Photography

Photography: Competition & Success. by Christian Webb

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Someone asked me recently about my thoughts on competition to which I replied  “What competition!?”  Let me explain:

I don’t see competition.  I'm in my own zone.  I simply do what I do and do it the best I can.   I strive to shoot the absolute best headshot my client can get and use for their career purposes.  That has nothing to do with being better than other photographers,  it’s just me….telling myself, committing myself to being the very best at my chosen profession and then,  working at it to make it sure I deliver.   If anything,  I'm in competition with myself and my personal visions/goals.   It all goes back to what I always tell people when they ask about how to market or get clients:  

"GET REALLY F'IN' GOOD AT WHAT YOU DO! DO DOPE SHIT & THE CLIENTS WILL COME TO YOU!" 

I shoot how I do, provide a service.... and if people like it and keep booking me…that’s all I see.  There’s room for everyone to do what they do.   Some will succeed a little, some a lot.  Some won’t at all.  None of that affects what I do.  I just keep shooting, keep on my game and stay booked.  One of the components to our own success, is putting out the right energy and wishing success for others.   Anyone feeling that I’m competition for them or feeling a certain way about my success because it’s infringing on theirs…..isn’t competition,  they’re usually just people who haven’t put in the same effort I have and are having a hard time finding their own success.   So to those folks I say…”I wish you all the success you can imagine.”   

You’ll notice that the truly successful are usually madd cool with each other while the less successful….will often just…be on the sidelines, throwing shade or being bothered.  Think of it like this:  If a band and artist has risen to a level and is to the point of selling a ton of albums and/or selling out arenas, all they need to do is keep up it up as long as they can.   If a band isn’t selling records or selling out arenas in different cities,  it’s not because of the other bands out there, it’s because…well…..they’re just not that good.   So in closing I say to you….don’t worry about the next person doing what they do.  If you want success….get better at what YOU'RE doing and focus only on that.  If you find yourself still not successful……work harder and show more love! It'll eventually all come back to you!  

In the words of Jay-Z:

"Respect the game, that should be it.  What you eat don't make me sh-t!" 

How do you see it? If you found this interesting, feel free to LIKE/COMMENT and even SHARE. (just try not to steal or rip off my words then pass as your own.)   

UPDATE: So just to update and add to this post, it's truly amazing that some of the so-called "competition" or shall I say, "wannabe competition" trying to compete with me comes from Atlanta - A city that I don't even shoot full time in!  Atlanta is my 2nd city and I'm only there shooting every few months or so during a year.  Yet, there's always a clown or two wanting to compete with/for my business. LMAO.  That's got to be the most comical thing considering I should be of little threat to anyone who resides there and does full-time business.  The few times I'm in town,  I'm fully booked, I shoot and leave.  If the 20-30+ clients I shoot each trip are taking away from some other person's business, well then, that photographer has issues that go beyond me being in town.   For real though, that's not even me trying to be nasty, it's more a statement about the attitudes of people finding it necessary to compete.  JUST DO. Shut your mouth and shoot!  If you're THAT good, Christian Webb coming to town every now and then to shoot his clients won't have any effect on your business!  Not to mention,  when it comes to headshots/photography in general,  there are different styles, looks and price ranges.  The people paying me for my level of work are a totally different class of people than the the people looking for bargain basement specials.   I'm not going to get those clients paying my prices and a photographer shooting semi-professional, cheaper quality work isn't going to get my clients.  It's just balance and reality.   People, photographers.......try and live and get along.

Shooting A Don by Christian Webb

If you're a Brooklynite or someone who at least keeps up with the Caribbean dancehall and Reggae music scene, you no doubt know the name DJ Ron Don.  For the last 25 years, Ron Don has been a staple in the music scene dj'in numerous parties across the globe and putting out probably THOUSANDS of "mix tape" cds and party mixes.  So, having the opportunity to photograph him for some recent promotional materials meant having to capture Ron Don as the only way I could imagine - Capture him as...a Don! 

The location was a lounge in Canarsie called Trendz.  I had zero opportunity for pre location scouting and the only available images to give me a sense of the place were from their Facebook page which didn't give me too much.  So, we hit Brooklyn on a cold NY Sunday and just figured we'd wing it as best we could.  Had 2 hours in the place and had to work quick. 

1 Profoto head via octa for key and a Profoto Ringflash for some fill.  

The lounge wasn't too big of a space to work in but there was enough room for me to try and get the shot I needed.  The walls were all white, stucco and had a few round mirrors hanging.   For furniture, there was a bunch of faux leather red chairs and two seater love seats.  The tables were painted black wooden boxes with some dark tile of some sort for tops.    

That plain wall and all back there just didn't work. 

What was I going to do with those empty walls?  There were of course a bunch of large speakers sitting around.  My first thought was to create a wall of speakers right behind one of the 2 seater chairs and sort of surround Ron with the speakers.  Figured that would be great but as the speaker count wasn't what I thought, we couldn't get get it to look uniform enough for it to work.  So, I scrapped that idea and instead, figured....."hmmm...perhaps I can make a wall of tile using the tops of those box tables!?"  Okay, let's try that.  Dave and the other dude from Trendz who was helping us out gathered every table there and arranged them as I wanted behind Ron. Wasn't as easy as we thought but we ended up with something that may in fact not be too bad. 

Needed more tables to fill in those blank spots to the left and right there. 

D. Mack on the metering. (still haven't figured out why he holds a meter that way!) 

Got down to business and started shooting.  Few adjustments here and there wth Ron and we were jamming.   

And the image we decided to go with.  

But really though, gotta be all about them socks!! 

The Digital Don

And here's the natural light portrait shot I got before leaving. 

Was a good day overall. Ended up getting pretty much exactly what I wanted to get.  We did do some work on white seamless but I decided to scrap that stuff for now as the main shot nails it.  Got out of there and hit my old neighborhood of Ft. Greene for some seriously needed food!  Many thanks and shout outs to my assistant David Mack for the hard work and the bts shots.  Had him moving mad furniture around in addition to the photo stuff.  

Christian Webb - DJ Ron Don

Professional Photographer - Assisting? by Christian Webb

Hey, I made it to Broadway! On the Hamilton stage!  Side note: The Editor-in-Chief of Arrive magazine thought I was a dead ringer for the actor who plays George Washington in the play.  This was co-signed on by the art director, Lin's assistant and ......Lin himself!  "Dead ringer!"  When asked if I could sing I shamefully had to answer "not at all!  But I'm a hell of an actor!"  lol.  Not sure that's enough for a musical! 

If you're an aspiring photographer with or without any formal training,  one of the best ways to gain experience and learn the craft as well as business of photography is to assist an already established and professional photographer.  For students coming out of photography school (do people still go to school for photography?)  seeking an internship or assisting gigs with pro photographers is a good way to put their classroom training to practical use as well as get their foot in the door of the industry.  But what if you're already an established professional photographer,  do you ever actually assist another professional?  Is that taking a step down?  For me, the answer is no, that's not taking a step down and yes, you should most definitely assist if you have the opportunity and the situation makes sense to you.  

Last year, I had the pleasure of connecting on social media with editorial photographer Brad Trent who's work I very much admired and have been following for quite some time. If you don't already know who who I'm talking about, I suggest you go see for yourself and discover the dude behind Damn Ugly Photography.  While I do follow a bunch of other notable photographers, most aren't following me back.  So, imagine my surprise to get an Instagram notification that read: Brad Trent is now following you.   Cool.  I kind of figured for a minute that perhaps he just had a bunch folks running his social media and by some random chance,  they added/Followed me.  To my surprise, that wasn't the case.  I contacted Brad via messenger and he actually confirmed that yes, he followed me and the reason was because he admired my work. Well I'll be damn!  Cool!   We corresponded a bit more and I insisted that I shoot a headshot for him.  While he sort of agreed,  it still hasn't happened but it's an on going campaign that I assure him will eventually take place.  More important,  I made the offer to assist him if he ever needed anyone.  Wasn't too long before  I received a message from Mr. Ugly himself asking if I was available for a shoot!   Heck yeah! 

Meeting Brad and team was quite an experience to say the least.   I tried to explain to my wife what it's like by telling her "Imagine being a decent guitar player, relatively successful and you're asked by John Meyer or Jack White or Paul McCartney to do some gigs with them?!"  Yes, for me, it was like that.  What can I say,  I'm not so egocentric or too proud to admit being a fan. You should find photographers, mentors or whomever in whatever industry you're in and admire them, study them, learn from them and respect them.  On that note,  let me move this conversation beyond Brad Trent being a rock star and focus on the real message behind this posting.  (sorry man!) 

Annual Barron's Roundtable shoot. 1 day just to set up 3 different lighting set ups.  Only a few hours to shoot 10 people in each of those three set ups a day later.  An assitant's dream! lol.  You can read more on Brad's blog here: Damn Ugly Photography

As I expected would happen,  a few friends and such asked about me "assisting" and wondered "why?"  Their take on it was that I was pretty damn decent of a photographer and knew a whole lotta stuff about shooting, lighting and most things photography related.  I didn't need a job and I have assistants working with me sometimes.  I'm the one teaching. lol.  Why on earth would I go and spend time assisting a photographer as if I were some photography freshman?   Well, here's my answer - Because I'm still a photography freshman!  Regardless of how much I know or THINK I know and regardless of any tiny amount of success I have managed to achieve so far, I'm still just a guy learning, staying on my grind and eager to get to the next level!  That is something that will never end and it shouldn't.  If you talk to any real worth while photographers, successful photographers, the ones cool enough to keep it real,  you'll find that most are always in a state of learning and continuing to grow.  Old saying - You can never know enough!  As artist, we'd be dead if we knew it all anyway.  

Whole lotta lights!  Setting up to shoot 140+ people.  I think Brad brought me on board for my height and sheer brute strength! 

Another major reason for me wanting to assist has to do with a philosophy I live by which is to always try and surround yourself with greatness and the people in your field who are much, much more advanced than you. MUCH MORE!  I say it all the time to people - If you're a a tennis player, you don't keep playing tennis with people who are as good as you or who you can beat regularly.  You find tennis players much better than you with much more experience and much more skill who can whoop your ass with ease.  THAT'S how you achieve greatness with  your work eventually. So it is for ANY sport or whatever, so it goes for photography. Now, anyone reading this now may be thinking "but wait, Christian Webb shoots headshots, not editorial stuff like Brad."  Yes, true, however,  there's still much to be learned and the experience flows the same way regardless of the genre.   And, truth be told, outside of headshot photography,  one of the only other types of photography I'd ever be interested in would be editorial.  So, with no question,  I'm in incredible company.  Brad's been in the game for over 30 years. His experience as a photographer and the work he's done serves not only as an inspiration but as an educational resource unavailable to most. 

Richard Rodgers Theater.  Setting up for the shoot with  Lin-Manuel Miranda. 

Since first assisting with the Damn Uglies,  I've been privileged to work with some incredible people and be part of some amazing work.  The highlight of which I'd have to say would be the day we were in the Richard Rodgers Theater to shoot Lin-Manuel Miranda for Amtrak's Arrive Magazine.  Need I say more?  Hamilton!  Every bit as cool and personable as one could imagine.   An absolutely bad ass day and a true privilege to be amongst such company and part of an incredible shoot. 

 

Color check!  Broadway's brightest star (not me)...the other guy...the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda.   Photo:  Brad Trent / Damn Ugly Photography

Color check!  Broadway's brightest star (not me)...the other guy...the one and only Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Photo: Brad Trent / Damn Ugly Photography

Let me add one more story about assisting before closing.  The Friday before the latest snow storm, Jonas here in NY, I got a call from Brad asking me if I wanted to assist.  Not him, but some other photographer.  It would be a favor sort of as there was no budget and obviously, they weren't paying an assistant.  Okay, no problem,  I'd be in the city anyway and fortunately was available.  I made it to Go Studios early where I met some of the team. It was a fashion shoot for Ubikwist Magazine.  Soon, the photographer, Patrick Ibanez arrived and we immediately got to talking.  Took seconds to realize what a great guy I'd be working with and how incredibly cool he is.  We worked a good 8-10 hours that day and it was a great experience. Funny thing was, the studio put together a Nikon D810 kit for Patrick to shoot with.  He wasn't familiar with it at all and immediately told me his concerns and shared some of his anxiety.  Being an experienced Nikon shooter myself, D800/D810....I ended up being just the person he needed to work with that day.   Best part, I met some great people and connected with a fellow photographer who's really solid with his work and has an awesome eye. You can check Patrick's website here: Patrick Ibanez 

  Go Studios, NY.  Was a pretty simple set up for the most part. 

Overall, for me, it's about passion and loving photography.  Doesn't matter if it's me shooting or helping someone else out.  The experience, the immersion into the world and commitment to stay learning even the smallest things far outweighs ego or whether I'm being compensated.  So long as the opportunities arise and so long as I have the availability and the photographer is someone I deem to be a true professional and whose work I admire, I'll always be open to lending my time, skills and experience.   If you're a photographer, successful, semi successful, experienced, just starting out, finding the right photographers to align with and to learn from is one of the absolute best ways to enhance your own skills as well as build solid relationships within the industry.