original photographers

Paid Stuff and Fun Stuff

Paid Stuff vs Free Stuff

Working on personal projects is something I still try to do, it’s very important to me. I also believe it plays an important part in developing your own style, staying creatively motivated, exploring new ideas and learning new things…I try hard to produce personal projects fairly regularly, even when I’m busy with actual work. I try to produce and post something usually once or twice a week.

GIF artist Al Boardman talks about personal projects in a way a lot of artists do: It’s important to do the fun stuff and the paid stuff.

The paid stuff keeps the lights on, but the personal stuff keeps you, you.

And it’s usually the personal work that makes people sit up, take notice, and ask if you’re for hire.

A Confession


University of Michigan Museum of Art

Sometimes, when I just need to unwind at work, or kill some time in the grocery line, I’ll look at the For Sale board on Fred Miranda.

I don’t need anything, and I’m sure as heck not going to buy anything. But it’s fun to read the equipment listings, especially when I don’t recognize something. That’s always a good research opportunity, and I love few things more than doing research.

Granted, I have picked up a few good finds on Fred Miranda. My go-to Canon 5D is from that listing board, as was my Fuji X-E1 and my 20mm lens.

I look at Fred Miranda like a car person reads a hot rod mag. No harm in that.

My Two Wedding Photography Rules

Jolly Pumpkin - Ann Arbor, Michigan

This weekend I’m shooting my once-per-year wedding gig.

I have two rules for photographing someone’s wedding:

  1. I have to know you.
  2. I have to like you.

Those stipulations help me to be super picky about the gigs I agree to take.

I don’t need the income. I don’t need the images for my portfolio. I see it as a way to use my skills for someone I know and like.

It’s also fun as hell.

Other Art

Check out other art other than your own.

If you’re a photographer, do you only check out other photographers’ work? Is there value in digging into architecture, say, or sculpture?

I follow lots of photographers whose work I enjoy. Usually, their work is so different from mine. Lately, I’m trying to follow other artists, too, just to get a broad view of the creative world. Photography is great, but so is music, dance, painting, film.

Artists have a lot to learn from each other.

Don’t be afraid to stretch beyond your own artistic corner of the world.

Just Another Asshole

Just Another Asshole

A year or two ago, I thought about doing a book called “So You Bought a Fancy Camera.” It would be for friends who had just bought a DSLR or mirrorless camera and needed to get started with the basics.

Instead, I spent my time making another book (and another after that), covering something other than how-to material, and I feel like that was time better spent.

Who needs another asshole talking about focal length?

Break Time

Break Time

Jon Wilkening is taking a much-needed break from his work, and from social media, this month.

Good for him. And it’s such a Today thing to do. I’ve seen so many blog posts lately where the authors are taking the month of July and turning off all social media.

I do that from time to time, usually on vacation or around the holidays. I find that I usually don’t miss much, and what I do miss, I don’t know any better.

Taking breaks from your hobby can be helpful, too. Last winter, after I finished my portrait project, I needed to step away from photography and recharge. The same thing happened this spring when I got my new job: my brain needed to work out other things than exposures and apertures.

So take a breather. And don’t feel guilty about it.

On More vs Just Enough

More vs Just Enough

More is a losing sum game. Once you get more, you only continue to want more. We’re pre-wired this way.

Jason Zook writes that “just enough” is good enough. Just enough followers, just enough leisure time, just enough income to be comfortable.

How does this relate to photography and creativity?

Think about all the stuff surrounding photography. More lenses, more Lightroom presets, more training videos, more lighting rigs. More, more, more.

It’s tough. I feel it myself, every time I see a 135mm lens for sale on Fred Miranda, or when a photographer I enjoy releases a new preset pack.

But then I think: Will this help? Will I actually use it?

When will enough be enough?

Lots of people can make money off of your feelings of inadequacy, or your gear lust. Next time you get the itch, try turning that around and say, “With what I have right now, I’m going to make something that someone will want from me.”

[via Jon Wilkening’s retweet]

Nothing To Do With Thinking

On Thinking

“Painting has nothing to do with thinking, because in painting thinking is painting. Thinking is language – record-keeping – and has to take place before and after. Einstein did not think when he was calculating: he calculated – producing the next equation in reaction to the one that went before – just as in painting one form is a response to another, and so on.”

– Gerhard Richter

So it goes with making anything, from photographs to ceramics.

You don’t do by thinking. You just do.

On Audiences


On Audiences

When I finished my Artists In Jackson portrait project, I wrote a lengthy piece on some lessons I learned from the work. Part of that, “Thinking About Your Audience,” was a reflection on how I think about who’s going to care about what I make:

If you’re well-connected and well-known, this may not be such an issue for you. Your art may already have an audience. But if you’re a first-timer like me, this audience stuff matters. I didn’t want to make something and have it flop.

In other words, who do I hope sees this?

Now, that doesn’t affect the actual portraits I make. Those are all mine, with no thought on what’s “marketable.” Style, subject, composition – that’s all me.

But when I bundle all these things together, I do think about who will be interested. When I’m done, who do I send this to first?

Part of me feels like a “sellout” for thinking that way. After all, should it matter who sees what I make? Who cares if it’s “marketable?”

For one: me. And for two: Many of my projects have a community focus. If I’m highlighting local artists, say, or people with fun hobbies, then I want to make sure those people are recognized by their communities, big or small.

I get some benefit out of that, sure. But so do the people I showcase. “Here,” the project says, “look at these folks who are just like you and do something interesting.”

For the portrait project, my audience was both my hometown and the artistic community within Jackson. For my Albion Anagama documentary, the audience was the Albion community and the ceramics community, plus alumni from Albion College.

Yes, the stuff I make matters to me, first and foremost.

In second place is the audience.