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.


23Jun

Twenty years in Photography

This month marks the 20th year as a professional photographer. In 1991, at the age of 23, I graduated Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Photography, eager to set the world on fire…at least I hoped to. A month later, after sending out 150 resumés around California with no job offers in return, I figured I might as well start my own business. I pounded the payment, I did self-assignments and got them published, 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….with ease. Far from the truth. You suffer, you sacrifice, you struggle, you have successes, disappointments, moments of amazement, moments of loneliness, all the while wondering where your next paycheck will come from….for twenty years.

Through all of this, I still can’t see myself doing anything else. My hopes was 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 shooting to keep myself fresh and hungry. I’m extremely proud of the collection of images I have – to be able to look back at my career in a tangible way is pretty rare – yet I hope to build on this collection and create some of my best images in the years to come. To use my knowledge and experience to be more creative and to grow as an artist.

I wonder what the next twenty years will bring. I’m sure there’ll be some suffering, some sacrifice, some struggles, and some success…hopefully that success will come in the form of a lotto ticket.

03Jul

You say Lacie, I say Lacie……rocks!


People often ask me what type of gear I use – whether in the field or at my desk. Today, with digital dominating the photo industry, I’m often asked how I back up or store the hundreds of thousands of photos I’ve acquired and store in my image collection.

Besides backing up a number of images on gold archival DVDs, I currently have seven Lacie hard drives – a 2TB, 1.5TB, 1TB, two 500GB, 250GB desktop, and a 250GB mobile HD (to backup memory cards while on shoots). I love Lacie, they have been fast and reliable for me ever since I started buying external hard drives, they work on Mac or PC easily, and their customer service is good- that’s hard to say in the days of crappy customer service.

So when Lacie came along and asked if I’d join there website as a pro who could recommend their drives, I said ‘you bet’. They provided me with a number of questions, and I’ve listed some of my answers below.

Provide a quote:
Being a photographer doesn’t mean just taking good photographs- you need to be a well-organized, reliable, likable person who connects well with others- and one who can be uniquely creative in a moment’s notice.

How did you your start as a commercial photography?
I picked up a camera at 11, always knew I’ be a photographer. Received a “F” in photography in high school, but didn’t let it deter me. In 1988 I enrolled at Brooks Institute of Photography where I received my Bachelor of Arts in Commercial photography in 1991. That summer I sent out 150 resumés with no job offers, so I started my own business combining outdoor, on-location, & studio photography- 19 years later, I’ve traveled the world capturing images for hundreds of clients, published thousands of times in numerous countries.

What have been some of your favorite events to photograph?
I enjoy a mix of subjects, all challenging in unique ways – from adventure sports to environmental portraits, from culture to landscapes, from wildlife to studio still lifes. One of the most amazing experiences I had was traveling through Borneo photographing an adventure race and subsequently capturing images of the Penan and jungles of Sarawak.

How has LaCie made your life as a photographer easier?
I always know my digital images and business files are backed up on fast reliable drive, easily accessible. Plus, I can get to large files quickly on any computer I own, as well as set up new hard LaCie drives easily.

Where have you been with your LaCie drives?
I travel with my LaCie rugged 250GB hard drive everywhere my photo assignments take me – from Los Angeles to Chicago, Seattle to Las Vegas – anywhere I go on assignment today, my LaCie portable drives goes with me. If I have a one-day shoot with a budget of $15,000, I must back up my images.

How do you see the world of digital storage developing and how will it make your job easier?

If Hard Drives last longer with more storage space – that is having a longer life (more than 3-5 years), allowing you to store more images (as it has over the past 10 years going from 160MBs to 2TB as digital files get larger and larger) safely.

How long have you been a user of LaCie products?
I picked up my first LaCie HD, 200GB model a number of years ago from the
Apple Store (after reading a number of reviews about the best hard drive). I’ve bought and own 7-8 since.

Describe an experience with your LaCie drive where our product greatly enabled your workflow:

Hard to describe one- my LaCie drives help my workflow everyday, accessing files from Adobe Photoshop and Bridge, adding images to my Extensis Portfolio database to track and reference thousands of images, and open original files hundreds of megabytes large straight from the drives. Backing them up is also very easy and simple, whether using software or dragging and dropping folders into a backup disk.

As the Photoguru, I want to recommend products I use and believe in – Lacie HDs are one of those products. I’ll soon add an article to Photoguru.tv as well reviewing my Lacie rugged portable hard drive. Happy Summer folks- use sunblock & wear a hat.