“I sort of just slipped into photography and went straight to school, as soon as I decided to get serious about it.”
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: In your early years of high school, were you involved in the yearbook ? What sparked your interest in photography? Do you recommend all the weekend photographers out there to initially stick with the subjects they know and build from there? Do you have any suggestions on how to build that progression? How did you progress to where you are today?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I sort of stumbled onto photography fairly late in life, and I didn’t start shooting till 2000. I was always very attracted to the photographic image, but had up until that point focused my own creative energy on writing. It was during a work project, when I found myself looking for stock photography, that I heard about the then brand new iStockphoto. That got me started, but for the first couple of years I was just playing around with it, learning by doing, mostly.
Then in 2003, the IT industry was still reeling after the dot com bubble burst, and the design team I was on got the cut. Freshly laid off and in the mood for change, I went back to school to study photography. I took classes, learning about color theory, lighting and refining the craft itself, and the knowledge improved my work greatly. There is no doubt that it pushed me to the next level (I attended 2 years’ worth and never actually graduated, but that’s a whole other story).
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Do you still have photos taken from the early years when it all started? What were your subjects? Are the pictures online to share with everyone to compare with your work today?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: No. I don’t think there is any of my earliest ‘work’ to see any more. I started uploading my pictures to iStockphoto almost the same day, I picked up my first digital camera, but those early snapshots, which is really all they were, have been taken down a long time ago. I had a lot of fun taking those pictures, but no real idea what the hell I was doing.
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.
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I didn’t read very many books. Not at first. I just picked up the camera and started shooting. I did read a lot of tutorials online, mostly on post processing and the more technical aspects of digital photography. Not necessarily the most efficient way to learn, I might add.
My favorite books are not textbooks, but the ones that show actual photographs. I’ve never read a photography textbook from cover to cover, but have used a great many as reference or to study specific techniques. As for titles, I can’t you a single one. In the case of coffee table style books, I pretty much go by artist, the occasional theme or genre. In the case of textbooks, I check online reviews and blogs.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What was your very first professional photography job? Was this purely out of luck that you were at the right place at the right time? Was there a hidden plan to penetrate the market from within? 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? If you are agency represented how did you attract a photography agent?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I sort of just slipped into photography and went straight to school, as soon as I decided to get serious about it. Some time along the way, I started getting the occasional job. At first I shot for free, or maybe trade, and eventually I ended up getting money out of it. But I have never focused on the business aspect very much. For me it has always been about creating. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember the first time someone actually paid me for a picture. I’m pretty sure it was in 2003 and either a head shot or a band shot. It started with friends, then friends of theirs and so on.
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?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: The number one tool is your eye. The second is your trigger-finger. Then your camera. Then Photoshop. It’s expensive, yes, but worth it. Bite the bullet, buy it and learn how to use it properly. It will make you back the investment in no time. Anyone working with digital imagery should know Photoshop.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What keeps the money rolling?Your brand is possibly a huge factor to your longevity? Am i right? Do you have any recommendations on brand building for weekend photographers and/or Photographers in general.
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I have based my business of the odd mix of internet sales and word of mouth. I’m a big believer in social media, and in taking part in the photography community. There are a million ways to do it, and I’ve tried a bunch, but number one is without a doubt Twitter (www.twitter.com/theprint). My network has grown immensely, since I started tweeting. It has led to everything from project partners to paying clients – and it’s fun.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is currently in your photography bag? Please be as detailed as possible for those starting out photographers that want to be just like you. From your photography equipment arsenal, what do you bring most of the time for your commercial shoots?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I mostly shoot with a Canon 5D and 24, 50 and 85mm prime lenses. Most of the time, I either use existing light, sometimes with a reflector. Indoors, I might bounce a single speedlight for casual shooting or set up a couple of monolights.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What is your favorite image in your current portfolio and why? How did you approach the execution? Give us a glimpse on how you construct an image from scratch.
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I don’t have a single favorite image. Not of my own or other people’s. There are simply too many amazing photographs in the world, to think of them that way. Different images have different qualities that set them apart from any other picture ever taken. Even if it is similar to a million other photographs, it still tells its own story. Those are my favorite images, and that is what I look for, when I compose a shot. Hopefully, some day I’ll get it.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Is having your own studio space essential for any commercial photographer. Do you have a photography studio of your own? If so, what do you look for in a photography studio?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I don’t have a studio at this time, nor do I want one. Most of my work is on location, so for that reason alone, it just would not be worth the investment for me. When I do need a studio, I simply rent one.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: What types of commercial 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?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I decided that in 2009, I would focus less on my stock photography, which took up most of my time in ‘05-’08. So, I’ve been working on a number of personal projects, such as ’12 Seattleites’ (www.12seattleites.com) and a retrospective book about my first few years, coming to and settling in the US. As far as recommendations go, mine is to look for opportunity where ever you can, but don’t lose yourself in trying to find the next big thing. Do what you love, do it well and tell the world about it. That and persistence is all you need.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: 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?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: It’s so easy to release books these days, I think everyone should do it. Even if they just do it for themselves. There is something very cool about holding a book, however small, of your own work. As I mentioned above, I am working on two book projects right now, though both are of the artsy persuasion. When it comes to the more technical writing, I think my blog will be plenty of work (www.rasmusrasmussen.com). Maybe I’ll make a ‘best of’ book with some of my posts one day.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: A lot of professional photographers are starting to run workshops. 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?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: I have done workshops in the past, and I still offer portfolio coaching for microstock photographers. I enjoy this kind of work and at some point, I might very well run more workshops. I have a few ideas, but nothing I am ready to share yet.
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 know you currently do some video work but how do you plan on taking that to the next level?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: My approach to video is the same, as it was with still photography. I play with it, learn by making mistakes, invest as I improve. Eventually, I would love to work with it on a more serious level, but in the end it really is a very different medium, so for the moment, I’ll keep playing.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Ok so 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 niche?
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: It bears repeating: Do what you love, do it well and tell everyone about it. If you just want to make money, you are in the wrong line of work. If you truly want to solidify yourself and be a presence, you have to create unique and memorable work first. Then find the best commercial outlets for that work. I think the key is to understand where your work fits, what your niche is, and to identify the typical buyer for your particular style. It’s better to invest time in figuring that out, than trying everything and hope that something pays off.
LAWRENCEATIENZA.COM: Thank you again for your time and giving back. 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.
RASMUS RASMUSSEN: Never forget that photography is about the images themselves. It’s easy to get lost in the latest gear or in trying to please an editor, a client or some market segment, and when you catch yourself doing that, take a break. Load up your Holga, go outside and don’t come home until you’ve finished the roll.