Dartmouth-Hitchcock Image Library

The best thing about my job as a photographer—aside from the interesting and creative people I get to work with on a daily basis—has to be the cool locations I get to photograph in.

A few months ago, I photographed a project for a large medical advocacy group that involved the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH. I’ve photographed hospitals on both coasts but I’ve never seen a medical lab setup like they have at the Laboratory for Clinical Genomics and Advanced Technologies (CGAT)—two wings full of technicians, scientists and analysis equipment.

I finally can show some of the work from that quick—but very intense—shoot, all done while the busy lab remained in full operation:

 

dartmouth medical center

 

 

 

 

ecomaine Annual Report

ecomaine

Happy to be able to share some of the work I did late last year for ecomaine’s annual report. Ecomaine is a nonprofit waste management facility serving more than 70 Maine communities.   They operate a recycling facility, a landfill operation and operate a waste-to-energy power plant based in Portland.  Ecomaine works with the type of stuff that people generally don’t want–trash and used plastic, cardboard and packaging–but we all benefit from the work they do. 

The images show another side of ecomaine–the faces of those who make the operation run, day in and day out, 365 days a year. 

 

 

ecomaine

Light Matters, College Edition

Just a few short months ago, I published my first book, Light Matters: A Photographer’s Guide to Lighting with Flash on Location. The book distills my decades of experience as a commercial photographer and a working photojournalist and offers practical advice for approaching subjects and lighting challenges on location.
The book has been available on Amazon, Kobo and Apple Books from the beginning of the year, in digital and print form. It’s been a cool learning experience. I’m even more excited to hear how it’s being used in various ways: recommended by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the trade association for professional photographers in the U.S., for example. Now, a Maine university is using the book as one of its textbooks in an upper-level photojournalism course (the University of Southern Maine, right down the road).
In fact, that’s perfect. My photojournalism foundation is where much of my thinking about how to approach location work, clients and subjects was developed. I love that, in some small way, my experiences will end up helping a brand new crop of photojournalists.

Annual Report Imagery: Maine Technology Institute

Annual reports are a comprehensive report on a company’s activities over the past year. As such, they can be dry and tedious to read. The right imagery and a talented team of graphic designers, therefore, are critical to making an annual report something special: at once a showcase and a way to powerfully communicate the company’s core mission and impact.

I’m excited to be able to share the results of a collaboration with Portland-based branding firm Visible Logic last year: annual report images for the Maine Technology Institute (MTI).

MTI offers funding (primarily loans and grants, but also investments) to innovative Maine companies for research and innovation projects. To date, they have funded more than 2,000 projects across the state and invested close to $230 million.

A Look Back, A Look Forward

Maine Cops
Image from Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge, published in 2018

It’s a sure bet you’ve been in this situation:

You’re going to work (doing great work, hopefully), meeting deadlines, producing stuff, maintaining systems and even getting your blog done on time.  You’re in the flow, which is good because things are happening, fast.

Then the new year approaches, and things slow down for the holidays. You emerge from your work coma, blinking like a cave fish suddenly exposed to sunlight, wondering what happened to the last 12 months and what year is it, anyway?

That’s what it’s like, being a solo creative professional.  You juggle a lot, and don’t always have time to stop and reflect.

That’s why I look forward to the small end-of-year break that allows me time to go back through the year that’s passed and to celebrate the wins and the misses (because it’s the misses that teach you to get better).

So, here is 2018,  by the numbers:

1 (small) oil tanker’s worth of coffee
4 photo assistants
5 stylists
5 states and all 16 of Maine’s counties
310 studio portraits
94 location assignments
2 broken strobe units
25 pounds, lost (and not rediscovered!)
1 book published:  Light Matters: A Photographer’s Guide to Lighting with Flash on Location
47 books read
1 personal project— Arrested: Stories Behind the Badge
321 days of meditation

Just reading that list makes me tired…but mostly it just makes me grateful.

More than the numbers, here are some lessons I learned, in no particular order:

  • Always use a packing list to prepare for location shoots, lest you forget a $1 battery that forces a scramble during a shoot.
  • Reusable cups from Starbucks are totally worth it.
  • Having a well-planned morning routine is the difference between a great day and a totally unproductive one.
  • There is such a thing as being too busy to accomplish anything of real value.
  • It’s never a good idea to leave your flash on top of your car when you pack for a shoot.
  • Better to focus on what you can control, not what you can’t.
  • I can live without bagels, bread and pasta.  Coffee?  Not so much.

Looking back, 2018 was a year of growth and learning and I’m grateful and proud to have had some incredible opportunities alongside some really cool creative partners and clients. It’s gratifying to go through the work I did last year just to see where my cameras have been and reconnect with the interesting people I get to photograph.

I look forward to sharing much of that work on this blog soon.   As fun as last year was, though, I have some big plans already in motion for this year and some exciting projects to share.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get to work.

Introducing: Light Matters

Light Matters

 

It’s been a very eventful week for me personally and professionally.  On October 2, I published my first book, Light Matters: A Photographer’s Guide to Lighting with Flash on Location .

Light Matters is more than the realization of a childhood dream to write and publish a book.   It’s my approach to lighting when on assignment, reduced to actionable tips.  Each suggestion is informed by my own experiences and, often, by my missteps and mistakes over 20-odd years as a shooter.

My working title for the book was simple: Move, Light, Shoot.  Purposeful experimentation keeps one from getting stuck and kicks creativity in the behind.   You can’t master flash—or anything else—without taking direct action, assessing the results, and adjusting your approach.

To that end, the guide is full of tips and practice exercises that any serious amateur or natural-light pro would find useful as they stretch their lighting muscles.

I write in the intro that I wish I had a book like  Light Matters in my camera bag when I was coming up.

Most photo book contain endless lighting diagrams, three-point lighting setups and exact recipes allowing readers to duplicate the example photographs.  I’d rather give readers tips that force them to think and tools to help them succeed.  A simple Google search will provide any number of lighting setups.  Few resources give you tips on shaping your shoot, dealing well with your clients and with the many inevitable issues that arise on location.

Above all I hope the guide is useful. That it prompts photographers to think and to stretch themselves. If it saves a photographer just a smidge of the grief that would have otherwise come to them, then I’ll be happy.

I’m so thankful to my group of advance readers–my Dream Team–comprised primarily of photographers I know and trust around the country. Their feedback helped shape the final product and made it shine.

I’m grateful that during its first week of publication, Light Matters reached #1 in two categories in the Kindle store. Mind blown.

As a companion to the book, I’ve created two resources. One is the page on my site, www.lightmattersguide.com, where I’ll be posting additional information about the book, downloadable excerpts and other resources as they come available. The other is a private Facebook group  Light Matters , set up to discuss the exercises and concepts in the book.

Please check out Light Matters on Amazon, and let me know what you think.

Showcase: Tyler Technologies

 

Tyler Technologies
Tyler Technology’s new expansion at their Yarmouth campus totals more than 94,000 square feet.

 

Happy to be able to show some of the work I’ve been doing for Freeport-based Zachau Construction. They recently had me photograph the recently-completed $24 million expansion of Tyler Technologies’ Yarmouth, ME campus, looking to capture the unique feel and design both inside and out.

Architecture seems like a departure from my portrait work, but I think it’s not as different as it seems. Location and context have always been key components of my work, whether featuring people or spaces (sometimes with people in them). Creative use of light is always an important element as well, as is the combining of existing, ambient lighting with flash in an artful, storytelling way.

Buildings and spaces tell stories about the people who design them, live in them and and work in them. The process of architecture work is a bit different, and often more technical, than portrait photography but the goalto convey a mood and a feeling, and to capture a moment.

 

 

 

Showcase: SMCC Marine Sciences

SMCC
Brian Tarbox, Marine Science instructor at SMCC.

Most of the work I do involves telling the story of people at work, usually in changing and varied environments. I can think of few environments nicer than being out on Casco Bay on a hazy, sunny spring morning.

Recently I spent a morning on a boat operated by the Southern Maine Community College Marine Science program. Instructor Brian Tarbox led a group of students as they performed a routine survey of Casco Bay, sampling water temperatures and collecting other data.

Many people might be surprised to know what a great, and affordable, educational resource SMCC is. Situated on a beautiful stretch of waterfront in South Portland (formerly the site of Fort Preble) it offers coastal views that any college–community college or university–would envy.

Here are some more images of SMCC.

 

Students aboard the SeaWolf pass by Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

 

 

 

 

 

Images Matter, Now More than Ever

 

image library
The visuals that represent your brand can easily communicate your values, your assets, and what you offer. In the case of a community health clinic, it’s quality, human-centered healthcare where patients (no matter their age) feel empowered.

 

Building an image library is a top priority for any brand that wants to tell their story effectively and connect with their target audience.

You likely already know that quality, relevant, custom images are no longer a ‘nice to have’. Your content—specifically, your visual content—is your advertising.

In short: Your visuals are your brand.

The gatekeepers are gone and you—the independent businessperson, the marketing professional—are in charge of your own media channels.

Remember Spider-Man: With great power comes great responsibility.

All of the digital tools, many free or nearly so, are at your fingertips. Are you purposefully telling the story of your brand: what you do, why you do it, what sets you apart?  Or are you hoping that your haphazard efforts will cause others to automatically ‘get’ you?

If you’re using someone else’s images, words or campaigns, then you’re not telling your own unique story. You’re in the best position to do so.

Cutting through the Noise
People react and connect with authenticity. A stock image isn’t likely to make anyone sit up and take notice, but a real moment, whether shot on an iPhone or a Hasselblad that costs more than your car.

What you Need When you Need it
Content marketing is built on consistently delivering targeted content that is on-brand and on-message. Having an image library means you’ve always got good content that can work for your purposes. Without one, your marketing is going to be less consistent, less frequent and less impactful.

image library
A custom stock image, taken with your people and at your place of business, is specific to your brand.

Gives Structure and Meaning
Having a plan for your visuals and keeping your brand story in mind automatically provides a structure and gives purpose to your photo shoots. Instead of floundering you’ll be producing relevant content that’s meaningful to your brand and useful for the forseeable future.

What are your Seasons?
Every business has seasons. Periods of high or low volume. Cycles of growth and cycles of maintenance. Holidays. When are your seasons? When do you tend to get new clients, and why? When do you tend to be focused on new initiatives and what external events can you build content to match?

image library
Having a plan that extends for months or a year is helpful when targeting activities and processes to photograph before you miss them. Harvest only comes once a year.

Evergreen Content
A good image library has a mix of content which may include video as well as still images. Some is very specific for a campaign, a product, a season, or a person or team. Other images are more ‘evergreen’, meaning they can be used any time of year or perhaps for years to come. They are classic and timeless. Chief among these are……

….Details
Get lots of details. These are the visual metaphors that may punctuate a blog post or marketing piece in a more powerful way than can otherwise be done. These give a sense of your point but allow the audience to fill in the blanks. They aren’t specific to a person, a time, or a location and designers (web and print) love them because of their versatility and timelessness.
image library

Imperfect Shots and Unscripted Moments
I’m not suggesting that the only way you can build an image library is by hiring a professional photographer (like me or my ilk) or spending all of your time producing elaborate photo shoots. A carefully-managed, well thought-out campaign will include professionally-produced content where appropriate and will have a place for less-scripted, less technically perfect images taken by you, your staff, others in your organization, clients, or the public. Depending on your brand, this may be necessary. There should be a place for both.

Less is More
I love crafted, long-form films and videos. The reality is, even if Martin Scorcese produced your video, if it’s longer than three minutes I’d have a hard time watching it. One minute would be better. In fact, video snippets are sometimes the best of all. These short blurbs may get more engagement than longer ones and can be easily done, leading to more consistent content over time. So do video…but keep it super short, as in this behind-the-scenes clip that shows one of the hazards in making custom wooden baseball bats:

 

Behind the Scenes
Show us visuals that takes us places we wouldn’t normally go.  Show us the secret sauce that makes it all work in your organization:  the team members, the interactions, the tools, the back warehouse.  Show us how the sausage is made, showing the care and the humanity that go into a great product or service.

image library
Another image from a custom baseball bat maker’s shop, where custom wooden ‘blanks’ line the walls, with hand-written notes on each one. This kind of detail tells a lot about the quality and care that goes into each finished product.

Faces, People!
People love to see other people. Show them faces. If you make a product or sell a service, show us the faces and lives of the people whose lives are improved by your brand. Show us what your brand means reflected in the faces of your fans, customers, clients, or even your team members.

image library

Keep it Real
If your job is to promote your brand or company, then you can get caught up in your product or service features. Instead, let your visuals show your people, your products, your brand, out in the real world. That’s the one the rest of us inhabit. Some brands seem to lend themselves to this sort of approach, like Nike, but even law firms, hospitals, and others can do this. They just may have to be a bit more creative and less obvious–exactly the criteria needed to create interest and connection.

Outtakes: the Portrait Moments that Weren’t

Portrait Outtakes

In the photo editing world, outtakes are those images that don’t survive the multiple rounds of editing that allows the cream of your shoot to rise to the top.    The first images to go are the obvious mess-ups: closed eyes, hair issues, equipment elbowing its way into a shot, poor exposure.   The next rounds of editing then refine the selections further until a handful of images remain that I feel proud to submit to my clients:  technically strong, of course, but also appropriate for their brand and their unique story.

Of these, only a small percentage make it to print or screen, meant for public consumption.  In this digital version of the Hunger Games, the rest are discarded and are usually never seen again.  It’s a ruthless, never-ending process.

That’s why I like to go through my past shoots regularly, pulling images that I like that weren’t used.  They may not fit the purpose at hand, but out of context they still are interesting and strong images.

Here are a few from the first couple of months of this year.  I like them because in each case there’s moment that strikes a chord in me.  The lighting, the environment and body language all work together to tell a story of sorts.    I hope you enjoy them as much as I like seeing them again.

Portait Outtakes

 

Portrait Outtakes

 

 

Portrait Outtakes