Dec 272011

So, it’s the end of the year and the customary thing is to write a retrospective blog post about the best of the year. I’m not gonna do that. 2011 was a productive year for me–it was the first year I made my entire living by making photos and music. I made some great strides forward in my work, and learned some things about myself. But I also got divorced, which essentially required a total reboot of life as I knew it. So the success was bittersweet, to say the very least.

Plus, I am not a retrospective kind of person. I’m always looking ahead, sometimes past the project I’m currently working on. It’s both a blessing and a curse: it fuels my creativity and drives me to work hard but it can keep me from focusing on the project in front of me and doing the best work I can at the time. When I walked away from my day job in 2009, I had set the end of 2011 as the tipping point–if I wasn’t turning a profit by then…er…now, I was gonna pack it up and head back to a desk job. Well now that I have reached that goal, I am reassessing my priorities and business plan.

So, with that in mind, I present this post. The photos you see are my faves from the year, but that is the limit of my hindsight. I’d rather look ahead to the next year with some goals in mind. I refuse to call these resolutions, as I reserve that term for things like “go to the gym more” and “eat less bacon”. Instead, these are concrete goals that I will be focusing on in order to improve my work and therefore my business.

It’s time for me to quit treating video like a toy and embrace it fully. I have several projects in mind that will both challenge me and expand my ability to tell a story with images, as well as provide me with a platform that marries both of my creative energies: music and images. Hopefully it pays off with bigger, better clients and bigger, better paychecks.

Whether with stills or video, I want to improve my ability to tell a story, convey an emotion, elicit a response. For me, this requires more planning ahead. Instead of showing up to a band promo shoot and just winging it, I want to have some images in my head before I arrive. Or at least a concept or parameters within which to shoot. I pride myself on my ability to work quickly and improvise under pressure (no doubt something I gleaned from my musical background), and there are times when I absolutely must rely on that skill. But I have realized that any time spent on pre-production pays off immensely. Which brings me to…

My friend Jon Gayman told me recently that he was shocked at how quickly I work compared to him. When I heard that, I was flattered for a second but then I realized that a nagging hunch had been confirmed: sometimes I work too fast. I know that my images sometimes suffer because I am trying to make too many of them, or I am too busy trying to make some insane lighting scheme work and only have a limited time with my subject. Which brings me to…

A cornerstone of my work is high quality lighting, and sometimes that requires managing a complex setup while simultaneously working with my subject. And since I’m not usually working with a budget that allows for hiring assistants, it means that I have to nerd out on my lighting while a subject sits there wondering why their time is being wasted. The solution to this is for me to work much harder on managing my subject, keeping them genuinely engaged while I am dicking around in a speedlight menu or adjusting a light stand. And whenever possible…

Not to sound like a Zack Arias sycophant yet again, but sometimes one light is all you really need. Sue me–the guy inspires good things in me.

In my past life, I was a sales and marketing pro for 17 years. Now that I have spent 3 years building my photog skills, it’s time to harness my background to crank things up business-wise. I’ll continue to improve my imaging chops of course, but I was a businessman once and will be again. I’ll just be wielding a camera and drumsticks instead of a necktie and khakis.

Yeah. I will be playing a lot more music next year. 2012 is gonna be busy. And busy is good.

 Posted by at 10:50 am

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