Thursday May 16th, 2013
by Maria Luci
After knocking on the University of South Carolina’s door for almost three years (his knuckles must hurt!), James Quantz Jr finally got his first SC gig last year. Since then, he’s opened the university’s eyes to new and exciting styles of photography, by bringing the culture of commercial productions to their marketing. He adds that the school had “been making do with bare bones photo shoots and action photos cut from game files prior to working with me. With my style of capture and post-production, I’ve shown them that we can recreate big game moments and have complete control over the process.” James has now become their go-to shooter for SC’s more creative assignments.
Recently, SC asked James to shoot a campaign for their upcoming 2013 football season. He had shot last year’s campaign, and the images were so well liked that the university was hoping he could bring the magic again. James was more than happy to do so, especially since he’s a big fan of the team. He also remarked that it was a thrill to shoot for a team with such an enthusiastic fan base. “I normally put a lot of pressure on myself to deliver the best images possible,” he says, “but trying to impress a fan base takes it to a new level!”
After the creative direction for the shoot was determined, James found himself on set with a gaggle of SC football players. He enthusiastically explains that the shoot was “rockin’!” adding that “this being the second year doing the images for the football campaign the players were much more motivated. They now know I’m not there to just take the same boring photos they’ve seen for years. It was a lot of fun to see them show up fully taped, pads on, eye black, etc.”
One of the more entertaining aspects of the shoot was seeing the players’ reactions to their photos on screen. “One of my favorites was Bruce Ellington,” James elaborates, “who’s featured jumping at the end of the video. After one of his jumps, we really had some cool images on the computer and I brought him over to view them. I pointed at the screen and said, ‘Bruce are you ready to see this on billboards all over town?’ And he replied with a big smile, ‘Let’s do it again!’”
Behind the scenes of the shoot:
The photos have now been released and James has heard a lot of great feedback, especially from fans. He concludes that “it’s really about the fan base—if they don’t like something you’ll definitely hear it! Thankfully, I’ve only had positive experiences with them so far.”
View more at quantzphoto.com.
Thursday May 2nd, 2013
by Mark Harris
April has come and gone, and so have another round of Wonderful Machine web ads. For the generally rainy month, we decided to brighten things up by placing four GIF ads with happy photos over on Feature Shoot, one of our old favorites. Their site is a great resource for photographers, photo editors, and just about anyone interested in great photography.
For this round of ads, we selected two portraits, one landscape and one food shot. The first shot, a mother and child, comes from Wisconsin-based David Nevala. It’s such a sweet, heartfelt moment that we couldn’t resist featuring it. David was kind enough to give us a little background on the photo:
“This image was shot on assignment for Organic Valley, on a family farm in California. I’ve shot for this client over the past six years, on farms across the US. In Organic Valley’s photography, we always feature the actual farmers, and this shoot was no exception. We spent two days being led around their expansive farm and this shot happened in the waning moments of the shoot. As I was dodging cow patties, my assistant nudged me and nodded toward this sweet moment. The creative direction on these shoots are simple and honest; show what makes each farm unique and present the farmers as they are. Organic Valley is just now rolling out their new carton designs, which feature my photography (see below). It’s been the first time I ever thought having my picture on a milk carton was a good thing.”
The second photo featured was shot by Vietnam-based Aaron Joel Santos. It made us ask, who is this mysterious girl with this overwhelming gaze into the world above her? Posed against a bush of purplish leaves that perfectly complements her dress, the colors also went well with the Wonderful Machine orange that you see on the last frame of this ad. Aaron gave us a little view into the shoot and the city it took place in:
“This image is from a fashion shoot for Sula Clothing, out of the UK. I went with the model to Tam Dao hill station in northern Vietnam, to take the photos. Tam Dao always has a bit of a mysterious overcast feel to it, and I wanted the photographs to have a bit of a dreary, mystical element to them. The designer used a lot of deep violets and indigo in her collection, and this dress matched up perfectly to a wall of purplish leaves nearby. From there, it was as simple as having her lean into them.”
Our third ad was a serene landscape shot by James Rajotte, captured in Sierra Nevada. It features a lone rider (who, actually, wasn’t alone in the full photo) but the crop added a bit of Old West charm to the ad.
And lastly, this beautifully scrumptious food shot by Joe Vaughn completed our round of April web ads. Here’s what Joe had to say about the photo:
“Shot at a summer heirloom harvest dinner at the height of Michigan’s tomato season, this image is farm to fork at its finest hour. James Beard Award Winner and Food Activist, Alex Young of Cornman Farms and Zingerman’s Roadhouse served up these Michigan heirlooms and vegetables, literally just hours after being picked from his backyard farm, a mere 8 miles away.
Before I take almost any bite, I generally snap a shot it. It’s a personal food journal. And it’s not for weight loss or tracking fat. I just admire the relationship between a chef and his finished plate. The funny thing about this shot, is, that is was my dinner.”
Tuesday April 30th, 2013
By Maria Luci
The blog… While some have embraced it as an easy and fun way to keep others up to date on their latest projects and daily activities, to others, the mere mention of the word makes them cringe. Keeping a blog up to date, knowing what to write, or even how to begin, has become the bane of many photographers’ existences.
But whatever your feelings towards blogs, I do believe they are an important part of every commercial photographer’s business. As Wonderful Machine’s publicist, I have been writing daily blog articles on photography for several years now—and I’ve picked up a trick or two along the way. So, for all your blog-aphobics, or even for the blog-aholics looking for tips, here are a few things I’ve learned…
Why Blogs Matter
Why have a blog anyway? I’m sure a lot of photographers ask themselves this question—and then many come and ask me. There’s no one answer, but the reply I give most often is that a blog is the perfect way to keep creatives updated. While your website should only contain the best of the best, and most appropriate work for each portfolio, a blog allows you to expand on this. You can show your latest work, interesting personal projects, maybe some photos that aren’t exactly in line with the rest of your portfolio. It’s also a great way to connect and show some personality—and the chance, if you’d like, to show a different side of yourself. Sharing behind the scenes info and fun stories helps creatives get a better sense of who you are and what it would be like to work with you. Another great thing about blogs? They’re free! While promos, emailers and just about everything else related to sharing your work costs money, a blog is a free way to share your work with the world.
A few more reasons to have a blog:
- Creatives love them! I’ve heard from a lot of art buyers and photo editors that they like looking at photographers’ blogs.
- Search engines love them! While your website may have little to no copy on it, blogs can be filled with keyword heavy copy and tags, making it easier for search engines and creatives to find you online (increasing your SEO). A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words is worth more to Google (not that you have to write a thousand words in every post…)
- Blogs offer RSS feeds, which automatically allows for syndication of your entries to a wide audience. It’s a simple and free way for creatives to follow you.
- It can help further your brand. Have a fun, quirky logo and photo style? Fun, quirky commentary on a blog (with matching branding, of course) will enhance your brand. Structured architecture photographer? A blog discussing the structures you shoot can help cement your style, and help you be known as the photographer as opposed to a photographer.
Types of Blogs
There are a number of great blog platforms out there. At Wonderful Machine, we use WordPress, which is easily updateable and good for those who like to write. One factor I really like about WordPress is how easily I can schedule posts in advance. Going on vacation for a week? I can write articles ahead of time and set them to post each day, at whatever time I desire. Also, WordPress is chock full of plug-ins to help design, share, promote and otherwise make your blog simple to use and snazzy to look at. I’d recommend this platform to anyone who enjoys both customization and writing.
For those who find posting a gaggle of photos preferable to writing prose, I’d highly recommend Tumblr. It’s a snap to post photo upon photo—and then have those pictures shared across the web. Effortless is a word Tumblr uses to describe itself, and I certainly agree.
As a side note, Tumblr is also customizable, but you may not find the same ease, or at least support, as you would with WordPress. I’d also like to add that Tumblr can be a great way to share a personal project—like with Julian Love’s Clara Hayward project. Tumblrs are a cinch to set up, making it an ideal way to highlight a special series or to separate your corporate from lifestyle work.
For inspiration, here are a few of my personal favorite photography Tumblrs:
Other blog platforms to consider:
What to Blog About
Your blog can take a number of directions, but I’d recommend deciding which works best for you before you get too involved. Plan, plan, plan! For many photographers, posting daily pictures, Instagrams and behind the scenes photos works just fine. They’re not big writers, but they want to keep clients and fans informed on what they’re up to. Then there are the Chase Javrises and Zack Araises of the world, who enjoy sharing knowledge and opinions. Their blogs are populated with photo industry news, tips and insights. Their astute posts have earned them huge followings and have helped propel their brands and careers to the next level (but as I bring up in the next paragraph, this type of blogging isn’t for everyone). Then there are the photographers who simply post tear sheets from their latest assignments. All of these can be viable options, but before you jump into one particular style, make sure you can keep up with it and that it fits your brand and personality, as well as your time constraints.
When you’re planning out your direction, make sure you also consider your audience. I frequently find photographer blogs that are targeted toward other photographers, rather than the creatives who can hire them. And yes, Zack’s blogs are aimed at photographers, but he can get away with this because he often hosts workshops and speaks at events. This means he earns revenue off of his audience. He also seems to really enjoy being a spokesperson for the photography community and dedicates a lot of time and energy into it. But, if your primary goal is reaching art buyers and photo editors, make sure you shape your blog accordingly. Ways to do this can include writing posts that highlight your technical skills or sharing BTS shots that demonstrate how fun/easy you can be to work with.
Once you’ve chosen a direction, and acknowledged your target audience, the next step is more planning (sorry, but only fools jump in!). Before you start posting away, I recommend putting together an editorial calendar. Do you have interesting assignments coming up? Make sure you plan on taking behind the scenes images and set a date to sit and write about the job. If you’re more of a knowledge sharer, keep up with trends and current photography news. Also, plan out topics you can write about in advance—and schedule dates to write and post these articles. And stick to it! Here at Wonderful Machine, I post seven or more articles a week—which believe me, is pretty much a full time job, and I don’t expect this from you—but, the way I accomplish this is by having a printed calendar on my desk at all times. I pencil in article ideas and check them off (by filling in a little black circle) once they’re scheduled. Then I know I can move on to the next post. This way, I never miss a day and I know what types of articles I’ve been writing about and what’s missing. I also keep a running list of all Expert Advice articles written by the WM staff, along with ideas for future articles. Again, this lets me see what we’ve covered and what needs to be covered in the future.
My WM blog calendar.
Excerpt from our Expert Advice calendar. Initials indicate who I’ve assignment to write the article.
Categories are also a good way to keep yourself on track. Come up with a few before you get started. Here, we have Weekend Links every Friday and SaTEARday posts on Saturdays. Ideas for individual photographers could include designated behind the scenes days, weekly advice posts, monthly video shares or an interview column with fellow photographers or favorite clients. Creating categories and setting schedules makes blogging easier and helps keep you going when you’re feeling stuck.
Mostly though, I’d say stick to what you know. If you’re the person everyone comes to for advice, share that advice on your blog. If you’ve got ton of Instagram followers or great personal pics that just don’t work in your portfolio, post those on your blog. If you have interesting behind the scenes photos, share those. If you’re a writer, write! If you’re funny, be funny! If you’re lazy, well, maybe don’t start a blog…
Sharing and Tracking
Just as it’s important to track your website’s analytics, it’s also important to track your blog. Through analytics, you can see what posts generate the most buzz and which may be falling flat. This is valuable information, you don’t want to be wasting your time on posts no one reads. There are a number of ways to track how well your blog posts are doing. Number one being Google Analytics. It’s easy to set up and will give you a great deal of useful information. A few things you can track through Google Analytic’s include:
- Number of visitors to your blog
- How long each visitor stayed, what pages/posts they viewed
- Where those visitors live, what language they speak
- What pages they entered on, what pages they exited from (which can help you see which posts continue to be popular over time. For example, our Writing a Photographer Bio post continues to bring in thousands of visitors a month, even though it’s over a year old)
- Traffic sources to your blog
In tandem with Google Analytics, I would also recommend using some sort of RSS feed with your blog. Google Feedburner (which unfortunately looks like it may be going the way of doomed Google Reader) allows you to see how many people are subscribed to your blog through RSS, how many people view each post through RSS daily, and which posts are the most popular via RSS each month. This is important to add to your Google Analytics results since many people never actually click through to a site when viewing through readers and/or email feeds.
I’d also advise posting links to your blog posts on your other social media pages, like Twitter and Facebook. To do this, I use a link tracking service called bitly. Bitly creates trackable links for you, so you can see how many people click each one.
If you’re using a Facebook page, you can also see how many people view each post, even if they’re not clicking—this is called the “total reach.”
Photographers Doing It Right
There are plenty of photographers out there already doing everything right, blog-wise. Reviewing and keeping up with their blogs can help inspire you to write your own follow-worthy blog. Here are some of my favorites:
- Zack Arias’s Ask Me Anything blog. Recently back from hiatus, Zack’s “Ask” blog brings in thousands of viewers and helps brand him as the go-to man for any and all photography related questions.
- Chase Jarvis‘s blog. Chase’s blog has helped make him a “household” name in the photography world. Everyone knows about it and a heck of a lot of people read it.
- Dana Neibert’s photo journal. Dana’s blog lets his images do that talking. It’s all photos. Let me rephrase that, it’s all beautiful photos (and a few videos). It gives the viewer a glimpse into Dana’s assignments while also solidifying his elegant photo style and brand. And, unlike his well curated website, his blog allows Dana to share all of his best photographs, whether they work in his portfolio’s edit or not.
- Joe McNally’s blog. Joe’s blog takes you behind the scenes, and gives insights into his recent and past projects. His thirty plus years of experience shines through and makes for an interesting feed to follow.
- Matt and Agnes Hage’s blog. The Hages are adventure/outdoor sports photographers, and their blog sure lets you know it. They’re constantly updating about their wild adventures from across the globe. If you’re into skiing, climbing or hiking, their site is interesting, whether you’re interested in photography or not.
Well, that’s about all I can cram into one blog post. If you’re looking for more individualized attention, or have questions about blogging I haven’t addressed here, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday April 25th, 2013
by Maria Luci
In a new campaign for Alec Bradley Cigars, photographer Peter Taylor does things a little differently. There were no models, slyly smoking cigars, celebrity spokespersons or sexy women in slinky dresses. Instead, Peter shot real Alec Bradley national sales reps, deemed “The Road Warriors“, in ways that highlighted each rep’s unique personality. These fun ads are currently running in Cigar Aficionado, each featuring a different rep. Enjoying the refreshing take on cigar advertising, I got in touch with Peter and Alec Bradley art director, Jeff Moss, to discuss the project further. Below is our interview:
How would you describe your photographic style?
Peter: My style is a mishmash of so many influences and experiences it’s hard to put a name to it. I have been a war photographer, a newspaper photographer, a professional sports photographer, a magazine photographer, a set designer, a production stills photographer, a fashion photographer, a photo editor, a food photographer, etc—but throughout all of this, a few things have stayed constant. My work is story telling, full of real moments, and has the ‘human’ experience; it’s very relatable.
How were you chosen to photograph the Alec Bradley project?
Peter: I was hired directly by the company. They found me through my relationship with their art director. Jeff and I have known each other since 2003 when we met at a creative networking event. Since then, we’ve collaborated on many projects.
What was the concept behind the shoot?
Peter: Jeff and I had been tossing around some ideas on how to present the brand. He came up with some great tag lines including the one that’s the company’s motto now, “Live True”. We used that as a starting point. The main idea was to stand out from other cigar brands. No celebrities and no sexy women. We wanted to see real people living true. Eventually, with the brilliant input from the owner, Alan Rubin, that morphed into shooting the personalities of each of the sales reps. They wanted photos that showed the “Road Warriors” being themselves. Each one was given a nickname and that’s what we based each shoot on.
Jeff: We wanted to position this campaign on a direction that had not yet been done, and thought that building the “superstar” as a group would carry further than just one individual character would.
How much creative freedom did you have?
Peter: From the very start, Jeff and I worked very closely together, tossing around ideas and locations and props right up until I pressed the shutter button. While on the shoot, I’d say I had quite a bit of creative control. Jeff and Alan work in the style of letting people do what they know how to do.
What was the shoot like?
Peter: Our first round, we shot 3-4 locations a day making for very long days—12-14 hours at least. We were like mad men, running around setting up backdrops and lights. But, everything went very smoothly—long days, but really only minor hiccups. Broken umbrellas, dead batteries, late talent—working with real people can be a challenge, but these guys are all salesmen, they were ON the whole time making it very easy to get the shots we needed. They were also on board with the whole idea, so they were into it.
Jeff: As AD it is important to work side by side with your photographer—and it helps that we work great together! This shoot was long and fast-paced. we had many shots to capture in a small amount of time. There were some challenges, but Peter and I have done this for many years and are very good at producing the perfect results no matter what obstacles occur.
Peter: Well we learned that shooting 3-4 locations a day is too much a grind. This year we only did two a day for the new reps! The ‘Pitchman’ shot was probable the craziest with the wind. We had everyone including some bystanders holding down that back drop. While we were setting it up it literally blew away, all across the field! Also, I’d like to note that when shooting a cigar company ad their is always a lot of cigars. LOTS. We went though about 30 boxes of cigars during the 4 day campaign!
What was the reaction to the images?
Peter: Jeff and the whole Alec Bradley family love the photos. The ads have been a huge success, getting quite a bit of attention in the industry. They’ve also used the photos in their trade show booth as larger than life wall panels. Each “Warrior” has a life-sized banner of their photo that they take to events at cigar shops. They’re also given 8×10′s that they hand out at the events. Some were skeptical of this…until they ran out of photos!
Jeff: Absolutely fantastic! From my mind to the page—Peter always nails the visual concept!
Did you learn anything through this assignment?
Peter: I learned I really like to be involved early in the creative process. It gives the photographer a bit more ownership of the project. Relationships and trust are very meaningful to me as photographer. I also learned to always have a few extra sets of hands on set in case of high winds and that a box of cigars makes a great bribe when you forget to get that permit.
View more at ptpix.com.
Thursday April 11th, 2013
by Maria Luci
“Relationships are everything in this industry,” Tibor Nemeth states as he begins to discuss his latest project with Partners + Napier. The shoot saw him filming, photographing and drinking tequila on a beach in Mexico for Hotel California Tequila. Tibor credits his past projects with P+N, and his years of working with Creative Director Jeremy Schwartz, as important factors in landing the job. However, I’d say that his incredible talent didn’t hurt either.
According to Tibor, this assignment was a rarity. The Hotel California artisanal tequila brand is somewhat new, and because of this, they needed a lot of content. The project involved shooting a library of both photographs and videos—which wasn’t a problem for Tibor, who typically splits his time evenly between still and motion. An extensive shot list documenting the Tequila making process and lifestyle around Mexico, along with the exotic locations, made for an adventure that Tibor could never refuse.
Soon, Tibor found himself in Todos Santos, Mexico, working on the project (and his tan!) with CD Jeremy and writer Scott Allen, both of whom Tibor found to be great assets on set—”I’d forgotten how nice it is to have both creatives on a project. Lots of questions get answered quickly and decisions get made.” A production crew also joined them, put together by Element Productions, who rep Tibor’s motion work. Once settled, they got to work shooting tequila,
The days were long, but fun. It really was one big adventure. Sometimes being a small crew is a challenge, but you can move around so much faster. Me trying to speak Italian-Spanish didn’t help either. I move and think fast, that ADHD photographer thing, and waiting for the translator to give out my directions was always interesting. But there were really no problems at all on set, I was thrilled and thankful.
Behind the scenes.
To make things both authentic and fun they chose to forgo professional models, and used “real people” in the shots, including “master distillers, owners and partners of Hotel California Tequila, factory workers, farmers and newfound friends.”
This project didn’t feel like work, which is as it should be. Our clients were really great and were such gracious hosts. They made sure we took nice long lunches and dinner was always over the top. The food was incredible, I love to eat and usually rate jobs by the food. We always had the cameras with us, and even after dinner we would grab night shots around town and at the bar of course.
Todos Santos was such a mellow, beautiful place. All the travel advisories about Mexico were really intimidating, but I felt so safe. The Mexican people were so nice and friendly.
200 GB of imagery and videos later, Tibor is now back in the States, and has already received requests for images for table tents, sell sheets, brochures, the website and more. The videos will be released soon after the first printing rounds. “The clients are thrilled. They love that we captured the brand and Mexico with the warmth and richness inherent in the imagery.” Tibor is also happy with the results, and everything he gained through the experience, including the knowledge that “tequila should not burn your nose hairs when you smell it!”
View more at tibornemeth.com.