This year marks my 23rd year as a professional photographer – exactly half of my life on Earth. In 1991, at the age of 23, I graduated Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Photography, young and enthusiast, eager to set the photo world on fire…at least I hoped.  

A month later, after sending out 150 resumés around the West with no job offers in return, I figured I might as well start my own business. I pounded the payment, shot self-assignments and had a number of images published from those shoots, and through it all my business slowly grew. There were many months where I wondered how I’d cover my expenses, pay my bills, yet somehow I was able to.

 
Many over glamorize professional photography, especially travel, assuming you trek the globe simply clicking away with ease while clients pay you. Far from the truth. You suffer, sacrifice, struggle, have successes, disappointments, moments of amazement, times of loneliness, all the while wondering where your next paycheck will come from.  Doing this for over twenty years can wear on any person.  Sure you attempt to diversify your business, obtain regular clientele, and place as many proverbial eggs in the basket as you can, but with staff turnover prevalent in our industry and an over-saturated market, you consistently fight the battle to be remembered when a photographer or photograph is needed.


Through all of this, I still can’t see myself doing anything else. My hopes were always to lead an extraordinary life, and this goal continues to drive me today. I can’t wait to capture the next image, yet I’m willing to take breaks between shoots to keep myself fresh and hungry. I continue to love photography, whether I’m taking shots with my iPhone and funkifying them to share online, or produce a commercial shoot with lights, models, and a crew for a high-end client.  I’m extremely proud of the collection of work I have; to be able to look back at my career in a tangible way is rare. These days I feel I’m at my best, combining my knowledge and experience to handle any job thrown my way, and hope to build on my collection to create some of my best images in the years to come; to use the skills I’ve acquired to be even more creative and to grow as an artist, writer, teacher and businessperson.
 
As for highlights, well I’ve been lucky enough to be published thousands of times around the world on coves of magazines, books, ads, CD covers and websites. I’ve done segments on tv, captured images with Nikon’s first DSLR way back in 1995, hung out of helicopters, finished two successful books, fought for better rates and contracts for photographers, met many amazing athletes, and had numerous articles appear in most of the major photography magazines.  As exciting as these moments were, they don’t show the countless hours of planning, preparation, and execution that went in to making them happen; the stress involved or the responsibility I carried. But no career shows this, it’s part of the deal.  

Today, I received a review of my business from a recent client that hit the nail on the head as far as what I try to provide each and every customer.  It was a nice reminder of how hard work, honesty, and pride of ownership can pay off:
 
Sean is a true professional with a great photographic eye. You can’t go wrong using him for any of your photography needs. He immediately contacted me to work out a plan for our photo shoot. He is a great listener and took copious notes so that he fully understood what I was looking for with photographer services. He also interjected his professional opinion when asked, which was a big help because I was relying on his significant expertise. On the day of the shoot, he arrived promptly, set up his equipment and proceeded to execute on every shot on my shot list. Sean was able to shoot both indoor studio shot for my barbecue grill but also outdoor “glamour” shots that had a high degree of commercial appeal. Sean will travel to you, be forth coming about his services, and is very reasonably priced given his decades of experience in photography. Cannot recommend him highly enough.

I can only wonder what the next twenty three years will bring.  At that point I’ll be 68, with any luck going strong and sharing my love for the visual world with many. I’m sure there’ll be some suffering, sacrifice, struggles, and success.  Hopefully some of that success will come in the form of a great big giant lottery ticket.  🙂  But if it doesn’t, at least I’ll have something money can’t buy- a life well lived.


02Apr

Nevada 50


Old West Highway, desolate road, traveled one summer week,
Blue sky days, sagebrush seas, mirages from asphalt heat


Mining towns far apart, dreams of prosperity gone so fast,
Jets thunder over petroglyphs, native hunters present and past


Countless characters with tall tales, life engraved throughout their face,
From Austin, Stagecoach, Middlegate, Cold Springs, & Majors Place


I drive the waves of mountain ranges, ridgelines of Pinõn pine,
The type of scenery to help the thoughts depart a cluttered mind


This desert is often branded as a vast and wasted land,
I see its stark and wild beauty touched by a higher hand


2002 poem by Sean Arbabi while on assignment capturing Nevada’s desolate Highway 50

15Mar

Update on my book: The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure


Hello everyone! Just wanted to spread the word about how well my book is doing, and to thank you all for the wonderful support through your purchases, attending a book signing, and the great reviews! Me feel special.


MEDIA COVERAGE & AMAZON: The book was ranked at its highest today on Amazon (#9,068, up from #337,000 when it first came out!), #21 for How-to photo books, and in the top 50 photo books the past 8 weeks. Reviews on Amazon are coming in as well with two wonderful ones from A Obannon in NJ and the Midwest Book Review in WI – big thanks to both of you!). Add your own review when you can – the more reviews we receive, the better the book will do.

I also did a tv segment on The View from the Bay, two radio spots with ABC radio WKPT and Inside Digital Photo Radio, had a feature interview in East Bay newspapers, with many others discussing the book online, from Jain Lemos’ blog to Zoom Street (coming up in April). Popular Photography also ran an online “tip of the day” using an excerpt from the book. Listen to some interviews on our how-to site, PhotoGuru.tv.

BOOK SIGNING EVENTS: We had two great signings, one at Clayton Books and another at Borders Books – both in February. I have three upcoming events between March and June – get my sign on:

One in Las Vegas NV in two weeks (March 26th, Thursday @ 4pm at Casey’s Cameras), one in Walnut Creek CA (April 2nd, Thursday @ 7pm at Barnes & Noble), and another in Seattle WA (June 12th, Friday @ 6:30pm at Third Place Books).

Great locations for some fun signings – I’ll talk a bit about my photo career, how I came to write the book, show some images, discuss the content of the book, and answer some questions (and of course sign many books!). For more info, go to our events page on our site: http://www.seanarbabi.com/workshops_lecture.html

Want to buy a signed copy of my book? That will cost you big time. Actually you can easily by going to our site links (listed below) and click on the “Buy Now” link. If you have a specific request for what you’d like me to write (besides my signature), you can add the message there – such as “To the most amazing photographer who’s work I never reviewed”, or “To the greatest book purchaser in all the land!”.

Signed copy on my main site, SeanArbabi.com: http://www.seanarbabi.com/book_exposure.html
Signed copies through our PhotoGuru.tv site: http://www.photoguru.tv/store.html

PHOTO WORKSHOPS: I’m also teaching courses on Exposure on the web and in the field. If you combine all of the information in my book, with hands-on teaching allowing you to ask questions and interact with me (whether shooting in the field or getting critiques on your images), you’ll be well on your way toward improving your photo skills. People will bow as you walk by, camera in hand, and knowledge in brain.

I teach a 4-week course on Exposure almost every month at BetterPhoto.com (Better Exposure – How to Meter Light), and will teach live at two venues this year – Art Wolfe’s Digital Photography Center in Seattle WA (June 11-14th – Exposure A to Z: The Ins and Outs of Metering Light), and the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops in Santa Fe NM (July 27th –August 1st – The Art of Travel Lighting).

The past ten years, I’ve taught students in 25 countries and over 40 states around the US – a wonderful mix of beginners, enthusiastic amateurs, and just plain good ‘ol photo folk – sure, I few pain-in-the-rears in there, but I can handle ’em. For more info and new courses, go to our workshops page: http://www.seanarbabi.com/workshops.html


NEW BOOKS: Besides my tv show we’re working hard to get on air, I’m also working on two new books, hoping both come out in 2010. Yes, they’ll involve photography yet in different ways from my exposure book – no romance novel yet in my future. Keep an eye out!

Look forward to meeting you at one of my book signings or workshops, and thanks again!

13Mar

My images in Via magazine & Nat Geo Traveler this month


Check out some of my photographs in the current issues of a number of publications:


National Geographic Traveler’s March 2009 issue ran one small image on page 88 for an article entitled “Good As Gold”, originally captured in Downieville, California. It’s no cover shot, but it makes my Mom happy.

And in Via magazine’s March/ April 2009 issue published numerous images from Angel Island State Park, Death Valley National Park, and Yellowstone National Park (a full page, a spread, and a few smaller shots inside).

I’ve shot over 100 assignments with Via magazine, a publication for AAA (Automobile Association of America) – great editorial staff and one of the biggest travel magazines in the US (not on newstands, but over 2 million circulation). Support these people – not only will you get a jammin’ travel mag, but they’ll tow you in a pitch.

I’ve also been published in the past numerous times with National Geographic in their books, calendars, and magazines including Traveler and Adventure. I hope to do more for the iconic photo-driven publication in the future, including feature assignments if given the chance. We’ll see- I’ve have to send ’em a nice fruit cake this holiday season.

Also on Sunday, March 1st, most of the San Francisco East Bay newspapers (including the Oakland Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, and Contra Costa Times) ran a feature Q&A piece on my work, career, and new book in their “Career Path” section. Sure my chicken-mcnugget head in the opening spread isn’t pretty to look at, but I’m thankful for the wonderful publicity and hope the article inspires many.

Enjoy Photoguru-heads!


03Feb

Photo Potpourri

A few fun february facts, images to check out, and items to think about in the photo world. By the way, here’s a fun image of the Na Pali coast in Kauai, I captured from a helicopter a few years ago while on assignment.


A piece of news I got from Calypso Imaging‘s newsletter (a great printer in the San Francisco Bay Area, although I personally use West Coast Imaging– awesome printer)- 18 years ago this month, Adobe shipped Photoshop 1.0. That was the first year of my career, but in February I was a few months away from graduating college at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara. So although I had learned a ton about photography in college, by the time I graduated, a whole new world of digital was emerging – an aspect I had to educate myself on to keep up with the times. How Photoshop opened so many doors toward quality imagery. Now in the 11th version of the program (Photoshop 1-7, then the CS series, now at CS4), the software has morphed into something amazing and unreal – congrats Adobe.


Wanna see how unreal digital photography HAS become? Check out this 1,474 Megapixel shot of the
President Obama’s inaugural address, created by David Bregman, combining 220 images together in a process / robotic camera mount called Gigapan. The final image size was 59,783 X 24,658 pixels or 1,474 megapixels. Nice shot David. Wow- I’ve gotta try it soon! (click on David’s name to review the shot)

A hundred and seven year ago this month, Ansel Adams was born (in 1902),

and although he past away 25 years ago, the impact he had on photography is not only beyond measure, but well beyond what any other photographer has done to date. I never had the chance to meet him, but I feel what he feels about image-making. Here’s a wonderful photo of Ansel, taken by an amazing photographer Jim Alinder (with permission – © Jim Alinder) – to see his work and gallery, go to: http://www.alindergallery.com/

Have a wonderful February all – keep an eye out for me on “The View From the Bay” in a week or so, Feb 23rd, at 3pm on ABC’s San Francisco TV station, KGO channel 7. Then my first book signing event in Clayton CA February 15th.

20Jan

Radio interviews, News profiles, and the life of a working photographer

Wanted to update everyone on all the happenings around the release of my new book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure (out in bookstores around the world).


Lots of fun highlights, but anyone who’s a working photographer knows, we love talking a good game, but our job is not nearly glamorous. It’s hard work, frustration, long hours, feast or famine, tons of marketing trying to land new jobs, consistently reinventing yourself, and so on – and that’s after 19 years in the game. Regardless, my book is out, it was many months of work, and I’m gonna take the fact that the light is shining on me just a bit.

Inside Digital Photo Radio: Had an interview with Scott Sheppard last Friday on my book and career- it went great. If you’re not familiar with them, they produce this show (80,000 listeners) along with: Inside Analog Photo Radio, Inside Mac Radio, Inside Mac TV, and more. They have a large audience bringing thoughtful interviews and information on new gear, photographer profiles, and trade show news to the listener. My interview will be out on their site and iTunes Podcast soon.

WKPT ABC Radio (an ABC News affiliate broadcasting to East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, & Western North Carolina via AM 1400, AM1490, AM 1590, FM 94.3, FM 97.7, and FM 97.9) will interview me on Tuesday, February 3rd, at 10am Eastern Standard Time for their popular mid-morning talk show, “AM Tri-Cities“.

Bay Area News Group: The largest media publisher in California (4th in the nation) will be interviewing me for their Career Profile section, an in-depth Q&A feature on a successful professional. The piece will appear Sunday March 1st in all of their publications including The Contra Costa Times, The San Jose Mercury News, The Marin Independent Journal, and The Oakland Tribune.

The View From The Bay: ABC’s San Francisco affiliate station KGO Channel 7 will be interviewing me for their Bay Area tv show Monday February 23rd. Want to come? Need tickets? Visit the event on Facebook with all the info and phone numbers to get tickets and see the live taping: Facebook/ View From the Bay event

The Modesto Bee: One of the bigger newspapers serving California’s Central Valley will feature my book in their book reviews page this Sunday (January 25th)

JainLemos.com: Ran a nice blurb on my work, my book, our recent conversation, and my goals in photography- check it out!

Zoom Street: An online magazine covering the world of digital photography will be profiling my Exposure book in their March issue.

For more info on monthly happenings, go to our This Month page on our site: http://www.seanarbabi.com/thismonth.html or our Lecture & Workshop page: http://www.seanarbabi.com/workshops.html


Enough self promotion! Next blog, back to photo gear, software, tips & tricks, and more!

12Dec

Book Signing Events for my book – The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure


In 2009, I’ll be holding a number of book signing events in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Washington, as well as other possible US locations for my book, The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure (Random House/ Amphoto/ Watson-Guptill).


I’ll talk a bit about photographic exposure, share some experiences from various assignments around the world, take a few questions, catch everyone off-guard with a pop-quiz (just kidding), and sign books. It’s always a nice intimate settings where people can feel comfortable meeting the author to find out more about a book or a topic.

Bookstore locations will include Clayton Books (Clayton, CA – Feb 15th), Borders Books (Pleasanton CA – Feb 28th, and possibly in NV, NM, or WA), Barnes & Noble (Walnut Creek CA – April 2nd, NV, WA) and possibly at the Book Passage (Mill Valley, CA). I’ll also be in Las Vegas at Casey’s Cameras on March 26th or 27th.

Here’s a link on my main site to all book signing dates, locations, times and venues: http://www.seanarbabi.com/workshops_lecture.html

More dates will be added soon!

I’m very proud of the book, believe it will help many with their image-making skills, and it’s already getting great reviews on Amazon.com.

So mark your calendars, come out and join us, pick up a book to improve your photography (less than $30 – cheap!), and have me sign a copy for you!

03Dec

Photoshop CS4 continued and my book on Amazon.com

Here’s a link to my book on Amazon.com – it’s out January 6th, 2009, and sellin’ like hot cakes.  If you want to learn all about photographic exposure, which includes many aspects of photography that will help you improve your skills, pre-order it today.  It’s less than $20 and with over 225 pages, 200 photos, diagrams, and lessons, it’s worth every dollar!

And if you live outside the United States, there are over 30 sites carrying the book, in places like Canada, Denmark, Finland, ItalyNorway, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Moving back to Photoshop CS4, as I began to

 get up-to-speed on the recent release, my new favorite toy is the clone tool with now offers a preview of the clone before you ever click on an area in a photo – it’s fantastic!  Not only does it save you a step of cloning if the clone is wrong (in tone, color, subject matter, etc), but it also helps a ton with lines and patterns of any kind (branches, building, power lines, road markings, and so on).

More to come on all the new Adobe’s Photoshop CS4 features, as well as the rest of Adobe’s Master Collection!

10Oct

Self Portrait via Photoshop’s artist tools

I’m rarely pleased with shots of myself these days…who is when you’re 40?!  And although I’m gettin’ back into better shape (that always helps with portraits), I still look at images from my 20s and think that same ol’ thing, “hey, I was thin and wasn’t bad looking back then!”.  


But every so often when I get a nice shot, I like to take it into Photoshop CS3 and trick it out a bit for fun, using Adobe’s artist filter tools like “Cut Out”, “Palette Knife” and “Dry Brush”.  I know what you’re thinkin’, “hey Sean, you should be using the Blur tool with the radius on 100 dude!”

(By the way, Adobe Photoshop CS4 is on the way and I’m sure it’s only going to get better- CS3 advancements with exposure, ACR, and HDR were amazing, so I’m eager to see what they’ve added and improved!).

But when you go into the filters, there’s a variety of options in each giving you tons of different outcomes depending on the shot itself, the lighting, the contrast, the detail and the color.  It’s a blast to mess around with, and the results can be cool lookin’. 
Here’s one to check out – a recent shot of me in Vegas, digitally altered in Photoshop using the Cut Out artistic filter to give me a “Reservoir Dog” feel….I’m Mr. Brown.


06Sep

My book, "The BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure", will be out soon!

Hey photo-dudes and dudettes, just wanted to share info on my book, coming out this October 2008- here’s a description with links for orders and more…

DescriptionExposure. It’s essential to producing high-quality photographs, but mastering exposure is difficult. At last there’s the BetterPhoto Guide to Exposure, packed with Sean’s experience & knowledge, assignments, diagrams, tips, & illustrations, this 225-page book will put you on the right track towards photographic creativity & expertise. It’s like a full-scale photo course between the covers of the book–all taught the BetterPhoto way, just like photographers learn at the top photo-instruction website. There’s plenty of info on both digital & film photography, discussing how different file formats affect exposure, how to adjust digital files, dealing with difficult lighting, color correction, combining digital exposures, & much more. Hundreds of the author’s stunning full-color images make this hardworking guide as inspiring as it is instructive.

About the Author: Sean’s images have been featured in 250 publications & by 150 companies, including National Geographic & Microsoft. A commercial travel photographer & BetterPhoto instructor, he travels the globe & makes his home base in California.

My comments: I’m very proud of this book and believe it will help improve your photography by understanding so many aspects of exposure. Exposure is the basis of all great images, yet most are lost when it comes to knowing how to meter light. Once you read my book, you’ll have a great base to work from as well as a wonderful reference. Your images will improve & your post-capture Photoshop work will take considerably less time & look more realistic.

ORDERING MY BOOK:

Amazon.com: www.amazon.com/BetterPhoto-Guide-Sean-Arbabi/

Target: www.target.com/Sean_Arbabi

Yahoo!: www.yahoo.com/Sean_Arbabi

Amazon.de (Denmark): www.amazon.de/BetterPhoto-Guide-Sean-Arbabi/

Borders: www.borders.com/online/store/TitleDetail?sku=0817435549

Tower Books/ Tower.com: www.tower.com/details/details.cfm?wapi=111693950

Buy.com: www.buy.com/prod/the-betterphoto-guide-to-exposure/

AllBookStores.com: www.allbookstores.com/book/link/0817435549

PriceGrabber.com: www.pricegrabber.com/search.id=12228420

eCampus.com: www.ecampus.com/book/Sean_Arbabi

BAMM.com/ Books a Million: www.booksamillion.com/author&find=Arbabi,+Sean

Chapters.Indigo.ca (Canada): www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/The-BetterPhoto-Guide-Sean-Arbabi/

HeadHouse Books: www.headhousebooks.com/ISBN=0817435549

Blackwell: bookshop.blackwells.com/jsp/id/The_Betterphoto_Guide_to_Exposure

Munro’s Books (Canada): www.munrobooks.com/author.ARBABI_SEAN

Railroad Book Store: www.railroadbookstore.com/photography/Sean+Arbabi_Author