Two Simple Requests

By Roger (7 June 2015)

 May we ask a favor or two?

May we ask a favor or two?

While Mark has been the main show the last couple of weeks, I've been working behind the scenes to make some changes to the blog. This isn't what I do for a living, and it's taking much longer than it should. I've gotten way behind, AND I haven't blogged. This has been a disjointed, fast-paced year. I'd love to tell you that I've been going so fast that my schedule has been severely disrupted, but I haven't got a solid schedule from which to work. No excuses, just explaining.

So let me take you backstage, just a little. We've been doing this blog for almost seven years. It started as something fun to do, and it still is. I can't tell you how much we've learned by writing and interacting with some of our readers. We're kind of photogeeks, anyway, and we were blogging stuff we covered in our photo group (and more). Regardless, I think we're, both, a little surprised the blog has lasted this long, given how busy we get at our workday jobs. Since we are planning to continue, we could use some help from you.

We need topics of interest from you folks. If you'd like a topic covered or re-covered, your feedback would be appreciated. We've been covering new camera and software techniques and reporting on our travels, with a few quasi-philosophical blogs about being a photographer. Should we keep doing this; add something new; or move in an entirely different direction? Should we keep it short or move into the longer series of related blogs? We did some blog posts, with links of interest – were those interesting to anyone but me?

 "I could use some direction, here!"

"I could use some direction, here!"

Lastly, we've never said anything on the topic of blog costs before and hope to never repeat it. This blog cost more than you think to maintain, and we've been footing the bill completely since its inception. We're not asking you to send us money - the blog will always remain free, but we now have a link to Amazon on our sidebar (if you're using mobile, it will be at the bottom of the blog). When you go to Amazon, through our site, they will send us a few pennies to help pay for the blog. Your prices and Prime benefits are not affected; it just helps us with the maintenance fees here. Thanks.

 The Amazon shopkeeper, circa 1725.

The Amazon shopkeeper, circa 1725.

That's it for me tonight. Two simple requests from you that would make a big difference to us. You can send your suggestions via email, Facebook, or comment here on the blog. We'll get right to work on them.

In the meantime, I've got a house full of grandkids that need some attention. Earlier today, we went out to the fountains for some fun snapshots. Hope you're having a fun weekend, too.

 Fountain fun

Fountain fun

Can I Buy One?

By Roger (8 May 2014)

If you're doing well with your photography, sooner or later, someone will offer to buy one of your photos. It's a great feeling when this happens because it means someone has found something of value in your work. For too many beginning photographers, however, the initial flush of satisfaction disappears as they try to calculate a price that won't scare away their prospective client or leave the photographer second-guessing their quote.

I believe you should figure out your pricing formula before you are asked, even if you have no desire to be a professional photographer, trying to make a living from your work. There is no single formula for pricing your work, but there are some common factors you should consider when creating the formula that works for you.

The first, and most obvious, thing you should consider is the price you paid for the materials. This is pretty easy stuff. How much did you pay for the print and shipping? Are you going to deliver it in a matted frame? How much was that? You could just take these costs, and add in the amount of profit you want. You have a price.

If you arrive at your price using this simple formula, it is my opinion that you're selling yourself short. You're certainly not factoring in everything you should be. Let's look at some other factors that should matter in your formula.

Even if you're not a professional trying to make a living from photography, you should still take the time to figure out all the factors that go into the photograph's price. Let me say that again. Even if you plan to give the photo away for free, I think you should know what it cost to make it.

Everyone's formula is slightly different, or would be, if they bothered to tally up the cost. It bothers me that almost none of the photographers I know have done the work. I'm not talking about the perceived value of what a famous photographer is worth to a collector or some fancy art gallery – those select few photographers charge what the market will bear (at least until they are no longer in style). I mean what are all the identifiable costs that go into making your photo from the time you get up to make it; the processing; and the final product.

I work in a world where we have to justify all costs. When we propose work to our clients, we have a dedicated volume (usually the largest of five volumes in a proposal) that spells out exactly how we arrived at the price we want to charge the customer. This volume is read by folks looking for any way they can find to beat down our price (should we be chosen from amongst the competitors), so we have to be absolutely thorough in our explanation. You should be sure your formula is thorough, if only for your personal knowledge of what you gave away.

 North Carolina Cypress

North Carolina Cypress

This photo has sold a couple of times. What are the costs I add in beyond the simple formula at the beginning? This location is in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, about a four-hour drive from my home. Already, I have four hours of time, half a tank of gas, and wear and tear on my vehicle before I snap the shutter. Except that I had been to this location about six times before I got this photo. On one of those visits, we had to stay at a hotel because there was no room at my family's house.

On this day, the sun was rising on the left side, while a fog was rolling in from the right. I didn't use Photoshop to obscure the horizon line; nature did that for me. The light was great, and I was there with my camera. The other times, the conditions weren't this good. I was there about 90 minutes – more time costs to add in. (6x90=9 hours)

I used an expensive camera and lens combination, sitting on a carbon-fiber tripod, to make this photo. I transported my gear in a nice camera bag, to protect it. My gear is covered by a separate insurance policy, as is the vehicle I drove down in. I uploaded the photo to my computer (how much does a computer cost?); cataloged the photo in Lightroom; and did about 30 minutes of additional work in Photoshop. More time, and those programs aren't free; neither is the electricity to run the computer. Oh, by the way, it took more time and dollars to learn to use the gear and those programs to develop the skills to create the photograph.

You can see where this is headed. Let me set your mind at ease – I don't add every penny of those costs into every single photo I took while I was in Elizabeth City. That would be one expensive photo! My point is that these photos cost much more than you realize if you aren't considering the totality of what went into them.

I find the biggest thing missing from most photographers' formula is an accurate accounting of time. Too many under-value the time it takes to create a single photo, much less a portfolio of photographs good enough to make someone want to buy one. Many photographers, probably most, aren't valuing their time enough to reach the minimum wage.

Time is a true cost, even if you aren't trying to make a living at photography. If you are trying to become a professional, you need to consider all your costs and devise a formula that allows you to make a real wage that you can live on.

Again, I'm not saying you should never give away a photo; I'm not saying everyone should make money on their hobby. Not everyone should be or wants to be a professional photographer. I do want you to appreciate the true cost of making your photos.

When someone decides they want to buy one of your photos, you might be unsure what to charge. If you've prepared your answer before it is asked, you'll be more confident in your pricing decision. Look them in the eye, and give them your price.

Photoshop World 2013

By Roger  (5 Sep 2013)

If you’ve been reading our Efcubed Facebook page, you know Mark and I are in Las Vegas for another Photoshop World.  They are always fun and educational. We wish you were here.

 The first night here, we went out for a photowalk along the Vegas strip. 

The first night here, we went out for a photowalk along the Vegas strip. 

This is a week of advancing your skills and hanging out with other photographers, ranging from absolute beginners to certified geeks.  All of the seminars are taught by highly-qualified instructors, and there are additional demonstrations and classes on the expo floor.  Don’t be fooled by the name, there is much more to this conference than Photoshop.  This year, there are seven different tracks to choose from.  But don’t worry, you can mix and match them any way you want to maximize your learning experience.  You get a book with lesson outlines from every seminar, even the ones you didn’t/couldn’t attend.  The conference lasts for three days (this week’s schedule is here), but they always tack on an additional day for pre-conference seminars, too.  We recommend you add one of these 4-6 hour, in-depth sessions to your schedule and make it a solid four days.  If you count the parties as networking events (and we do), you can easily find yourself doing 12 hours a day of great learning.

For our pre-conference sessions, Mark attended the Adobe Certified Expert preparation session.  Since we do some of the education in our local photography group, we figure it is a worthwhile investment.  I chose to spend six hours with David Ziser, one of the nation’s top wedding photographers.  He has been making a living from weddings, portraits, and bat/bar mitzvahs for almost 50 years, so you know he must be doing something right.  I have always admired his work; regularly read his blog; and have his book, Captured by the Light.  (Besides, he provided lunch!)

After some pre-wedding discussions about preparations and techniques, David brought in a couple of models for a live wedding shoot, and we got down to work.  Most attendees were carrying cameras, but this was more about observing his methods than a model shoot.  I managed to shoot a few shots, but they are mostly to illustrate the behind-the-scenes situation.  We had live-view coverage to see what his camera saw, from his angle, with his lighting.  We went out into the Mandalay Bay hotel to shoot a formal portrait or two and then onto a bus to a local church.

 David Ziser at the PSW Live Wedding Shoot

David Ziser at the PSW Live Wedding Shoot

At the church, David walked us through finding the best angles and backgrounds – things to do before the wedding, if possible – to better prepare you when the actual ceremony occurs.  He demonstrated his preferred lighting set-ups and some posing techniques.

 Using a flashlight to demonstrate lighting on the bride's face. 

Using a flashlight to demonstrate lighting on the bride's face. 

PSW_Vegas_RD40393.jpg

After going through numerous scenarios and photographs, we moved outside into the bright, afternoon sun of Las Vegas.  Unfortunately, the photographer doesn’t get to pick the time of day a wedding occurs.  You can’t quit shooting a wedding just because the light is horrible.  He demonstrated a couple of solutions to minimize the problem of photography when the sun is directly overhead, including high-sync flash.

 Shooting in the bright afternoon sun of Las Vegas. 

Shooting in the bright afternoon sun of Las Vegas. 

If you look at my shot, you may think the bride’s photo would be ruined by all the nonsense in the background.  She has a McDonald’s sign right over her head!  But you can eliminate most of those distractions with a wide-open aperture and by choosing the proper position as you take the shot.  Here is David’s position for a beautiful, full-length photo of the bride, without the messy background.  

 Shoot from a low angle to get the best full-length photos and eliminate busy backgrounds. 

Shoot from a low angle to get the best full-length photos and eliminate busy backgrounds. 

It was a great seminar, with a chance to talk directly to a master photographer.  Questions were varied and plentiful, but he would answer them and demonstrate solutions.

Today, we spent the first day at opening ceremonies, the Adobe Keynote (lots of news there), and a full day of classes and expo floor prowling.  I’m writing this late, but I just returned from the after-hours party, at the House of Blues.  I’ll leave it to Mark to wrap up the rest of the week in his next blog.  As always, this Photoshop World was worth the effort and cost.  Start your planning to join us at the next Photoshop World, in Atlanta, Ga., 7-10 April 2014.  You’ll have fun and learn new skills.

++++++ Speaking of photography fun, don’t forget to sign up for the Worldwide Photowalk, on 5 October.  For the third year, Mark and I are leading the walk in Colonial Williamsburg, Va., at 9 a.m.  You can get more information on all the walks around the world and register here.  The registration deadline is 23 September.

Fair Use and Copyright

One of the items I wrote about in the last blog inspired some questions about the term “Fair Use”.  As a photographer, especially these days lots of people “borrow” other people’s images without asking.  Few people really understand copyright laws, but everyone should.   You as the creator of the image own the work from the moment you take the image.  If you want to protect your ownership rights you actually have to register your images with the Government.  Otherwise you have no standing in a federal court for damages.  As this gets into legalities I am going to quote from the source at http://www.copyright.gov/fls/fl102.html

“One of the rights accorded to the owner of copyright is the right to reproduce or to authorize others to reproduce the work in copies or phonorecords. This right is subject to certain limitations found in sections 107 through 118 of the copyright law (title 17, U. S. Code). One of the more important limitations is the doctrine of “fair use.” The doctrine of fair use has developed through a substantial number of court decisions over the years and has been codified in section 107 of the copyright law.”

When I am specifically authorizing someone to use pictures I have taken, I always specify for what purpose they can be used and under what conditions.  For example, when I sent the owner of the Eastern Market Produce stand the results of our photoshoot, I authorized him to use them on his website as long as he maintained the photocredit embedded in the image.  If he goes off and tries to sell the images, then he would be violating the terms under which he was granted them.

People can use your pictures legitimately without your permission as well.  For things such as criticism or reviews, small excerpts for an academic purpose.  They cannot use them for their own commercial gain.

No one but you, or a specifically authorized agent can grant someone license to use your images.

Two of our favorite presenters at Photoshop World are Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki.  Ed is a famous Copyright attorney and Jack is a great photographer.  They have a blog and site for photographers called “The Copyright Zone” at http://thecopyrightzone.com/

They also have material on UTube and Kelby training.  It is well worth the time to listen to them.