Photo Consulting

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Student at work – Missouri Photo Workshop – Clinton, MO


How do you know if you have made a good photograph… shot a great story?

(Your mother’s opinion doesn’t count because she likes everything you do.)

You’ve been working on a project for several months and you need perspective on where you are — what is working and what is not? Most photographers work alone. That is the nature of what we do. But when you need to sort it all out, it helps to get another opinion.

What is missing from the story? What is the speed bump in the portfolio? We’ve all had a project that we had no idea how to edit, or how to order the photographs. But direction and honest assessment can propel you toward creating a body of work that is effective and reflects your best images.

Melissa and I have never worked in a vacuum. For years we sat over light tables with other staff photographers at newspapers helping to make a story more clear. Then we worked on broader National Geographic stories, editing various pieces on issues with photo editors from a magazine perspective. Some stories were shot in a few weeks, others over a period of years. On our various projects, we have become more skilled at the entire process, beginning with research and planning, then shooting, then finalizing and editing to put a narrative project together. It’s not always easy.

We may not have all the answers, but we can help.

We’ve done a lot of work for free.

I donate more time than I really have to a site I created for all the National Geographic photographers:

Why? Because there are things we believe in that are just worth doing.

We have donated our time every year for more than twenty years, teaching a week-long workshop — The Missouri Workshop (MPW) — associated with the University of Missouri, where we taught in the mid 1980s.

We enjoy passing on the things we’ve learned an experienced and what we believe and feel teaching is the best way to do it.

But this isn’t always easy while carrying on our professional lives.

Chris Hondros, a young photographer who died tragically in Libya decided to chronicle Randy for a master’s project while still early in his career as a student at Ohio University. Chris clearly wanted to be shooting, not interviewing, so he asked Randy to write an autobiographical paper. Chris planned to keep giving Randy homework – and the idea that Randy would do his masters project for him proved to be too much. But it left an impression of how and how not to deal with young photographers that need help, especially in this current economic period where photography is everywhere, but it is hard to get published in major magazines and hard to make a living. Young photographers have to do the work – We can’t do it for you, but we can help get your head and vision in the right place.

We get innumerable requests for help with university and high school projects where students are asked to interview a National Geographic photographer. If we responded to every request, and we would love to be able to, it would take a good part of our day, every day, and we still need to run a business and be in the field doing our work.

So we are launching this page to offer consulting for a fee. By charging an hourly rate, we hope to sort out the daydreamers and concentrate on the serious photographers.

We reviewed a serious photographer’s project recently and in that process mentioned that National Geographic editors look at every single frame we shoot. She could not believe it. A good editor who looks at every frame is just a memory at most publications these days. And yet the only way you can get into photographers’ heads is to look at every frame and try to figure out what they are thinking and feeling and how the subject is thinking and feeling in reaction to them.

We look at every frame a photographer shoots at MPW. And showing and commenting on everyone’s work at the end of the day often kicks in the afterburners for many young photographers.

As traditional editors disappear from many publications, some fill this gap by doing freelance editing, portfolio building, and contest prep like our good friend Mike Davis who works with Luceo Images and many other photographers. Mike was a student of ours at Missouri, then a great friend, and then an editor at National Geographic magazine.

So this is an experiment. Every month (that we have internet access – see Suriname post – sometimes we do not) we will set aside EIGHT hours at an hourly rate of $95 to help photographers with social documentary projects — photographers who are at a level at which we can actually give some benefit.

We can also structure package costs for a project with a day rate for our time.

We hope this works and that we will be able to refer the traffic from photographer and student requests to this page, and we also recommend that anyone seeking our advice would also benefit by going to the Missouri Photo Workshop. Where you may or may not have to pay tuition to the University, but we will be there working with you for free.