“I’m shooting a lot of musicians and again, advertising. What I do shoot does vary but it all falls under either advertising or musician/celebrity portraits.”
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: As a graphic designer, you were approached by a design client to see if you took band photography, correct? If I recall correctly from that interview, your reply to the client was “yes”. Do you recommend young photographers to take that leap of faith when that opportunity presents itself? What were you thinking about when this happened?
I’m not sure if that kind of leap is for everyone. I’ve always been the kind of person who thought they were capable of anything. It’s worked out well for since hopefully I’ve had what it took to back it up. But man a lot of my early work wasn’t so much bad as it was way to safe.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have the photos taken from that first shoot? Are the pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your work today? Can you give us a step by step account of that very first shoot? What were the issues and what did you first learn?
I can dig them up. They are all slides so I would need to get them scanned in somewhere. I got real lucky with that shoot. Slide film is the most unforgiving of all formats. Basically I got hired, took the money I was going to make and bought a Nikon film camera, some slide film, rented some hot lights and did some location scouting. I had no assistant and not much gear other than a Sunpak flash and the rented lights.
It wasn’t a bad shoot but if those guys were comparing the shoot to others they had in the past I’m sure they were scratching their heads while I shot them.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What books did you read at the beginning of your photography career that helped you prepare for today? Title of book, author and price of book please…just messing around, the title of the books should be fine thanks to google search. Do you recall any other resources that you referred to heavily to help you prepare for the photography business? We want to know what the must have resources are to fully equip ourselves when and if we ever plan to take that leap of faith.
Hmmm…i started as graphic designer so a lot of what I learned as as designer really helped me with photography. Even books like “The Designer and the Grid” really helped me later on as a photographer. I’m really not that much of a book reader. I probably learned more from magazines and the Internet. I do think that a lot of what I read was terrible for me as a photographer. The biggest mistake I made as a photographer in the early part of my career was thinking that I “had” to do it the way people were teaching in books, magazines, etc. I didn’t realize there are an infinite number of ways to light someone. I would work so hard to do it the “book”way and thus my work was way too safe.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Can you refresh our memory of that first professional band photography job that fell on your lap as a graphic designer? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? Would you recommend it to new photographers trying to break into the market and that are having difficulty breaking in? Once you had your first job under your belt was it difficult to get another gig? What did you do to acquire more work besides providing awesome images? Have you ever considered being agency represented?
I believe it was a diving gift from God. But I love the quote, I forget who it is that said “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” I believe in luck but not in some mystical way. I believe luck is very practical and anyone can aquire luck. I’ve read studies on why people are lucky and it boils down to not having too much of a routine. People that don’t drive the same way home every day, people that are outgoing and strike up conversations with strangers, people that go to parties, etc end up being “lucky.” The more opportunities you give yourself to create opportunities the luckier you will be.
After that gig i tried to find other bands to shoot. I did find some and just kept at it. I recommend people begin by shooting the people they know, bands, friends, etc and build up a portfolio that way.
The other BIG thing to find a photographer to assist for. You can learn more by assisting than any school.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: After your first job, What was the next photography gig you obtained and how did you go about your execution? Did you apply all that you’ve learned in all the books you’ve read ? Did you buy more books or accessed any more resources to help you jump to your next big step in the game of photography? What tools do you recommend that are a must have that helped you get to where you are present day?
When I started shooting digital hadn’t quite taken hold yet. It was about 6 months after I did my first shoot that the Canon D60 came out. It was a 6 MP DSLR and it was $2,500. I bought it and photography instantly became a lot more easier to practice and learn. We had a darkroom in our house at the time and I basically never used it again.
I never assisted, even though now I wish i had. So I really just kept sitting on the floor of Barnes and Noble for hours on end reading. I don’t remember any names of any books. The only book I still read is one called “Pricing Photography” that is a great resource for learning about the business side of photography.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What else is there that keeps you rolling in the dough? Your brand is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? You have definitely built your brand with your website, blog and giving back to the photographic community like what you are doing here right now. Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers and/or Photographers in general.
Branding is not just a logo but the entire way you run a business. And as a photographer it’s how I live my life in front of others. The way you answer the phone, the way you act on a shoot or even the way you act in front of people in general, is all branding you. The trick is to be consistent with your branding. Your blog, web site, business cards, etc should all look like each other.
I have big advantage being an ex-designer. If a photographer has no design skills I highly recommend them hiring one to do it. I also encourage people to not settle for a template web site like everyone else. If you can afford it or know someone who can do it cheap, design and build a custom web site. This makes you stand out more.
Twitter, Facebook, etc are also good places to build your brand.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I’ve noticed on your site, you have images of Niki Taylor. What photography jobs to that scale are you involved with presently? How do you go about obtaining this type of work? What do you recommend aspiring photographers to do to get them on the right path on becoming a Advertising/Music photographer.
I’ve shot Niki a couple of time and even went to Thailand with her for 10 days. I shoot celebrity types frequently. I just finished up shooting a new Food Network host 2 weeks ago. She will have 2 new shows on the network. I have shoots for record labels and unsigned artists coming up as well as some ad ones. Every shoot is different and I love that facet of photography.
You will only be hired for the kind of work you have in your portfolio. if you have no advertising-looking work the chances of getting hired by an ad agency is slim. I recommend people find out exactly what it is that they want to shoot and then load your portfolio up with that. You can’t just go out and shoot celebrities but you can do personal shoots that looks like ads or no-name musicians. There’s always a way to build your portfolio when you don’t have work.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I just checked out your blog today and came across a youtube behind the scenes footage of your shoot for “Haste the Day” and “Jordan Pruitt”. Do you recommend other photographers to produce these types of videos to show off their work? What benefit do these videos offer you?
Both of those videos I had no part in. I just found those floating around YouTube. But I do record some of my shoots and will be launching GoBehindTheShoot.com very soon. I think videos are a great way to get your name out there, but you have to make sure it’s interesting and educational.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Is having your own studio space essential for any commercial photographer? I see you have a rockin 4,000 square feet studio named Studio Daylight. Absolutely amazing. Other than providing plenty of ambient light, what other benefits does this studio provide you?
Having a studio is a necessity in the dead of Winter or Summer. When it’s freezing or unbearably hot out, people don’t want to be shot outside. A studio also acts as a blank canvas with which you can create any world you want. Even though my studio is very vibey, I treat it as blank white walls. By that I mean, I build sets and such to make it look like I’m not in the same space over and over.
It’s a place you can rely on as a backup solution in case of rain, a place you know you have no matter what. And a place to keep your loads of gear.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What types of commercial/entertainment/misc gigs are you currently involved in now and how did they surface? What are your recommendations on how we photographers diversify their product offering from Commercial and stock in today’s marketplace?
I’m shooting a lot of musicians and again, advertising. What I do shoot does vary but it all falls under either advertising or musician/celebrity portraits. To be successful in photography you really have to find what you want to shoot and only shoot that. If your portfolio contains too many types of work you won’t be hired for any of it. At least not on a national, bigger level. Being diverse does help on a local level or when economic times are real tough. But generally the rule is be known for doing 1 or 2 specific types or work.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: As a key player in the Music/Entertainment photography space, what is next? What are your immediate goals as a photographer and artist? Are you planning on releasing any how-to books? What are your recommendations to people thinking about starting a photography book? Per your blog, it looks like you will be releasing a new education site soon titled “Go Behind the Shoot” for fans of photography, music entertainment. Can you expand more on what this site is and how it will benefit the photographic community?
My immediate goals are to re-analyize my business during this rough economy. I want to make sure I’m doing things as efficiently as possible. Right now, work is becoming a little scarcer to find. You really have to be at the top of your game these days to stand out.
My only real plan is to try to keep getting better and learning more. Anytime a photographer thinks they’ve got it all figured out or doesn’t need to improve, they are serious trouble.
I do have plans for a book but I don’t want to go in to what it is yet. The site, GobehindTheShoot.com will feature behind the scenes shoots of not just me but other photographers. It’s meant to be both entertaining and educational. The videos I do on there will show an actual shoot and while I’m doing the shoot I will give instruction on why I’m doing what Im doing, making the choices that I am, etc.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I think it is safe to say you have a good following of photographers wanting to be just like you. Will you start offering workshops in the future? I know TIME is not your friend, but there are ways to get around that maybe offering internship opportunities to intern with you for a small fee during one of your paid shoots. Or maybe provide an opportunity to be a spectator for one of your weekend shoots? I would definitely be interested in that and sure there are others in the same boat.
I have just started a new workshop called “Light and Commerce.” It’s a one-day workshop that talks both about the practical/technical side of of photography (lighting, posing, etc) and the business side of things (client relations, estimating, etc.)
I’m really excited about doing these, not just in Nashville, but around the country this year. I’m putting up a small web site for the workshop, but in the meantime people can get some basic info on my blog.
I do take on interns but I try to limit the number to 1 or 2 at a time. I am looking for an intern with Photoshop Experience to help me with some of my post-production as well as shoots. I also have a ton of people that want to come out for weekend shoots but I rarely ever shoot on weekends.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: I am sure you’ve read many articles discussing how in the future videography and photography will be one? What are your thoughts on that and how will you evolve to the new morphed medium?
I’m not clear on a timeline but I do see video and photography becoming more of a single business. I sometimes shoot the still photography on a video shoot. But I think the day is coming when clients will just pull hi-resolution stills from the video rather than shot them separately. Cameras like the Red can produce great quality stills from video.
I don’t think everyone will merge the two but those that do will probably be very successful. I really have no desire to get too deep into video other than being a director. I’ve produced and directed videos and it’s been fun but photography is what I enjoy most.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Thinking about the future is very important in any endeavor especially the photography business. What do you suggest photographers do in the future to solidify their presence in the industry? What will you do to ensure that you remain on top, not taking into account your photography style/niche?
That’s a tough question. I’d say there are three things to help you get to the top. The first is to take amazing photos. But that alone wont’ get you too far unless you become a marketing machine. There are some great photographers who never go anywhere because no one knows about them. Then there are average photographers who market really well and become very successful as a result.
The third thing is to learn everything you can about the business and craft of photography. Learn every aspect of it so that when opportunities arise you will ready both in your knowledge and experience.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: DAVID thank you again for your time and giving back to your fans and followers. What would you like to leave for us photographers to think about when moving forward with photography for the future? If you have any words of wisdom will be appreciated.
I would tell people to be true to their own style and not try to copy other people’s. You will never stand out unless you can create a recognizable style that is all your own. I’ve found mine but am always tweaking it to be better and more representative of who I am. You’ll sometimes here the term “point of view” in relation to an artist. Every artist needs to have a POV to their work; how you see the world and how you interpret what you see.
Be flexible, always learning and shoot as much as you can even if it’s just a personal project. And I can’t speak enough of the value of assisting for more established photographers. You can learn sooooo much that way.