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Welcome to the PhotoEdit blog!

Here we are proud to offer various in-depth stories featuring our photographers, including "Behind the Photo," book excerpts, extended interviews, and more. Additionally, we will be offering various articles and other information useful to stock photographers in general. Feel free to have a look around, and by all means, leave comments on articles you find interesting!

If you would like to be involved in our link-sharing effort or would like to be featured on the PhotoEdit blog, please contact Mike for more information.

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Julian Block’s Tax Tips for Stock Photographers (Part 4)

September 9, 2009

Julian Block’s Tax Tips for Stock Photographers (Part 4)

PhotoEdit is proud to welcome back Julian Block, an attorney and leading expert on taxes from Larchmont, New York, who has been generously writing a series of articles for PhotoEdit about tax tips for stock photographers. We are grateful to Julian for his time and his expertise. In part four of this series, he discusses ways in which photographers can educate themselves about tax planning in order to maximize their profit and minimize their losses to the IRS.

Are you a stock photographer who wants to lose less to the IRS? Keeping good records is the key to mapping out strategies that you can use year after year to trim taxes. But organizing that ever-growing accumulation of records in your desk drawers, closets, and other storage spaces is just the first step for effective tax planning.

Educating yourself on the current tax opportunities and pitfalls can be an important second step. Ideally, you should be equipped to weigh the tax consequences before you make decisions on whether to invest, borrow or spend.

Multi-ethnic group of adults listens to instructor lecturing at a non-profit foundation's career-building program, Pine Bluff, AR

In these increasingly tough times, it is more vital than ever that stock photographers assume greater responsibility for their financial future. They ought not to rely exclusively on paid advisers to keep on top of tax-law changes or other legislation that might make it necessary to revise their plans. At the very least, photographers should be knowledgeable enough to raise good questions and evaluate answers when they deal with a professional. The informed client gets the best advice.

On a personal note, JFK was president when I first passed a bar exam. Eight presidents later, I still am constantly contacted by individuals seeking to disentangle themselves from problems created by their blind reliance on flawed advice from highly paid professionals. That is why I recommend photographers sign up for low-cost adult education courses on taxes, investing and other aspects of personal finance.

Photographers can pick from an array of continuing education courses tailored to their interests that are available at high schools, community colleges and the like. These courses are typically taught by attorneys, CPAs and financial planners: individuals with hands-on experience who are able to provide helpful, unbiased advice.

Black man wearing a bandanna uses 35mm camera to photograph Martin Luther King, Jr. parade in Liberty City, Miami, FL

What is particularly advantageous is that the courses make it possible for photographers to pick the brains of qualified instructors at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost to meet them on a one-to-one basis.

An example: in my near-New-York-City neck of the woods, the going hourly rate for tax lawyers commonly is several hundred dollars and up, whereas students generally pay about $40 at the adult ed places that offer my two-hour sessions on narrowly focused topics like how to take maximum advantage of changed rules for home sales.

Another decided advantage is that you and your fellow students get to ask questions about significant events in your financial lives. Some of the queries regularly fielded by me and my fellow instructors: the tax-right way to open, operate, or close business ventures; the tax and other legal consequences of getting hitched or unhitched; when and how much to remove from traditional IRAs or other tax-deferred retirement plans; and whether to make lifetime gifts of money and other kinds of property to family members or to leave the assets to them.

White middle-aged couple sitting at desk does their taxes together

Also, you learn money-saving techniques that you can apply yourself or, should you decide to seek professional help, test out on your advisers. And, conceivably, those advisers might turn out to be your instructors, whom you’ve had an excellent chance to evaluate.

Should some kinds of courses be shunned? Unquestionably, in my experience.

The adage that there is no free lunch is particularly apt when it comes to no-charge seminars sponsored by brokerage houses, insurance companies, etc. Far too often, these outfits use the talks mainly as marketing tools to promote (1) themselves, (2) dubious investment vehicles and other products designed to generate lucrative commissions for themselves and dismal returns for their clients, or (3) all of the above.


This concludes the fourth article in the Tax Tips for Stock Photographers series. Stay tuned for future articles by our friend and colleague from New York. Julian Block, an attorney in Larchmont, New York, has been cited as a “leading tax professional” (New York Times), “an accomplished writer on taxes” (Wall Street Journal), and “an authority on tax planning” (Financial Planning Magazine). The information in the above article is excerpted from Tax Tips for Small Businesses: Savvy Ways for Writers, Photographers, Artists and Other Freelancers to Trim Taxes to the Legal Minimum, praised by law professor James E. Maule of Villanova University as “An easy-to-read and well-organized explanation of the tax rules. Business owners would be well advised to buy this book.” For more of Julian’s articles and to order his books, please visit Copyright 2009 Julian Block. All rights reserved.


How To Guide: Shooting Band Photos by Mike Margol (Part 3)

August 27, 2009

How To Guide: Shooting Band Photos by Mike Margol (Part 3)

Hello out there, you lovely PhotoEdit blog readers. Mike here once again to brighten up your week (naturally) with another amazing post about life through the lens. Since a month has passed since I did my second entry in the band photos tutorial, I thought I would wrap it up today at the end of summer before September sneaks in. In my last guide, I believe I said that in the final installment I would be focusing on outdoor band photos, networking, and possibly some framing issues, so let’s get to it. Should you have any questions and you don’t want to comment directly on the blog, you can always feel free to email me about anything I discuss on here and I will get back to you in the same business day, notwithstanding (1) imminent asteroid impact, (2) viral zombie outbreaks, or (3) Star Wars marathons on the SyFy Channel (does anyone else think the new brand just sounds like “Siffy”?). Anyway, you can email me by clicking this link. Go for it.

Before we get into today’s topics, I wanted to briefly touch on something that I forgot to include in the last installment: ISO usage. This is one area where hardware is really going to determine what you can and cannot do, because the better your camera, the better your noise reduction will generally be. I’ve seen noise on photos I’ve reviewed at ISOs as low as 400-600, but higher-end cameras can hit upwards of 3200 or even 6400 ISO without horrible noise, at least at smaller resolutions, so you may want to invest in a better camera if you find that noise is a constant problem for you. A faster lens can also help in the sense that your ISO doesn’t have to be so high if your aperture can go down below f/2.0, but either way, you’ll have to spend money. I regularly shoot at 3200 ISO and above, so if you really like band photography, it may be worth it to spend some extra cash on new equipment, because even if you don’t make a lot of money doing this kind of thing (and not many do, myself included), you can almost always find other applications for a camera or lens outside of the band world.

Now that that is out of the way, let’s talk about framing a little more. In general I say frame how you want and be done with it, but one thing I wanted to briefly mention is the framing of lights. Lights are going to be in a lot of your indoor shots, obviously; they cannot really be avoided unless you’re taking super tight close-up shots all the time. My particular taste when dealing with lights is that I try to move so the subject does not appear to be “touching” a light or row of lights. See below:

Compared to:

It looks like poor Jake has a green light growing out of his neck and that he is about to eat a magical, floating blue disc of some kind (delicious, I’m told). This doesn’t mean the photo is ruined, necessarily; I still like it and most people who aren’t photographers would never even notice this kind of nit-picky stuff, but it bugs me, so I thought I would mention it. It’s not always something you can avoid due to the angles of the lights, height of the stage, position of the subjects, etc., and if not, don’t worry about it. Otherwise, there are almost always a lot of different opportunities for framing your subjects in all kinds of cool ways–perhaps in a corner of the shot with the audience’s hands reaching up from the other side, things like that–so try as many things as you can think of. With digital, you don’t have to pay to try out new ideas, so go crazy and do everything.

All right, so you have a camera and a proper lens and you want to take some photos, but don’t know where to start in contacting bands. How do you become a band photographer in terms of finding bands and talking to them? To be honest, it’s a pain and takes forever, usually. There are generally several photographers at every show trying to shoot the best photos of each band, so competition is stiff. Use your MySpace account to get in touch with the band prior to the show if possible. Let them know who you are, that you’re working for free (asking for money from a band, especially a smaller one that may be strapped for cash after dumping thousands of dollars into equipment, recording an album, and buying a van and trailer so they can tour means you’re just asking to be ignored), and that you will send your shots to them afterward. Bands appreciate this and if they respond to your message, all the better. Now you have a contact in the band.

If you have a certain band you really want to be the photographer for, you will obviously have to go to a lot of their shows. I have done a billion photos for a punk band you may know of (Strung Out), but when I started, I didn’t know them, so I just went to as many of their local shows as I could. I also joined their message board so I could share my photos with the Strung Out community. Eventually, the band started to recognize “that one guy with the camera” who kept popping up and sending them photos, and once you’re recognized and the band knows you shoot good photos, you’re in. At that point, you will have an easier time getting press passes so you can really get some amazing shots, because we all know that shooting from the crowd sucks.

Another thing you might want to try is finding a small, relatively unknown local band whose music you enjoy. These bands usually don’t have their own photographers and they appreciate the attention much more than a bigger band, so in most cases they will be more forthcoming with press passes (and of course it is easier to get to know these band members because they may sell their own merch and not hang out backstage quite as often) and they’ll use your photos more often than a more well-known band. To give you another example from my career, I saw a band open at Chain Reaction once and I really liked their tunes, so I added them on MySpace and started going to their shows. They had no photographer at the time, so they were grateful I’d pay $5 or $10 to see them play a bar or other small venue, and also take photos for them. Eventually, this band got signed to a label and by that point I didn’t have to pay for their shows anymore because they would put me on the guest list as their photographer. If you live in southern California, and more specifically Orange County, you may have heard of them: A Kiss Could Be Deadly (and now Electric Valentine):

Either way, it’s a lot of work trying to get “in” with a band, but if you work at it, usually you can get something going even if your favorite band plays larger venues and has many photographers already. Better yet, if you make contacts in one band, that may lead to making contacts in another band with almost zero effort (side projects, referrals, etc).

This is turning into a really long post…but we have only one more thing to talk about, and it’s an easy one, so I will shut up soon! Yay! I can hear the rejoicing from here. So: outdoor band photos. These are infinitely easier than indoor band photos for about a billion reasons, most obvious of which is the fact that IT IS ACTUALLY LIGHT OUTSIDE FOR 12 HOURS A DAY. Toss that fancy high-speed prime lens into your camera bag and pull out whatever you use most often, because chances are that it will perform perfectly fine in blinding sunlight. You can use a low ISO coupled with a lens that isn’t even that fast, too. For instance:

200 ISO, f/4.8: settings you would never get away with inside, but outdoors, it’s a whole new ballgame. It’s actually pretty rare that you will get to shoot bands outside because this generally only happens at festivals or other large events where securing a press pass is a lot more difficult than at a normal show, but if you get the chance, make the most of it, because odds are that you will have plentiful opportunities to get shots you’ve always dreamed of (like above, Marta from Bleeding Through). In general, shooting outside frees you from the constraints and struggle of worrying about lighting and camera settings, meaning you can put all your attention on getting the perfect framing and pose from your subject. Hopefully your band doesn’t show up wearing white shirts, because it’s easy to wash out white clothing in direct sunlight (avoid at all costs), but white is generally not the most popular color for bands to wear, thankfully.

I think that’s all I really need to say regarding outdoor band photos. They’re easy, they’re fun, and you’ll have many more chances to get ideal shots than you ever will inside, so enjoy it. Many times while doing band photography, you have to sacrifice enjoying the show in order to get good photos–I’ve been to entire shows and maybe only remembered two or three songs from a set list because I just wasn’t paying attention to the music–but in an outdoor setting, you can really have a good time and focus less on photography as work, and more on photography as a way to experience music in an entirely different way.


Thus concludes the longest blog post about band photography in the history of the universe. Hopefully I haven’t caused anyone to get a migraine. Anyway, I do believe this was my final post in the “how to shoot band photos” guide, so I hope it was informative and semi-enjoyable to everyone who took the time to read it. I do have a personal portfolio where I keep all of my band shots, so if you want to take a look, just email me and I can forward you the link. Questions about band shots? Need more advice or have a critique of my techniques? Email me that stuff, too. Don’t be shy. The PhotoEdit blog will return next week, so keep a weather eye on the horizon!

How To Guide: Captioning and Keywording by Jim West

August 20, 2009

How To Guide: Captioning and Keywording by Jim West

Hello and happy late August to you, PhotoEdit blog readers (time flies, huh?). I have returned once more with a new entry in our “How To” series. One of our photographers, Jim West, who is great at captioning and keywording, has kindly written a post that will assist other photographers in making accurate and succinct captions and keyword lists for their own photos. Coupling those skills with photography is the key to reaching your target audience, the photo buyers, so enjoy the article and implement the advice at your leisure. Or, if you’d like to be more dramatic about it: ignore the advice at your peril! To check out Jim West’s extensive portfolio on the PhotoEdit site, please click here. And now, without further ado, take it away, Jim.

Two White Boy Scouts high in a tree hang a wooden box to create a nesting site for ducks, Redford Township, MI

Better keywording and captioning will guarantee happiness and a long life! Or not. But doing a good job of captioning and keywording definitely will sell more of your pictures. Here are some of the ideas I use when captioning and keywording my photos.

Captioning: Say what’s there – what’s happening. Avoid adjectives. Avoid opinions. (If your photo subject is a jerk, your picture should say this, not your caption. Though they should be, photo editors are not really interested in your opinions, only whether your picture says what they want it to say.) Newspapers usually put these items in captions: Who? What? When? Where? Why?

Most important is What. If your picture is of a crab apple tree, the caption should say “crab apple tree.” (You’re losing sales fast if the caption just says “tree.”) Expand on it a bit if you can. Add the Latin name if you know it (malus, I think). Sometimes that may be all you need, but usually there will be a bit more. Is your 13-year-old daughter climbing the tree? “African-American teenage girl climbs crab apple tree.”

Multi-ethnic group of volunteers serves food to the needy at an outdoor soup kitchen during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service, Washington DC

Why? Sometimes there’s something to add here, sometimes not. For instance, “African-American teenage girl climbs crab apple tree to rescue cat.” But if the cat is not in the picture, there’s usually no point in including the cat in the caption.

Who? Newspapers always want to know people’s names, but for the stock photo market, this is less important unless the person is a politician, celebrity, famous photographer, or someone else who is well known or who may become well known.

Where is often important. Textbooks are often written for specific states, so if your photo is from Texas, you’ll have a better chance of selling it to a Texas-specific text.

When? I always put the date of the photo in the proper IPTC field in PhotoShop, but I don’t go out of my way to advertise it. Some photo editors may shy away from using an older photo, but if you don’t rub the date in their face, they make think an older picture is just fine.

Mexican male baseball player standing on the plate waits for a pitch during a Mexican baseball league game in Detroit, MI

Keywords: The key to keywording is to think like a photo buyer. If you’re looking for a Hispanic teenager playing baseball in Texas, you’ll probably search for “Hispanic” or “Latino,” “teen” or “teenager,” or maybe “youth,” “baseball,” and “Texas.” Add city, country, and geographic region (south, Midwest, etc.). Add variations if needed: USA, United States, America. Add less specific keywords also. A researcher may want a child playing some organized sports, but race and geography may not matter. So “sports” should be a keyword. “Child” or “children” also, if the subjects look a bit on the younger side of teenage years. Maybe “game,” “compete,” and “competition.” Is there a coach or referee in the picture? Does the player look happy after winning the game? Add “happy,” “win,” or “winning.” Season: winter, snow, cold. Weather: rain, storm, hail, lightning, sunny. And so on.

Add synonyms (happy, joy, joyful), but don’t go overboard here. Some photographers seem to add the dictionary to every picture, but all that will do is bring up your photo in inappropriate situations and aggravate the picture buyer (and maybe your photo agency).

Are your photos being marketed in other countries? I usually add British spellings or terms (elevator = lift; labor = labour). If you’re targeting the German market and know the language, definitely use German as well as English keywords.

The bottom line is to look at your picture and think –- what’s there? What are the elements? Occasionally, you’ll add keywords for subjects that you can’t actually see in the picture: a summer camp for children with cancer, for instance, should have “cancer” as a keyword (and in the caption).

White teen girl and Black teen girls wearing costumes perform in the Mosaic Youth Theatre's production of Crossing 8 Mile, a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors that satirizes the urban versus suburban relations in Detroit, MI

This concludes Jim West’s tutorial on keywording and captioning. If you’d like to get in touch with Jim regarding this post, you can email me and I will get you his contact information. Have feedback or a question? Feel free to leave a comment on this post! For more information about keywording and captioning, you can visit the official PhotoEdit Captioning & Metdata Guidelines page.

Also, in case you didn’t realize it, we have a new blogger on the team (which means the team now has two people! I’m not alone anymore!): PhotoEdit Sales and Marketing Manager Kristen Sachs. She will be posting from time to time about news events in the outside world that are relevant to photography or PhotoEdit, so keep a weather eye on the horizon for those articles. Her bio blurb should be up soon on the “About the Bloggers” page. I’ll have a new blog post for you next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel.


Special Olympics

August 13, 2009

Farewell to Special Olympics Founder

August 11, 2009 saw the passing of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics. Shriver was a champion for mentally disabled individuals, and she forged the Special Olympics as a way for those individuals to shine in athletic competition. PhotoEdit is proud to host a wide variety of Special Olympics images. Our collection features all kinds of sports like track and field, tennis, basketball, and skiing. Just click the picture below to view our entire portfolio of Special Olympics stock photos.

Group portrait of smiling multi-ethnic group of teen boys with Down's Syndrome participating in the Special Olympics, Ames, IA


PhotoEdit Student Survey, PDF, and New Collection

August 10, 2009

What Do Students Think of the Photos In Their Textbooks?

Hello out there, you lovely PhotoEdit blog readers. This week, to change things up, there will not be a regular feature post. Instead, I’m going to talk a bit about some research that PhotoEdit recently conducted in order to discover what students think of the images in their textbooks, as well as what we’ve done with that data and how you can access it for free (this should hopefully be useful to all stock agencies and photographers who are interested in marketing their images to textbook publishers). Next week we’ll get back on track with regular features: more photo tax advice, tips for shooting bands, and instructional guides on shooting underwater photos, all coming soon. Have an idea for a blog post you’d like to see, or do you have a blog you’d like to contribute for full credit? Get in touch with me!

Hispanic JH girl reads barometer while her three Hispanic female classmates conduct chemistry experiment in classroom, Los Angeles, CA

In spring and early summer 2009, PhotoEdit interviewed close to 300 students at a local high school to find out what opinions they had of the pictures in their textbooks. We got varied responses: while students liked some of the photos and found them helpful, they found others to be “boring,” “unhelpful,” and “from another century,” in addition to similar negative comments. Anyone who has ever looked through a textbook can probably sympathize with the students; in college I would routinely see images in my French books of teenagers wearing Reebok “Pumps” from 1987 with hair that looked vaguely like David Bowie’s during his Ziggy Stardust days. Not exactly an accurate or timely depiction of popular culture in the 21st century, and totally useless in comprehending what French kids actually did like. Similarly, some students who participated in the survey complained that the photos in the books did not help them learn core concepts, especially when it came to the sciences.

In response to the research, we decided to build a brand new collection called Images That Teach, which is fairly self-explanatory in terms of its main goal. We wanted to offer a solid gallery that contained images students could actually use to learn, not just photos that would serve as filler on pages otherwise laden with text. The collection consists of 12 subject-specific sub-galleries like Chemistry, Science Experiments, Physics, Environmental Science, and so forth, all designed to benefit students of all ages in comprehending new concepts presented in their textbooks. You can access the primary Images That Teach page by clicking on the link.

Studio shot on white surface of apple pie cut in eighths with one slice served on red plate, Los Angeles, CA

For example, the image above, which can be found in our Mathematics gallery, is designed to assist younger students in understanding fractions in a simple and fun way. There are also galleries which have been created with the advanced student in mind: our Criminology and Medical collections contain images that are useful for high school and college level students, such as photos detailing crime scene investigation techniques and in-depth medical illustrations of all major body systems.

Additionally, we organized the aforementioned survey responses into a handy 22-page PDF that is available free of charge to anyone who wants it. The PDF is split into sections such as “How can the images in your textbooks be improved?” and “Which types of images and captions do you like or find helpful?” Aside from the obvious benefit of learning the students’ opinions, the file also features some photos from our Images That Teach gallery. Accessing the PDF is incredibly easy: all you have to do is email me, your friendly neighborhood PhotoEdit blogger! You already love me (of course), so this should be a natural step for you.

Illustration of stomach diagram

We plan to (a) continue to expand our Images That Teach collection and (b) survey more students of differing age groups this year and into 2010, so if you like what you see, feel free to check back frequently for new content. We may also begin to survey teachers to see what they think of the images in the textbooks that they use. Should you have a category of images that you’d like to see featured in this collection, you know who to contact by now, naturally. Similarly, if by some coincidence you happen to work for a textbook publisher and have some texts that you’d like us to give to students to see what they think about them, we can also do that for you if given enough lead time. We at PhotoEdit sincerely hope the PDF and Images That Teach collection will have wide-ranging applications and be helpful across the board.


That concludes this installment of PhotoEdit News. I should mention that if you are a stock photographer and you feel you have some images which go along with the Images That Teach theme, please get in touch with me via one of the five thousand email links I’ve strewn around the blog; PhotoEdit is always looking to expand its photography team, so if you think you’ve got what it takes, we’d love to see some of your work! The blogfest continues next week with the previously mentioned photo features, so stay tuned, and of course, if you have any questions or comments, either email me or leave a comment somewhere around the blog and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

“Remember the Joy” by Bill Bachmann (Part 3)

August 4, 2009

Book Excerpt: Remember the Joy by Bill Bachmann (Part 3)

PhotoEdit is glad to welcome back prominent stock shooter Bill Bachmann for another informational excerpt from his newest book, Remember the Joy, which offers tips on “how to have a successful career in photography and have fun doing it.” In this third and final segment, Bill, who is one of the premier travel and lifestyle photographers in the world, discusses ways to make photography more fun for those who may have forgotten to “remember the joy.”

Outdoor portrait of Black young woman and White young woman spinning on merry-go-round at a park playground

I stated in the first chapter that one purpose of this book was to keep your photography career exciting and fun. One reason it is still fun for me today, after these years of work, is because I look for many ways to make it fun. I will share some of these joyful methods with you in this chapter. These suggestions are for photographers who want to recapture the joy in this world of photography.

1. Join a local camera club

Whether you are a professional or amateur, you will find friends and inspiration in a local camera club. I belong to several professional photography organizations and I do attend meetings regularly. But they are different…they are dealing with pricing, client relations, usage, new equipment, the “how to” of the business. As good as those meetings are, there just isn’t a whole lot of joy around! But my Orlando Camera Club is totally different. Here many of the members just want to learn and share for the sheer joy of photography. We have over 400 members and I so look forward to the twice-monthly meetings whenever I am in town. I almost always leave the meetings either inspiring others or being inspired myself! And that is a wonderful feeling. Each month we have themed competitions and I love to see how so many of my friends there interpret the theme.

I would recommend that you join a camera club where you live. It is how I have met so many friends that love photography and we now go off and shoot together because we love it.

East Indian woman prays in front of the Yamuna River with the Taj Mahal in the background, Agra, India

2. Go around your neighborhood with just a camera and look for interesting pictures

Yes, in your own neighborhood with no assignment, no commissions, no real job. Just shoot for the fun of shooting again. Years ago I taught a class at Ft. Lauderdale Art Institute and gave my students one- or two-word assignments to shoot in black and white. They often blew me away with their own interpretations, and I still do it often myself. Try a self-assignment like “textures,” “love,” or “good friends” and surprise yourself with your own interpretation. I still remember one student’s idea with “good friends” as the theme. He shot a black and white close-up of an older man’s hands on his well-worn trumpet. Beautifully done—so much so that I still vividly remember that image with that title after all these years.

I guarantee you will refresh your photographic mind and senses as you explore your own surroundings. It will be a breath of fresh air to you. Just looking around your own area of the world will allow you to notice things you never have.

3. Plan your own photo exhibit

Take a trip, or find an interesting topic to photograph, and then blow up the prints for your own one-man show. You can have the show in a gallery or even a bank—but it will allow you to shoot photography for the art itself. It is fun again when it is not for money! This exhibit may even bring you more business and exposure, but make sure you did it for the sheer joy of art. You will shoot much differently for a show than you ever would commercially, and that could be just the needed refreshment in your work again.

Visitors view the biennial Flower Carpet woven from begonias and displayed on the Grand'Place(Market Square) at night, Brussels, Belgium

4. Publish your own book

Yes, publish a book of YOUR photography. I’ve shot over 1,000 magazine covers, and some were quite prestigious. In all humility, however, no matter how good they were, they were in the garbage next month (or are in a dentist’s office). They have no long shelf life, simply replaced by next month’s issue. That is one of the great things about publishing your own book. Long after you are gone it will still be somewhere in the ancient Library of Congress. And no friend, family member, or client will throw away a signed copy. You will have a great gift to give for many years. Books probably won’t make money for you—that should not be your goal. You will be proud of the effort, as will your loved ones. Today’s digital printing can allow you to produce a book without having to start with major up-front costs. You can often find a printer who can produce small quantities as you need them for a more reasonable price.

Evzones, the historical elite light infantry and mountain units of the Greek Army and now members of the Proedriki Froura, the presidential guards, perform changing of the guards ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greek


This concludes the final excerpt from Remember the Joy by Bill Bachmann. We thank Bill for allowing us to offer these valuable excerpts. If you are interested in ordering Remember the Joy or any of Bill’s other fantastic books, please visit his order page by clicking here. To see Bill’s complete collection of travel, lifestyle, and other worldwide multi-ethnic images on the PhotoEdit site, you can click through to his lightbox by clicking here. Want to see more posts from Bill in the future? Let us know!

How To Guide: Shooting Band Photos by Mike Margol (Part 2)

July 24, 2009

How To Guide: Shooting Band Photos by Mike Margol (Part 2)

Greetings and happy Friday to all of you out there in the photography world! Before I head over to Huntington Beach tomorrow morning to shoot photos at the US Surf Open, I thought I would type out the second installment of my how to guide regarding band photography since the first one seemed popular with the readers. In the future, PhotoEdit wants to add blogs of all kinds deadling with photography tips and tricks, as well as more travelogues and book excerpts, so if you are a photographer and you have good writing skills and an idea or two for a blog, please get in touch with me via email (the link is on every single page here, so it shouldn’t be hard to locate). We hope to hear from you soon!

In the last installment of this guide, I discussed how amateur photographers with non-DSLR cameras could achieve positive results in their endeavors, so I didn’t really get into a discussion about how people working with pro-level equipment could improve their photos. However, that is what I am going to be talking about today, so if that’s what you came here for, today is your lucky day (hooray!). I’ll start out with a bit of information about what equipment I personally use and show you some examples of photos I’ve done with said equipment, and then I’ll talk for a while about issues you may run into while attempting band photography inside (I’ll cover outdoor band photos next time in the final installment) and how you can overcome them.

When I shoot band photos inside, I use a Nikon D300 with a Nikkor f/1.8 50mm prime lens, and I recommend that anyone with serious aspirations in band photography invest in a similar lens (or if you’re feeling expensive, you can upgrade to the f/1.4 models, which do provide some improvements in their speed). However, the bottom line is that you want a fast lens because the lighting is miserable. If you’re going to be shooting full flash and bouncing it off ceilings and all that, obviously your lens doesn’t need to be quite as fast, and you can probably get away with a lens that has variable aperture, like the Nikkor f/3.5-5.6 18-200mm or its equivalent in the Canon range or whatever lens manufacturer you favor. While it is possible to get good shots in a dark setting with a variable aperture lens (see the shot directly below, which was taken with the aforementioned f/3.5-5.6 lens), to get the best results you will definitely want to invest in a prime with blazing fast speed. Think Lamborghini instead of Scion.

All the other photos in this post save for the one above were taken with the 50mm prime lens, so you can compare and contrast the results and see the difference. I could talk about flash setups, but I am going to stay away from that here just because it’s not my current style and there are many excellent photographers out there who could provide a much better explanation of DSLR flash techniques than I will be able to give (so look them up! Most photographers will gladly share tips if you ask).

Let’s talk about one of the biggest obstacles in band photography: focus. Personally, I never use manual focus for anything. Today’s DSLRs are smarter and faster at calculating angles and depth than a human trying to do similar calculations, so unless you’re trying to purposely skew the focus mechanism for artistic purposes, you should probably stick with your autofocus. Most cameras have very sophisticated autofocus sensors across a wide plane of mapping points. The D300 has 51 points it can map using autofocus, but even something like 13 points will no doubt get the job done for you since usually the subject of your photo (the guitarist, the singer, whomever) will most likely be taking up most of the frame.

Getting your camera to focus on a moving subject in the dark can be tricky, I know. Sometimes it may not work at all. Be sure you have your AF assist light on in these situations if the band doesn’t mind; generally the AF assist light is not eye-blindingly bright, and I’ve yet to meet a band that objected to having that light on them during a show, so go for it. It can definitely help your camera work out the details it needs to focus on. Additionally, READ YOUR MANUAL (I can’t emphasize this enough; the manuals look like Moby Dick these days for a reason) and figure out where your focus tracking is. Some cameras are able to track subjects and adjust focus accordingly while you have the shutter release held halfway, so give that a try.

Don’t be discouraged if you take 300 photos and you only end up putting 10-20 of them in your portfolio. That’s the nature of band photography, and I don’t know anyone who takes 300 shots at a show and ends up with 300 portfolio-worthy images. The success rate can be low for band photos and action shots, and any other situation where you do not control the lighting or the subject. That’s the name of the game, so don’t be too disappointed if you have to edit through a vast sea of failures before you come to a few gems. It happens to everyone! Keeping your aperture as fast as possible–feel free to use the aperture priority setting instead of manual, since you’ll have to change the manual settings constantly to accomodate the shifting lights–will ensure that your photos are bright enough, so just worry about the focus and the framing of your shots and you’ll end up with something cool if you practice enough.

Let’s talk about framing shots for just a moment, though I’ll save more of this stylistic discussion for the last installment. Everyone is going to have a different taste when it comes to framing, so it’s hard to say “Well, this is obviously the right way to do things,” or “That sucks and the band is laughing at you.” I favor both long shots and tight shots, vertical and horizontal; I think all have their particular uses and appeal. Figure out what you like and go from there, don’t be afraid to experiment, and eventually you will find a method of shooting–both in terms of mechanics and style–that works well for you, which is what really counts.

As always, questions and comments are welcomed in any capacity. Next time I’ll discuss some more stylistic issues and maybe how to start networking with bands. For now I’ll leave you with one last photo that appears on the Jackson Guitars website. Have a great weekend and keep shooting!


In the coming weeks, PhotoEdit hopes to expand further upon new blog ideas. Have an idea for an article you might like to write as a guest blogger? Some piece of knowledge you might like to know regarding photography in general? Get in touch with Mike!