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Do Less = Do More. The Art of Being Creative + Productive

I’m a huge fan of the concept of “strategic renewal.” Chasing shiny opportunities, working in a reactive state and dealing with each new email that pops up on your phone is not only exhausting – it’s a way to ensure you get nothing done – and it’s simply not sustainable. “Busy” isn’t success. It’s a lack of priority. I’ve been paying attention to those who have command of their time…systems that bring sanity and purpose to a hectic travel and work schedule. I fly about 150,000 miles a year, at minimum, so keeping myself healthy and productive in the midst of constant movement is essential to being an effective creator. For the first 25 years of my life I resisted “systems” and plans with every fiber in my body because I thought it meant the man was keeping me down. But now, FLEXIBLE routines for exercise, meditation, renewal, creative expression ARE key essential parts to my success. My writer friend Ben has been developing his own system of strategic renewal for years – which is very much in line with my own – and I asked him to share it for our benefit today. Take it away Ben. -Chase

Thanks Chase. I work from home like many of the creatives reading this piece, so right away, we’re in cahoots. While the home office / studio environment is filled with distractions — dirty dishes, laundry, an un-made bed, the un-vacuumed carpet and myriad other 10-minute chores that call out like a siren each and every minute of the telecommuter’s working day, I’d rather create a plan that kept me away from those pesky distractions than be trapped in a soul sucking job, under the soul-sucking glow of fluorescents, surrounded by employees who worked by an unwritten company rule that more is more. Arrive early, leave late. Rinse, wash, repeat. Scratch that. Despite being chained to a chair for 12 hours a day — our peers in those role are NOT more productive than we are. Here’s why.

Chase and I have both recently read an article by Tony Schwarz in the New York Times about a what researches are calling “strategic renewal” and its impact on productivity. According to Schwarz, strategic renewal is vital to staying productive. The concept includes activities like:

daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations…boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.

The theory boils down to the fact that we can’t increase the hours in the day, but we can increase the energy with which we make the most of those hours. Taking short, scheduled breaks throughout the day rejuvenates and restores us physically and mentally, helping us plow through those assignments and to-do lists in a third of the time.

The coolest take away from the article concerns what I now call “work blocks.” In short, after that 90 minutes of work, our bodies and minds need a break. But our 9-5 (or 7-7) work culture demands focus for much, much longer blocks of time, so many of us fight that urge to break by filling up the mug with more coffee, rubbing our eyes and refocusing on the screen.

No more.

Inspired by Schwarz and the studies he cited, I created a Daily Schedule that broke up my day into 90-minute Work Blocks, separated by 30 minute Breaks and, in the middle of my day, a 2-hour lunch. I know some of you just spit your coffee out. But you read that right. I take a 2 hour lunch to get a long run or workout in, eat and read from a book or write a few lines in my journal.

During the 30 minute breaks I read, clean, walk to the post office and complete those little, once distracting tasks that now actually kill two birds with one stone. Sometimes, if I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, I’ll even knock off for a cat nap.

Here’s a snapshot of my day, which I have printed out and laminated so I can use a dry-erase marker for daily tasks and to-dos:

[Download the Daily Schedule PDF.]

I schedule a total of four 90-minute work blocks in my day. Since implementing my Daily Schedule, I find that my productivity is nearly 4x what it was before, especially when I stay disciplined and, most importantly, when I get a full night’s sleep. [Which, for me, is at least 7 1/2 hours.] When you step back from it, I’m essentially “in the office” for 9 hours a day, from 7:30 – 4:30 (I’ll usually keep plugging until 5, out of respect), but by the time I punch out, I’m no wearier that I was when I punched in and I step away from my desk with a the clear conscience of one who has knocked out some serious work. Even better, I find myself going to bed at night genuinely looking forward to work the next day.

Sure, it’s no Timothy Ferriss 4-hour Workweek, but it’s working towards it. And it’s respecting my body’s physiological need for regular breaks, a full-night’s sleep and daily physical activity.

So that’s it in a nutshell. I’d write more, but the dryer buzzer just went off.

[I lied. A final word about the two hour lunch, because it sometimes does feel indulgent. As justification, I leave you with the daily schedule of one of America's most productive men, Benjamin Franklin:]

Photo Geek Alert — The Camera Sensor as Emulsion + Why Your Digital Camera is More Like Film Stock Than You Realize

Geek alert. Although the mentality stems from the last century, the megapixel wars are not over. It is, however, safe to say that those of us familiar with our cameras have started to realize that they are much more than megapixels + dynamic range. There are other factors that we have come to admit are important to consider – case in point, the sensor. Some are noisy, some are big, some are juicy, others are…well… you get my point. These apparent truths prompted a conversation with my friend Sohail and led him to this in-depth post about the comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into today’s cameras — all with the emulsion (the photo sensitive side of film) discussion that used to kick around in the era of film. It’s all coming full circle now… Take it away Sohail. -Chase

A few months ago, I made a switch in camera platforms. Comparing images taken with a 5D Mark III and a Nikon D800, I found that there was something about the Nikon image that I really liked, something that went beyond the standard things that can be quantified, like its 36MP resolution, or its 12 stops of dynamic range.

D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

D800 shot on the left, 5D Mark III on the right. Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

The atmospheric conditions for the two shots were different, but even accounting for that, the 5D Mark III image was uncomfortably crunchy, with some pretty serious color noise and banding in the shadows. The D800 shot, on the other hand, had amazing tonality, and the noise was mostly luminance noise, smoothly rendered, almost organic, like film grain.

Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

Shadow Comparison. D800 On Left.

I’d love to tell you that this was a moment of epiphany. It would be great if I could say something like, “And at that moment, it was as though the heavens themselves had opened up and poured the sweet song of angels down upon my ears and I realized I had found the camera I’d been waiting for all my life.”

Yeah, that didn’t happen. Though I did end up switching to Nikon, for a number of reasons. (Let no debate rage at this point…please).

An idea is born

Comparing the two images — especially the comparison of the Nikon’s luminance noise to film grain — did serve to make me aware of something that I think has been happening for some time now. Though the megapixel wars aren’t over by any means, we have started to look at our DSLRs as more than the sum of their megapixels.

Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

Two of my current favorites when I shoot film.

I’m old enough to remember the halcyon days of film. Back then, we had vigorous discussions about tabular versus classic grain, T-Max vs Tri-X, why no one should shoot caucasian skin with Ektar 100 and why only masochists shot with color slide film (Chase tells me this was his primary mode). The old darkroom hands swapped developer recipes back and forth, or kept them close to the vest, like preciously guarded state secrets, while the young hands spent hours in the darkroom with pieces of cardboard punched with holes for dodging and burning under the enlarger.

It was with much amusement that I realized the parallels in our comparison of digital sensors and processing systems that go into cameras with the old film hands’ discussions about various emulsions.

Really? What parallels?

Let me break it down for you.

In the old days, every film could be said to have a purpose. Fuji Velvia was the landscape film, with awesome, popping greens. Kodak Tri-X was the photojournalist’s film, a 400 ASA film that you could push to three stops and shoot at ISO 3200. Kodak Portra was, as the name suggests, for portrait films.

We left a lot of that specialization behind when we went to digital – and thank goodness for it. Unlike real emulsions, however, digital emulsions can’t be switched out — unless you’re shooting medium-format or with a Ricoh GXR system — so it made sense to have a more “generalist” chip doing the job. Instead, we resorted to post-processing to recreate the look and feel we wanted, and this is an approach that still yeilds dividends today. The cityscape above was finished in Nik Color Efex Pro 4, for example, and I applied the Kodak Portra 160 effect to it to make it look the way I wanted.

Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

Fog-shrouded Bay Area, treated in Color Efex Pro 4. © Sohail Mamdani

But look around you. In the last couple of years, specialty sensors are, in fact, making an appearance. The Sigma SD–1, with its Foveon sensor, which purports to deliver a file that claims to rival medium-format images, for example. Or the proprietary X-Trans sensor in Fuji’s X-Pro1, with its EXR processor and built-in film effects, which does away with the standard optical low-pass filter and the traditional Bayer array of pixels, with fantastic results. Or the aforementioned D800E, with its ridiculous resolution and dynamic range. Or the most blatant of all specialty sensors – the Leica Monochrom-M with its black-and-white-only sensor.

That piece of silicon in your computer that sits on the film plane is starting to look a lot more like film, isn’t it?

Okay. But why does any of this matter?

Simple. It matters because when you reach for your wallet to buy or rent your next camera, accepting that there are differences in sensors beyond megapixels is going to go at least some way towards helping you pick your next camera.

Let me give you an example. If you’re the kind of shooter who likes HDR photography, then knowing that the D800E has incredibly dynamic range might help you chose that over, say, a Canon 5D Mark III. Or, if you’re nuts about great, popping, luscious colors, you might chose an X-Pro1. Black-and-white enthusiast? That Leica Monochrom might have your name on it.

The realization that the sensors going into digital cameras have their own unique characteristcs, just like the film emulsions of yesteryear, can actually direct your choice of cameras. I’ll happily put up with the X-Pro1’s foibles, for example, to get that awesomely luscious color out of it.

JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

JPEG straight out of the Fuji X-Pro1. © Sohail Mamdani

Wait a second. I can do that Velvia film look and get those colors in post, can’t I?

In many cases, sure. There are some great programs out there now that can help pull color out of RAW images like never before. And if you have the time, energy, and funds, you should invest in them.

You are, however, going to have a much better starting point if the sensor in your camera gets you that much closer to the look you want to begin with. To go back to images at the beginning of this article, I’m sure that with enough massaging, I could work that color noise out of the Canon image, deal with the banding to a large extent, then apply the film grain of my choice. I tried that, in fact, and like my experience, your results may not meet your expectations. After an hour of work on it, the image from the 5D was still murky in the shadows, and didn’t have the look I wanted.

The Nikon image, on the other hand, took less than ten minutes to get it to where I wanted it.

Conclusion

Unlike the days of film, you don’t need to delve into the minutae of the differences between film grains, the response curve of Portra 160 vs 400, or the tonality of Neopan Acros 100. But if you understand that — and accept — that modern sensors do, like their film analogues, have quirks and capabilities beyond those listed on the camera’s spec sheet, then you’ll be able to make a more informed decision about where you spend your money.

In the end, you’re going to make the image, not your camera. But it helps to have a great starting point.

 

Gear provided by BorrowLenses.com - where still photographers and videographers can rent virtually everything.

12 Tips for Entering the Commercial Photo & Film World [Hint: It's Not What You Think]

chasejarvis_12tipsforbreakingIntoCommercialPhotography
Hi folks, Megan here, long time staff Producer for Chase. We get a ton of email inquiries every day from guys and gals looking to “work their way into the industry” or utilize skills learned while at school. Most inquire about being a photo assistant. And while that’s certainly an option to learn a ton on-set, it’s not the only path you can take to get your feet wet in the business of commercial photography and film. It’s not often discussed, but as valuable as a good photo assistant is to a photographer, a good production assistant can be just as clutch. And it’s a way to ease in the biz without the same level of knowledge as the photo assistant gig, because a production assistant is even more about the hustle.

So I thought I’d have a little fun here and describe to you the Best Production Assistant in the World. This is all hypothetical, but if you think these are all qualities you possess, please, feel free to give your local photographer hero (or heck, even me) a call..

YOU:
…are the 1st person on set
One of my favorite sayings in photography + film industries: If you’re early to the set (or location), you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. And if you’re late, you’re fired. You should be standing around waiting, long before you’re supposed to arrive. You might not get fired the first time you’re not early, but the point is, don’t be late. Ever. Ever. Ever. Trust me, the producer doesn’t care if traffic was bad, or if your dog threw up. Be on time (= early).

…know when to be quiet
We champion the concept that a good idea can come from anywhere, but there’s a time and a place. The best PA knows when to chime in to their peers (almost NEVER directly to the photographer or director with a “creative idea” unless they ask but ALWAYS as a matter of safety – “hey that light is about to fall!”). So you’ve primarily got to know to stay quiet and observe. Getting caught chatting with the crew and making a bunch of noise is a quick way to not get hired again. Don’t be a know it all, but offer solutions to your peer group on set if you have a great idea. Generally speaking, keep your nose down and the work ethic up.

…have a car
And a decent driving record. A big part of being a PA is running errands, which is hard to do efficiently if you’re always waiting for the bus. Public transport is acceptable in NYC, Paris, London, etc, but usually frowned upon in non major-metro areas.

…are able to lift 50 lbs… easily.
There’s a lot of schlepping that goes on. You need to have some decent bicep strength and a healthy back. Be in shape, don’t be a slacker. If you’re not tired after a day of work, you either a) didn’t work hard enough or b) got lucky with a slack job. If b), don’t count on getting too many of those and don’t build your mentality of how in shape you should or shouldn’t be around the b) scenario. Be at least moderately physically fit – it will pay off.

…have no ego
Being a PA is not glamorous. At all. You’ll be asked to do things like take out the trash + clean up spills, all with a smile on your face. But doing so with pleasure and expediently is sure to get noticed and respected. Seriously. And in fact, I’ll add to this category… maybe even the most important thing… Have an amazing attitude. Nobody likes a whiner, a nay-sayer, a negative Nancy. Be a yes-boss, with a smile and some skills. Be positive. Oh, and be polite too. It’s amazing how far that goes.

…have a strong work ethic
You are working your tail off from the moment you walk on set, until you step out the door. The best PA is ready to work as hard and as long as it takes to get the job done. If any other PA or assistant is carrying stuff, cleaning, etc and you’re not, you’re not doing your job. Know when you need to steer clear of certain roles (Gaffer, Grip, etc) especially on union jobs – and know when to help. The more you’re around this stuff, the more you’ll understand the subtleties here.

…have a slight case of OCD
Attention to detail is the name of the game in production. The best PA is super organized and on top of his or her stuff. Always. If you’re a flake or even moderately poorly organized, this will show up quickly. Respect gets doled out if you can take on a project and complete it without being micro managed. On the contrary, no one wants to have to tell you the best way to “get coffee”. So you have to be able to figure it out. Efficiently and effectively.

…anticipate what needs to be done
See that the recycle bin is full? You empty it before being asked. The coffee pot is empty? You brew another pot before another crew member goes to refill his or her cup. Find yourself with nothing to do? Start making the rounds and ask if anyone needs a water. Anticipation shows that you understand what the heck is going on. Which, in turn, is the fastest way to get respect, a raise, a promotion.

…think on your feet
We’re always dealing with real-time problems on-set that need real-time solutions. The best PA is able to go with the flow and help resolve the issues at hand in a timely manner.

…remain calm under pressure
In the immortal words of Jimmy Dugan, “there’s no crying in baseball.” Or on photography sets. Be clear headed. Like Fonzi.

…value presentation
Sometimes there’s a designated Craft Services professional on set, and sometimes it falls on the PA to shop for and put out breakfast, lunch, snacks and bevies. The best PA has a keen eye for presentation, whether it’s food, a pile or cords, a stack of apple boxes, or whatever. Make stuff look nice. (You also hopefully have a sense of style, whether it’s food or design. Understand that setting down a can of Cheese Whiz and a pack of Saltines OR wearing your flip flops to a celebrity shoot is usually no bueno.)

…are resourceful
Perhaps the most useful and prized of all PA attributes, this one will help you out in any and/or all facets of the creative industry. You know who to call, where to go, how to make it happen, or you can figure it out without much oversight. Try to “know people” who can get shiz done – whether it’s a welder or a car wash, the owner of a photo store or the guy behind the rental counter. Make an effort to know people. And know how to do stuff. Lots of stuff. Sure you can make coffee, but can you properly coil cords and cables? Can you paint (as in walls)? Can you parallel park? Can you fix broken stuff? Can you MacGyver your a$$ off? The more stuff you know how to do, the better. BE RESOURCEFUL.

Of course having some experience is preferred in every line of work, but it’s not 100% required when starting out. There’s something to be said for possessing the innate ability to “figure it out.” If you’re eager to please and ready to work your booty off, starting as a PA might be a good entrée to the industry. You’ll certainly get to see the underbelly of the photography + film worlds, which is often a good thing if you’re wondering if this photography thing is a good line of work for you. Gotta see the sausage being made in the basement to know where all that industry flavor comes from…

Everybody’s gotta start somewhere.

Join Me! LIVE in a Google Hangout from Aspen Talking Photography, Music, SXSW and more…. with Robert Scoble & Chris Davenport.

UPDATE: here’s a recording of our chat…above! Thanks to all of you who watched live.
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LIVE today at 9:30 PDT, 10:30 Aspen, 12:30 NYT, 17:30 London right here on the blog or on my YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/chasejarvis.

I’m smack dab in the middle of shooting next year’s campaign for Aspen (last years BTS video here with octocopers and wicked visuals) but had the morning off and managed to wrangle a couple friends for a live Google Hangout to discuss a bunch of questions that have come across my desk in the last week about the Aspen/Snowmass campaign (helicopters and photography), my new favorite music, the democratization of technology and a few other odds and ends that you will find of interest. Joining me is one of the key talent for my Aspen shoot, one of the world’s best skiers, Chris Davenport, the tech guru Robert Scoble (fresh outta SXSW) and the digital maven here in Aspen, David Amirault.

From Obscurity to Internet Sensation — How Creatives Can Win the PR Game with Ryan Holiday

Ryan Holiday is a media genius who promotes, inflates and hacks some of the biggest names and brands in the world. He’s also the Director of Marketing for American Apparel. Oh, and he’s just 25 years old. His point-of-view is enlightening when it comes to understanding today’s complex media landscape. You might remember that I had him on chasejarvisLIVE last year. Since then his book ‘Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator’ has become a bestseller and his secrets have become well known. After dropping out of college at 19 to apprentice under the strategist Robert Greene (who appeared on another super popular episode on chasejarvisLIVE here), he went on to advise many bestselling authors and multi-platinum musicians. He is the Director of Marketing at American Apparel, where his work in advertising was internationally known. His strategies are used as case studies by Twitter, YouTube and Google and have been written about in AdAge, the New York Times, Gawker and Fast Company. Ryan is back in Seattle teaching for creativeLIVE (happening today and tomorrow here) with a course on PR for artists, entrepreneurs and businesses where he will be going deep with some of the topics we touch on in this interview.

CJ:I believe that this is the most exciting time in the history of mankind to be an artist. And I’ve heard you say that we’ve entered a “new economic model.” Do you agree with the fact there is more opportunity for creatives right now than ever?

RH:I totally agree. Look, you could post a video online tomorrow and it could get a million views within 24 hours. You could email a link to your product to a blogger and it could become a major media story within minutes. And what does all that cost? NOTHING. It’s amazing. I don’t think those things were ever possible before, or if they were, you’d have to retain enormously expensive agencies and professionals to help you. So yes, it’s a spectacular time to be a creative. HOWEVER, it’s not always as simple as just posting a video or emailing a link. Look at the people who have managed to have repeated success online–there are methods and tricks and processess that make this replicable and possible and that’s what I’ve spent my time studying, implementing and writing about.

CJ: You are a well-known voracious reader. What books could you recommend for people who are interested in growing their PR and Media efforts?

RH: Believe it or not, I think some of the best books about marketing don’t talk about marketing at all.
I like the 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, I think Saul Alinsky’s books on community organizing are AMAZING (Rules for Radicals and Reveille for Radicals). I would also suggest people read Clay Shirky’s book about Here Comes Everybody and the book Blue Ocean Strategy (which is easily translatable to marketing and positioning your creative business). And of course, Seth Godin has laid out probably the best basics in terms of understanding marketing and business in Purple Cow, Permission Marketing, The Icarus Deception and all those books. I tried to write my book to fill in the gaps

CJ: What is the first step for a creative to get their work noticed… from someone besides their mom?

RH: I’d say hold on a second. People think about marketing too early and too late. Before you think about, I want creatives to be POSITIVE their work and business is ready for lots of attention. If your website sucks or your distribution is disorganized, do you really want anyone other than your mom to buy from you? Getting in the New York Times would be a disaster. So hang on a second and make sure your house is in order (and this is something we’re going to talk about in the creativeLIVE class today and tomorrow.
Then I would say: are you ready to be a full time marketer? Because marketing is not something you do two weeks before the product comes out either. It’s a lifestyle. You have to think and breathe it constantly. You have to know the influencers in your space, create messages and content they can spread. You have to bake that into your product. In other words, campaigns take time and resources and unless you’re going to dedicate yourself to doing it–it won’t happen and you won’t get results.

CJ: What are the tools you could not live without in getting your job done?

RH: There’s no question the single most effective tool in marketing is relationships: who do you know? Who can you reach out to to share your message? If you don’t have any answer to those questions it doesn’t matter how many great apps or tools you have. So I want to recommend that people spend less time obsessing about technology and more time with people, building connections, friendships and reciprocal relationships. But personally in terms of tools, I’m completely dependent on Google Docs and Basecamp. It’s how I collaborate with my employees and keep all my research and contacts organized.

CJ: Who are the people you really admire in today’s over-saturated world of noisy content? Who is breaking through that noise and more importantly,why are they able to?

RH: Joey Roth, who I’m going to have on during my class is an amazing example of what a talented, driven person can do–how one designer running his own small business can get more PR and publicity than he knows what to do with. And he gets it for the right reasons: he makes a great product and connects to the right influencers to share it. I’m going to talk to him and get him to share his secrets with everyone in the class.

The term PR is a slippery one these days. There is this blurry line between PR and Marketing now — but it really seems to put the individual creator at an advantage. What is efficient PR in 2013? Is there still a place for Edelman and giants of the PR world? Or are they on their way out in this time of the creator taking control?

RH: To me, PR and marketing are the same thing. And they all come down to a single principle in today’s attention economy: doing interesting things. Businesses need to be create content and messages that facilitate their customers talking about them and their product. That’s PR–giving the public something to talk about and relate to. Obviously there is still a place for PR giants because giant companies have totally different problems than entrepreneurs and growing companies. But if I had a choice, I’d much rather be a creator–operating on a small scale, able to do exciting things and quickly getting my message out.


CJ: Lets assume, with the help of your methodology and a lot or hard work, a creative achieves a level of success. They get the business, the attention, some audience. How do they take it to the next level?

RH:Marketing is how you scale–as they’re calling it now it’s a form of “growth hacking.” At the end of the day, the whole point of market is to drive new business right? So if you’re not doing that with your marketing its just an art project. For me, as I’ve grown my business, I’ve tried to bring people along with me. I am always training new people, teaching them what I know so they can come along and grow. I want to take on new clients so I can give them (and myself) an opportunity to try new things. I think creatives have an obligation to pay it forward and give the same training and advice that people gave them. To me that goes hand and hand with scaling up your business from a one man shop to a two man shop to a many-person shop.

CJ: Final thought: What are the opportunities that you see creatives missing? The things right in front of our faces that can make a massive difference in success that most people walk right by?

RH: The web is infinite. There’s no limit to the amount of content it can produce or the amount of posts that a blog can publish. So stop thinking that getting press is hard. People WANT to write and talk about you. So give them what they want! Stop sitting around and waiting for them to come to you. Embrace this awesome opportunity and use it to your advantage.

Check out Ryan on this week’s creativeLIVE workshop here.
Ryan Holiday currently lives in New Orleans with his rebellious puppy, Hanno.

What You Need for Your Photography Business – [Guess What? It's Not a Camera]

chasejarvis_ramitsethi
Put bluntly, if we creatives want to make a real livelihood with our work – we need to realize that the business end of the stick if we’re holding. And while you know I’m always up for the occasional rant on this topic, I today decided to save myself a few blood vessels and some hot air, and instead passed the baton over to my homie, best-selling business/finance author and master of psychology, Ramit Sethi. I’ve said this before in public – Ramit taught me more about the business side of art in 30 minutes than I’d learned in the previous 5 years. As such, if you listen to one person about this shiz, I suggest you listen to Ramit. – Chase

Thanks Chase.

Let me start by asking you a couple questions.

Do you need the latest camera or software? Will it help grow your business?

Or is it more likely that the latest shiny equipment is distracting you from finding clients who will pay what you’re worth?

Today, as in right now, creating a framework to think about whether buying the latest equipment will actually help you grow your creative business and earn more money. Here’s how this came up: I was in San Francisco, shooting a day of video, and on a break I overheard my crew talking about whether they should buy a $70,000 camera to grow their business.

My ears perked up. I asked them why they would buy it. Their answers were wishy-washy and vague: “Well…it’ll help us get exposure…” So on the spot I suggested a framework to use when deciding whether to purchase new equipment for your creative business.

You might be surprised to hear what I suggested.

1) There’s a time and a place when buying the right equipment will help grow your business
2) But surprisingly, most clients don’t care about your equipment
3) If you can figure out what they value, you can save tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and actually make your clients happier — at the same time.

Put another way: I’ve hired many photographers, videographers, writers, and designers in the last 3 years. Can you guess how many times I’ve asked what camera or software they use? Answer: Zero. I’ve spoken to Chase about this as well. How many times do you think he’s been asked about his equipment unless it’s a super elite, over the top shoot. His answer is the same: zero. Put simply… buyers simply don’t care about that. And usually that equipment won’t help you make the thing you need to make.

Now, there is a time and a place to invest in the right equipment. You can become the ‘specialty guy or gal’ at this or that, but I bet dollars to donuts that we’re not talking about what you need NOW. When you’re growing your creative business, here’s a little video to guidance how to know whether you should invest in new equipment…or decide to first focus on other areas of your business….

By the way, in the video I mention deeply understanding your clients to figure out what they value. (This is how you can find better clients, charge more, and work with the people you want to.) If you’re curious how I study my own clients, here’s the actual survey I’ve used to generate over $100,000. Feel free to use it for your own business.

I now return you to your regular programming. [Thanks Ramit! - chase]

3 Undeniable Reasons To Pursue Personal Work — Why Being The Guinea Pig Pays Off…Bigtime

I have been a long-time, huuuuge proponent of taking time to pursue personal work. Its in fact my pursuit of personal work to which I attribute a good bit of my success. In short, it’s by taking time to investigate your personal vision that you will be rewarded. My homie Joey L., has been finding time to uncover personal gems throughout his career. And you’ll see in his guest post below – it has paid off for him bigtime. Take it away Joey. – Chase

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UPDATE: Joey is actually giving a free, LIVE class right now on creativeLIVE. Check it here…
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Thanks Chase and greetings Chase Jarvis readers. I am humbled to be able to post here, and speak to you directly.If you’re familiar with my photography and behind the scenes blog, you probably already know that I’m a huge advocate of photographers spending time on personal work.

Although I’ve shot many commercial photo shoots you may or may not have bumped into on the street or on a magazine rack, I’m glad to say I’m actually most associated with my portraits of people from Southern Ethiopia, and the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia.

chasejarvis_JOEYLhamar_tribe_ethiopia
The Image above is a Panoramic image of Hamar Women at Sunrise, Southern Ethiopia. Photographed with Mamiya 645DF with Phase One P65+ Digital Back. Lit with 1 Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa and a Profoto 7b power pack.

When I say “personal work”, I’m referring to any body of work that wasn’t paid for by a client; work you created out of sheer passion. Now, I’m not saying I am not passionate about my commissioned jobs! Lately I’ve been fortunate to work on some truly interesting stuff that keeps me wired all day long. However, what I am talking about is a project that comes 100% from your soul. While your commissioned work may be an artistic collaboration with a brand or product, your personal work is an extension of yourself.

I wanted to take this opportunity to share how committing to personal projects can directly benefit your portfolio and career as a whole. Even if a photographer has never done a commercial shoot before, it doesn’t mean they can’t get hired off a body of personal work that relates to a brief. Whether you like to shoot landscapes, beautiful women, quirky characters or still life, there is a client out there that is looking for this type of work. For me, its environmental portraits. Images of humans in their surroundings extends to everywhere around the globe, not just the endangered cultures in remote locations I choose to focus on. There is a market for this type of photography, as well as many types of photography you like to work with, I’m sure.


chasejarvis_JoeyL_killing_lincoln_movie_poster_blog
The movie poster above, shot for National Geographic’s “Killing Lincoln” just came out the other day. I think it’s a perfect example of my personal style extending to a commissioned job. The lighting is actually quite simple. A Briese DP90 camera left, high above eye-level of the actors, angled in such a way to get dramatic shadows on the opposite side of the face. Inside is a 5K bulb, which allowed me to get an exposure ideal for my Phase One back- which only really shoots up to ISO200 before the grain is terrible. There are 3 constant lights on the background set- 2k Arri fresnels at the left and right side, and a 5k Arri fresnel in the middle. A hazer machine brought in a thin layer of “fog” to help the light feel more painterly. The microscopic particles of the haze catch the light trails. To view more information about this project, check out my blog post here.



Now, I realize a lot of you are like me, and enjoy nerdy gear-related technical information too, so I’m dropping some of those goodies below each one of the photos.

Okay, let’s start with the 3 main points:

1- Personal Work Keeps The Portfolio fresh
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Above you will see me half submerged in Lake Turkana, Ethiopia, photographing a man named Shallowgo checking his fishing nets. The final image is below. I’m shooting with Mamiya 645DF with Phase One P65+ Digital Back. Assistant is holding Elinchrom Rotalux Deep Octa and a Profoto 7b power pack.



You’d be surprised at how many artistic people there are out there who reach a certain level, then simply give up on improving their craft. Even photographers with extensive client lists who were once busy can find themselves going through dry periods because they forgot the value of progressing their work to even greater heights and creating something new.

In the past, I have absolutely been guilty of this. Sometimes I work myself into a creative funk and it takes months to realize I haven’t been pushing myself hard enough. Then all of a sudden, a storm of new ideas hits me, and I start experimenting and trying new things I’ve never done before. Sometimes these new shoots work out and provide valuable pieces to my portfolio, but sometimes they don’t work at all. Even if I spend a week in pre-production, a whole day shooting, and walk away with one new picture that is portfolio worthy, I’m happy. I recommend a photographer’s portfolio to not last over 30-50 images, so a single photo every once and awhile is going to build this body of work in no time.

The best thing about testing new ideas in a personal setting is that there is no pressure to deliver. A real commercial set where people have paid you to deliver a certain amount of key images is not exactly the place to be testing new wonky ideas you aren’t sure will work. So, you start a guinea pig project on your own time to try new things, and hopefully you can implement what you learned on paid gigs later.

Failure is okay. After all, as photographers and filmmakers we don’t even have to show the world the work we failed all. In our portfolios, all we show is a pretty little selection of where we succeeded. The rest can stay hidden on a hard drive forever, (which you can decide to keep or destroy with a sledge hammer, depending on how bad it was.)

















2- Passion Draws Eyes
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When he was young, Lal Baba’s parents arranged a marriage for him. Uncertain about his future, he ran away from home in Bihar Siwan and took up the lifelong task of becoming a sadhu. This was taken in Varanasi, India.



I like to show people updated portfolios. Whether I meet new potential clients, or co-workers who have known my work for years, I always like to start the meeting with new personal work. This way, these new images become a conversation piece, since there are usually some interesting stories behind how the images came to be. “I got a flat tire in Ethiopia and was stranded for days” can be an interesting conversation.

Passion doesn’t lie. When other photographer’s show me their work and I can hear an undeniable sense of excitement in their voice, it gets me interested in what they have to say. Instead of pretending to be excited about work that’s several years old, it’s much better just to go out and create something new that keeps your blood pumping.

Sharing personal work is one simple way of showing passion. The last person someone wants to hire is someone who doesn’t care about what they do, and only creates when they’re on a job. There is a way better vibe, and it is easier to be productive around motivated people.

3 – Personal Work Gets You Hired To Shoot What You Like to Shoot

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The above portrait I took of Robert De Niro was for Screen Actor’s Guild which has light reminiscent of my personal portraits. 


When you photograph a subject or in a certain style that interest you, it’s usually the same style you end up getting hired to shoot. An art director has a lot of confidence in hiring a photographer who has already shot something that vaguely matches their vision for the project. Personally, a lot of the times I am hired because of what’s already in my portfolio. I often hear something like “we used this photo of yours as a reference, and we’d love if you could create something similar for our photoshoot.” This doesn’t mean you should do the exact same thing you’ve already done, it just means that you’re being hired for what you’re most passionate about! Now it’s time to apply those skills for other purposes. I’ve developed a lot of skills I wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been for keeping myself busy. For example, I’ve found that working with foreign subjects who aren’t used to photography has really boosted my communication skills in every aspect of my life. Another example, is that I use a lot of the same lighting styles first developed in a safe, controlled studio setting when shooting in the field.

Another key thing I’d like to mention here is spreading your photographs by using the power of the internet. With todays technology there’s no excuse for your work not be seen. With social media, blogs and photography contests such as PDN, if you do good work, someone is going to see it and share it. This doesn’t mean that these tools do the work for you, but it does give you a platform that spreads your work instantly. The more eyeballs on my portfolio, the more likely it is that a single one of those pairs of eyeballs can translate into a real job.

So now a plan of action. Ask yourself these question: What’s something you’ve always wanted to photograph that excites you? How are you going to photograph it differently, and make it yours? And most importantly — how are you going to make it happen?

My Next Personal Project

I want to share my next kickass personal project with you. It’s overly ambitious, and recently keeps me up at night with extreme jolts of both fear and passion. (A good sign- this means it’s something worth doing.)

People of the Delta is my first major film project, which was written in collaboration with the tribes I’ve photographed in Southern Ethiopia while working on my personal series “The Cradle of Mankind.” This video pretty much sums up everything I could write about the film in this post, so if you’re interested, take a gander here:

Kickstarter Campaign for: “People of the Delta” Film Project from Joey L on Vimeo.

You can check out everything about the project on the Kickstarter website here:
I’m not going to ask you to back this project unless you can get something valuable in return. I’ve set up a bunch of interesting rewards geared at photographer’s to help this project happen. On the Kickstarter site, you’ll find all sorts of rewards. There are downloads of the final project, a complete lighting and production tutorial on the creation of the film, gallery prints, gear with my photos on it, and even portfolio reviews where I’ll sit down with you on Skype to have a one to one chat.

Another reward I just launched is an NYC photography workshop with me, and spaces are quite limited. If you’d like to meet me and see me ramble about Lighting, Photoshop and other stuff related to our industry, this would be a good chance.

I’m guessing that if you’ve sat there and read this whole article, you’re passionate enough about what we do to go out there and start your own project. You don’t need fancy tools or a plane ticket to some remote place, all you really need is a vision and a strong desire to make it happen.

Joey L.

People of the Delta Kickstarter:http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joeyl/people-of-the-delta-film-project
Portfolio Website: http://www.joeyL.com
Behind the Scenes Blog: http://www.joeyL.com/blog
Twitter: https://twitter.com/joeyldotcom
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Joey-L-The-Photographer/166804470002802

How to Raise Your Rates, Deliver Better Work & Get Paid What You Deserve — [Guest Post by Ramit Sethi]

Photo: Mike Folden

No one has single-handedly given me better insight about the business side of art/photography than New York Times best-selling author, Ramit Sethi. As artists, if we want to make a living with our work, we – like it or not – must foster our business/entrepreneurial skills, we must realize the value of our work, and we must know how to get paid. In this tight little guest post, I asked Ramit to share one of his favorite tips on finding high-quality clients. I’ve used his strategies, and they work. A worthy read. – Chase

When Chase asked me to come on chasejarvisLIVE a while back talk about the business side of photography, I decided to share some material I’d never shared before.

One of the most popular segments was the Briefcase Technique, a way to hook clients into your work, “wow” them, and differentiate your approach from most other creatives.

Hop into the interview below and skip to 34:00 to hear me and Chase talk about the “Briefcase Technique” – or in this case, let’s call it the “portfolio technique”.

This technique allows you to:
• Instantly increase your rate and get paid what you deserve
• Filter the serious clients apart from “looky-loo” prospects who waste your time and never pay
• Stand out from the bottom-barrel competition, who will offer their services for $200 and a ball of yarn

Best of all, using the Briefcase Technique, you’ll actually deliver a better service to your clients — one they’ll be thrilled to pay for.

If at all in the past you’ve wondered why clients didn’t select you, or why they argue with you about your rate, there is a way to sidestep that entire conversation.

I’ve hired many photographers, videographers, editors, writers, and designers, so today, I want to give you a peek inside your client’s minds — and share the truth that many clients won’t tell you:

• Clients are rarely interested in art for art’s sake. They’re interested in business — usually the bottom line.
• That means if you go to them talking about your camera equipment, or how long you spend on copywriting, they will stare at you and get confused. When you speak the client’s language — how you can save them time, cut costs, or best of all, earn them more money — they will instantly trust you as “one of them.”
• The most successful photographers are NOT necessarily the most classically “talented” ones. They’re the ones who understand their clients’ hopes, fears, and dreams best — and articulate it in the client’s language. Once you can do that, money is a mere triviality.

The Briefcase Technique will show you how to speak your clients’ language. It seems simple, but the video masks the deep research that goes into knocking your client’s socks off.

When you can do this effectively, you can triple your rates, negotiate $10,000+ raises, and land clients that previously demanded 10+ years of experience. My students have done each of these things using the Briefcase Technique.

Here’s the video on exactly how to do it:


If you’re still curious about more details on how to raise your rates, I put together a free mini-course for you:
http://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/earn1k/chasejarvis-raise-your-rates/

Good luck.

Holiday Sale + Round-the-Clock Creative Education Streaming at CreativeLIVE.com

What does a stream of non-stop 24/7 creative education look like? In case you’ve been on vacation, it looks like what http://www.creativeLIVE.com/live has looked like for the past two weeks…and will continue to look for the remaining few days of 2012. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for the rest of the year, you can join a community of more than 1 million people strong and check out the most popular segments of streaming video education on photo & video, business & productivity, design & software courses as well to teach you real skills that will improve your work or hobby and help you run your creative business.

But wait, like the Ginsu steak knives…there’s more. As a big thank you for all this community support you’ve given creativeLIVE.com throughout 2012, yours truly and the creativeLIVE crew have put all courses on sale at 20% off and — for an even beefier savings — check out discounted bundles of coursework on Photo Essentials, Wedding Photography, Post Production and more. All of these bundles have more than 40 hours (if I’m not mistaken…), of the highest quality video instruction content available from many of the world’s best creative instructors.

Thanks again for supporting creativeLIVE + and our little creative revolution.

And YES there is a limited time to this offer. Ends 12/31/12. Get some.

New Terms of Use for Instagram: Users React with Outrage

chasejarvis_INSTAGRAM ANOTHER UPDATE 12/19: today Instagram did a much better job in the media explaining their position – specifically around not “selling” your images as in “here ya go company X, use this in your next billboard”. As an artist & entrepreneur, having been involved in IP licensing all my professional career and navigated these waters before…as such I think I understand their challenge better than most. The legalese required around IP creators (in this case photographers using the platform ) in a social sharing environment is tricky and has some specific requirements and often positions such a service in an unintended light. Clearly IG wants to make money in/around your photos – they’re a business. But without getting in the weeds on that, the key point they articulated more clearly today is their lack of intent to outright “sell” images. That’s not their game – at least not yet. I’d guess those inside the org are trying to position the widest possible array of future revenue streams so that they don’t have to change the ToC much in the future as these things always create a shitstorm for the social sites and they can’t do that without going to great lengths to explain this to their community. There are still open issues that many creators will take up with such ToC (as there are in Fbook for example), so there is still work on their part to be done, but there is likely a future where the words in the ToC can better capture the ground between Instagram and it’s users. TBD.
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UPDATE 3:00pm Pacific Time 12/18: Instagram has rescinded its position. I applaud them. I hope what comes back (and it will) will be better, and more in accordance with the community they created in the first place. Check out co-founder statement here.
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NEWS: You might remember the well-known mobile phone app Instagram made big news a few months back when it was acquired by Facebook (FB) for $1 billion. Instagram is back in the news today, especially…ahem…with creatives and photographers, with an update to its terms of service that will let the company sell users’ photos to other companies.

The new terms of use (below for your reference), effective January 16, have many changes — but the biggest changes came in the section about users’ rights. “A business or other entity may pay” Instagram to display users’ photos and other details “in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

Users can’t opt out of the new provisions. The only way to avoid them is to delete your Instagram account.

This is a rather large change effing ginormous change in the terms. The current terms simply note that “Instagram may place such advertising and promotions on the Instagram Services or on, about, or in conjunction with your Content.” The new terms make it a “sub-licensable” agreement, with an updated emphasis seemingly focused on Instagram’s ability give content to third parties. In addition, users waive their rights to a class-action lawsuit or class-wide arbitration. A note at the top of the new terms, in bolded caps, says that any dispute between Instagram and a user “will be resolved by binding, individual arbitration,” unless the user opts out of the provision in writing. (If you want to do that, you need to snail mail in your opt-out statement. The address is buried in the Terms of Use: search for “Arbitration Opt-out.”)

ANALYSIS: Instagram is blowing it hard on both the WHAT (selling out your images with no profit to you) and the HOW…by changing the ToC to gobble up your imagery bound to by using the service after allowing users to build up huge followings and large libraries of imagery. Lame sauce and an assault on your work.

Let’s call it what it is… this idea isn’t new, it’s just a shitty way – the shittiest way – of going about monetization. In truth, I had plans to allow photographers to opt into a sales program as a source of income for photogs if they so desired back in 2009 when I launched Best Camera app, the first photo app to share images direct to social networks (top 20 App of 2009 – Wired, NYTimes, Macworld, etc), but there were key differences then…the same key differences that, if I were in charge of Instagram’s ToC (and what I had in my roadmap for Best Camera before it was derailed), could make/have made a huge benefit for photographers. Here’s a different approach that would be acceptable

1. Make the program an opt in program. Check a box in your user settings that says “this image can be sold (or x’d or y’d whatever)”, with some legal jargon, and have only those images be available in the marketplace. Make it image specific. For the people who want to manage that – who want to earn money – this won’t be a burden. For those who don’t want to play, it’ snot an issue.

2. Assuming #1 above, then split the revenue with the photographer. As the creator, you should own the right to exploit the work you create. A simple rev share would generate tons of dough and be perceived as a win for photography, not an attack on it by a multi billion dollar company.

There are just two things that could have changed today’s news into a huge win instead of a f*&king disaster. And FWIW, there are 100 other ways to monetize their platform that could be a win for content creators instead of an assault. If they need help, Kevin (founder), just give me a ring. I’ll help outline some alt options for you.

I’m flattered that not so long ago Instagram was a lift and stamp copy of Best Camera. I had my reasons for letting BC go that way and I think they did a marvelous job of executing – better than I ever could have done, especially without giving up my career as an artist. I love the results of what they’ve been able to build, almost flawlessly to date, a massive global community creating photos! But let’s face it. Instagram was a silicon valley startup on its second pivot (translation: tap into something hot right now and try to make it happen to get your investors money back…which they did). They saw market opportunity, not photography. The founders are nice guys (we have lots of the same friends) who certainly “like” photography, but they are not photographers, and they don’t have the sensitivities IMHO required to navigate the creators’ landscape (or if they have them, we have’t seen them yet…). I hope they can recover. For them, for you. I actually think they CAN recover. These guys are super smart and I’ll be in support of them if they can change and adapt to what the world wants – fair terms. But… For now, I recommend that those of you on the platform let them know that this isn’t cool.

SPIKE – the Robotic Phantom Camera – Shoots Better Than You

Across the pond from me in Germany there is some stunning work getting kicked out of a little boutique firm called The Marmalade that you should know about.

I’m drawn to more than just the final result…I love HOW they’re acheiving it too… Behind the scenes thinking and such below. Have a great Monday.

Learn How To Learn Anything, Hack Any System & Be Your Best: Tim Ferriss on creativeLIVE

UPDATED AGAIN WITH A TREAT: SPECIAL OFFER: This is LIVE right NOW. Buy the Tim Ferriss creativeLIVE course #4HourLife and get a free copy of Tim’s new book. Click for details http://cr8.lv/4-Hour_promo. Sale ends today! (somewhere around a $35 value …book + shipping)
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UPDATE: Tim is LIVE NOW… both today and tomorrow. Tune in here at creativeLIVE.com/live
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Short version: renowned 4-hour-everything guy Tim Ferriss is gonna be on creativeLIVE next week for 2 full days of badass, actionable inspiration and instruction. Go here for details.

More detailed version and how this relates to you: One of the most important characteristics in making one’s way through a creative career or any entrepreneurial endeavor is learning what’s most important and executing against it. What do I need to know and how do I acquire that skill, be it learning how to light with strobes, make a music video, dominate at Photoshop OR…. literally anything else. In short, you want to learn how to learn. How fast you can learn, grow, be in the system while simulataneously hacking it is, in my humble opinion, crucial to success in any field.

Enter, my pal Tim Ferriss. Tim takes all this to the next level. I’ve personally learned more from him about ‘how to hack learning’ than anyone else. You’ve probably read or seen one of his previous #1 NYTime Best selling books (4 Hour Work Week + 4 Hour Body) OR seen him on one of my most popular chasejarvisLIVE’s ever (I taught him how to build a studio set and then he photographs a bikini model), but the real news I want to share with you here is twofold:

1. He has a new, super badass book coming out in 2 weeks; and

2. More importantly he’s bringing this new book + BOTH previous books to life in realtime on creativeLIVE (the online learning channel I co-founded) next week. Two full days of live, interactive learning with Tim and host of world class experts. Not gonna lie to you, I’m canceling all other obligations and will be sitting in the soundstage during the entire broadcast.

I’ve seen the syllabus for the course, it’s insanely inspiring and ambitious. I’m an excitable guy, but I’m rarely as hyped as I am for this workshop. Learn how to learn anything from the meta-learning expert. The course is live on creativeLIVE on November 14th + 15th. Check it out here if you want more info or to register to attend online.

You can order the book here from Amazon. Check out Tim’s blog here.

Here’s his creativeLIVE pitch:

[the book trailer video was shot by my pal, director Adam Patch. Head on over to the trailer on YouTube here and leave a comment if you dig.]

tim ferriss on creativeLIVE

Be Bold, Be Different [chasejarvisLIVE re-watch with Snowboarding Legend Travis Rice]

You’ve heard me say it before – don’t sink all your effort into being incrementally better. Instead be DIFFERENT. Be BOLD.

This episode of chasejarvisLIVE was focused specifically on this simple idea. And my special guests for this episode epitomize this ‘different’ and ‘bold’ mantra as well as anyone I know. Like all of my guests, these guys aren’t ensconced in the “this is how it is” photo industry – they’re innovators from a parallel universe….

Yes, Travis Rice is the best snowboarder in the world. But what makes him the subject of this #cjLIVE is not really his skill. It’s that he is an innovator, a risk taker, a visionary the star of the most progressive action sports film ever made (The Art of Flight). He’s a bold and creative leader in his crowded and noisy industry.

Some take-aways from this show:
_be bold – as in snowboarding risk is a part of the game
_be different – build your own way down the mountain -as Travis did with SuperNatural)
_get used to hearing “no” when they say your idea is “crazy”… you’re probably on the right path
_protect what you believe in- know when to be the one saying “no”to opportunities that are not the right fit.
_life is long- the amount of things you can create, learn and share in a lifetime is massive.

Analogously, Chad Jackson hails from Brain Farm Digital Cinema. He and his partner Curt Morgan are the makers of the most innovative, high caliber and DIFFERENT action sports films in the world (eg. The Art of Flight). By using unique techniques and special cameras (like the phantom), leveraging relationships and their special vision, they have broken away from the old action sports film paradigm to set a new bar, a different bar.

It was an enlightening experience speaking with Travis and Chad. Enjoy the re-watch.

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chasejarvisliveS03E12_travisrice

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