Back to school

If I could, I would be a professional student.  I loved my undergraduate years at UGA and my masters program at Piedmont College.  I wasn't always the top student, but I loved the atmosphere on a campus.  I love classrooms and I love learning new things.  

Maybe that's why it's been such an easy transition into teaching and photography.  Both careers involve constantly learning new things in an environment that is dynamic and evolving.  Both jobs involve large amounts of self-teaching, individual investigation, and self-propelled learning.  And I've done pretty well on both counts.  I feel like I've come very far as both a teacher and photographer, and my portfolios have shown that.  But every year I've had a gnawing hunger to take a class or get another degree.  I'm already doing it as a teacher, taking classes in English Language Learner certification to become a better academic teacher for students who are learning both English and curriculum content.  I know that in a few years, once my student loans are paid off (woot!) I will be finally making the decision on whether or not to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology.  

I also want to study photography as both art and a profession.  I love this career and I love what it gives me.  I've always had the mentality of seeing what I can do better, and where that leads me is wanting to go back to school for this as well.  I've been looking at various degrees and programs, from the Professional Photographers of America certification to Art Institute of Atlanta to bachelors and masters programs at SCAD and UGA.  But I'm not sure where to go from here.  

I want to go back to school.  I want hands-on instruction in core art topics, art history, design.  I want real-time instruction on both advanced photography and post-process technique.  I want to learn the full depth of advanced Photoshop.  I want to learn how to work in a real darkroom, and not from the small dark space I've put together to develop films when I have the time.  I want to learn the business practice systems crucial to making all of it come together.  And I want a real program, not a BS 'certification' or a for-profit 'degree' from a degree mill.  I want real education, real challenge, real experience.  

But I don't know what's appropriate for me.  I don't need basics on how to work a camera.  I don't need to waste my time.  And I don't know if already having both a bachelors and a masters degree affects my options.  

What I'd love is to hear comments, suggestions, thoughts about the options.  What should I do?  And what do you want to accomplish this year?  

Brett & Rachael @ The Tree Room - 10.11.15

Just in time for Halloween is a series of pictures I shot one fun Sunday with two of my friends and frequent muses.  Brett, Rachael and I had a free afternoon and a lead on a good location.  I'd just gotten a cheap smoke machine off Amazon Gold deals that I'd wanted to try out, so we figured we'd mix it all and have some fun.  

Huey Lewis & the News - Back in Time

I get general ideas when it comes to a shoot, colors I want to try, overall looks and feeling for a shoot, and sometimes poses.  But when shooting with others, work with models, couples, or events, I enjoy capturing the moment and moving with the flow.  I'd classify myself as a documentary-style photographer over a traditional pose and placement photographer.  I think it's personally much more engaging and creates real images when you try to capture the moments as they happen instead of forcing your own editorial voice on someone else's moments. 

But in portraits and studio style shoots like this, there's not that editorial voice, it's just straight up collaboration.  And I love working with others to build a shoot that isn't just my voice but my partners' as well.  Hope you enjoy!

Photography Insurance is for the Client

The White Stripes – Instinct Blues

Once when consulting with a prospective wedding client, I mentioned that I was insured through a photography business program.  The mother of the bride asked outright, “Why does that matter?”

I was taken aback.  It took me a minute to formulate an answer.  Even now it’s difficult for me to put it in words.

Photography insurance is like any other insurance.  You aren’t glad you have it until something goes wrong.  Hopefully something never goes wrong.  A good photographer is a paranoid photographer- anything that can go wrong will go wrong when you’re least expecting it.  But how do you explain that to a prospective client without making it seem like you’re a hazard factory at best, and inept at worst?

I backed up and explained my rationale for photography insurance, why it’s a part of my costs accrued.  Obviously this was a conversation that had turned to the fabulous topic of why photography is so expensive.  Other people have explained it more eloquently than I, and I can point to those articles, but that doesn’t help me sell to a client.  Even though I would think that it would be a comfort for them, like buying a car with an extended warranty built in.

Paula Abdul - Opposites Attract

So that’s what I did.  I talked about their investment in the wedding besides hiring a photographer.  A wedding is a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event.  You get one chance as a photographer to do it right.  There’s no retake.  You can’t call everyone back together to the same venue the next week and do it again.  For the wedding party, it’s a party.  Hopefully everything goes off with as little conflict as possible.  They pay money for the venue, the wardrobe, the food, the party.  That all is an investment.  So should photography be an investment.

For the photographer, it’s a nerve-wracking, exhausting process.  A good photographer is paranoid, carries backups of everything and once the wedding is over, makes sure that their memory cards with all the images are protected better than the President.  All photographers have read the horror stories of lost images and corrupted data with a cold chill.  Most of us likely don’t sleep until after we’ve uploaded and triple-backed up our images.  I tried going to sleep as soon as I got home after a wedding, figured I’d be able to start my backup process in the morning.  I had a nightmare of having my cameras stolen out of a broken window, and found myself up at 4:30 AM uploading my backups.  We build redundancies and protections into our workflow so we don’t lose one picture.  I have two separate on-site backup hard drives, one Readygear NAS 314 RAID backup server, and a cloud backup service through Crashplan.  All my pictures go to all three systems as soon as I download them.  Forever.  I still have all the raw images from my first wedding in 2007.  They aren’t going anywhere.  It’s cheaper to buy a terabyte than it is to re-shoot a wedding.

So I explain this to my client, and tell them that while I’ve never lost an image, I have to be prepared for the worst.  I knock on a lot of wood when I do this.  I tell them that photography insurance protects me from the worst of situations, but it also protects them.  If something goes wrong, the client is protected from the loss of investment of their time and money in both me and the other costs of a wedding.  If someone gets hurt during the course of a wedding and it has anything to do with me (fault or not) we’re all protected.  A wedding photographer without business insurance is like driving without a seatbelt, I say.  You’re fine a majority of the time, but the one time you have a wreck and you’re not wearing it… I don’t finish the analogy.

Of Monsters and Men - Dirty Paws

I then say something I say to every potential client, it’s one of two pieces of free advice I give whether or not they pick me for their event.  Make sure your photographer is insured, whoever you use.  Ask for the policy provider.  They need to be able to give you a company, even better if you can see a statement.  I carry a card with my insurance information on it.  My policy is through CNA and every encounter I've had with them has been more than pleasant. 

Fortunately I’ve never had to use my insurance to deal with a loss of images for a client.  Stolen gear?  Yes, but that’s another post for another day.  I hope I never have to use my insurance for a client event.  But for all my past clients and all my future ones, I’m glad I have it.  I sleep a little bit easier knowing I have it… as long as I get the pictures backed up first.

Dragon*Con Teaser & Oliver Turns One

I'm really really busy going through Dragon*Con pictures (or likely catching up on sleep lost from the weekend).  I'll have a big post coming on that soon, as it's one of my favorite events all year long.  I've gotten a few images done, a teaser of things to come.  I couldn't help but get these first images out.  Thanks to Rachel, Rea, Khristina, Brett, Rachael, Megan, Kat, the Super Sirens, and Tess for scheduling shoots with me for Dragon*Con.  I think you'll agree, we created some bad-ass cosplay art!  Here's a taste of what's to come!

But in the meantime, I thought you'd like to meet Oliver.  Oliver is awesome, and Oliver just turned one recently.  Oliver only has interest in two things: picking up the ladies on his sweet ATV and drinking juice.  But as you'll see, unfortunately for us, he ran out of juice.