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Defining Your Skillset

Lesson 6 from: Create Powerful Photo Essays & Personal Projects

David H Wells

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Lesson Info

6. Defining Your Skillset

Next Lesson: Seeding the Project

Lesson Info

Defining Your Skillset

I mean, you say you're doing this professionally so where did you pick up that skill set? Well, I won't start too far in the past, but I did always do photography. I started with my family, my dad was one asset was his hobby and photograph monkeys bring away in a dark room growing up um but I had to get a real job so that's what my dad told me so I was he told me he had a real job so I could be a potential, so I did. I did become a, um a photographer is my second career was in the computer industry, my first career and developed over the years and through maryland institute of art, so I have somewhat of an art background as well, and I just I'm I always continuing education I love learning more there's always something I think that I could learn what was the second part of your? Well, just thie the idea I went took you through the skill sets that I acquired, and so my question for you are is there a skill set that you're starting to think based on what we've done or what you bring to t...

his class that might be helpful to come away with from the class I've had the portraiture? I'm looking for the aspect of how to put together the project's how to get them out how to use them because I've been doing these stories over the years but um how to monetize that's howto so that's what it's about sort of the promotion and rather than creation and because riley they're essentially two ends two things the creation end and then as time goes on we'll talk more about the promotion by definition monetizing the creation as well as faras how to better define it defining is a big part remember I said what's the point of view what guys say different about the israeli palestinian conflict it took me I sort of short sold it took me almost a year between killing off the old project and then the gulf war came along and then doing just making a living to finally sit down and say I don't know what I really want to do is all three sex and then do the proposal and get the granny adi idea but that's a natural thing is to start with one idea and evolve your way through and to define and use the key that's great too well I started photography was scrapbooking of all things I know that sounds kind of very crafty but it was I was telling a story with those pages and I knew when I was putting those together you know, just putting that story together I would shoot for those so what's interesting is like this project that I'm working on now I don't have the confidence to get it out there so this is what I hope to take away from this class well confidence it's a great question they're both both kind of touching on the same thing confidence is a weird thing I don't talk about it a little bit later is in the beginning you really you really have to believe yeah okay and it's important that you believe but somewhere along the way I go put this down you've got to say okay I believe but there's that out there and I'm gonna have to kind of and you don't want to just throw it overboard and you don't want to just sell out but you're gonna have to but you have to build this thing first so when you go to do this which is messing with the real world out there you still have this sort of strength and faith in it great um I had been doing photography even before scrapbooking but I did a lot of scrapbooking when my son was in high school and everything um boy scout band rotc all that kind of stuff and again telling stories of how he progressed with each one of you um and then after high school and everything I just started doing wildlife on dh I always carried a camera with me and finally decided it was my time to do my career so that's when I went into school and I didn't realize that there was this side of photography compared to this side of photography the studio has has really made me grow even more in the photography I didn't realize that there was that many ass best of lighting and stuff, but the one like with what you've done in philadelphia was dappled lighting um one of our instructors last summer and everything when we went through location she does a lot of outside with dappled and stuff like that and I didn't realize that I had been doing so much of it okay, so half well then it's just a question of saying ok, I've done this and I've already halfway to the skill set and she even looked at some of my past and she was like you've been doing and you don't even realize it and now you do and it's fun it's it's fun tow to experiment with it no good, great alright, lorenza, I got him to talk because as a zoo a former athlete I was conceded so wear conceded I will make sure you were saying you're very honest and that is, you know this there's one thing about athletes and I know that you sit there and say no, I'm not conceited, but you don't put in hours and hours and hours in a day of training yourself doing this that and the other because you've you know, for whatever it is, you're doing it because you want to look good, you're doing it because you want to be at the top of your game, and so while I was competing, I never had any, you know, photographs of myself, and that was one thing I don't like, I did this, I did that, but there's no proof to show for. So my thing was to try to catch athlete doing their thing and being able to go back to say, hey, you know, I've got something for you here, check this out, and it was like, because it hasn't been an athlete who have given a shot to has been like, I've never had anybody just come back and say, hey, thanks for their so thanks for that, but then also used that, too. You know what? I did this on my own words this time I put myself out there saying this is a shot that I did, I can actually do more shots, you know, commission shots like this, as far as, you know, trying to get him into a magazine somewhere bigger than just you know, of course, I'd love to have them on their walls, but somewhere other than doing that well, what's interesting about that everybody's just on to a small degree, but yours was sort of the most overt was that you had this personal experience which prompted it, but it's also a way of saying again to your and user this is what I'm bringing I mean, I was very briefly athlete in high school obviously didn't do too well, so you have a skill set in the background with that I just don't have so if you and I are going head to head for competing for something were enough to top you ahead of me in theory, you've seen that at the moment I have a few other skills since you don't have that that could change over time, but that's one of those things that's really important in terms of skill sets so and then also the other thing that you're all talking, it seems like it's kind of the same thing, which is that you have ideas about what you want to create but there's that other part of getting it out there, which we're gonna be talking about us a week wears off. All right, good, good. All right, um, so let me talk a little bit mohr again, I'm circling back to this just to be clear, but good, and it feeds right into actual what you were saying good photo essay shows it's the photographer, not the camera that does the work how many people photograph athletes? Millions of how many people tell the story where the athlete looks and says, oh, that was my story that's what the point of the endeavors all right a good photo essay pushes uncle joe with the camera out of the clients thinking good photo s that makes the client realized that their unpaid in her and cannot do the job and a good photos he shows to client to be who you are alright, I'm hoping by now that I know I'm repeating myself you're also saying ok, now I know what he means I've actually had a client who said to me oh yeah my intern khun do that um right you want to actually be able to come back with something more intelligent and say no I'm just picking on you because you last but you can come back to the client say well actually I used to be an athlete too I'm coming from there and I'm sitting the same meeting and you and I and I'm going up uh it's not gonna work you're ahead of me so that's that's what we're trying to do here um good for us if shows the client to be what you can do shows what you care about this goes back to everybody was talking about something in terms of your family background but now it's about you becoming about especially what you're douglas and he's becoming about your photography um a good photo shoots shows the client you why you're the best person for the job, it gives them something to put in front of them without feeling like a sales pitch. It's one of the reasons that I encourage you to go jim was asking before about the newsletter is that I'm telling people what I'm doing, but I'm never saying hire me, I'm just saying I just happened to do this and somebody else already hired me, and I'm having this exhibition, all these things are a way of saying I've been third party validated, I've been curated, quote unquote, and then they into it okay, we might we might hire this guy without being the relentless sales pitch, so we all get our e mail boxes, all of which we hate okay? And as it evolves, you can continue. We share your work with the clients to be to remind him who you are or what you're doing the foreclosure project, which I'm going to show you later, that doing this project, photographing foreclosed houses for the last five years. The great thing about photographing in seventeen different states is I get an excuse to keep coming back to people who say I was just in waxes last house was in was in washington, actually december washington state. It was virginia before that arizona, nevada and every one of those is an opportunity to kind of put stuff in front of the clients and say, this is what I'm doing, and they may not hire me to do that. I know you know that, but just a reminder they're not going to say, ok, he photographed foreclosed houses were going because they're not doing a story for close out there doing something else but it's, a way of keeping my name in front of them remember, I talked about the photographer's problem, another one? This is another one of those who want to really be paying a lot of attention to what problems are you good at, solving personally professionally? Photographically, what problems are completely outside of your capability? If you looked on my website to help you did in advance, you'll notice there were tons of fashion photos, right? That there were tons of athletes. There are many things that I don't do well, okay, you want to actually you keep track of these things, what are the things you're good at? What are the things you're not good at? What are the things it sounds like, cindy, you're going to this process of sort of figuring out all these things that you can do, but at some point in time, you're really generally not no pun intended you personally generalised you really want to have a specialty or two that says to the end user I'm good at this and this and this and there's a lot of jobs where I'll get and email recall I'll send somebody my sight and they'll write me back and say you know doesn't look like you do what we want I'll say no but I know people who do and that referrals important because now jonathan or will owe me favors and that editor thinks that I'm a nice guy which is an enormously important thing as well. So the question you should be asking yourself what are you good at what problems you can solve and what is completely outside your capabilities? All right, so for me to go back to how I kind of sort that process out physical activity spurs my best thinking there's something I've been thinking about the last couple of years no pun intended and I've noticed that when I'm out walking especially when you get out of the shower just was riding a motorcycle and very big pull out my phone and I make some kind of notes you really want to do that yourself there is this thing going on there and it's going the thing being this mental process you're going to you know when you're all going to be the best at everything we've been doing here by the way is on friday we'll finish on wednesday thursday you'll probably sleep a little late because there's so much going on there friday it's going to start sinking in and friday you literally want to be make a note oh yeah he said this and I never thought about a social okay, you little iwant to be writing notes down starting all the time especially friday so you want to ask you so how do you get your ideas? I always keep notes on my iphone sometimes the noise my wife but I'll have some brainwave and I'll just hang it just please give me a second the good thing is that she doesn't plenty of times too so we sort of balance out do not talk yourself out of anything when you were first writing out your thoughts okay, just write it down you don't want to be laying in bed the next night saying I had a brain wave on tuesday have noah you know what it was which has happened to me to write it out ok don't talk yourself out of anything okay in the beginning when you're writing something out ignore the end goal don't think well how am I going to use that what's the project in front of you just write it down okay on ly thinking small steps what am I thinking about right now? What was the little association I made write it out okay, you'll have plenty of time for the real world to come in and smash down your ideas okay, so just write it down, keep it somewhere on idea file something on your on your phone somewhere and be able to access it because what I find is all right the first part of the email and then I'll seat my email box and then I'll say, oh yeah and what I had this I actually keep rewriting the same evil sending it back to myself and at the end of the day could be six or seven sentences long and I've gone to that mental process and it's all about just writing it down thinking of myself yeah, something in their trust myself and then go from there um I'm going to talk about this more later in the week, but one of the questions you want to ask yourself is what motivates you to continually be taking pictures economically, politically, intellectually, emotionally, I took you through kind of all of mine. Um the israeli palestinian project and the pesticide project are essentially what I do for the sort of political and intellectual stuff I find photographing the play of light and shadow the train station stuff the street photography stuff really just sort of emotionally satisfying they're like little journeys, a little adventures and so that's why do those you'll notice that I didn't actually talk about economically because that's a byproduct that's not the end goal the end goal is to do the best work I can do play to my strength all the stuff I've been talking about and then at the end of the game go out to the clients he and users etcetera figure out a way to have them use that and that's a big part of our process because you wanted the end of this the end of your school the end of the class to be able to say what's most unique about me is this what I care about most is what I bring is an honesty about my own conceit as an athlete I love that I'm not that honest by the way. So here's your exercise okay there's an exercise for the four of you it's an exercise for the online audience list two photographers whose career pads whose career arcs whose paths from there to here you know and this is important, you know beyond their public facade. Okay, you can look up annie liebowitz and you can read about how she got from there to here and you're reading a bunch of package stuff you actually probably especially in the case of the art and since your faculty you probably want actually sit down so do you mind if I ask you about your career path? How did you get they were there once what did they do to get from there to here what was their career path okay look for the turning points in the milestones that shaped their career arc remember I said it was a serious of jobs than it was freelancing that it was moving to new york then it was a commuting thing I did that it was moving to philadelphia than it was I started to do stories and then building up the stock business so those are the milestones that shaped my particular career arc were those accidental or intentional none of this is a value judgment you actually want to look at them and say they used to be there they're here what they do how did they present themselves this is really important okay they may say I'm a fine art photographer and I do nothing but sell pictures to the museum modern art in new york well that's great if it's true but they probably actually have multiple revenue streams like we all do so you want to actually break that down and how do they make a living there's nothing wrong or right about how they make a living but you really want to just understand the mechanics of that and are those two how they present themselves and how they make a living connected intertwined are they being honest about it it's not like you're accusing them are investigating them but you want to know why hey, getting paid to teach you, why are they getting the jobs that you want and their career path, how they got from here to there is the most important way to understand that. Who did they network with? Do they have some kind of skeletons in their closet? We don't know about where did they go to school? When kenneth was up here earlier, she was talking about a background in anthropology. What of the other skill sets that people have? Lorenzo, you have a military background, so you have a siri's of things that you went through. What of the other things, if you do that, if you look at other successful photographers, career pass in detail with a really critical eye, you really learn a lot about who they are, what they did, how they went there.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

David H Wells - Business
David H Wells - Literary Journals List.pdf
David H Wells -
David H Wells -
David H Wells - Sample
David Wells - Keynote Day 1.pdf
David Wells - Keynote Day 2.pdf
David Wells - Keynote Day 3.pdf

bonus material with enrollment

David H Wells -

Ratings and Reviews


First off, I was a photo assistant for a few years to a photographer who did numerous multi-day workshops. This was my first time as a student sitting in on a webinar that actually kept me interested. Sometimes I'm turned off by the pace of the teacher, his or her voice, or the manner in which they disseminate the information. But this was truly fantastic. David showed lots of his work in a way that was NOT egotistical in any sense (something that does happen quite often). I was utterly impressed by the quality of his work, the wealth of knowledge he has on the world, culture and politics, and how he shoots "on the go". All of those qualities are essential parts to creating a great photo essay/story. I came into this seminar needing inspiration and in the end I have more ideas than I know what to do with. David's work is truly magnificent; his photo stories pertain to people and their struggles, which really could be something any one of us could go through at any point, but he shows it in a way that is beautiful - either beautifully desperate or beautifully destructive - instead of in an exploitative way. On a side note, he also offered up a lot of great information having to do with funding, exposure, workflow, time efficiency, income streams, releases... you won't find this a lot with other photographers. You will find the "go find the info yourself" attitude. This has been my problem as of late with photography - we don't work together as artists, we work against each other competing for what, I'm not sure. David's seminar seemed to embrace photography as the art form it is, and shared with us the tools that we as artists need to really understand and utilize in order to get our story out there. A story it seems he really wants to see/hear. Just an amazing "Thank You"!!!!

a Creativelive Student

I have purchased a number of classes on Creative Live. This class taught by David Wells is one of the best. David is a thorough teacher, personal and connects with his students. Along with his superb and inspiring imagery David talked about his experiences in getting funding, his workflow, developing his stories and distributing his work. David is talented, generous and an excellent teacher. Highly recommended class.

Anjani Millet

Just completed the course. Fantastic, practical information on everything from grant writing, finding foundations, proposal development, even how to shake hands overseas. I am not sure where else I would have found this information for photographers. So appreciate it. One friend asked if this would be worth watching for anyone outside the US and the answer is a definitive yes. Very happy I purchased, and already starting to implement.

Student Work