Oct 07 2023

Speed

Photo by Ray Potes

I think it’s normal to over think about “quality” of “content”, I usually try to evade those words and marinate on “consistency” or “volume”. But nowadays, or at least today, I’m thinking about “speed”.

What’s the rush? What’s the impatience? Is it just a sign of the times, the idea of “hustle” culture? It sometimes feels that way and it can be sticky but it is all related to “obsession.”

The need for speed is the desire to outpace or just catch up to your obsession (photography). There are 2 sides of the coin here. Yes, sometimes it is about financial success vs financial crisis. But on the other side, it is about learning. Learning what works and what doesn’t work as soon as possible. Because intuitively we know that each completed lesson is a level up.

Sometimes I’ll tell somebody or myself to “chill” or “have patience.” I’m realizing now that may not be good advice. Time is running out. Let’s go further and be faster with our experiments, wonderings, and wanderings.

“I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps.” – Thomas Edison

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” – Henri Cartier Bresson

Sep 28 2023

Ambassadoring

Photo by Ray Potes

I was thinking I should be posting on here more but then I was like why? Well, the easy answer is to share more info and current thoughts, feelings, and behaviors behind and in front of the scenes at Hamburger Eyes. For those that have the interest.

The tougher answer is the idea of being an ambassador of photography. This answer can be beaten into oblivion. One, who cares? Two, is anyone really checking this blog? Three, who are you to inspire or motivate or educate or encourage anything about photography? This 3rd one is the point.

If I believe that we are here to make the world a better place, then isn’t just seeding one positive thought into just one other person getting the job done regardless of my education, status, etc.? It is. If one person shoots a photo because of something I said or shot or designed as a zine, magazine, or book, then isn’t that what an ambassador does? It is. I am just thinking out loud.

I write this because we all have our doubts and concerns about ourselves. (Me, lately.) I have gotten got some great feedback from that video interview that has been recently posted. (That was filmed like 5 years ago, by the way.) I know people like Hamburger Eyes, but I didn’t fully understand that something that started as a casual zine amongst friends can have such long lasting effects.

I don’t say all this to talk about myself, I say this as a reminder to myself to pay better attention and even do more. Or, accept my role as an ambassador. Daily.

I also say this to show you, who might be in a slump or fog that just one photo, one idea, one thought, one word can help at least one other person not just in photo but in life. And thus, change the world.

Today, dear reader, you too are an ambassador. Congrats.

Mar 29 2023

How to Make Money as a Photographer

Photo by Ray Potes

DISCLAIMER: I am still figuring this out. I am not saying that you will be guaranteed any type of money if you listen to what I say or write. What I will say though is that if you do most of these things in a professional manner, for a few decades in a row, then maybe your chances of a career in photography move up a quarter of a percentage point or so.

This writing hopes to provide photo futuristic simulations in your mind if you are indeed following a path of photography.

As I said in the previous post, most photographers are running combinations. Just like having multiple camera setups, processing recipes, and print recipes we have money making recipes.

1. SERVICE – Shooting photos as a service to clients in exchange for money. Weddings, real estate, headshots, advertising, commercial, editorial, commissions, assignments, studio, documentary, etc.

2. PRODUCT – Selling your photography as a product to customers. Your photos in the shape of prints, books, tshirts, calendars, coffee mugs, fine art hanging on the walls of mansions and museums, etc.

3. SUPPORT – Creating services and products that support other photographers. Camera companies, photo labs, photo retail, publishers, gallerists, agencies, representation, design, etc.

4. EDUCATION – Creating services and products that support photography itself. Teaching classes, workshops, seminars, trainings, courses, speaking events, discussions, writing books, etc.

It’s not that complicated. Some are lucky and they find their place just doing one of these things and get really good at it. As mentioned earlier, most photographers, sometimes organically sometimes purposeful, find themselves running a bunch of these things simultaneously and/or falling into certain categories and then evolving onto other ones.

People often ask about how to get their photography noticed and I want to say match your current output to what current path that you want but I don’t say it because usually that person is not sure, hence the purpose of this blog post.

But I am not sure that is good advice because of randomness.

Like if you want to shoot basketball, then all of your front facing output should be all basketball and you should be reaching out to basketball media outlets for paid gigs and/or making basketball books, hanging photos in basketball museums, or starting your own basketball photo agency. This is simple and obvious and normal. But we have also seen it go random, where a person who shoots underwater landscapes happens to shoot his cousin’s basketball game and it turns out great and gets hired as the team photographer.

I think it is just appropriate to know all of this stuff and have some concept of a direction but also be open to all the possibilities. I started out wanting to shoot assignments for magazines and newspapers. I dreamed of splunking caves and getting portraits of a newly discovered species for National Geographic. I had a few good gigs, but mostly rejection. Meanwhile, people liked the zines I was making. So I kept making them.

Once you consciously decide to “get money” with your photography and put yourself out there, opportunities arise. Follow the white rabbit.

Mar 22 2023

Money

Photo by Ray Potes

When it comes to my photography/publishing practice I like to think it is a 50/50 split when talking about time space and energy. In reality though, it fluctuates. The swings can be as big as 90/10 in either direction.

The system is sensitive and swings can be caused by various circumstances like economies, romances, injuries, insecurities, moon phases, etc.

To re-balance it, I self-advise, “Shoot more.” The photos feed the zines, and the zines create more zines which are hungry for more photos. It used to be the same with darkroom printing, shoot then print then shoot then print, one informs and shapes the other.

My weird logic is to tip the scale on the shooting side so much so that the printing/publishing side is forced to catch up. This is why if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ve seen me say it 1000 times, “Shoot more.”

But this post isn’t about balance. It’s about purpose.

You start with a photo curiosity, then a photo passion. Then a photo purpose. That purpose can be simple and exploratory like self expression with photography, or it can be complicated like influencing geopolitical policies with photography.

After photo purpose comes photo commitment. This is where you consciously decide to make photography your full time gig. Intrinsic drivers evolve with extrinsic drivers. That is things like passion and mastery grow and multiply with things like achievement and paying rent.

You are somewhere along this path in your photographic journey. “Shoot more,” is only good advice if you are in the curiosity phase. In all other phases, shooting a lot is basic. Or more like it is a life style choice.

So me saying, “Shoot more,” is as if your photography is without purpose which is presumptuous and asshole-ish of me. I think my new advice to any one at any phase of development would be, “Get money.”

This is a better presumption. It presumes that you are already committed or, even better, it motivates you to be on your way. Also like weather patterns, we cycle through all of these phases, sometimes stuck in a rut, sometimes hyper with no where to go. So it is supportive, “Get money.” It conjures potential. It sparks action.

Photography isn’t about money. But all the stuff you need to do photography full time costs money. Gear, rent, food, car, computer, etc. It is time to start figuring it out if you are feeling it is time to level up.

I get questions about how to get noticed, or how to get more followers, or how to blow up. In other words, how to get money. I only know what has and hasn’t worked for me (and I am very much still figuring it out), it is different for everybody so it is impossible to say in any type of formulaic way. Of course there are generalities, but each path is so specific and unique. This is one of the reasons why I think photography is so cool, it is both relatable and unrelatable at the same time, including and especially between photographers.

Sure, there are some who are happy enough with photography as a weekend hobby, but there are also a lot of us at the crossroads looking for direction. Stay tuned for the next post. It will be about all the different ways different photographers make money. Most are doing it in multiple combinations of ways. Let us count the ways.

Mar 15 2023

OLYMPUS TG-6 REVIEW

During quarantine, a friend had been eye-balling a piece of property for a while and finally pulled the trigger. It is on a beautiful river and I went there as much as my stimulus would allow while the world was shut down. And I still go often.

I needed a waterproof camera for all the fishing kayaking canoeing swimming floating jumping bbqing and chilling we were doing. So I bought an Olympus TG-6. I like Olympus. This one is the latest in their line of “tough” series cameras. I got the red one. I now use it for everything and it is very close to being my most used camera since I got it.

Here is what is wrong with all digital point and shoot cameras ever made except for this one – they are very easy to break. All of them look and feel and are janky. Every single one. Also, they are slow. Very slow. From powering on to firing off a shot, you already missed all of the action. Like an hour ago.

Not this camera, it is fast. And sharp. And water proof and shock proof. It has flopped out of my pocket and onto the street multiple times and it is still going strong. This alone is my number one reason to recommend it.

Also, I like how there is zoom and the lens stays internal, there is no extending of the lens from the body. I like how there is a macro mode.

This camera will miss focus sometimes, but I’d rather have a soft photo than no photo. Most digital point and shoot cameras will prioritize focus over shooting, meaning they won’t fire until focus is locked. This only adds to the feeling of slowness.

Overall, it is just fun to use and I never worry about it. The only worry I have is that if I do break it or lose it, will I be able to get another one? There may be an upcoming shortage of them which will make them more expensive. Olympus has recently sold their entire camera division to another company. That company started a brand new camera company and it is called OM Digital Solutions. Kinda lame sounding and who knows if they will continue with this series of camera.

Yes, you might need larger sensor, you might need lots of things. For me and what I am doing (zines), this camera went from a nice piece to a crucial piece of the camera collection.

All photos here are shot jpg with the Olympus TG-6. They are then converted and seasoned to taste in Photoshop. With the smaller sensor, the image breaks up in some areas. It resembles grain to me and I think that adds to the vibes.

I also like the flash, great coverage and more than enough power.

Lastly, you’ll notice there is some “blooming” in the highlights of some of these photos. There’s a softness and a glowy-ness to the highlights.

This camera does not come with a lens cap, nor does it have one of those self closing ones. You can buy one separately among other accessories. (Another reason I like this thing, many cool accessories.) The lens is simply encased in hard plastic.

Over time this plastic has gotten scuffed up and the glossy finish is wearing off. It goes in my pockets or bag and rubs against things. I have since been keeping it in a pouch when in a bag or backpack.

At first I thought I would lose auto focus, I didn’t. What has happened is it has organically turned into a diffusion filter and is creating those effects in the highlights. I like it. Cinematographers pay lots of money for vintage lenses or fancy filters or post production for similar results.

I have no affliation with the company and am not getting any commission or compensation for my recommendation. I just like this camera a lot and if you are like me and like to have a camera on you at all times that is not your phone, this is a great one for that. It’s durable, snappy, and weird looking. It’s affordable, fun, and easy to use. 100 thumbs up, A++, 5 stars.

Photos by Ray Potes

Mar 02 2023

How to Get a Photo Book Published

Photo by Ray Potes

I get this question a lot. It is interesting that the photo book is now being prioritized over commissions or exhibitions. At least according to my emails and DMs, but also just look at all the book fairs popping up all over the world in recent years.

It is asked in many different ways like, “Can you list for me all of the publishers that will want to publish my book?” or “What are the steps on getting a book published?” or “Will you forward my work to all of the publishers and ask them to publish a book for me?” or “What is the formula to get a publisher to publish my work?..”

Here is my answer – I don’t know. I am being serious, I have no fucking clue.

I have friends who have sold prints to museums, have had multiple solo gallery exhibitions, huge commissions, speaking events, etc. and still are having a hard time trying to get a photo book published. On the other hand, we have seen people shoot a few polaroids and get multi year book deals, billboards, movies, champagne, and limo service. The truth is there is no exact formula on getting a book made. It just happens.

Reminds me of a quote, “The first thing I learned when becoming an adult is that there are no adults.” I don’t know who said it, but it applies here. Everyone is just kinda best guessing at life.

There’s 2 basic ways that I have seen books get made – firstly, you know someone who knows someone. Secondly, your photography is so wildly popular that a publisher is confident they can sell a ton of your books. It’s usually a combo of both.

Let’s start there. A big time publisher will spend $20k+ on a book and guess what, they want to make that money back and more. They have an office, a warehouse, and a bunch of employees, designers, sales people, etc. Your photo book is meant to feed all of these people. And they will eat before you do, you will get your royalties when there is a profit. I mean this both figuratively and literally, they will expense their lunch on the project’s budget (your book’s budget).

It’s an investment/risk to publish your book. These companies hedge their bets by publishing 20 titles a year. It’s not that different for smaller publishers, if they can’t publish a bunch of titles at once, your book just might make or break them. Sometimes stuff sells good, sometimes not so much. Sometimes it is because the photo quality is great, sometimes it is because the economy just sucks. Either way, it’s a huge commitment. And I think it’s a long term one.

Ok, let’s best case scenario this – let’s say someone puts out a book for you. You have a few events, you give a few talks, etc. A year or 2 goes by, now what? Time for another one, time for another body of work. Similar to the music industry, “You’re only as good as your next record.”

This leads to my main point. It’s all about the work. Make the good work. Do the good work that magnetizes. The book is a side effect of this magnetism. The real question, “How do I get better?” This is a combo of studying and crafting. It is my belief that good work will get good attention.

Besides self-publishing our regular stuff, Hamburger Eyes has had 3 different book deals from 3 different publishers. Looking back now, I am realizing that each time there was some kind of momentum that preceded the book deal. Like each time there was a good run of zines and books, shows and events, commissions and collabs for a solid year or 2, and then discussions with another publisher started happening. (This is not regular. Some of our years are very quiet.)

Also, we were already somehow connected to that publisher. Someone knew someone who knew someone that had we had met somewhere along the way. It is inevitable to meet other photographers or other ambassadors of photography if you are actually pursuing photography. It is inevitable that someone you know right now will have a nice job one day at a nice photo related place of business.

Thus, a photo book formula based off of this freestyle blog – work your ass off, hang out with other photographers. Work some more. Show the work to people, anyone. Get feedback, work some more. Be cool about it.

Notice I didn’t say anything about pitching, pdfs, portfolios, cold emails, cover letters, etc. It’s because I don’t think any of that is enough. I haven’t seen it. Again, I really don’t know, this is all just my opinion. I think their board of directors have whole networks in place scouting and recruiting new investments, both big and small, you have to end up on their radar.

Something else to think about – do you really need someone else to publish your first book? Do you really need 3000 copies? Can you sell that many? How about self-publish 100 copies and see how that goes first? (Don’t worry, I am already planning a series of blog posts about doing it yourself.)

Yes, some people are naturals, their photos are amazing with little to no effort. They talk all good and shit. They are young and good looking. Publishers and benefactors can’t wait to give them money for multiple eras of future works. This is not the norm.

“Your first 10,000 photos are your worst.” – Henri Cartier Bresson

This is the norm. There are always exceptions, no doubt, but most of of us here haven’t shot enough. I include myself. This is not meant to discourage you. This is meant to hype you to go out and shoot more all day all night.

Feb 25 2023

Systems

Photo by Ray Potes

A few realizations are happening all at once for me. First, there is a education crisis on this planet. There is a shortage of teachers, they are under paid, they are stressed, they are leaving, etc. Second, to teach something is to know something. Meaning, to really learn something is to be able to explain it in depth. Third, if you are a couple steps ahead of someone, you can offer advice and consultation. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “teaching”.

That paragraph is mostly me sorting out my own trepidations on blogging about photography and publishing. I’m no expert, but people do come to me with questions and I want to be helpful. Thus, we begin a hopefully regular blog series answering questions that I get in DMs and emails.

Today’s topic is about creating systems to support your photography. I wanted to write about submissions, I will next, but it is important to have your files proper before you do anything. This is tactical. This is about what to do with your photos after you are done shooting.

I would say most photographers I know are somewhere on a organizational spectrum where one side is a spaghetti of unlabeled negatives in a shoebox to the other side where each negative is marked and filed into a dewey decimal system detailed database and backed up in multiple clouds.

Let’s start from the end. Let’s say someone wants to buy a photo off you. Let’s say its a 16×20 print. They will have questions, besides the who what where why when how of the shooting, there will be same questions for the processing and the printing. Sounds basic because it is.

Here is the system : shoot a photo, file it, process it when it is called upon for print or publication. Easy.

Here’s how the system breaks (very easy) : shoot a lot of photos, file only some of them, process only some of them, make prints zines and books and can’t remember which photos went where. Months go by, maybe years, and now a pile of unorganized work work is waiting for you and forever growing in multiple directions as you continue to shoot. Most photographers I know have some sort of back log that needs to be untangled.

Even with all the softwares and different organization methods these days, pros will still hire assistants just to help manage this. (As I write this I’m realizing this might be more about self discipline and this just might be a letter to myself lol. )

All this being said, we are artists, not robots. So what if we want to work off vibes instead of hard drives. I get it. But as a publisher, an editor, and a curator, I need resolution and I need participation on your part. (It is shocking when someone will send me lame files and when I ask for better ones, they cant find the negs.)(Origin story of this blog post.)

Here’s my suggested system (I am writing this for film, but it is basically the same for both. You can skip the obvious parts if you shoot digital.)(Also, note that I use the word “process” in 2 ways. Firstly, “process” a roll a film. Secondly, “process” a file in photoshop for print or publication.) :

A. SHOOTINGS

1. Shoot a roll.
2. Process and proof it.
3. Put both negs and proof sheets into a folder.
4. Label that folder with notes of what’s in it, month, and year.
5. Put that folder into a box or filing cabinet.
6. Label that box or filing cabinet with the year.
7. Repeat for incoming rolls. Keep everything grouped by month and year.

B. SCANNINGS

1. Pull a neg from the filing cabinets.
2. Scan at highest resolution possible.
3. Maybe some light editing. Little to none.
4. Save to a folder that is labeled with same month and year as was shot.
5. Return neg to filing cabinet.
6. Repeat for incoming scans. Keep everything saved by month and year.

C. PROCESS FOR ANALOG PRINTS

1. Pull a neg from from filing cabinet.
2. Go in a darkroom and print it.
3. Return neg to filing cabinet.
4. Make printing notes and shooting notes.
5. Place print with notes in a box labeled by month and year of date printed.
6. We can get into this later but I think it’s cool to have shot dates and print dates.

D. PROCESS FOR DIGITAL PRINTS

1. Pull up a scan from the scan files.
2. Prepare size and resolution in photoshop.
3. “SAVE AS” a new file. (Do not overwrite original scan.)
4. Place new file into a folder labeled with project name and month and year.
5. Stay organized by month and year.
6. Upload file to lab of your choice.
7. Receive print, make some notes.
8. Place print with notes in a box labeled by month and year of date printed.

E. PROCESS FOR PUBLICATION

1. Pull up a scan from the scan files.
2. Prepare size and resolution in photoshop.
3. “SAVE AS” a new file. (Do not overwrite original scan.)
4. Place new file into a folder labeled with project name and month and year.
5. Upload that new file to where ever or use in your own layouts.
6. Stay organized by month and year.

This is a lot, I know, but there is still probably stuff I missed. Here is a sample of how I am setup (I shoot mostly digital now) – I have an external hard drive with folders labeled by year. Inside each year there are 13 folders. One is labeled “PROJECTS” and the rest are labeled by month. In the monthly folders, you might see nothing, or just a few photos, or a bunch of more folders labeled things like “PHONE” or “SF” or “Oceanside”. I usually label things by location. I dump my cameras weekly, I dump my phone monthly. These files are the original unedited straight out of the camera files or large neg scan files.

In the “PROJECTS” folder, you will see folders labeled with all the projects from that year, could be nothing, could be zines or books I’m working on, commissions, or print files for an exhibition. These files have been edited and cooked up in photoshop, indesign, and whatever else. Obviously, once a photo is prepped at a specific size or resolution for one project, you can use it for another project with the same requirements. I like to save it in both places. Yes, it is eating up space but I don’t mind. You might have a project where you are using super old photos mixed with super new photos. I don’t want to hunt for anything and I want to see what photos I used for what projects regardless if I used them before for something else.

All of this can be tweaked for your style of working. It is when you are decades deep where these systems matter the most. People interested in your work will appreciate the easy access and availability of your library. Also, it’s nice to look back on a particular year and see if it was a productive one or not.

Hope this helps you on your photo journey.

Jan 30 2023

Tools

Photos by Ray Potes

Cameras are tools. They are an important part of the craft for sure, but asking someone what their favorite hammer is or needle nose pliers is not really a good first question. If you just ate something delicious, you wouldn’t ask the chef which frying pan did they use. Maybe you would but I think it would come later in the conversation. “Excuse me, did you use a spatula or tongs on this?”

This post is sparked by the last post about people asking me which camera to buy. What is happening is that I have assumed everyone reading Hamburger Eyes is already obsessed with photography which is not true, some are just getting started. I think my new mission in life is to keep you obsessed if you are already, or get you obsessed if you are not.

Part of the obsession is chasing a certain quality or fidelity or feeling, chasing that secret sauce. So you experiment with different cameras and lenses. It’s fun and it is part of how you “develop” technique and skill and vision. I am not trying to say it’s not ok to ask, I am saying it’s not ok to not experiment for yourself.

Don’t worry, in a future post I will list cameras I have used, am using, and hoping to use in the future. These photos here are screenshots of my IG page (@rays_reports). These photos are a mix of old and new, shot with Samsung Galaxy 7, 8, 10e, Olympus TG6, Lumix GX85, Nikon A1000, Nikon D750, Nikon F100, Yashica T4, Fuji Natura Black, and maybe more that I can’t think of. I am still experimenting.

The point is it doesn’t matter, just get to shooting. Too expensive is not a good excuse, there are good finds at swap meets and thrift stores. And we have published photos from disposable cameras, broken cameras, plastic cameras, etc