Monday, December 31, 2007

Let's Make 2008 An Amazing Year !!

Well I just bought a website template off of Bludomain. I waited till the last day of their sale. This habit of waiting till the last minute is a hard one to break. There is still work to do, but there has been definite progress.

I will use my Livebooks site for my architecture photography and the Bludomain one for the fashion, portraiture, lifestyle, and landscape/travel portfolios. I have to separate the architecture because it is so vastly different than most everything else. When I market to architects and interior designers, they don't need to see my fashion work. They have told me that themselves. It's a distraction and they tend to prefer to hire specialists.

In a little more than a couple of hours, 2008 will be upon us. What kind of year do you want to have?

2008 will be the year I explode out into the world of professional photography. I will market the hell out of myself, shoot a maximum to develop my skills and portfolio and make enough money to cover all my expenses as well as have a decent salary left over. 2008 will be the year I drop my part time job to begin working in photography full time.

I will stay determined, focused and open.

I shot this in Barcelona, Spain. It's taken on the roof of the Casa Pedrera designed by Gaudi, an architect way ahead of his time. It was finished in 1907, believe it or not.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Assisting A Professional Photographer

Yesterday at 8am, I got woken up by my photographer friend, Ken. He said he was assisting an architectural photographer that day. He asked if I wanted to sub in for the second assistant because the guy had bruised ribs and might not last out the day. I jumped on the opportunity.

Ken had told me about this particular architectural photographer. He mentioned the guy was really good, had over 10 years experience, but he was too finicky with his shots. 15-20 hour shoots were not uncommon for this guy.

The location was a fancy apartment in Newport Beach. The client was the interior designer.

I jumped right in and began helping out any way I could. One thing I've learned about assisting is: keep asking the photographer what you can do to help. Don't always wait for him to ask for your help. Oftentimes he is too busy thinking about something else.

I watched intently, making mental notes. This photographer was a master at lighting. Every shot was a work of art. He kept adding accents, tweaking this or that. The shot taken in the afternoon was done with strobes. The other two in the evening were shot with tungsten lights. It was awesome seeing both methods. His lighting was very directional, hardly ever broad, except for occasional fill. He used grid spots, snoots, barn doors... It was truly painting with light.

All in all, the photographer shot 3 images in 12 hours with 3 assistants. The client would get impatient, but he was adamant about being satisfied with the shot before moving on to the next one. As great as the images are, that is not a way to run a profitable business.

So what I want to do is incorporate some of his lighting techniques for my own architectural photography, and take twice as many shots in one day. I want to be shooting 6 to 8 images in one day. Anything less would not be satisfactory for the majority of clients.

One way to speed up the process this photographer employed is to shoot in digital format. He used a studio 4x5 view camera which is the traditional way to shoot architecture. It's much slower than using digital cameras because you have to shoot Polaroid to preview the image. View cameras are also much heavier, large and cumbersome. Image quality is superior, and you can correct perspective, but it's way more costly because of Polaroid (he went through over 2 boxes), film, processing, and scanning.

Apparently this guy does not work full time as a photographer. This does not surprise me in the least because he is not efficient. He is too meticulous. His approach is closer to fine art photography. Another problem is his marketing is not ongoing.

In the end, the injured assistant ended up working the whole day, using painkillers. I made the mistake of not establishing beforehand if I was going to be paid even if I was not subbing the other guy. When I broached the subject at the end of the day, it was too late. The photographer said there was only budget for 2 assistants, therefore I would not be paid. He said that was clear from the beginning. It was, but I figured he would pay me anyway since I had contributed for a full ten hours on his shoot.

Well I managed to scrounge $45, lunch and dinner out of him. The mistake was mine. I was hesitant about broaching the topic of money with him at the beginning of the day because I was not so confident in my assisting skills. I learned my lesson: always establish my salary beforehand. This is purely business.

It was a great day! I learned sooo much it's amazing. Assisting is the best way to figure out what to do and also what not to do! If you do it right, you can get paid to learn from the best lol. Not a bad deal.

I shot this image of Il Duomo in Florence, Italy. It is a giant dome built atop the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore by Brunelleschi in 1436. It spans 40 yards, took 16 years to build with a design that was deemed to be 'unfeasible.' It was the first octogonal dome built in history and still stands as the largest masonry dome in the world today. I laid down on the floor to capture it (trying not to get trampled by the massive crowd of tourists) and used my digital point and shoot.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007


What is integrity and how does it apply to business? When I use the word integrity, I'm not talking about morality. No, I'm talking about your 'word', honoring your word. When you make a promise or say you will do something, do you follow through?

I'm not talking about sincerity either. Being sincere is a cop-out. If I say I will have an assignment done by a certain date, and I tell the client 'sorry, sir, I really tried to get it done on time.' Will the client care that I really wanted to be on time, or that my computer broke down, or that I had too many other commitments? Probably not.

Having integrity is delivering on your word, what you say you will do. You see, I have been late my whole life, late to class, work, appointments, late handing in assignments, homework, always late.

Can people count on me? Am I reliable? No. When I say I will be there at 9pm, my friends know it will be more like 9:15pm. How does this affect my business? Well how can a client trust me to deliver the goods on time? If I tell an architect that I will provide him with extraordinary photos of his design, will I follow through? We all say that, right? Following through is what keeps the client coming back. It's what has you stand out. It's what reputations are built on.

It's not just about time. It's about following through on ALL my commitments. A while back I told myself I would eat salad at least once a week. That commitment lasted one week. I have no integrity. I'm not alone. Look at New Years resolutions. How many people actually follow through with them?

Without integrity, I have no foundation to make my life work, including business. I want to be someone that people can rely on. I want to be solid, consistent, dependable. I want to choose my words and commitments carefully. I want to know that deep down, when I make a decision, a commitment, I don't just 'mean it,' I'm not just going to 'try.' NO. I want to trust myself enough that when I say I will do something, it's going to get done, no matter what.

Yes, there are extenuating circumstances. Yes, there are times when it is just not possible. But how often do we use excuses, or 'reasons' as we like to call them, to cop out? I have just never placed much importance on integrity because I didn't think it mattered. Now I can see how much power I could hold by having integrity. My life would be completely transformed. It would be amazing!

So in the last week, I have been late three times. That might sound like a lot to some people but it's a massive improvement for me lol. Still I want 'being on time' to be sorted out and become a background issue so I can focus on more important things.

So for those of you who think I'm being hard on myself, I'm not. I'm always looking for ways to step it up a notch. What is slowing me down, what is preventing me from making it to the next level? Those are questions I ask myself because the blind spots are what gets you. Find and replace that one part in the engine that isn't working and all of a sudden, YOU'RE OFF!

I didn't come up with these ideas myself of course lol. I have been taking seminars on self-empowerment and transformation the past few months. They're absolutely AMAZING! You can find out more about them here or ask me questions. I'd be glad to answer them.

So for this coming year, I invite you to think hard about any resolutions you take on. I invite you to look at how much integrity you have and how it affects your life. Check out the website I mentioned earlier, it might be worth your time (pun intended). It certainly was for me, to say the least.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Financial Literacy

Financial literacy is a term I first came upon when reading the best-selling book, 'Rich Dad, Poor Dad.' It simply means knowing how to manage money. In Robert Kiyosaki's words, it's about having money work for you, rather than working for money.

Yes, I had an idea that it was what rich people did. What surprised me in the book though was that the author talked of how he came to learn this skill through years of studying and trial and error. He went on to explain how none of it is taught by the education system, parents, our peers...

I am an entrepreneur who provides a service, namely photography. In the past three months, I have come to learn some about business and marketing as it pertains to photography. It's a start.

Now I realize my complete lack of knowledge and expertise around money. I spend it liberally. I don't invest. I don't save. I know little or nothing about 'assets and liabilities.' I have the mentality of a poor person when it comes to money. I have NO control over it. It controls ME completely.

How can I possibly expect to have a profitable business without financial literacy? I can't, so I'm going to do something about it.

Kiyosaki created a board game named Cashflow. It is designed to teach its participants the principles of managing money. How you fare in it will reflect your attitude and expertise regarding money. Groups of people get together all around the nation to play it and learn from each other.

I found a group that meets in my neighborhood, Huntington Beach. You can find a Cashflow group in your area through

Among other things, I also want to take a financial planning course at Orange Coast College next semester.

I actually love finding areas I know nothing about that can propel me forward. If I didn't know my weaknesses, how could I become stronger?

By the way, MERRY CHRISTMAS wherever you are :-)

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

How Much Should I Charge?

That is a question I often ask myself as I come upon new types assignments I have never done. The other day, it was with an artist who needed replication slides and prints of a few of her paintings. I called up a couple photographers to get an idea what kind of fees established pros were charging and I adjusted mine with theirs.

It's a common complaint of pro photographers that newbie photographers don't charge enough and end up ruining the market by lowballing. Just yesterday an architectural photographer in Oregon was complaining to me about that.

He said: 'How can I compete with a photographer who comes onto the market charging 3 or 4 hundred dollars when I'm charging $1500 for the same services? Sure, the quality of the shots is reflected in the fees, but still I am losing more and more clients to these guys."

Are YOU charging too little? Here are some signs to look for.

Here is a very interesting solution to this issue, offered by Leslie Burns on her blog. Let me know what you think.

Note from Maria Piscopo:

"Just finished an article for Shutterbug Magazine on 'Photographers That Make A Difference' and though you will have to wait until the April issue to read this piece, I wanted to share the websites of the photographers and the non-profits they support:

Colin Finlay, PROOF: Media For Social Justice (
Phil Borges: Bridges (

So happy holidays-happy new year- now go make a difference!"

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Question for Maria Piscopo, Our Marketing Voice of Reason

When trying to market ones self is it alright to offer one’s service/creative fee at a discounted rate if the client will agree to allow one to rent higher end equipment like a tethered lighting system (such as a Profoto D4) or a Medium format digital camera (Hasselblad H3D)? This way when trying to sell a job to a client in the future one can list that they have knowledge of these "more advance" systems and show the client the advantages in quality and efficiency that they may offer].


Jeffrey Thayer

Answer: For my peace of mind, it would have to show up on the estimate/invoice as some wording like “Photography fee $___ in trade for client’s payment of $______expenses for photo equipment rental. This pricing consideration is only for this project at this time.”

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Reader Contributions

Here are some links to various interesting sites recommended by our readers: specializes in direct mail printing (brought to you by M. Piscopo). Any testimonials on these guys would be greatly appreciated.

The following are from Ben Craig: (for those of you who want to check out the gnarly surf we get in san clemente...) I know all you guys in Europe are jealous lol.
Oh and by the way here is that guy...Mitche Graf website..
and the guy he interviewed that I thought was so cool,

A tip from Olin is to download Apple's free software
iTunes, if you haven't already. Go to the iTunes store. Search for 'photography,' and you will find tons of free photo videos and podcasts to download.

Email with any info you think might be valuable. It's greatly
appreciated !

I took the photo for Susan Cianciollo during her LA Fashion Week fashion show. Yeahhhh, she doesn't follow the rules. She likes to get a little creative with her shows, and she expected the same of me for her photos.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Stock Agency With A Conscience?

Is that possible? Well, here is a contribution from one of our blog readers, Kathryn:

'Photographers Direct (http://WWW.photographersdirect.Com/) is a stock house that offers some incredible opportunities to photographers. They call it "Fair Trade Stock Photography." The photographer receives 80% of the sale price of their image!!!

What is also remarkable is Photographers Direct puts the photographer in contact with the buyer to negotiate usage fees!!! It's phenomenal to be able to establish a direct business relationship with the buyer. A win-win situation.'

Kathryn LeBoye

Kathryn has not used them yet and I haven't heard of anyone who has. So if you do, please let us know. A remarkable thing about this stock agency is they seem to be on the photographer's side. What a concept!

They will not represent any photographers who sell their work to microstock agencies like istock, shutterstock and dreamstime to name a few. The reason they say is because they are the antithesis of microstock agencies who rip off naive photographers day in and day out.

So guess what? If you place your images with photographersdirect, you get to keep the copyright and you set the sale price. Is it too good to be true?

By the way, I welcome contributions to this blog. If you have some valuable information, please email with it. Thanks!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Orange County Strobist Meetup

We're getting together today Saturday Dec.15th in Long Beach for our 6th OC Strobist Meetup. Let's get there around 2pm. We're on L102 lesson 2.2, Specular Highlight Control. Check it out on strobist beforehand if you can.

Take the 710 freeway to the end and follow the signs to the
Aquarium. Go past the Aquarium and Pine Avenue and turn right onto
Shoreline Village Drive. You can also go down Westminster and that
turns into 2nd street and then turn left onto Ocean Blvd and left
onto shoreline drive. Meet in front of Parker's Lighthouse Rest. You can't miss it. It looks like... a lighthouse.

See you there.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Who Are We?

If you're reading this, I invite you to join our Photo Allies community. Unless of course you did a search for 'lazy rabbits who hop on one leg' and somehow came up with this blog lol. So I got a few questions for you guys.

I'd like to know who all of you are, what part of the world you live in, what you're doing in photography right now and finally where you want to be in five years (ie. major goal you have in photography). Don't forget to put your website link up so we can check out your photography.

My name is Greg Clarke. I live in Huntington Beach (silicone capital of the world), California. I have a degree in photography and art history from the Savannah College of Art & Design (Savannah, Georgia). I just recently went back to school to learn about business and marketing. I'm starting a photography business specializing in architecture (interiors and exteriors). Five years from now, I want to be shooting modern architecture all over the world for the top architects and interior designers. My website should be up in a week to 10 days. I'll keep you posted.

Ok your turn.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Why Photo Allies?

Photo allies. What does that mean to me? I picked that name because I feel like we're all in this together. It's about solidarity.

I didn't come up with that idea. My inspiration came from amazing people like David Hobby, creator of the now world famous blog He has contributed so much to the photography community!

He started a blog almost two years ago about off-camera lighting. He simply posted information he thought would be useful to others. Well it literally created a revolution. Now millions of photographers read his blog regularly. Check it out here if you haven't already!

Another great guy in the blogosphere, as they call, is Chase Jarvis. That guy makes mad money as a commercial photographer and he has no secrets for anyone. He reveals it all in his little videos. His talks are awesome. He's such a positive, inspirational influence.

Then we have John Harrington, the business guru. He has a photography business blog where he just breaks it down for all to understand. His book, 'Best Business Practices for Photographers' is a must-read as well. He lectures about business at ASMP seminars. The guy just knows how to run a successful photography business and he's not afraid to let everyone know how he does it.

Yes this is the Web 2.0 folks. Come be a part of it !!

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Welcome To Photo Allies

This blog was created with two objectives.

The first was borne out of the need for this kind of information due to the chronic lack of comprehensive business and marketing courses in art schools.

The second objective is to create a platform for college students and professional photographers to share and help each other become successful in this competitive industry.

The old adage of 'every photographer for himself' is dying out and being replaced by a new paradigm based on community: 'Together we can improve faster, make more money and have fun in the process.'

How does that play out? Well if anyone has information, resources, links... that could be useful to other photographers, email me and I will post them. That simple.

The other cool thing is that we have Maria Piscopo as our marketing advisor. She was my 'Business Practices for Photographers' professor at Orange Coast College. She is
a widely recognized author, workshop speaker, and photography rep. If you haven't read her book, 'The Photographer's Guide to Marketing and Self Promotion,' do it. It's as valuable as ASMP's 'Business Practices' book.

She will answer any questions we have
about marketing. So when you come up with some, email them directly to me. If you put them in the comments section, they might get lost.

I will set up a flicker group soon so people can chat back and forth, post questions for other photographers and post work up so we can check it out.

Of course, let me know if you have any suggestions. I'm totally open.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Shutterbug Magazine

Well I want to thank the folks over at Shutterbug Magazine for linking themselves to this blog. We'll get a lot more traffic coming through and many more will benefit from all the information posted up here. My goal is to create a support network for photographers. This is a competitive industry and making it is not a given. Together though, it's way easier.

There are some wonderful resources on the Shutterbug site. You'll find Maria Piscopo's Business Trends column of course. There is a host of articles on all kind of cool topics like lighting, retouching, portraiture, pro techniques and much more... One amazing thing is you can contact their writers and contributors (aka experts) directly with questions and comments on the Forum page. There are also many articles by THE late, great master portrait photographer, Monte Zucker. He inspired and taught Clay Blackmore whose workshop Kathryn and I recently attended. Here is the basic lighting setup, well explained, which Monte was famous for.

I shot this image of Danny at the Hollywood zoo if you can believe that. It's abandonned and I had no idea it even existed. The other model I was shooting that day took us there. We actually had to crawl to get inside of it. Yeah, good thing this wasn't a Dior shoot.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

Looking for Inspiration?

Chase Jarvis has asked readers of his blog to post links to their own favorite blogs. Being as he has thousands of people check out his site everyday, he got quite the list. He has compiled 150 of his favorite one right here. So if you need some inspiration, some creative juice, or you want to explore what this amazing communication tool, called the internet, offers, then hit up a few links. I like the idea of having a central hub for all the information you need. Chase has done that with 'cool, interesting blogs.' It's what I want to create here for the emerging professional photographer.

I'm going to start writing small captions for my photos with some background info.

I took this shot while hitchhiking throughout Tunisia, in North Africa. I was there in 1997 during the Ramadan, the Muslim religious month of fasting. I happened to be the only tourist in this little village called El Haouiria. The great thing was being able to communicate with everyone because they speak french there. [Tunisia was a french colony for a while.] People were so amazing welcoming! I will always treasure those memories.

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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Setting Your Career and Financial Goals

Once you've done the exercises from yesterday's post, check out this worksheet. It's a wonderful complement. It will help you define your financial and career goals and refine your positioning statement. Here it is. It's actually available for free on her website.

I think many people overlook this kind of work when they are setting up a business. Yet how can we have any direction if we have no clear goals? How can we create good working relationships if we don't have a set of principles to abide by? Having structure and direction is necessary for me, especially since I don't have someone telling me what to do, like a boss. This kind of work provides a frame within which I can operate.

Well it's not looking good for our Strobist meetup tomorrow. Seems to rain only on Fridays... One day, we'll have a great, big studio available to us so we can meet anyway.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Groundwork For A Marketing Plan

I just got done helping a photographer friend with her marketing plan. I had put together some homework for her to do prior to our meeting. This preliminary work I feel is crucial to laying a solid foundation for any business. Here is what I asked her to do:

Define what success means to you. What does it look like? Is is about the money your earn? The relationships you create? Being challenged by work? Is it about being published by vogue? Is it about following through on your commitments everyday? What does success really look like to you?

Create a dream bio. Spend a good hour of uninterrupted time doing this in a calm and relaxing place. Sit down and imagine that you are living five years in the future. What does your professional life look like? What are you shooting? Who are your clients? Do you have a team or are you a solo operation? What does your space look like? Do you have a studio or are you working out of an office in your home? How much money are you making? How many days a week do you shoot on average? What has been your best experience?

When you create this bio, you are not in your head. you are in your heart. Don't think the answers, sense them. Write them down as soon as they appear without editing or judging.

Your values:
Your job is to build a business around the values that are truly yours, knowing that in doing so you will attract the clients you seek. The next step is to determine what type of relationships you would like to build with your clients. How will you serve those that hire you? Consider creating service goals and making sure that everyone who works with you, from daily assistants to your monthly bookkeeper, is aware of and agrees to your ideals when it comes to serving clients.

Create a positioning statement. Look at 10 images you would have loved to create from magazines you like. Write down words that describe each photo on small pieces of paper or post its (one for each photo). Don't think or edit them, just write them all down. When you have done the work with at least ten photos you would have liked to shoot, lay down all the post-its next to each other and look for similarities in your descriptions. The descriptive words you use repeatedly become the beginning of the how of what your are drawn to.

Now do the same thing with your portfolio.

Do the descriptive words from your portfolio match the ones from your favorite magazine photos? Check to make sure that the messages you are currently sending out are the ones you are looking to deliver. If you find that the messages are indeed different, don't worry, you have lots of company.

When you feel that you are ready to move on and craft your statement, begin by describing what you do and for whom. Then add the how by looking the similarities among the descriptive words on your post it notes. These words begin to define your visual approach, ie. what you want to convey in your photography.

Most of this was taken from Selina Maitreya's book 'How to succeed in commercial photography.' Highly recommended reading!

If you need me to clarify any of it, let me know. Also if you do it, I would love to read some of the interesting stuff you came up with.

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Chase Jarvis: How To Become A successful Photographer

Here is a 1hr presentation by Chase Jarvis where he takes you into his world and shows you how he has become such a successful lifestyle shooter. I cannot recommend watching this video enough. This guy is so selfless and generous with his sharing it astounds me. He really gives you the goods. Chase Jarvis is the antithesis of the lonely, isolated photographer in his studio who won't talk to any other shooters for fear of divulging his trade secrets to the enemy.

So grab some popcorn and enjoy.

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