Category Blog

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

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

Crystal Williams, Boston University

Boston University

I had the pleasure of photographing poet Crystal Williams, just recently named as Boston University’s first associate provost for diversity and inclusion.  Williams, previously a professor at Bates College in Lewiston, is a talented poet (here she is reading one of her powerful works).

 

The assignment was to photograph Williams with just a simple, plain background, relying purely on expression and pose to convey her personality.   I love getting to know and work with people in this way.   Here are a few of the images I liked most from our session, below.

 

 

 

Boston University

 

Boston University

 

Boston University

Five Clicks: Tools for Keeping on Track

 

Being an independent photography professional or content creator is a great, amazing, beautiful thing.

Except when it isn’t.

When you first start as a photographer or designer, it’s like falling in love with a beautiful/handsome other person. Everything is great, and when you’re with that person, time seems to stand still.  Then you get married, and the relationship matures, and as wonderful as it is to spend time together, you also can’t help but notice that the dishes are piled up, the bills need to be paid and the in-laws are coming to visit, again.

If every day could be spent behind the lens while getting a ride with the Blue Angels or documenting a religious festival in the mountains of Catalonia, it would be like that spouse that never gets old, gets angry or challenges you in any way.  But the reality of marriage and of creative careers is that 80 percent of it is the ‘unsexy’ stuff—in the case of content creation it’s the production work, marketing and other tasks that keep the lights on—that makes the other 20 percent possible.

The problem is, it’s hard to stay focused and on track when the tasks are not so fun.  That’s why I love tools that make my job easier, are useful and help keep my animal brain on track. When my willpower or my resolve falters, I just let these pieces of software guide the way:

Activity Timer (iOS and Mac)
This is a very simple custom timer app that allows you to specify and save time blocks of custom length for various activities, and a custom “success” message. I know by experience that 90 minutes is about the longest I can focus on any given task, so most of my time sprints are anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. I have a stand-up desk and I use this tool to remind me to sit down and stand about every 20 minutes throughout my workday in front of the computer.

Trello (Web, Android, IOS, Mac, PC)
I’ve used Trello for at least 4 years. In that time, I’ve found other project management tools but the ‘kanban’ style visual drag-and-drop interface always brings me back. I use it to set up various ‘workflows’ relating to client work, my sales pipeline, and even for my editorial calendar. It’s great for collaborating between teams, too. Using this tool for my work ensures that I keep track of a lot of moving pieces in a consistent way.

Todoist (Web, Android, IOS, Mac, PC)
This is about the 1,000th ‘to do’ app I’ve tried, but at this point it’s won the award for longevity. It’s very simple to use and can interpret deadlines from text (i.e., ‘in two weeks’, or ‘next January 1’) easily. I use it all the time….and I like the way it gamifies item completion—the more you complete, the more ‘karma’ you earn and the more enlightened you become. One of these days, I’ll be a Grandmaster. But not today.

Routinist (iOS, Android soon)
I’m fascinated by the idea of creating good habits (and getting rid of negative ones) by ritualizing them into a routine that you perform daily until they become deeply ingrained. This little app helps create and define routines based on a sequence of actions and habits that, once triggered, run in sequence until they are complete. I’ve used this app to change the way I approach my morning routine.

Streak CRM (Web, IOS, Android)
This software is a CRM (which stands for “customer relationship management” tool) which is a fancy way of saying that it is used for sales, projects, leads, and anything else related to your clients.  It’s capable of far more.  I use it to do project management, sales and client pipelines in situations where most communications are email conversation-based. First I define the stages of a pipeline and also set up email templates for some of the stages. I then create a box for each new client/story/item/lead and move it through each stage of the pipeline until done. It saves me a lot of time but more importantly, Streak is a powerful way to stay consistent on predefined processes built around email. In fact, it’s designed to be used exclusively with gmail, and it operates inside your email browser.   If you’re a gmail or Google apps user, Streak is worth checking out.  It’s particularly powerful for teams, including editors, journalists and bloggers. It allows you to schedule and track emails as well.

I hope you enjoy these tools—and more importantly, find them useful for keeping your own messy business life on track. Hopefully, that unsexy stuff just got a little more sexy.