About icthusgeneration

I am part of the generation of those who have sold out "their" lives to Jesus Christ. He is alive and wants us to live as He lives, doing the things Our Heavenly Father, Creator of the Universe and Man, asks us to do. On this journey I am a husband to Vicky, and a father to Carter Samuel Curtis. Our family lives an exciting life telling others about how Jesus has changed our focus and given us freedom and great joy. Vicky and I are on staff at a large church and right now Carter is a 2nd grader. We like to ride bikes, take walks, play at the beach, mess with computers, have long talks, study wildlife, read and listen to all kinds of music. Carter enjoys making up songs and drawing masterpieces. Carter and I are fascinated with the "wild west" and get to "play" Texas Rancher a couple of times a year. Vicky is the perfect wife and does a very convincing act of liking it as she encourages our antics. I have a passion for listening to the living Jesus as he relates the riches of His (and our) Father's wisdom and love to all humanity. By His being born among us, His death on the cross and His resurrection into new life, which we may share with Him, He has provided all we need for an incredible journey. I hope you are excited about joining with us and making yourself known as part of "The Icthuse Generation" on the great road!

Working it!

Not posted in a long while. I know that all the insiders say you are supposed to post as an aid to effectively building reputation, client engagement, and, ultimately, your business… I know. I have read the books and been to the seminars… but, anyway, I have not posted in a long while.

Why?

Well I have been working, as some might say, my butt off. Making some money at it; Having some satisfaction; Playing with the idea of giving up from time to time; Spending hours in post processing, perfecting technique, and getting paid for it. Through it all, when I am working (in photography,) my hourly realization has climbed steadily to an almost healthy hundred-dollars-+-per-hour. If I was working photography for paying clients every day that would be a respectable $200K per year which is a good income here on the beach where there are few great paying jobs and living costs a bit more than it does in Louisville or Akron.

But I am not yet working my photography business full time…

In addition to photography I work in the media ministry at a local church. This is nearly a full time occupation in pay and many weeks is more that a full time job in actual work required. I also help my wife with Real Estate photography, developing virtual tours and other “graphics” professional chores for her new Real Estate business (all at no charge, I must note.) At the moment it is the “extra” professional position that keeps the cameras working. To be accurate a lot of my Media Ministry work is photography and videography… … but the hourly realization for this work is significantly less that when I am being a
“real” photographer. (There is one major reason I am a Media Minister in a local Church. It may not make sense to most but I truly enjoy working for the Church. My work in the church is not a money thing, but I am glad I get paid for my effort…)

This is the difficulty I face, perhaps many of us face, as we move in to making our passion for photography a profession. At first the money is not that great, all businesses have a start-up curve. Most if not all of us attempt to self-fund our new photography business. Many of us, like me, work more than one job to make ends meet, some of those “extra” jobs turn out to be significant in their own right (just like my ministry position.)

Focus has become an issue for me… 

Sometimes I feel like I live in two entirely different countries. In one they speak English, in the other Spanish. Each week I spend a few days speaking English, then suddenly have to transition to Spanish. For me each week the transition is jarring, even though much of my work is accomplished at the very same computer… I find I am still thinking English when trying to work in Spanish and the reverse is also true. Bowing to my sense  of responsibility I have given priority to my paid employment first.  Monday through Wednesday, Saturday afternoon, and Sunday go to the church work. I give my all to photography Thursday and Friday. Every week I have to use a morning and an afternoon or two to undertake shoots too. Wow! What a schedule…

This is why I have failed to keep up with my blogging about photography…

I am sensing that all of my effort will be worth it in the end… Have only really been working on my “photography business” for the past year and a half… Can’t believe the year-over-year change from last year in both income and the quality of opportunities that I see on the horizon. Things are not moving as fast as I would like, but things are moving and they are moving positive…

There is a drawing of a frog being eaten by a stork hanging on the wall next to my photo-studio workstation. The frog has its “hands” around the stork’s neck. At the top of the drawing there is a motto, I will attribute to Winston Churchill, “Never, ever, give up!”

NO NEVER!

Stick it out and find fulfillment!

robertScan 2015-2-12 0004-1

Art is Art….

Been seeing many discussions lately about how the photography business is suffering because of new trends in the industry… This drives me crazy. New tools do not really change a thing other than provide practitioners with new means of expression…

Photography is art…

Art is art. Making money with art has most always been a hit or miss endeavor. Photography is art and now really beginning to be accepted as “fine art.” (a print brought $4.3 million at Christies last year.)

We must, by its very nature, expect the “business” of photography to be difficult. But because it is art I for one do not accept the statistical treatment of the business.

BE AN ARTIST. Find your inner voice and shoot to that tune. Do not so much concern yourself with the money. Be an artist (I’m sure you’ve heard of the starving artist… no joke here…) But when you win through the reward is real both in the creation of your visions and in the monetary reward.

Don’t go for mass market photography… Is that why you entered into this? To create lots of cookie cutter low atheistic images for display on the internet or on digital photo frames or flat screen TV’s or 4X5 prints from WalMart? Not me.

Craft your unique vision. Work on it in your shooting and in the digital darkroom. Develop your own style and use all the tools at your disposal to realize your vision. Apply the techniques of Adams, Westen, Steichen, Eisenstaedt, Wall, Gursky, Sherman, Lik, Avedon, and every other great photographer of the past 80 years or so.

Don’t give up on prints –

PRINT BIG, 2 feet, 4 feet, 8 feet –  make walls and charge for it…

I SAY AGAIN, DON’T GIVE UP ON PRINTS – INSTEAD –

      LEARN TO PRINT YOUR OWN WORK. IT IS PART OF THE ART!

If you want to be all digital – create unique display images for the large flat screen. Make your images desirable for digital display. Charge for it. Bill Gates founded Corbis. He digitized the Louvere. He has high resolution flat screen displays around his home displaying great images in endless loops. Art is all about display. Adapt your thinking to this reality. Create your market segment by your unique vision and develop the clientele to the point where they cannot live without your work.

Stand out! That is the way art has always been. You cannot successfully “commercialize” art without, at the same time, making it a commodity. Buck the trend and be an artist – that is what is in the life blood of photography – artistry and invention – We must cease the MBA analysis of our art form and be the inventive artists we are…

Photography is the greatest of the visual media and moves people in ways no other form ever has. That is why it has become so ubiquitous. We must capitalize on this and lead the way to visual and technical greatness. Stand out and lead…

Lastly…

Try reading Susan Sontag’s great book “Photography” it will help to develop your personal atheistic…

Find your photographic passion and live it out! Join with me in this great adventure…

Still #JustGettingStarted

Am really jazzed up over the potential of social media for getting the word out, for connecting with each other, for creating an on-going conversation. I guess I am just late to the party. Also, always so busy working that taking the time to Blog, to Facebook, to Tweet just seems unproductive. Unproductive it may be but I have having some great interaction on Facebook recently as we are beginning to get the word out about our newish photography and media service business.

So I have been working to learn how the various networks interact. Can Facebook and Twitter work together. The answer is yes. You can post in Facebook, anything you might ordinarily post, and it will by magic show up in Twitter. Same for Twitter. Just post a Tweet and poof there it is in Facebook. All of this interaction shows up in my professional network, LinkedIn, too. What about my blog on WordPress? Yes my friends it is connect to this brave new world too.

Pumped about this: if you have a “Smart Phone” all of this interaction shows up in your phone mail and text messaging system. The really cool feature of the “Smart Phone” connection is that I can respond to Facebook messages and comments; Tweets; and WordPress blog comments right from the phone, where ever I happen to be. Another great feature of this mobile connection is that I can update a status so that it actually shows where I am on a map. This is really helpful when you have a crew meeting you at an event and they are trying to find you.

The trick is taking some time with all of the settings in the various services to make sure you have all your options set up to accomplish the level of interaction between networks that works for you.  I have been working on this effort today and am still learning. I can tell you right now that there is a whole lot of power in these tools to create a seamless means of communicating with all of the various groups you are involved with.

As an example my friends on Facebook are not necessarily following me on Twitter, or Google +. My LinkedIn connections aren’t generally part of my Facebook, Twitter, or Google + universes either. There is a similar situation with those who subscribe to WordPress. With a relatively simple series of steps in “settings” on each of the five services I am able to treat this incredible multiverse as a single entity! This helps me manage my interaction with a really diverse community of people. Exciting for sure!

You ask why is all of this important? For me it is because I don’t know the needs of everyone in all my associated communities. So what happens as I communicate what LightplayMedia is up to via the “Social Network” platform created by interconnecting these five services? People I do not know but are connected with me by reason of interest, or social relationship, are able to discover our services and visa versa. This potentially allows me to provide needed service to a much larger audience (still targeted by relationship) than I would ever be able to reach by any other means. And I become aware of people who can help me in my work by the very same process.

Truly new I say.

All of this interaction is improving the quality of my photography as I get more and more feedback. And I am sure I am creating a more satisfying professional future as people in my networks become more aware of our passion for excellence and begin to know better what we are able to do!

I am still learning how to use all of these new tools. I advise you to start now. Much more powerful things are coming soon. We are all just infants in this new age!

Robert Curtis – LightplayMedia – Santa Rosa Beach, Florida

Communicating Art

Since Thursday last week I have had three family portrait shoots. Two of these were scheduled “practice” shoots and one was a last minute engagement (a freebee for a friend, one I do most every year at Christmas.)

During each of the first 2 sessions, between Vicky and I, we shot about 150 photographs. During the Sunday, after worship, shoot of my Pastor’s family I shot 8 images. So now what is the best was to communicate with our “clients” the result of our efforts. Well – Just last week I “got” a website! After doing some research (during the past three months, not every minute of every day of the past three months, just a little bit at a time over the past three months) I purchased a website system from www.photobiz.com.

I studied lots of offerings and looked at dozens of websites created by friends, including some very popular “PhotoBlog Sites” created with ProPhoto. I decided on a Flash Site because I like the way the images are displayed and because I use WordPress for bloging already and it worked for me to use their system to create another blog for LightPlay Media. You are reading it right now.

My PhotoBiz site has an extra feature they call the “Client Viewing” system. You add it by paying a, relatively small, one time fee. Use of the viewing system does not add anything to your monthly fee, which again is small anyway, at least for what you get. The viewing system allows you to set up categories of “client type.” For instance I created “Portrait Session,” “Commercial,” Forensic and Scientific Documentation,” and “FineArt.” These are the areas of photography we are focused on, right now.

Once you have your categories established you create a show space for each client. You can establish all kinds of tweeks to how your presentations work. For each client you may have just a viewing space, or both a viewing and a proofing space. Using proofing the client is able to select favorites and make comments on each of the photographs which you subsequently have access to. The system keeps you informed about your clients progress looking at their photos. Each space you create has an expiration date that closed the space to client viewing. You establish a unique password for each client and each client space so there is no cross client peeking. Maintenance of this whole thing is very easy.

And as if ease of use were not enough, each of the modules and functions within the system has their own separate streaming video tutorial! I mean using this thing is cake!

As of this morning I have loaded preliminary processed images for two of my shoots and will load the third this afternoon. The photographs look great in this system. I cannot wait to hear from the clients.

I will let you know what they say in a followup to this post in the coming days. We live in amazing time. There a so many tools to help as we strive to capture the perfect image and there are an equal number of great tools and methods to help us communicate, to the world, what we have created.

Go and get started. Don’t keep you passion for this or any other art in a box. Have at it and bring joy into the lives of those you touch with the wonderful thing that only you can do!

See you out there,

Robert Curtis, LightPlay Media, in Santa Rosa Beach

You Want To Learn? Teach! / Want to Succeed? Help Another Succeed!

For the past couple of weeks I have been working with my 11 year old son and two of his friends. They are making a video “TV” series for YouTube. I am not at liberty to reveal the name of this series or what it is about, but rest assured I will let you know about its debut.

The first day of shooting we had to go through the whole drill. How to use the camera; How to start and stop scenes. Did I say scenes? Yes we had to learn the importance of having a written script, a scene story board, and a shooting schedule. The process of teaching this really took about a month because one of the boys, my own son, just wanted to make a movie and did not think we needed a plan to do it.

Anyway we finally got a script and a shooting plan and shot the first 6 scenes about two weeks ago. Let me tell you it was rough. There were several false starts. But things smoothed out and we got quite a rhythm going. After about two hours scene setup and takes were going like clock-work. It kind of felt like a Hollywood production (ok just a little bit of exaggeration here.) The boys were really clicking along and we got the first half of episode one “in the can.”

Day one I was helping with every step. On day two I gave them the camera, tripod, and dolly and said have at it. They setup most of the shots and did all the camera operation by themselves. I set up some technical stuff to simulate some of the locations that needed to be simulated (like GCHQ for instance.) They had a blast and got some really good material on tape.

Today we began to edit their 10 minute “TV” show. As on the first day I showed them how to use Final Cut Studio and my editing system to capture scenes and organize them for use in the timeline. We got about half the episode captured an laid out in the timeline. Monday we will trim this up and then I will turn them loose to capture and place the rest of the scenes. Since they are off from school, sometime on Tuesday, they will trim up the second half; and add titles and soundtrack elements. On Wednesday we hope to publish to YouTubel

Now I already know how to do all of this (well enough to do my job anyway.) But there is much about helping others succeed I have learned during this process. I have learned the power of showing something to someone then turning the doing over to them, like, almost, right away.

My son and his friends now know how to do everything we have done together because of my showing then handing the controls over to them quickly. I had to learn the YouTube upload process for this (never done that before) so I made a short video for my church and uploaded it to promote our Christmas program. Now I am ready to support my budding production team as they undertake the final step in their project this coming Wednesday.

I am doing the same kind of thing in our new photography business. In each new situation I have a lot of technical learning to do prior to the shoot. When we get to the location I have been setting up then I have been handing both my wife and my son cameras and they have been diving in to the work. Wonderfully they have become passionate about learning how to put all of the pieces together to get a great shot. Soon I will have competent, creative, and excited helpers; and we will have all grown through the process. And we will be able to expand what we offer our clients.

This growing is one of the greatest things about working together in a new (or any) enterprise. Working with others as they grow in passion, creativity and skill is an addictive way to live. Enlisting our clients in the process, involving them in the excitement of creating something wonderful has equal reward. And I think this is why I am doing this new thing. Yes, I hope for financial reward too, but I believe that is a by-product of the act of creation and not its goal.

If you and I can help others achieve a dream, wow, what greater accomplishment can there be that that.

Hope this has been helpful and encouraged you today. Help some one succeed today! What Joy!!!

See you in the work!

Robert Curtis, Lightplay Media, in the human endeavor.

DAY THREE

Today is day three. Three days ago I went live with the LightPlay Media website (www.lightplaymedia.com if you are interested.) Three days ago I began this blog hoping to  record in a manner useful to others the journey of turning a passion into a service that helps others by providing them with, soon to be, great photography. This has been a joyful three days.

I have learned that you have to START – this is essential if you are going to accomplish anything at all. Thinking is all behind the eyes. You know about it but almost no one else does, except perhaps your spouse who has heard you talking in you sleep for the past six months. Maybe that special friend, the one who never crossed to the other side of the street when they saw you coming, the one who would listen to your dreams and not shake their head. YOU MUST START and it almost does matter when. Take a picture now, giving the process a little more thought than you did the last time you snapped the shutter. Buy that piece of gear, the one you know will help you get that shot you see in your head. Sell your bike to pay for it, it is just sitting in the garage for the winter anyway. Get a new one next summer. START.

I have learned that you must PRACTICE. And it is all practice. No matter how long we do anything we are always getting better. PRACTICE.

I have learned that you must TELL PEOPLE ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE DOING. You are not really doing something ’till you tell someone else you are. Put it out there. Put yourself on the line. Risk… well what do you think you are risking, anyway. Will someone tell you you not any good at it? So what. Remember you are practicing. You are getting better every day. Keep at it. Soon jaws will be dropping when people see your work, BUT ONLY IF YOU PUT IT OUT THERE.

Finally, I have learned that there are lots of tools to help us as together we create our dream jobs. I launched a great website (at least I think it is great) three days ago. To find out how you can do the same go to www.photobiz.com. I am not paid a thing to send you there. But I have had a great experience working with their tools to build a site that works for me. Three days ago I began this WordPress blog. It is great! This morning I have been working with the tool to get the most out of this page. It is coming along – remember PRACTICE. I am using Twitter (@lightplaymedia) and FACEBBOOK to communicate with people. The great part about these tools, we all support each others effort. You will find a huge, supportive community out there in cyberspace. You will find both help for doing the work and people who want to buy your work. Another thing YOU can use these tools – RIGHT NOW! TRUST ME. How great is that!

so

START

PRACTICE

PUT IT OUT THERE

I will see you soon out there in this wonderful new world. We probably don’t know each other but know I am rooting for you. Keep at it and succeed.

Robert Curtis, Santa Rosa Beach

Practice is Our Office!

Went to a photo shoot this afternoon. As the whole idea of taking portraits of people and families and maybe their pets is really new for me I went to this session with some anxiety.

We know the family well and they are the fourth family to let us practice on them. I should have been more comfortable. But –  you know I really wanted the photographs to turn out to be breathtaking so I was anxious.

As we approach anything that we do it is good that we want the results we produce to achieve high marks. We want what we do to be exceptional. You do too. I expect this causes all of us to put pressure on ourselves to do great work, whatever we are doing.

To me this is a key to greatness at photography. Striving to make captivating photographs will end in making our photographs exceptional. How do we strive? Well for me – I am studying, researching and the obtaining the best equipment I can get for taking the kind of pictures I want to take, looking at the work of many, many, others to try to grasp the techniques used to produce truly artful images and finally putting it all together in daily practice. Practice, practice, practice – PRACTICE.

Practice is where it happens. Everyday as I practice I get better. You will too.

It is time to get out there and take more pictures. I hope to see you there.

Robert Curtis – Lightplay Media and the Human Race…..