Last month I had the pleasure of photographing this cool new Argentinian BBQ design for a new client, Gaucho Garcia.  We spent a day capturing studio shots (I set up a portable on-location studio with a backdrop and lighting), and later that afternoon we set up an outdoor BBQ scene.  

 Their new site is up with my all images (including the animation of the grill rolling up), and they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign as well (accessible through GauchoGarcía.com).  
 
Check ’em out- the BBQ is amazing, the design is slick, the fundraising project looks cool, and the people are passionate and dedicated to the project: http://gauchogarcia.com/
 

All images © Sean Arbabi | seanarbabi.com (all rights reserved worldwide)


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.

13Oct

Photographs aren’t free


I recently received an email from someone claiming to be a writer for a how-to website. This person stated they wrote articles for the search site and wanted to use one of my images for their article (originally used from one of my Via magazine assignments).


This is normal in the photography industry, and a big reason why I own all of my images (and do not do “Work for Hire” jobs which transfer all image rights to your clients). I grant first-time publishing rights, and once my photos are used by my client, they are part of my image collection, available to license through my company or my stock agency. Some clients think licensing our images is ‘extra money’ but it’s not- it’s simply part of our income as freelance photographers – photographers with no guaranteed source of income, no benefits, no 401K or pension plans.

Getting back to the request, after doing a little research on my own, I come to find out this person was not a writer for the website, nor employee as a writer anywhere else. Instead the site relies on people for their content – it’s like saying you’re a writer for Wikipedia. And not to bash this person since most people aren’t aware of copyright laws, or the licensing fees for a photograph, or the proper way to go about obtaining images – shoot, I’ve had some editors and clients in the past who didn’t necessarily follow the proper way being in the business of licensing images – but pleading ignorance doesn’t necessarily get you off scot-free either.


Then as I researched the how-to site a bit more I learned that my image was ALREADY on the site – with the credit listed as the magazine I originally shot it for! They basically took the image from Via’s website and pasted it into their article.

At this point I had a few options – I could:

1) Contact my copyright lawyer and sue (which is the last thing I would do since mistakes do occur, and I’m not one to stick it to people that way)

2) Send them a bill for licensing, charging them a penalty for illegally using my image (this is more in line with the norm, and completely appropriate since the image was up for at least a week or two).

3) Notify the “writer” and the website were infringing on my copyright with the unauthorized use of my image and to remove it immediately or face a possible lawsuit and licensing fees (which is what I did).

The site removed the image that day, and at first the “writer” was a bit rude but after explaining the law, she relented and apologized. If they made me an offer to pay for the use, I would have looked up the licensing fee in my price guides, and charged them appropriately including the time they had already used it for. If she didn’t apologize, she would have been dealing with my lawyer. The site also tried to claim that they didn’t have control of what members uploaded- wrong- if it’s their site, they SHOULD have control – or they might get sued.

Moral of the story- your photos are exactly that- yours. If you are a professional photographer with your own business, they are not just sitting in your files or computer, they are part of your inventory. I can’t just go and take something off of the shelf at Target, walk out with it, and claim “it was just sitting on your shelf”. A lot of money, time, effort, experience, knowledge, and equipment goes into all of the images I produce- as with any business that has a product to sell. Control your photos – do your homework – purchase pricing guides and/or software like
Fotoquote or Jim Pickerell’s stock guide, and prepare yourself for the day when a client wants to buy one of your images- or one uses an image without asking for permission. And if someone tried to abuse your copyright, find a lawyer.

Irregardless of royalty free photos, royalty free art, royalty free graphics, and all the accessible work on the internet, my photos aren’t free.

30Jul

Taking a break from photography


As I was on a run this evening listening to John Mayer’s “Into Your Atmosphere”, I thought I’d write to all of you to talk a bit about taking a break from photography. This may mean a few days to some, it may mean a few months to others- it all depends on your personality and what’s going on in your life. Sometimes this simple act can work as a catalyst helping you push forward into projects you’ve been holding off on, or help you create new images you might not have thought of in the past.


As a person who’s captured images since I picked up my first camera at the age of 11 (now 41), I’ve been deeply engulfed in photography in every way possible – from planning and shooting my assignments around the world, to holding gallery shows displaying my fine art prints – writing a 50,000 word book on exposure, to organizing industry events for ASMP – dealing with all that goes into a photo business, to all the self-educating needed to keep up with the latest and greatest in gear and software – and now attempting to create tv show and be the Photoguru to the general public – it’s a lot to do on a regular basis.

And even though I love my career, a few years ago I began to burn out on it a bit. I was always aware of this happening and knew to get away and take breaks from it when I had to, but at that point I realized I needed to slow down on my shooting to find that hunger again. Photography tends to ground me from time to time and has brought a lot of peace to my life, but doing it as a full-time job is whole other ball of wax.

People often think having a career as a photographer is this great job where you travel and get paid for a living – piece of cake right? Far from it. Capturing great shots is a blast, but working on deadline, tight budgets, lots of pressure sometimes, all kinds of weather issues, as well as all the other major and minor details that goes into every shoot is tough. When I get just a one-day assignment, I have to plan that day out, make sure I produce the work needed within the budget allocated, and although some think “hey, if you don’t get the shot, you can always go back the next day”, that just ain’t the case. Your profits drop, expenses increase, and it ends up being an expensive hobby and not your main source of income.


After a few year of shooting less (finding bigger clients, more commercial jobs, and diversifying my business some to maintain the level of income I was earning) my excitement for photography came back 100%. I never stopped shooting, but I definitely cut back on the frequency. I’ve never been one to take a camera everywhere I go, and that too I feel has helped me stay fresh in my outlook of the art, carrying that jubilation of capturing a great shot whenever I do so.


And whether it’s jammin’ to Kanye while ridin’ my mountain bike, or leaving my cameras at home while visiting Lake Tahoe for the weekend, I believe these mental breaks have played just as big of a role in my photography as did the times where I had all my gear- where I may have worked 20 hours in a day to complete a job, or been two weeks away from home on assignment. Photography may be my job, and yes I love making images, but it doesn’t rule my life- the constant search for happiness – contentment – peace – laughter – that does.

So if you take a deep breath or sigh when you pick up your camera, find yourself getting extra frustrated when you miss a shot, or think you’ve reached a plateau in the images you’re creating, consider the option of back burnering your photography. Go for a ride, get back into running, or wait a while until a little dust collects on your camera. You might be thinking “What Sean? Stop shooting photos? Didn’t think that would come from you.” To quote Chris Rock in his last HBO special “That’s right, I SAID it! And I’m looking straight at cha!” 🙂

Remember, you’re not alone in feeling that way, and your passion for the medium will never go away. Happy humpday photo-geeks and geekettes.

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!


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!

28Oct

State of the Photo Industry

This is the nature of the photo business (read the link on Corbis stock agency taking more from photographers) – big business folk making money off of their power and off of photographer’s emotions.  


We need to stay strong, run our businesses LIKE a business, and say ‘no’ to bad deals- we preach this over & over for years & years, but it’s the only solution for independent contractors who can’t, by law, collectively bargain (it’s called price fixing)- but who’s really price fixing here?

Great to be a photographer?  Much harder than most think.

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.


15Nov

Via magazine cover

Just wanted to share my Via magazine cover in their November/ December 2007 issue.  Via is the magazine for AAA (Automobile Association of America), one of the biggest travel magazines in the US (2-5 million circulation depending on the edition), but many aren’t as familiar with it since it’s not on newsstands.


I shot this image last September at dusk, using my medium format Fuji 680 III camera, at the Treebones Resort along the Big Sur coast (just north of the Hearst Castle by about 30 minutes).  These structures are called “Yurts” and are circular canvas tent-style cabins, rustic but very comfortable (with heaters, porches, windows and beds). I waited ’til after sunset when the ambient light of dusk balanced with the interior lights from the Yurts.  Using a wide-angle lens and a two-stop graduated neutral density filter, I set my f-stop to a small aperture around f/32 and clicked the shutter (probably around 2 to 4 seconds) using film- then created a high-resolution scan to turn it into a digital file.

The Treebones is a great place to get away from it all and watch Whales migrate up and down the California coast.  They also have offer wonderful dinner menu with great cooks.  Call 877-4-BIGSUR for reservations.

01Jul

Making the best of every situation, Neat Image, Gorilla Pods, BetterPhoto.com, PhotoGuru.tv



I’ve started my Podcast through PhotoGuru.tv and iTunes (discussing all aspects of photography), and jump into a variety of issues for this podcast/blog- everything from a nice photo tip, to a cool software program plug-in called NeatImage (for Photoshop CS2 and CS3), as well as recommending fun new tripod for your camera called Gorilla Pods.

I also talk about the benefits of online workshops, and much more. Check it out photo dudes and dudettes….