Random tip of the day for freelancers

GET INSURANCE! Like, today. Then make sure you know how much your deductible is and put that dollar amount into an envelope, a sub account, anywhere separate from day-to-day funds. Now your worst case scenario has extremely low impact!

I use to have coverage of $20-30,000 worth of gear $10,000 worth of computer related inventory along with the common liability stuff and it ran in the mid $400s for the year. That’s a pretty low cash amount for peace of mind!

Last month I found out my deductible went up to $1,000 (somehow that snuck past me) when a camera got knocked over. When I called to ask how much my principle would jump by lowering it to $500 the answer was THREE DOLLARS… for the YEAR! I was a bit upset.

Can you make a living, doing what you want to do?

The last day of September 2013 was the first day as a self-employed individual. My company 29 Pixel Studios, LLC went official in April of that year, but honestly, I’ve been building this business since I graduated in 2003. I knew moving from ‘part-time freelancer’ to ‘self-employed’ was inevitable.

So now I’m six-months deep into running my own business and wanted to share some thoughts. I’m writing these into a post because I’ve been asked a ton of times recently about making the switch. Ironically only a few of the people were in my ‘field’ (one of which was looking for an internship position!) but all were either breaking new ground or looking to take the world by storm.

Books upon books will describe running a successful business but to me, there is one all important question that MUST be answered.

Can you make a living, doing what you want to do?

My answers: no, yes, no.

No: I want to coach the Detroit Lions… but I can’t make a living doing it. I was blessed (and I mean BLESSED) to Coach the Patton Jr. High Tigers for about five years and to this day… it was the most exciting job I ever had. Can’t support a family on a Jr. High Football Coach salary, so… no.

Yes: I want to be a storyteller. It could be the artist captures your wedding day through photographs. A cinematographer who creates the short film that tells a birth mother about your family. Or even the guy that redesigned the approach the DoD and NATO design military symbols because… it just made sense to me. Yeah. I can do that on a level that will put food on the table.

No: Movie reviewer… I LOVE, LOOOOVE talking movie reviews with other film geeks. I mean I use the Huzzaah Scale for Pete’s sake (another post for another time I suppose).  It’s something I love. I think I’m good at it. But no one would ever PAY for it!!! Happy and Poor Movie Critic.

This post a few months ago by Lauren Panepinto is a good quick read but I wanted to highlight the first Venn diagram (all are fantastic) as it illustrates my question that must be answered. Personally I’d like to see the lower right circle read WHAT PEOPLE WILL PAY FOR vs WANT.

This is America baby, you can do what you love. We could all do what we love for free… and no customer would should complain. But when it comes time to pony up the dough, then the person paying the coin will look for WHO IS GOOD AT IT. Do you also fall into this circle as well? Perfect, Happy and Rich. (Well, lets not get crazy, I’d like to see this one as Happy and well off).

I also don’t mind doing a bit of the grind (unfulfilled + rich on the graphic). There are things I don’t particularly love but am happy to do because I’m good at it and people are willing to pay. With the end game in mind you might want to consider hiring or outsourcing if this stuff drives you crazy. For me, I don’t mind doing a bit of the work to help my business.

Bottom line here: Whatever you love… if someone, somewhere is wanting it enough to pay for it… you need to be GOOD AT IT! Never EVER stop learning.

Book Review: The Portrait Photography Course

The Portrait Photography Course: Principles, practice, and techniques: The essential guide for photographersBy Mark Jenkinson

I love reviewing books from advanced to beginner because they help keep me fresh and maybe lend insight to new teaching methods. That being said…

It seems rare to see a book appropriately titled. So many books want to apply to everyone that they end up all being the same. This book is appropriately titled. If you are interested in portrait photography and are a student, GET THIS BOOK. If you are fresh out of school and considering taking photography from hobby to part-time, GET THIS BOOK. If you have a year or two under your belt and are hitting a bit of a dry spell, GET THIS BOOK. If you call yourself a ‘self-taught photographer who just uses natural light because you don’t like how flash looks’ GET THIS BOOK.

Reading so many books I also really REALLY appreciate a well-designed book. The style of having a tutorial for 2-4 pages is great for my short attention span. But don’t be fooled the amount of information in these short pages should leave you doggy earing/bookmarking/tabbing sections. This book I plan on revisiting on some of the lessons (In your photography career you will go through un-inspirational, dry chunks of time and need a boost/assignment).

It is a fast read so each sliver of subject might be a bit shallow for some viewers. Example: There is a section on LightRoom and Photoshop… to be fair they are very decent tips, but to me, this warrants a couple books by themselves. The history is the same thing as many other books ‘did you know renaissance painters applied many of the same…’ It’s necessary to have in a book but if you’ve read anything about history you can skip this section.

I read about half of the interviews in the back and have to say Mark’s lead in to the Wedding Photographer Karen Cunningham’s interview is something EVERY wedding photog should read. You will read through the lines nodding your head in agreement, finishing with “HE UNDERSTANDS ME.”

This book didn’t blow me away at first but was good, so it was lining up to be a four-star review, but then realized I had taking pictures of segments with my phone to send to other photographers and realized, yeah, this gets five from me.


Walker Adoption Video

It truly is a treat to work on a project that reassures you… THIS is what I’m meant to do.

I was contacted by the Walkers with a unique project. They wanted a short video showing a common Saturday around the house. The purpose: This amazing family is looking to adopt a child.

The adoption website they are using now is allowing video links and what a great way for mothers to get to know the family! Spending the day with them I can truly say any child is going to be beyond blessed to enter this home. It was such an honor to be even a small part of this!!

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” ― Confucius

Please feel free to contact me if you are in search of video production or photography!

C100 Review after six months

My previous set-up fro video & cinema was this: 5D Mark III (and 7D back up) as my ‘artsy’ camera and a Sony EX1 as my ‘real’ camera.

The Sony PMW-EX1 is a fantastic camera that I have loved for a long time. I’ve used it for creative projects and even more so for run-and-gun ENG style. But, for a few reasons it was time to start shopping around: 1. it was getting a bit long in the tooth and more importantly 2. It’s (generous) 3x half-inch sensors, while great in low-light, couldn’t be paired up to the ridiculously awesome performance of the 5D Mark III.

I happen to go to NAB this year and got to get my hands on the two cameras I was considering. In the end I chose the Canon EOS C100.

This camera is NOT for run and gun. The zoom range is extremely limited (to the lenses). While I have a bag full of nice glass, the EX1 is like having a 18mm to … oh dunno 700mm. My longest lens is a 70-200mm… which is very heavy and never ‘wide enough’ and seldom long enough. *I got the kit with the 24-105 f/4 IS and use it 90% of the time as that is the most convenient range. It does leave a lot to be desired for reach though.

The camera fails as a ‘replacement’ to my EX1 for the run/gun ENG shooting… but succeeds for cinema productions.

Things I cannot stand:

  • It’s difficult to pull focus while zooming and panning (more so than the EX1)
  • Lack of zoom. (If considering this camera for cinematic purposes, disregard this)
  • The LCD screen is HORRID. I mean REALLY bad. It’s hard for me to trust peaking. External monitor is highly recommended.
  • No slow motion… I mean ZERO. Highest frame rate is 30. Blah.
  • Lack of a gradual iris. While dialing the ISO up/down is only slightly noticeable while recording, the aperture is VERY noticeable.

Things I LOVE:

  • SD Cards! W00t. I’ve been using the (insanely) overpriced SxS cards for half a decade.
  • Built in ND filters! Using Canon glass and having a up to 9stops! YES.
  • Two slots (just like the EX1) but because they are SD cards, I’ve not had to use the second slot, one SanDisk Extreme 64 GB and I’m good to go. :D
  • Three memory bit selections; 24 MB/s, 17 MB/s or a slightly smaller resolution (1440 x 1080) at 7MB/s. << I uses this a LOT for straight to web projects.
  • Compact size & weight.
  • With the C100 I have double the reason to invest in good glass.
  • This thing can see in pitch black. It’s low light performance is sort of scary good. While it has a super 35 sensor, you would never know it. (messing around: YouTube example)
  • Battery life is quite good and knock off brand batteries are cheap! (Canons are over priced)
  • Not having to take my laptop to dump footage (ALWAYS had to with the EX1).
  • This isn’t a ‘LOVE’ but the price seems more than fair for this camera.

Things that I expected on this:

  • XLR hook ups! Having it on the EX1 I’ve grown use to having them. *IF* you are primarily a DSLR shooter, you will love this.
  • Being able to run continuously for hours without having start/stop every x minutes.
  • Have not used, but love the idea of shooting to two cards at the same time, and pre-record for 2 seconds.

Recommend picking up the $400ish Ikan VH8-E6 8-Inch HDMI Monitor. This thing is pretty awesome for the price.

If you shoot video purely on a DSLR and are tired of the limited record time, are a Canon fan, need a better audio solution then this is the camera I would recommend. If you already have a video camera and shoot a lot of low light situations multicam pairing up with DSLRs… this is a great camera.

Hope this helps!




Unusal Feedback

I got some feedback from the father of a Bride whose wedding I recently captured. It was a complement on how I delivered the photos. “We love how it is organized. It really tells the story of the day.” Lately I’ve been fortunate to receive a LOT of very positive feedback from bride and grooms about their wedding photography or cinematography that I’ve produced, but it sure is nice to have that recognized as well! It’s not as quick to do as one would think! *SMILE*

It’s a blessing to do something you really enjoy.

Anndrina + Michael Wedding Photography

We were blessed with a VERY beautiful day in the middle of June to shoot this wedding. Temp didn’t get above 80 and there was cloud cover! To top it all off, we were photographing this wedding in my hometown Leavenworth, KS! When we got to JW Cancers for the reception I was delighted to see JF Productions was our DJ!

Jeremiah and I have worked a handful of weddings together (highly recommended btw) and when we had a minute to ‘talk shop’ I made a comment about the hours I spend in Photoshop making my ‘signature’ shots. While looking at a quick preview on my camera he so politely said, “Why would you even need to open this in Photoshop?!” That is a huge complement… and while I could have delivered the photo straight out of camera, I thought I’d share a little of my post production work.Leavenworth wedding photographyAnother example is taking this wedding dress shot taken by my assistant, Ali (who does great work!), and taking what was already a fantastic shot and putting the effort into creating one of my signature pieces.

Wedding dress shot in Leavenworth, ks post production from a raw photo to a mastered shot.There is a small glimpse into my world of wedding photography AFTER the big day! Most vendor’s the work is done when the guest leave the reception… for me, it’s just the beginning! For a larger sneak peek of this wedding please visit (and like!) my Facebook page!