As I write this, I am in the middle of the month-long Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BFB). It got me thinking about all the various ways in which we can benefit from participating in events such as this.
There is one annual photo event I regularly attend, the Photo Marketing Association (PMA) trade show here in Australia, as well as the Ballarat International Foto Biennale (BFB) every second year.
The PMA Conference and Exposition: PMA in Australia (as I believe it is in the US and with similar shows in other countries) is actually a composite event. While the core activity is to enable photo-industry suppliers to meet with photo retailers and end customers, many other events run concurrently. While PMA runs workshops relevant to its members, two professional photography associations run meetings and print awards, and the Photo Imaging Educators Association runs their own sessions. Plus, various organizations take the opportunity to exhibit photography.
No matter which group is conducting the sessions, the training events at PMA not only provide great information but are also timed to enable you to network with other participants. Each of PMA’s affiliate organizations holds cocktail parties and get-togethers.
The best part of these networking opportunities is that you never know what will come out of meeting another photographer. I’ve discovered great ideas about new directions for my work, great workflow suggestions, selling tips, and much more.
Examining exhibitions of photography can provide similar benefits. You can learn something from looking at any photography, even if you simply learn what you don’t want to try.
The Ballarat International Foto Biennale: BIFB is a month-long festival of photography, with a core exhibition program, a fringe festival of associated photography exhibitions, and a workshop program. Workshops run at two locations and exhibitions are spread over the city of Ballarat (a regional city of about 80,000 people) and nearby towns, including major concentrations in Daylesford and Trentham. Various talks are also given.
Like the PMA event, the BIFB provides lots of stimulation for the creative juices. The workshops not only provide training but also networking and the opportunity to learn from other photographers. The exhibition program at BFB is extensive and if you can’t learn something from any group of exhibitions you are not trying.
Similar events to BFB are conducted all over the world. I attended Arles in France once and found it to be a similar, but more intense, experience. There are so many others events, including the New York Photo Festival.
At any such photo festival there will be many exhibitions from which to choose. Some will appeal to you, some will not, and others you will find by happy accident.
Plan Some, But Not All, Your Time: One good way to maximize the return on the time and money invested in attending a conference is to look through the program in advance and choose which workshops you must attend and the exhibits you must see.
At some festivals, you can buy a package that allows you attend a certain number of workshops. In this case, choose the ones you must but if you are allowed some extras, then I’d suggest almost choosing at random. Since you want to experience the happy accident (and you can’t predict in advance just what you will get out of it), almost any workshop will do if you don’t have to pay extra for it.
In the case of PMA, allocate enough time to see the trade show. Then in the time you have left, try wandering into exhibits or seminars that weren’t included on your “must-do” list.
Often, you will discover that exhibitions or seminars that don’t sound particularly worthwhile from the conference program will actually offer you something of value if you go.
At most festivals, it’s impossible to see every event, but if you leave some free time in your schedule, you’ll at least have the opportunity to discover something you weren’t expecting. And it could be something the changes your creative life. Believe me, it happens.
If you derive some or all of your income from photography, then attending some of these events can be tax deductible. Since they are usually held in interesting locations, your spouse may enjoy going along, too.
It is hard to overstate just how valuable these events can be to your career and development as a photographer. So make the time and travel if you have to.
Sometimes the greatest value of attending a festival comes from something small. It could be one part of an image in one exhibition that haunts you and pushes you in a new direction once you return home. Or, a discussion with a photographer might open up a whole new possibility. You never know quite just what will happen. But I do know that I am always stimulated and something unexpected always happens whenever I attend one of these photography events. Give it a go.
Photography is one of those subjects that no matter how long you have been doing it, there is always something new to learn. While many amateurs get concerned about how much there is to know and feel inadequate, a better approach is to embrace the fact that you can learn something new every single day and enjoy it.
Lifelong learning is a much talked about topic and, of course, we are constantly learning things without really trying. However, this is what I would call accidental learning. A more rewarding approach is to take control of your lifelong learning. You can not only make it a positive aspect of your life, but also a source of joy.
I try to make a point of learning at least one new thing every day about my passion areas, one of which is photography.
But you may think your life is already too busy: How is it possible to find time for study? This question says a lot about the way we think about learning and our personal histories. For most of us, learning is associated with sitting in a boring classroom at school or lecture auditorium at college and having information pushed at us. This need not be the case.
Let’s examine just some of the ways that I meet my goal of learning at least one new thing about photography each day:
· I read a number of mailing lists with discussions about photography, scanning the subject lines of digest emails (all the day’s comments in one email) to see what might interest (3 minutes per list);
· I do a Google search on some photography topic and then go visit one website at random that I do not recognize (5 – 10 minutes);
· When I am already out shooting I will try one thing that I do not commonly do, and see what happens (30 seconds to 5 minutes);
· I check the newsletter or RSS feed for some photography-related website and read an article online (10 to 20 minutes);
· I read an article in a photography journal (10 to 20 minutes);
· I go and explore a photography-oriented teaching site, such as the HP Learning Center (10 minutes to as long as you want).
Now I don’t do all of these on each day (except for the first one) but I do at least one of these a day and usually two of them.
The Internet is a great tool and sites such as the HP Learning Center are excellent resources. Go and have a look and see what is offered. You’ll find classes on everything from printing to Photoshop, plus a whole range of general computer skills. The great thing about online learning is that you can multi-task. I often dive into an online site while waiting for my computer to complete some other task, such as stitching a large panorama together, uploading major changes to a website I am working on, or rendering a complex 3D scene.
I can use what might otherwise be dead time to improve my photography knowledge or other skills.
It is also valuable to take face-to-face classes every so often. As someone who teaches workshops in everything from general computer skills to advanced photography topics (such as infrared photography), I see firsthand the benefits of interacting with other students and sharing knowledge. I try to attend a workshop as a student at least once every six months. Not only does it give me something to look forward to, but I also learn stuff, meet new people and have fun.
Another great way to learn is to teach. I’ve been teaching for over 30 years at the university and adult education level, and I have learned a great deal from my students. The process of teaching also forces me to think about a topic from many different perspectives, giving me insights I might never have considered. So I recommend sharing what you know. This could be done by mentoring someone who knows less than you, contributing to an online discussion group, or writing a tutorial and posting it on the appropriate website.
Learning can be (and should be) fun. But to reach that stage, many of us must get over our school-induced phobias. The rewards are worth it. You will feel like you are making steady progress, your photography will get better, and your joy level will increase. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
As one of the photographers/printmakers who played a role in the development of the HP Artist Software Solution for Nikon, I receive a steady stream of questions about digital fine art reproduction. Some people ask about the type of technical equipment and photographic proficiency required. Others are more concerned about the feasibility of getting into digital fine-art reproduction as a business. All of these questions are valid, and I will address many of them on a new post on this blog next week.
But if you’re seriously interested in entering the digital fine-art reproduction business, I would encourage you to attend one of the seminars I will be presenting in the New York and Washington, DC area in early June.
You may be surprised to see how much things have changed. A few years ago, the level of financial investment and technical skill required for digital fine-art reproduction was daunting. Now, the technology and software have advanced to the point that digital fine-art reproduction is no longer strictly an enterprise for a small elite.
The HP Artist Software Solution for Nikon helps make it more practical for more museums, galleries, artists, art publishers, and curators to convert more of the artwork in their collections into digital files and print them out in various sizes and formats as desired.
Applications for fine art reproduction include (but aren’t limited to): the creation of limited-edition reproductions of watercolor paintings, drawings or sketches for sale or exhibitions; the restoration and archiving of national collections of artworks; and reproductions of private art collections for family estates and heirlooms.
Once the art has been digitally captured and archived, the files can also be used to create various types of promotions for gallery exhibits as well as posters and other items to be sold in museum or resort-area gift shops.
Many museums, galleries, and art publishers may choose to establish their own in-house art-reproduction facilities. But many opportunities also exist in digital fine-art reproduction for enterprising photographers and print-service providers who want to diversify their businesses.
If you attend one of my seminars, I will show you exactly how the HP Artist Software Solution for Nikon works. First, I’ll talk about how to prepare your studio for image capture using the Nikon D3/D3x, then I will demonstrate how the HP Artist Software solution embedded in the Ergosoft StudioPrint RIP controls color, exposure, illumination, density and media selection. You will also see how the printing process is managed with the Designjet Z3200.
Best of all you’ll be able to see for yourself how the quality of the Designjet reproduction compares to the original captured with the HP Artist Software solution for Nikon. I think you’ll be amazed to see how much less labor-intensive and less expensive is has become to produce gallery or exhibition-quality prints.
In the seminar, I’ll also explain why I firmly believe most start-ups should be able to achieve the transition from break-even to profitability within a year. I’ve spent a lot of time doing profit/loss calculations for different reproduction scenarios and will be happy to share my findings with you. We will also review methods for recruiting artists or organizations as new customers, and show how you can help coach your clients to effectively market their art reproductions at reasonable cost. You’ll also receive access to a downloadable portfolio of supporting technical papers, how-to guides, and other documents. (For a preview, visit the HP Artist Solution for Nikon directory on my website.)
The first three seminars are scheduled for: Monday, June 1 at B&H Photo in New York, Tuesday, June 2 at Adorama Photo in New York; and Wednesday, June 4 at Mac Business Solutions in Gaithersburg, MD (serving the Washington DC Metro area). If you can’t attend any of these first three seminars, but might be interested in attending seminars in other cities, please let me know.
And if you’re still not sure whether Digital Fine Art Reproduction is an opportunity that makes sense for you, check this blog next week when I’ll be posting answers to the most frequently asked questions about the still-expanding field of Digital Fine Art Reproduction.
I started my series of blog posts talking about how to approach strangers you want to photograph. And I explained that in our FirstLight Workshops, we pre-arrange these interfaces beforehand, so students don’t have to worry about it and can immediately immerse themselves in shooting.
When I “pre-arrange” the permissions with community residents before each workshop begins, I explain to our potential subjects what we need. We not only want their permission to have a workshop student photograph them, but we also want them to grant the photographer enough time so that certain “moments” can present themselves.
This craft takes time. We need to spend a certain amount of time with our subjects to allow ourselves the chance to capture those fleeting moments that can make great photos. Such moments can occur in minutes. Or, they may not occur until hours after you’ve found a subject and stepped into their world to take pictures.
For the first 15 minutes, your subject may simply stand there—waiting for you to start shooting. Encourage them to continue doing what they would normally do. Once you become boring to them, the photo ops will start occurring.
This is when you watch for that certain moment. It may be a gesture that your subject makes. Or it might be the laughter between two friends, or a saddle-maker immersed in the process of hand-tooling a saddle. You also watch the light, you move back, closer, higher, nearer and look for the angle and approach that will help make an arresting image.
Don’t get caught “chimping” (admiring your work in the camera’s monitor) while your subject is involved in their craft/business/whatever.Inevitably, you’ll be engrossed in looking at your camera when that certain “great-photo” moment does occur. Stay with the scene. Remember, your viewfinder is your canvas.
Once you’ve captured those few fleeting moments and returned to workshop headquarters, don’t forget another really important aspect of a participating in a workshop—showing your subjects that you appreciate their time.
Most communities are happy to open their doors and hearts to photographers when a workshop is held in their town. Usually all they want in return are a few prints for their time and patience, which is certainly a fair trade. But few photographers go to the effort of following through on this simple request.
It seems like a no-brainer, but all too often I’ve heard from people who feel that they were burned by a photographer not reciprocating their hospitality and kindness.
If you participate in an on-location workshop, I strongly urge you to take the time to print a selection of your best photos and send them back to the subjects you shot that week.
More than likely, your subjects will be proud to display your work and tell their friends about what an accomplished photographer you are.
I encourage those students who are waiting for their edit sessions to pull up a chair up and listen, because the advice given during every edit session can prove to be one of the most educational aspects of our, or any, workshop.
We also do a daily show of our students’ best work. It is mandatory that all students be present for this, and I really want them to bring their voices to this. The daily show can open your eyes and creative spirit, because you may see how another photographer shot the horse round-up at dawn in Dubois. He may have shot it in a way you hadn’t even considered.
At the end of each workshop week, we invite residents of the community to our print show so they can see how the photographers at the FirstLight Workshop have depicted their lives. These shows are wonderful! Jay Kinghorn (my co-author on Perfect Digital Photography, long-time FirstLight instructor, and our IT guy) uses our two 44-in. HP Designjet Z3100 printers to output large prints of each student’s best photos. Each student receives four or five 13 x 19-in. prints as well as one 18 x 24-in. print.We chose to use HP Professional Satin Photo Paper for all of the prints, after we discovered that prints with a lot of contrast or deep blacks didn’t look their best on the fine-art paper we’d been using for some prints.
Every photographer I know has favorite papers for different looks, but we wanted one paper surface that would provide the visual and surface feel we wanted for all the types of images our students were shooting. Our print shows generally feature a mix of black-and-white images, portraits, and landscapes, and HP’s Professional Satin Photo Paper really covers the bases beautifully. We have yet to find that image that doesn’t “glow” with this paper surface.
I rent/borrow gallery space in which to hang the show. Hanging the show is fairly simple. We inset the photos so the image has a one- to three-inch white border. This creates a simple matte feel without adding a mind-boggling amount of work! Our hanging system is usually equally simple: clear pushpins. Not fancy, but the images are so powerful that no one has yet to complain about this inexpensive, fast and non-obtrusive hanging method.We hang the show for the final night of the workshop. The students contribute elbow grease in cutting prints, organizing the groupings, and hanging the show.
In our Dubois workshop in Wyoming in July, I was up in the workshop HQ finalizing the show when Jeff Vanuga, one of our FirstLight instructors, came up to me to tell me we had a problem in the gallery. The students had finished hanging their work and were standing in front of their panels with big grins, not moving.
Initially, when we took the show down we would give the smaller 13x19 prints to the subjects who were in attendance the night of the show. Now, the shows have become so popular that we leave them hanging in the community for a week or two. Our students leave a self-addressed mailing tube and we send each of them their large print post-event.