Turning Personal Projects Into a Career


Lesson Info


So much of what you're saying right now is really resonating with our audience online our studio audience here let's give them a chance questions or anything really speaking out in your minds about what matthew is saying, leave it at that firm, but when you right at the at the dot com bust in ninety nine on dh, you started interviewing various celebrities and and all of that and starting your first book, how did you get access and how to do approach people of celebrity? You know, this project? I'll talk about that in detail in the next section, but at the time I was I was dating a girl who was the personal assistant for vanessa williams, so I had I was shooting for this aa lot, so I had this access to minister williams and I said, let me just ask vanessa if she would do product like this resonate because I had the idea that was a sure with people get it what it means when to them so I asked vanessa, would you do a product like this? And you think it's powerful like, oh, this is a great...

idea you've got to do this and it led to me doing more and more now at the time, out seeing celebrities, but not like today I didn't really know aa lot of the people in the book I had the idea by the go out and find people, so I made a list of my top fifty people I want to shoot and start sending out invitations to each person, so I asked vanessa, mike, you know, you get so much mail so much to request what you look at and she said, well, if it looks like an entrance to a party, we open it right away my great okay, so I made all these invitations I went out and found beautiful paper added, designed by a good friend of mine, and I mean, it looked like a beautiful invitation lesson it out to different celebrities and that's how I get my first ten after that, it was a lot of hard work, but I'm going to that more details will cause I'd never done this before. I've never done a book before. I never interviewed anybody before so I could go out there and give my idea that I thought was cool and what I just you have that you think are cool that you brush off, they'll ideas come to meet early in the morning like, oh that's, great, I should do this every monday afternoon, like, um well and you blow it off and, like smoke disappears, which is why it's so important toe work right away when you get an idea when it's fresh, when it first comes to you to write it down and make it come alive because no one will believe in you the way you do, as a matter of fact, that's why there's a lot more details? Well, you have all these other voices I try to talk you out of your dream that always happens. It's part of process, it's, it's the universe testing you to see how badly you believe in your project in your dream thinks that question we're going to get deeper in the next section. Thank you for that, matthew, before we go back to our studio, there's a really similar question that's come from our online audience mark so trump says, how do you approach strangers that you want to take pictures off? You know, maybe a celebrity, they see other celebrity pictures, but when you're driving around south dakota and you see a family practicing baseball, they don't know me from the man on the moon. Exactly that's a great question, because exactly what I'm doing now all over america, they don't know me from the man on the moon, so either approach families and talk them in five minutes and make them believe in me, my project that fast, and to be honest, it's all about your energy, that's it people ask that question more than anything else how do you find these families and you know how do you take it then they should you get your kids they're kids and I got to say it's just really me going up and talk to the families and they've got to feel my energy and feel that I'm not some crazy photographer or lunatic or nut and let me for where if their most precious possessions their children and I have been told no twice and both times it was one time it was the mother and she felt that her husband to be a part of it he wasn't around so she wants she wants permission without him being there second time it was ah group and they don't believe anything political they won't be a part of that so that's known to times I've had no the entire project that's it I guess completely fair let's go back to our studio audience during my project I will be doing the story behind the smiles my original thought was that they were going to write the stories but I like your idea of interviewing how do you kind of lead them into what you want them to say or dig deeper about this story I foresee p dreams I was in the same thing I was doing research on each person before I forget at them and I had my questions laid out and sometimes in doing the interview though, answer other questions in your list of questions you have but start by doing the photo at first because that breaks them down and listen open up and you build that connection with that person after the photo shoot, then you're closer to that person you've just taken their image and created this beautiful shot then they're more open to being open with you and sharing also throughout my process of doing my first book, cp dreams, I learned that in order for the open to me, I have to open up to them and the votes things that may be silly or crazy about me so they feel like they could be silly and open up and give me stuff so for example, I'm doing an interview with sam jackson fly book and at the time he was sure this would call it shaft and I mean his trailer and we're doing the interview and I I devoted to him that you know, as a kid I want to be a roman soldier. So the last cycle that silly when he opens up and tell me so that's silly also it's helped me like break that barrier, so open up and tell him things about yourself that works I do that all the time when I'm shooting a brain and celebrity I've never met before, out open up and talk about part of my life that made me private and then they open up its exchange think that's a great idea right? It works, it works good luck I see people responding a lot to what you're saying in focus photo florida says access is everywhere I do pro bono work for a kid's charity that is supported by the orlando magic I get access to players that live in the area and visit town through that kind of connection look around, look around, look around, ask questions, it's not as hard as you think not and I thinks it is like, well, how do you how do you find families? How do you approach people it's not as hard as you think and she had in your mind oh my gosh, me so hard how I get a stranger and you don't do it it's not that hard if you go out there and people can feel if you're sincere or not, they'll feel it and they open up to you. I mean, I'm a big african american guy going out, shooting, going strangers in america and I've been told no twice and I love the process and sometimes I can I can always feel energy people can feel if there isn't or there they're wondering, so I'll show my work, I'll take my first book and second book with me and I showed him my first books so they can know who I am see my work has been published before see my picture in the book and no, this is the same person not impressing somebody else, I give them material, so I think about what I do this what if a stranger came to me will make me do this? So I go out with that material, other questions from from you guys first or the audience online either one I've got we don't be sure we've got a list of questions here, man rolling it a list of questions on and and one is from mystic images who says, how do you know which project to start on when you have so many? The idea is there are there things items that you evaluate upon? I probably the same thing she's going through she where he is going through because I have had all these ideas if you saw my first crave live class, I talked about a big I know you did that video, I talked about a very big personal project I'm ensuring that one now for seven and a half years and it's kind of funny, so that project I've been saying for a long time, I still shoot that one uh, it's ongoing, but I've been is a big project it needs major financing which I have a hard time finding life I had ah hard time finding but last year I was speaking somewhere and lo and behold there's somebody in the audience who saw me speaking and approached me and one to have a dinner meeting this is in new york last year in october at photo expo so I was in new york to speak I had no idea is going to meet somebody by speaking about photography but this gentleman came to me uh and want to talk about photography he is speaking english hit interpreter so I had this meeting in new york I tell my head of project he says oh we want to see it when we see it like I'm leaving new york going home tomorrow he's like will be there in two days later they flew out to l a to see my project I showed the project they believe that so much they want to finance it. So last week actually two weeks ago I went to china and shot a big project there and the whole idea is to build my name in asia and then rolled out my big project so I got back actually we could go today from china based off of my personal project you never know where is going to come from you never know you never know and this company has the ability to take my project all over the world you never know this one come from. So get back that question about what do you start on? You know, do what you most passionate about first don't give them up, do them all but do them. I mean, we had times an illusion. It really is times an illusion. We have this we have this thing like always get us now do it day by day do what you love the most first and they just keep doing them out. No. Over the time this big project doing now that's now being shot in asia we'll pluck him out five years from now, three years from now you won't build my name for the next three years in asia. So a buddy in china hello. Wait, um questions from here? I don't have so much of questions I want to make a statement and that was one of the things that has held me back is being a big african american male is like a big person of color mom action multiethnic but big person of color. So when you said what you said, that's always made me shy back because sometimes people see this big guy coming around and and, you know, the good ideas or whatever sometimes, but being also attorney is like I do have lots of materials on the internet and so you just give me idea like you just carry around from my brochures and say that ok, I'm a photographer and but you know, this is what I've done professionally so that you know that I'm not crazy and so I didn't think about that until you said it so thank you you're welcome you're welcome you're welcome matthew with another great question coming in from the internet I think you had a little bit of an advantage when you started seriously getting into personal project because you had a ah body of work to start with but o j vast asks do you have any advice for someone just getting started but without the resource is for a professional grade camera it's hard to feel professional with just a basic point and shoot uh yes it is, but the cameras only the tool it doesn't matter if you can afford ah high end camera or it's your very first camera it's the image that's important it's not the camera it's the image that's important and if you were working on a project being your first published work if you're passionate about it and you're shooting what you love people feel the passion and that's when it spreads I got my first job, you know I did anything published I haven't you know, try before but that client so my work they loved it they felt that they could trust me and they gave me a chance and when your brand new in photography we're always looking to get some of his brand new a chance you have a bigger opportunity now than anybody else to get out there and show you workers were all looking for that next town that photographer I know you're out there and the world's waiting for you show your work questions from addie far who is one of our regulars in england hello eddie let's see, he says if you have big ideas that would involve a big team and lots of production yet have no budget should you hold on to those ideas for later down the line or try to shoot something on a smaller scale and revisit that idea again later different do it on a smaller scale my seven year project it's one of those projects it's a huge project that I cannot afford to do my own so I've been shooting it on a small scale but I had the big idea and I'm pushing the idea based on my small pictures first so put it out there don't give up on it just keep shooting it um big production is very expensive for sure, but I worked on a lot of big productions shoots all the time commercially it's nice to break away from that by by doing my person project now it's me my fiancee out on the road with no production, no assistance it's me carrying all my own gear setting up, you know, interviewing all that myself, and I love that that's not a big production with assistance and crew and all that going to china last week I had my team and big production, my personal projects it's just me, my camera, my fiance, it's just us on the road, and I love that another question coming in from michael adams going back to what you were saying about you don't like to do your own retouching work, and mike asked, you feel that using a re toucher is taking away from your creativity or your vision? You have a conversation with them ahead of time to make sure you bring them into the fold. I have, I have a team, you you can't do it by yourself, you need a team when you go to see a movie, they're your favorite movie at the end of that movie, you see a zeon credits of that team, right? But the directors movie and that team has bring the project of life for tarver's think that they've got to do it all but it's better when you had that team because together each achieves mohr it's the team effort you can on lee do so much and do it well I could try to a little retouching and do a decent job but the person spends all day focused on just that one thing can do it much better so I want I want to buy who's a great makeup parties who does just make up I was one of the great hairstyles does just hair I want it was a great producer who just produces I want a great researcher who just re touches I want a strong team you want stand out get the best of the best to work with you and then your work will rise of everybody else's nothing. We have a number of questions coming in about compensating models. Well as model releases well no a do you get model releases for, say, your children or these types of projects? When do you recommend that people need to get them for personal projects and then also mystic images rogue lamb how do you compensate the people who participate in your personal projects prints, money or something else I usually give the people in my projects the book um I have a bystander release and that's going on that's going met back since ah the first book cpu dreams so compensation if you you can't afford to pay each person and it's actually not fair if you do because then that the being paid to be in something which is not really the best thing you want to do because they love the project so I do give them a book from the projects of each each family in my book I'll give them a book I don't even know that yet they're all getting a book um and then there are other ways to give back besides just the tangible I have an idea for my book right now now I'm gonna find the company I'm still looking for this company that can do this but I want so few out there he is my idea I have to go back to each place where I found a child and make that child the star and do a book signing with the child being the one signed the book and highlight them imagine every state where there's a child for the first time having a lot of people having that child signed the book they'll feel amazing they will feel amazing and it will stick even mohr that's my idea for that along the same lines get back to the target in the releases it's very important how you show my release that have this one so I have people sign release even if cpi dreams all celebrities about hard hard time for releases get celebrity son release but had that my first book on behalf of this book and all my books are doing that's a that's a perfect transition into the next question you there on the internet you there like that how far do you push someone into signing a model release how far is too far? I never push anybody if you're looking to sign a release they shouldn't be in your project um I can't remember pushing somebody to sign a release um it's so standard and if I should it protects them it protects you um should have to push yeah you should have to push and if they don't want to sound release find somebody else period I feel that the projects I do and that you do a very special because imagine you don't think about today on lee and it's it's normal it's natural but imagine your project ten years from now twenty years from now when I did c p dreams back in the nineteen ninety nine I had no idea it would affect my life today when I was shooting in china last week I'm shooting thirty of the biggest chinese celebrities in beijing my client's giving them my first book I had no idea ten years well thirteen years ago that that book would be open door today in china you never know who seems that book it's so true do you somebody had asked about how you actually published that book eyes that something even tell us about it and I am so I want to but that looks like I went away yeah ok go through that whole story because it is a story raped there's lots of questions coming in about funding and I know that that's something else we're going to talk about a little bit later absolutely because I know you all have questions about how do you fund these projects will go into that in detail how I did it in the old days ten years ago and how I do it today it's very different because our world's changing so fast I know we have a question right there so I'm going to your question the second the world's changed, so we'll go through the whole funding part, so hold on, hold on yeah, I see you publish a book out of your personal projects how about if you don't want to publish a book we just want to send it out there to warn is a bit oh just me on the internet or your personal project is not that much for you to even I have a book it's just enough for you to just have an iconic image or a collection of images but not a book your first prize could be anything you want to be it doesn't have to be a book it can be an exhibit a and b just legals on your website it could be anything you want to be so you set your own goals for your prison project and put it out there the way you want to and today we have a lot of ways to put out there that we didn't have ten years ago so don't feel you have to make it a book or an exhibit do what you're comfortable in doing just shoot your project get it done we're about the rest later on all right, thank you so matthew I'm not sure if you want to talk about this now or later but we are going to be asking folks to get involved in what we're doing later with regard tio your project and future presidents book and the posters and I'm wondering if we want to get people started yes have you talk about that and then where it then we can give them a link to the facebook page where that's perfect that's pouring so with my personal project right now you've seen me taking pictures of children all over america and I have them hold a board and on that board there's a message usually about the future being present something inspirational so I'd like to open up to this audience and online to help us come up with ideas that will use today to take a picture which will be doing of another future president so I need your ideas, your feedback and inspirational idea for a child to hold I have done thirty two states I have eighteen more to go so I need ideas for these boards so I need your help now you are part of the team. And if you watched the show the last time someone actually, we actually made a board in the class. And then I took my students out on location after the show, and we shot an image that you guys watched us make on the show. Now, I'd like you to get more involved and give me your ideas for a board that will use today and through the next eighteen states that we do that way. You're part of this and you now part of this team, because together, each achieves mohr.

Class Description

"You build your business shooting for other people. You build your career shooting for yourself." From creating and choosing projects to organizing details and financing, this course will teach you how to effectively manage personal projects to grow your photography business. This inspirational workshop is designed to help you practice your craft and elevate your photography business. During this comprehensive course, Matthew will offer step-by-step instruction on how to launch and execute personal photography projects. Matthew’s workshop is part of a 3-day event sponsored by Sony called “Shoot What You Love", a 3-day inspirational event sponsored on April 22-24 with fashion photographer Matthew Jordan Smith, family photographer Me Ra Koh, and conservation photographer Cristina Mittermeier.