Last year, when I started hosting Smug meetings for photographers I convinced Gavin to make the journey north to speak at one of our Smug's and he did a really great job, giving us one of our most memorable Smug's ever.
Now, I've asked him to respond to 10 written questions I emailed him for this blog. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did and find the time to explore Gavin's art.
1. 5D mark III or D800??
Aah. Well it's a hard question. The MK3 looks like a great camera. A friend just got one and loves it. But I focus on wall prints, so if there was no investment issue (I already own Canon) and if the D800 turns out as good as people are saying, then I would probably say D800 because of that amazing resolution. We'll see what happens though. It seems Canon will have to respond soon, so I'm not switching yet.
2. Gavin you’ve been a professional photographer for a long time despite being a fairly young man. I think this gives you a unique perspective that maybe other long standing photographers don’t have. How generally do you feel about the photography industry right now in 2012 and where do you see it going?
It's interesting. I've seen it as the young photographer starting out. But also as someone looking back. At times I feel frustrated with where we've come and at the same time I feel sorry for those passionate people starting out. It's not easy. Not even a little.
I think we have a fad of being a photographer now. By simply owning a camera, people think that means they should open a business. It's hurt the quality of the industry and frankly, I think it ruins photography for a lot of them. Loving photography is one thing, but being in business and the hurdles it brings is not for everyone.
In the old days (lets say Ansel Adams era) there was a wide line between a snapshot and a great photograph. Both are valuable, but they are very different. Now days people want it quick and easy. They want to buy the latest camera and become a photographer. Overnight. So much so that being a photographer has almost become a joke. Not long ago people showed interest and respect when you said you were a photographer. Now they usually respond with. Oh ya, my son, daughter, cousin, etc is a photographer also. It means so little.
Right now it's hard. The market is over saturated and consumers have been confused. We are losing track of what a quality image is and how much skill it actually takes to do it well. The divide between a snapshot and and a fine photograph has turned into a tiny crack in peoples minds.
In time I think the fad of being a photographer will fade and while lots of people will have cool cameras, the world will once again start to see the line between snapshots and quality and understand that owning a camera means nothing. They will want something special on their walls and I think the photographers that train themselves to offer that can do well.
People often think I'm cranky or against newbies. Bit I'm not against anyone wanting to make it as a photographer. I fully understand. I just try to be realistic. It's one of the hardest fields to make it in right now. If you love it and want to take it on, I say do yourself the respect of learning your craft and doing it right. Because otherwise it's going to be a rutted road that will probably end in frustration.
Only time will tell. But the market cannot support the amount of people who are in the business right now. It's cold but true. So rather than hide from it, those of us who really want to lead the industry and stay afloat have to raise the bar.
3. You host a popular podcast (The Pro Photo Show) and are known for being energetic, opinionated and sort of nerdy (in a good way). On that show you’ve had several great guests. What has been your favorite, most memorable moment on the podcast?
Probably the time when I ate crow about film. I had scoffed at the idea of still using film and while many reminisced it's greatness, no one actually told me how much advantage it could offer in terms of resolution. Once I discovered that I fell in love with film and was happy to admit my error. I now use 4x5 as well as digital. I scan the film, the result of which gives me hundreds of megapixles of detail.
4. I note on your website (and truck for that matter) you call yourself a Pictorialist, not a photographer. What’s that all about?
I generally don't call myself a photographer because frankly no one cares much if you're a photographer. It seems to mean very little these days so I want to be more precise. I use a camera as a tool to make refined wall art. I probably sound a bit pretentious but that's not my goal here. The term Pictrorialist hearkens back to early American photography and in my case, is also inspired by 18th and 19th Century American painters. It's used to suggest carful thought out quality and not merely taking snaps.
I would in fact encourage people that are trying to raise the bar and sell fine wall prints to use worlds like Portraitist or Pictorialist. I feel it's beneficial to get away from the generic. I feel it suggests a refined level of quality. It's not just words. It's a mindset of how I work. As long as we produce that quality that our words bring to mind, I think people will respect that. I get people walking up to be all the time asking this very question. They rarely did that when my car said Seim Photography.
5. You create several Lightroom, Photoshop and Aperture products, all very good and offered for reasonable prices. Tell us a bit about them.
Seim Effects is a site where I post articles and workshops about photography and workflow and where I sell my editing tools. I make toolkits that I spend a lot of time refining and making more versatile. They're designed to save time, but also be flexible and give the user creative control. I'm very picky about their quality and proud of how well they've been received.
This project has been a real blessing and allowed me to expend my business in ways I never thought possible. Right now I'm in the New Mexico dessert and have been roaming in my RV for nearly 3 months with my family as I explore, record my new EXposed workshop, make pictorials and meet new people. The tools I make for photographers have allowed me to walk away from the studio now and then and I'm very thankful for that.
6. Where do you see Photoshop going in the future with products like Lightroom and Aperture growing in popularity. Do you see photographers at some point no longer using Photoshop and leaving it to the graphic designers?
Not yet. Workflow software like Lightroom, Aperture etc are great. But Photoshop is where the highly detailed refinement is. I don't have a single print on display that has not had refinement done in Photoshop. Workflow software does 90% of what we need. But that detailed refinement on things like burn and dodge, layers and the like is often what separates a good image from a great one. It could change in time, but I'm sure companies like Adobe will strive to keep these products relevant. They don't want to lose those sales.
7. What kind of coffee are you drinking right now?
|The Giants Court|
Aah you know me. Right now we're working thru a bag of Espresso from Cafe Luce, a little roaster in Tuscan AZ. When we travel we visit roasters and I have a coffee blog called epicbean.com. We find some amazing coffee in out travels.
8. I notice that you make a point about calling your work ‘Art’ not pictures or photographs. I know this might relate to the Pictorialist question, but what specifically separates the typical photographer from the artist?
This is a hard question. Though it does relate to the pictorialist idea. Nothing specifically defines art. But in practice I think it's a question of value. You can call anything art, whether it took you 10 seconds or ten months to make. So it's not really whether you call it art, but whether people care.
I hesitate to use the term "art" too much when dealing with clients. It's tossed around rather loosely in my opinion. I actually use photograph or pictorial more than art, as frankly it's more unique and descriptive. I'm tired of everything being called art. I know, it's subjective. Well in my subjective opinion, a lot of art is poorly made and that fact resounds in the fact that no one is buying it.
OK there I go sounding cranky. But the bottom line is this. From a marketing perspective I don't want to use words like pictures or pics and I want something more than art, because it's as overused as the word photographer. We are trying to sell a product of hight value to our clients. Pics are something phones take. Pictures are likened to snapshots. I know I'm being subjective now, but this is marketing. To sell a high end product we must establish a high end experience. I don't want anything in my presentation that will reduce value or desire.
9. Where has been the best place you’ve travelled to for photographs?
|Sunsets Hidden Falls|
Hard to say. My most memorial is probably in Utah. Open space, endless beauty. We found this high plateau with a pullout back off this dirt road. We parked a few yards from the edge of a cliff overlooking the entire Zion basin. It may have been the most breathtaking view I have ever seen and we setup camp right there. Sadly I don't feel I brought home any images that did it justice. But sometime I'll go back.
10. As someone creating really great fine art landscapes, what advice would you give to someone that loved landscape photography. How can they differentiate themselves in that market and how tough is it to make a living selling that type of work?
Thank you. Frankly this is something I'm studying myself. It's very hard and there are very few making a living with landscapes. My pictorials line is goring and I have ideas but it's profitability is still far less than portraits or my other projects.
What I have learned is you need amazing work. Not just nice photos of sunsets. Everyone is making those. But even more than that you need a presentation and a brand. Just having good photos on a website is not enough. You have to have an amazing product that people want in their homes and you need to build a brand that makes people want to collect your work. I have not pinned all this down so don't consider me the expert on the marketing side of fine art. But I have some ideas. I'm focusing on quality wall pieces just as I do with my portraits and In five or ten years maybe I can tell you how it worked. In the meantime you can visit f164.com and see what I'm doing. I have a very focused approach to how I present my work.
Bonus question: As a gear nut, like myself I know you’re really in touch with the photography industry. We’ve seen point and shoots die off in popularity to be replaced by camera phones (and a million camera apps), and we’ve seen the huge growth in the mirrorless camera market. Meanwhile DSLR’s soldier on with huge popularity. Where do you see it all going in the next 5 years?
I think mirrorless will become a big sector, but I think because there's more room to pack things in and SLR we'll still see them doing well. Frankly I would not want to photograph a wedding with a mirrorless. I want some heft. That size is often a good thing.
I also think we might seem some of the medium formats coming back. The industry has essentially downgraded to 35mm cameras and I think there is a market for larger format ultra high resolution images. I've actually started using the 4x5 film because digital is not even close to large film in terms of resolution. There's plenty of room to grow.
Thanks to Gavin for this interview, and thank-you for dropping by the blog again. You can find out more about Gavin here, and for those of you interested he is teaching