Rediscovering childhood via Hey Arnold and the all to smooooooottthhh sounds of Jim Lang.
Every so often I am fortunate enough to recommend a book to someone. I think that there is something so great about such a gift often given to provide guidance or share mutual understanding.
Last Thursday, before heading to the Sequoia National Forest for a much needed reprieve this Memorial Day weekend I had the opportunity to stop in to the newly finished Moniker General, a San Diego based retail space to meet with the founder and owner Ryan Sisson. We chatted life, our goals for our businesses, and inspirations that have led us to the entrepreneurial path we both pursue. In talking influences Ryan mentioned the newly written memoir by Nike found Phyl Knight titled Shoe Dog.
In the memoir Knight recounts his story from small town kid from Oregon to Nike billionaire crediting what he considers his "Crazy Idea" which spoiler alert ends up becoming the Nike corporation that we know today. Full of ups and downs Shoe Dog is a triumphant story of risk, self discipline, creation and success.
How many of us can relate to having a so called "Crazy Idea." An idea that may have not been the norm, an idea that you work tirelessly on and wonder why you are called to act on it. Knight encourages the reader to not only pursue the idea but to never give up.
In other words, "Just Do It".
So you got that gig you wanted as a product photographer.
You remember all the steps just as you learned in school. Set your focus. Dust everything off. Patience. Be precise.
But then you get handed something you thought you'd never have to shoot again. Something that caused you frustration and pain. A white object. And the task. To shoot it on a white background.
But it doesn't have to be a terrible experience. And I'm here to help you through with some quick and easy pointers shooting white on white.
Adjust white balance as to avoid blue or orange hue and set the ISO to 100 while using a tripod.
Set the aperture to something that can capture all detail (keeping in mind if certain features should be called out more or less)
2. The Setup
Find a flat white surface to shoot on. A white seamless backdrop is ideal for such a task. Applying white foam core on the sides of the product can help add depth.
3. The Light
Rather than lighting the product, strive to light the background. This works best by placing the light behind the camera and reflecting the light off of the background. Move the product away from the background and closer to the camera until the product almost falls into the shadow. The goal is to make the background as close to white as you can!
From here you will need to play and adjust the lighting for the proper effect. Adding an addtional light is an option but as a product photographer you are often on a tight turnaround and most effects can be achieved. Using white foam core can help reflect the light to achieve the look you need. If you still need a little more light one last measure you can apply is to place a piece of foam core below your camera lens facing the product. Keep in might its easier to shoot flat rather than over expose!
5. Post Process
Odds are to perfect your image you will still need to apply some post work to perfect your image. I recommend using Lightroom as the brush tool can be an accurate choice to clean up the edges of the photograph that are not a pure white.
If using Lightroom a quick and easy tool to make sure you have a solid white backdrop is to hit the hot command s which enables soft proofing (this will match your white backdrop and compare it to a solid white to
In time you will learn that white on white product photography can be an incredible experience and one that forces you to sit down and really learn what the light does to the object it is applied to.
Each day Art Is Being continues to build out in a new and exciting way, servicing a whole new crop of businesses, schools, and individuals. With each new venture we continue to spread positivity while producing a top of the line product with each and every new venture.
Recently we have taken on the responsibility of what can be considered the most important day of our lives. Your wedding day. And I assure you as we are in the process of planning our own wedding you are in great hands.
Based a a similar concept to Art Is Being, Love Is Being is based on the concept that to love is to be. That we are here on this earth to give love and receive love.
Alongside Art is Being, LOVE IS BEING will be a space to for all things related to wedding photographer including tips and tricks on how to plan your special day (as my fiancee and I plan our big day), our portfolio and package inspiration, as well as inspiration that we use for our shoots.
To love is to be. LOVE IS BEING.
To find out more head over to Love Is Being or email at email@example.com
Today rather than reflect on the now, I chose to look back to last year around September when I became serious about being a photographer, an educator, and ENTREPRENEUR.
To do so I went back to Brooklyn, a town that I know now has ultimately helped shaped the person I am, the people I know, and my perspective in this world. In many ways I am forever indebted to my friends and experiences in New York City.
Stopping into my previous positions and reconnecting with old colleagues I had the opportunity to share my pursuits and dreams. In return I was met with excitement and praise.
Life is all about opportunities, but it is up to you to read them as opportunities.
When I was 16 my family chose to move us to California from Ohio. I was devasted. It took a long time before I began to make friends and feel at home. But years later I see the confidence this has built in me, the strength to be alone, the power to step out of my comfort zone. We can always look at a new event as a problem. But with adversity comes strength. "Those who learn to use adversity to their advantage, however possess the power to turn adversity into greatness" - (Lewis Howes, The School of Greatness, Pg. 55)
Below you can find the post from last September
Everything is an Opportunity (If you choose to see it so)
This past month has been a whirl wind of experiences and opportunities.
From a family wedding trip gone solo vacation to New York City which lead me back into the offices of IMG Models and NEXT Models, allowing me to absorb information from the fashion and photography industries top leaders, to photographing for major clients, to stepping foot back into the classroom, to growing in demand for my work in the San Diego region, its been a hell of a month -- and yet amidst all the chaos I can surely say that I am enjoying every minute of it!
I'd love to share a personal reflection and what I was able to take away from these experiences, as to further elaborate my perspective to viewers drawn to my site to showcase who I am and why I do what I do. I hope that I can inspire you with these stories and provide some insight at the same time.
I believe the best photographer isn't in who has the best camera, or the best photoshop skills, but the person who truly sees life differently and I hope in some way my writing helps accompany my visual point of view.
New York City. Big city of dreams. I first arrived in NYC at the age of 22 geared up to attend the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Full of dreams, but no idea what they were. Still to this day I have my own qualms with attending Graduate school as early as I did, but at the same time I think it is a necessary part of who I am today, my beliefs, and my experiences. My department of Digital Arts focussed more on the philosophical aspect of art from a Fine Art perspective rather than the commercial art field I went on to work in. Which is why I feel my photography is unique. Because in my mind each piece is a work of art, not a photograph.
I worked my ass off, quickly executing class projects while interning and working for some of the photo industries largest players. Beginning at Art Partner (owned by Giovanni Testino, brother of Mario Testino) , I worked my way from lowly intern to capable producer, leveraging myself onset whenever I could with famed photographers like Terry Richardson. From here to Art and Commerce with the PRODn team with Steven Meisel and IMG Models working under VP David Cunningham.
Me with my former boss, mentor, and all around good guy, David Cunningham, VP of IMG Models. David has always been there to lend me advice, a helping hand, and a push to strive for perfection.
Despite an amazing opportunity my inner creative longed to be on the forefront rather than the backend and I left to pursue new opportunities back to my native west coast of San Diego, California. I risked it all in this pursuit, with no job lined up, no major plan. Just listening to myself.
Me with friend and mentor, Kyle Hagler, President of Next Models. Kyle has always been there for advice and providing the attitude if you want something go and get it. 'you know who you are and what you are capable of, go and do it!" I hope everyone that reads my page can take away this attitude and think of the things you can accomplish!
Leaving NYC was a hard and complicated decision, but I ultimately new it meant starting again. Something as an artist I have never feared and often embraced. I began work a teacher and creative strategist for a non profit called Outside the Lens with a mission I really believe in, helping get cameras and digital skills into the hands of those schools that otherwise would not be able to provide such an experience. The result has been humbling and taught me more than I think I could teach my students whom I am constantly learning from.
Determined to create a unique lane for myself, I can not say that I am there. Or that I am a success. Or that I know where the road ends. And I am okay with that. Everyday I am a work in progress and learning and growing in the process. I'm a firm believer in connecting the dots. I think life is a pattern, all the tools are there, all the paths are provided, and its up to us to put them all together. I'm still piecing my puzzle together, but can already say its weaving together beautifully.
Upon my return I was able to do some reflecting and compose a list of four bullets that have helped me push forward in life and in business. Come back tomorrow and I will share ten bullets from a man far wiser than myself from a book titled, Made in America.
1. Look at everything as an opportunity (work a shitty job? Find out what you can take away from the experience rather than focussing on the negative? Why does one item sell more than another? How does your attitude effect customer service. Be a sponge!
2. Understand you aren't hot shit...yet. And that there are people better than you. You may be confident and feel like you know everything there is to know, but that just isn't true. There are people more talented and more knowledgable than yourself. LEARN FROM THEM. BEFRIEND THEM. UNDERSTAND THEM. They will be able to provide you a wealth of knowledge and resources that helped them along the way. Look to them as mentors.
3. Treat everyone with respect. This is a big one. Not even to advance but just in general. You never know what someone is going through, what they've been through. Life isn't fair and sure as hell isn't easy so this is just a good rule of thumb for life. For business don't burn your bridges. That person that you thought was a doofus at your last job, may go on to create the biggest business you've ever seen. Treat them with respect and maybe when you need advice he'll open up the door to you.
4. Stay ahead of the curve. Stay learning. You can never know to much. Is there a new technology coming out that will impact your industry. Learn it. Use it. Free class or webinar you can attend? Go! The people that fail to succeed also fail to adapt. Don't let that happen.
Thank you for reading and I would love to hear from you! Send over a comment and share what lessons you have learned along the way! Maybe we can all learn from eachother!
Inspired by San Diego I have begun to launch a series of ART IS BEING shirts for retail and advertising. I have learned so much in the process and grateful to begin to start projects like this.
As a San Diego based artist who has worked with numerous artists and art organizations both locally and abroad I have been working with colleagues, models, and friends to help aid in the photoshoots for the shirts promotional usage.
Working with Outside the Lens as an educator and creative strategist for a year this process began with my friend Hilary Moore who is an educator for the program as well as a local San Diego photographer. The result, shot in the beautiful redwood section of the historic Balboa Park became the first of many lifestyle shoots for the brand.
With my background primarily forged in fashion photography from an upbringing through Art Partner, Art and Commerce, and IMG Models my second shoot was an in studio session with model and fellow artist, Karly Ryner of Brand Models, a Los Angeles based modeling agency, where we were able to get some crisp and clean photos for the web and Ecommerce while still adding an artistic flair to the shots.
As the project expands we plan to develop and expand our roots working with organizations across America and expanding our model talent pool and roster. The goal is to include people who embody the vibe of the brand, believing that their ability to be creative and create helps define their sense of purpose. Guests slated to occur in the series include some top tier models, and artists from institutions such as UCSD, The Aja Project, Outside the Lens, SDSU, CSUSM, and many more.
In addition to purchasing online the shirt can also be found in stores throughout San Diego, beginning with the Lux Institute where it can currently be purchased at the Lux Store with plans to expand through the City.
Or purchase online here. http://artisbeing.com/shopartisbeing/the-official-art-is-being-t-shirt
Thank you for the continued support and remember
To create is to be. ART IS BEING.
Last year while I took it upon myself to really put myself out there and start reaching out to some of my favorite artists.
Much like many of the people who currently inspire me like Lewis Howes, Richard Branson and many others I wanted to apply the principle of "the best way to learn is to listen to someone who does it better than you."
My goal was to find what made other artists tick, what made them unique, what separated them from the pack of the millions of others, hungry to land a big client.
On a whim I reached out to one of my favorite artists, Steven Harrington, a Los Angeles artist whose work embodies a certain since of cool, embracing the Southern California psychedelic pop art aesthetic.
To my surprise I was embraced and allowed to come into the studio and meet with the man himself. A crazy experience to meet someone you look up to, especially when you get to learn how real they are and what makes them tick.
I recently spoke to Steven over the phone nearly a year later and the vibe instantly came through that I remember. Someone who is down to earth and full of great advice. I learned so much from our conversation namely to STAY HUMBLE and NEVER STOP THE HUSTLE. It was just what I needed to hear that morning and inspired a lecture the following morning.
There are times when you may feel down and out. Like you have tried everything. That you are just looking for that next big break. But no major success grew overnight. It took love, nurturing, and a relentless passion that never stops and doesn't miss a beat.
I was reminded how fragile our definition of success was. And that maybe the goal is not to even feel like you have made it. That way you keep working, keep churning out projects that are meaningful you, and stay passionate about what you love avoiding being jaded at all costs.
Remember its all about the journey, not the destination.
As my business continues to grow its important to reflect on what has got you so far, stay humble and stay learning. To paraphrase that in a much more eloquent manner I believe it was the great Steve Jobs citing the famous Whole Earth Catalog, "STAY HUNGRY, STAY FOOLISH"
I'm reminded constantly why this concept is more important than ever as a navigate through the new normal our economy and society is beginning to create. The infrastructure of yesteryear are being torn down with the rise of access to information. Leaving those not willing or unable to adapt out in the dust.
I read an article this morning from an old colleague of mine, a former manager with IMG Models, who shared this post earlier this morning on her instagram feed and grabbed my attention instantly.
Working in the photography industry I am learning how some companies are either completely opposed to this new way of thinking (and facing the repercussions of this) while others are rising to the top, quickly, diversifying, and setting new standards for the game.
Not convinced, let me give you two examples...
In education students are teetering with this concept. While some millennials are quick to take off with it and run with this concept in my courses others still cling to the idea of the institution. Believing that if they have completed a degree, shot a certain amount of photographs this will land them a job. While those items do not deter you from a job I explain to them that the X factor is still needed. They will need to find a new and unique way to promote their work and relying on the institution is a gamble.
The same can be a said in the workforce. Titles of empowerment often merely serve as crutches, allowing some to cling to a time past. Instead employees have open access to empower themselves, serve the company in new ways and find ways to be rewarded for it. This will continue to occur as technology advances in the workplace while those at the top fail to continue to learn.
The article really got me thinking about what I do, teach, and service is directly related to this new way of thinking. Not focussing on the money, but rather knowing that the money will come when combined with positive practices - and in that same breadth knowing that money is not the end all be all goal. Its living a life of positivity, self fulfillment, and a healthy attitude and approach to it all.
Remember to stay one step ahead of the curve, STAY HUNGRY AND STAY FOOLISH.
As I grow in my business and as a person, I am realizing the ability to collaborate and work with new people, ideas, and skills is become an imperative -- allowing me to take on new roles and expand into new mediums.
Recently through one of the various networking events I attend regularly in San Diego, Creative Mornings, I had the opportunity to meet Briana.
Briana is a graphic design artist who has big dreams as well. While volunteering at the event, serving coffee to the other participants, we had the opportunity to build and exchange resources are helping us find a footing in the market. I learned about her podcast and her talent of typography as well as resources she is listening to such as the Smart Passive Income podcast that is inspiring her not only as an artist, but as an entrepreneur.
Its meeting inspiring people like Briana each week that keeps me inspired as I aspire to grow and learn.
And thats what its all about
Follow Briana on instagram at https://www.instagram.com/brianachristinedesigns/
If you are a young entrepreneur go and download "The Virgin Way" from Audible right now. You won't be disappointed at all with Branson's comical, poignant, and relatable footsteps toward leadership.
A letter from Branson's mom early on in the 2nd chapter helps set the tone for whats to expect...
A few key points...
Complaints or "observations" are usually unsolicited. And with too many companies not particularly welcome. So a senior person reaching out and inviting honest input really wins a lot of points as well as bringing in some interesting incites. The results are almost always WIN WIN WIN.
All about maintaining and promoting that almost childish curiosity level in our people to make sure they are never accepting of the status quo and always looking for ways to improve upon it.
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity"
Amen to that,
I was recently contacted by my friend and colleague, Amina Sheik Mohamed, Director | Youth and Community Mobilization Programs at the University of California San Diego to photograph the Global Fresh Launch Party. It was a celebration of international feasts compiled by Leah's Pantry in collaboration with the International Rescue Committee of San Diego (IRC), the United Women of East Africa Support Team, and the UC San Diego for Community Health.
The night was filled with amazing food and laughter, accompanied by a drum circle led by Nana Asiedu (www.facebook.com/nanadrumming) who leads drum circles for the World Beat Center for school and business here in San Diego.
I brought my second shooter, Keron ,with me who was able to help me capture all of the special moments. We were graciously awarded the "Around the World at the Farmers Market" cookbook featuring recipes from San Diego' s African and Middle Eastern Community Cooks.
Overall we had a blast and the happy faces below help tell that story better than words!
The Aja Project is a San Diego Non Profit organization founded in 2000, created under the mission of providing photography based programming to transform the lives of youth and communities. This subject holds near and dear to my heart as I myself am a product of using art and photography to transform my own life.
Growing up without any younger siblings in the household I always gravitated towards the arts and my creativity to transport me into a new world. My best friend and I were gifted a camera from his mother and all we wanted to do was create movies, script new characters, and watch them evolve through our storyboards to the screen. With those close to me in and out for jail time, my father struggling with major heart problems, and a big move from my home state during my freshman year of high school my reasons to escape felt overbearing at times. Despite the positive outlook I attempted to carry, behind my smile I was deeply saddened.
In dealing with this there was one thing that always kept me afloat... my creativity. Like a life raft, ideas always came to me, often just at the right time. Everything from picking up a guitar, to a camera, starting a new business, to learning a new concept gave me that much more reason to learn, stay strong, and aspire to master something new.
In collaboration with KPBS and the Media Arts Center in San Diego I will be leading a youth group of youth programming dealing with the art of story telling with an emphasis on ones own personal story.
Sharing your personal story is tough. Some people do not want to examine that story and keep the book closed for various reasons. For me however I feel empowered knowing and sharing my own story. It makes me remember how strong I was (and wasn't) but how over time I was able to overcome.
That leads me to believe anything is possible.
While I attempt to find an audio version of Daymond Johns new book, titled The Power of Broke, as it is not on Audible, I thought I would use this space to reflect on a book that has made a significant impact on my life.
A catalyst of sorts, Mastery, by Robert Greene was referred to me at the right place and right time in my life.
Let me explain...
I had just left New York City and an amazing position with IMG Models in search of a life a new life that boasted a greater sense of a work life balance, closer to home and family, and ultimately to find myself. After a month or two of soul searching from my parents house I knew I would have to reenter the "Real World" and get a job and move onward to sustain myself. Not too different my previous endeavor this left me in an office 5-6 days a week for hours on end for a company far less glamorous than its predecessor.
Thats when I began to seek.
Now what was I seeking exactly. I'm not totally sure. A connection with my life, perhaps. Rather than the office norm of lunch breaks at the desk, I would relax under the shade of a tree. A slew of books and podcasts began to fuel my mind, each launching and sparking a new internal conversation. Art became a driving force and after 10 hours stuck behind a screen, I raced home to spend another 4 in front of a canvas or my guitar. I picked up my camera again after feeling broken down in the pursuit of becoming a photographer and began taking on any gigs I could find throughout San Diego - baby pictures, friends, anything that kept the forward motions.
In comes Robert Greene's book Mastery. I was collaborating with my friend and hip hop artist DMO from my college days at California State University San Marcos. DMO needed new material for upcoming work he was producing and I was eager to assist. We got to talking about goals and life and I stammered through what had to have been a long list of to do's, ideas, and concepts. But DMO was able to piece what I was saying together somehow.
"Have you ever read a book called Mastery?", he asked. "Everything that you are talking about, thinking and doing is reflected in the book through the eyes of great artists who had taken a similar route to achieve success. I would really like for you to read this book." This moment had me struck in awe. After years of education from Kindergarten to my MFA, no one had ever suggested a book to me that they felt I could have a personal connection with. Sure I had been given tons of generic reading material from my teachers and professors throughout the years, but this felt more fine tuned. Almost like it were prescribed specifically to me.
Mastery examines and digests the work of greats like Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, Mozart, among many others and attempts to retrace the footsteps that lead to their success in the field. Undoubtedly while the paths had variance pertaining to the craft, the core steps were reflected with each individual, showcasing that there may be some broad formula we can replicate to unleash and unlock our full potential.
"This primal uniqueness naturally wants to assert and express itself, but some experience it more strongly than others. With Masters it is so strong that it feels like something that has its own external reality--a force, a voice, destiny. In moments when we engage in an activity that corresponds to our deepest inclinations, we might experience a touch of this: We feel as if the words we write or the physical movements we perform come so quickly and easily that they are coming from outside us. We are literally "inspired," the Latin word meaning something from the outside breathing within us. Let us state it in the following way: At your birth a seed is planted. That seed is your uniqueness. It wants to grow, transform itself, and flower to its full potential. It has a natural, assertive energy to it. Your Life's Task is to bring that seed to flower, to express your uniqueness through your work. You have a destiny to fulfill. The stronger you feel and maintain it--as a force, a voice, or in whatever form--the greater your chance for fulfilling this Life's Task and achieving mastery."
Relating strongly to this concept and quote from the book, I understood something that I had taken for granted for years. That I was unique and that this trait was not a flaw, but rather my greatest asset. As I began to plant it I began to slowly but surely create a life that revolved around my talent, whether that meant going out to teach it or freelance to create with it. I would volunteer in my free time with like minded organizations, museums, non profits, anywhere I could lend my skills. I would sign up for new classes online to keep focussed and in the know. I would keep a team around me of people after the same core endeavor and learn from their difference, their missteps. I would devote time to new projects, new techniques, reading, listening and creating new business goals and new concepts along the way. I was becoming a Master. They say when you have dedicated 10,000 hours to your craft you are awarded this title and while I think Mastery is something an artist is constantly working towards and never feels as though he/she has reached that point I can say that the hourly quota has been met, and yet I am in constant hunger to know and understand more and continual sly evolve in perpetual motion. While I do not feel I have reach my fullest potential I feel I am constantly I a steady growth with new doors opening with each new step, this year allowing me to shoot at a professional level whilst teaching both at a college level and from a mentorship level.
A major thank you to DMO for suggesting this book to me and seeing a trait in me that I didn't even believe in. As a matter of fact he has a whole slew of albums full of inspiring words and I would appreciate anyone reading this to head over to http://www.thisisdmo.com/ and pick up an album. Let him know I sent you.
I continue to refer this book at the end of every class. To nearly anyone and everyone I meet looking to make a positive change. May it be a catalyst for you as it was for me.
If you still haven't subscribed yet, be sure to head over to the PetaPixel photography podcast and subscribe today. Hands down the best podcast for photographers and videographers with real world knowledge from a pro (Sharky James) with invaluable camera and market knowledge.
I will be starting out Episode 46 with an intro so be sure to listen!
Through my work in the media field, I am blessed with the opportunities to constantly make new connections and find new ventures that keep my mind stimulated - conceiving new ideas, techniques, and skills in the process.
Recently I was given with the opportunity to work alongside my friend and future brother in law, Keron Legall, on a project we are very vested in -- involving the mentorship and development of a skill and mentality that is needed to become a successful leader, translatable through all walks of life.
Keron is an incredible likable guy. On meeting him his charisma and passion are features that instantly reel you in.
Dominating the courts of his local gym, he became the go to player on the court for advice on how to improve everything from a jump shot to mental focus. This lead to him meeting his student, Ashley, who Keron is currently mentoring.
Keron is there through it all, in one on one private lessons, recording the games, reviewing the footage, and even inviting her to family events and church. By combining on the court skills with a leaders mindset, Keron believes is the recipe to success.
Stay tuned for a documentary we are working on that transcends basketball and media, and emotes a triumphant story of the human spirit.