Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Open and Honest Thoughts...

I have been thinking of something for a long time and that is the sheer number of terrible photos being produced by so called photographers are quite impressive.
It’s bad, and the reason is often because people aren’t stringent enough when culling photos (choosing your best photos) and too hastily posting online. Many want to hear what others have to say immediately (your friends are lying to you) instead of simply trusting their ability to evaluate their own work.
I totally understand that tastes differ and photography is an art and art is subjective, in fact some of my photos may not appeal to others, that’s not in my control. However, what does fall within my control is how scrupulous I am when deciding what goes out to the world.  
I don’t understand why so many photographers conduct a shoot for a client and then post 30-40 images on Facebook and Instagram.  The shoot was for the client not the general public!
I’m not taking a shot at people that take bad photos; I have many bad photos myself. But that’s the entire point of also having a very strict selection process to decide what’s going to make the cut.

It’s a fact: your portfolio is only as good as your weakest shot. Anything you post online is, to a certain extent, part of your portfolio as things live forever on the Internet.
Photographers should be their toughest critics, and I mean brutal.
Sadly too many just aren’t because they trust online comments from their aunt, their neighbor and their kid’s second grade teacher such as “nice shot!” “great composition”, “beautiful light” and so on which they get on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest and feed their addiction for social media affection.
But in reality these comments do not help you improve. They just corrupt the overall quality of your portfolio.
There is a great story of Picasso waiting in a restaurant for his food, while waiting he began to draw on the napkin, a customer came by and asked if they could buy what he had just drawn. He said sure, $20,000. The customer said, "It only took you 5 minutes", Picasso agreed, then he said, " However it took me 40 years to learn how to do it in 5 minutes!” If anyone thinks I am going to give him or her what took many years to learn for free, they are mistaken.
Some may not always like my delivery or even my work for that matter, heck I have been called many names by others photographers and people that don’t even know me in my community. But that’s okay I was born to take a punch. 
Making mistakes is part of the game. And I have made plenty and will continue to do so for the rest of my career. 
I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at myself lately, I’m finding out it’s not about the other people though. It’s about you and I. I’ve made the mistakes. I’ve followed the sickening trends early on and unsuspectingly listened to the masses. But I’m the only one who can do what is right for me. I need to remind myself that coming into my own and having success hasn’t been an overnight process.  A friend of mine Stoney Jackson actually prompted this manifesto so to speak with a quite humbling comment he made on one of my posts on Instagram he said, “you definitely have developed a style, I can’t explain it I just know that I can pick out your photos just by looking at them without reading whose it is.” Although great words I must say that I’ve spent thousands and thousands of hours trying to find my voice and place within the industry. I have yet to even scratch the surface and I still have thousands of hours ahead of me.  Thank you Stoney!
At the end of the day it all comes down to one thing and that is being true to my profession, my clients and myself.
All the Best!


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Photographs Are Our Livelihood

Photographs Are Our Livelihood

***I am writing this for all the photographers that go through this daily…HERE WE GO***

I receive messages everyday from models in my area and around the country requesting shoots.  I kindly respond the same way to each and every one if they are local… 

“I'd be happy to sit down an discuss a plan for you. My portfolio session is $495 dollars.
If you'd like to meet please let me know when you're available.

This response is usually met with “I will promote you on Instagram” “I can find someone to do it for less” “It will help you build your portfolio” or the newest “I am not willing to pay that much”

I do have to say each one of these responses and many more like them come with a level of courage to even hit send.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If I give away my images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, I cannot make a living.

With requests for free work premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form of a specific mention on Instagram.  I take issue with this one because a “special mention” doesn’t pay the bills.  I work hard to make the money required to reinvest in my equipment and to cover related business expenses.

Professional photography services are not a hostage negotiation where we eventually “come to an agreement”

Photography is a business. We have bills; pay taxes, business expenses just like any other place you might frequent. Do you walk into your hairdresser or barber and ask them to work for less than what they are asking for? Do you go to the gas station and haggle over the price? Would you go to work and expect your boss to say, “I really like the work you’re doing, but I’m not willing to pay you. However, I am going to tell everyone how good a job you do”? I don’t think anyone would.

You wouldn’t work for free, so why would expect a photographer to do so?

You are not doing us a favor by stealing our time and “telling your friends how good we are.” You will never bring us any business that is worth our time if we give you our time for free.

If you value the work we do, there is only one way to compensate us, pay us.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Thankful Perspective

When I began my journey in photography many years ago with a Canon 35mm film camera I never thought that I'd be where I am today.  I've been published both domestically and internationally in 3 different publications.  I have participated in international print competitions against the greatest creatives from around the world, my work has been commissioned by fashion designers that have worked with Lady Gaga and Beyonce' just to name a few.

Back in the early 2000's when I was shooting Indy Racing and the IRL did I ever believe that I would become a sought after portrait, fashion and headshot photographer.  It's two different worlds going from race cars tracking at 230 mph to a model standing still.  That being said I love what I do!

My clients mean the world to me, and I cannot thank them enough for trusting me with their images. From my corporate headshot clients to my high school seniors each has a need and we deliver on that need.  My headshot clients are either trying to brand or rebrand themselves and my work and style allows them to do that perfectly.  After all a professional and well done headshot is in some case the first impression a business has to make in front of a potential client.  Decisions to spend money with a company at times comes down to that headshot.  I know personally I have hired individuals because of their headshot...It shows they care!

As for my senior clients I have one job, and that is to make their dreams come true.  Being a senior in high school and graduating is a major milestone in the lives of young people and that time in their life must be captured perfectly.  It must be captured professionally. And it must be done to the need of the client.  I never schedule a session unless I have met with the client and at least one parent.  I like to call it a "getting to know you session" where we discuss their contract and plan their shoot all the down to the smallest details in hair, makeup and wardrobe. My team is such a valuable asset, they allow me to create over and above what they do with the client.  We create a very relaxed, professional and personal environment both in the studio and on our location sets.

I am not a photographer that takes every job or potential client that calls or emails me.  And I realize for one reason or another I may not be for everyone but to those that have hired me I thank you and couldn't be doing it without you.

This is a business, R Nolan Photography is a full time studio.  I am not a guy with a camera and a few open weekends when the weather gets nice.  I am not a guy that will expand my offerings and compromise my own business beliefs by adding baby mini sessions just because I want to take a "Dream Vacation" or but a hot tub.
I am not in this for short term dollars.  I have built a business organically, I have struggled at times to fill my book when I first began but that is no longer happening.  In fact, I have senior portrait clients in my book for the 2019 and 2020 graduating classes already.  And that has happened for a few reasons, one I have worked my ass off and two MY CLIENTS ROCK!

You may be to this point and say well, where's this thankful perspective the title states?  Well, it's right here.  Without my clients it's pretty obvious my business wouldn't be around.  They have spread to word to their friends and family that have become clients and that is the most humbling thing in the world to me.

So thank you for reading, thank you for your consideration and most of all thank you for being the best clients in the world!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Importance of having your Photographs Printed

Photographs are meant for paper not on screen.  Now this may see a bit contradictory since you are reading this on some form of electronic device, but it's true.

An ancient definition of photography is to "write with light" 

Photos just have a better look and feel when they are on paper.

I am not a photographer that shoots and burns images, I am not a photographer that will have a $50 "mini-session"  special with all images "edited" on a disc ( and by the way it is disc, not DISK) people!

I have delivered thousands of images to various clients and there is absoultely no better feeling in the world to see the look and reaction on a clients face when I reveal a 24x36 image of the them.  I have see reactions of jumping up and down to tears of joy when they see something they have a true emotional connection to.  Simply put you cannot capture the impression or emotion that a large print gives you.  It cannot be captured in a smaller print and that emotion surely cannot be found on a CD.

In studies dating all the back to 1975 have shown that a very powerful aspect of photography is how prints hanging on the wall can boost the self esteem of children in the home.  Again something you cannot measure in a digital image.  It let's children, teens and young adults learn who they are and how they fit in. 

When researching this topic myself I came across this powerful quote, 

“My personal and clinical bias is there is something very powerful in touching your fingers to an actual print,” says Craig Steinberg, a licensed psychologist who works with children ages five through 13 near Eugene, Ore. “Touching the photograph where a face is smiling or on the shoulders, it is the same thing as touching a book when you read it. There’s a lot of stimulation of the brain when you have that sensory experience. That is a bit lost in the move to digital. You are touching a keyboard, mouse or a touchscreen but you are not touching the image.

You may be wondering why I posted an old image in this article?  The answer to that is quite simple this image is 69 years old.  It's a PRINT of my wife's parents when they got married in 1947.  

I was able to restore the image by scanning and doing the necessary fixes that can be made in the digital age.  In fact we had the image printed as gifts for her siblings.  

I realize that the digital age and computers and discs were not a thing in 1947, but the emotion of holding a nearly 70 year old image in hand is powerful.  There is emotion and even though none of us were there we have a connection to the day.

I see it this way if you don't print, memories that once were special can and will be lost forever!

Thank you all for your continued support and inspiration.  None of this is possible without all of you!

Kind regards,

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the Stars."

If you have ever been in front of my camera you know this is something that I do. I will always present a before and after image from the shoot.

In this case these two images represent what different light and color toning can do to an image.  
This is a single light setup, shot with the same lens and camera. As a note she has the same makeup on in the both images.

I put this information out here for you to demonstrate when you are researching a photographer to do you work make sure he/she is taking the time to produce the best images possible for you.  

My concentration is headshot, fashion and portrait photography. 

I am not one of those "all in one" photographers, specializing in weddings, events, kids, sports teams, cake smash(whatever that is) etc, rushing you through a shoot, throwing a few images on a disc and sending you on your merry way.  There are plenty of those out there to choose from too.  And no one can "specialize" in every aspect of this business. (And yes this is a business)

Think of it this way if you have a cavity your not headed to an eye doctor, your going to a person that specializes in cavities. The same with photography if you want portraits/headshots done for your professional website, modeling portfolio or senior school year, do you want a "cake smash" specialist capturing those images?

Also, the subject and photographer MUST connect! The picture on the left was the third image in a series of 150 images we took that day.  She had never been in front of my camera, and I had never met her until she walked in the studio door.  So that level of anxiety on both the model and the photographers part exists.  But with simple instruction and conversation both parties feel more at ease and the shoot can flow.

I get to work with people of all shapes and sizes daily. The best advice I ever got from a mentor of mine was make sure the client feels better leaving than when they walked in the door.  
That is my goal with every shoot. Whether it's an actor, model, business professional or high school senior.  I want them leaving feeling better about themselves when they walk out my door.

A talented client of mine posted a picture she drew yesterday that said "Shoot for the moon.  Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."
I've heard that before, it's such a wise and eye opening quote.  

I'm not shy in saying this I am working hard to be the premiere portrait photographer in my area and with great clients past, present and future.  That goal will be met!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Myth of the Natural Light Photographer...Buyer Beware!

This image would have been very good
had it not been for the side lighting on
the model's nose, that casts an ugly
sharp shadow on the side of the face.
We are cruising into the Easter weekend and I hope all of you are doing well.  In another part of a series in educating the client or future client I wanted to bring to you a thought that many photographers have regarding the term "Natural Light Photography"

There comes a point in the life of every photographer where they’ve heard a single statement that either enthralls the uninitiated or makes the more knowledgeable roll their eyes. This statement is said in five short words: “I’m a natural light photographer.”

Now, this shouldn’t offend you at all, it should make you think about your choice when hiring an individual to capture obvious memories you want to keep forever. Some folks are genuinely natural light photographers because of the type of work that they do–and so they spend their hours quite literally chasing the light in order to make a living or to one day make it their sole source of income. Famed Australian photographer Peter Lik comes to mind.

Again: they spend their hours quite literally chasing the light in order to make a living or to one day make it their sole source of income. These photographers spend lots and lots of time watching the weather forecasts and determining just the right spots and times to go out and take photos. There are hours of prep and lots of conceptualizing done to make the most of the small window of time.

And again in case it isn’t hitting you: we’re talking about pros and aspiring pros.

These photographers are not the ones that are the focus of this article. Why? Because they’re learned how to actually utilize light no matter what type it is and they learn how to read it and make the necessary adjustments.  
This image was shot in a natural light setting using
a speedlight and single softbox. The results
are soft and beautiful.

The other breed that we’re talking about are the camera owners that hide behind a veil–stating that they only shoot with natural light in some phony effort to make themselves look more nouveau than thou. But what they’re actually saying translates into: “I have not a damned clue how to use a flash, but I’ll use constant lights.”

These photographers are the ones that fumble when they score gigs that require the use of a flash, knowledge of how to set it and work with it,  They’re also the ones that go on to tell clients that they have to wait until there is a cloudy day to shoot in order to get the softbox look. To no end, these are the photographers that fake it in order to make it.

The “Natural Light Photographer” also refuses to learn how to use artificial lighting–and typically work instead to simply capture a scene that someone else puts work into rather than actually manipulating the scene to be what they want it to be. Oftentimes, it’s also fair to say that these shooters don’t necessarily have a creative vision of any sort.

So what’s the problem?

It’s a sign of weakness and it’s nothing but a lie to the client when your images lack what a true creative and knowledgeable strobist can create. These other photographers can theoretically shoot anytime during the day or night and usually find a way to make their images look like it was shot at any time of the day.

And at the end of the day these photographer don't realize they are hurting themselves. Top sushi chefs don’t say that they can serve puffer fish unless they absolutely know how to do it. The best way to actually learn how to light is to adopt the mentality of being an available light photographer. The use of reflectors, umbrellas, flashes, monolights, softboxes and more are the only things that can help you achieve a more tailored vision because there is only so much that you can do with natural light until all of your images look the exact same and someone figures out a way to mimic your technique and do what you do for cheaper.

And if you’re going to shoot in only natural light, at least learn to get exactly what you want and need in a single shot the way that medium format film photographers and large format photographers used to do.

If you are searching for a photographer that states they are "A Natural Light Photographer" ask to see a physical portfolio.  Every reputable professional photographer has one of his/her images. If they don't again buyer beware.  You then have to ask yourself what are they hiding?

I realize my clients are spending a considerable amount of their hard earned money to get in front of my camera.  This article is part of the education they get when we sit in our pre shoot consultation meetings.  I want them to not only know about me and my work to make an educated decision, but I want them to know what is happening in the industry.

I appreciate all of you that have taken the time to part of this blog and community of both photographers and consumers.

If you have questions or comments please direct them to my website and click on the contact us tab.

Have a great Easter and keep shooting!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why Choose R Nolan Photography for your Senior Photos?

R Nolan Photography is dedicated to providing you with the best experience possible, from the minute we meet in our consultation until your prints (yes I said prints) are delivered.

I get asked this question several times, “Why Should we choose you?” 

So this is where we begin…my first thoughts are why on earth would you want your pictures looking like 400 other graduates from the area, same background, and same poses.  Not to mention the same greenscreen being used by ten other photographers.  WHY NOT BE DIFFERENT?

In my consultations, which I will get to in a bit I’ve come to find that many seniors are under the impression that the school photographer must do their senior pictures.  This is not true; you do have a choice to have your portraits done differently.


That being said what makes R Nolan Photography different?  Why are we the best choice in Steubenville, OH for senior photography?  The answer is simple.  I want you to be YOU.  I want you to be different and I want your photos to be different from the hundreds of others graduating this year.

How does it all begin?  We start our senior experience with a consultation.  This is where I find out all about you, what you like, what you don’t like and what ideas you have for your senior photos.  Then together we will come up with a concept for your shoot.  From that point I encourage you to send me ideas about clothing, hair, makeup and even locations.  We will then talk about anything you may want to incorporate into your shoot.  Then we map out your senior photo session.

The day of your shoot has arrived and since we have done all of the preliminary preparations we can run a smooth shoot.  You can show up on location or at the studio confident that this is your day (we typically do one shoot a day).  You will have the complete attention of my team and we will help you get picture perfect for your shoot.  You will have your outfits (yes I said outfits) ready to go, all paired up perfectly with the location we are shooting in.

You want your shoot to be an experience…and that all begins with trusting your photographer.

I also would like to make it very clear unlike many photographers WE DO NOT HAVE A SITTING FEE, because I am confident you will love your images! (A small deposit is required and credited towards your final package purchase)