At a turning point early in his career, veteran celebrity photographer Brian Smith had a brazen (and slightly cringe-worthy) encounter with John Huston, the famous movie director. He got away with it–just barely. At the time, Smith was a staff photographer on assignment for the Orange County Register. He was trying to take his career to the next level, and the shoot with Huston was an object lesson in how to do that, as he explains in this video. (Smith is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and author of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography.)
Nothing is more important on a celebrity shoot than engaging your subject, says photographer Brian Smith. “The lighting, the locations, and the props all matter, but if you’re not actually making a connection with the subject, the pictures really fall flat.” Smith, the author of Secrets of Great Portrait Photography and other books, has been photographing celebrities, athletes and executives for more than 30 years. In this video, he explains one of his best strategies for connecting with a celebrity on set.
PDN Video: Gregory Heisler on How to Relate to Portrait Subjects (Even If You Are Shy and Bumbling)
PDN Video: Brian Smith on How to Take Your Career to the Next Level
How Top Photographers Shoot Great Portraits
If you missed Pulitzer-prize winning photographer Brian Smith’s live presentation on travel photography at B&H Photo in New York City last month, you can now see it online for free. Brought to you by Sony, this inspiring and educational one-hour video is filled with stunning images, practical tips and technical advice to help you capture better travel photos. Take it from Brian, he’s traveled six continents, taken thousands of photos as a Sony Artisan of Imagery and built a stunning collection of travel photos that will motivate you to get brave and creative with your camera, especially when you travel.
Brian Smith with the Sony a7R
Sponsored by Sony, creator of Sony Alpha-series mirrorless and DSLR cameras
During this week’s PDN’s 30 panel discussion at the School of Visual Arts Theatre, perseverance, personality and community emerged as common themes in the early careers of 2013 PDN’s 30 photographers Geordie Wood, Lisa Elmaleh and Bon Duke.
PDN editor Holly Stuart Hughes moderated the panel, which also included Readers Digest photo director Rebecca Simpson Steele and Sony Artisan of Imagery Brian Smith.
Wood, an editorial photographer who is also the photo editor at the Fader, said that he chose to assist rather than working an unrelated day job while he was starting out as a way to stay in the photo community. He also emphasized the importance to his career of a group of fellow photographers who share information, introduce one another to clients and exchange ideas in person and online. “Photography,” he said, “is much more fun as a team sport.”
When the bottom dropped out of the economy right after she graduated from SVA and she found herself out of work, Elmaleh, a fine-art photographer and teacher who works with alternative processes, asked friends in the photo community for leads and found work teaching carbon printing at the Center for Alternative Photography. She also assisted photographers Joni Sternbach and Mitch Epstein, before beginning to teach classes at SVA. “We really have to cobble it together,” Elmaleh said of making a living as a fine-art photographer.
Internships with magazines and production companies, and connections to fellow SVA student working in design or cinematography helped Duke, who does editorial and commercial fashion work and films, learn about different aspects of the creative business and make connections. Talking with design students, for instance, helped him understand how his images would work with text in layouts for ads or editorial pages. He also pointed out that students studying other creative disciplines go on to become art directors.
Duke also emphasized that learning how to communicate with creatives in a collaborative way so he could stick up for what he wanted creatively was an important step. Duke says that, on set, he is nice to everyone and “treats everyone as equals.”
Elmaleh’s work has been supported by several grants, and she underlined the importance of perseverance in applying for funding. She said she’s never gotten a grant the first time she applied for it, and suggested several resources for grant-seekers (see the list at the bottom of this post).
On the subject of perseverance, Smith, a veteran celebrity portraitist who began his career shooting news and sports, argued that careers are built not through one big break, but a series of smaller breaks.
And Wood pointed out that working hard to shoot new images, and to promote that work to editors and online audiences, have been important elements of his early career.
Offering a client perspective, Rebecca Simpson Steele spoke about sometimes following the work of photographers for long periods of time before finding a job for which they are a good match. “I pay attention to photographers when they don’t know I’m watching,” Simpson Steele said.
Note: The next PDN’s 30 panel takes place the evening of April 25 at Santa Monica College, Humanities & Social Sciences Building, 1900 Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, CA. The panel will include Brian Smith, Jessica Sample, Michael Friberg and Ian Allen.
Today two professional photography trade organizations‚ American Photographic Artists (APA) and Editorial Photographers (EP)‚ announced that they will merge to create one organization with a membership of approximately 3200 photographers.
The move will see the creation of the first national chapter of APA, which will be known as the APA Editorial Photographers chapter.
EP president Brian Smith told PDN the move would revitalize that organization while also giving APA a presence in smaller cities in the United States and internationally. (EP is an internet-based organization without a chapter structure, and has members throughout the country and the world, Smith notes.)
“It was a case of trying to revitalize everything and offer something more,” Smith said of the decision to merge. “EP was founded as an opportunity to get together and actively seek better editorial contracts. It was formed in a day when the magazines were making money by the bushellful. Times have changed in the editorial market and really the board felt the best thing we could do would be to come up with additional resources for our members.” (more…)