Thursday, March 29, 2012

Business Day Thursday: So Have You Taken The First Step Yet?

Good Afternoon Everybody,

LaDawn and I are sitting on a Delta jet heading home from a great 7 day visit to Washington, D.C.  Photoshop World seems so long ago in the scheme of things but what a great experience it was.  We made some new friends along the way plus it was good to catch up with some old friends we only see a few times a year.  Like I said, that's one of the best reasons to show up in person at these conventions.

Cherry Blossom LDWe arrived late afternoon last Thursday with plans of the seeing the full bloom cherry blossoms that afternoon.  We made the decision to postpone that day's visit and needless to say the strong winds and rains that came by over the weekend pretty much wiped away the wonderful site by Tuesday when we finally had a day off.  LaDawn  found a few that she worked into a nice photograph or two.  Oh well, just another reason to return next year.

We really enjoyed our visit to the D.C. area.  As American history buffs Washington, D.C. can't be beat for a visit.  CamerasEver though the Congress is getting little accomplished this term and we have the Supreme Court debating the Heath Care bill, there is something exciting about being so close to the action.  Myself being a “Child of The Sixties”, I had to check out the action at the Supreme Court. LaDawn was rolling her eyeballs as I was mingling with the protesters and taking as many photographs as I could get away with.

I made a comment to David, our intern giving us the Capitol tour yesterday. I noted that in spite of the intransigence we see on Capitol Hill, there must be a certain thrill working as a Senator or Congressman in getting your bill passed or keeping another one from making it through. He agreed.


I think it's the thrill of the chase that drives some of our more productive and influential Congressmen and women.  I loved being in the middle of it all these last couple of days.

Anyway, sorry I digress.  Let's get back to business - Business Day Thursday, that is ;~)

So Have You Taken The First Step Yet?

So many times I'm asked by photographers how to start their new businesses.  And, my answer is the same all the time.  

  • Work on your portfolio development,
  • Hook up with vendors who are doing business with people you want to do business with, and
  • Practice like crazy!!!

Success does not come easy and any advice given for quick success promised by so many speakers on the speaking circuit is not the basket you want to put your eggs into, as they say.

Let's look at practical success as a three step process.

The first step to success: is to show that you can deliver a quality product to your client's.  Haven't shot a wedding yet, then learn what you need to know so your first experience isn't a "Spray and Pray" fiasco for you, and even more importantly, for your clients.  Who in their right mind would jeopardize the most important memories for the wedding couple and their families with that kind of asinine, destructive approach to wedding photography!

0001-Hug-IMG_6318Begin by developing your portfolio.  Get a good friend to be your model.  Don't know anyone, run an ad on Craigslist and offer FREE pics to cute girl and good looking guy who will act as your models.  

Start Paying Some Dues!

Now pick up a wedding gown from David's Bridal or some other national bridal chain.  An out-of-date, clearance gown will cost you $50-$100.  Make up a good looking bouquet from silk flowers you can pick up at Hobby Lobby - cost, about $15-$25.  Complaining that you don't have $100 to spend on these things?  Well then, think about another job if you don't want to pay even the MINIMUM dues to earn your stripes as a wedding photographer.

“But, but, but,” you say, “I don't want to learn how to "pose" my clients.  I just want to capture the moments as they flow.”  My quick response to that is B.. S....  The bottom line is this, everyone wants to look good in their photos. Random shots will capture the occasional good photograph of the wedding couple, and maybe even that of a family member, too. But Uncle Harry can do the same thing and won’t charge a nickel. If you want to charge for your services then you better be doing something different than what ANYONE that owns a descent camera is capable of doing.

Never HOPE For A Great Shot – Prepare For One!

I, for one am not spinning the Wheel of MIS-Fortune HOPING to capture a good photograph.  I need to know that I can do it consistently every week. No exceptions!  OK, maybe you don't want to create the stylized, dramatic images I like to create for my clients - that's fine.  But at least take some time to LEARN how a person, a couple respond to a camera being pointed at them.  Learn how to make them feel comfortable in front of the camera.  Learn how to get the best expressions possible from your bride and groom.  It's NEVER about "posing". It's about getting the best, most flattering images possible for your clients on their wedding day.  And that takes practice!

0002-Hug-IMG_6286Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.  Last Friday I got the chance to practice wedding photography.  Yes, me - practicing wedding photography.  The fact of the matter is that I get the chance to practice every time I do a "Live" seminar shoot like I did for my Wedding Shootout at Photoshop World last Friday.  Yes, I was practicing like I want you to practice.

Let me give you a quick example of how I practiced working with my couple, who didn't know each other BTW, to get some great photographs of them.

I put some nice soft light on my couple by having one of the class members hold my Westcott 84 inch translucent umbrella between the couple and the harsh, early afternoon, bright sunlight.  Ahhh... gorgeous light! And, gorgeous light is a good place to start for any great photograph.

Then I took up a camera position that featured the bride and asked her to hug her groom like it was going to be the last time she was going to see him. She got into character and did exactly what I asked her to do.  It surely showed in her expression.  I even moved around the couple and grabbed a quick photo of the groom, too.   Those are the images you see accompanying this article - no posing, just great expressions!


Practice Anything – Just Practice!

So when you go out and practice, you can practice anything you want - flattering posing, how to get great expressions, better lighting, how to easily direct your subjects - anything to make your images better than the next person's. And that's the easy part because only a very few people reading this post today will ever take the initiative to do what I suggest. 

DAZNOTE: You know, I've always said, "It's easy to be the best photographer in town.  You just work a lot harder than the next guy.  And, that's easy too because there are a lot of under-motivated photographers out there.”


Parts Two and Three I'll cover in upcoming posts.  I think today's post is something for those of you who truly want to take your photography and your business to the next level of success.  The truth is - there really is no easy way to success.  Unless, of course, you win this week's New York lottery;~)

A gentle piece of advice: Take excuses out of your vocabulary and you remove the road blocks from your life!

But always remember - Do you want to hired as a HACK photographer or a professional photographer.  Its never been a question in my mind from Day 1. I always wanted to be hired as professional and worked hard and continue to work hard to be just that.

Enough said!!!


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We just landed and are in the middle of getting to all the emails, phone calls, and mail that has hit while we were gone. Plus, the weather is great, the grass is green, and the sky is blue - time to soak up a little bit of Spring.

Have a great one everybody.

I'll see you soon,  David.


  1. Robin from the UK, Great advice David, like the new look blog by the way.

  2. David, I 100% agree with your rant. I've never seen you so fired up. Photographers need the important lesson to practice not just in the craft of photography but also in any task, job or opportunity they decide to venture. Practice is so important. Picking up a camera and shooting away will indeed give them some nice images, just like everyone else including, how you say, Uncle Harry. If they want to charge for their "expertise" they better know what to do, how to do it and have the knowledge to successfully cope and still deliver beautiful images when Murphy's Law comes into play. I've been photographing wedding for many years, just not as successfully as you. I'm sorry I'm unable to attend your last week class as I would truly LOVE to learn from such a master! Please consider more classes in the fall.

  3. Thank you David... telling it like it is. Wow, Even dropping the "BS" bomb!

    I think this is apropos, as currently, a photographer 'rockstar' is promoting the 'spray and pray' technique. What a disgrace and disservice to the industry.

    Thanks for being the real deal David!

    Jeff Schaefer