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  • Turning Tables: A Photo Q&A, Part 3

    Part 3: Being interviewed by an aspiring teenage photographer — the director’s cut. This section focuses on starting and running a business.

    Did you always want to own a photography business?

    Growing up in the days when we had film and not digital photography, I never, ever thought I would do something like this.

    I’ve always been primarily a writer and editor. Photography was something that interested me, and I really enjoyed doing it while working for small newspapers in Texas and North Carolina. Traditional studio portraits, however, are often more technical than artistic, and for the longest time I thought that was the only way I make a living through photography.

    When I moved into communications, and became a one-person publishing unit, I started paying more attention to the visual presentation, especially as I took photos. The problem was I did not have the technical skills, or the patience and aptitude to learn those skills in a way that could make me successful solely as a photographer.

    Understanding how to get my camera to do what I wanted so I could capture what I saw was more frustrating than fascinating, especially in the days when post-production was spent inhaling chemicals in a pitch dark room.

    That has been eliminated thanks to the digital explosion, and enhanced by a chance to pay tribute to my dad. It’s also served as an opportunity to explore that I never thought I'd have.

    How did you start your business?

    On a rainy day in 2012, my oldest son (Nicholas) needed headshots for school. Of course, he was leaving that day, so we had to be creative, especially since I didn’t have studio equipment.

    I was extremely nervous about doing them — nothing is harder than getting professional quality shots of your own family — but they turned out well and I found that I liked the challenge of portrait photography, especially without the constraint of being in a studio.

    The next year, I was laid off from my job and became a freelancer. I started offering photography as part of my services when I felt like I finally had the equipment and the skills necessary to make sure my customers would be satisfied with my work. I’ve been fortunate that most of my clients like my work, and the business has grown in new and unexpected ways. 

    What have you learned from running your own business? What are the challenges?

    I learn something new every day. I’ve had to learn how to juggle many different writing and photography projects at once while still trying to raise a family, something that is not unique to anyone who does this even if our circumstances (and skill sets) are a bit different. Like any business, this one fluctuates in a feast or famine way, and that can be challenging.

    My wife is an excellent time manager, and being the one with the out-there creative gene, I’m not. I never have been, so it’s something I have to continue working at constantly.

    Purely from a photography standpoint, I still struggle at times with my technical skills (especially in the area of retouching). They are not where I’d like them to be yet, although I’m getting better. It’s not something that comes naturally, but I’m working at it.

    What have you enjoyed the most?

    I genuinely like meeting new people and working with them on various projects, whether its through interviews for stories or going on a shoot. When you have a chance to work together in a collaborative way, like we’ve done for the “Art & Dance” series, that’s always a lot of fun.

    Increasingly, I’ve learned how to enjoy art directing a shoot. This was something I never thought I would be good at, because I didn’t think I had that level of creativity to create something out of nothing. I find it really fascinating.

    Tomorrow: Concluding with Art & Dance. For Parts 1 and 2, go here and here.

  • 'Footloose' Editing Project Complete

    A huge editing project is complete: More than 2,500 photos from the recent Metropolitan School of the Arts production of "Footloose" are available for purchase and/or download on at my e-store. Take a look!

  • 'Footloose' Photo Editing Project

    Last week, I spent three days photographing dress rehearsals for Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Footloose." Over the next several weeks, I'll be editing more than 2,500 images that will be available for sale at my e-store.

    Photos are priced at a reasonable $2 each for 4x6 images, plus shipping, and 5x7, 8x10, and 8x12 prints are also available. You also can download low-res images suitable for sharing on social media as well as high-resolution images.

    The first set of photos, from the Saturday matinee, are already up. They will be followed by the Sunday matinee, then the Saturday and Sunday evening shows.

    Happy looking...

  • The Pet Peeves of Editing

    The recent “Fragments” post served to reinforce what I’ve known for some time — editing makes writing (and reading) a lot less fun sometimes.

    As an editor, I constantly work to prune and shave words so stories read more clearly and succinctly. As a reader, I find myself editing already published work, and if the writer’s style (or lack thereof) bogs me down, I often don’t have the patience to finish the piece.

    As a writer, my innate ADD makes staying on task a challenge, and as a result, I’ve been known to go off on tangents (aka this blog). “Fragments” was an attempt to find some closure for the postings that I start and abandon.

    Earlier this year, I was asked to present at an Association Media and Publishing session on “The Art and Mechanics of Editing” with a colleague (Erin Pressley) who also is in this line of work. I actually enjoy presenting, although the prep work can be tedious at times.

    The best part of this session came in developing a top 10 list of editing pet peeves. Take a look at the ones below and see if you can guess the ones that are mine. And the next time you decide to write something, reference them and see if you are making the same mistakes that we often deal with in our line of work. 

    #10: Passive voice  — Just plain boring, lacks action. Why was the road crossed by the chicken?

    #9: Which vs. that — “That” introduces essential clauses while “which” introduces nonessential clauses. Gems that sparkle often elicit forgiveness. Diamonds, which are expensive, often elicit forgiveness.

    #8: Who vs. that — “Who” refers to people. “That” refers to groups or things. Sally is the girl who rescued the bird. Jim is on the team that won first place.

    #7: Misplaced modifiers — You modify something you didn't intend to modify. Wrong: I almost failed every grammar class I took. Right: I failed almost every grammar class I took.

    #6: “–ing” Words — Unnecessary in many cases. Will be going — “Will go.” Should be doing — “Should do.” Have been driving — “Have driven.” Or better yet: “Are driving” (as in, me crazy)

    #5: Absence of a nut graph — Do you have time for long and pointless? We don’t. A nut graph sets the scene for the reader and helps to telegraph where the rest of the story is going.

    #4: Widespread use of “that” — Not to be “which-y” about it, but we could do with less of that.

    #3: Stakeholders — Why do our bosses, sources, and even writers try to label some of our most important constituents as mini-Renfields? Doing so is often the lazy way out.

    #2: Acronym-soup — Don’t think of us as SOBs for bringing this up, but we have an incredible reliance on institutional shorthand that often can clutter the story we are trying to tell. If you have to use acronyms, use them judiciously.

    #1: And finally… My Pinkie Just Can’t Stop Hitting The Shift Key Because Everything We Write Is So Important That We Just Have To Capitalize It.

    What are your pet peeves?