I just finished reading "The Secret Sauce" by Rockie Lee this afternoon as I cuddled up with my iPad for an hour of quiet time. I started the book about a week ago and while it's only about 80 pages long it wasn't a quick read as the content (much like in Dane Sanders Fastrack books) takes a lot of quiet thought as you progress through it.
Full Disclosure: I know Rockie. Last summer we talked at length about photography, the industry and other more ethereal topics when I met him at Image Explorations. Rockie is coming to Nanaimo in a couple of weeks to speak at one of my Smug meetings and I plan on bending his ear over dinner and a beer (or two). So if any of the above disqualifies my opinion about this book in your mind, then that's cool. I get no money if you buy this book, though maybe Rockie will buy me a beer, you never know. End of Full Disclosure.
Now, onto the good stuff. This is a book for the rest of us. Those photographers living in the middle of the industry and trying to break free from the pack. You aren't already Jerry Ghionis or Scott Robert Lim and you are miles ahead of the Craigslist shoot and burner....but. Things aren't necessarily busting out for you. Your business is good, but it isn't over the moon. Nobody is confusing you with Richard Avedon. Rockie may know why and he is using this book to help you get there.
Now he isn't promising that reading this book is going to move you from 'middle of the pack' to being an instant Annie Liebovitz. However if you read, listen, think and apply what's in this book to your business it certainly may help you focus your efforts, narrow your market, and explode your brand. I've always said you really don't want to be a generic photographer. You'll never out Walmart Walmart. It's best to be known as really great at a very focused genre of photography. And you need to work hard to differentiate yourself from others in that narrow market. Nobody pays expert rates to a generic jack-of-all-trades photographer. They will pay expert rates for an expert though, just sayin' and I think Rockie is sayin' too.
Rockie talks in the book about phases in a photographic life or journey (the Technical, Inspirational, Transitional and Creation Phases), about the power of mentors and critiquing of our work, about Photoshop and it's impact on our creativity and about photographic style. He also breaks out his crystal ball and glances into the future of the industry with us as a wrap up to the book.
The beginning chapter of the book really caught me and I was thrown back into those feelings I had when I read Dane's book. I admit the Technical parts of the book through Chapter 3 and 4 weren't really page turners for me, but I read them twice anyway. It's often in these areas, where you feel you've achieved a certain level of mastery, that you ignore learning opportunities at your own peril. The rest of the book really caught me though and had me putting the iPad down in thought more than once. I never really hit a point where I disagreed with Rockie, even at times when I wanted too. He tells the truth, and often it's a truth we would like to object too.
Is he completely right about everything and is this book really the Secret Sauce? I don't know, but it's a good start. It doesn't hurt. And at $20 it's certainly worth the chance.
I'm just going to offer one little criticism of the book. It comes in a pdf after online purchase and doesn't size well or comfortably to read on an iPad. This is a major pain for me as it's my favourite way to read electronic content and I'm sure I'm not the only one. There are little charts in the book which are really hard to see. It does read well on a computer, though the page dimensions he chose are a bit 'legal' sized rather than letter sized which is a bit of a challenge. I did notice a couple of typos as well, but heck, I have a lot of those on my blog so who am I to complain?
If you happen to live on Vancouver Island Rockie is speaking at our Smug meeting at Oliver Woods Community Centre at 7pm on March 27th. I recommend coming early as it may be standing room only. Rockie is a super nice guy and a talented photographer so I hope to see you there to soak it all up in person. If you don't live here.....well there's always the book.
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