I have been so remiss in producing a blog entry for about 3-4 months now. The reasons are many – laser surgery to repair a torn retina (still in mild recovery), numerous home front related issues with water damage, continued working with my wife as she mends while battling memory issues, and the fact that I have been very, very busy; busier than I would have imagined only six months ago.
I’m still at odds on whether I have this photography thing down. And that’s with over three years into it. I get my work done, and I’m finding that the more “known” you are, the more work you get and the amount of people seeing your work obviously increases dramatically. You then find yourself in odd predicaments where you accept a job with promises of content and available time, then have to deliver with a fraction of what was promised. And there are “politics” and often ego involved. Just doing good solid work isn’t the driving force anymore. This is the territory you get when you are able to charge beyond Facebook gigs, and you dive into the commercial side heavily. It changes your perspective. I’m reminded of the old adage, “be careful what you wish for”.
I feel, at times, that I have learned more this year than the years past since working as a photographer full time. Truth is it’s even tougher to photograph professionally now AND run a studio with the amount of work I’ve been getting. I’m still not using the studio even to 60% capacity so paying the overhead for it drives my financials crazy. Yet, it’s needed when it’s needed and provides more than what a spreadsheet can show. Still, I waffle week to week on keeping it. On one hand, it relieves me of a huge chunk of time if I don’t have to run it. On the other, I have only gotten some gigs because I have it. I’ve found that I can secure gigs too, large money gigs, by providing a studio to other large commercial imaging efforts and by providing what the industry terms, “location services”. Where I broker things like finding cinematographers, caterers, models and actors, locations, and provide input for travel to and from locations, hotels, etc. There are fees you can charge for that. For 2017, my existing location has pretty much exhausted its usefulness. My landlord wants more $$$ per month. I have a garbage/health issue right outside my window and parking has become more of a nightmare. Especially with larger shoots involving many rental cars and 6-8 hours of shooting. Aurora is not a business friendly city in that regard. I’m just not paying more for the diminished value of the location. I’m going to have to move and so I'm searching for a new “home” and its taking up a lot of time. Is it worth it? This is a good time to go forth without a studio if that’s a choice.
There is the question too of studio operation itself. The equipment and renting the space out. Studio lights come into play more now as my work is more involved. I’m using a couple of a/c powered Profoto D1’s in my studio augmented by my Profoto B series battery strobes I use on location. I hands down prefer the Profoto B’s outside the studio but in the studio, while they are useful and not having cords is fantastic, they just don’t hold up under the heavy use required for a 4-8 hour shoot. You have to swap batteries, charge batteries and that’s a different sort of pain in the butt. Plus having a powerful modeling light really helps at times depending on what sort of work you are shooting. I’m finding for true in the studio work, good old wired a/c powered strobes are better. So if I move to a new location, establish a new studio, I’m better off going back to a/c powered, corded strobes. I’d probably go with the newer DigiBee’s from Paul C Buff. My spreadsheet is not going to like that, even though it’s less than a $1k output. I can adapt the existing studio modifiers to the Balcar/AB light mounts with new speed ring inserts costing all of $50 from eBay.
Renting...as many know, I rent my studio to other agencies and photographers. Given my workload, I just can’t rent it to anyone with a camera anymore. I don’t mind renting it but most of those with a camera in hand and little to no experience in using a studio and/or in lighting, expect the cheap rental fee to include my services for setup and assistance. I can’t do that any longer for a number of reasons. I can, for a fee, offer classes to certify people in the use of a studio and lights, so that you can rent. Moving forward, I will only rent to those that I know, know how to use it. That’s is, if I find a new suitable location at a price that makes sense and is a place I can grow with.
Camera wise, I’m still using a Fuji X system and in fact have invested even more into it. I prefer to shoot with it even with some “perceived” shortcomings. I also still have my trusty Nikons. I’m seeing less of a difference between the two and in fact I’m starting to prefer the results of the Fuji over the Nikon in many shoots where I use both. I have no idea where this will wind up right now. I just don’t. I would like the simplicity of one system. Tethering is not the issue it was, although the Nikon and Capture One is still tops in that area. Medium format is also rearing its head. I could dump the Nikons and go to a studio based medium format system…maybe the newer Fuji GFX since its has some X system similarities…
So yeah going on four years later, even learning what I have and understanding the business way more than I did prior, it is just like starting over. Funny, at this time last year, I had similar thoughts about knowing and understanding the business. I figured I had it pretty well down adjusting here and there for minor bumps. Man, was I wrong. For maybe four months things went well but I got busier and busier and demands became more than what I had experienced and it all just became very dynamic. It still is and I can honestly say, I have no idea or a plan for 2017 other than to keep on keeping on. I think. I hope…
Studio or not, I will be in business but I guess its more a question of what sort of business and what direction...right now my business compass is just spinning.