It’s a small world…

It’s a small world, or at least it’s a small city, here in Dallas.  I’ve been doing the professional photographer thing for over a decade, and did photo assisting and part-time shooting for several years before that.  I’ve been in this business long enough to meet a LOT of people.  

Tonight, I went to an industry networking event with the wife (who is also connected to the industry), and mingled with potential clients.  We planned to stay for an hour and then head to James Bland’s art gallery opening.  
While mingling, I ran into a few people that I didn’t know I knew, if that makes sense.  I started talking with a woman, and we both realized that we had crossed paths before.  Then I start talking with the woman sitting next to her, and we realize we had met before… somewhere.  We just couldn’t definitively place where or when.
Well, I move on and run into a photographer named Danny.  He mentions something that struck me as familiar, so I ask him his last name.  He says Turner.  Danny Turner!!!  Of course!!!  Wow, it really is a small world…  
Back, maybe twelve years ago, I used to assist James Bland on many of his photo shoots.  He was/is an awesome photog, and that’s why I was excited to go see his art opening.  He used this super-cool stylist a bunch, called Trixie.  Well, that was his nickname for her, so everyone around the set knew here as Trixie.  I was blown away by the stuff she could do during a shoot, and that’s when I first realized the true power of a great stylist on set.  
Well, her husband was Danny Turner.  I never met him (until tonight), but they (Trixie and James) would always discuss all the interesting shoots he was doing, so I felt like I knew a LOT about a guy I’d never actually known.  
Anyway, I connected the dots and realized the woman I talked to a few minutes earlier was Trixie!  I didn’t recognize her real first name when we talked a few minutes before, because I never really knew it.  And it’s been over ten years since I’ve last seen her, so that’s why we knew that we knew each other, but couldn’t place where…  
So, Danny and Trixie asked if we were planning to attend James’ show, and I said, “OF COURSE!”  I go back to mingling with other people at the event, and then the wife and I head out for our next stop.  The gallery show was downtown at the CADD space on main – a pretty nice space, if you ask me.  
We get to the gallery and look over the pieces.  They looked great and I enjoyed the way they were displayed – no frame or mat, just pinned to the walls with hand forged nails.  There were some great pics, by the way.  The wife and I each picked our favs, as we wandered from print to print.  
While at the show, we obviously ran into Danny and Trixie again.  However, I also ran into Lindsay Graham.  I just photographed him a couple weeks ago for Quick.  We talked for a minute and then I said hello to James and it was time to head home.  
Maybe I drew the story out way longer than it had to be.  I guess I could’ve just posted that I ran into Trixie after twelve years, but what would be the fun in that?!?  

Black Book, Dead Book…

This may come as no surprise to many of you, but it sounds like Black Book may be in its last run.  Before I go too far, I will make sure you all know what Black Book is.  Some of you new photogs may not have heard about Black Book or similar industry books, since they have become a “thing of the past”.  

In the old days, you didn’t have such a huge internet presence.  Art buyers, directors, and people in the industry that hired photogs received a sort of “phone book” or “Yellow Pages” to flip through.  They had big ads with your contact info and samples of your work.  They were expensive to advertise in, but could bring you huge jobs and huge returns.  
Black Book was one of a few big books that you wanted to be listed in.  Well, as the internet became more important and traditional books were relied on less, these expensive productions (Black Book looks expensive to make, and it was… nice paper, hard bound, beautiful reproduction) started looking like fossils.  
The 2009 issue of Black Book was delayed, most likely due to lack of ad pages being sold, but is finally coming out.  They trimmed a few months off the expected delay (though many advertisers are still furious that many months have been lost in reaching important new clients), and they sent this message to ASMP members:  

ASMP has received word directly from Black Book that AR 100 and Photography Volume 3 books, that were originally to be distributed in the fall, are now expected to be delivered by theend of MayAdvance copies are in the possession of Black Book and we are told they “look great!”

We have also been informed that the future of The Black Book – in its current form – is uncertain. In any case, we are told that all books will be delivered and ads fulfilled. The website will remain up and running to the end of each and every contract, while next steps for The Black Book are determined.

For any questions, please call Black Book at 212.979.6700.

ASMP will continue to update on this issue as necessary.

Eugene Mopsik Executive Director, ASMP

So, no surprise…  But still sad.  This pretty much states that the last Black Book published will be this year’s issue.  I remember flipping through books like Black Book when I was still just a photo assistant.  I dreamed of having a big two page spread, showing off my work.  I imagined all the New York art directors flipping through its pages, then stopping on my images.  Then I’d get a call from some prestigious ad agency with big news:  “We want you for the new Coca Cola campaign!”  
OK, so I was young and stupid.  But dreams like that fueled my efforts to push for bigger. better work and make a name for myself.  I won’t ever see that spread in an industry book, but that’s OK.  Spending several grand on one would be as silly as buying a big ad in the Yellow Pages today.  When is the last time you thumbed through a Yellow Pages after all?!?  No, not their helpful Yellow Pages website, but an actual, real, big, yellow, fat copy in your hands?  I thought so… is up and running…

Yup, I had a new website built for my wedding and portrait clients.  Most of my work still comes from editorial or corporate shoots, but I’ve always taken an exclusive number of weddings, engagements, and bridal bookings.  I got tired of not having a web presence for these clients to review, so I remedied that problem.  Take a look:  

Let me know what you think.  And it is brand new… freshly created and uploaded, so I’m still beta testing it.  If you spot a bug/problem with the site, let me know ASAP!  I’m trying to run through the website on as many different browsers and computers as possible to make sure it is as compatible/universal as possible, before I add any more images and call it a day.

Professional Photographer’s Invoice…

I can see some very basic information regarding how people discover my blog.  If they arrived via a search engine, it tells me the key word(s) used.  Not so much info that it gets to be Big Brother, but still enough to let me know why people are reading my blog.  

I mention this because there were several searches for creating a professional invoice as a photographer.  I was linked, because I have talked about invoicing in past blog posts.  However, I’ve never discussed it in much detail.  Hopefully, this will help solve that issue…  
I’m including this real invoice to help you get a better idea of what I’m talking about.  You can always scroll up and reference it, if you get overwhelmed by my random and excessive rambling.
Creating an invoice to submit to a company is very easy.  There are several ways to create it – Excel, Word, Fotobiz, Quicken and others.  You choose the program, but the basic info will be the same on all of them.  You need these basic items on it:  
First, your information NEEDS to be listed.  Your name and/or company name, with address and phone number.  Preferably an email address, too.  Why?  Someone in the accounts payable department may have to contact you with a question about payment.  Plus, they need to know who to send the check to.  Often, companies will have one person who hires you for the shoot, and another who pays you.  The payment person may not know how to reach you for questions regarding your check.
Side note: One of my larger clients does all freelance/contract payments by wire transfer to your checking account.  no paper check is mailed anymore.  They REQUIRE your email address to notify you when the transfer has been made.  Try to put it on ALL invoices these days.
Second, many big companies want your social security number, or your employer identification number (the company’s equivalent of a SSC).  I put this on all my B2B invoices.  The advantage of getting an EIN is that you aren’t giving your personal SSC to everyone in the world, and it doesn’t really complicate tax time having two numbers to report.
Side note:  When I first started out as a pro, I had a registered business name, an EIN, and my camera.  I thought I was ready to go.  My invoices had the words “make check payable to Jason Janik”.  It’s funny how many people miss that and still sent a check made out to Janik Photography.  This was a problem, since I did not yet have a business banking account in the Janik Photography name, just my personal account.

This raises the question: Do you want to put your DBA on the invoice if you don’t yet have a banking account with that name?  You might want to go to your bank and open a business account ASAP.  
The next thing you will want on your invoice is your client’s info.  I put the business name, an attn: Joe Blow, company address, and company phone number.  The attn name is important, since many companies are huge and you’ll need your main point of contact (like an editor or art director) listed.  
Next, you need a date.  This one is self-explanatory.  Put the date you create the invoice.  Sometimes, I have several days of shooting on one invoice, so a shoot date wouldn’t really be best.  
Next, you need an invoice number.  I was taught this trick YEARS ago.  Use a date and a three digit code for your invoice numbers.  Always set your date as YYMMDD001, so all your invoices can be easily organized from year to year.  If you have three shoots to invoice in one day, let’s say May first of this year, your invoices would be labeled 090501001, 090501002, and 090501003.  Get it?  I doubt you’ll ever write more then 999 invoices in one day, so this system should be bulletproof.  
Next, list the product sold.  I put a quantity, which might be the number of hours shot at a corporate event… let’s say four in this example.  Then a description, let’s say it is labeled as “Standard Corporate/PR Photography Per Hour”.  Then you have a space for the price.  My services start at $200 per hour, so a total of four hours for basic shooting might read as $800.  
Of course, you might have other charges or misc fees, like parking, shipping, rentals, or travel to add in.  All that would be listed the same way:  quantity of product, product description, and price per unit.  
Next, I have a spot where I can list misc details.  I might put information about the shoot there, or I might list an important order number that the client needs listed on the invoice for their internal tracking.  Either way, you have an extra space to add info, if needed.  
Next, you have a subtotal, so take that $800 for shooting, the $10 for parking, and the $20 for fedexing the images and add it all up.  That equals $830.  But you aren’t done yet!  What about state sales tax?  
State sales tax is best described by your state’s official website.  Every state is different, and I can’t begin to discuss all the variations in percentage rates and rules.  Add to the fact that many business clients won’t have to pay state sales tax, and it gets even more complicated.  If the business has a State sales tax and use permit, they may not be required to pay tax on your service.  Read more about the Texas laws here:  Sales Tax  
Side note:  Most of my clients are businesses with this permit, and are using my images to create a larger product for resale (like a newspaper with my images in it).  This is one way that sales tax would NOT be applied, but again, read your state’s official rules to understand it better…  
OK, so, let’s say you took photos for a client who is using the images in the packaging of their product for sale, and they provided you with their state sales tax permit number.  You won’t add tax to your invoice, so you put a final Grand Total of $830.  Done!  Now email, fax, or mail it over and wait about 30 to 45 days for the check to arrive.

Texas Music Photographer shoots the Art World…

Be there, or be square:  

Texas Artists’ Portraits, Part One by James Bland is opening at the CADD Gallery in downtown Dallas on Thursday, April 30. Opening party is between 6-9 p.m.  

I used to work with James as an assistant (a LOOONG time ago), and there are so many of his music images that I absolutely adored.  I can only imagine how great this show of the Texas art community will be!  Seriously, if you want to see some amazing images of Texas icons, you NEED to stop by and look at this show.

Karaoke Kings!!!

I’m pretty pleased with the way my karaoke pics turned out in the current issue of Quick.  Let me know what you think, too…  

These were shot on location at the Winedale Tavern on lower Greenville Ave.  I actually brought in my Profoto AcuteB light kit and a softbox to shoot the cover image.  The bar is pretty tiny, so it was cramped quarters, trying to shoot with my strobes/softbox taking up space.  
I put a bare bulb behind the subject and dragged my shutter to pick up some of that beautiful, rich, natural light and color coming from the neon signs.  I think it’s a good balance of strobes and natural light.  It feels very “hole in the wall bar” to me…  and that’s exactly what the Winedale is.

Shooting on a white seamless…

I was thinking about writing up a little tutorial on how to shoot on a white seamless background.  Then I found a link to someone who wrote it up about ten times better than I had planned.  His is so detailed, it has FIVE parts to it!  

Heck, I even picked up a tip or two, like the cheap Home Depot tile board as a shiny floor?!?  Great idea!  Anyway, take a look at this tutorial, and love it!  It has my seal of approval… 

What camera should I buy?!?

I get asked this question all the time:  What camera should I buy?  Sometimes it is a variation of that question, like: What brand camera is the best?  Either way, it’s basically the same idea.  What camera will make me a better photographer?  

It doesn’t really work that way…  at least not the way you think.  Certain cameras may have features that make them more appealing to specific shots.  Like a Nascar series photographer might ant the fastest frame rate available, and Canon has a nice EOS 1D mkIII that shoots ten frames per second.  But a portrait shooter might prefer Nikon’s lenses or color rendering capability, over Canon’s high speed.  Or, a street shooter might want something small and discrete, like a Leica rangefinder.   
The idea is that the camera is just a tool, like anything else.  Some brands are better quality than others.  Some brands are more expensive than others.  Some brands are more popular than others.  However, a good photographer can put almost any camera to good use.  
Here’s an example…  
This photo was taken with a $50 Russian TLR.  I like the image and think it is very moving.  I didn’t need a $3,000 camera to take this image.  As a matter of fact, the image would’ve lost some of its intimacy with a super-sharp lens and light leak-free body.  
The image below was shot with a plastic Holga camera that cost me about $15 (they were very cheap at one point in time, before all the college art students started buying them).  The Holga’s shortcomings are actually what make this image stronger.  The fade to black around the edges and the softness give the image a dreamy quality.  Try to reproduce this on a Canon or Nikon without excessive photoshopping…
This final image was taken with a free camera.  I built a pinhole camera myself, using a throw-away antique film holder, scrap wood and a used piece of pie tin. Oh, and some glue and tape, too.
So, you can see the idea of “what camera should I get” can be taken to an extreme by building your own.  There are certain features or qualities that might make a certain model or brand seem better-suited to you, but it’s really the person behind the camera that matters.

When to pull the trigger…

Now, I’m not the best sports photographer around, but I know a thing or two about the subject.  Even though I focus my efforts on music, performance, and lifestyle photography, I have shot more sporting events than I can remember.  It’s just a fact of life that a photojournalist will wind up covering some sport for a newspaper or magazine from time to time.  
When considering sports photography, there are a few things to keep in mind.  One, where can you position yourself that will not interfere with the game, will keep you safe (a ball to the head is not a good thing), and will get the best pictures?  Often, there will be a designated spot for the media to stand, though the smaller events will be more flexible.  
Another thing to consider is when do you actually press the shutter button?  This may sound obvious, but you need to really think things through.  Today’s cameras can take several images in the blink of an eye.  Many decent models will shoot five frames per second, and some models will double or triple that number.  Sound fast?  Well fast is never fast enough.  
This is why you need to combine those fast frame speeds with a logical plan of action.  If you are shooting golf (like I was for this charitable tournament recently), there will be a VERY short window of opportunity to capture the action.  If you shoot too soon, you may miss the peak of energy/excitement/emotion in the swing, capturing a non-climactic shot.  If you shoot too late, well, you probably missed everything!  
Let’s look at these samples of the most basic and fundamental golf shot, the first swing from the tee:  
The first two images show a golfer hitting the ball.  Even though I captured the ball launching off the tee in the above image, I prefer the second image.  The first image shows very little movement.  The ball is moving and a back leg has some twist to it.  The rest of the body and the club are all in line with each other.  The golfer could almost be standing still from what you see.  
The second image has that classic golf pose, with a nice arched back, leg kicked out, and the club behind his head.  You can tell he just swung hard and is tracking the ball’s flight.

Again, look at the two shots below.  One is taken just before the ball was hit.  You get a sense of movement, but something feels lacking.  The ball is just sitting there.  In golf, you imagine a ball zipping through the air or rolling down a green.  The second image was shot just a hair too late to capture some of the tense muscles and grimaced face associated with the swing, but it does have a lot going for it.  The golfer and his partner are looking down the fairway, so your eye is led to an imagined ball down towards the green.  There is still a nice shape to the golfers body.  I would definitely choose the second shot over the first.

Here is an example of a golfer shot right at the moment he hits the ball (above) and a golfer finishing his swing (below).  Both have tense muscles and intense faces.  You can tell some force is being used to drive the ball.  
However, the top image only has that intensity going for it.  The ball has barely moved from the tee and the golfer is in a very boring position.  If he wasn’t tensed up, you would’ve thought he was just lining up for a practice swing.  The club is sitting in a position normally associated with resting or aiming, not smacking a ball into next week.  
The bottom image has the tensed face, legs and arm muscles, but also has that same arched back, kicked out leg, and flying club.  You can tell the golfer just hit a long one, and it’s screaming down the fairway.

And these last two shots show a variation on the classic golf shot.  They have the same wonderful body position as the other “good” shots, but they also have some extra details.  The top image has some grass and dirt flying up off the ground.  It helps to show that a mini-explosion just hit where the ball once sat.  The bottom image shows a tee floating in the air.  It is proof that a gigantic force just came barreling through, kicking up the tee as the ball takes off.

Don’t think I’m suggesting that every golf shot should be taken in this exact pose.  There are an infinite number of ways to capture the action of the game.  Instead, I’m just taking one of the most basic positions for photographing the game and pointing out the minor details that can make a shot seem average vs. great.  This should be the first shot you learn and the first shot that you take.

Once you get this idea down, then you can start looking for creative spots behind sand traps, on greens, or even in between holes to capture the full game.  But, I wouldn’t star playing around until you know you can capture this “golf 101” shot without fail.  If you can’t get this fundamental image captured, you aren’t ready for the next step…

Mosh pit, anyone?

It’s been a while since I’ve been to the Curtain Club. It’s a small hard/heavy rock music club in Deep Ellum. Last night, I went to take photos of Ugly Mus-tard – a Dallas industrial band (think Nine Inch Nails, but heavier). They were pretty popular in the late 1990’s, with some decent airplay and successful tours of the US and Europe.  The band reunited this year, so now there’s plenty of new opportunities to be pummeled by loud music and wild audience members!

Ugly Mus-tard’s shows are usually pretty energetic, to put it lightly.  There’s a lot of pushing, shoving, and moshing in front of the stage, so I was tossed around a bit.  However, I think I came out of the mess OK…    

I’ll be writing a review and running one of my photos of the concert in a local music mag.  In the meantime, here are a few pics from the show: