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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

Strobist in the House...
Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | US | Posted: 9:42 AM on 04.24.11
->> First a buyout; now owner of a blistering photography business

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2011/04/19/AFWKzxWE_story.html
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 1:27 PM on 04.24.11
->> Poynter published the same story. However, its headline read "Ex-newspaper Photographer Helps Amateurs Undercut the Pros."

No comment.
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Delane B. Rouse, Photographer, Photo Editor
Washington | DC | US | Posted: 1:48 PM on 04.24.11
->> Wow.

Perspective huh?
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Israel Shirk, Photographer, Assistant
Boise | ID | US | Posted: 1:52 PM on 04.24.11
->> "Undercutting professionals by arming hordes of well-trained amateurs"...

They were hordes of badly trained amateurs first...
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Robert Boag, Student/Intern, Photo Editor
Harrisonburg | VA | US | Posted: 4:45 PM on 04.24.11
->> I sensed a similar vibe to the story. It seemed to be saying he helped undercut the market, but this doesn't really seem true to reality. Maybe I am just naive but I never saw strobist as an attack (either accidental or deliberate) on professionals. He helps people learn to use lighting and advance their photography. To me it seems no different then Mcnally's published educational books or any other educational photography material. If providing a valuable educational resource for advanced beginners and intermediate photographers is "undercutting the pros" isn't ever single photographer who has ever helped a budding photographer in any way "undercutting the pros." IMHO without these types of educational resources photography would have never developed or continued to grow. Don't we all build off the accomplishments and passed down knowledge of our predecessors? Aren't we all a product of these types of educational resources in some way?
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 11:10 PM on 04.24.11
->> I have a problem with the angle of the story. Yes, the Time cover was shot by a amateur, and Time paid less than $40 for it. Robert's comments are spot on and Strobist is but one resource of many. Yes, the Bus Tour with Joe McNally is a hit, but it's not just because of David.

I've said this before and I'll say it again: The answer for professionals - SPECIALISTS - is still the same: Be BETTER - a lot BETTER than the competition. There's no doubt that digital, the internet, and better training all make it harder. But, the market has actually EXPANDED - the pie is bigger - and that's good. This isn't just photographers but virtually any specialist occupation.

I see it in my other business as well, and it's nothing if not challenging. But, even there, having more expertise is proving to be the critical difference.

Look at it this way: In the end, it's about being a PROBLEM SOLVER and being a BETTER LISTENER. Understand what the customer needs are, and then providing the solution - that's the critical difference you should provide. It's not easy - but it is what it takes to survive right now.

End of speech.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 11:41 PM on 04.24.11
->> Knowledge is not skill.

In any profession, if your only hope of survival is keeping how to do something a secret, you're toast.
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Sam Morris, Photographer
Henderson (Las Vegas) | NV | USA | Posted: 12:56 AM on 04.25.11
->> If David Hobby is helping to undercut the market, so have those pesky photography books that have been available for free, FREE, in libraries for decades.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 12:02 PM on 04.25.11
->> To Michael:
Yes, being a specialist and being better than the others is a major key to success. For reporters, there are general assignment (GA) types and those who have specific beats (auto, tech, food, sports, political, religion, etc.). Depending on the daily needs of the publication, those specialists also do GA work -- the bread and butter of the industry. And the same and even more so for photographers. How many do you know who do just sports or food or whatever? Very few, and most likely only with large city papers who can afford to have large photo staffs. But even those have dwindled in these economic times and those specialists still do GA photography.

While the pie may be bigger, the professional piece is getting smaller proportionally in terms of GA work because the advanced amateurs are taking bigger bites out of it. While there is a difference between the two groups in terms of high quality, consistency, reliability etc., the second's impact on the industry has grown because of three factors -- the economy, the technical advances of prosumer dSLR cameras and the general decline in the expectation for quality (the "good enough" syndrome) mainly because of the Internet. Why the web? Because images from even $400 starter cameras set on auto-focus and auto-color can look just as good as $900 prosumer or $4,000 pro cameras when their sizes are no larger than 4x6 at 72 dpi. And with the advent of social networks like Facebook and Twitter where thousands of photos are shared daily and are accepted by the masses as the new norm, there has been a general decline in quality expectations over the years.

As to the economy’s factor, that too has been a major blow to professionals because those bread and butter GA shoots are now going to prosumers or are being done in-house by those have gained skills learned from the likes of Hobby and McNally. Now is this meant as a blast against the two? No way. Their innovativeness and ability to create a new industry within our industry should be admired. I went to their Flash Bus tour here in Salt Lake. While I already knew 95% of what they talked about, I did learn a couple new things and tips that I’m going to incorporate to make myself a better photographer. Those few items were expensive in terms of the seminar fee but worth the money in the long run.

In the past, the differences between pros and amateurs were clear just by looking at the images side by side. Today, those distinctions overlap. In addition to photography, we now have to educate the rampant “good enough” mentalities on why they need to hire a pro. However, that is a very uphill battle simply because the economy makes GE quality the affordable way to survive.

To David:
I somewhat disagree on sharing everything and not keeping secrets. Coca-Cola, KFC and others would cease to exist if their secret formulas were made public.

Do I share knowledge? Absolutely. I even teach photo classes. But one has to protect one’s intellectual property at a certain point. Two weeks ago I met the CFO of a huge rental company -- from backhoes to party items like dinnerware, punch bowls, etc. We talked about his desire to post their products on their website and it sounded like a good bread and butter ongoing shoot for me versus the company doing it themself in-house. After answering questions about how to do product photography (tenting, $15 Home Depot 500-watt tungsten lights, etc.) and giving Hobby/McNally tips, the outcome is that they are going to do the work themselves with a prosumer camera. I overstepped my boundary and lost. Internet quality of good enough. I may still be hired to come in and teach their people on occasion on how to do tricky lighting however.

So while sharing knowledge is great and a duty in some respects, it is also a double edged sword and balancing act. Sharing with pro photographers no problem because we respect each other and won’t steal each other’s clients; with prosumers a bit of caution so not to be undercut; with clients more of a wall so they don’t take your knowledge and abandon you altogether. It’s like interviewing for a job. You show/explain the potential employers your skills and knowledge and try to convince them you’re the person they need to hire. But when they get into specifics on how to do something, your answer is simple -- hire me. I had one client/employer do just that where I explained how I would create the images they wanted. I was told thanks and that was that. No job. I later learned they used what I explained and had their unpaid intern replicate my techniques/secrets.

Thus, the turning point in sharing -- not sharing everything carte blanche. Without some protection of one’s intellectual property, one cannot set oneself apart from the others. And this isn’t a personal decision, but a business one and especially when it comes to price quoting. Remember, we are a business; otherwise we’re just photographers -- an irony which is the angst of our profession.
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 12:33 PM on 04.25.11
->> This subject is rearing up several forums (fora?) ... I don't really see the need for alarm, outrage or argument that what Hobby and others are doing is detrimental to the "profession" ... the knowledge has always been there ... it has been shared in may ways ... you don't NEED to sign up for a seminar with David H or Joe Mac to receive instruction on the secret handshake that will bring your photography good fortune ... you can find the information in nearly infinite resources.

Knowledge, in of itself, is quite useless ... otherwise EVERY student that graduates from Harvard Law School would indeed become president ... however ... as history points out ... not everyone with "knowledge" ultimately succeeds ... because it is not the knowledge alone that is the key to success ... but how that knowledge is put to use that has more to do with success or failure ...

Doug ... while you may feel you didn't close the barn door until after the livestock escaped ... seriously, your sharing of so called "intellectual property" with a prospective client had little to do with your sharing ... and much more to do with the client getting the job done for less money ... if one can find that little button on a mouse attached to a computer and type just a few characters in a search box ... there is a mountain of info on the 'net about product photography for online use ... nothing at all intellectual about it ... until you apply your SKILL in offering a superior product .... the CFO you mention, likely had NO inclination of paying one cent more than necessary from the get-go ... I seriously doubt had you withheld the "knowledge" from said CEO, that you would have ultimately been contracted the job ...

Hobby is doing great ... while many have been at this field for more than a few years, are suffering and lamenting that the world has only offered them lemons ... David is rejoicing, taking the lemons he received and busily making as much lemonade as he can ...

I think there is a lesson here and it has very little to do with Hobby stifling the pro photography business ...
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 1:30 PM on 04.25.11
->> Butch...
I fully agree that there is a mountain of information out there that can better one's photography whether you're a novice or pro, and I add to that mountain. And I agree that the rental product job was a slim chance too; it was just an example of how our jobs have changed with do-it-yourselfers. And I agree that Hobby and McNally are doing a great job at what they are doing -- more power to them! They aren't stifling photography; they're increasing it.

The point I was trying to make is that it isn't just Hobby; it isn't just the economy; it isn't just prosumer dSLR cameras; it isn't just good enough mentalities; etc. It is the combination of all of them and more that has created a so-called "perfect storm" which has impacted the professional side of photography. And to that, we as professionals must adapt and learn new techniques to keep our heads afloat and ride the waves or drown. The clear distinction between pro and prosumer has blurred in terms of general photography and a few specialties because of the merging levels of camera technology and abundance of information that is available to the masses.

There have been other posts about the demise of sporting event photography because of the so-called soccer moms and little league dads doing their own pictures. I have a very good friend who was in that business -- a real pro. She even had a lock on that type of professional photography as she was the only one in the area with no competition. But she couldn't compete with the "good enough" free sharing of prosumer photos. So she moved on into another field and is doing better.

And that's what we all have to do at some point when prosumer GE mentalities and price cutting comes nipping at our heals --> get better and move up to either a higher plateau or into another area. By doing so we not only improve ourselves, but our industry as a whole.

But there is one aspect that always has to stay in thought -- we are in business too. And if anyone wants to argue that point, I challenge you to do so against the likes of John Harrington, Rick Rickman, Mark Loundy and others.
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David Harpe, Photographer
Denver | CO | USA | Posted: 2:56 PM on 04.25.11
->> But one has to protect one’s intellectual property at a certain point.

Knowing that you can put tissue over a flash for a quick and easy diffuser is not "intellectual property". These types of tricks and the others shown on Strobist have been around for literally decades, and pretty much everyone here learned them from another photographer, a bootcamp, a luau, a book, or a web site.

If you're basing your business plan on your knowledge of these types of tricks - you're toast. Your true value as a photographer has nothing to do with the tricks you know. Your value comes from so many other things - including being able to make things look awesome even when you don't have tissue to use as a diffuser. Those are the things you can't learn at a seminar. It's all about experience, personality, creativity, etc. That's your value.
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Robert Hanashiro, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | | Posted: 3:15 PM on 04.25.11
->> Interesting difference in the headlines:
Romanesko:
Ex-newspaper photographer helps amateurs undercut the pros
http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/romenesko/129020/ex-newspaper-photograph.../

Slate:
David Hobby
A Baltimore Sun photographer who took a buyout, started a blog, and changed the photography business forever
http://www.slate.com/id/2291603

Wash Post:
First a buyout; now owner of a blistering photography business
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2011/04/19/AFWKzxWE_story.html
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Butch Miller, Photographer
Lock Haven | PA | USA | Posted: 3:21 PM on 04.25.11
->> Well ... I couldn't find any info on the web where Rick or Mark had anything specific to say about the Strobist ... but Harrington seems to be a fan of The Flash Bus Tour and also looks to be unconcerned about the whole matter affecting his "business" ...

http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/2011/02/flash-bus-coming-likely-to-c...

I really think this aspect of "sharing the knowledge" is a non issue ... business or otherwise ... pointing out that you can achieve very well done portraiture using a used SB24 and a $10 shoot-through umbrella vs. a Elinchrom studio unit and a $300 softbox ... is not going to hurt anyone ... ALL business is ALWAYS evolving ... this is nothing new ... spending more time placing blame and finger pointing on the causes and less effort on growing business opportunities is more of a factor than confusing information on lighting technique with "intellectual property" ...
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Peter Wine, Photographer, Photo Editor
Dayton | OH | USA | Posted: 5:09 PM on 04.25.11
->> While the Slate headline may appear more neutral, if my memory (and Hobby's telling) is accurate, it's also factually wrong.

Hobby started Strobist in 2006, and like many people did so to share his passion for photography.

The blog became quite popular, and Hobby took a one year leave from the paper to see where it would lead, since he was spending a lot of time working on the blog (at times maybe as much as his job.)

As I remember, it was during this year off that the buyout offer came. Perhaps he knew of the buyout offer and didn't mention it at the time, I don't know.

Besides, Hobby is more sharing his thought process for lighting, more than the settings or equipment used.

And using tissue (or writing) papaer as a diffuser is done more to show that you shouldn't limit your ability to get good shots to when you're using 'the big tools,' like studio flash, big softboxes and such things.

It's about using what you have to make good pictures, and it's never been about not needing big flashes or other equipment.
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Tony Sirgedas, Photographer
Pierce County | WA | USA | Posted: 10:51 PM on 04.27.11
->> Maybe a different slant, but perhaps the real future of photography is in putting on seminars and training for the masses?

And the Flash Bus kickoff event held in Seattle was pretty good.
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David A. Cantor, Photographer, Photo Editor
Toledo | OH | USA | Posted: 1:58 PM on 04.29.11
->> From The Economist:
http://tinyurl.com/6x6z6nf
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Robert Hanashiro, Photographer
Los Angeles | CA | | Posted: 2:02 PM on 04.29.11
->> Thanks for passing that along David. I would have missed it without you pointing it out.
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Chuck Liddy, Photographer
Durham | NC | USA | Posted: 2:11 PM on 04.29.11
->> I was given a free ticket to see the Flash Bus Tour when it stopped in Durham. I almost fell over dead when I saw there were 400 people attending and each had paid $100. I knew a handful. The rest were hobbyists sharpening their knifes to get their piece of the pie. That article in The Economist hits the nail on the head. Seasoned pros aren't afraid of the competition. That's not what will/is killing the market. The old axiom "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" is what will be the end of the photo business as we know it. There is my happy thought for the day.
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Michael Fischer, Photographer
Spencer | Ia | USA | Posted: 1:41 AM on 05.01.11
->> I knew I shouldn't have let my Economist subscription lapse :)

Doug, I'm not sure you made much of a mistake. Sooner or later someone would have figured it out. There was a place that makes fishing tackle not too far from here. I was reading to knock on the door until I found out the internet guy was shooting fishing tackle samples for $9 a set up. (The internet firm went belly up by the way). You can't make money being the cheapest - I've written that on this forum time after time.

What I would suggest is that knock on the CEO's door again. Tell the CEO to call you when they have something that they can't shoot. If you're telling me that the low hanging fruit isn't there anymore ok, I'll agree. That means there is more time to work on the projects that a point and shoot or $500 DSLR can't do.

Here's a reality: That genie is out of the bottle and neither you or I or anyone else is sticking it back in there.

There's not enough business to go around and that's another hard reality. As business people - you have a decision to make: You do what you have been doing - if it hasn't worked or begins to not work - and you do nothing - then you'll eventually go OUT OF BUSINESS. Or you work on your skills, continue to look for new markets that you haven't considered and/or undeveloped ones and try to improve your business.

Earlier tonight I was channel surfing and watched for the umpteenth time the best BUSINESS movie I ever saw. Was it Wall Street? Nahhhhh. It was Rocky III. What! you say - that's a boxing flick. Well it is, but it contains a great business lesson. Because Rocky didn't change his style, Clubber Lange comes in and kicks the crap out of poor ole Rocky. It's only when Rocky deals with his fear, and discovers new ways to win that he is able to defeat Clubber.

It's the same in business. We all have our Clubber Lange characters to deal with. If we don't get better, if we don't learn some new ways so we can adapt - then we get killed in the ring of business.

I've said it before: try NEW things. Be unique. These are the ways marketers make good things happen. In my other business, I'm currently giving away iPads when the consumer buys qualifying products. The early results are a good increase in business and I have yet to see someone actually get a iPad because they haven't qualified. The ones that have bought are HAPPY. The iPad offer got them in - and the rest is history.

Be unique - be different. Promote. Do a better job. These don't automatically guarantee success but they do greatly increase your chances of being successful.

And as for the folks with DSLRs. Who cares? Be nice, ask for their business if it makes sense; but DON'T worry about a guy with a DSLR and a strobe. All that does is take your eye off the goal.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer
Roswell | GA | USA | Posted: 9:21 AM on 05.01.11
->> Knowing how to use photography equipment is important. Learning some of the tricks of the trade is valuable.

Knowing when and how to use them requires you to understand the why to be truly successful.

I believe while the equipment continues to evolve all the time our story telling skills are constant.

We need to look at our counterparts in the communication field to see that those who produce plays are still at the core need a compelling story and told in a compelling way to have a hit on Broadway. Writers need to have a strong lead to pull you into their stories.

I don't think we have fully exhausted the possibilities of the Kodak Brownie Box Camera.

Those who are consistently at the top of this field are those with an ability to tell stories in a captivating way. If you know all that Hobby knows and don’t know how to tell a story your competition will bury you. If you know how to tell a story and don’t know all that Hobby knows you may still be at the top of the field.

I go to workshops like Hobby puts on with McNally because I want to have more control over the message and anything I can learn to strengthen the message I want to know how to do.

Hobby can tell us all he knows and he will still be ahead of many of us because he is a person who is taking risks and looking for another trick that he will later blog about or teach in a workshop.
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Thread Title: Strobist in the House...
Thread Started By: Delane B. Rouse
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