#125 Always a pleasure!

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper set the stage for a federal election on October 14th, 2008. Within hours campaign posters sprouted all over the region.

Driving home Sunday evening I stopped an extra long time at a stop sign. Ahead of me on a large campaign poster was a familiar face – it was my portrait – shot over a year ago for one of the candidates in the riding.

I had forgotten about the portrait, photographed in anticipation of an election forced by the failing of a minority government. Harper’s government remained standing and my portraits were filed away… until recently.

I always smile when I unexpectedly see my work proudly on display!


#124 New photo workshops offered

Dates have been set for two new types of photo course at HarryNowell.com.

1. Sessions Photo Workshop

It’s time to challenge yourself!

I have been asked to host workshops that span a period of time allowing students to see progression over the sessions. I did not want a classroom based course – imagine learning to drive a car solely from a classroom!

We will meet in central Ottawa/Hull locations to photograph a variety of challenges:

  • night life
  • street portraits
  • architectural detail

followed by a critique session in a central classroom. The flexible course agenda will take advantage of weather and available events. We will be shooting inside and/or outside.


Details: The course covers 4 weeknight evenings in November: 7-9:30pm. Very fun for photographers with some base photo skills! Cost – $250 + tax.

More details – Sessions

2. The Professional Program

I also get requests from people who want to jump the gap from amateur photographer to working photographer. This is a tough leap that requires:

  • good photography skills
  • good business skills – perhaps more important than photo skills
  • good people skills
  • patience
  • persistence

A new business is often depicted as an uphill battle! No one can ever guarantee your business success. Never. There are ways to stack the odds in your favour. This program is designed to help!

Uphill battle?
Persistence, patience and smart work = good business

The flexible year long process involves:

  1. Choice of five or more photo courses at HarryNowell.com.
  2. One-on-one sessions throughout the year to review work, set goals, discuss business practices
  3. Work experience – the student must arrange 40 hours of co-op work experience in an environment that meets their goals.
  4. Final evaluation and report – we review the student’s final portfolio that will be produced with a client presentation in mind. A written evaluation and certificate will be delivered.

The program also includes phone and email support throughout the year.

The course provides elements that will set the groundwork for a business in photography. We already have our first student!

More Details – Pro Program

#123 Butterflies and photo performance

Butterflies and photos

I am talking about the butterflies in your stomach! Some call it stress, performance anxiety, stage fright or nerves.

Stress on the job is a good thing – the correct amount keeps you sharp and makes you perform behind the camera. Too many butterflies will suffocate your ability to perform. There is a middle ground – you want to manage your level of stress so that you succeed!

Early on in my photography career stress swarmed me days before a big assignment. I would have bad dreams. I couldn’t sleep. I wouldn’t allow myself to go for a run, play soccer – good stress relievers! – for fear of injuring myself just before a job. It became overwhelming!

I remember talking to Dave Andrews – printer and musician – about performance anxiety. He referred me to Kenny Werner – jazz pianist and author of “Effortless Mastery.” His book is written for musicians but is applicable to anyone needing to perform. It explores the ideas of controlling the butterflies and allowing yourself to excel. How does Harry cope with stress and performance anxiety?

They are all connected. It works for me.


#122 Muisc and photos

I finished a shoot last week for Peter Foret and his big band Peter and the Wolves.

Peter Foret
Peter Foret

A shoot like this always has its challenges:

  • co-ordinating a large group of people
  • dealing with uncertain weather
  • limited location
  • very limited timeline

With so many people involved we had to ‘create some magic‘ with whatever was available – people, personalities, weather. There was little flexibility because of the size of the group. Studio lighting is always an option but limits flexibility further and increases time involved.

Peter and the Wolves

We chose a familiar area that had a few options or ‘contingencies’. A shoot like this can be stressful as there are few certainties and many limitations. Stress can trample creativity. Developing a trust that things will work is tough but crucial to performance! More on performance and butterflies soon.

The shoot went well. We had reasonable weather for the shoot. I am pleased with the results. The best part was Peter’s reaction – He was ecstatic with his new collection of promotional material!

That makes this job fun.


#121 The high cost of low-cost photography

Zoom airlines recently announced it has “suspended operations.”

Zoom is, er, was a low-cost alternative to traditional, higher priced air travel. Zoom offered budget flights and reportedly excellent service. Unfortunately, they charged too little for a good thing! People loved Zoom until they got stranded at the airport recently or, like my parents, paid for flights that no longer exist! Speculation was that rising fuel prices squeezed the airline more than it could handle.

What has that got to do with photography? The budget photo business model can lead to the same results as Zoom Airlines. Substitute low cost photo work for Zoom’s low cost flight service and you could encounter the same “suspended operations.”

soaring costs hurt budget businesses!
Avoid pitfalls with solid business training.

Pricing your photo work low can help attract some early sales but it can create problems:

  • client expectations of low cost work. Try raising your prices to sustainable levels after a year of low cost photo service – see what your client says.
  • little breathing room for unexpected expenses like equipment breakdowns or ‘high fuel prices’.
  • industry expectations – If too many people offer budget prices the new norm may be unsustainable wages for photographers. What you charge affects the industry!
  • price too low and your happy customers may be disappointed after they discover you have “suspended operations” because you cannot make ends meet.

Want to stay in business and promote a healthy photography industry? Discover a way to charge fair and realistically sustainable prices for your level of service! This will require:

  • educating your clients to the value of your work
  • saying no when dollars are too low
  • learning how much is too much for the customer

Pricing work is a tricky business!
Skip painful mistakes – Learn from other creative business people with the Creative Business Seminar in November, 2008.