Friday, October 22, 2010

Photography competitions, are they a rip off?

A quick question:

Are photo competitions run to help nurture up and coming photographers? Or are they just a cynical no brainer by various large companies and publications (who are supposed to support the photographic community) to make a quick buck in return for very little effort?

A case in point, having lived and worked as a professional photographer in California for the past 14 months I have become aware of PDN or Photo District News. I guess you could say it's the American version of The British Journal Of Photography.

As I’m working on a sports photography portfolio I was attracted to PDN’s current competition The Shot sports photography contest sponsored by Mitsubishi, Nikon and BlackRapid.

The prizes are:

GRAND PRIZE: two winners will receive the newest Mitsubishi printer to be unveiled this fall.
First place winners will receive:
•A Nikon digital camera
•A $250 Ticket Master gift certificate
•BlackRapid's new RS-Sport Strap
•A one year subscription to PDN
Professional winners will appear in PDN's January issue.
All winners will appear in an online gallery at

If you break this down PDN are paying out at a maximum $250 for the ticket masters gift certificate and I somehow doubt they are paying for that. Now if you look at the cost of entering its $12 per submission for amateurs and $35 for professionals. Is it me or does something not add up here?

I know that people will say it gives the photographer good exposure, puts them in front of the people that matter. There's also the argument that the magazine will have costs setting the competition up but let's not forget that it is good publicity for the magazine not to mention the sponsors and involves very little work on the part of the magazines staff.

So why do struggling photographers have to pay so much for the chance to promote themselves to a publication that is supposed to promote and nurture up and coming photographers? Just a thought, I’m not sure that I‘ll be entering.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Here it is: my first photography blog

I can't believe I'm actually doing this but here we go. This is the first installment of my photo blog. I'm told blogging about photography is a good thing to do but I'm reserving judgment, as writing is not really my forte.

Anyway a little about my self, I guess. My name's Neil Fraser, I'm 38, and from a small town near Bath in England. I got a degree in photography from the University of Bolton, which is near Manchester. I then spent a few years assisting photographers in London doing everything from fashion and portrait photography to food photography. I realized pretty quickly that I like to photograph people and went on to become a professional commercial photographer working with corporate clients around the world.

I moved to San Francisco with my wife in 2009 and continued to work as a commercial and corporate photographer in the Bay area and California. So that's where I am now and loving every minute of it. Anyway, enough about me for the time being. Here's some photos taken in California. Hope you like them.

I'm currently working on a sports and adventure photography portfolio. I want each set of images to be not only simple sports action photography but a photographic portrait of the athlete and the sport as a whole.

It's been an eye opener moving to San Francisco, seeing just how much Californians like to get out and exercise - so much more than people do back in the UK. I guess it's the amount of mild weather and a lack of pubs. The great thing is that it's not hard for me to find people to photograph who are interested in all types of sports and outdoor activities - and who are happy for me to photograph them in action.

This first set of pictures is of a mountain biker I shot in Marin County, California. In the photographs I really wanted to convey the feeling of cycling off-road in the countryside of sunny California. Marin is where mountain biking was invented. These photos are shot on Mount Tamalpais, the mountain where they tested out the first mountain bikes.

I had spent a day the previous week doing a photo recce for the shoot and had found the perfect location right at the top of the mountain. It had views down to the Pacific looking west so that we would get a good sunset and it was clearly marked on the Marin Bicycle map as a cycle route.

We turned up in good time on the day and my photographic assistant, Sarah and I set up the lights ready to shoot. I had just taken the first photo when a park ranger drove up and insisted that we were not allowed to cycle on the path. When I tried to reason with him and show him the map he just wasn't interested and told us to move on.

At this point we had only half an hour until sunset. So we packed everything up quickly, threw it in the back of the car and drove off down the mountain to our back up location getting there with 20 minutes to spare. We set up one light and were ready to shoot when our cyclist who had been messing about on his bike, fell off and cut his leg. So with only 10 minutes to go slightly stressed and with an injured and bloody cyclist we managed to get the photographs we were looking for. Sometimes no matter how much planning you put in you just can't foresee some eventualities, adaptability is the only answer.

If anyone in the Bay Area would like to be part of my sports photography project and doesn't mind giving up a couple of hours in exchange for photos of themselves doing what they love, please contact me. I'd love to hear from any athletes out there, whether or not they consider themselves photogenic!

Anyway, that's it for my first photography blog post. If anyone actually came across it and read it, I hoped you liked it. It wasn't as bad to write as I thought. I might even start to enjoy writing about photography.