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Harris & Ewing photo studio

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This Harris & Ewing photo shows Kentucky Sen. Ollie Murray James, (1871-1918)
This Harris & Ewing photo shows Kentucky Sen. Ollie Murray James, (1871-1918)

Harris & Ewing Inc. was a photographic studio in Washington, D.C., owned and run by George W. Harris and Martha Ewing.

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  • Interview with Commercial Product Photography Tony Roslund | RGG EDU
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Transcription

(techno music) - Hi, I'm Rob Grimm with RGG EDU. We're sitting down with Tony Roslund today to talk about his life and his career in the photo business after we just wrapped a big week of your product tutorial. - [Tony] Big week, yeah. - Feels good to have it over with, doesn't it? (Tony laughs) - That's an understatement. - [Rob] Yeah, it is. - Yeah, yeah, huge understatement. - [Rob] Always have to have a little whisky with you. - It helps, especially after a week like this. - Alright, one of the first things I want to talk about is your history in the business, because you are kind of unusual in that you're a third generation-- - That's not the first time I've heard that. - Yeah, yeah, but being third generation is really cool. - [Tony] Yeah, I think so. - You and I know each other pretty well. - [Tony] Sure. - To say the least, but I think that the audience needs a little bit of history. I think it's really fascinating what your grandfather did and what your father did. It's really cool how you came up with it. So, will you share some of that with us? - Sure, yeah. The family has a long history in photography. My grandfather was a master photographer in Sweden and came over to the United States when he was a young man, and was trying to get work in New York, but at the time all of the New York photo houses were looking for interns, and assistants, and PAs, and things like that. They didn't want a shooter with his experience in there, so he had a hard time finding work in New York back then. So, he ended up heading down to northern Virginia, D.C. area, and he worked for Harris & Ewing, which was a huge photo house down there. They did mostly portraits and things, and he was assigned to Blair House, which if you're unfamiliar is kind of the guest quarters for the White House. So, he spent most of his career there doing portraits for dignitaries that would come in from out of town and whatever, foreign countries, etc. Eventually got picked up by the king of Morocco to be the official photographer for that. (loud crash) - Oh (beep). - That was awesome. (audience laughs) - So, our steer head just collapsed and shattered, but that's okay, I guess. So, we're gonna keep going. - It's not every day (Rob laughs) that a steer head collapses and shatters. - No, look it's little pieces. There's steer pieces all over the studio. - That was awesome. - King of Morocco, yeah, king of Morocco. - King of Morocco. So, he was shooting for the king of Morocco. He'd fly him out every few years. He'd do the king's official photos and then family photos, things like that. Eventually, my father became of age and started working in the studios back in D.C. with my grandfather. By this time, he had opened his own studio and labs out east. He wasn't working for Harris & Ewing. - [Rob] Your grandfather's business, he did his own thing? - No, he was working for my grandfather, but my grandfather wasn't with Harris & Ewing anymore. - [Rob] Oh, got it. So, he was working doing photos for the king of Morocco. He had opened a studio, opened a lab. My dad came of age, started working with him. So, now it's my grandfather and my father running studios and labs out east. Dad started going over to Morocco photographing the king. They photographed the princess's wedding. - [Rob] Wow. - Yeah, that's pretty cool. - [Rob] You guys have negatives of all this, I hope? - Yeah, yeah, yeah, unless they've molded out or faded out by now, but yeah, we've got all that stuff on file. So, they used to have to give proofs to the king, 16 by 20, mounted prints as proofs, fully retouched. - [Rob] I love that. Fully retouched. - Fully, yeah, yeah, 16 by 20 mount prints. Somebody would hold them up and the king would be like, "No, next." And they'd just go through them all till he found what he'd want, "Good," and then they'd roll. - [Rob] So, how many prints would they take over? - Oh shit, I don't know. Hundreds, yeah, it was crazy, yeah. But anyway, but back to the United States, so my grandfather was the first lab in the United States to process color Agfa film. There was nobody else in the United States doing it, and because he was bringing the supplies in from Sweden, so he had access to the supplies to process that. The only other color film in the United States at the time was Kodak, and you had to have special process to do Kodak film. Anyway, my grandfather moved down to Boca Raton, Florida with his other son. My dad stayed behind. Bought the studios in northern Virginia from him, and that's kind of when I got into the game and started spending time after school there, working in the dark room, working in the lab, doing some passport photos, that kind of stuff with my dad. And I learned a lot of it just through osmosis, just by being around photography. - [Rob] Absolutely, you were there every day absorbing it. - Yeah, everyday. I'd get off the bus after school at the studio and I'd spend my afternoons there. So, I learned a lot there that I didn't know I was learning. You really don't. You just kind of-- - Pick it up. - You're absorbing the stuff. And then I joined the service for awhile, and my father ended up selling everything out east and moving out west to San Diego area, and he worked-- - [Rob] After college? Did you do college? - I didn't do college, man, no way. School is hard knocks, dude, yeah. - [Rob] Yeah, right. - High school, studio, Navy, back into photography. There was some other stuff in there here and there, but... - [Rob] The Navy was kind of crazy. - The Navy was a little nuts. - You were in SEAL training. - Did SEAL training. I got hurt. - By an instructor. He killed you in the last week. - Yeah. - Hell Week, you made it all the way to Hell Week. - In Hell Week, yeah, in Hell Week. Yeah, it's certainly not the last week, but it's certainly one of the most painful ones. - Hell Week is not the last week? I thought that was it. Once you made it through that you were done. - No, they weed you out pretty early on. Either you get through Hell Week or you don't. Unfortunately, I was one of the ones that didn't. (Rob laughs) Whatever, I've grown because of it. I'd be doing something totally different now. If I'd made it through that, you know, I'd be, who knows, who knows where I might be. - What was the impetus to go in the Navy in the first place? You were already kind of established in the world of photography in terms of coming up through the family ranks. Why split? - Yeah, well, if your parents are attorneys, the last thing in the world you probably want to be when you grow up is an attorney. So, I was in portrait studios, and I didn't really know that commercial photography or any other photography existed other than what I'd been around. So, I just wanted to get as far away from that as possible. So, I went a totally different direction. My dad actually did serve in the Navy, but he didn't go through SEAL programs or anything like that. So, I did that. I saw the world, came back, and realized that I didn't want to be in the service. I didn't like people telling me what to do. Get up at three in the morning and push Jeeps, you know, whatever the heck. So, that wasn't for me. But, I did learn attention to detail, and I learned to be on time. I'm punctual. I'm usually never late for anything, which helps in what we do. It really does, yeah. So, I also learned how to run a crew. I had people working under me there, and I learned how to manage them and be a leader in that sense. So, it's helped me in my business. So, it's kind of a different schooling than going to college or whatever. It was more OJT more than anything else. So, I came back and did some odd jobs. Eventually got back into photography. - [Rob] Came back to? - Came back to the United States. I was overseas for a lot of that. - Are you coming back to Seattle? Are you coming to the East? - No, at the time I went back to San Diego, because the whole family had relocated. They had sold the businesses back east and moved out there. So, that's where I separated and met my wife. And we ended up moving. We wanted to get out of the whole Southern California lifestyle, keeping up with the Jones's, cost of living, all of that. The weather is great, but there's so many other things about it that were just giving us headache. We moved up north to Washington. It's a beautiful state. Cost of living is way cheaper. My wife runs a very successful private practice up there, and I'm able to get a studio at a reasonable rate. Trying to rent the space that I have in Washington in Southern California-- - It would cost you an arm and a leg. - It's ridiculous. So, it works out great up there. We like it a lot. We get the four seasons and all that good stuff. It's just a cool place to live. I opened my studio up there in 2008, and I opened as a portrait, wedding, baby, maternity, architectural, senior, commercial, whatever photographer. - [Rob] Just a couple things. - Yeah, you know. And I hadn't really figured out what it was I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to do photography, and quickly found that I didn't want to do weddings, I didn't want to do portraits and seniors, or maternities, or babies. - [Rob] How many weddings did it take to realize that? - Oh, I knew after the first one, but I've shot plenty of weddings. - I did exactly two in my life. I will never do another one. They were both for friends, and it's never gonna happen again. - Yeah, the last one I did before I said... I said I'd never do another wedding, and then my sister wanted to get married, so I said, "Okay." So, you she asked me to do it. I had to shoot their wedding. - Really? You got to be a part of that wedding. - I was, I was the officiant. (Rob laughs) I was the officiant. I was the photographer. - And the photographer. (Rob laughs) - I was all kinds of things in that wedding. Yeah, talk about being a part of it, yeah. So good for her. I was happy to do it for her. I'm not the best wedding photographer, admittedly, and I tried to tell them that. "Listen, I'm not the best wedding photographer," but I think it meant something to them aside from the cash savings that they got. - What do you think made you not the best wedding photographer? What were your limitations? - It's really, it seems like the same thing over and over again. It's the same process. Somebody that's been shooting weddings for a while probably knows exactly in what order everything happens every time. It's always the same. It's just two different people, maybe a different location. Usually, you shoot in six or 10 of the same locations all the time, so even that becomes familiar. With what we do, it's different with every job. It's always a different product. It's always a different scene that they want. It's always a different lighting look that they want. - Often it's a different set of clients. You're working with new people all the time. - Yeah, that stuff changes over. - So how long did it take of doing weddings, and babies, and maternities-- - Oh, a year. - To say, alright-- - One year. - Done. - Yeah. I got there in 2008, so by the end of 2009 I was over that pretty quick, and I was doing product photography. - [Rob] What did you start with? - I figured that was the next question. - [Rob] Yeah, what did you start with? - A guy walked in with a box of skateboard wheels, and he said, "Can you photograph these?" - I said, "Of course, I can photograph anything." (both laugh) - Of course you could. - Yeah. - Yeah. Scratched your head for days on that one. - No problem, yeah, yeah. Pure white background, sure? And I'm trying to light the product from the front enough to get a pure white background and everything. - [Rob] Oh yeah, not a good idea. - All the mistakes that, you know. That's funny now. Wasn't funny then. I was trying to figure it out at the time. I figured that was the way you had to do it, but a lot of trial and error. So, I didn't have... You know, I come from a family of photographers, but I didn't have them to fall back on for stuff like that. - [Rob] That's a totally different genre. - Yeah man, portrait and wedding is not product photography. But, what I did find out by shooting those wheels is all the new challenges that it gave me some independence. I was still doing photography, but it wasn't what dad and granddad did. It was a little bit of independence. It was like, "Yeah, I'm doing photography, "but I'm doing something different "that you don't know how to do," kind of thing. - So, you're following in the family footsteps while blazing your own trail at the same time. It's cool. - You got it man. That's it. That's kind of it, and I've always been that way, you know, a little bit of a black sheep. - [Rob] I'm the black sheep of the family, that's for sure. I like that position. I think it's a good place to be. - Yeah, I'm alright with it. As a kid, maybe not, but as an adult, I can deal with it, yeah. - So skateboard wheels, then it turns into what? How do you go out and start getting clients from there? You're in a new city. You haven't been there that long You're developing your new career here as a product photographer. What next? How do you go about finding business and getting people in the door? - I got lucky. I got word of mouth. So, the guy I was shooting skateboard wheels for used to own, before he was doing skateboard wheels he owned a suspender company, and the people that bought the suspender company were all the way on the other side of the country in Maryland. And they said, "Okay, we have this suspender company now. "We need to get photos done." He said, "Well, I've got a young guy here "who's doing some photos for my skateboard wheels. "I can put you in touch with him." And they said, "Great." So, they called me from Maryland and said, "We hear you're doing some work for this person. "We'd love to have you do some work for us." And I said, "Wow, okay. "What are we talking?" And it was hundreds and hundreds of SKUs. Way in over my head. No idea what I was doing. (Rob laughs) - [Rob] Baptism by fire. - Yep, that's it. And so they sent a few pieces out as test shots and they needed it on all white. So, I horsed around until I got some good looking images out of it. And I gave them a quote that was, I thought was way high, there's no way they're gonna go for this, and they didn't blink an eye. "Sure, let's do it." They boxed up a bunch of suspenders, sent them out to me, and I started shooting. In fact, I flew my dad up as an assistant. I had a little assistant fee in there, just enough to cover his ticket. I didn't know who else to ask. I didn't know anybody yet in the town really. So, I flew him up from San Diego to help me out. So, the two of us just kind of worked through the images and we got through hundreds and hundreds of suspenders. And to this day, they're still one of my favorite and best clients. They bring in, they do a lot of business with me still. And we've refined the process. We've worked it out, and I think hopefully we've made ourselves, we've leveraged ourselves into a position that nobody else can create the same images that we do for them. - [Rob] Yeah, you make yourself invaluable, right? - Exactly. - Why did you think the price was so high? Was it completely because you didn't have experience? - Yeah, well, both. I didn't have experience at this for one, and two, it's more than I'd ever made on any job previously. I just wasn't charging... I think it was a five figure job. It was my first five figure job, and this was my second commercial job. And I'm like, "This is nuts. "Nobody is gonna pay me this much." And when you're used to getting $100 or $200 for senior sessions or something, it's just not-- - Yeah. - You know, so. - I think that's a really hard thing for people to do is to figure out the value of their photography, like what do I really charge? And you and I have talked about this a lot. You've called me for advice over the years trying to figure out exactly where to place your numbers. At this time, did you know what other people were charging? You just kind of were winging it? - Yeah, totally winging it, man. I don't even remember how I came up with the pricing for that. I think I figured out... I jumped online and grabbed a cost of doing business calculator. And I had a studio, and I had some equipment, and some cameras and things. So, I put all that stuff in there and I kind of figured out what I needed to make per day, and I figured out what I thought I could shoot in a day as far as the number of suspenders, and then I finally came up with a number, and it came up to be a huge number. And I said, "This is what it's gonna cost." And I thought, "I'll never see that job," but they went for it, and they're still going for it. - [Rob] So, do you think that it was undervalued? - That first shoot? - Yes. - Oh yeah. - [Rob] It's such a value for them they're like... - Oh yeah. I mean looking back at it now I'm like I could've charged them three times and it still would've been a deal, you know? And I've raised my prices over the years with them. And it was a simple conversation like, "When I started this "it was a different process, a different time. "I was in a different point in my career. "At this point doing catalog photography of suspenders "is time consuming. "I've worked out the process to make it more efficient, "but still I think there's more value there "than what I'm charging. "If I need to continue growing my business, "and making money, and supporting staff "and things like that, I've got to charge more money." And if they walked, I would've understood. - That's a hard conversation to have. - It's a terrible conversation to have, but they were understanding. They're good people. I try to work with good clients, and fortunately these are great clients, and they understood. They're running a business, too. And they said, "We get it. "Whatever you think is fair "we trust you that you're gonna be fair with us, "and we'll be fair with you." - [Rob] That's the right kind of client to have. - Yeah, yeah, it's pretty awesome. - Yeah, it is. So, you go into suspenders. It just starts going from there. - Yeah, still word of mouth. Gosh, what came after that? I'm trying to remember. You know, I started shooting for portfolio stuff. I started shooting interesting stuff for portfolio. I'm thinking, "Okay, I'm doing all this. "I'm making decent money now. "Bring on the ad agencies. "Where are they all? "Why aren't they knocking down my door yet?" - [Rob] Because they don't know about you. - Yeah, they don't know about me yet. So, the next one was an e-cigarette company. They had seen some of the images that I had of skateboard wheels and suspenders. And then I had shot a few things for my own book, and we'd taken all that stuff and put it together. I say we, but I mean me. I took all that stuff and put it together, built a website with this stuff on it, and so I got an electronic cigarette company, who was just at the time one kiosk in a mall. And they were selling these electronic cigarettes they were ordering from wherever and having a brand for their company. Now they're a huge company. They have like a dozen stores. They do multimillions of dollars every year, and they're still using me for all their catalog photography. So, that's what I've been fortunate with is getting in with these companies when they're small and growing with them, and they continue to use me because we were fair to each other through the entire growth process. They're watching me grow. I'm watching them grow. We're both benefiting from each other. - And it's building a relationship, which I say all the time, that's what this business is. - [Tony] Yeah, absolutely. - You've got to build this relationship. Here you've got the suspender company that was like your second job, your first real big job, the money freaked you out, and you've been able to not only give them the work that they want and need, but you guys have built this nice relationship and demand respect from each other, and elevate your fees as you continue to work together year after year after year. - Yep, you got it. That's exactly how it's going. - Which by the way, that's the perfect success story. That's exactly what people need to strive for in this business. What you're doing is exactly what they need. - Yeah, I mean not everybody is an overnight success. You don't go out and land some big company on day one and you're working in the ad world from then on. It's rare. There's a few people that get that. But, I think it's important for people to understand that you got to start somewhere, and if you start small, and you're fair to people, and you're doing good work, that reputation is gonna build. You're gonna build those relationships, and those companies could grow into big companies. And it's fortunately what it's been for us is just little companies growing into big companies, and when the big companies talk to other big companies we pick up business from there. So now, it's not small companies talking to small companies anymore. These companies are big companies, and they're telling other big companies. So, the work is bigger now and we're at a bigger and bigger level. It's good. - Sounds like the majority of your work comes from word of mouth, not advertising so much. Social media you have, but word of mouth is far and away the best for you. - Yeah, I'd say a good 70 to 80 percent of our work is word of mouth. - I would say that when I started all of it was word of mouth. It was one of those things you really had to... I had to knock on a lot of doors, but I came up through another studio and was working with some of their lower echelon clients, and it was word of mouth. You cannot undervalue that in any respect. It's amazing what the power of word of mouth can do for building a photography group. - Yeah, and other photographers, funny enough, refer clients our way, too. - [Rob] That's good. - I've got relationships with other photographers who don't do product work, don't do commercial work. They do babies and bellies, or weddings or whatever, and if I somebody that says, "Hey, do you do weddings?" I say, "No, but XYZ does," and I refer them. And when XYZ gets somebody asking if they can shoot products they go, "No, but this guy does," and they refer them to me. So, there's a little bit of a networking going on just among photographers. - Yeah, it's a great point. Every city has a photo community, and in some cities they're really paranoid and they don't want to talk to each other. - Right. - And in other cities they're open and it's like... I know people who are open and will refer back and forth. They get more work. - [Tony] Yeah. - We're in the same boat. - It's silly, isn't it? - You're right, it is. See, we're in the same boat. Let's help each other out, right. - [Tony] You're right, yeah. - Why try to drown each other? - Yeah, it's really a silly idea. Same thing with sharing information. I know when I was talking about doing this tutorial with others they were like, "You're gonna tell people all this stuff? "Aren't you worried about losing business from that?" No, I want people to start creating better images. - [Rob] Absolutely. A, I'm tired of looking at crappy images, and B-- - [Rob] There's a lot out there. - Yeah, and B, I think that the more that clients see good imagery, the more there's gonna be a demand for it, and then we can all make more money, at least that's the hope. Maybe I'm wrong. Time will tell. - How big is Spokane? - Quarter million proper, about a half a million greater. - Small market. You feel comfortable within a small market, starting, expanding out. Now you're moving into Seattle. How is that shaping up? What's that plan like for you? - It's a little intimidating, because I don't have a whole lot of connections in Seattle. But, I feel that we've grown to a point, or at least my skills have grown to a point, that I would be very competitive in that marketplace. So, now I'm comfortable spending the money that I need to to get into that marketplace. If I'd gone over there when I got that first suspender gig, it would've been a waste. I would've been annihilated. - Right, you would've flamed out rather. - Flamed out, whatever you want to put with that. It wouldn't have been a success story. It would've just been... It probably would've broke me to be honest. I would've invested money over there spinning my wheels trying to get business that I wouldn't have got and I'd probably be out of business. We're at a point now where we are, we've maxed out what we can do in our area as far as the client base there that can afford us, to be honest. So, we need to move out of that area so that we can open up our business to a client base that can afford to pay what we're charging to do work the right way. - The reason I bring that up is it speaks about growth. You've been patient. You learned your market. You did word of mouth in your market. You went out there, did a good job for people, and started to grow and grow and grow, and now you can reach into a bigger market. I had the same experience with St. Louis and going into Chicago. - [Tony] You've been there. - Been there, and I want other people to know that it takes time. This is not something you do overnight. You have to be incredibly patient in this business-- - [Tony] Very much so. - Or you are not gonna get there. - No, no, you're just gonna crash and burn. - There are a few people that like seem to come out of nowhere and make it big, but they are few and far between, like literally one in a million. - It's not the norm by any means. - Oh my God, no. - We're gonna go over there. We've got a studio that we're looking at we're negotiating on right now. So, if all that comes through we should be there early 2015. And I'm working on a new book. Trying to get that all done. - [Rob] New book? - New book, trying to get a new book together. Get some new imagery done. We're working with some new cameras and things that we got, and we're gonna try to put together this new book with some really cool imagery that we haven't shared anywhere yet, and just start taking that around and showing it to the Seattle market. I want to make them the first ones to see this stuff. - How much time do you spend working on your book? I think a lot of people have the perception that when a photographer gets busy they're just shooting all the time, which isn't the case. - I wish. - We work quite a bit, but then we're accounting quite a bit, and we're working on a portfolio, and we're planning. So, how does your life break down in terms of how much are you shooting, how much are you working on your book, how much are you planning? - Not enough of any of that. (Rob laughs) There's not enough time in the day, man. There's just not enough time in the day. It seems that as your business grows you get behind the camera less and less. I spend more time paperwork, accounting, running a crew, trying to keep those relationships built, trying to put together estimates and invoices, and trying to handle the payroll, and all the other stuff that goes along with running a business, and I spend less time behind the camera. I'd like to say that X percent of my time is towards my book, but it's really whenever I can squeeze it in, you know? If I'm shooting for a client on a project and I have a hot set, I might try to work one of my own ideas in after the fact and use that time, try to be efficient with what we already have going on. - How many images that wind up in your portfolio do you think come from jobs versus sitting down and doing a portfolio? - I'm gonna say probably 30% of my book is actual commission work. The other 70% is just my own mind to pixels trying to get stuff out on print. - Mind to pixels, I like that phrase. Is that an original Tony Roslund? - [Tony] Yeah, just on the spot right now. We might improve it by the time the interview is done. Maybe I can come up with something better, but you know. - It's hard to quantify. I think I'm probably behind the camera less than 20% of the time, far less. - Yeah. - I would think. - Yeah, yeah, I mean if you're talking about how much time I spend behind the camera, yeah, it's-- - It's almost weird. - Yeah. - Because you get into this business to have a camera in your hand, but you got to run a business, which means you got to put the camera down. - Yeah, and we've just hired a second shooter who's handling a lot of the catalog photography stuff sorry to say, like the suspender gig, the e-cig gigs, that stuff. I'm not shooting it anymore. - Why sorry to say? You're passing that baton. You're obviously still gonna have it as a profit center or you wouldn't be doing it, and that frees you up to do new work, better work, keep growing and climbing the ladder. That's what you want. - It is what you want, but you still have some attachment, because, at least I do, because I feel that that's where I got my start in commercial photography, and now someone else is handling that for me, you know, and it's like gees. I still have creative control. I'm still telling them what I want done and how I want it done, but I'm not actually pulling the trigger anymore. I wish it was because I was off creating these rock star images, but I'm probably in reality sitting behind a desk figuring out what the payroll is for that person the next week. I don't mean to be Debbie Downer and a bummer. It's just-- - [Rob] Really, it's a reality check. It's a business. - Yeah, I wish that I was going in the studio, flipping on the lights every morning, going hot set, and creating some cool stuff. I wish I had that kind of time, but I've got a daughter. I've got to wrap up by 4:45 so I can be home to the nanny by 5. I've got to spend time with the family on weekends. I can't spend all day Saturday and Sunday in there. So, for the people who don't have kids, don't have spouses, and don't have another job or whatever, take the time to build your book while you have that opportunity. Go out and network. Go to the parties. Make that relationship thing happen. - Not only that, get the experience that you need so that you can run a job, because when you're on a job people do have to get home by 5:30 to 6 o'clock so they can get (mumbles). So, you've got to make art. You've got to do whatever needs to be done for the job, you have to achieve the goals of the job by 5 o'clock or 5:30, so everybody can go-- - [Tony] Gotta make the mark by 5 o'clock so everybody can go home. - It's art on the clock. It's a really hard thing to do, which is very different from when you're doing your portfolio where you're just kind of hanging out. You can stay in your studio till midnight. You can do whatever you want. It's a portfolio piece. When you're doing it with a crew, you've got to get done. - That's the thing about this tutorial that I did this week is that it's gonna hopefully help people see what it's like to do a whole variety of images, give them a whole bunch of new tricks for their bag so that when they're on a job like that they can dig into that bag of tricks and hopefully get through it quicker instead of having to figure it all out on their own. They can go, "I've already been through this. "I watched the tutorial. "I know how to handle this." And they can execute the shot and everybody gets to go home on time. - Is there any one piece in the tutorial that you think is the gold mine that people need to know about? Like, is there something they really need to pay attention to over everything else? Or, is it a collective? Because you definitely put together a great step by step, and it's a nice building series of how just start at the base and keep moving yourself up and get there. It's a building process. - I think if they're gonna take one thing away or two things away, one is just a small shoe tether. I think that's a big deal. Trying to figure stuff out on the back of the camera is-- - [Rob] That's ridiculous. - It's ridiculous, right? (Rob laughs) I mean as cool as those LCDs are these days, you know 150 billion pixels or whatever they are, get it on a big screen. Check your focus. Look for dust. Check your composition. Check your color. The other thing is that in some of the big ad shots that we did in the tutorial, one light, you know? It was one light. It's not about how much gear you have or use. You've got a whole studio full of gear here. I could've used any of it. I used one light, and it was probably one of the most least expected modifiers they would've seen me use. So, don't get hung up on having to have a ton of fancy equipment and all that stuff. Use what you need to get the shot. Use the right tool for the job and know how to use that tool is the thing, knowing how to use it. If this Para 88 would've been the right tool for the job, I would've grabbed it, but it wasn't. The thing I did was the right tool for the job, and I knew that. That's just through experience, trial and error, practice, and know how. I'm sure I probably lit the same thing with something like that in the past and it looked like crap. So, I knew what trick to pull out of the bag and that's what I went with. - [Rob] So know your equipment is the-- - Know your equipment, and don't think that it's all about the best equipment. It's not about having the most expensive or the most amount of equipment. It's just about knowing how to use the equipment you have, or knowing which equipment that you need to have. - So, what's next for you? Like are you looking down the road thinking five, 10 years, what kind of stuff do you want to do with your career? - I'm hoping Seattle turns in to give us a connection with bigger brands. I want to get on with bigger brands. I want to get away from as much of the catalog work and direct work that we've doing, not because I don't like the people that I've built the relationships with, but because I want to see how far I can take it. I'm an artist, you know? I just want to see how far I can take this thing. I want to take it. I want to land the big accounts, and I want to do these really big projects. And I want to walk down the street and go, "That's my billboard, that's my billboard. "That's my banner." Open up a magazine and go, "That's mine, that's mine, and that's mine," you know what I mean? That's cool, that's fun. - It's way cool. - You know? - [Rob] Yeah, I know the feeling. - You know. - [Rob] I do know the feeling, it's cool. - That's my goal is to get there, and it's not for anything other than self satisfaction. It's a totally selfish goal. I just, I want to see if I can do it. - [Rob] That's honest. - We're doing okay now. I've got no complaints at the way things are going, but that's just where I want to take it. I want to see if I can do it. - Are you coming to the Bahamas? - Of course, I'm not gonna miss that. - Are you guys coming to the Bahamas? - Yeah, I don't think they're gonna miss it either, man. They'd be crazy to. - They better not. - It was pretty awesome last year. It was really cool. I went down there. You guys invited me down just to give a hand, and I think I did, but I learned a lot, too. - [Rob] Oh, you totally (mumbles). - Well, I learned too, man, just being there. I picked up a few little things that I've implemented into my workflow, and it's just made me a little bit better photographer, so it was pretty cool. - That's what we want to do. - People just, you can see their mind kind of melt when you show them something that they've never seen before, especially when it's a super easy technique. And they're just like, "Oh my gosh, that's amazing!" And you can tell they're gonna run home and do that first thing. - What's the craziest thing you did in the Navy? - Oh, I can't tell you that. (Rob laughs) Classified, or just can't go there? - I'd have to kill you. - So, what do you like to shoot? What's your favorite stuff, tech stuff? - Gadgets, electronics. Yeah, I mean that stuff turns me on. - [Rob] Why, what pulls you in? - They're trying very hard to make one set of headphones look different from another set of headphones. In reality you have two earpieces and a head thing, you know, a band that goes across your head. How different can you make that? - [Rob] Pretty bad. - Yeah, so the designer is trying very, very hard to make those look very different from each other, and in that design there's subtleties, and I like trying to bring out the subtleties in stuff like that. That's what's cool. I love it. Anything electronic, anything that has power or plugs into something else, is cool. I like to, if you've ever looked through my book then you've seen I like to use a lot of shadows, make very dramatic looking images. I don't mind parts of the image fading off to black. I like to have nothing else in the composition. - [Rob] Come in tight. - Come in tight. Leave some mystery. I like to imply things. You know, you see an ear of a headphone, you know it's a headphone. You don't have to see the whole set of headphone. The other side looks just like this side. You don't need to see them both. So, I really like to just, implications, you know, imply things in the photograph so that they make their own imagination. - You're raising questions in the viewer. Where's the rest of it? What's going on? And they have to think about it. - Yeah, and I think I mentioned in the tutorial, I try to do things, light them and do composition in a way that people aren't used to seeing it, and that's what stops people and gets them stopping on an image. If I fully lit an object, you see it fully lit all the time. It looks that way on their package. It looks that way on your shelf. It looks that way on your table, whatever, it's boring. When you only see a portion of it lit, that's not the way you usually see objects, so that stops people in their tracks and adds interest, and that's the stuff I get most comments on. So, that's what I produce. - Well, that's the number one job of a photographer is to get people to stop, because there are millions of images out there. I mean, there's just a billion billion images. And people are reading very quickly, only with pictures, not with words. So you've got to grab their attention as fast as you can, and then get them the question so they dive in and they want to know more about that product. - Right, I think that the newspapers are missing that. They're laying off photographers. And, I think they're undervaluing the images that were in the paper and how much impact they had to get people to read the paper. But, I've talked to photographers that are worried about the future of photography. They think that photography is dying. Video is all the range. And people are using less still images and they're using more video for things. But, I challenge you to walk into any bookstore and go into the periodicals. There's magazines all over the shelves, and every one of those magazines is full of images on every page. Photography is not going anywhere. - Or what I do. Go down the grocery store aisles. Frozen packages, are you kidding? - [Tony] Every single one of them. - Everything has an image on it. - Yeah, all over the place. - A Triscuit has got an image on it. Everything has images on it. It's impossible to get away with. Yeah, photography isn't dying. It's completely changing. - [Tony] Absolutely. - It's changing very quickly. Digital photography is, without a question it's a game changer, which is exactly why we're doing this company, because we want to elevate what people do. - [Tony] Yeah. Have you dealt with the transition from film to photography? How was it for you? I watched my family go through that transition, and it was a rough one, but you were doing photography at the time of the transition. How did that-- - Oh God, yeah. I started shooting four by five and eight by 10 films. There was a lot of trepidation let's say in the beginning. It was like, "Yeah, is this really gonna stick? "Is it really gonna work?" And it was expensive stuff. - [Tony] Were clients demanding it, or were you just doing it because you wanted to be on the cutting edge? - No, clients were interested in it. I think the first year that I had really made that transition all of my bids had a bid for film and a bid for digital, and they were side by side. - Oh, really? - Yeah. Everything was done in two columns, and it was film, digital. And they could make the comparison and then they could make a judgment call on what they wanted to go with. I kind of feel like I waited a little bit to get into the digital game because it was changing so rapidly. Every six months all the computers and all the cameras that you bought were now trash because something was light years ahead of it six months later. I mean, we weren't even talking a year or two years. It was six months. It was happening so fast. - Right, right. - Unbelievable. Up there is one of the first digital cameras out, the Kodak DCS, DCS? DCS. SCSI cord. - [Tony] It was a monster. - Monster, SCSI cord to the pack on your, you know? Ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous, just when you think about it. And it's far less powerful than what would've been in an iPhone 3 camera wise. - I mean you see the Sony A7 that I was shooting with? This little tiny thing that's full frame. I mean it's just amazing the technology. - So, I think I personally made the transition nicely. I waited a little bit, jumped in, never looked back. I don't miss film. I really don't. It's kind of weird to say that, but when you think about not being in the dark room splashing around all those chemicals. But you probably grew up, I mean I grew up in a dark room. My father and I built a dark room in our basement together. Spent hours and hours and hours and hours and hours and days in dark rooms. They're awesome. - [Tony] Miss that smell? You probably can't smell anymore after-- (Rob laughs) - I don't think I can remember... I think that's probably why my memory is so bad is all the chemicals. (Tony laughs) - [Tony] That would make sense. - Inhaling chemical all the time. It was ridiculous. It's a good thing. - [Tony] Yeah. - Alright, so let's talk about some of the work. I have some right here. - I just happen to have some right here. (Rob laughs) - Mind if I whip this out? - Go for it, man. What are you looking at? - [Tony] Ah. - Breitling, probably the most iconic image in your book, right? - [Tony] Yeah, without a doubt. - It's gotten you the most work. - [Tony] Absolutely, without a doubt. - Tell us the story behind... - That was... You know, remember I mentioned the electronic cigarettes company, which was one of my third product photography jobs? Well, the marketing manager there that was handling that had bought that watch in Las Vegas on winnings or something like that, and he needed to sell it. - [Rob] He needed to sell it? - He needed to sell it. So, he had brought me some electronic cigarettes to photograph for their business at one point in time, and right before he left it was like, "Oh yeah, one more thing. "I was wondering if you could do me a favor "and take some pictures of my watch, "because I want to sell it on eBay." And I was like, "What?" - [Rob] Yeah, that's a random request. - Yeah, so he showed me this watch and it was that Breitling. I was like, "Wow dude, this is a pretty nice watch." And he was like, "Oh yeah, this was an expensive watch, "and I want to sell it and get some money back," whatever his reasons were. And I said, "Yeah, I'll photograph it for you. "I'll photograph the hell out of that watch." So, this was my first shot at doing jewelry or watches. This was the very first one I did, and I think I shot the hell out of that watch. (Tony laughs) - You did shoot the hell out of it. Tell us about it. What was your approach? It's a great shot. - This was years ago. It's the oldest image in my book by far, by far. This was back probably four, five years ago that I shot this. It was really early in commercial photography, and I shot it on just a white table. And I shot real close up with a macro lens, and I did focus stacking. - What focus? - That was probably a 5D. I was shooting Canon at the time. I had a momentary loss of sanity and went from Nikon to Canon, and I'm back to Nikon. Now I'm at phase one. - [Rob] Why do you say that, why do you say that? - And the Canon shooters are gonna hate me for that. - [Rob] Why do you say that, though? - You know, you have your camps. You have your loyalties. You're either Nikon or Canon or Chevy or Ford or whatever the thing is. - I'm in both. I shot Nikon for 20 years. Now I've been shooting Canon for close to 10. - Yeah, I shot an FM when I was in film, and then I went to Nikon, and then I jumped to Canon for a little while with the 5D and the 5D Mark II, and then I went back to Nikon. Nikon Glass is nice, but the big deal is it was weird. The function, it's got different ergonomics to it and stuff, and I just never got used to the Canon, so I went back to Nikon. I was way happier, because it was just second nature for me. So, that was really it. There's six and one half dozen others I think. But anyway, I shot it with a 5D. And Photoshop didn't have focus stacking at the time, and I didn't know about Helicon Focus at the time. - Was it even out? - I don't know. - I doubt it. - I don't know if it was even out, which was probably why I didn't know about it. (Rob laughs) (Rob mumbles) So, I just took a shot. I focused a little bit further. I took a shot, focused a little bit further, took a shot, and I did that all the way through the face of the watch until I realized I had them all in focus. And then I spent time in Photoshop painting each area. - [Rob] So you masked all this? - I masked every single thing. I don't know how many shots across the face of it I had to get. - [Rob] How many hours do you think are in it? - Oh hell, I don't know. It needs to be re retouched, because my skills then were far inferior to what they are now. I got a retoucher on staff. I don't even get behind the Walkman tablet much anymore. But, I still know how to do it, and I can do it when I need to, and I can do it pretty well, but I can do it a lot better now than I did it back then. I think it would be kind of a fun experiment to take those raw files and reprocess it just to see how it looks now compared to that. That image does get me a lot of work. That's a stunning image. I know that, and the clients realize that, and they always stop, and then I go, "Wow, that's cool," even if it's not jewelry that I'm trying to-- - You know, you bring up a good point when you talk about you've got a retoucher on staff, but you still need to know how to do it, because you need to communicate what it is you want to accomplish in retouching to your retoucher even if you turn it over completely and you don't do it. - Yeah, you remember Days of Thunder with Tom Cruise, and he's like a race car driver? - [Rob] Yeah, okay, where does this go? - He's a race car driver, and he's like, "What's wrong with the car?" He's like, "I don't know." He's like, "You got to tell me what it's doing? "I can't fix it if I don't know what it's doing." Well, it's the same thing in communicating with your retoucher. He can't retouch it if you can't articulate to them what it is that you want done. So, if you know how to do it yourself it makes the process a whole lot easier. - I never thought we'd get to Tom Cruise and Days of Thunder in this interview, but we did. So, there you have it. (Rob laughs) Blaze, the torch, that's a good story. - That's a recent photo. - Right. So we go from your oldest to probably your most recent, one right after the next. - That is probably, I'd have to look at the book, but yeah, that's probably my most recent image in there or very close to it. We talked earlier about being able to get behind the camera and actually create images for your book and how little time there is to do that. We had just wrapped a huge project at the studio that had taken me, I don't know, a week or longer, and I had like a half a day that everybody was working on something and I just didn't know what to do with myself. There was probably a million things I could've done, but I said, "You know what? "I want to get behind the camera for a minute." I just was feeling it, and so I had this little creme brulee torch at the studio from shooting food or whatever. I thought the handle was kind of a really cool texture. So, I grabbed it off the shelf, I hung it up on a C stand arm, and I started going at it to light it. So, I had my studio manager and my studio assistant in the studio at the time, and they're watching the first few frames come in on the tethered computer, and they're like, "Mm." They didn't think much of it. I'm like, "You guys are crazy. "This is gonna be fantastic." So, I'm capturing it in pieces much like I did during the tutorial here, and pieces are in parts that doesn't look like much, but the mind's eye had a totally different thing. - I do that all the time, too. Everything I shoot is in pieces, and it's really hard to convey that to clients. Like, "We're gonna shoot for this part. "We're gonna shoot for that part. "We're gonna put it all together." It's a hard thing for them to like-- - Yeah, and I tried to articulate that in the tutorials. - Even your staff didn't get it. - They didn't get it, man, and they'd seen me do it before. But, they're looking at this and they're going, "Eh." They weren't feeling it. And they knew what I was gonna do with it. They understand the process. They're editing it as we're speaking. So, I captured all these images and then I got to a point when... I lit the torch, because I wanted to get that real flame. I didn't want to do it in post. I just thought, "First thing people are gonna ask me--" - You got to do the real thing. - Is, "Is that real?" And I want to be able to say, "Yep, that's real." So, we figured out how to do it in post, and they're still just kind of watching. But, as soon as I lit that up and I captured that next shot with that flame, all of a sudden their whole attitude changed. They're like, "Oh, this is gonna be pretty cool." So then I sat down and I was like, "I can't believe you doubted me in the first place." So, I sat down and I started editing this thing, and I got it put together. And it started coming together, and I dropped that background in post, that background. I shot it on a white background. So, I dropped that background in my post, and I played with a few ideas, just dragging some gradients, playing with some different colors, until I got something that I thought really made that thing pop. I think I got the flame kind of in the dark part of the gradient. The rest of it is backed by the light part of the gradient. So, that's all done in post. That is probably half a dozen images to create the torch itself, and then another image for the background. It all came together and I called him over and I said, "What do you think?" And they both just went, "Oh my God, that's amazing." That's the same reaction I get from a lot of people that see it now. Spent maybe an hour shooting, half hour shooting, an hour editing on that whole image. Hour and a half, one of the coolest images in my book I think and others seem to think. - Not only that, it got you work. - [Tony] Yeah, so-- - How did you get work off of this? - Yeah, so I took that and I posted that image on social media. Well, the manufacturer saw it and contacted me and said, "We love this image. "We'd love to license this image "for social media on our own stuff," etc., etc. We went back and forth in some conversation via email. And then of course when I was coming down here and we were looking for products to shoot I thought, "Gosh, let's call those guys. "They were cool, and that's a recent project, "and I'm sure they got more cool stuff to shoot." So, they sent it down. And we went through the exact same process that I did for that image on the tutorial, and we're gonna do the same post process techniques that I did on that one in the tutorial. So, hopefully that will turn out to be just as cool of an image as I got in the book. It was a lot of fun, and it's always fun when people are doubting you. That just makes you try that much harder. It's like, "Oh really? "You don't think it can look good? "Okay." - You show them, yeah. - Yeah, alright, now it's on. So, I got on it. And hopefully there'll be a client made by this tutorial that'll start creating images themselves. I showed them exactly how to do it. - They'll know how. - Yeah, that's true. So I don't know, but that's kind of a cool thing. Social media is a cool avenue for marketing these days, and I managed to turn just a portfolio thing into business. - Right on. Let's talk about maybe the Aircat. - [Tony] Aircat, yeah. - [Rob] Drill, it's cool. - They'd gone through a lot of different shooters in my area, and they... Were redesigning a website or something, and the web designer, they had asked them to get some new images of some of their products for the website. And they had asked the web designer for recommendations, and finally the web designer said, "Call Tony Roslund "when it comes to products. "He can do what you're looking for." They wanted some real dramatic. They wanted everything on black. So, when they called me the people that referred them, I knew the agency, but I'd never done business with the agency that had referred them to me for the photos. So, I guess it could've gone through an agency, but it ended up being direct instead. And it maybe had to do with budgetary constraints or something. So the agency may have been trying to save them some money by having them go direct to the photographer or whatever. Aircat is actually a really large company. They manufacture tools for Snap-on, and Mac, and some of the big tool companies. They have all their eggs in those baskets, so I think they're trying to build their own brand in order to get a little bit of a separation from that. - So, they do private labeling, but now they want to have their own-- - [Tony] Right, exactly. - So they're gonna compete with the guys they're actually private labeling for. - Yeah, yeah, but I think they have to come up with some different SKUs and things. I don't know how all that works and I don't really care. All I know is that they articulated what they were after to me. What's funny is the direct clients, unlike agency, and I think I mentioned this in the tutorial to, is they'll look at my book and they'll go, "We want one of those for our image." And you're like, "Yours is a big, hunking metal tool, "and this is a sexy piece of jewelry "or headphones or whatever. "It's not the same product." But, they don't care. All they know is they want there's to have the same feeling that that image in your book has. It's like, "Okay, now I got to figure out "how to make that happen." And that's exactly what they did. They pointed to another image that's in my book and they said, "We want that for our tools." - [Rob] Which image? - There's another set of headphones. I think it's an orange set of Sennheiser headphones. They pointed to that and they said, "We want that for our tools." And so there's a process there trying to figure out what is it about that image that you like, and what is it that you want me to incorporate into your photos? - [Rob] What do you think it is? - Well, after some conversation and going over some other images and things with them and some ideas, they wanted rim light on black background is what they wanted. - I was gonna say it's line, it's all about the form. It's really simple. It's on black. It's very graphic. It's all about line. - Yep, white line black line. - Right, yeah. - I've got a really cool technique. (Rob laughs) - You should share it with me. - Yeah, I will share that with you. - I taught him everything he knows. - Yeah. For those of you who are watching the interview and went through the tutorial where we show white line black line, that technique I actually got from Mr. Rob Grimms. So, I didn't give him credit in the tutorial, but I'm officially giving him credit now. So, I got that technique from him. I had a different technique for that, and the way that Rob showed me that I showed you is way easier than the way that I was doing it. - How much time do you think it saved you? - Oh God, I don't know. To transition from one to the other, that's where all the time saving is, transitioning from one to the other. You get two totally different looks in a matter of seconds. - In seconds. - Yeah. - [Rob] Versus hours, right? - Well yeah, maybe an hour to fully break it down, set up a whole different set and all that stuff. I mean yeah, that's a big process. So anyway, that's what they wanted. They were looking for that sexy kind of rim lit on black background. So, we've been doing that for them for years. And this was another one where I went in high and they went for it, and we set a precedent early on, and they've been a good client for years. Unfortunately this year, well, not unfortunately for them, unfortunately for me, this year they sold the company to a much larger company, so I'm no longer shooting for them. - [Rob] Yeah, that happens a lot. - Yeah, and they were a good client, so that was kind of a kick to the gut. - [Rob] Yeah, this happened to me many times. - I got that email and it was like, "We're letting everyone know "we've been bought by XYZ on the other side of the country. "And they're taking over everything. "And they have all their in house stuff." And I looked at the rest of my crew and I was like, "Well, we lost Aircat." So, that was kind of a kick to the gut. Fortunately, I think that same week we picked up somebody else that was a large client for us. So it was like alright, it was a trade out, and that happens, you know? - It does happen. I think in my career I don't know that I've ever had the same client be the biggest client two years in a row. It just doesn't happen, because they change. You do a library of images for them, so they don't need you the next year, or they get bought. And at first it may sound, "Oh, this is gonna be great. "They've got a whole bunch more stuff." Well, it may go somewhere else. So, there's that real kind of up and down with the business that you just have to deal with. - Yeah, the people that you built your relationships with are no longer at that company. - [Rob] Right. But, hopefully they're gonna go somewhere else, they're gonna take you with them, and it'll kick back in in a different form. - Yeah, and I try to keep those relationships in that sense. - [Rob] You just lost your train of thought. - Totally lost it, yeah. (Rob laughs) - Alright, I want to shift gears a little bit, because I want to talk about your architectural work. - [Tony] Okay. - I do, because people follow you they know that that's a big part of what you do. It's obviously not related to this tutorial at all, because we're just doing product. - Architecture is just a big product, man. - Alright. - That's how I look at it. It requires the same-- - Tell me about it. - It requires the same skill sets, attention to detail. You got to make sure there's contrast where all your surfaces meet. This is the same thing I talked about in the tutorial. You have one flat surface here, one flat surface here, one needs to be light, one needs to be dark. There has to be contrast or else it just looks like one big, flat plane. - [Rob] Right, shape. - Yep, you're shaping objects. You're just shaping buildings. It's the same exact concept, it's just on a much bigger scale. - Your architecture work I think is really clean. It's polished, really, really polished. It's nice. So, you approach architecture as you would a product? You look at it for form. - Exactly the same way. It's just bigger and it takes longer to shoot usually. - [Rob] Yeah, overnight? - Yeah, you see a lot of my stuff at night. That's kind of our style. How am I gonna incorporate my product style, which is always kind of a dark, half lit, into architecture? That's how I do it. So, you can see a similarity between those two shooting styles there. And people really dig it because it's not something they're used to seeing. Normally, architecture is real bright, and airy, and lit, but this is a totally different technique, and people have responded pretty well to it. We've been doing very well with architecture lately. - That's a great lesson for people to really hear, like really hear this. Your style on product you translated into another genre by going out and doing architecture. But, you're not going it in the bright, typical way that other people are doing it. You're doing it in your style, putting your stamp on it, so it fits. - Yeah. One thing that my family have pounded into my head from the very beginning of my career in photography is worry about yourself. Don't worry about anybody else. So, I've tried to do that. And you and I had a conversation earlier about finding other people in your area and seeing what they're doing and keeping up with what's going on just to keep yourself relevant in the marketplace, but that doesn't mean that you want to try to build your business mimicking what they're doing. So, I've always tried to build my business doing what it is that I'm good at, and worrying about myself, and let other people start to worry about me, and it works. - If you're just mimicking the top guy in your market, you're just a cheaper version. - [Tony] Exactly. - So, why would they go with you? - Figure out your style. Follow that style, and try to apply it to everything that you do, and it carries over very well, in this case to architecture, and it's worked out very well for us. - How long do you think it took you to realize you had a style? - Recently, very recently. - So most of the time that you've been shooting? It took you several years to get there and say, "Okay." - [Tony] Several. - "This is my style. "This is definitively Tony Roslund. "This sets me apart." - Yeah, and it wasn't until I was asked the question, and I forgot who asked it, it was another interviewer, a podcast or something at one time, and they said, "How do you define your style?" And it kind of stumped me. - [Rob] How would you define your style now? - Clean, simple, dramatic, and minimalist. Those are the four words, clean, simple, dramatic, and minimalist. I think that it's clean lines. You see all the clean lines of a product. They're simple. There's not a lot of props in the shot. It's dramatic. It's got usually nice heavy shadows in the image. And then it's minimal. I only show enough of an image to give, to imply something, enough that they know what the product is or the building is, but not so much that I'm giving away everything. - When you started your career, do you think that those definitive words were coming through, or did it take you awhile to get there? - [Tony] No, I was all over the map, dude. - Everywhere. - Yeah everywhere, you know. I'm all over the map. I'm shooting from data, trying all different... You know, what I was shooting is what everybody else was doing. I was trying to shoot... I was looking at what other people were doing and I was trying to mimic the shot, which was good. It was a great learning experience. There's nothing better than trying to reverse engineer what somebody else did and make it look the same way. If you can take what somebody else did and you can reverse engineer that and make it look exactly the same way, then you've taught yourself a valuable lesson. - [Rob] Yeah, it's education. - When somebody comes to you and wants something that looks like that, if you can execute it that way, hey, that's gold. You have that skill set now. So, I did a lot of that. And I was all over the map, and I didn't realize I needed a style. I didn't realize that I didn't have a style. And it wasn't until people started responding to certain images that I started going, "Okay, people are really responding to these. "Let me do some more like this." And I just kind of got pigeon holed into a look, and that's what I go for. It's not so narrow that it's like, "If you want dark dramatic go to this guy," but it's definitely, "If you want highly stylized, "heavily propped looks, like editorial type photos, "I'm probably not your guy," and as a result I don't get a lot of call for editorial style images. Ad images that need to fill a full page with a little bit of room for copy, yeah, I get calls for that stuff. - So, was there an epiphany? Was there a point where you said, "Oh, here it is. "Here's my style." - I don't think so. I just kind of flipped through the book one day and it was like, "Wow, all these images kind of look the same," and I started taking out the ones that didn't fit. You build your book and you're like, "This goes with this, and this goes with this, "and this doesn't go with anything." - [Rob] Gotta take it out. - Or, you got to create something else that does go with it, one of the two. And maybe I will. That image might come back someday. If I have something else that fits we can put them both in there together. But for now, the image that doesn't fit is going away. - Okay, so we're talking about stuff that fit or don't fit in your book. You pull things out. - [Tony] You're gonna show me the bird image, aren't you? - Yeah, I'm gonna show you the bird image. (Tony laughs) - That's in there specifically for that reason. It makes people stop and go-- - [Rob] What the hell? - You know, people just start flipping through your book, especially on a digital version, and they flip through so fast they start missing stuff. That's in there to slow them down. - Really? - Yeah, slows them down. They stop. - Place holder - They look at it, and they go, "What in the world is this about? - Huh, interesting. - And then I get to talk about it a little bit, and what I tell them is that those are birds, rare birds, they're actually stuffed. - Taxidermy. - Taxidermied, yep. So, those are taxidermied birds. I didn't stuff them. I don't want PETA calling me. I was hired by a local ad agency to photograph an editorial for a magazine on a world renowned fly tyer with Parkinson's. The guy's name is John Newbury. He was the first inductee to the hall of fame for fly tying. The guy is amazing. - [Rob] There is a hall of fame for fly tying? - Dude, there's a hall of fame for everything. - [Rob] Holy, cow. - But the guy is-- - [Rob] Tying flies. - Yeah, yeah. The guy is amazing. - Hall of fame? - Yeah, you know. - Where is it? - Fly tying is a rich man's sport. So, it makes sense that they have a hall of fame they go to-- - Where is the hall of fame? - And celebrate each other every year. I have no idea, dude. I don't know. - I kind of want to go there. - Yeah, well it's probably pretty interesting, because these guys do some amazing stuff. If you've got Parkinson's and you're tying flies, you're pretty much a bad dude, you know? - [Rob] Yeah, that's pretty incredible, yeah. You think about fighting through the shakes to ties those little things together. - They're doing an article on, they did an article on John Newbury who had Parkinson's. I had to go to his house and photograph him tying all these flies. - [Rob] Okay. - And while we were there of course we needed to shoot some B roll footage of various things that he uses, some of his tools, some of his props. A lot of the materials that he uses to tie flies are feathers from various rare birds and things. That's what makes his flies so unique is a lot of the materials are very rare and hard to find. But, he was raising these birds at one time. He's got big acreage. This was up in Washington (mumbles). So, these were some of his birds that were taxidermied. I shot this in the garage with no strobes. This is daylight, and I shot them with a 5D Mark II I think at the time is what I had. And I put a white bed sheet, I asked him for a bed sheet. He came out. These are mounted on like these wall mount things. So, I hung this white bed sheet behind them to give me some room to do a knockout. I'll tell you what, if you've ever tried to knock out feathers, good lord, hire somebody else. It's just a waste of time. It's one of the most-- - Yeah, send it overseas. - Oh my gosh, it's one of the hardest things to do, but I learned my lesson on that. So, I knocked those out, and they made this killer publication. I got to show this thing to you sometime. It's a really cool publication. It's called Proof Magazine. There's just page after page, a story about John Newbury, and then all of these fly little B roll things that I did, and then right in the center fold I shot almost 100 flies, each one, of little tiny things, some of them smaller than my thumb. And I hung them in a dark studio on this little tungsten wire, and I couldn't see the wire because it's thinner than a human hair. And I'm trying to hang these little flies on this wire. - [Rob] That you can't see. - Yeah, I had to use that because they're so small that there's no way you can Photoshop out something larger between all those feathers. - [Rob] Right, cutting through all the feathers. - Yeah, there's just no way. So, I did that in the dark in the studio and I went through all of these things. It took me I don't know how long. It took me forever to do these things. Some of them they wanted group shots and I shot them. I glued them onto the top of the head of a pin and stuck the pin into some board and then shot down on 'em. - [Rob] Wow, cool. - It was just totally crazy. But, I parlayed that into various into shows in the area, gallery showings. I've done a couple gallery showings. I blew them up, two feet by two feet, and mounted them and framed them. People aren't used to seeing flies this big. So, I did a gallery with, I don't know, 20, 30 images. And then when I got asked to do another gallery at a bar and restaurant called Steelhead, which is appropriate because steelhead fish, these are steelhead flies. So, I put a whole bunch of images in there. Sold out the show. - Nice. - Yeah, it was awesome. I get calls every single year from people who want to buy those prints for a loved one in their family. They ate at that restaurant or went to that gallery showing. Their loved one was flipping out over these fly prints. And it took them forever to track me down or whatever, they finally found me, and they want to buy some fly prints. So, we're coming up on that time. I'm sure that by the time I get home from being here at RGG EDU, I'm probably gonna have several prints I need to make up and mount and sell. So, it turned into this really cool project. - Who knew? - Yeah, who knew, right? I learned a ton from it. So, it was really cool. - That's awesome. 20 years ago I was involved in a job, I was an assistant at the time. Maybe it wasn't 20 years ago. We actually did do taxidermy on chickens. I think it was for Southwestern Bell, and we had to do this shot of them in the desert where there were, them, we had to do a shot of chickens in the desert. And the art director had sketched out exactly what he wanted. I remember very clearly with the photographers I was working for going to this farm, this chicken farm, picking out the chickens, and telling the taxidermist how they should be set. - [Tony] Oh my gosh. (Rob laughs) - It was totally crazy. - [Tony] You'd have people going crazy about that. - Oh yeah, PETA would be all over this, these guys would. - [Tony] Oh my gosh, yeah. - It's a good shot, it's really cool. I love the story behind that. - It's just interesting. It's probably one of those shots that means more to anybody else that will ever see it, you know? They're hard to get out of your book, but I've left it in there. In fact, it wasn't in my book for a while, but I put it in, because I found people doing this. - [Rob] It's calculated, yeah, it's calculated. - And then I was like, "Let's slow down." And I put that in there and they go (imitates brakes screeching). And they're like, "What is this?" And then we start to talk about them. - [Rob] Are you selling your book only digitally? Do you have a printed version? - I have a printed version that's all in pieces. And I'm trying to get it printed again right now, but time, time man. Trying to move to Seattle and trying to do everything else I'm doing. - I went to this, and then I backed away from it. I went in with both a printed book and the iPad, and I found that people stop, and go slower, and they feel the prints, and they're like-- - [Tony] Yeah, it makes sense. - It slows them down. - I'm gonna do both is the ultimate, but the problem is that right now I'm in this transition of getting rid of some old images, putting in some new images. - [Rob] It's a hard thing to do. - We've been very busy lately, and you really need to pay attention when you structure your book. You know this. I'm not telling you anything. This is more for them. But, you got to pay attention to what you're putting in there, how it's gonna make somebody feel who is flipping through the book, and make sure that you're taking them on a rollercoaster ride through emotions. You can't go from something that's very light and happy to something that's dark and depressing. It doesn't flow well. You got to build that flow, and I need to pay attention to that. And rather than just printing off a bunch of images and shoving them in a book, I thought that let me take my time. Let me get through the holidays here with the family and all the other stuff that I need to do end of year, and then in the beginning of 2015 we'll reset and we'll take some time to put it together right, and I'll start doing both the digital and a print book whenever we-- - The digital is a great way to actually look at pagination to kind of flip through it, but it doesn't act like the printed book. I will print everything out even if it's on crappy paper. I'll just print it all out, and cut it, and lay it across a series of tables or the kitchen counter and look at how spreads work, and how when you flip the page what changes? What emotion are you going to from one page to the next? I don't know, it's a great process to go through to actually print everything out, look at it, move it around, change it up, throw stuff out, put stuff in. - Yeah, throw stuff out. You do new work and you look at your old work and you go, "Oh my gosh, I gotta get rid of that." - [Rob] Oh, I know. I know, I look at my early work. I'm like, "Holy cow." It's amazing. - Yeah, it's a little tough. When I was mounting and hanging prints and stuff in the studio more often, which I don't do it nearly as much these days, but trying to have more of a gallery type of an environment in the studio, I'd do something new, I'd mount it, I'd print it and hang it up, and I'd look at what was next to it and go, "Oh, that's gotta come down." (Rob laughs) - [Rob] You got a good little video on how to mount prints though. - Yeah, it was kind of something that's a lost art these days for photographers. At one time, everything was mounted and printed in the world that I grew up in. - [Rob] Me too, I still have a dry mount press back there. It was my dad's. - That was a big skill for a photographer to have, and it's just not anymore. So, I don't expect everybody to go out and buy a press these days, so I showed them an easier way that they can do it just by hand mounting and doing prints. That's probably, of all the videos I've done over the past year, that one has definitely got us the most views and driven traffic to our website. - That's interesting. One of the oldest techniques is giving you the most views. - It comes around, you know? It's a lost art. It's coming around. I bet if I did something on film it'd probably be the next highest thing. (Rob laughs) - Could be, could be. This has been a good insight into some of your work. I can't wait to see what you do with the book next, because you're gonna revamp the whole thing. - Yep, we've got a view camera coming. We're gonna put the digital back on. We're gonna play around with some movements on that view camera and see if we can create some really-- - [Rob] You're going old school, man. - Again, we're going old school, right? Maybe I should do a video on it. - [Rob] You should totally do a video on it. Maybe we should do a tutorial on how to use a view camera. - We're doing it old school, man, but it works. It's still around. It's cumbersome. It takes longer. It's more difficult to use than just using an SLR or a medium format camera, but I think that the image quality is unparalleled. If you have the time to use it, then use it, you know? And it's just time is a big problem. Everybody wants everything yesterday. - Yeah, which is why I moved away from view cameras on the job. It slows you down. I love them. I was weened on them, literally. Like I said, I shot eight by 10, eight by 10 film. - Yep, well I'll use it for my book. I'll create some new images with it. And even if I can't use it for client jobs just due to the time constraints I'll at least have some killer images for my book. - Cool. So Tony, let's talk about your experience here this week at RGG EDU. What did you think? - Epic. - Pretty big, right? - Yeah, epic. I mean, this was amazing. We covered so much material in so little time that I thought my head was gonna implode. (Rob laughs) - It's kind of interesting, because when you're on set for an entire week there's a lot that's covered. People don't even have the slightest clue how much preparation goes into... I mean, this is months of planning, months of planning, building the curriculum, going back over it and over it and over it to distill it into the best teaching moments we can give people. - Yeah, and I think that's important is that we really, I really tried to give teaching moments here. I think the images are gonna be awesome when we get through with the editing and stuff, but more than that is all the teaching moments along the way to get there. And that's what I was most concerned with was let me share my process, and let me talk about... Rather than saying if I do this it's not gonna work, let me demonstrate why it's not gonna work. Let me show them what happens so that they don't have to go and figure it out for themselves. - And they need to know that. Even people who have been in the business for a while make mistakes. - There's no magic here. - [Rob] There might be on my sets. - Okay, well I wouldn't disagree. (Rob laughs) I've seen some of the stuff you do. It looks like magic to me still. The idea here is that it's a process, and we all go through the same. It's a creative process. Everybody has that creative process. It may be different for each of us, for you, and me, and anybody else who is watching it's gonna be a different creative process, but we're all artists in our own rite, and we're all gonna have a different way of hopefully getting to a similar end result, and that's creating images that are saleable. Period, you know? - Absolutely. At the end of the day, these images really aren't for us. - Yeah, no. - They're for the client. - Absolutely. - To sell their product. They're not for us. - And that's a hard thing to wrap your head around. - [Rob] Oh, it's real hard. - Especially if you've just been shooting for your book. Everything you've shot so far is for your book, and now you have to create something for a client, and you just have this need to interject your own vision into it. - [Rob] Yeah, you got to let your ego walk away. - It's not about your vision, yeah. It's not about your vision, it's about their vision and making that a reality. - Or blending the two where you bring your skill set and the things that you can do to elevate their vision and kind of get them where they need to be. But, at the end of the day, they drive the bus. - Yeah, they've hired you because of your vision. You've already proven yourself or they wouldn't be standing next to you during a shoot. So now you just have to deliver. (Rob and Tony laugh) There's no stress in that, right? So with RGG EDU here in the past week going through this stuff there's cameras everywhere, and I'm trying to remember to talk about all the things that I'm going through, and all I really want to do is just think about the process and get creative into it, and it's really hard to balance talking about what I'm doing with actually doing it and still coming out with a cool image in the end. - Yeah, but that's the cool thing because you get to share everything that you're doing. You explain the process, which people really need. They need to understand how we achieve these images, how we work through it, and it's invaluable. A lot of people don't want to share their info. They're not willing to put it out there. But, we want to elevate this business. We want everybody to have a shot at getting better. - Yeah, and I think they'll be surprised when they see the process. There's no magic formula to make stuff happen. There's a lot of eye, and trying different things, and finding out what works, and then once you have tried something enough you know what's gonna happen when you put a light here, or you put a card here, so you know which card to grab or which light modifier to use, and that just takes experience. I think we've given them some shortcuts to that. - A ton of shortcuts. Are you kidding? You just shaved years off these people's educational life. You just shaved years off it. - Yeah, so they're kind of taking the express lane to a lot of this stuff. It's just been really cool. You guys got some great staff that are really, really concerned with making sure that we articulate exactly what it is that we're doing at various parts of the process. There was more than one time that we had to cut and it was like, "You got to do that again." I'm like, "Really? "That was perfect. "What are you talking about?" - "Yeah, it was perfect, but you didn't tell us "how you got there." And it was like, "Oh!" But you just get hung up in the process, and you start to forget that oh yeah, I'm on camera. I gotta tell these guys what it is that I'm doing. It really was a unique experience, a fun one, an exhausting one, but all in all I'm really psyched to see how viewers respond to the whole thing. - We're happy to have you on board. - I'm excited to see what people do with the information, especially in the Facebook group. That thing is cool. You get to see that people ask questions, and you know they watched it because they're asking specific questions about the tutorials. "How did you do this?" Or, "I'm having trouble with this." And they'll upload an image, and you get to see what they created. And you're like, "That's really, really, pretty good." - [Rob] Yeah, we've been impressed with a lot of the images. - Yeah, I'm looking-- - And they have access to us. I mean we're not holding back. We're in there. We're talking with them. It's a very cool community that we're building. - Yeah, I've given some feedback to a few people in there even before we recorded the tutorial, just because it was coming up, so I've been a member of the group for a while. I've seen some people posting some various things in there and giving back whatever feedback I can. There's some real talent in that group. I mean, it's gonna be really cool to see what they do with this stuff, and watch some of this stuff come in. What I'm curious to see is if they try to shoot the same products that we shot in the tutorial, and how they approach it, and how they turn out. - [Rob] See everybody's style, yeah. - Yeah, see what people's style is and see what they do differently than what I did. It's the same product, but they're all gonna look a little bit different. So, I can't wait for that. That's gonna be one of the most fun-- - Well, we're super excited that you were willing to do this and share your knowledge with the audience, and really shave years off of their trial and error. It's a good thing to do. - Yeah, I'm honored to be here. I'm glad you guys asked me out for this. Flattered to say the least, and it was one of the most epic experiences that I've had so far in my photography career. - [Rob] Awesome, epic, keep coming back then. - Yeah, it was awesome, yeah. - So listen, I want to thank you for coming out and spending the time to share all of your information with us and our audience. I think that you have given them incredible amount of knowledge that is really gonna help them propel their books forward. So, thank you for doing that. - The pleasure was absolutely all mine. I had a blast doing it. I thought you guys were great, and I look forward to seeing what these guys do with everything. - Alright good. I'll have you back, too. So take a look at Tony's work at tonyroslund.com, and don't forget to come back to rggedu.com to see the tutorials that we have available for you. (rhythmic electronic music)

History

As a rookie news photographer, Harris covered the Johnstown flood of 1889 in Pennsylvania. He worked at Hearst News Service in San Francisco from 1900 to 1903, then joined President Theodore Roosevelt's press entourage on a train trip. Roosevelt,[1] or a San Francisco newspaper editor, angry at having no photograph of George Frisbie Hoar to run with the story of his death,[2] urged him to open a studio in Washington to photograph notable people there. He took Ewing, an artist and colorist with whom he had worked;[2] she financed the company and managed the studio.[3]

Harris and Ewing opened their studio in 1905 at 1313 F Street NW. They replaced the building with the current building in 1924.[4]

One of a series of candid photographs known as the Evolution of a Smile, taken just after a formal portrait session, as Taft learns by telephone from Roosevelt of his nomination for president.
One of a series of candid photographs known as the Evolution of a Smile, taken just after a formal portrait session, as Taft learns by telephone from Roosevelt of his nomination for president.

In the late 1930s Harris & Ewing was the largest photographic studio in the United States;[3] at its peak, it had five studios, 120 employees, and a news photo service,[2] which, like Underwood & Underwood, employed large numbers of freelance photographers.[3] Although it was particularly known for formal portraits of government figures, it was a full service photographic firm. They became well known in 1908 with The Anatomy of a Smile, a series of candid shots of William Howard Taft receiving the news by telephone of his nomination for the Presidency.[3] Many performers also sat for portraits with the firm. Harris was the primary photographer until 1955, when he retired. He bought out Ewing's share of the company in 1915, but she continued to assist, especially through her social connections. The news service was sold in 1945.[3]

The Professional Photographers of America named its highest award after Harris.[3][5]

Harris died in 1964 at age 92.[6] Harris & Ewing closed in 1977.[2]

On his retirement, Harris gave some 700,000 glass and film negatives to the Library of Congress,[3] which preserves them as the Harris & Ewing Collection in the Prints and Photographs Division.[7] Largely taken in and around Washington between 1905 and 1945, the photos portray people, events, and architecture.[6] Many are scanned and online.[6] The City Museum of Washington, D.C. also has a large number of Harris & Ewing photographs, and others are held by the National Portrait Gallery and the Newseum.[2]

See also

References

  1. ^ According to the studio's nomination to the National Register of Historic Places: "[T]he president personally urged him to start a photographic news service in Washington because it was so difficult at that time for out-of-town newspapers to get timely photographs of notable people and events in the Nation's Capital." Livingston, Michael (2000-11-13). "Harris & Ewing studio was photographer to presidents". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kelly, John (2006-10-15). "Answer Man on D.C.'s Photographer to the Stars". The Washington Post.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Shields, David S. "Harris and Ewing". Broadway Photographs. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  4. ^ "District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites". DC Preservation. Archived from the original on 2011-06-14.
  5. ^ "PPA Award recipients 1951–2011" (PDF) (pdf). Professional Photographers of America. Retrieved 2015-10-18.
  6. ^ a b c Livingston, Michael (2000-11-13). "Harris & Ewing Collection". Library of Congress. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  7. ^ "Harris & Ewing Collection". Retrieved 2017-05-10.

External links

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