Photographer Jack Spencer Says Follow Your Own Muse

PHOTOGRAPHERS. ARTISTS. On my Great Output blog, I published a post about a remarkable photographer, Jack Spencer, who will have a solo exhibition at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina throughout the month of March. Entitled “This Land,” the exhibition will feature precisely crafted archival pigment prints of landscapes that Spencer shot while traveling some of the back roads throughout the U.S. and Canada.  

Spencer, who resides in Nashville, TN, is a self-taught photographer whose work is included in many collections, including The Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Berkeley Museum of Art, and Elton John’s photography collection.

He regards printing as an integral part of his art, and says he “rarely allows the camera to dictate the final expression. For many works, the camera simply provides information and a starting point.”

Jack Spencer Photograph of Woodland Path, Cumberland 22
Cumberland 22, 20 x 24-in. Archival Pigment Print. ©Jack Spencer, www.jackspencer.com

I wasn’t the first writer to ask him what advice he would give to other photographers and artists who may be just starting out. He told me that his own career has taken a circuitous route that has been the result of many trials and errors “that have been fascinating in and of themselves. My mistakes gave me their own rewards…my successes gave me theirs.”

So, he advises photographers and artists to “Follow your own muse. Find your own distinct voice. And don’t ask anyone’s permission to be an artist.”

“Art involves honest expression. It should be something you do—not to make money or gain fame or notoriety or attention,” says Spencer. “Too many people construct obstacles to the ‘flow’ by second guessing what others will think or whether or not it will be successful or whether or not it is weird enough to set itself apart.” He believes that type of thinking has nothing to do with art.

He advises photographers to “Look for images that ‘shimmer’—not just on the print, but through the viewfinder as well. If an artwork shimmers, it has soul.”

Jack Spencer photograph of Two Wild Horses
Two Wild Horses, Cumberland Island, 22, 20 x 24-in. Archival Pigment Print. ©Jack Spencer, www.jackspencer.com

On his website, he explains why he believes artists should be infinitely curious and not be afraid to risk trying something new: “Playing it safe is for brain surgeons, not artists. Fear inhibits curiosity and creativity.”

When you visit his site, you’ll see a rich and wonderfully varied body of work.

“I do not believe that as an artist, I should repeat myself,” Spencer says.”I don’t think a writer should write the same novel over and over, or a musician should write the same song over and over. ..Our world is so vast and there is so much to explore.”

To see more of Jack Spencer’s beautiful work, visit: www.jackspencer.com

To learn more about the Rebekah Jacob Gallery and its in-depth focus on modern art and photography of the American South, visit www.rebekahjacobgallery.com

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Jack Spencer Prints To Be Shown at Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston, SC

Specialty Imaging Services Can Attract Good Clients

PHOTOGRAPHERS. If you’re looking for ways to differentiate your business from amateurs and part-timers, think about how you can attract and serve clients who might hire you for services that go beyond standard photo prints or image files.

For example, as more people around the world use the Internet to select and purchase all types of products (including very expensive art and luxury goods), perhaps you can use your talents and technology to help clients photograph and display their products in more detail.

Rotating 3D Product Shots

PhotoSpherix Mastodon Head
PhotoSpherix shot this image of a mastodon head for a virtual gallery at the Indiana State Museum

Open PR recently featured a news release about a project that the PhotoSpherix studio had just completed for the Indiana State Museum.

PhotoSpherix specializes in producing 3D product shots that rotate 360 degrees. When uploaded to a website, these shots enable shoppers and other site visitors to examine each object in more detail and from all sides.

For the Indiana State Museum, PhotoSpherix produced virtual galleries that enable educators, researchers, and collectors to see items from the museum’s collection that aren’t currently displayed in the museum itself. PhotoSpherix photographed 30 items in two days, including the second oldest baseball to a mastodon skull.

Typically, PhotoSpherix requests products to be shipped to their studio to be photographed. But they created on on-site studio for this particular shoot to minimize the risk that the items would get damaged during shipping.

Photographs of Paintings

The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about photographer Tom Powel who specializes in offering high-end imaging services to New York’s leading artists, art galleries, collectors, and museums.  In addition to still image capture, Powel offers HD video, 360-degree virtual-reality panoramas, time-lapse photography, and digital scanning and conversions.

As Powel explains on his website, “In today’s high-tech, video-centric culture, it is our aim to help clients capture the attention of and build more powerful emotional connections with global fine art audiences.”

The Wall Street Journal article notes that Powel earns about $2,000 a day for shooting pictures of paintings that will go into auction-house catalogs and books to catch the attention of buyers willing to pay $100,000 or more for each painting.

The photojournalist who shot pictures of Powel photographing a painting for the Wall Street Journal article said he wasn’t even aware that this type of photography job even existed.

LINKS

PhotoSpherix

Tom Powel Imaging

Why Is There So Much Hype About 3D Imaging?

Coverof6SightReportPHOTOGRAPHERS. If you want to better understand why there’s so much hype about 3D imaging, download the November/December, 2010 issue of The 6Sight Report. Most of the content of the 30-page issue is devoted to 3D imaging technology, and explains why it’s definitely not a passing fad. Reading the 6Sight Report will give you some valuable context as you start to see more and more product announcements related to 3D imaging.

Although sales of 3D TVs haven’t taken off as quickly as anticipated, one analyst quoted in the 6Sight Report predicts that, “It’s going to be a gradual development, and in 10 years almost everything will be in 3D. It won’t be a big special effect; it’s going to be how we’re used to seeing everything on television.”

6Sight analysts agree that eventually most photography and video will be in three dimensions, not two. Although we have become comfortable with flat images in print and onscreen, we view the world in 3D through two eyes, instead of one lens. As one expert put it, “All flat photography is just a poor attempt to emulate natural perception.”

Slowly but surely, image capture and display devices are being developed that will make viewing 3D images more natural and enjoyable to view. And 3D imaging on big TV screens will provide an immersive environment that everyone on the family can enjoy together.

Vincent John Vincent, who cofounded the GestureTek company that makes 3D camera-based motion control systems for electronic devices, notes that, “It’s not as if we’re going to get 3D to a certain level and then back off. It will eventually be commonplace to have 3D consumer devices for both photography and video…It’s worth learning about it now and adding one’s own artistic understanding to it.”

Opportunities for Professional Photographers

In the 6Sight Report, Paul Worthington interviews Panasonic senior marketing manager Darin People about the company’s growing line of 3D cameras, camcorders, and displays, including the prospects of using special 3D lens systems on cameras and camcorders.

Darin People notes that some professional wedding and commercial photographers are already starting to see the advantages of being able to not only take still pictures but also 3D pictures for their clients.

For now, wedding photographers can differentiate themselves by being able to shoot 3D video for clients that already own a 3D TV set.  But wedding photographers also need to think long term. In order to shoot images and videos that a couple can fully enjoy for decades to come, wedding photographers should start investigating 3D cameras now.

As 3D photography starts to become ‘point-and-shoot’ simple, more photographers will think of new and interesting ways to use the camera. Darin People says Panasonic will take a close look at what consumers are saying and what highly creative individuals are doing with 3D technology and try to figure out: “What are the new things that people want to do with 3D that maybe we haven’t even thought of yet?”

Content Creation

Although sales of 3D TVs haven’t exactly set sales records, experts agree that one of the main impediments has been the lack of compelling content. But over the next few years, the technology and available content will improve and prices will come down.

A number of companies have already waiting to fill the content void. For example, the website SignOn San Diego recently profiled Legend3D, a company that specializes in converting film scenes from 2D to 3D. The company anticipates that it’s only a matter of time before entire libraries of Hollywood films will be converted from 2D to 3D. Legend3D founder Barry Sandrew is quoted as saying, “The technology semi-automates the process, but there has to be a creative person there watching over it and doing it.” Over the coming year, he expects to hire another 150 workers in San Diego and 300 more in India.

 See 3D Prints at Upcoming Wedding Photography Show

The professional wedding and portait photographers who are planning to attend the WPPI Show Feb. 21-23 in Las Vegas will be able to see 3D prints in the 3DPhotoUS booth. The company will be showcasing some of the personalized 3D wedding and portrait prints that they can now offer to their customers. The prints can be made from uploaded JPEG files; a 3D camera isn’t necessary.

According to the company’s website, you won’t need any glasses to see the 3D effects in the wall prints. Nor will the prints be covered by a grooved, lenticular lens that adds an uneven surface to the print. Instead, the prints have a mirror-like surface that uses backlighting to enhance the 3D effects. The company, which has a showroom in the Los Angeles area, will be using a newly developed process to make the prints in their factories in China and Taiwan.

Don’t Bet Against 3D

Personally, I have seen this cycle play out before. When the first generations of digital cameras were introduced in 1990s, many skeptical experts scoffed that those early-model cameras could never possibly be good enough to replace pro-model film cameras. Yet, look how far digital photography has come since then. And, many journalists who attended Adobe press conference announcing the PDF format were very skeptical that Adobe’s innovation would ever become as widely adopted as Adobe envisioned.  

Last fall, I attended a Canon Expo in New York, in which the company’s engineers and scientists demonstrated some of the mixed-reality and immersive 3D imaging technologies that are being developed.  As I wandered through these mind-blowing “Future of Imaging” exhibits, three thoughts kept crossing my mind:

  • The engineers and scientists who develop the technology are just as proud and passionate about their work as photographers, designers, artists, and writers.
  • Even if new imaging technologies don’t get adopted as quickly as analysts and manufacturers might predict, the researchers will find ways to overcome the obstacles to widespread adoption.  
  • I can’t wait to see what will happen when photographers, designers, visual artists, and content creators start dreaming up creative new ways to fully use these 3D-imaging technologies.

LINK

6Sight Report: November/December, 2010 issue

Fast Track Photographers Don’t Grumble About Change

Cover of Fast Track Photographer BookLast May, Amphoto Books released a provocative book entitled “The Fast Track Photographer: Leverage Your Unique Strengths for a More Successful Photography Business.” The author, photographer Dane Sanders, explains why building a successful photography career is far different than it was 20 to 30  years ago.

The key to success as a photographer in today’s hyper-competitive environment, says Sanders, is to: “Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and start focusing on your most powerful resource—you!”  In today’s digi-flat world, creative professionals can carve out niches all their own. As Sanders puts it, “You need to design your sweet spot around the one thing that cannot be replicated: you!” 

The book and its accompanying online self-assessment test can help you determine whether you would be happier trying to become an independent Signature-Brand Photographer or would be perfectly content as a Freelance Photographer who does fee-based assignments for employers. You can devise a solution that blends the two styles, but Sanders advises photographers to “Be clear about the choice you’re making, and do what’s required to see it through.”

Above all, Sanders encourages readers to avoid “The Grumpy Photographer Life Cycle (aka the Road to Hell).” This cycle starts when photographers get overloaded with debt early in their careers, fail to promote themselves as individuals, and take on as many jobs at market prices as possible. Then, they become burned out and bitter.

Sanders characterizes “Grumpy” photographers as self-centered, arrogant, “experts” who feel entitled to business and are stuck on old business models. In  contrast, he describes fast-track photographers as client-centered, service-minded, and personable. They are adaptable to change, open to new technology and continuous learning, and able to delegate and outsource. They know who they are, and find clients who appreciate their unique set of skills.

“Rather than lapse into Grumpiness,” says Sanders. “I encourage you to see that in the digi-flat world, the spectrum of possibility has exploded.”

Dane Sanders succinctly articulates trends I’ve observed at photography conferences over the past few years. Some photographers are clearly much more upbeat, optimistic, and enthusiastic than others. Photographers who have worked for 25 to 30 years seem aggravated by how rapidly and radically technology has commoditized the conventional markets for photography.

Thus, Fast Track Photographer will not only be helpful to serious amateurs who are considering turning pro, but also to companies that use old-school, big-name photographers to help them sell products and services. People entering the photography business today must cope with marketplace realities that are fundamentally different from the business environment that existed when older-generation experts built their businesses.

“If you want to find your sweet spot in the photo world, resist the temptation to emulate heroes,” writes Sanders. “Unless you are just like them, the odds of succeeding by adopting their strategies is very low. Better to let them inspire you by how boldly they have pursued their own sweet spot in the business.”

Head shot of Dane Sanders“The old mode of learning from an expert and slogging away until you’ve earned the right to put your name out there is too slow for our fast-changing, digi-flat times,” writes Sanders. He notes that no one is an “expert” anymore because no one really knows what new developments will occur in the next 5 to 20 years and how these developments will interact dynamically to create whole new possibilities for photographers. He suggests that, “An attitude of staying creatively adaptable may be the single most important asset in extending your lifespan as a photographer indefinitely.”

As a writer, I was interested to learn that “Fast Track Photographer was originally self-published and geared only toward wedding photographers. Amphoto Books published a revised and expanded edition to help amateur and working photographers in all genres strengthen and develop their businesses.

Cover of Fast Track PhotographerReaders of The Fast Track Photographer might also be interested in The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan. This new book is designed to help you devise an overall business strategy to support your creative vision. It also contains techniques for running a creative business.

For more information, visit: www.fasttrackphotographer.com

Find Practical Advice for Digital Imaging Workflows at dpBestflow.org

PHOTOGRAPHERS. If your digital imaging workflow involves more work than flow, check out the dpbestflow.org website produced by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).  The term dpBestflow is shorthand for Digital Photography Best Practices and Workflow.

The site features dozens of practical ideas for developing a workflow that can make your work more efficient, effective, and profitable. The dpBestflow site recommends best practices for cameras, computers, color management, image editing, metadata, file management, data validation, file delivery, and copyright registration.

A lot of the advice will be useful to any creative professional who wants to streamline and improve the processing, production, and preservation of digital artwork.

For example, if you don’t understand why investing in a good monitor matters, read some of the detailed information in the site’s section on Monitor Calibration and Profiling. Not only does Project Director Richard Anderson clarify the difference between calibration and profiling, but he also explains different types of monitors, including spec-sheet terms such as illumination type, DDC-enabled, bit depth, pixel-response time, and gamut.

At last year’s WPPI Conference, I saw two experts involved in the dpBestflow project give a two-hour presentation entitled “I Need a Workflow that Works for Me.” The presenters, Judy Hermann and Jay Kinghorn, reminded newcomers to professional photography that their profitability and future business growth can depend on the type of workflow practices they establish now. Essentially, they said the less time you waste tracking down the files you need, the more time you can devote to learning new skills or pursuing new business.  Plus, some of the images you shoot and save today might have historical value later in your career.

In the presentation, Hermann and Klinghorn highlighted “good, better, and best” practices at all stages of a workflow including:

  • capture and ingestion:
  • image editing and organization;
  • image correction, printing, or output;
  • file delivery;
  • archiving and storage; and
  • finding archived images.

 To scan the type of practical advice on the site, download the dpBestflow Quick Reference sheet.  This two-page PDF condenses a lot of the best advice presented in more detail elsewhere throughout the site.

At the dpBestflow.org site, you can also download the handouts from the two-hour and four-hour presentations that resprentatives from the dpBestflow project presented.  

If you find digital-imaging and archiving terminology and acronyms confusing, check out the excellent glossary in the Resources section of the dpBestflow site.

Personally, I really admire this website because I know just how much work can be involved in condensing complex subjects into concise, easy-to-comprehend explanations—particularly in fields in which the technology is continuing to evolve.

Another thing I like about this site is that it includes links to several longer white papers that can provide greater insight and context than the get-straight-to-the-point content we’ve grown accustomed to.

For example, you can link to white papers that discuss raw file processing and print rendering, non-destructive image editing, preparing files for delivery, and using a digital camera as a film scanner.

Part of the funding for the dpBestflow project came from the National Digital Information Infrastructure and Preservation Program of the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress wants to ensure that many of the images being digitally captured today will be properly preserved for future generations and historical records.

Senior Project Manager Peter Krogh explains that, “dpBestflow helps translate the intricacies of preserving digital images into useful information that can be incorporated into everyday working habits.”

Links:

dpBestflow Quick Reference
American Society of Media Photographers
www.dpBestflow.org

Four iPhone Photographers to Exhibit Work at Austin Gallery

PHOTOGRAPHERS. To celebrate the wide range of photography styles that can be created with different types of iPhone apps, the Studio2Gallery in Austin, Texas will exhibit the work of four i-Phone-ographers: Leon Alesi, Catherine McMillan, Carol Schiraldi, and Tina Weitz.  Entitled “Appa-ritions,” the exhibit will open Feb. 12 and run through March 5.

iPhone photo by CarolSchiraldi

The idea for the exhibit came about after four well-seasoned photographers started exploring the boundaries of iPhone photography and what types of art could be created using the iPhone camera and some of its apps.

Carol Schiraldi, the artist whose work is shown here, says, “My iPhone has put the fun of photography back into my hands.  It’s small, it’s sleek, it’s sexy.  It’s easy to operate and easy to get away with.  I love the joy of discovering new apps like Camera Bag, Plastic Bullet and Hipstamatic.  I love Shake It Polaroid and the fake Tilt-Shift app.”

She likes that the iPhone allows artistic vision to go from concept to finished product in a second or two: “No Photoshop, no darkroom, no chemicals, no expense of films and such, only that vision come to life…Never before has a camera allowed me to be so productive while freeing me from the shackles of being a technician.”

Tina Wirtz, who owns the Studio2Gallery says, “I began to use my iPhone camera to fill in for those moments I did not have my high tech equipment on hand.  As I continued to use the iPhone, a new love developed.  I discovered the apps. I had lamented the departing of Polaroid Time Zero film almost four years ago, but found the new joy of Shake It, a beautiful tribute to the contrast and color of Polaroid.  You even get the nostalgic click and whir.”

To read the artists’ statements of each four photographers and see more of their work, visit the Upcoming Events section of the Studio2Gallery website.