Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Publishing Paradigms

I've been rolling through a long standing flux in my content publishing paradigms lately, and it doesn't really appear to be easing back at all. Or settling, in any way, shape or form, on a single effective solution. In general, I've come to the conclusion that while publishing content on the web is ultimately necessary, it is also the most inefficient method by which to garner attention to your work, and is absolutely the least likely source of new paying clientele (ones with actual budgets as opposed to bastardized "TFP" deals with companies who could pay but choose not to).

Most recently I've posted a couple blogs regarding mobile development and publishing of photography using the now de facto standard of WiFi connectivity for immediate content transfer and subsequent posting to the likes of Twitter, Instagram, what have you. For the purposes of most content publishing, I feel fairly comfortable adopting it as my new primary avenue of content publishing. Because I'm not often producing works of art. More often than not I'm having dinner with friends and snapping pictures of food and beer. Arguably my motivations are no different than any other foodie Instagrammer, only I choose to use a dedicated camera vice my cell phone for cliche captures. I am fine with this. And rendered JPGs out of the Olympus E-M1 look phenomenal even at ridiculous ISO values for this sort of content publishing. Hell, they look great in general, good enough to run to print in a magazine. (Amazing how far we've come, when my old APS-C Nikon D40X couldn't even shoot ISO 800 without becoming unusable)

Perhaps I am simply burned out of the numbers game of Flickr. To its merit, Instagram does not track "likes" or "favs" in a charted layout of metrics to quantify how much of a clickhole your online gallery may or may not be (though content can, of course, be "fav'ed" or "reblogged"). More of interest to me in regards to Instagram, however, is the rather immediate connections that can be made with appropriate hashtags. As I understand it, tagging brands is just as viable with Flickr or 500px, but the environments fostered by those photo publishing sites is more geared toward the fine arts, not commercialism and pandering. Which is fine, and fantastic, really, and I will continue to indulge the likes of Flickr with my fine art as it comes. In the mean time, when I'm at Ruby Tuesday with my boyfriend taking pictures of beer and bacon covered cheesy fries, I'm going to post snippets to Instagram, #SamAdams, #CheesyFries, #RubyTuesday.

Actually, my propensity for going out to eat lately, and insistence on bringing a camera along in the process, comes down to a neat bit of realization that should have been obvious. I really like to photograph food. I mean, I absolutely love it. Odd because I process and post very little in the way of food photography on the likes of my Flickr gallery, but again, mentally I file it under "commercial work" and feel it is less appropriate for that forum (perhaps, though, I need to re-evaluate that mental allocation). My Instagram is slowly filling with food and beer related content, and I'm absolutely thrilled about it.

I enjoy design, I enjoy still-life work, I enjoy the commercially viable image. And, genuinely, it is a kind of work I have done remarkably little of, and prompts a rethinking of my current business plan. For the longest time, I envisioned corporate portrait work as a desired next step element of my business after entrenching in real estate, however that segway hasn't metastasized, and after a battery of weddings in the last year I am rediscovering an old rationale for the avoidance of other people in my work. Real estate and the stylized photographic presentation of design and architecture is still a dominant love, however, and it makes all too much sense that the stylized photographic presentation of the design and flourish of food should appeal to me just the same. The trick, of course, is developing a competent portfolio to use as a tool encouraging adoption of my technique formally in the commercial world, and subsequent marketing. Trickier, in this instance, given that with real estate I've always had my "in" with contract work for Airbnb. Commercial food photography would involve building from the ground up, marketing myself directly, which has never been a strong suit for my part.

Another important element I rediscovered is the power of the print.

The norm of the digital age has always been viewing images on uncalibrated, 72ppi, compressed, low resolution JPGs. Today it is only slightly better with the higher pixel density displays boasted by many new smartphones which are quickly becoming the next standard photography viewing apparatus. For the youngest generations of human beings on this planet, viewing photographs on a screen is the only thing they've ever known.

Some time ago I volunteered to be the staff photographer for the photo suite of the Fur the 'More convention held in VA the last weekend in May. It was a straightforward job - set up studio gear, lights, backdrop, stands, and provide high grade portraits for donations to the convention's annual charity (for Friskys Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary, which is a stellar organization). Very straightforward. But convention staff surprised me with the provision of a printer, some glossy 4x6 photo paper and a couple spare ink cartridges. I was under no instruction to charge for prints or obligation to provide them, but in the high energy spirit of the convention I decided to go whole hog and print absolutely everything I could.

Attendees gushed over the prints. And I mean GUSHED. The response was of universal bewilderment, with a camp of those who lived during at least the tail end of the film era fondly nostalgic to have a physical artifact in-hand from the convention, and another camp of those so young they never handled prints before and were all too giddy to show and share a print in their hands as opposed to an image on their phone. Simple 4x6 prints elicited such an enormous response it has me determined to employ provision of prints henceforth to clients and potential clients alike, to friends, to family, hell, I want to print everything. It is a lost magic in the digital age and absolutely deserves to be capitalized upon.

A sister convention to Fur the 'More, Anthrocon, is taking place the second weekend of next month and I intend to attend. I won't be working this convention, and have no reasonably portable printing solution available at current, but have decided that, to recapture some of that magic of the physical artifact, I may pick up an Instax camera just before heading out to provide that little enjoyment to others in the party-minded atmosphere. I'd juggled the ideas of portable printers or printing in the hotel room and tracking down subjects after the fact, but immediacy seems ultimately necessary in the case of wandering a several thousand attendees strong venue. Frankly, I can't wait.

Meanwhile, it's been very hot and excessively stormy for the month of June. It has had me in a functional coma of sorts, barely managing photo work while leaving me too exhausted to care about personally motivated photographic pursuits in general. I did have dinner and coffee with my Dad for Father's Day this past weekend, however, and we had fun getting caught in the rain, forced to shutter in a Starbucks.

I forget how fun the toyful "Art" modes on Olympus cameras are. Letting go of the "GOTTA SHOOT RAW" thought process is another critical paradigm shift that needs to happen. Photography is meant to be fun, so it's okay to not be tied down to "what ifs" in each and every single exposure. Just shoot. Just have fun. Not every single image you record is meant to win a Pulitzer.