Daniel has captured images and stories spanning twenty-five years for clients large and small. Entertainment clients like HBO, Warner Bros. and Universal, then for many Fortune 500 companies, start-ups and non-profits.
Daniel, thanks for joining us in this Photographer Spotlight. I’m really excited to showcase your beautiful images to other ON1 customers today. You have some fantastic photos and have been to some awesome places for your work travels. It’s always exciting to see the images our customers are creating and how our software is used in a professional environment. So again, thank you!
Your company, Nourish Creative, has been based locally near us here in Portland, Oregon for the last 25 years and your team does some incredible work! Though we are featuring some of real-estate photos here, I’d encourage everyone to go checkout the Nourish Creative website and view the full gallery of some of the amazing projects Daniel and his team have created.
So, Daniel, to start us off…
What or who got you started in photography?
As I was heading out to summer camp at age 10 my father handed me his Kodak 35 camera. What he didn’t tell me was the shutter was broken and bounced, creating a kind of double exposure. All the summer’s images were quite creative and I’ve been trying to be that “brilliant” ever since.
When did you realize you could pursue photography as not just a passion but also a career?
In my late twenties I was working as a chef in a restaurant but really wanted to be a photographer. A very wealthy customer who often came into the restaurant befriended me and one day he asked me what I wanted to do with my life. When he found out I had this dream of photography as a profession, he wouldn’t hear any excuse as to why I wasn’t doing it. I meekly offered up “job security” as an excuse but he sternly reminded me that I could be fired tomorrow so why not be in charge of my own destiny.
The next week I quit the restaurant and used a credit card that was given to my wife and I, and co-signed by my mother-in-law. She stipulated it was for emergencies but I now had no job so I figured this qualified as an emergency. I already had my camera and lenses so I went down to the local pro shop and bought by first strobe pack and a soft box. I sub-leased a small space with a designer who had an existing client base and I was off on a new life.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone aspiring to jump into a career in photography?
Create work that can’t be ignored! If this sounds like a well-worn statement it’s because it’s true. If you combine your interests, passions, skills, and unique personality into a career and infuse it with a little courage, your images will stand out. If you love the work, you’ll make it through the hard times when it seems like no one cares. Be inspired by other photographers but don’t copy them, it just undermines your own vision. The photography market doesn’t need fifty photographers all shooting the same damn landscape!
One strategy I might share is go to a small business that normally would use stock photography and show them how they are diluting their brand by using the same images their competitors are using. Then make them an offer to create unique, proprietary images they can use to build their business identity. Don’t give your work away but make them a deal that feels like a win-win. They get custom images and you get the credibility of being a “pro.”
Can you tell us a little bit about your company Nourish Creative and some of the projects you’ve done?
Anyone in the PR or marketing world knows that in order to rise out of the clutter you have to specialize. The problem is, that strategy doesn’t work as well in a smaller market like Portland. I looked around and saw that the photographers who were successful actually crossed into multiple pursuits. They might shoot for Nike and then do architectural on the side or build a stock photo library to cover the slow times.
Nourish Creative started as a photographer’s studio (with a different name) but quickly evolved into a full service creative agency because of two powerful realizations:
— I had multiple interests and it sounded like fun to shoot in all of them. I loved aviation and was studying to be a private pilot… I had been a chef and wanted to shoot food… I loved design and enjoyed shooting architecture and international travel was a passion.
But I was naive and didn’t realize that some prospective clients don’t believe you can be good in multiple disciplines. So I actually had to silo my marketing efforts and even my on-line galleries to make it seem like I only had one specialty. That’s the advantage of having an agency type business rather than an individual photo studio; you can appear to be more than one person. And that led to my second realization…
— Trust and relationships were more powerful than any marketing campaign. I noticed the new clients that came through cold marketing efforts always required a detailed contract and a lot of hand-holding but the clients that came through a referral were much more informal and trusting. Once the trust grew they would ask me to do things outside my expertise. Before long I was offering design services and marketing. I actually started building referrals and testimonials into my client agreements.
That’s how I got into creating video in 2002. Today my creative life is so varied I rarely get bored.
We have some beautiful real-estate photos here, can you tell us a little bit about your gear and setup for a shoot like this? These photos are beautiful – also… Hawaii? Looks amazing wherever it is.
Thanks for the props! Yes, that is Hawaii and no one believes me when I tell them I’m going to Hawaii to “work.” There is a well-known interior design firm there that brings me over to capture their new projects before delivering the homes to new clients. I love symmetry and shooting real estate once in a while satisfies that part of me.
I use a Canon 5D Mark III with the bulk of the images taken on Canon’s amazing 17mm and 24mm Tilt-Shift lenses. Having shift capabilities is imperative for interiors. But I also use Canon’s very sharp 24mm-70mm f2.8 zoom for a small percentage of shots. I carry three lightweight, bi-color LEDs and a mid-size mono-light strobe with gels. There is a product called CamRanger that allows me to control the Canon body from an iPad and see my exposures remotely. It’s an amazing tool.
For real estate and interiors it’s important to capture the full output of light and the sensor’s dynamic range using brackets. I usually shoot seven brackets in 1-stop increments but may only use two or three images to cover the scene. Until the new cameras can do a better job of in-camera HDR, this will be the production path.
To tie all of this in to ON1, what is the one feature in ON1 Photo RAW 2018 that your photography could not live without? Maybe there’s more than one?
I appreciate the invitation to mention two!
I couldn’t do a lot of the real estate stuff without luminosity masking and exposure blending. The masking capabilities in the latest versions of ON1 Photo RAW 2018 are very powerful and are time consuming to do in Photoshop without a third party plug-in or a lot of channel work. When you combine the Perfect Brush with the masks in ON1 Photo Raw 2018 you’ve got a powerful tool.
The second tool most folks wouldn’t guess is ON1 Resize 2018. I’ve been using ON1’s resize tool since back when it was called Genuine Fractals. I depended on it for my gallery prints and still use it today for visually lossless enlargements.
What are some practices you use to stay alert to a good image and keep your photographic skills sharp?
Self assignments or shooting in a specific theme is good practice. The reason I like themes is you have to shoot the cliche’s first and get them out of your head. After that the creative stuff bubbles up.
Another technique I’ve used in a completely different direction is called “Shooting the Donut.” Imagine a large donut around your house where the “hole” is your house and the “donut” extends a few blocks out from there. It’s the area you pass by every day and think you know it. You don’t. Grab a camera and walk the donut resolving to get shots as good as the stuff you shoot on vacation when you’re focused on documenting a place you’ve never been. It’s a great exercise in learning how to “see.”
And, as a fun one to leave our reader’s with: If you could shoot any place in the world where would it be and why?
The broad answer is anywhere outside of our country. One of my favorite quotes is one from Mark Twain; “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” I have been fortunate to travel internationally many times and it is life-changing. Americans tend towards arrogance and nothing brings me back to earth faster than getting close to people in other continents. When someone from another country allows you to take their photo, it’s a gift. It’s important to acknowledge the gift by not poking a camera in their face without first establishing a relationship—however brief.
But the real answer to the question is less about “where” but rather “who.” Jay Maisel is the premiere street photographer and has been an inspiration to me for decades. If you haven’t heard of him be sure to check out his work. He is now 87 living in Brooklyn and doesn’t shoot as much anymore. I would love to just walk with him and talk about the “art of seeing.”