Pandemics seem to suck a lot of the energy and enthusiasm out of most folks. But in all honesty, the past year has enriched me with a renewed energy for making a difference in my work. Going from general photography work where a typical client could be a magazine, a retail store or maybe an artist to distilleries, breweries and wineries has been a wonderful transition.
For an entire year, I've been striving to improve my skills in the recording of a variety of bottles from many a brewery, winery etc. It's been a blessed experience and a mountainous challenge. Glass bottles with their great variety, labels that are made of so many different materials all present challenges.
In the local area I've had the pleasure to work with vineyards to document their product for social media and online catalogues, distilleries to show off their fresh new branding design and breweries to provide images of new products for a variety of online and offline presences. I've even received invitations to visit manufacturing facilities in order to document processes and day to day activities. The variety of projects is widely varied.
What I have recognized in my new attention to the industry, is that across social media channels, many of the images being posted have a fairly similar character. To the point that it kind of all looks like a single person is providing the majority of the imagery. This is the type of work I am doing my darndest to avoid as I find my visual voice in an already saturated marketplace.
I read a book by Seth Godin which speaks of the importance of creating a "purple cow" in order to be noticed when the markets are filled to the brim. When there are more providers of a service or product than the demand is calling for. The idea is that in order to stand apart, such as if you were raising cattles for example, you would need something that immediately grabs attention and is wholly remarkable. Worthy of making a remark about. A cow that is purple, would be such a thing.
My goal, even though I may never achieve it, is to create something that is remarkable. A purple cow so to speak.
I want my drinks photography to have a special character which immediately identifies it as something only I could have created.
It's a daunting task, but one well worth the time and effort required.
Excuse me while I attend to my purple cow project.
I've much preparation to do.
Have a great spring.
For those of you who enjoy photography as a hobby alone, and don't intend to make money from commercial projects, you probably don't have this problem.
Projects executed for commercial clients in most cases require an estimate or quote in order to get approval for the job. I've always found putting these things together to be a big pain. Of course the estimate I submit is never certain to be accepted, and some folks like to haggle in order to get more out of me for even less investment.
That's okay, I suppose.
It's actually expected in certain societies that the parties involved will toss numbers back and forth for days until they both come to agreement. That being said, it's not always appreciated that the interested prospect doesn't believe that the price I quote is a valid one. Or the "final" or "best" price.
When coming up with the quote, I look at all the factors involved including the value that the prospect can expect to get on the publishing of the image(s).
I need all the details in order to provide an accurate and fair quote for each job. Hence, lots of questions should be expected. It would be misguided and amateurish of me, and in fact any commercial photographer, to spit out a quote on a job before getting al the information around that job.
I would assume those in other service industries do the same in the course of quoting a job, whether they be small or large in production. Not knowing how big the job is, what the images will be used for, for how long etc. could lead to a job quote that has the potential to be terribly over or under-priced. It could also adversely affect the future business potential of the photographer.
The struggle is real.
Knowing all the details leads to accurate, fair quotes for jobs. Full stop.
If you have ever come across an apparently still image with a tiny section that moves (suddenly), you've probably discovered a cinemagraph.
I think they are wonderful tools for grabbing attention.
Basically, these are still images combined with video and the appropriate areas are blocked out. Cinemagraph, is a blend of the words "cinema" and "photograph". You can easily see how these work to make sense considering the result.
Here is a link to my newest cinemagraph on my Youtube channel.
I have a feeling that there will be more to come.
This is an offering that I plan to provide clients in the near future once I get my skills to the point of full comfort of execution.
Let me know what you think.
There comes a time when you, as a creator should come up with a few words that define your "style" or "look". This year I decided that my "style" is something that I would call "Dramatic Minimalism".
When you scan my portfolio I hope that you come to the same conclusion.
Keeping the viewer's attention where it needs to be is what my work is all about.
As it changes, grows, matures and becomes a metamorphosis of its former self, viewers will see how
I myself have changed and grown as a photographer.
I dearly appreciate you for visiting.
Thank you for looking.
Admittedly, I am not a stickler for perfect colour when it comes to my own personal work, but when I am taking on a commision that's another matter altogether.
There are one or two things that really bother me when I see a photograph of a scene or product, and knowing that the colour is off is certainly one of those 2.
It doesn't happen too often but when it does, I cringe.
I've even taken to downloading the culprit image and working on it in software to see how much I can correct it. Given that it is always a low-resolution jpeg file, the results are usually rather crap but it's satisfying to know that my estimation is generally very close to exact.
What's worse is when I see images by "professional" photographers, usually portrait shots that the shooter is using to market their services with. My glob, what were they thinking? It's criminal. Just criminal.
A couple of years ago I was lucky to have had the opportunity to document the paintings of a local artist. Such projects are heavily dependent on the ability to record perfect colour. These images are used for sales material, submissions to competitions and galleries etc. If I were to screw up the colour, it would have been disastrous for the artist and most surely would have put a big stain on my reputation.
There are techniques and tools to ensure good colour that every photographer should be aware of. In my case, I come from a studio skills education background. I learned how to print in colour as well, having been trained by a life-long photographer Rafael Goldchain (look him up). I can't say that printing is an enjoyable process, but it did instill in me the desire to "get it right" .
One of the key tools I employ is a colour chart that holds industry standard colour chips. Xrite colour checker in the passport size. It goes to me on every shoot (almost). In the studio I'll pop it into the scene either before I start shooting the subject or at the end before I tear down. Notably, If I have to change lights mid-shoot, I'll shoot an additional colour checker to make sure I have all the information I need for success.
Secondly, in order to work on the images on my equipment, it is paramount that my monitors are calibrated regularly for accurate colour. I do this process at least every month and certainly before I work on a job for a client. This way there can be no doubt in my mind that the images I deliver are colour accurate each and every time. I use the iStudio system from Xrite to do this. Plugging it into the system and following the instructions makes for a pleasant task that even I can do in little time.
Looking for that signature style of work is one of those, long drawn out processes that never seems to be far from my mind.
Taking the hint from a choice few successful photographers, and artists (including musicians) I've been on the path of signature creation for the past few years. I'm truly not sure if I have settled for any one style of shooting, but I am recently recognizing work that I know is NOT what I would like to call my style. Most of it is typical of that shown on Instagram and similar public forums. After a while (and a few hundred images) they all kind of look like they came from the same source.
There's just not anything "unique" about them.
Sometimes I find myself stopping in the middle of a shoot once I realize that the image on the screen looks not unlike everything on the Instagram feeds. It screams copycat and I instantly put a halt to the process.
The last thing I want to create is something bland and without merit. The status quo deserves zero attention. The purple cow deserves all my attention.
Whenever I grab a new bottle I am interested only in creating more of that elusive purple cow goodness. If I'm only making images that allow me to "fit in", I'm inevitably making no progress.
Don't know what I mean by "purple cow"?
Take a few minutes to search for the book by Seth Godin, called "Purple Cow". If you want to make any headway as a creator, entrepreneur, business owner etc, go grab a copy. You'll be thanking me later.
Anyway, searching for style is another way of saying that I'm always hoping to create that purple cow. The work that stands apart, and deserves comments and attention. Work that is remarkable. Work that is worthy of making a remark about. It's this sort of art that spreads amongst a choice audience.
I am not trying to appeal to a big audience. That, after all would be a fool's errand and would lead to going absolutely no place.
Making art for the smallest viable market would be the smartest action for me and for you, if you are intent on gaining the attention of a certain market. As I go through this process, it seems that with each image I create, I am getting closer to the type of work that speaks to me and is a strong representation of my "style". The work that is worthy of remark.
Today it is a bottle of scotch whisky. Tomorrow it might be some rum or a cold glass of beer. The niche is obvious but the style is still a challenge.
I recently took the time to photograph a Canadian bottle of apple cider here in The Tiny Studio Peterborough.
Glad I did.
Afterwards, I popped it in the fridge and allowed it to cool to a decent temp. The next day at lunch, out it came.
Coupled properly with a turkey wrap and a salad, this cool and crisp cider from No Boats On Sunday was an excellent drink.
I was able to finish the entire bottle, without feeling dragged down as alcohol is known to affect me.
The alcohol by volume is a respectable level, so I was completely clear to drive and could get back to work without consequences. Light and delish, is how I would describe it. It is without a doubt my favourite cider now.
Not as sweet as some, not as boozy as others.
Okay, back to work.
Wine photography, beer and all that sort of product photography is a never-ending process of dealing with reflections. With that a photographer is also constantly controlling shadows, shapes, colours and more in the process of building a photograph.
Personally I enjoy having the control of all these elements.
Making changes in your life is, I think, an important and never-ending process as we grow and experience "life".
What I have decided to undertake this year constitutes a substantial change in my career as a photographer, and probably as a person.
Over the year I will be endeavouring to go back to my roots as a studio product photographer and build my skills in the realm of drinks photography. I will be concentrating on this niche as a way to differentiate myself from the masses, as well as give me the ability to do work that I can produce without the limitations of mobility, space and social restrictions.
It occurs to me that way back in college, I had aspirations to be a "food photographer" upon graduation. Well, that didn't quite pan out as expected and I found myself doing odd jobs as well as assisting an interiors photographer for a number of years.
Coming full circle, I find myself needing to reorganize in order to make myself relevant. In the immortal words of Seth Godin, I hope to create a "purple cow". If I remain in my current situation, I am going to remain virtually invisible. Not good if one wants to eat.
An image (or other media) each week is my goal. I want to post something that gets attention and keeps my name in front of interested eyeballs. So far, I've been achieving that milestone. Along the way I've been learning and re-learning more about lighting reflective surfaces, stop-motion animation, retouching and post-production skills and more.
Whomever said that "photography is easy, anybody can do it just grab your mobile", needs a serious slap in the head. This is nothing but a skillful profession that is not for the weak of heart or spirit.
Watch for more work from me in the realm of drinks photography, as I phase out of portraits over the year.
Photo-Artist working a personal vision.
For those of us interested in better marketing techniques, get this book.