m pretty ridiculous at times on my personal Facebook page, but I keep it there (and other similar online presences).
Some people are even more conversational/casual in their blogging/FB updates. Joe McNally is an excellent example of this. Everything he writes, you’re reading just as if he were standing in front of you talking. Read his blog? Watch a video? Read his Facebook? Read interviews? See him in person (I got to at the FlashBus Tour last year, he was great!)? It’s all the same. David Hobby is pretty much the same, albeit a bit more reserved than “numnuts” McNally, but not by much. It makes reading their content very easy to digest and relate to.
Terminology and word choice are other parts of writing style. I’m pretty casual with how I write with certain terms. These days, we mention “Facebook” so often, unless it’s absolutely crucial, I usually just say “FB”. People know what I mean. Some people like to be very precise, others don’t care. Eh, as long as you’re communicating clearly (and it’s not falling into the realm of something like, oh, technical writing), I think that this sort of abbreviation is acceptable. Mostly.
Another issue that people don’t give a lot of thought to is profanity. Yeah, a lot of people just avoid it altogether because it’s “bad”. Well… Fuck that. Eh?? See what I did there? Here’s my perspective: If it’s part of your personality, you keep it within reason, use it for emphasis, or just accept the fact that you may make some of your content “NSFW” depending on how sensitive people are, I say use it. Not every chance you get, mind you. But if you notice, I used “hell” above. I’ve used “fuck” twice in this post (once in a graphic–and it’s a HILARIOUS one, so I’ll allow it). I personally use the word “shit” a lot as in a substitute for the word “stuff” in my personal life and communications. I try not to in situations like my photo blog posts, photo FB page posts, etc. I have no qualms with vulgarity on my personal page, though. And I don’t necessarily care who sees that, either. Fact is, I curse. It’s part of how I speak. I’m no sailor, but I do. McNally and Hobby do as well. Usually it’s much more subdued though (especially for Hobby; McNally’s got a mouth on him), using the time-honored “f*#@” or the like.
Honestly, I don’t suggest including vulgarity or indecent phrases in your blogging, FB posting, etc. Obviously. Especially if you’re a more traditional business/service. If your art genre is “fine art”, I highly doubt you’ll drop the ol’ f-bomb anywhere in your writing. If you’re a metal band, indie record label, tattoo shop, skate shop, weed magazine, etc, I can see how it could work for your image with your target demographic as making you more easily related to. I myself spend a huge amount of time in the rock and metal music scenes as a music photographer. Saying shit like the word “fuck” in those circles usually isn’t a big deal. Again, do you see what I did there? :-D
There’s other things that can impact how you come across in your writing. Do you want to write conversationally? Or perhaps a more distant, factual, “professional” manner? Maybe your FB posts are the digital equivalent of a carnival barker, spouting out calls to action succinctly instead of a more organic writing style. That’s fine, depending on your business. I’d suggest staying away from it on your blog, however. The blog should be much more verbose and detailed, creating a more dedicated information channel for your business to connect to your customers.
What about emoticons? Do you include the good ol’ smiley faces in your blog/FB posts? It’s becoming more and more accepted in blog posts, however I still try to stay away from it unless absolutely necessary. If it’s the best way to communicate an intent or meaning where words would just make it feel awkward, go for it. I did that above after I cussed. Takes the seriousness away from the previous two sentences in my opinion. But if you’re going for a corporate vibe, I’d bet that having a little stuck in your post wouldn’t go over too well.
There’s really a lot that goes into writing. I’m definitely not the best writer; there’s a reason why I’m not a writer outside of blog posts and FB. A lot takes practice to refine and locate your style. A lot takes nothing more than common sense and a little bit of high school education. Point being, hopefully you have a good grasp on your niche, your demographic, and how you want to come across to your customers. The important part is that you nail the best communication patterns to go along with your goals and target audience, and that you’re authentic while doing so.
There. I hope I didn’t miss anything I meant to touch on. I ramble a lot when writing; as I said, not a professional writer, right?
My last post, Image, Style, and a Return to Blogging, Part 1, was supposed to be one post encompassing two intertwined topics, however things ran a bit long. Part two of my ramblings on photographer branding and image is now upon us.
Last time, I talked about my portfolio redesign and how I wanted a certain image to come from it. That image being a slick, clean, and straight-forward presentation of my work, and therefore my “philosophy” about my work, I guess you could say. Throughout various redesigns of my website, one thing has always been constant: a clean, simplistic design that puts the images in the forefront, while not cluttering up the blog design with unnecessary flourish. That said, the current blog theme that I’m running is the most removed from this concept, however I justified that to myself because the portfolio is picking up the slack. The images are the most important aspect of this site, and therefore I want them to stand out, and to not have anything interfere with the viewing of said image. The portfolio design accomplishes this, while the blog takes over the role of looking “fancy”. Although the current blog layout is still fairly clean, it’s just got a bunch more polish and modernism than previous designs. It still gets my image across though, for the most part. The blog theme may end up getting switched out within the next year, who knows.
That brings us to the point of this post. Image. No, not your photos, but your “brand image.” Personally, as I stated above, I’ve always opted for something clean, sleek, and fairly modern yet cannot be dated too terribly easily. Look at the image at the top of this blog (yes, the same one I used in the last post–creative, no? ). I’ve been using this logo for several years now. It’s clean, scales well, and recognizable. It’s just very simple, and I designed it myself a good long while ago. I could probably get something better if I paid a design pro, but I like what I’ve got now, and it works for me.
The image above shows my current watermark. I’ve been using this watermark for about a year now. Again, it sticks to my theme of being sleek, clean, and unobtrusive. I’d probably consider this my “third generation” of watermarks. I went with this concept for a watermark because it doesn’t interfere with the image at all under 99.99% of photos, and it looks great. Yeah, it’s easy to crop out, however believe it or not this watermark actually gets cropped out less often than previous incarnations.
You’ll notice that both the promo photo and this Napa landscape have identical logos as the watermark. Which one looks better though? Which one looks more clean and professional? My opinion, obviously, is the “task bar” watermark. It stays out of the way, whereas the larger DNP logo just sticks out. It grabs my eye in an unpleasant way. Going back to the cropping of watermarks, when I make photos available on Facebook for people, this watermark got cropped out like CRAZY. Not cool for people to do when you’re providing them images for sure, but even worse, they were ruining my images, which I’d already cropped/framed into a certain composition. I initially stopped watermarking images, but then designed the current task bar watermark, and I’ve seen crop instances drop dramatically from the previous larger logo.
However, logo watermarks can definitely work when done tactfully. My buddy Marco Malek has a really great logo for his work. It’s up there out of the way, yet visible, and doesn’t distract from the image it’s on. The difference between this logo and my second gen logo is readily apparent. In my opinion, more noticeable isn’t necessarily a good thing. Marco’s watermark is just noticeable enough without being annoying, like mine was.
Remember how I said that the current mark is a “third generation” in my watermarks? Well, the larger logo was my “second generation”, with my first generation just being a text watermark, at first with my own name, and then with the digitalnoise|photo name, both with a copyright symbol. I used clean fonts for this, typically the Myriad Pro font. I’ve been using this font for many years now, it’s one of the cleanest fonts I can choose. I use it in my logo in the above examples (albeit stretched a bit), as well as the digitalnoise|photo header image on this blog, among countless other examples. Either way, I just have always felt that using a plain text watermark didn’t communicate the image I had wanted to be put out. It works for some people, just not for me.
But there’s a danger with using just text watermarks. That danger is font choice. I chose a clean, san-serif font because that’s what I would like my brand image to be. Some people use more fancy, script-like or handwritten fonts, and it works for them. But some people choose to go with big, bulky fonts, or cliched abysmal choices (like Comic Sans haha), and it just looks, well… Abysmal. And most certainly not professional. I was going to mock up some of these “good” and “bad” examples, but, looks like with the exception of Comic Sans, I don’t have any fonts on this computer that would really illustrate my points too well. And I’m sure not going to call out people I know as having poor examples of watermarks. That’s just tacky. So, I’ll hope that you know what I’m referring to here.
If you insist on using a plain text watermark with your name/studio name, keep it simple, keep it clean, and keep it simple. Choose a great font (note: great doesn’t mean overly fancy). Don’t curve the text, don’t throw a billion Text Layer Blending options on it in Photoshop. Make sure it’s easily visible and legible. You nail all of those, your text watermark will work quite well!
Some people eschew the tactful use of watermarks completely. Ross Halfin does this with a very large, detailed, circular logo, and at first it highly irritated me. But then I gave it some thought. Ross has timeless, priceless photos of some of the most iconic rock gods of our times. I can understand his desire to protect the use of his images, as he sells these images for some pretty good money, and shoots for some very high profile clients. And while the logo is obtrusive to a point, it’s not that big of a deal in his grand scheme of things, to a point. That said, I don’t like it. Unless you have a legitimate financial reason for protecting your images so very fiercely, I just can’t justify this option.
But some people do. Some people feel that protection of their work is more important than the work itself. Most people don’t really have to worry about this, in my personal opinion. It just detracts from the image, and most of the time makes it not fun to view the images.
That’s a huge list that I’ll never comprehensively cover. Regarding watermarks and branding, however, here’s a start:
That’s just a brief list, but it’s a good one. You can actually get a great idea of what not to do just by looking through the posted images at You Are Not A Photographer. In addition to being less-than-mediocre photographers, they’re usually adorned by less-than-mediocre watermarks, logos, and other accoutrements.
Easy, you don’t have to. I’m not the best, nor the most successful photographer out there. Obviously. The Google Analytics stats on the traffic to my blog will point that one out on its own haha! That said, I’ve been working in creative fields for quite a long while. I’ve worked as a web designer and graphic designer. I’ve been running websites and blogs since high school in the 90s. While not everything I’ve ever created or designed has been elegant, I’ve learned along the way. I’ve refined my creative tastes and process through my trials and errors. I’ve learned that most everything I design is clean, crisp, and sleek. I’ve learned that certain fads are just that. Remember the Web 2.0 craze? Yeah, exactly haha.
With that, I’m not claiming to be an expert, I just like to think that I know what looks good, and what doesn’t. I have my tastes and preferences, just as all of you do, and everyone’s a bit different. Some people are very specific and picky on their ideas and tastes, others are the exact opposite, almost not caring. I’m hoping that I can help people realize some things about their branding, image, and style. Perhaps help them improve their business.
Basically, what I’m trying to illustrate here is that there are certain truths within all aspects of visual art and design. These truths are that certain things just look bad. They make your brand look bad. They make you look less respectable or competent than everyone else vying for business in your overcrowded, oversaturated market (oh, and it is). It’s incredibly easy to turn your image around by starting with making sure that certain elements of your brand are clean and professional.
Make sure your portfolio is clean (as mentioned in the last post). Make sure your images have clean and clear watermarks that don’t interfere with the photo. Hopefully all of your branding is consistent across your different marketing elements (I think I’ll get into this, along with more website thoughts, later in another post, actually).
But most of all. Most importantly. None of this means absolutely anything if your photography isn’t there. The best logo and portfolio design in the world won’t save you if your photos aren’t up to par. Remember that, and always strive to get better.
I wasn’t exactly sure where this post would meander, but I think it covered some good info. I didn’t hit everything I wanted to, but I went into more detail in what I did hit on than I was initially expecting. Eh, I never said I was a great writer, did I?
I do want to get further into some detail with regards to website design, and Facebook. That’s a huge one with me right now – Facebook etiquette and content behavior. And I don’t think I’m going to necessarily restrict that to photographers, because there’s most certainly plenty of small businesses or professionals that I believe really could learn how to make themselves look more professional with only a few changes.
But that will be for a later post…
Hey there strangers, looks like I’ve neglected my poor blog here, and haven’t posted for a while. Silly Facebook, Google+, etc becoming the destinations for everyone’s attention. Not too many people blog anymore other than the big guys, and those addicted to long-form content publishing. But I really would like to get back to posting blogs, and I’ll do my best to stick to it. Although with my luck, this will be the last blog post until the next “Whoa, where have I been?” post. Hah.
This blog post will be divided into a couple parts, which all tie in together. Actually, this turned out to be pretty long on the first part, so it’ll be separate blog posts. Onto post number one!
Part of the reason why I ignored my blog for so long was because I grew disenchanted with it. I revamped the design, and at first I loved it. That faded after a while. Partially because my old host was slow as dog crap, and there were constant WordPress vulnerabilities that kept wreaking havoc on my blog. The other factor (aside from the ease of just posting to Facebook et al) was my portfolio that was shown when someone would reach my domain name. It looked cool, but, it was just a glut of images, and it didn’t really present my work the way I wanted it to, how I saw it in my mind.
The old “original” portfolio was a step in the right direction, but still not quite what I was looking for. It looked great on monitors of all sizes, it’s not using Flash for iPhone/low-powered Android friendliness, and it had the applicable links to my blog, Facebook, and prints site (which is the next online presence I need to revamp). However, there’s over thirty images just sitting there, and they’re all mixed in with each other. Okay, that’s cool and all, but… 30 images? I doubt most people go through more than 10 if they’re just stumbling through randomly. Not to mention the bandwidth required to load all this stuff on a mobile device? Yeah, definitely not what I was looking for.
The image at the top of this blog post is what you now see when you visit http://www.digitalnoisephoto.com. It’s built upon a responsive HTML framework that scales nicely depending on the resolution of the display being used. The images on this page are saved as small as possible while still looking clean on a full 1080p display. I had attempted to implement some tech that would also dynamically decide the resolution of the viewing device and automatically scale the images down (actually resizing them on the fly) as to use smaller-sized images on smaller-sized devices, however it absolutely blasted away my blog functionality. Needless to say, it was scrapped.
But the point is, the new portfolio/landing page accomplishes several things at once:
You’ll notice that the three separate portfolio sections are using the same slideshow mechanisms that the older “large” portfolio used. I really like this slideshow, it’s an export plugin for Adobe Lightroom, and makes things pretty simple. Having it split into three separate categories also makes updating it faster. Need to add one new portrait (which I actually have to do)? Just re-export that one collection in LR, without exporting the other images (which still gets close to about 30 images after culling some out).
At this point, the portfolio/landing page is EXACTLY what I had been envisioning for about a year now, functionality-wise. The design and visual aspects of the landing page I had designed on the fly while creating the page. One of those insanely lucky first-build successes. All in all, I think it communicates the right image for me and my photography. It puts my areas of expertise up front in a visually striking manner without excess bloat slowing down the viewing process, no matter what device you’re on.
All of this creates an image of my photographic entity. Usability, smooth design, and of course the photos themselves. So that will bring us to “image” in general, in part two,
possibly tomorrow. Stay tuned… which is right here!
Hey everyone, quick little update. I’m experimenting with a PhotoShelter account where I can easily facilitate selling prints of my photos:
This will allow me to easily post up batches of photos from concerts, events, and other shoots to make available for print purchases, and rights-managed commercial licensing. It’s definitely not a polished site yet, as I’m still going through the PhotoShelter customization options, and tweaking things here and there, but the photos will be up and purchasable.
If I’ve done a shoot for you and it’s not up here and you would like to purchase prints, let me know and I’ll get them posted for you.
Saturday, October 1st 2011, Crest Theater: Hella Metal Fest 2011 (Facebook Event page). You. Will. Go.
Richard Kokoletsos of the band Memento Mori has been busy organizing one hell of a local metal festival. A few months ago when the festival was announced in its formative stages, I expressed that I wanted to take part of the event somehow. We worked out an arrangement, and I’ll be shooting the show in its entirety as an event sponsor (check the flyer!)
$12 presale/$15 at the door
Here’s the roster for the show at this point:
A Holy Ghost Revival
…Amongst the Undead
At the Crossroads
Nightmare in the Twilight
Out for Blood.
Taunis Year One
The Antioch Synopsis
The Kennedy Veil
The Soothing Sound of Flight
This show is going to be a doozy, if you’re into metal and some great live bands, you cannot beat this bill. Add this to your calendar, say Yes to the Facebook Event page, whatever you have to do, come out to this show and say hi. This will be an epic night of face-melting metal, so don’t miss it!
Two Fridays ago I went out to Downtown Sacramento’s Concerts In The Park on assignment to shoot Agent Ribbons for their welcome-back show. Agent Ribbons was a Sacramento favorite before they relocated to Austin, TX–a very fitting locale for this band.
The opening act of the show was a brother and sister duo, The Dreaded Diamond. Juli on keys/vocals and Tyler on drums. As they started playing, I started shooting; it’s been ages since I’ve shot at Cesar Chavez Park, so it took me a while to get dialed in. But the whole while I kept thinking “These two are really, really good!” Not normally a style I’m down for, The Dreaded Diamond definitely took me by surprise, and I enjoyed the set so much that when after the show Tyler popped up through the crowd and appeared in front of me, demos in hand, I instinctively whipped out a fiver and bought one. Money well spent.
The rest of the show was equally great, and more photos of the show will trickle out slowly. As I said, this was on assignment, and once that magazine is published, I’ll upload more, but until then, the flow will be restricted a bit. Just keep an eye out, and in the meanwhile, go listen to The Dreaded Diamond.
My buddy Josh’s band Misamore had scored a pretty cool second show for the band, being main support for Murderdolls at Ace Of Spades a few weeks back. Murderdolls is Slipknot’s Joey Jordison’s sideproject where he plays guitar. This photo is Wednesday 13, the singer for Murderdolls.
I’d only heard a few songs from Murderdolls before this show, but I enjoyed what I heard. Didn’t know what the show would be like, but it turned out to be really damn good. The band was quite on point, and the crowd was really into it–albeit it was a small crowd, but a fierce one. Unfortunately, I could not get pit access, so I had to shoot from the crowd. While most of the shots were pretty useless, I did get a handful of good ones; Ace Of Spades even put some of them up on the Ace Of Spades Facebook page (haha. That rhymes!).
All in all, had a good time with a new friend, and got some decent photos while supporting an old friend/band, Misamore.
My buddy Josh’s band Misamore had scored a pretty cool second show for the band, being main support for Murderdolls at Ace Of Spades a few weeks back. Murderdolls is Slipknot’s Joey Jordison’s sideproject where he plays guitar. Misamore is a band that has been in a long time coming through various lineups, attempts, and a LOT of effort on Josh’s part–I was even in the band for a very short period of time several years ago. The band has changed musically a lot since then, but still retains the technical proficiency and songwriting that he excels at.
They put on a great show, and I had a blast finally being able to see and photograph them. Unfortunately their set got cut short when Mike’s bass rig suffered a brown-out and wouldn’t turn on again for a while. By the way, Mike is an AMAZING bassist, I’m glad that they got someone so damn good to round out the band.
This is a shot of Josh doing his thing on stage. Be sure to go pick up a copy of their debut album, hit up their facebook page for more info.