Focus On What You Love

Of all the things I have learned over my career there is one that stands above all the rest.  Focus on what you love.  Bad shit and negative vibes are always going to come and go, you can’t stop it and trying to stop it is just a waste of energy.  But when you focus on what you love, when you put your energy towards the positive, the negative has less of an effect on you.  The road may not always be easy to travel on but when you know where you are going the journey is worth it!

Okay, so I’m being a little philosophical here.  But here is a very small example.  I was looking for a specific prop for a future photo shoot.  I thought I had found it, but the person who had it never responded to my email and eventually I figured they sold it to someone else.  After all, it was a killer deal but I didn’t get to it in time.  Instead of dwelling on the negative and being pissed that I didn’t get it, I changed my approach.  I did everything from searching websites for it, I even got notifications whenever someone would post in a specific category on Craigslist!  I did everything I could to make sure I didn’t miss the next opportunity.  And today it payed off!

Instead of getting one prop I got two!  You’ll be seeing them in the very near future, but it ended up being far better than the original deal I had found.  And this was me focusing on the positive and focusing on what I love.  I have been using this philosophy in my personal and professional life for the past couple of years and it has made a huge difference in my life.  I only think about what I want to do.  I then do everything I can to make it happen.  Sometimes I have to save extra cash, sometimes I have to come up with a crazy idea of how to raise funds.  Luckily I have some killer supporters of my work who help me, even if it is only $7 at a time!  But you have no idea how much I appreciate it!

Everything I have been doing over the past year is to get me to this point in my career.  I am pushing myself creatively and as a business owner/artist.  I am not a traditional artist so why I should I try to be traditional in the way I sell my work?  I choose to think of positive ways I can get my work into the hands of the people who want it.  Even if it is only the digital files, or a single print.  I have spent over 20 years working on my photography and I feel as though I am just starting to understand what it is I want to do with it!  I feel like I finally realize why it took Helmut Newton until he was in his mid 40’s to get famous!

Today was a good day!  Lots of positive things happened and I can’t wait for my next shoot!  Here is one from The Archives of Jessica, this was an awesome shoot!

Jessica Today by The Average Jim

 

A Mini Playground?

I have been loading more and more images to The Archives every single day!  This is really taking me down memory lane.  Some of these shoots were so much fun and I ended up meeting some amazing people because of it.  Others, well if I’m honest, I am happy to have only shot with them once!

This is an amazing industry.  You meet all different types of people.  And sometimes you end up meeting new people because of the people you just met.  This is how I got a lot of my bookings in the past.  I would work with one model, her friends were models and suddenly I’d book 3 or 4 shoots from the one I just booked.  These were good times, almost makes me want to open a small studio in LA, if I could find a place that was actually affordable in or near LA! HA!

Going through the archives really makes me enjoy what I get to do.  While some of these sessions I don’t think I would ever do again, because I have to be honest here, they were not my best work or the model just didn’t get the concept or both.  But the good far outweighs the bad!  I have a couple of shoots that I will be loading soon that I never thought I would show anyone, but part of doing things this way is to show everything I can.  Granted, I don’t upload private clients images and there are some images I shot specifically for one reason or another that will not be accessible in the archives, and then there are exclusive shoots which were done strictly for art and only the members of The Collector’s Circle will have the opportunity to view and purchase those images.

But I kind of miss shooting as much as I was shooting back in the day.  I’d have several shoots every single week, okay maybe I’d prefer one or two a week now.  But maybe I should consider finding a shared space studio in LA, after all, that is where the models are!  Maybe a little mini-playground away from the big playground?  Just a thought… I wonder if I could make it happen.  Anything is possible. ;)

Codi by The Average Jim

 

The Average Day

I have so much going on these days that I have not had the chance to blog as much as I have wanted to lately.  Between running a business, helping my wife run her business, booking shoots, creating books, uploading to The Archives I end up running out of time for the blog!  But this is my release, this is where I come to just be me and talk about whatever photography topic I wish to talk about.  Or what is bothering me about the industry.

Of course not too much bothers me about the industry anymore because I avoid it as much as possible.  It is too filled with drama.  People let their super fragile ego get in the way of friendships and always have this false sense of who they really are.  It is all an act.  I got a call from a photographer I met online and he had some questions about the industry.  I told him I avoid it and he asked me why?  I felt like saying because of conversations like this!  But he is a nice guy and he isn’t the problem, but the industry is trying to suck him in and that is the problem.

There are so many photographers out there who want to prey on other photographers.  And that is what the guy who called me is falling into.  Don’t be their assistant, don’t send them clients, don’t listen to the hype.  They’re all full of shit.  Speaking of full of shit, WPPI sent me yet another email (no matter how many times I unsubscribe) reminding me to register for the convention.  Trying to learn photography from WPPI is like trying to learn how to drive Formula 1 from a car salesman!  Yes there are some good teachers, but this place only exists to make money off of you.

This is why I only do one workshop every year or two.  I am busy being a photographer and it takes a lot of work being a working photographer.  And it really doesn’t always pay that well!  But it is what I love to do so that is why I do it.  Shit, half of what I do never pays unless I sell an art print!  I do a lot of personal projects and art projects.

I probably won’t do a workshop this year.  I am way more focused on creating new art pieces and getting my work in the hands of those who wish to own a piece of what I do.  To me this is what motivates me.  I don’t care about what other photographers think of me.  I do what I do.  And now it is time to upload more images to The Archives, making a living $7 at a time. ;)

I just loaded this shoot to the archives yesterday!  More on the way today!

Amanda Harris by The Average Jim

Self Entitlement Kills

It always amazes me at the self entitlement some people have.  I think part of it is the people they surround themselves with.  Last year I would not have blogged about this, mostly because I was trying to keep everything positive, which I still tend to do.  But sometimes you just need to get things off your chest.

I was in communication with a model in regards to a photo shoot.  Something creative that I had wanted to do for a long time and she had a good look for what I was wanting.  But then she hits me with “I need your email so I can send you the release I use.”  My first thoughts were, oh shit, here we go.  And I was right.

So apparently her asking rate of $650.00 is just to allow me to use her image in my portfolio, my social media and that is it.  I would not be allowed to use her name, even though she uses her name so it is not like she is wanting privacy.  But I would also not be allowed to tag her name in social media, not on my website or anywhere else.  I could never use the images for editorial (which does not require a release legally anyway, nor does art) but I also cannot sell art prints.  So basically I would be paying her for my own portfolio use only.  Sorry, but this is total bullshit.

Here is why it is bullshit.  I am not against models getting paid at all.  But for the limitations she put on the usage I can get agency models to test with for free and they will allow me to submit to publication most of the time.  And I can use their names! At least their stage names.  Why in the world would I pay someone for something I can get for free?  It is the same reason models don’t have to pay photographers anymore.  There are plenty out there who will do it for free!  We may not like it, but this is the current world of photography and modeling.

Of course she told me, or her “manager” told me that her commercial rates are much higher.  I do not wish to sell the images commercially, I just wanted to be able to use images in the legal way I am allowed to use them.  Not with her unrealistic limitations.  This self entitlement is crazy.  She isn’t a celebrity, hardly has a following, is signed to a very small agency (which I do not shoot with that agency anymore anyway for different reasons) but even though she does not meet the height requirement she does have a great look and poses very well.  But that alone does not make you worth more than 90% of the agency models in LA.  I have worked with celebrities who have fewer requirements!

Needless to say this shoot isn’t going to happen, and I didn’t really have the budget to pay her what she wanted anyway.  But the nail in the coffin was her own release.  Why in the world would any photographer pay someone to not be able to actually use the images?  Normally that is why you pay someone.  I don’t need an agreement to put images in my portfolio, that is a given with copyright law.  Oh well, I’m moving on to the next shoot idea and I already have models lined up for these shoots!  And they have just as good of a look and a far better attitude!  Can’t wait for the next shoot!

The good part is that I have a great history of working with incredibly cool and professional models.  This is what keeps me going and what makes me want to continue shooting.  I can honestly say that the good definitely outweigh the bad!  Plus I have contacted a major agency and they will be sending me models to pick from to replace this last one who I feel was unrealistic.  I guess I ended up winning in the end anyway.

Here is a shot from a model who was awesome to work with!  And she came with her own release as well.  Of course hers was a full release given to her by her management company because they didn’t want any additional things added to a standard model release.  True professionalism and a killer attitude!  She was also a Cybergirl of The Month, on Big Brother and has her own company now among many other accomplishments.  A good attitude and good management will take you very far!

Kimberly Kisselovich by The Average Jim

 

It is all about The Playground

Sometimes my ideas might be a little too big!  But I probably would not be where I am at today if I didn’t think this way.  I have a huge idea, no idea how I’m going to make it happen, but it is going to happen!  My focus for many months has been on what I want to do as a photographer.  A lot of photographers think about how to market themselves to book clients, while I probably should spend more time on that, I instead spend a lot of time thinking of new ideas and how I want to shoot them.

The Average Jim’s Playground is my pet project.  Kind of like my name, it all started as kind of a joke.  Everyone in the industry just knew me as Jim.  “Need a photographer? Just call Jim.” and everyone knew they were talking about me.  Now with the addition of about 25,000 professional photographers in LA alone, I needed to stand out, so I started calling myself The Average Jim.  The nick-name for my studio was “The Playground” simply because it has lots of fun toys in it!  So of course, sticking with my branding (the one thing I kind of do right) it was officially titled “The Average Jim’s Playground” a few years ago.

Now that I have closed my studio and moved to a big house in Palm Springs I have been trying to figure out exactly how to create a new playground.  Now I may have just figured it all out!  The Average Jim’s Playground is all about attitude, style and fun!  I have all these ideas for new props, how to use the old ones, including my beloved Mercedes!  I have many new toys I wish to buy, but not sure how I am going to get the funds just yet.  Crowd-funding is great but I feel like I have to ask for double what I actually need because I have to give out expensive products for people to want to donate to me.

Within the next 5-8 weeks I want to do a killer photo shoot here and have plenty of new props to use!  I’ve already begun to build new sets, test out new areas to shoot and hopefully I’ll get something I found for free on Craigslist!  It is all about timing and hopefully destiny has me pegged for this little gem!

I have lots of work to do!  So I should probably stop writing and start working! ;)

Chelsea by The Average Jim

 

The In Demand Jim

I never knew I was in such demand!  This has been an amazing week so far!  I’ve booked the clients I have wanted to book so far every single day this week!  Today just made it 4 for 4!  I’m not bragging, I’m just stoked!  I’m also working on setting up an incredible shoot!  This will be the biggest personal shoot I have done in a very long time.  I can’t wait, I just need to confirm the model and date and everything else is set!

I am also going through the idea again of getting rid of my website and just using this as my main site.  It is nice to have a gallery of images available on a traditional website, but I’m not always sure if I still need it?  I have this site, my tumblr, my instagram which I just don’t post enough on, and Facebook is basically worthless these days unless you pay to be seen.  It’s hard to stay in business when you need to pay people to view your work.

This is a decision I always go back and forth on, and honestly it is probably just a waste of time because it probably doesn’t even matter!  People probably don’t even care if I have the other site just as long as I have a place to show my work.

I think the trick to staying in business is figuring out how to not overpay for every single thing people say you need to be in business.  Why would I pay $40-75 per month for a website?  I currently pay $9 a month for hosting, and this is a free blog!  I’m one cheap bastard!  But this allows me to keep a lower price for my services and products!  I learned a long time ago that overhead can kill you.  But there are so many people who want your money.  Advertise here, buy this app for your business to drive customers to you, pay me $200 and I’ll make you $250, maybe.

I want to cut out the middle man.  I want to just deal directly with my customers.  Whether they are buying art, my services, funding my projects or whatever.  It is now just me and them!  So far it seems to be working for me, maybe one day I’ll make enough to have an assistant again?

Here is a shot of my former assistant, Robyn.  One of her sets is getting loaded to The Archives today.

Robyn by The Average Jim

 

 

Finding Inspiration Again

My last post was called “Full Throttle” and that was no joke!  I have been swamped since then!  Several shoots, clients, emails, and I’ve set up my Patreon site (linked above) as well as been loading thousands of images to The Average Jim Archives!  So far there are over 10,000 images up in the archives ready for viewing!  Plus I will be uploading even more every day I can!

I have to give credit to my friend and a model I have worked with many times.  Roarie Yum is awesome!  I was seriously burned out and was ready to take an extended break from photography, there were only a handful of people who I enjoyed working with and only a few clients who seemed to really understand my work and what I was going for.  But I had two shoots with her at the end of last year and I realized what I really wanted to do with my work.

Working with her I realized how I wanted to explore my version of art even more.  It is so easy to get sidetracked and want to produce work like other people are and to get published and be a player in the whole game of the photography industry.  But I was shooting some Instax prints with Roarie and that is when I realized I just want to get more of my work out there into the hands of other people.  I think I shot 40 or more instant film shots with her, no other digital images of some of them.  Just those shots, I of course made digital copies for myself and for my archives, but for the last of the looks we did I only shot the instant film.  This, to me, made them more valuable.  Not just monetarily but intellectually to myself.

While I do have some sessions where I have shot over 1000 images of one model, I also have some where I may have only shot one or two rolls of film.  And I’m talking medium format film where there are only 15-30 images from an entire session.  This is what I love about photography.  It isn’t how much you shoot, sometimes it is the content and who you shoot it with.

I had thought about selling the prints, but instead I gave them all to Roarie as a gift.  I told her to sell them, keep her favorites or just give them away.  I want prints out in the world.  I want other people to enjoy my work hopefully as much as I do!  This is why I set up things like my Patreon site and my Indiegogo campaigns, not just to make money, although that helps out with the whole starving artist thing.  But I want people to get to see my work, I want them to have copies of my work.  I don’t need to get rich doing this, getting by would actually be nice, but if I can get prints to people then that is exactly what I want to do!

I am no longer burned out, in fact I’m super inspired right now and even more motivated to shoot some amazing work!  I have some big plans lined up for the next few months, hopefully it can all come together!

Here is one of my favorites from my latest session with Roarie.

Roarie by The Average Jim

Full Throttle

I am in the process of making some major changes over here at the playground.  All good changes!  I have started a Patreon site, the link is above in the menu bar and I am really focusing on the art side of things again.  Of course it is my style of art, which isn’t for everyone, but who cares right?  I do what I do.  It is what I am good at so that is what I’m sticking with!

My boudoir work is changing too.  I’m making the changes on my pricing today.  I am also phasing out weddings.  I love shooting them but they just don’t fit with the rest of my business model.  If someone likes my style and they want it for a wedding, I’ll happily do it, but after this year they may be entirely a thing of the past.

I am also expanding The Average Jim’s Playground!  I’m making room for more props, some cool new toys and a whole lot of hijinks!  This could turn out to be a very fun year!  More updates coming soon!  Right now I have too much work to do!

Tracey by The Average Jim

Technology and The Art of Getting Paid

Technology is a wonderful thing!  People love to say how they wish things were the way they used to be.  Not me!  I love advancement, I love how there are so many new ways to share art and to create it!  A lot of people think that crowdfunding is cheating and not a good way to make money.  They say you’re not earning it.  I say bullshit!

If you have an idea, and you are in the process of bringing it to life, that takes hard work!  If you have a product and don’t know who to talk to about getting it funded or your bank or family won’t loan you the money, try a kickstarter!  The whole reason these types of sites exist is because banks have gotten so big and they won’t loan money to the little guy anymore.  We need technology to advance so we can keep artists working and paying their bills so they can keep making art and making life more interesting!

I can understand the old school way of thinking.  There are several new artists out there who do seem to always choose the path of least resistance.  But not everyone does this and those who do will eventually fail.  Unless they are incredibly talented, well then more power to them!  I think I understand this mindset a little better because I have never been a conventional artist.  I have always dabbled in the different.  Not the alternative where you try to be different.  I mean I will take something that is pretty normal and just make it a little off center.  I like things this way, it keeps me honest and on my toes.

I will be setting up another indiegogo soon, simply because I want to and I love doing new projects!  And I also have my collector’s circle which I have made some changes to.  I will also be setting up my Patreon site.  Personally I see nothing wrong with asking people for money to receive my work.  I would love to live in a free market society, but we don’t, so I gots to get paid!

Jana by The Average Jim

The Chosen Few

I saw it again today.  A post by a model now part-time photographer who was seeking a model to expand her photography portfolio.  But she didn’t want to pay the model, just wanted to trade services.  Of course, this model also does not trade her modeling services, she insists on being paid to model.  So she insists on being paid by professional photographers but she will not pay a model when she is not a professional level photographer yet.  You have to love the hypocrisy.

I hate it when money and art collide.  Either you want to create something amazing or you don’t.  But if you’re going to have such strict rules about getting paid maybe you should apply those same rules to others?  Or am I asking too much from people here?  I certainly don’t want to seem out of line.

It also reminds me of a funny story back when I was shooting a ton of portfolio work for models.  I booked a shoot with a model, this was a TF shoot, no money to be exchanged.  And a week before the shoot the model tells me she now has rates of $50/hr with a two-hour minimum.  Well I told her we already had an agreement so I wasn’t planning on paying her.  She said that if she didn’t get paid then she wouldn’t shoot.  I said okay then I guess we won’t be shooting.  She then sent me a message telling me that I owed her money because I canceled less than 48 hours from the shoot and she has a cancellation policy.  I never paid her and she still talks shit about me.  Of course this was the same person who insisted that artists get paid for their work, yet as soon as she started her own business she tried to get everyone to work for free for her.

This is so common in this industry.  Get something for nothing from someone who can’t afford to give.  Free shoots are not free, it takes hard work to do them well.  And “exposure” is not compensation these days, having 1000 likes on Instagram won’t pay my rent!  But what do I know?  Apparently the world revolves around a chosen few.  I’m just here on the outskirts enjoying my time and doing what I love to do.  And that is good enough for me. ;)

Kendra by The Average Jim

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