Monday, October 15, 2012

Getting a Degree in Photography!

For most professions today it is a requirement to do some kind of academic study. For example, if you are going to be an accountant, you need to go and get a degree in accounting from a college or university. If you want to be an attorney you have to go to Law school. If you want to be a photographer, you have to… wait what do you have to do? There is a lot of debate out there as to whether or not it is necessary to get a degree in order to be a photographer.  I mean you have to be licensed to be a cosmetologist, why not photography? I put a couple posts out on Facebook asking people to share their reasons why they went to school. Here are some of the responses:

“I loved photography even as a little girl. My mom was kind enough to supply me with rolls and rolls of film and pay for them to be developed. They always said I had a good eye for it, so when I had the option of photography classes in high school, it was an obvious choice. I loved it. I ended up working for (a professional photographer) for 5 years which developed my appreciation for portraiture. Then through the support of other photographers, IPPA seminars, and my husband's financial support, I started my own business in 2005. I'm now a member of PPA and want to work towards my Masters. Having a portrait business here in Utah's over saturated market is difficult for sure, and I'm still learning on how to successfully promote myself, but I wouldn't want any other job.”        -Emily

“Studying with other people can make learning faster than on your own. Peer feedback is invaluable. Diploma on wall may impress a client (or not). It's more fun than studying math.”      -Scott

“In school you get the opportunity to work with professors willing to teach… Being able to work with others, bounce ideas with your peers is in valuable. Having your peers and professors challenge you in a way you wouldn't have thought yourself and while we all hate those core classes they really do help you train your eye with composition and design elements.”     -Lindy

“I don’t think that I would be as good as I am without my peers! Thanks guys!! I have never learned so much info that I can actually apply into my profession…Most jobs require you to have more than just pictures to show you know how to take pictures. The skills that I am learning in my digital, and heck all that I have learned in my film classes, have helped me become a better photographer. The skills that I am learning now in digital are going to get me a job with a really good company. They are going to see the pictures in my portfolio and see that what I learned in my classes are skills that I will be able to contribute to their company. I thank Christopher Gauthiér for all he teaches us in class.”  -Addie

On the opposite side of the spectrum there are people who have the opinion that schooling is not important when pursuing a career in photography, as illustrated by the quote below:

“I'm not. At least not in school. I'm working towards a PhD in Biology. Photography is an on-the-side hobby (and very part-time business) for me. But, I do take photography seriously, and don't let my schooling get in the way of my education. I think photography is one field that's relatively easy to pursue professionally WITHOUT the formal education. For most photographic jobs, the only 'piece of paper' that matters are the ones in your portfolio. A diploma is largely irrelevant. And skills can be obtained (and, I think, are often better obtained) outside the classroom setting.-“     -Jesse

So, who is right? If you are planning on being a professional photographer, should you pursue a degree in photography? Or is it an unnecessary expense of time and money? Let me give you my two cents.

First off, I received not only one, but two degrees in photography (BFA and MFA) as well as an additional degree in Education. Whenever I meet with clients, especially when I am meeting them for the first time, they like to know my background. They ask about my professional experience, how often I shoot weddings, families, etc., and all the usual questions that wedding websites tell them to ask. Usually I bring up the fact that I have two degrees in photography from recognized Universities (the University of Utah and Utah State University) and they are instantly put at ease and they are confident that I am not some guy who just picked up a camera from the local Big Box Mart. The degree means that I not only KNOW about photography, but I have PROVED that I know about photography.  In fact, with my MFA, I can legally to teach classes at the University level (you can’t do that unless you have an MFA degree). So that’s nice on the customer side of it, but what about the actual image.

Edward Weston, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lazlo Maholy Nagy, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Richard Avedon. If you went to college and studied photography, chances are you will not only recognize these names, but also recognize their images and realize how they contributed to the photography medium. In school, you not only study photography but image making as a whole. We learn composition, color, design, presentation, as well as alternative methods for image making. We learn from photographers who have contributed significantly to the art, from inventors to people whose photographs changed the way people look at imagery.

Each time we photograph something, we critique it. When I say critique, I don’t mean putting something up on Facebook and wait for comments. I am talking about a legitimate and HARSH critique of your work. Think of your photography as an exercise. The harder you exercise, the better you are going to get. You NEED critique to improve as an artist, and being critiqued by your peers and by your professors (professionals who have proven themselves through professional experience, critique, and exhibition) WILL improve your work.

My overall advice is this, if you want to be a photographer, you need to look specifically to your end goal. If your plan is to be a part time baby photographer out of your house, then you probably don’t need to get a Masters degree in photography to do it. I would however recommend taking some classes and getting your work critiqued every once in a while. There are some great groups that meet often to do just that on a regular basis. Join these groups and continually improve yourself.

If your end-goal were to make a full-time living at being a photographer, such as a commercial, product, food or fashion, then I would recommend going to a reputable school for your training. If you are applying for jobs such as these and you aren’t getting even so much as a phone call in return, then chances are you should probably go get some schooling.

In essence, I am saying to look at your end goal and what you want to get out of photography. There are different paths to any destination. There are some amazing professional photographers who never went to college, whereas there are some “photographers” from acclaimed Universities who don’t know the difference between their aperture and a hole in the ground. Look at your own work and look at other people’s work and see where you want to improve. If there is one thing that I have learned from my college days is that there is so much more out there to learn. I could spend several lifetimes just learning more and more about photography and still not know it all. I am continually learning. That’s why I am always reading photography and art books, magazines, blogs, etc. I love this medium so much that I can’t get enough of it. That’s why I went to photography school.

I’d love to hear your opinion on the matter. Comment or message me.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Enjoying the moment, instead of capturing it.

So since fall is among us, I get to do one of my favorite things, and that is go hiking with my wife and kids. We can't really go too far because they are still pretty little but it also gives me an opportunity to bring my camera along and snap some fun photos. Over the years I have found that it can sometimes be a burden to be "On" all the time, meaning I am always looking for photo opps, or if I see something picturesque I have to capture it. Well, after ruining several family outings trying to frame landscape, or almost driving my car off the road looking at the sunset, I have kind of settled down. I take the time now to actually enjoy the moment. One of my photography professors, Carsten Meier, described a scene in Norway when a group of tourists showed up at the Fjords (I think I spelled that right). They got off the bus with their cameras pretty much glued to their eyes and didn't actually look at the scenery once with their actual eyes. The entire experience was recorded to be viewed later. I can relate to these tourists. Whenever we go anywhere, I always have to bring my camera, because I have this internal fear that if I don't photograph it, I will miss it. I don't realize that I can enjoy it as a real, first person experience. Photographs are wonderful and I love them, but every  once in a while, I need to sit back and enjoy the real world, instead of what is recorded on my CMOS chip.

With that caveat, here are some of the images.

 This first one is taken in Hyde Park, UT, just after a nice rainstorm.  If you are nutty about landscapes, some of the best times to take them are right after a storm, with a very active sky.

 This one is along the Mountain Bike trail in Green Canyon, UT. As you can see my wife is ahead of me, and not by me, because I am taking the photograph and not enjoying the moment with her. She's a wonderful woman who accepts my crazy photography habits and still loves me.
 This is my son Lukas, after he lost his shoe in the soft sand. it has been so dry this year that there is a ton of dust and sand along the trails that hasn't been packed in. The dust trails caused by my daughter and her friends created an interesting light trail.

Here's Lukas again running along the bike trail. He lost his shoe again, and then informed me that he had to go potty right after we took this. I think he just likes going in the woods, because he keeps asking me if we can do it again.

Just as the sun was about to set I snapped this little beauty with all the colors of fall. I've never been back east for the fall, but I can't think of anything that can be like Autumn in the Mountains of Utah.

I was waiting for a family to show up for their sitting and so I snapped the next few just to pass the time.

I know some people use the term "Bokeh" for this type of effect, but I do not. It's called Shallow Depth of Field, or just depth of field (Where did Bokeh come from?)

Just another short depth of field shot. You can achieve this be shooting at a very wide aperture (such as F4 or better yet, F2.8). Other things that can affect your depth of field are your focal length (length of your lens) and distance to your subject.

All Images Copyright Andrew Klc photography.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Please don't end up on

I don't know if you have ever heard of the website but if not please take a look. When I first saw this site, I LOVED IT, I thought it was hilarious. For those of you who have never been there, it's basically a blog that calls out "faux"tographers and the piss poor work that they put out and try to call it professional, or better yet, art. It was funny at first, but then after a while I started to remember what it was like to just be starting out in photo.
I was enamored with the clone tool, bevel and emboss, Papyrus, and of course, spot coloring (black and white photo with a colored point). I committed several (hundred) Photoshop atrocities. It hit me one day when spot coloring the lips, eyes and flowers of a bride that what I was doing was not only wrong, but embarassing. After I pretty much made her look like a clown, I called her up and told her that I would recommend we go for the "Timeless" look of simple black and white. I haven't touched spot coloring since, I would say I have been clean for about 8 years now.
Cut to today. I saw the site of and was instantly humbled, realizing that I came from these same roots, made many of the same mistakes that these less experienced camera holders made. It made me also think "What about now? Please tell me I have improved somewhat in my photo making abilities!" In my mind, I believe I have gotten past it, and I hope I am, and that all the time spent studying photography has paid off, but I sincerely hope that I never end up on the pages of
BUT, if that does happen I would hope that I would take it as a learning experience. You see, that is the whole purpose of this blog, is to help the camera holder who does struggle, and can admit that they struggle, and wants to improve. A lot of pros (when I say pro, I am talking about someone who uses photography to contribute to their income more than 50%) are angry at the "faux"tographers for taking legitimate business at a fraction of the cost (like charging $50 for a wedding) and doing a piss poor job to boot. What I would like this blog to be about is a resource for the fledgling photographer, who needs some guidance, who wants to make a go of it. Even if you only shoot a few sessions a year, I want to help. Here's my reasoning. It's because if the entire photographic industry has enough education (not necessarily formal, but basic smarts) then it can change the industry. If I can get a photographer off of using "auto" or P, and on to M on their cameras (if you don't understand what I just said, e-mail me) then the overall product will improve. If I can convince this same photographer to set up a real business with a license and pay taxes, legitimately, and charge decent rates, then that's one step up for the business.
From now on, the only crappy photographs I want to see are the ones from instagram (who came up with that anyway, seriosuly let's make a picture look like crap and people will love it!). Actually I don't even want to see the instagram ones. What I mean is, if you are a photographer, then your work should reflect at least some basic understanding of photographic principles, and your pricing should build up your business, not send you on a road of destruction (more on that later).
 So Let's all say the pledge:

The beginning photographer's pledge:
I (State Your Name) Solemnly swear that I will not abuse the effects palette, spot color and/or instagram and try and pass them off as fine art. I further swear that I will shoot all my images in Manual mode, not use my pop-up flash, and if I plan to sell any photographic work that I do, that I will do so legitimately and within the law. If I do not adhere to the above said pledge, I do hereby give my friends, co-workers, family, and random strangers on the street, permission to seize my camera equipment, and slap me in the face with a grey card, until above said pledge is fulfilled.

"Never, never, never, do this to a photograph."
                                                    -Any sane photographer

P.S. I do not, and will never say that I know absolutely everything there is to know about photography.That's why I would love to hear from you if you have some tips, suggestions, or heck, if I did something completely wrong, let me know. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Workflow (3) The Photoshoot to Archival

The last post about workflow...... I hope.

Ok, so in the last two posts we talked about setting up the appointment, and we discussed the purpose of some type of management software. In this next post I am going to outline how to finish the workflow, ending in archiving.

1.     Call the day before to confirm the appointment. This will increase your sitting show rate.
2.     The client arrives, greet them and have them fill out a model release form that includes all their contact info (you can double check it with the info you have in the computer). If there are any unpaid sitting fees at this time, collect them.
3.     Talk to your client, give them a run-down of how you plan to do the session, and then ask if there is anything that you left out.
4.     Shoot the session. (Simple enough)
5.     After the session and you have said goodbye to the client and set up a return appointment to view the photos, this is where the workflow begins. Begin by downloading your images to your computer, in a folder designated (and make sure that folder is annotated in your management software).
6.     Burn 2 disks of the session and LABEL them.  Store one copy with your customer’s information in your studio/workspace and the other in an offsite location. (If your studio is at home, you can rent a small storage unit).
7.     At this point, I like to pull my images into a raw file manipulation software. Right now I use lightroom, but you can use Aperture, Capture One Pro, or heck, even Adobe Bridge with Photoshop can work (it’s just a little clunkier).  This is where I make any minor adjustments to my images to make them show worthy, such as cropping, quick color correction, deleting unwanted images, etc. It’s easy in these software programs because you literally adjust one and then synchronize all the others. More on that later.
8.     Export your basic retouched photos as Jpegs for ease of viewing (It’s faster viewing this way).
9.     Meet with the client and create a sales order, outlining the entire order and all retouching requested (very important, if you don’t write it down, it won’t happen.) Make three copies, one goes to the lab, the other stays with you, the last goes to the customer along with their receipt (make sure all orders are paid in full)
10.  After the client leaves, you have a few choices. It all depends on how much control you want over the next process. For me, I do all my own retouching and then send the files off via FTP site to be printed at a PROFESSIONAL LAB!!!
(Walmart, Walgreens, Target, etc are NOT professional labs.) There are a lot of different options for labs, and if you don’t live close to any, there are quite a few nice ones online. Locally I use Masterlab at and have had great results. Some of my friends from grad school have had amazing success with . They are located out of San Francisco and do a great job as well. Whatever you choose to do, I suggest getting to know the lab pretty well so that they get to know your expectations and so that you can understand their work ethic. There are some labs that really do not care about your work, and if they don’t care, they don’t deserve your business. So I retouch my photos and then let Masterlab do all my printing. Other options are to send it all directly to the lab and let them handle the retouching, printing, mounting, and even fulfillment of your order (packaging, mailing, etc). Just remember, when you do this, every bit of retouching they do costs money, so you better have billed your client for it as well, because if not, it’s coming out of your pocket. And as stated before, if it’s not written down, it won’t get done. This is where the more notes there are, the better. If you don’t write it down and the lab prints it as you specified, but not how the client wanted it, guess who is paying for a re-print?
11.  Your order comes back from the lab (if it’s a local lab and you do enough work with them, some labs will put your business on a pick-up drop off route as a courtesy and incentive to use them).
12.  Double check to make sure everything is there and the way you want it to be. Cross check with the order slip that you retained and if all is set, include that order slip with the order
13.  Think about presentation of the final images. Your customer just paid hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for these images, and they need to be presented in such a way that shows that off. My wedding photographer (when I got married) gave us all of our wedding photos in a beautiful decorative cardboard box. It was nice and showed that the photographer cared about his work, and cared about making us happy. (Note, if there are any large portraits, present them in a frame that you have for sale. The chances of you selling a frame go up incredibly at this point)
14.  Call the client to come and pick up their pictures.
15.  The client leaves with their photographs, and are happy. At this point you take the finished order slip and place it in a queue to be archived. I typically wait about a month after the client has picked up their order to archive their session.
16.  Write the client a thank you card. Include an incentive (coupon, gift card, etc) for them to come back again soon.
17.  It’s time to archive the session. You can do this by simply burning a disc, or to make the most out of your time and space, multiple hard drives are ideal. You already have two copies of the session, now it’s time to make at least two more, this time including all the artwork that you did for the client. There is several software options for archiving your images, but if you have a studio management software, it should be built it. Here’s how I would set it up. Two hard drives (three is better, but sometimes it’s overkill, especially if you still have the original disks). Copy the client’s session (it’s easiest if they just have a numbered session instead of just their name). Name the hard drives with a date. Write that date directly on the hard drive with a pen or permanent marker. Once you have copied the session over to the hard drives, make an annotation in your studio software as to which hard drive they have been archived to. It is now safe to delete the session off of your computer’s hard drive.

So that’s it. Now this is just one way of setting up a workflow, obviously there are may different twists and turns to this entire set up. Some people may want to simply upload their images to an online proofing, ordering, retouching and printing site and just make a commission off their photos. That’s cool. Others may want to create their entire lab in the studio and take out the middle-man. That’s cool too. Whatever you decide to do, the point is to keep it organized, and a workflow helps a photographer do just that.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Workflow 2: Studio Management Software

When I first started in the portrait business we had a great system called Portrait One Manager. It was made by Phase One (awesome camera backs and capture software) and was relatively easy to use and had a ton of options attached to it. Unfortunately it looks like it wasn’t a very successful piece of software because Phase One doesn’t offer it anymore. What was really great about the software was the fact that you could pull any bit of information out of it that you wanted. The only catch was that the person scheduling the appointment had to put in all the information. Another awesome aspect was that it linked directly with Capture One (Phase One’s premiere digital tethered capture software) and it was integrated with sales and accounting software as well, with an export option to QuickBooks. I really liked this software and appreciate it more now than when I was actually using it. You see when I first started, I was just a dumb 22 year old in college without any real experience, so when a problem came up I just naturally blamed the software instead of my own inexperience.
Besides the point that I wish I could still use Portrait One Manager, that software is now defunct and from what I have seen online, so are most of the studio management software out there. Here are a few that I have seen recently.

There are several different pieces of software out there, but there are a couple of things to look for when purchasing. Here are some things that I would find to be a great asset in software.

            -Attaching sessions with Clients: It’s really nice to look back and see what you have done for a client has done in the past and be able to keep that all in one simple file, instead of multiple mini files. Maybe it’s just me, but I hate it when I go to look up a client’s pictures and there are 19 different contacts that match the same name, and I have to go look up each and every one of them just to find the right photo session (that explanation might not have been to clear, but if you need some clarification, just comment)

            -Generate Lists. Invaluable for marketing. Say for example I want to send out a postcard to all my clients whose anniversary is in the month of June. This feature allows me to set the parameters, and generate an easy list that can be turned into a mail merge for easily printable address labels.

            -Invoicing. If you are going to do photography and make money at it, then somewhere down the line, you need to have financial records, whether it is for tax purposes, or if you want to get a loan, etc. Financial records are very important to a healthy business, and it’s nice to have some software to keep track of it for you. It’s also nice if this software can export all the data to QuickBooks as well.

            -Calendar. Do you really need me to explain a Calendar?

            -Workflow tracking. At some point you will need to access where an order of photos has gone. If you are doing one shoot a week/month/year then this is probably not a big priority. But if you are trying to manager 60 shoots a week, and then this can be nice. This feature is basically a checks and balances system to make sure everything goes as planned. As a photo goes through each part of the workflow, that part get’s checked off, and so on. It ends with archiving the image with a way to access it in the future (simply erasing it off your hard drive is not archiving).

            -Back ups. Whether it is via the cloud or to a USB jump drive, you NEED to back up this type of a system. If your studio becomes very successful and you start to thrive off of this system, then when that system goes down, you’re dead in the water. Did you see how people panicked when Wikipedia went down for a day (out of protest)? Imagine you are a college student who has been using Wikipedia to write all of your papers and then suddenly it’s gone the night before the paper is due, and you haven’t even started on it. Yeah, that’s a little bit of panic. Point of the matter is, back up your data.

            -Create appointments while mobile. It’s really nice to just pull out the smartphone, make the appointment, and then have it sync up with your software at home.

There are some other bells and whistles that really make life easier, but the list above is pretty much the essentials. Now technically, with a little bit of organization, you could probably handle all of this using Microsoft Outlook, and it would probably work great, except for the fact that it is not written specifically for the photography industry. But do with it, as you will. Below are a few samples of studio software that you might like to try.

1.     Studiocloud     Basic Version is Free, updates are pretty cheap (
2.     Studioplus       Basic version is Free, after that you can pay monthly. (

There used to be a lot more, but most of the ones that I had used before were picked up by studio plus. I like Studio Cloud because it does a cloud back up (the non-free version).

Good Luck Folks.