The 4 positives and negative of being an outdoor, on-location photographer in Wisconsin.

The one thing we have always prided ourselves on, is being an on-location photographer with a willingness to go pretty much anywhere (minus dangling from a cliff) for our clients. Being an on-location photographer is not for every photographer though.  So, in this blog post we are going to look at the positive and negatives to being an on-location photographer.

In the beginning when we started our business there was a decision to be made where were we going to be located the majority of the time, in a studio or on location? Yes, we started out as a sports and journalism photographer but as we progressed to portraits and other styles of photography we had a choice to make. In the end, we decided it was in our best interest to be an outdoor, on-location photographer. For us at Vagabond Photography we are outdoorsy people and love the ability to bring the outdoor world into our photos and being indoors day in and day out become repetitive to us.

Now understand we are not saying that if you decide to invest a brick and mortar studio and work out of one place you won’t do on-location work as well far from it. This blog post is mainly designed to address some of the upfront ups and down of deciding to work exclusively outdoors.

The pro of photographing most of your clients outside is that your back drop is ever changing. Every location can be found and sculpted to fit the clients own personal style and that works great because some clients may want a more country/nature setting while others may want more of an urban setting. While this does have its upsides the down side is that as a photographer we should really only use these locations two to three times a season/year to keep it fresh for future clients. Also one thing to keep in mind when photographing in a urban environment is your surrounding and is it safe for you and your clients to be there.

When setting up for a client’s session the main thing we as photographers must keep in mind is the weather. In Wisconsin and like other states in the snow belt we are all aware that the weather is something we always keep an eye on and it is constantly changing. It’s been stated that in Wisconsin you can have three of the four seasons all in one day and over the year we have seen it happen. In the summer, you still have to keep an eye on the temperature and with the added inconvenience of whether or not it may rain. Which is why having reschedule date in mind for you and your client is must even though we hope you never have too. Now this works for family and senior portraits and some corporate clients, but for weddings it’s a one day only deal with no reschedule date. For us in the north, come winter we keep in mind about how cold it is outside and what your clients are wearing. While a colored snow ball fight between loved ones on a field or ice-skating engagement sessions seems like a cool ideas for a photo session if it’s under 20F it may not be the best idea. This has two reasons one; clients and photographers get cold quick and frost bite is nothing to fool around with, secondly is gear can become brittle and is easily damaged when the temperatures get bellowing freezing.

One of the better things about working on location is we can go bigger. It allows photographers to incorporate larger things such as a cars, trucks, bikes or animals. Its comes in quite nice for senior portraits especially if a client would like to incorporate a classic car that they may of helped restored with their family. Also incorporating animals can bring extra life into a photo especially if it is a horse or the family dog and it is something that we always recommend our clients to consider incorporating into their sessions. The down side of both of these is going too big and not being able to deliver in said session this can hurt the image and return business. In addition, with large animals they can be easily spooked by flashes and noises if they are not used to being around those. Having recently attended ImagingUSA in Huston we watched as a long horn steer get spooked from behind when a fair amount of people were around it, thankfully no one was seriously injured Granted this animal was not spooked by a flash but still this is an example of what can happen if you as a photographer are not prepared for what could happen. Animals decide when they are done, not you and you can only string them along so long.

Working outdoors and on site means that the light is always changing and that is something you always should be attentive to. If you start in the early morning around sunrise if will go from blue hues, to golden, to full white light and the opposite it true before sunset.  This is a great thing because depending on what/who/where you are photographing a photographer can get several different moods in a short amount of time. On the other side of the coin it can also be a hindrance if you are not ready for how fast the light is going to change. Working outside also means that you have to contend with the sun due to your time of day during your photo session. This is a time where one would want to remove excess light by using scrims and gobo’s. This is quite the opposite when working in a studio where light is much easier to control.

These are just a few of the positives and negatives we have encountered in Wisconsin over the past few years and it is just something you may like to consider when working outdoors. We can say that even though it presents several unique challenges the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

Year in Review 2016

As the year draws to and end and I sit here and enjoy the last breakfast of the old year and eagerly await the beginning of the new, it’s time to sit back for a minute and reflect on what a good year it has been for Vagabond Photography.

Vagabond Photography had a good year with some ups and downs. While at Imaging USA in Atlanta in January, I decided it was time to start writing down some of our experiences in the photography industry. This has turned out to be a good way to communicate with you our clients and readers.

Bookings didn’t come in quite as quick as I had hoped for, for weddings and senior/portraits in the first half of the year but we did have a large expansion into the Corporate photography niche, with this new area now comprising about a quarter to a third of our business.  Something that I learned from my father is that even though you may have intended for your company to serve/provide one style of service, sometimes it can take on a life of its own and move in a different direction.

In April and May we had the joy of teaming up with two non profit groups in Milwaukee called Sweetwater and the Water Council of Milwaukee. They both have a great mission Sweetwater aims to help clean up the Milwaukee River, Menomonee River and Root River basins. While the Water Council of Milwaukee looks at ways of restoring our aquafers and delivering clean water to the area. It was such a great experience to be able to work at both of their conferences, I learned a lot even though I was just there to document the day for them.

Over the summer, we saw the launch of our new website for Vagabond Photography. www.vbphoto.co  For many years, I used and loved the hosting company Zenfolio, they have great layouts and custom designs but with diminishing returns though search engines and a lack of being able to do customized SEO, I decided it was time to make a move. After some research beginning in late July I decided on moving our hosting duties to Square Space. It took a little while to get everything set up and also, I had to find a new hosting platform for our client galleries and for that we settled on a little-known company called Pixieset. I was able to integrate both platforms to create a seamless new website that I think looks marvelous.

As the fall approached we moved to the last of our Senior Portraits and a few weddings. It was so great to a part of our wedding client’s special day.  I really love fall weddings so much more than summer weddings. There is such a great wide range of colors from golden hues of yellow, fiery reds, hazelnut browns and every other color in-between.

At the end of October/beginning of November I interviewed with an auto auction company called Mecums to possibly photograph cars for them part time while still being able to run Vagabond Photography full time. It didn’t pan out but I am thankful for the time to learn from there master photographer David Newhardt. I always love to learn new things and in a couple of days photographing with them it turned into a great learning experience. Learning something from a gentleman that has photographed classic cars for over 40 plus years is a great treat.

As Christmas approached we moved back into our Corporate Christmas season. I was great, to have our friends at MUZA Metals in Oshkosh ask us back for a second year even though getting there it did happen on one of the more hazardous snow storms we have had it Wisconsin in a while. But it was fun, they all were but this one stick out in my mind the most because the getting there was just as interesting as the actual event was.

Christmas was spent back in my home town with my family and it was great to have some down time and to be able to be with friends and family for a few days.  I keep telling myself one of these years I need to bring my gear home with me and photograph a Gumz Family Christmas on Christmas Day but I have yet to do this. It’s a great time with mom and dad on my dad side of the family all the aunts and uncles show up with all the cousins and it turns into a great time when you stick 75 to 100 people into a town hall with the same last name. I guess next year should be the year to do that before the family starts to dwindle.

As we look forward to the new year it comes with hope and a little apprehension of the unknown. I cannot wait to get to San Antonio in the first part January for Imaging USA’s annual convention and trade show and to escape part of the cold Wisconsin winter.  We are still working on bookings for 2017 and I would love to be a part of your wedding or collaborate with you on your senior or family portraits. No idea is too big or too small for us. For our corporate clients, we would enjoy teaming up with you and photographing your summits, meeting and conventions and we can work with you based on your business size.

Have a great and safe New Years Eve folks, if you venture out tonight and you find you had a little too much to drink call a friend or a family member because a little lecture is better than not having your presents to enjoy. And as my favorite character Sherman T Potter from Mash says “Here’s to the new year. May she be a damn sight better than the old one, and may we may we all be home before she’s over.”

I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you in the New Year.

Best wishes,

Tim Gumz
owner and principal photographer

 

Going Live – Vagabond Photography’s New Website

As some of you our loyal clients and followers are aware a few post back we had stated our intention to build a new website though a new host provider.

The time has come and we are happy to announce we have launched our new website design with our new host provider Squarespace. It took a little while longer than expected but after many nights of research, and some consulting we decided this was the best place to make our new home.

it is a little sad that we had to leave our website home of the past eight plus years but it was necessary. Nothing against the fine people over at Zenfolio, they were always there any time of day to lend assistance. Even at 2 A.M. in the morning when we came home to an email stating something was wrong with a gallery and a lovely bride couldn’t order a second large sized print for a family member. The glitch was fixed within a hour and for that we will always be grateful.

Now on to hopefully better and bigger things. The learning curve was quite easy with Squarespace and the 10 or 14-day trial period before you launch was great. It allowed us to get everything rebuilt how we wanted it and to have it feel like it represents who we truly are and not just being stuck to a certain template for each page or gallery where you were
plugging in information and photos.

We would encourage our clients and readers to check out the new website and play with it a bit. Please tell us if there is something you do not like that really bugs you. This way we can address any issues that may arise when making a major change. can always email us or leave us a comment attached to this blog post.

http://www.vbphoto.co/

We hope everybody has a great weekend.

Turn the screen off & treat it like film Challenge

A little Challenge:Turn the screen off & treat it like film

I went out in the city of Milwaukee last night to scout a few locations for an upcoming session and I noticed a few other photographers out and about doing their thing and having a good time.

The one thing I noticed though is almost everyone out there was looking at the back of their cameras on the LCD screens to see if the photograph was the way they wanted it every time they clicked the shutter button. It got me thinking I started with film and moved too digital and now I do the same thing, kinda interesting how the times have changed. Also it’s a little sad because there was a time we could not see what our images looked like until we developed the film and then went into the dark room and created out prints or had that dreaded Walmart develop our prints for us. I do miss the darkroom some days.

So what if we found a way to turn that little screen off or temporally black tape over it so we cannot instantly see the result to know if we have to shoot it again or not? Think of it as getting it right in the camera without the instant gratification like we used to have back in the film days.

I’m not saying to do this right off the bat on a payed gig but on a test/fun session just to see how things turn out. I’m willing to bet the first time or two we might need to go back and possibly try again or modify it in Photoshop or your current editing software more than you needed to over just looking at it on the screen. I think in the long run it would give us a more intimate understanding of our cameras and accessory gear.

Give it a try so for one or two fun sessions I encourage you and I will try this myself to only look through the viewfinder and not at the LCD screen on the back, wait till you get home to see if you got it right like in the days of film.

I would love to see what you come up with right out of the camera leave a photo in the comment section below.

Best,
Tim Gumz

Learning from our mistakes: Stay true to what make you, you.

Learning from our mistakes: Stay true to what make you, you.

As the summer roles on and heat and humidity set in, frustration, compromise and the need to please clients tends to hit higher levels as well.  At some point in time one has to reevaluate, if what one is doing is leading you away from who you are.

There is a lesson to be learned here and it is one I learned not all that long ago. This being, it is impossible to please/accommodate everyone all the time and that sometimes no matter what one does to try accommodate a client or perspective client,  we may have to send them to another photographer who specializes in that area of photography.

I learned that it is important to stick to your discipline/style and there is a time and place to expand outside of our comfort zone and try a different photography discipline. I am a good portrait photographer but even thought I know a fair amount of product photography it is not my strong suit and having to tell a client “no” it is not something as a business provider I currently don’t accommodate does happen.

It stinks, it truly does, to have to turn away work/potential customers or returning customers but if what you are going to give a potential customer something that is not your best quality work it will not only hurt the customers currently because they do not have the best quality photo of their product but it will hurt you and your business in the long run because you let it be known you are willing to do sub-par work just to make a dollar.

As photographers we have our areas of expertise. Some of us are good portrait photographer where others are great at architectural photography and so on and so forth. While it is great to expand our horizons, to learn and become better in other disciplines of photography, it is important to remember what areas of photography we are good at when we do contract work for others. We should not be so quick to jump to another discipline of photography because a client begs us to or just to make earn extra money until we can prove that this new area of photography is up to the standards we have in our primary discipline.

Learn, practice and promote is the way expanding into a new discipline of photography should be handled. In the long run it will be more beneficial for you than just saying hey I can do “that” and then in the end give the client sub-par work. Also know it is okay to say “no” to a perspective client because sometime we are not the best fir for their needs.

Backups to your Backup!

So it has been a little while from my last blog post. In that time, I have learned to always make sure to have backups and if possible backups to your backup.

This applies to everything, have backups to your camera gear, editing and transportation. For example, my main camera is a Nikon D-800 and its backup is a Nikon D-300 and that cameras backup is an old film camera from the mid 90’s. For my files I backup them on external hard drives and on a cloud network and I don’t remove them from the memory cards until they are loaded on both. That way in case something happens to my files I am not out of the work I have just done for a client or for myself. As for transportation I have an 09 Dodge and that’s backup is a old tired 68 Pontiac Firebird its there if its need but thankfully I have never had that need.

The lesson here is even though you may not be using your backup device never let it out of your reach because everything is going fine until, it’s not.  I ran into “IT’S NOT”, not too long ago.

I came home from an corporate event in Milwaukee, WI in the middle of June one night to find the black screen of DOOOMMM on my computer with a deadline looming quick. In the end we found out the video card had fried itself and took part of the motherboard with it but had left the hard drive intact with no loss of photos or business files.
It was at that point in time I realized the backup laptop was nowhere to be found. I had lent out to a friend whose computer shorted out and was waiting on a new one and need to keep their business going. So I had just broken my own rule number 1, “never let your back up out of reach because everything is okay until it isn’t.” Thanks to a local photographer friend Jeff Boomer Ernst who lent me his backup, I was back up and running the next day an able to make my deadline.
A day after deadline my backup was back and I was up and running and a few more days after that a new laptop arrived and business is back to normal.

In the youth of my business I had just committed a major forepaw and that was, I didn’t have my backup. Now I realize that for other photographers who companies are in their infancy, you may not have backups to your backup or backups in general, it can be expensive. Though it is something as you take on more and more clients, you do have to look into because if you screw up and miss a deadline or lose the work its can cost you in the long run. That client talks to other possible clients and it spiderwebs out and can cause more problem down the line. Even if you don’t really use your backups you need to have them. I got lucky and had the help of a friend and I was able to make deadline.

So I cannot express enough to beginning photographers, first to have a backup camera and second have a backup computer. If you cannot currently afford to do so make sure you have a backup plan in case the unthinkable does happen to you and that way you and your clients are not left out in the cold.

Consider joining a photography group

I’d like to take a minute to invite any photographer who is just starting out or is a seasoned veteran to be more and join a photography association or local group. A while back I touched briefly in my blog post on “Finding the right Photographer” about being part of a photography group such as PPA, WPPI, APA or others. They are a great resource to belong too if not for networking with other photographers but also as an association helping especially new photographers avoid many pitfalls we tend to make starting out. Even if you do not want to join a large national group look into join a small photographers group in your local community.

I do belong to Professional Photographers of America (PPA.com) and been an active member for the past two and a half years. I also belong to a small group of local photographers with no affiliations to any large national group. They have both helped me out greatly when I was starting out and still do several years later.

When I made the switch from being a sports, live events and news photographer to being primarily a portrait and live event photographer these two groups were there to help me navigate some of the pitfalls that beginning photographers or photographers who have been out of the business a while normally face. With the small local group of photographers I learned how to better light my clients along with better posing practices. Then with the national group they were better able to help with setting up better business practices and creating better contracts that protect both me and my clients.

The fun thing about being with groups like these, is that after being with them for so long and getting help from so many great people, it eventually becomes your turn to help other beginning photographers become and be more.

You may want to ask the question hey where can I find these groups? The answer is fairly simple go on Facebook use the search bar and you can find plenty there. Also for the national groups other than the ones listed below you can google them or for PPA just click “here” and you can learn about their mission to help and support photographers.

Professional Photography Groups:
American Photographers Association (www.americanphotographyassociation.org/)Wedding & Portrait Photographers International – WPPI (www.wppionline.com/)
American Photographic Artists (www.apanational.org/)