A typical day

I recently got asked a series of questions from start up photog, Nick Murway.  Here is the third and final blog featuring his Q and my A.

 NM: What does a typical day look like at the studio/office?

This is a tough one, partly because it’s not very exciting to answer (what percentage of you will make it all the way through this post?) and partly because there is no such thing as a typical day at the office for me. The only way I know how to answer this question is by listing out some of the things I do with guesstimates of amounts of time PER WEEK that either myself or Robert spend doing them:

Actually shooting, prelighting or scouting (2.25 days) – (this is the only one I can actually calculate!) Estimating new projects (1 day) Industry or technology research (0.25 days) Networking with clients or peers (0.25 days) Responding to calls or emails (0.5 days) Delivering files to clients (1.5 days)

  • Editing
  • Optimizing files (per job specification)
  • Proofing
  • Delivery (FTP or sending hard copies)

Producing projects that don’t have outside producers (.75 days)

  • Communicating with clients and subjects
  • Arranging insurance documents
  • Setting up travel arrangements
  • Booking crew
  • Handing any other production needs based a job may call for (talent, locations, catering, production documents, etc.)

Marketing efforts (1.5 days)

  • Planning/shooting for portfolio
  • Managing database lists
  • Planning and executing electronic and direct mail pieces
  • Editing/printing/showing portfolio
  • Blogging/social media updates
  • Event planning

Bookkeeping & financial (.5 days)

  • Paying bills
  • Invoicing
  • Depositing funds
  • Recording and filing expenses
  • Budgeting and planning

Studio maintenance/rental (0.75 days)

  • Managing requests and rentals of our space
  • Cleaning and maintaining the space

Archiving/copyright (0.5 days)

  • Data entry and organization
  • Converting file formats
  • Maintaining supply of hard drives
  • Purchasing/backing up hard drives
  • Submitting new images for copyright protection

The biggest challenge is that both my shooting schedule and file delivery schedule can vary wildly.  One week I may shoot 5 days out of town (or more) and have absolutely no time in the office.  Another week I may not shoot at all.  Some projects will take a whole week of file management after they are shot where others may only take a few hours of post.  Some projects require multiple days of estimating.  Its up to me to manage all the other things we do here around the elements that are constantly changing.  The upside?  Constant changes in my daily schedule keep me from ever getting bored.  Congratulations – you read this whole post!

Finding your voice

I recently got asked a series of questions from start up photog, Nick Murway.  Here is the second blog featuring his Q and my A. NM: Starting out, what's one thing you would say to do that's crazy important?

This is a tough question because I think the specifics are really different for everyone.  As you may have gathered from my last Q&A post, I am a big believer in the journey being the destination and being educated through mistakes.  Having said that, I think one of the most absolutely critical things to a photographer’s success is understanding who they truly are as a person and what their unique vision and voice as a photographer is. Trial and error can definitely be part of this process.

In my experience, just living life and being in touch with what gets you excited about a project have been good first steps. This should be seen as a career-long process, not something you can put in your one to three year goals and expect to have it hammered out by then.  Just as a photographer enjoys observing the world, those observation skills can be turned inside to see what makes you tick and what visual direction is going to make the most sense for you in your career.

Using my own career as an example, I started like many photographers do.  I fell in love with photography while travelling (not unique), and then went to art school to study photography (also not unique).  Along that path I also fell in love with photojournalism and worked as a photojournalist during several college internships and a few staff jobs shortly thereafter.  None of this was exceptionally differentiating by the time I started my freelance career in 2001.  But, over time, I started to look back at trends in my life and a few things stood out.

  • I always loved being in the moment watching people move around in their environments and mapping out possible shots that might unfold in front of me.
  • My photographic style thrives on chaotic situations or subject matter.
  • I really enjoyed long term and multiple picture projects that had a lot of details to organize and think through.
  • I was one of the only photographers at some of the papers I worked at who actually liked the challenge of shooting for the business sections.
  • I have always been an idea person, never really lacking for inspiration.

These are just a few things that helped me learn about myself, specialize my work and develop my vision.  They point directly to my ability to watch and relate to people and put them at ease, work well with corporate clients, and work with clients who value my creative input and process.  Both my photojournalism background and my love of production and details have made a perfect match of clients who need to create real looking, slice of life images with limited time frames, tricky schedules, and precise layout needs.  My people skills translate into directing people to look natural in a studio environment.

The point really is to get to know yourself over time and find out what skills you have beyond just point and click.  Then, you will be laying the foundation for what your brand of photography will eventually be.

Mistakes can be your friend

I recently got asked a series of questions from start up photog, Nick Murway.  Here is the first blog featuring his Q and my A.

  • What's one mistake, starting out, you made/would tell others to avoid?

The only true mistake you can make when starting your business is being afraid of failure. Although the goal with every business decision/marketing move/photo shoot is success; the decisions that didn’t pan out the way you thought they would are much more educational and are the only way to improve both your business strategy and your photography.

When a client wants to hire an ‘experienced’ photographer, its probably because they want someone who can adapt to changes. A lot of people can make nice pictures when nothing goes wrong, but an experienced photographer will have thought of all the pitfalls and make sure the shoot is completed successfully no matter what happens, 100% of the time.  One of my favorite clients often calls me before or after a shoot saying, “Well, there is a little wrinkle….”.  He knows by now that no matter what he throws at me I can take care of it from the estimate (considering all issues in advance, staying on budget) to the delivery (file formats, retouching needs, computer glitches, power outages, travel schedules, deadline changes) and everything in between.

My advice?  Jump in and get your feet wet – make as many mistakes as possible so you know how to solve them later:




Take risks that lead to mediocre pictures.

Pursue bad ideas.

Work with crazy clients.

Spend too much or too little on equipment/advertising/studio space.

Cut a corner.

Burn a bridge.

Get taken advantage of.

Experience equipment failure.

What should you never do?  Wait until the perfect idea hits you; wait until your portfolio is ‘perfect’.  Don’t waste one more second waiting for your career to take off for you – mistakes are your friend in the long run. They will teach you what works and what you NEVER want to do again.  When you are shooting with your dream clients you wont have that luxury, and hopefully by then you won’t need it.


Vincent Laforet event at the Apple Store

Don't miss this opportunity to hear one of our industry's innovators speak about his work as both a still photographer and now director.  He will have some great info about current and upcoming technology that will be beneficial for everyone in the industry: photographers, buyers and crew.  Both APA Midwest and Canon are sponsoring this free event.  I hope to see everyone at the Lincoln Park Apple Store next Monday night - November 7th, at 7pm.  Click the image below to be directed to our Facebook event page.


APA Portfolio Review

Last Wednesday evening the Midwest chapter of the APA hosted a great event at Studio 101 in Pilsen.  We had 9 reviewers looking at photographers portfolios and iPads including: * Jacki Angeletti (Cost Consultant - Formerly an Art Buyer with DDB)

* Lisa Bellis (Art Buyer - Abelson Taylor)

* Jennifer Byrne (Art Buyer - Upshot)

* Julia Cuninningham (Art Buyer - Freelance – formerly Euro RSCG)

* Kirsten Kuhlmann (Art Buyer - Digitas)

* Linda Levy (Workbook)

* Nancy Morey (Art Buyer - Cramer‐Krasselt)

* Audrey Wojtonik (Art Buyer - commonground)

* Harold Woodridge (Creative Director - The Monogram Group)

Follow the APA Midwest on twitter here to find out about our upcoming portfolio reviews and other events.

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Annual Burlesque Party

Every year I look forward to planning and hosting a party at our studio where I can invite clients, crew and industry folks along with friends and family to see a selection of local burlesque and live music.  I want to give a shout out to Vaudezilla for producing the show, Judson Claiborne for being our musical guest and FIG for providing delicious appetizers that evening.  Also, big thanks to some of my favorite photo assistants Ashton Hansen and Andrew Lawrence for helping out and taking these great pictures from the event.  Now its time to start getting inspired for next year...[gallery orderby="title"]

Bulk Mailing

I may be behind the times, but I have been trying this bulk mailing thing this year for the first time and although it takes a little more planning I am glad I am doing it.  Since the cost of mailing is a little bit cheaper, I have been inspired to send out some more interesting mailings including a poster / party invitation which will mail out next week in a pretty 8.5x11 hot pink envelope.  If you have not yet sent out sorted bulk mail I would recommend giving it a try - send me a note or post a comment if you don't know where to start.[gallery order="DESC" orderby="title"]

Art Buyers Roundtable - Thursday 3/10/11

I am excited to be hosting this great APA event at my studio on Thursday the 10th.  Linda Levy of the Workbook will be moderating a panel of Art Buyers from Energy BBDO, DDB, Abelson Taylor and Ogilvy & Mather.  The group will be answering questions about what they do, how photographers are chosen for projects, industry trends and other topics. Register to attend here: