Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Geartalk: Hoodman products.

Today I purchased two pieces of gear from Hoodman (via Adorama, as they were the only folks that seemed to have them in stock).

I got the Hood Eye (for Nikon cameras with square viewfinders), and the HoodLoupe 3.0.

The original idea for these purchases came from Joe McNally. While reading his newest book, the Hot Shoe Diaries - in which Joe talks a lot about how he makes the shots he does; naming names, and highlighting the specific pieces of gear by make and model. It's written in a very candid, frank style, as if Joe was narrating a documentary on "the making of.." the particular shot on the page.

In one of the "entries", he makes mention of how useless the LCD on the back of your camera is if you're shooting in bright/direct sunlight. Not a situation I find myself in often, but it has made things difficult for me in the past.

His solution - the HoodLoupe.

So I paid a visit to Hoodman's website (which has a charming, late-90's feel about it), and checked out some of their products, along with the little videos about each one. Pretty cool.

The one that really spoke to me was the HoodEye.
When I was first starting out as a photographer, my dad gave me a Nikon FM2 for my birthday. I became obsessed with Nikon gear at that point, and immersed myself in all of the various models of cameras, lenses, and oh, the accessories. Nikon really knew what they were doing when it came to appealing to the gearhead. Their higher-end cameras were so modular, and they made all of these great different special purpose products. Way more than what's available today, I'd say.

Anyway, since the FM2 was a pretty low-end camera, it didn't really have a lot to offer in the way of pimping out - only a few different focusing screens (hey, at least they were interchangeable, right?), a motor drive, and some other generic stuff. But the one thing that really jumped out at me was the rubber eye-cup. This little fellow really rocked when it came to seeing what's in the finder clearly.

Recently, I got my hands on my dad's old F3 (which also had an eye-cup), and I was surprised but just how much bigger, brighter, and clearer that camera's finder is than that of both my D70 and D90. It was like, a 50% difference, at least. I could actually focus the lens without any issues, whereas manually focusing on the DSLRs was a total pain/crap shoot.

So when I saw the HoodEye, it just jumped out at me, and I knew I must have it. And now I do!

Even though I haven't taken it out shooting yet, I'm very excited about it. I've caught myself many times bringing my left hand over to my eye and blocking out whatever glare or light was prohibiting me from getting a clear look into the viewfinder. Never again!

So that's the exciting news for today.

Craigslist, part 2

The ad I posted was looking for a photographer to do some simple product photography for items to be sold in a store, and online.

Twenty four hours later, and I have received over ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY replies to my ad. This has turned into a much more fascinating and enlightening experiment than I ever thought it'd be.

I haven't read each one yet, but I did skim through them all, and I'd say about 80% of them included rates and quotes. I was surprised at the extremely wide variance from one to another.

I'd say about half of them quoted me half and full day rates (ranging from as little as $100 to $1500), and many included hourly and/or per-item rates, ranging from $20 per hour and $5 per item, up to $250 per hour and $50 per item.

Nearly everyone had a link to a website or some sort of online sample of their work, but I was surprised to find that only half of these had actual personalized domain names; the rest were all over the place, ranging from ISP-hosted sites (Earthlnk, Tripod (!!), and even .mac/mobile me), to various photo hosting/sharing sites like flickr and smugmug.

Some folks included full resumes.

I'd say about 30% included pictures/attachments in their emails with samples of their work.

A few of the replies were definitely copy-and-pasted form letters, but the majority of them seemed to be genuinely hand-written (so to speak).

What I'm taking away from this right now is that replying to ads on craigslist is way more of a crap shoot than I had expected. I mean, think about it - if I were really looking for someone to do this job for me, and I received over FIFTY replies within the first four hours of posting it, who's to say which photographer I'd pick?
I mean, sure - not all of the respondents were great (product shooting isn't exactly rocket science), and I could easily filter out the bad ones, but even so - having to choose from like, 20 or 30 different photographers would still be pretty time consuming.

I'm not ready to give up completely on craigslist, but I can say that my hopes of finding actual gigs have definitely gone way down.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Finding work: Craigslist

I've been making a reasonable effort to network myself - every time I leave the house for any kind of social event (going to see a band, attending some sort of performance, etc), I've been bringing my camera, and trying to make a point of meeting potential clients and/or leads. Showing people my work on my phone, exchanging contact information, brainstorming - all good stuff.
As of right this second, none of these leads/contacts have bared any fruit.
I'm not extremely worried about it (yet), as I know that the name of the game is quantity. As long as I keep making contacts, one of them is _bound_ to lead to something.

One of my favorite tricks for finding stuff online - in this case,  jobs - is to set up RSS feeds based on cragislist searches. [If anyone is interested in how to do this, let me know; it's the bomb.] So I've set up a handful of various search feeds looking for various iterations of "photographer wanted" in the NYC metro area. I've replied to about half a dozen or so in the past two weeks, and, for whatever reason, I haven't heard back from a single one.
Now, this isn't entirely shocking to me, because I still have to put together a professional looking website, with a good-looking portfolio. But I figured that it couldn't hurt to get started by being frank and casual in my emails, and include some links to some of my work on flickr.

Earlier today, I started thinking: "Obviously, if they're not getting back to me, then they're getting back to someone else. What have they got that I don't have?"

So I had an idea - "I'll post an ad of my own, looking for a photographer! That way, I can see what the competition looks like." And that's exactly what I did. I used the most recent ad I'd replied to as a base, changed a few things around, and posted it.
Within 30 minutes of posting the ad, I got two replies.
Within five hours, I've gotten over a dozen.

While I believe that this little ploy of mine was a stroke of genius, it's also been quite an eye-opener. There are LOTS of folks out there gunning for this kind of work.

There are several interesting things I've noticed as well: some people reply with very detailed messages, going so far as to include pictures in their emails, while others keep it super bare-bones. One guy replied with his rates as the subject of the email, and the body of the message was just his signature with his contact info. There were a surprising number of poorly written messages (by which I mean grammatical and spelling errors), as well.

So right now, part of me feels a little discouraged and daunted, but another part of me is kind of excited - as if I've cracked some sort of system, and now I've got all of this juicy data to sift through.

I'm going to leave the post up for a full 24 hours, and then spend some time sorting through the competition's replies.

In the time that I've been writing this (on and off for the past hour), I've received another three replies.


First Post.

After a month of reading blogs, watching/listening to podcasts and doing some thinking, I've decided to start writing about my attempt to become a Professional Photographer.

I'm going to write about the various things that happen to me, from meetings to shoots and who knows what else.

Let's see how long I can keep it up.