30 June 2021

Why You Should Shoot for Yourself More Often


Art Model, Melissa ©2008 Terrell Neasley

"The man who has no imagination has no wings."
~Muhammad Ali

One of the long-standing principles to personal financial stability and wealth creation is the notion of "Paying Yourself First." I like it. It basically speaks to saving money or putting some aside for retirement before you even pay bills or anything else and in doing so, the rest of your business will take care of itself. Developing the habit of paying yourself first is a good discipline that also builds into it the habit of being responsible and taking of everything else as well. Let me give you three good reasons to shoot for yourself, first.

Cultivate the Imagination

I don't think you will ever be as good as what you can be when you create using the resources of your own imagination. I didn't say you wouldn't make as much money. It's easy to jump on the bandwagon and follow the latest trends in photography. You can make money or get LIKES that way, for sure. A line of potential clients are readily at your door asking you do to something they've seen somebody else do because it looks cool. 

The latent possibilities that will net you the greatest fulfillment however will be in those original concepts that you derive from your own imagination. These are the culmination of all your years of training and preparation that come together to mix something new in your reservoir of ideas. My clients have been all the more satisfied when I presented them with alternatives for original content and concepts that better fit their ideals. The more you do it, the better you will be at achieving this goal. Cultivate your imagination. 

Art Model, Melissa ©2009 Terrell Neasley


Time is always of the essence it seems. You get a client gig and the expectation is to produce and render those results now. When do you ever have time to experiment, try new things, or sometimes shoot just to see what happens? You become stagnant when all you do is the same old, same old. You never know where you will find your new treasure. Venture out into new areas and genres of photo and just see what you can do. This doesn't mean you have to jump into subject matter you hate...just something different. If you don't like shooting sports, or fashion, then don't. But you can rent a new lens and play with some macro work. Find a friend who can borrow a light modifier from and play with it in new ways that maybe it was never intended for. Or better yet, see if you can create your OWN lighting. I made my own light wand with red and white light using cathode ray tubes and a battery pack, all attached to a monopod.

These are things you can bring back to the table when you are in negotiations with a client and he or she's looking for that new "fresh" look! That thing that no one else has. Something they've never seen before. But more importantly, think about the sense of fulfillment that you'll garner when you surprise even yourself by discovering that new thing almost by accident. Odds are, you will not make these discoveries shooting for someone else. No one can push your imagination like YOU can. Slow things down by limiting yourself to 50 shots or less. Shoot from a single focal length like a 50mm prime. Change your angles and shoot from either a high or low perspective. Regardless, change it up. Work outside the norm and the comfortable. Experiment!

Art Model, Melissa ©2009 Terrell Neasley

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."

Counter the Effects of Burnout

Don't lie to yourself. You get tired of working for someone else, sometimes don't you. Ever want to just escape photography all together... even just for a little while. Personally, I don't understand it but I know in other jobs I've had, sometimes you just need a break. In photo, that should never happen but I can see how it might come to pass. You spend all your time shooting for others that you simply get burned out. This is less likely to come about if you spend sufficient amount of time shooting for yourself. Make your own work the priority over shooting for someone else. Pay yourself first. Shoot for yourself first. Much like they tell you in the airline safety message, in the event of a decrease in cabin pressure, put your own mask on first BEFORE you help someone else.

Art Model, Melissa posing for figure drawing session ©2009 Terrell Neasley

Keep yourself healthy and in good shape and do the same for your photographic mind. Keep it sharp and exercised with new activities and fresh ideas. You, therein serve yourself AND your clients by staying fresh. You'll definitely be able to see better when your mind is renewed on a continuous basis. Mental fatigue is murder to the mind of a creative. Stave off that fatigue by doing your own projects. I could as easily add a fourth good reason: PROFITS! The better you get a feel for the industry, your trade, and your capabilities the better you know how to create your own projects and then market them via social media to your own benefit. This can be work that you eventually sell, or use it as an opportunity to showcase your wares. Either way, you can make money if that is something that is important to you. In any case your limits are self-imposed. Lack of gear does not create a ceiling for you. Its not the absence of promotion of exposure that shackle your ability to grow. You are bound to this world today by gravity, but it is your imagination that allows you to reach escape velocity and venture to the stars.

20 June 2021

Photographers! Are You Doing What You Love?


Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

I've been in this game for a while now, being serious about photography since 2005. At any given time, it's easy to get bored, burned out, or just simply tired of a profession, industry, or business of any sort. Its normal. Things can stagnate at any time. Monotony often sets in and you have to look for a little change in routine or maybe take a break to step away from your profession. In the Armed Services, we were all encouraged to take LEAVE time to blow off steam. Getting burned out could cause lapses in inspections of equipment or result in attention to detail issues.

I can't say this has been the case with me in photography. I am just as excited about it now as when I saw my first print come to life as it sat in a fresh batch of Kodak D-76 developer. And that was something in and of itself that you just couldn't get tired of. It was like magic. After careful exposure, and burning and dodging in a darkroom, a blank sheet of Ilford Fiber-based Variable Contrast Multigrade IV paper, suddenly came to live with the image you previously captured on film. I'll confess, though. I had my doubts when I switched to digital in 2007. I was a film purist because I felt digital took out the craftsmanship in which I made that print with my hands, manipulating light and shadow to make the final print. Photoshop seemed too much bits and bytes, and not enough of a man-made feel. I got over that the more I realized, its not so much the hands, but more the mind that creates and manipulates the light and shadow.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

I can't say its like this for every photographer you meet. I have met quite a few who's camera is more of a job than a creative outlet. They work, earn money, and that's it. No personal projects, just take the money and put the camera down till its time to earn money again. I don't begrudge them. That's their choice. As for me, I think I am still in love with photography for a few reasons, and you can do this, too!

1. Shoot What You Love

I shoot what I like to shoot. You gotta pay me a lot of money to make me shoot something I don't really want to shoot. I learned that when I first arrived to Vegas and acquired my first gig. It was for a furniture business in the World Market Center in Vegas for showroom ads. Shooting a white couch under 3 different kinds of light on the showcase floor sucked.  Granted, I still didn't know near as much as I do now, but I did it for the money. HATED IT! I learned that early on and it was a blessing. Shoot what you love.

2. Study Your Ass Off

I have an inherent desire to be good at whatever I spend the most time in. I study my ass off in most anything I want to know about. But for something I absolutely love, my study habits kick into overdrive. Its not always in a desire to be better. Most times, its because I have something on my brain that I want to create and have to learn how to do it. So I am in a constant state of learning to improve and hone my craft. Additionally, I don't stay on the same thing for too long. One day my thing may be landscape. Another day, its portraits. And then I want to kick it up and do extended exposure. 

The better you get, the more people you attract. I get other photographers who ask me questions about settings or maybe how to shoot something. I hated not being able to answer questions! If I didn't know, I'd soon find out. What's that thick black line that goes all the way across the bottom of your picture? Its a result of using a shutter speed high than the sync speed of your camera when using flash. How do I know that? I didn't want to be afraid of using artificial light, so I studied flash. So study your ass off.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” 
― W.B. Yeats

3. Don't Become an Island

I associate with a other photographers and learn from mentors. I started the very first Meetup.com photography group in Las Vegas. It was the Las Vegas Art Models Group mainly for helping photographers learn to work with the nude model as well as helping nude models get hired by photographers. I co-founded a more mainstream photography group, the Las Vegas Photographic Society made for photographers to help them network and grow their craft. Over the years, I developed a good reputation from sharing my knowledge, but also from increasing my knowledge with mentors, workshops, and online expertsSo don't become an island.

4. Don't Limit Yourself to the Gear You Know and Learn From Other Great Talent

I started working in a camera shop. B&C Camera, owned by my good friend and accomplished photographer Joe Dumic. He bought this camera shop when every other one was failing. He turned it around and this store not only survives, but thrives. He's enjoying his third evolution of the store. Joe has helped me immensely in my own business operations. However working in a camera store gave me the ability to tap into a knowledge base you won't find anywhere else. I was there only two days a week, but I got to learn about every new camera system that came out. 

Technology is changing all the time. Most industries can't say that. A hammer hasn't changed much since its invention. Devices capturing still images or video, and all the accessories that complement are improved every day. I tried out many of those new systems and got help from the best gurus from Canon, Nikon, Sony, Panasonic, Leica, and also GoPro, DJI, and Zhiyun-Tech. Anther great aspect is the customers I meet. I had to stay on my toes to help those beginner photographers get the right camera, fix their problems, and learn about studio gear and lighting set-ups. But I also meet professional people coming in to get gear as well. So don't limit your universe to just the gear you know. And surround yourself with and learn from other great talent.

Art Model, @Athena.Demos (IG), ©2019 Terrell Neasley

5. Learn to Play and Don't Be Afraid to Fail

I like to experiment and take chances. I know that every endeavor I take won't pan out. I'm okay with that. Sometimes I lose money. Sometimes, all my efforts are wasted; but are they really? Every time I do something that doesn't go as planned, its really a learning experience. I learn how to be wiser with my selections on who I deal with and how to prepare better. I don't mind small mistakes. And catching them early keeps the big ones at bay. Please don't take for granted someone's patience with you! So learn to play and don't be afraid to fail.

I could list several more, but this post is getting long. To add a few more, persistence despite rough times, doing your own personal projects, constantly looking at other great work, teaching photography, and traveling would be additional elements that definitely aid in my ability to stay locked in on photo. In all these years, photo has never been a dried up concept for me. And you know...another great motivator is that if you're good enough, people will pay you to keep doing what you do. Amazing, isn't it?