AM I AN EXHIBITIONIST?

One of the peculiar things about running my own business – I’ve discovered – is that things which I’ve previously found terminally boring have suddenly become relevant, interesting… even exciting!

I mean, a few years ago, if you’d told me that I could spend half an hour talking to someone about different types of , I’d have probably declined that particular invitation, and spent the aforementioned half an hour applying my nail polish. My, how times have changed!

So there I was last Saturday, travelling up to London on the train, heading with a certain – but only a certain – amount of reluctance, to the SWPP exhibition at the Metropole Hilton Hotel. I’ve been to plenty of these exhibitions before, sometimes as a photographer’s assistant who’s being dragged along like a kid going to the opera, and sometimes on my own as an enthusiast looking for a day out and a good poke around the latest equipment and gizmos… but this was the first time I’d attended such a beauty pageant as a self-employed photographer with several jobs behind me, many more in the offing and a few current.

Wow! What a difference a career makes (to paraphrase Stanley Adams)! Suddenly, all the exhibitors were of intrigue to me. I needed to see what they had, work out how it might fit into my schedule or workflow, look at their ideas (I would never nick any of their ideas of course. No, really I wouldn’t) and register with them for product catalogues and email updates. It turned out that now, all these products and exhibitors were talking my language, and I instantly saw the value and purpose of exhibitions and trade fairs like this. I had reason and purpose in talking to the exhibitors, and fascination in their products and services. It seemed to me that my eyes had been somewhat opened, and the time that I’d been talking to the exhibitors was time very well spent indeed. Some of the things that they had on offer were truly inspirational, but I had to see them with discerning eyes. On previous occasions I might have breezed past, looking more at the guy’s suit than the product he was trying to interest me in. But this time was different.

Trade exhibitions. Are they boring, dry, dusty affairs? No they’re not… as soon as you have a purpose and interest in the trade. I spent ages talking to people about paper, printers, cameras, lenses, lights, albums, tri-folds, acrylics, and I learned so much – about what was on offer and about how I could use it for my business.

It’d be unfair of me to single out one exhibitor over any other as to how they assisted me and provided me with advice and knowledge, but it’s true to say that going to the exhibition with ongoing projects in mind and more in the pipeline, pretty much all of them knew their stuff, were probably photographers themselves, and seemed keen to help make my business a success. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I know that these exhibitors are not charities and that they are there to make sales and a profit. But one of my regrets, at least on this occasion, is that I didn’t allow sufficient time to get round the exhibition and talk to all the relevant people. Having my business head on made such a difference, and caused me to actually talk to these people and see what it was that they were about. And many of them seemed concerned that my business should turn a profit. True enough – if my business doesn’t (or many other photographers’ businesses don’t) turn a profit, then neither will theirs – but the symbiosis which was evident was really rather charmed. I’d like to pay tribute to the SWPP and all the exhibitors at the London Metropole Hotel last Saturday. Thanks for your effort, advice and inspiration!

So.. am I an exhibitionist? Well, perhaps I won’t be blowing my life savings following trade fairs on tour. But hey, fellas… show me what you’ve got! 😉

SWPP

“ It’s only a model ”

Camelot! Camelot! Camelot!

Monty Python and the Holy Grail… just in case you were wondering.

I do love the line, though… “It’s only a model”. Makes me laugh every time, but it always gives me a mild dig in the ribs. I’ve been both – a photographer AND a model, and I can tell you that both disciplines require… well, discipline. And skill.

Yes, you read that right. Skill. To be a model, you need skill and discipline. Not many people realise that. They think that all a model has to do is put on some fancy clothes and pout at a nearby camera (and that’s just the guys! 😉 ) And for doing such a low-skilled and easy job, they get paid fortunes.

Well, I can tell you… it’s really not like that at all, and to be honest, models don’t in general get the respect and recognition that they deserve. And they certainly don’t get the financial rewards that they deserve. It may be true that there are what in recent years have become known as “supermodels” who get paid ludicrous amounts of money, but they are so much the exception rather than the rule that in the workaday world of modelling they can be discounted. A regular, working model really doesn’t earn very much, and frequently has to take on other jobs to support her or his (yes, I’m including male models in this) income.

But before we all run away with the idea that it doesn’t take any skill or ability to be a model – and so why should they be paid proper (if any) wages? – and that the only thing it takes is to be blessed with good genes, let me tell you what it’s like from BEHIND the camera.

First of all, a model needs to know how photography works. She (or he) needs a proper understanding of the physics of photography – lighting, DOF, sets and so on. Frequently a model who understands this can be of enormous assistance to the photographer in creating the shot that’s required – making suggestions and comments and helping out in general bringing ideas to the shoot and suitcases of usefulness (no, it’s not all provided all of the time)! A good, experienced model can be a huge asset (stop it!) in this scenario.

Secondly, a model has to be stripped (again – stop it!). Not stripped of her garments, but stripped of her personality. There’s no room for shyness, reticence, reluctance or refusal. You have to do what you do, and co-operate fully with the photographer. A professional model realises, of course, that this “stripping” of the personality lasts only for the shoot, and the personality is restored as soon as the last “click” has sounded. But during the shoot, she is a servant and a sirrah. It takes a lot, and I have endless admiration for the people who can do this. “Look wistful!” we say. Or “Push your shoulder back; no, further, further, more!” OW! IT HURTS!

David Bailey once said that the most talented model he’d ever worked with was Kate Moss. Whatever we think of her (and indeed him!), I know what he means. To work with a talented, skilled model is a joy, and makes my life so much easier. Co-operation, understanding of the goal, and experience count for so much. Why can’t the photography world – and even the world in general – get to grips with this? Lets make a start with helping those new models whatever their age get

So to all the new and want-to-be models… watch, listen and learn! You can do this with a little practice – watching YouTube? Have a go in front of the mirror? And how about signing up for our up-and-coming modelling sessions, where you can learn basic skills and what to take to shoots? And some make-up and hair advice too, along with ideas on how to build your work. This is suitable for both male and female models – do email us and we’ll be in touch with the next available date!  http://www.true-photo-image.co.uk/contact.html

Learn and experience a day as a model 🙂

Hats off to the models! Or maybe hats on! Depends what fashion shoot you’re doing!

Models… I bid you welcome to you new home! Let us ride to… RECOGNITION!

” It’s only a model!” Jane modelling in 1978.

 

” It’s only a model “
” It’s only a model!” Jane modelling in 2014.

 

 

 

 

My Latest Film.

IMG_0446Film and digital cards. Blog entry Copyright TruePhotography

My Latest Film.

Do you remember reading anywhere that Dick Rowe of Decca Records rejected The Beatles after they auditioned in front of him? He said, “Guitar groups are on the way out.” I guess he thought they would would never catch on.

Oops!

Now I remember reading somewhere, a fair while ago, that photography was originally laughed – or perhaps sneered – at by portrait artists (by which I mean PAINT portrait artists!), with photography being described as something that may have its initial short-term benefits but that basically would “never catch on”. Photography was apparently a short-term quick fix, which didn’t really have the depth or capacity of paint portraiture, and so needn’t be taken too seriously.

Strange that both Decca Records and paint portrait artists are now very much niche operators!

The same thing happened a shorter while ago with the advent of digital photography, didn’t it? I myself can easily recall the fuzzy, cloudy pictures that people took on their new-fangled “digital cameras”, and feeling relieved that I wouldn’t have to learn a whole new skill set, because if that was the best that digital photography had to offer, then it would never replace our warm, familiar and comforting friend film, now would it?

Oops! (Again.)

The strides forward that digital photography has taken in the last few years have been truly amazing. Not just hardware, but software too. Well within living memory, a veritable revolution has taken place. Cameras are cheap – even free – and everyone can now reel off hundreds of photos at negligible expense. Software is amazing – Photoshop can turn a banana into a cat. And hard drives and cloud servers allow us to keep everything we’ve ever shot forever.

Must be good, right? Nothing but good news, surely?

Well, I’m not so sure. It undoubtedly is good news that photography, and the storage of images, are cheaper (to the point of being almost free in some cases), than they were when we were all struggling with rolls of film and those ridiculous changing bags that just made our hands sweaty (I remember getting my hands trapped inside one of these things before – with a roll of priceless images half transferred onto the cog!). But sometimes I feel like saying to amateur photographers that they should try shooting on film for a while, despite its obvious inconvenience.

Why?

Well, that’s very easy to answer. Film is expensive. A ruined shot is ruined money. When you know that your mistakes will cost you money – not just spent film but possibly lost sales as well – you’re going to have your mind focussed! (Pun intentional or unintentional as you desire!) You’ll compose your shots better. You’ll pay more attention to the light. You’ll be aware of those potential idiots that have become known as “photobombers”. Above all, you’ll think. And then, perhaps when you’ve made a few somewhat expensive mistakes with your film camera, you revert to the digital world with all its wonder and freedom… you won’t have to spend so much time editing or filtering out useless images from your photoshoot, because every shot has been carefully composed, checked for buffoons and stray camera straps, and above all, valued!

We can all make ourselves Dick Rowe, and even voluntarily (although I’m sure he didn’t intend this himself) learn the hard way. Let’s all make a few mistakes on film, and then we’ll be so much better on digital. Technical progress is inevitable, but skill in operating it is not. Necessity is the mother of invention, so if we force ourselves into necessity, we become inventive!

Love me. Do.

x

The Bottom Line

In the current economic climate, the old joke might well pertain to anyone trying to make a living from self-employment or entrepreneurial activity…

Bloke says to his bank manager, “How do I become the owner of a small business?” Bank manager says, “Buy a big one and wait a few months.”

One of my clearest revelations, based on the few events that I’ve done recently, is that any business – big or small – needs to focus on one thing. Selling.

It’s strange that “selling” (as an activity or even a skill – and yes, it IS a skill) has become something of a dirty word in the last few decades. We can all conjure up images of smarmy men in off-the-peg suits trying to persuade us to buy timeshares, or of pestering idiots on the doorstep trying to tell us that we need new double-glazing. Guys like this don’t do the skill any favours. But it’s a skill that all businesses need. It’s the only way businesses survive.

If a business takes its eye off the ball, and ceases to focus on the most important thing, then if you ask me the game’s up. If you haven’t constantly got a laser focus on “the bottom line”, then your business is cut adrift and has lost its “raison d’être”. Yeah, sure, we can all go to meetings and re-design our logos, but do remember that being busy can frequently be an excuse for being lazy. Don’t be busy – be effective. A business must sell!

Some things that I’ve been trying to do at these recent events have involved finding new ways of selling to my clients. It’s not simply photography anymore – with the onward march of technology (which, by the way, I have no problem with) there becomes available to us an enormous number of media through which the photography can be utilised. Calendars, bound books, key-rings, T-shirts… and so on and so on. I regard it as totally incumbent on me to find out about all this stuff and realise it as part of my business, offering it to all of my event clients as new ways of experiencing the pictures that I take. I need to find out about this stuff, learn how to order and produce it, and then embrace it as part of my business. Why? It’s that laser focus on the bottom line, isn’t it?

Am I prostituting my art? Well, as probably any self-employed person will tell you, “I can’t afford to have morals.” Maybe in the eyes of some the art is being debased when a beautiful photograph is rendered on a T-shirt or a coffee cup, but the truth is… if that makes the bottom line look a better, let’s do it! Any business, whether long-established or just starting out – has one thing to consider over and above everything else… that “bottom line”. How much did you claw in this month? If it’s not enough, then drop the “meetings” in the coffee shop with your “designer” to sort out your “company identity”… and get out there and sell some stuff. Sell T-shirts, sell calendars, sell screen-savers… if necessary sell out!

I’ve got more events coming up in the near future. I’m going to think of as many different ways as I can to get my photos available to my (potential) clients, and then make sure that they’re all available on a fast turnaround time… and believe me my clients will know about every last way they can enjoy my photos. Nail art perhaps? (I bet that’s coming soon… I really do!)

So maybe if we remove the humour from the joke, we could make it a bit more realistic:

Bloke says to his bank manager, “How do I become the owner of a small business?” Bank manager says, “Sell stuff. Then sell some more stuff. Then some more. Then if you want to retire, sell the big business you’ve now got!”

Not funny; rather salutary.

Tch!

x

Monkey Nuts

 

“If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

Someone once told me that it was Henry Ford who said that, but a quick scout around the internet doesn’t seem to back that up. The best I could find by an (albeit brief) investigation was that it was said by James Goldsmith, but it may equally be possible that he was quoting someone else (perhaps our beloved designer of the Model T?).

The thing which slightly abrades me on this “level paying field” (which may not be so level after all) is the way that anyone who is trying to make some sort of living in an artistic venture (photography, art, music, what have you) is frequently expected to give away his or her services for nothing. Or at best for paltry fees which will hardly cover our expenses. “Oh, it’ll lead onto better things” they say. “You’ll get some really  good contacts…” “But isn’t this just a hobby…?”

Yeah, right.

The trouble with artistic endeavour is that we can all see a few people making LOADSAMONEY out of what it is we do. But what we don’t see is the thousands of people doing the same thing, to the same or even better standards, who get paid – if they’re lucky – the minimum wage. There are a few people up there at the top sucking up 95% of the money in the business, and the rest of us can share out the remaining 5% between us.

So why do we accede to this? Why don’t we just say “No” to poorly paid jobs? Or alternatively, why don’t we turn in a job commensurate with the money (if any) we get offered? In other words, if we get paid puny money, why not turn in a puny job?

Well, in the case of true professionals, the option of turning in a puny job isn’t really available. Real artists simply can’t put their names to poor products or half-finished tasks. So once we agree to do a job, we’re kind of hamstrung by it – the standards that we adhere to can’t be dropped. And those who offer the puny – or even no – money reap the benefits. Is that fair? No, of course it’s not fair, but then who ever promised us that life would be fair?

I reckon our only real option is to stick to what we do, maintaining our high standards and allowing our work to be out there and being seen. But I would never suggest to anyone that working for nothing is a constructive way of building a business or a reputation. Work for sensible wages? Of course! Work cheap? Perhaps, yes. Work for free? Nope. Never. I don’t want my work devalued that far – to the point where people actually genuinely think it’s worth nothing. I’d like to think my work is worth a lot. Perhaps it’s not. Perhaps it’s worth little. But it’s definitely not worth nothing.

So it seems that Henry Ford may not have been entirely correct (if indeed it was he that said those famous words). Sometimes all you have to pay is peanuts and you can get something really good. It’s a comfort to think that my standards are a bit higher than people who ask me to come and take photos of them for zero reward.

So on I go, trying to claw a meagre amount from the art. I never new that peanuts were such tough nuts to crack!

x

VENTURE IN CAPITALS!

Do you remember that bit in “Friends” when Estelle asks Joey, “JOEY! Ever seen me ecstatic? Well… here it is”…?

To be honest, writing this blog is a little bit like that. This is a totally new VENTURE (see what I did there?) for me, and I’m pretty excited about it! Perhaps not quite “ecstatic”, but… not far off! I’ve never done this before, see? It’s new and untested, and I’m sort of feeling my way here. You guys can help me if you like – give me some comments or some assistance, some opinions or some criticism. All contributions gratefully received!

So what is it exactly I’m doing here? What’s the purpose of this blog? Well, as some of you may already know, I’m venturing – trepidatiously (ooh, I LIKE that word!) – into the world of professional photography. This isn’t an easy task at the best of times, but right now it’s even more of a challenge. Seems that EVERYONE is a photographer these days. We’ve all got cameras, and taking pictures is pretty much free of charge these days. Not like the old days when expensive film would make any would be – or even professional – photographer think twice before pressing the shutter. We’ve entered the “Age of the Selfie”!

OK, so why? Why would I choose a moment such as this to jump in to the rapidly shrinking world of professional photography? Well, truth be known I think that now is as good a time as any, and perhaps even a better time than those bygone days. At a time when everyone is a photographer, I think that perhaps people’s interest will be piqued, and so a photographer with some experience, and let’s be honest, some commitment (!) (yes, I’m committed to this!) might be able to shed some (either natural or artificial!) light on photography as either a hobby or profession. Anyone fancy coming along for the ride?

Right… so this blog is going to chart my experiences and my progress in this challenging world. I’m not quite starting from scratch; I’ve already got a fair bit of experience behind me. But starting up my own business, developing (no pun intended!) my skills and expertise, and seeing how it all goes is not really something I’ve done to the extent I would like this to reach. And it’s all going to be recorded here for your (and of course my!) edification.

So if you’re a friend, a photographer (and some of my friends ARE photographers, so two for the price of one there!), a curious onlooker or a blog trawler… welcome aboard! 🙂 There’ll be frequent updates here, charting my progress, my opinions, my setbacks (yes, I know they’re coming along too), my triumphs and my inevitable frustrations. Who knows…? Maybe this’ll be a salutary lesson for all photographers!

Ever seen me ecstatic? Well… here it is!

Welcome aboard and… er… watch the birdie! 🙂

x

Welcome to my world of photography…

Ok  – this is a short note to say welcome to my blog!  I am looking forward to chatting about my world of photography as it grows and sharing it with you. Do make comments, share with friends and above all I hope you enjoy my thoughts and journey with my passion of photography 🙂

Thank you!

Jx

True Photography – Jane Elizabeth Hamilton-Cross Blog