Sometimes we photographers get caught up in things that we think will help our work: the latest camera, more powerful lighting, lighter tripods, etc. It’s easy to forget that keeping it simple and getting an idea executed properly is the most important part of what we do.
Articles written by Stephen Ironside
It looks like there’s a “new” kid on the block, and it happens to be our old friend Polaroid (Or is it "old guy on the new block," or "new old kid on the old new block," or something else entirely? I don't know...). There are a number of instant-print cameras on the market, but to me, they’re all missing at least one of two things: the brand recognition of the Polaroid name and the classic form factor of the camera that made it famous decades ago. The Fujifilm Instax camera is missing both. Even the current Polaroid offerings, such as the Polaroid Snap or the PIC-300, probably don’t have what it takes to rule the market. So, here it is. The Polaroid OneStep 2.
Every year for the past few years, I’ve donated photo work to a local organization that puts on a half marathon in coordination with the local firefighters union chapter to raise money for local charities. Last year, I ended up doing a relatively simple shoot with just some firefighters and a ring light. This year, I wanted something different. And so, quickly and repeatedly, the question became, “Can we use real fire?”
If you haven’t heard about or seen images of the destruction that Hurricane Harvey has caused in Texas and Louisiana, you’re probably living under a big, dry rock. Around 100,000 homes have been affected by the storm, all with varying levels of damage as well as varying levels of insurance. Even one of our own writers was affected. For those of you who suffered a property loss in the flooding, there might be a small silver lining. A data recovery company is offering free services for hard drives damaged by flooding.
I know that the solar eclipse on Monday made you feel young again. Maybe it made you feel energetic, inquisitive, motivated to keep exploring. But by now those effects have surely started to wear off, and I have some bad news for you. You’re getting old. How do I know that? Because the hashtag just turned 10.
Life as a freelancer is different. People with "normal" jobs don't usually understand what we do, how we do it, when we do it, or why we do it. But, we do what we do, and it's not always easy. It's not consistent, it's not stable, but it's a great way to live your life if you do it right. Here are some small ways you can make it easier. They've helped me, and maybe they'll help you as well.
After every trip I go on, I always end up with a favorite image. Maybe it’s the one with the best story, or the one that was the hardest to get, or the one with the nicest person I met on the journey. In 2014 I headed to Bolivia to shoot a wedding, and a few weeks later found myself wandering around on an island in Lake Titicaca. And there, my favorite image of the trip was born.
If you stop and think about it, it's pretty difficult to exist in today's world. Vaccines are(n't) out to get your children, there could be Daleks around every corner, and even that vintage lens you scored on eBay might be radioactive, lurking between the sheets, following your every move, wreaking havoc on your DNA when you're not looking. Maybe even stealing your french fries. Or, at least that's what Mathieu Stern was concerned about before he made this video.
A couple of months ago, I finally pulled the trigger; I broke out my wallet and dropped a (rather large) chunk of change on my first mirrorless camera kit, the Fujifilm X-T2. I had been researching mirrorless options for almost a year, and finally landed there for a multitude of reasons. I was mainly interested in a mirrorless kit for use while traveling and backpacking, and loved the idea of a smaller, lighter kit. All signs started pointing at the X-T2 over the other long-term contender, the Olympus OM-D EM-1 MK II. It was only a couple of weeks before I headed off to spend a month in India and Nepal, so I needed to learn this camera relatively quickly.
When I moved in to my studio a little over three years ago, I needed a place to hang, store, and use my rolls of seamless paper. I didn’t have many — just a few nine-foot rolls of white, gray, black, and green — but I wanted them out of my way. Storing them vertically wasn’t a good option in the space, and storing them laying down is never a good idea. So, I wanted to figure out a simple system that I could build that would do the trick. Here’s what I came up with.
Most of the time, when photographers are buying equipment, they choose the piece of gear that will accomplish their goal using some set of typical parameters: price, weight, build quality, warranty, size, speed, etc. These days, for shooting Formula One car races, you’d probably choose a fast-focusing, high frame-rate camera such as the Nikon D5 or Canon 1DX — if you had the budget for it — because F1 cars are fast and crazy. But that’s not what this photographer did; he decided to step back 100 years and break out a camera that was definitely not designed for shooting a modern-day race track. And the images are awesome.
Back in 2010, I was commissioned to do a photo of some spices for a family friend. I had never done anything like that, so I wanted to do a good job, and invested in my first off-camera flash setup. It was daunting at first, but I’ll never regret dipping my toes in the water and starting to learn about one of the most important things about being a freelance photographer: learning to control light.
One thing to remember in life is that there is always someone cooler than you. Today, it's this guy. He decided his '96 Suzuki needed a little boost to be sold, and I don't think anyone could have done a better job. Even I want to buy that little car now.
This will be short, because it has no reason not to be. If I've learned one thing in business over the past seven years of being a full-time professional photographer, it's that you should always, whenever possible, grant your clients some grace.
The first time I landed in a foreign country at night was when I went to Costa Rica in 2009. I remember being wide awake for the last hour of the flight and looking out the window at the yellow spider webs of city lights as I descended over Central America. Seeing populated places from above at night was new to me; the patterns of the streets, the sprawl of the towns, the promise of life popping up at random amidst the calm of the surrounding darkness all made it one of the most exciting flights I'd ever taken. And that's not even mentioning the stars overhead.
Picture this: you and some friends are on a week-long backpacking trip in Alaska, and it’s a frigid 20 degrees Fahrenheit outside. You really don’t want to get out of your sleeping bag. Luckily, before you got in it, you went out and set up your camera with a incredibly lightweight remote that you can control from your phone so that you can take photos of the aurora without leaving the tent. If you want to be able to do this, and for only $100, you should check out the Pulse camera remote by Alpine Labs.
When I first heard about Chase Guttman’s book on drone photography, I was intrigued. Not so much at the subject, or the photos, but in the person behind them. As a person who loves to travel and photograph while doing it, I’m always curious as to how people get their foot in the door in this very competitive industry, especially at a young age. The answer is: he didn’t do it alone, as none of us do.
There's something that isn't really talked about among the freelance photographers that I know, or at least not something that I hear about often. It's a small truth that nags at us all the time until we really, really get to where we want to be in our career, and sometimes even after that. And sometimes it involves bread.
I've spent some time in the tropics, and I've seen the effects that the climate can have on things. Shoes that don't dry for weeks start growing things you've never heard of. Fungi spores creep into the tiniest cracks and crevices of things you didn't even know had cracks or crevices. Things take a beating down there. So if you're living near the equator, or in another place with high humidity and some invasive nature, this new storage solution might become your new best friend.
One of my favorite things to do, when I'm able to, is to do pro bono work for local charities that need the help. There's something special, in a way, about not being paid: the "client" is usually a lot more flexible in their expectations and they allow you more leeway in your creative process. So when I got a chance to do some marketing material for a half-marathon that benefited local emergency services, I took it.