Why Are We Fighting Over Free Work?

As an industry grows and becomes more ubiquitous, there is a wealth of new work opportunities that come with it. That is the nature of any growing sector.

Unfortunately, that also means there is a lot of low level junk that also begins to clutter up the industry. Fly by night clients, clients with no money, clients with ulterior motives, clients with no sustainable future… the list goes on.

What I am becoming baffled by is why are so many people fighting over this awful, no paid, no opportunity work?

Why are we scrabbling over clients who will never pay us, never care about us, never do anything for us except maybe toss a few empty promises of “exposure” our direction?

All that time that we spend spinning on these fruitless endeavors, chasing opportunities that are vapid and draining by nature is time we are not spending chasing the god clients, pursuing the work that pays, the work that matters, the work that means something, that work that can transform our careers.

I think it is time we stopped giving so much attention to this bad work and started focusing exclusively on getting better work.

Who is with me?

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

Behind the Scenes on the Fourth Annual Max Sports & Fitness Magazine Swimwear issue

Back in 2014, the James Patrick Photography team went to the editor and publisher of Max Sports & Fitness Magazine, one of our longest standing editorial clients, with a new idea for an annual fashion swimwear spread.

We were privileged that they not only said yes to our idea, but also have continued to support the feature allowing us to cultivate and grow it for four years. In this newest installment we brought together multiple members of our team for the project.

James Patrick Photography Team

Photographer – James Patrick

Production Manager – Amber Blom

Hair & Makeup Artist – Amber Nicole Bland

Stylist – Nicole Matthews

Videographer – Jason Black

We booked a private country club to host the shoot and then began to solicit multiple swimwear companies to sponsor the clothing for the photo shoot including some of our previous clothing sponsors Amanda Louise Luxury Swimwear and VFIT Swimwear.

The next step was for the creative team to discuss the look and feel we wanted for this year’s campaign in addition to how we wanted the hair and makeup to look on the models.

Although we were shooting south of Phoenix with a desert-themed landscape, we wanted the models to have more of a dewy glamorous beach-like look.

The day of the shoot the crew arrived on set early and as we unloaded all the photo gear we also collated through more than a hundred outfit options that were sent to us to determine which were the best options for each of the model’s style an look.

The model call times were bracketed throughout the morning so that they didn’t have to sit and wait too long to shoot.

My assistant and I then scouted all the various areas we wanted to set up in to determine what time to shoot in each area and which outfit to use in each area.

Then we began our aggressive shoot schedule of more than 15 different set ups in the single day photo shoot.

We shot each model in three different outfit changes plus did a small handful of duo and group shots as well as multiple cover options for the publication.

Although I personally had the energy to shoot until there was no sun left in the sky, I had to of course read the energy of the group. By about 3:30pm we had already exceeded everything we could have hoped to achieve – so around 4:00pm we took our last frame and called the shoot a wrap.

Post production of the shoot took up about two days and included taking the 1000 or so images down to the final 16 final shots that were to be edited and submitted over to the magazine.

The editing itself involved light and clean post work such as adjusting brightness, contrast, sharpness, vibrancy and minor skin edits.

The magazine ended up printing a 3-page spread, an online feature plus the cover of the publication.

After four years of doing this feature, I’m only hungry to continue improving and growing this campaign each and every year. Thanks to all who made the 2017 one of the best ones to date!


James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

How to Unlock the Mystical Code of Social Media

We want to know; what is the best time to post, how often should we post, what types of content should we post – whatever it takes to exponentially grow our following, increase our impressions, foster our likes or raise our engagement.

With my former career in marketing, I spent a lot of time researching social media strategies and trends to then implement and test them in my work.

When I think back to my old job about 7-to-10 years ago, there were a lot of differences contracted against today. For example, many of the social media platforms and channels we used are now dead.

Second, a countless bevy of new sites and apps have been birthed.

Third, we didn’t even discuss mobile media technology.

My o’ my how the times have changed. What wasn’t changed, however, is that we all asked the exact same questions on how to grow our following and engagement.

Early on in my career I figured out the two most important pieces to unlocking the mystical social media code.

The first, as Kevin Kelly teaches us, is that you do not need an insanely overinflated, unless, non-convertible following. Instead, you just need a small facet of true evangelists to spread your message.

The second, and most important secret of social media, is if you want people to be interested in you, then you must first be interested and invested in them. That simple.

Social media is not a set it and forget it. It is social engagement. It must be social and it must be engaging. It is the cultivation of true relationships where you give long before you ever consider asking for anything in return.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

FITposium Early Bird Special Starts Today

The early bird special for FITposium 2017 is now active with tickets being sold exclusively through our website www.FITposium.com

Founded in 2015, FITposium is an announce Arizona-based conference predicated upon helping aspiring fitness talents become fitness entrepreneurs by teaching them

  • How to establish their brand
  • How to market their brand
  • How to profit from their brand

The two-day conference, happening October 20-21, will feature a variety of workshops, presentations as well as a mixer and a casting call with numerous clients looking for talents including several fitness magazines.

Our first announced speaker for the conference is Callie Bundy, internationally-published cover model and online viral video sensation who will be presenting both a workshop and a seminar on building a brand-friendly social media and how to leverage your social media channels to negotiate contracts.

Callie is one of many speakers we will be announcing in the coming weeks for FITposium 2017.

There truly is no other event where you can learn so much about launching a career in the fitness industry as well as having real work opportunities to audition for projects.


Don’t miss out – be sure to register for the early bird special at www.FITposium.com for the never to be lower again price of $199 for the entire conference!

FITposium gets fit brands in shape!

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

Used to People Flaking

I was asked to be a guest on a video blog and podcast of someone in the fitness industry. We confirmed the date and time and I jumped on Skype and waited. Nothing happened. 30 minutes later I closed my browser and went on with my day of work.

I later received an e-mail from the host apologizing for the mistake on his end not knowing if we were confirmed (despite having confirmed). He asked to reschedule taking full blame for the first mishap.

So we rescheduled and once again the morning of the interview I responded to an e-mail from him confirming the time.

When the interview time came up I once again jumped on Skype and waited. This time I only sat and waited for 20 minutes without anything happening before I jumped off.

This time I fired off an e-mail to him first saying that I once again waiting for him to jump on Skype to start the interview and once again was left waiting with nothing happening.

He responded, apologizing once again and once again saying he was not sure if we were confirmed for the time (even though we had confirmed it). He used the exact statement “I am used to people flaking.”

Imagine any business model running their operations on the assumption that people will flake.

You schedule your car to get an oil change but when you arrive the mechanic is not there because he assumed you wouldn’t show up.

You book with a therapist and when you get to their office they are not there because they assumed you wouldn’t go through with the booking.

You hire an architect who never designs your building because they assumed you would change your mind and not want it built.

My honest query is wondering how he ever got a single guest on his show if he just assumes everyone will flake?

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

Will Machines Replace Photographers?

I was listening into a news report stating that robots and machines were taking so many jobs from humans that it was accounting for trillions of dollars of lost taxes in the United States alone. Bill Gates has been a reported proponent of placing a tax on machines that replace human jobs. Also I am addicted to the AMC show Humans, which covers the same topic.

Obviously I cannot help but think about how this could potentially impact the photography industry. Consider that the advancements of technology alone have catapulted so many new faces to enter what was once a very exclusive industry.

However, I believe that has made the industry better. Yes that means there is more competition and a lot more fighting over projects, but it also means better work is being made and more innovation and creativity is occurring.

If you think about it, machines have replaced small human jobs since we created them. We would carry things until we created a wheel, now one can do what once required many. Printers replaced scribes sitting in a room writing everything by hand. Self-check out registers are replacing cashiers presently.

However, every time a new technology comes out or a new machine is developed, an entire industry of new jobs surfaces to support it.

Perhaps because I got into photography at the front and start of the digital photo revolution but I’ve never had that fear of being replaced by technology. How I worked with digital imagery at the start of my career is vastly different from how I work with it now.

The thing I find solace in is that I don’t believe it matters if machines eventually are designed to take photos potentially replace photographers. There will always be more opportunities if we just keep our eyes open.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

Beware the Red Flags

Let us see how many red flags we can count in this scenario.

I received a message on Instagram from someone I’ve never heard of before who wanted to connect with me, but wouldn’t say what about. The message simply said “would love to connect on some things.”

I looked into the person and they had 2 million followers on Instagram. Interesting because I have no idea who they are, but 2 million other people do.

My response was to ask what it was in regards to and provided my e-mail. I never got an e-mail from them. Instead another message a week later on Instagram asking me for my phone number to discuss a photo project they needed done the very next day.

I responded to say that was far too short of notice to properly set up a project and to contact me with specifics so we could correctly plan a shoot together and sign a contract of services.

I receive no response from him but instead a call from his “assistant” requesting the same thing; a photo shoot the very next day. I send nearly the exact same response to say I would be happy to discuss a shoot at a later date so we could properly plan, sign a contract of services and execute the project. No response from him either.

Also they called me by my last name (huge pet peeve).

What is your count for red flags?

1 – Vague message not indicating any details except wanting to be in touch

2 – A very inflated social media following for someone I’ve never heard of

3 – No response to original request for information

4 – Follow up later requesting phone number with still no details

5 – Wanting to schedule a big project the very next day

6 – No time given to plan nor sign a contract or agree to terms

7 – No response from him nor his “assistant” when there was a request to properly plan.

10 million – Got my name wrong. Okay, okay, so probably not as egregious.

Our industry is filled with leeches trying to cheat you. Watch out for red flags when individuals or companies contact you with their opportunities.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

Best Advice – Admit When You’re Wrong

I’ve been wrong a lot in my life. I made mistakes when I worked at a newspaper. I made mistakes when I worked as a photo editor for a magazine. I made mistakes in my marketing job. And I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my photography career.

A few weeks back I wrote a piece on internalization versus externalization and where we place blame for our mistakes. Perhaps it is my lack of self-esteem but I cannot help but to always blame myself whenever something doesn’t go right.

I’m certain there is a healthy balance that we should strive to achieve but I also believe having that barometer keeps me working hard and striving to right the wrongs.

Several months ago my team was contacted by one of those pointless Instagram collection pages. You know the ones; they will post all your photos and pretend to be a community for the purpose of absolutely nothing.

This particular one wanted to host a transformation contest giving prizes to someone who lost a lot of weight and got in shape. They reached out to our team to see if we would donate any prizes.

Normally I would question the validity of a contest being held on Instagram by a page, which is not even a real company. But we burnt a few calories and looked into it and came up with a large bevy of prizes that included:

A photo shoot with the James Patrick Photography team

A free admission into our annual FITposium conference

A free copy of both of our e-books FitModelGuide.com & The Professional Model’s Playbook

At the time we felt really good about sending these off and potentially forming a new collaborative partnership.

But, despite what was really an overreaching generosity, we heard nothing back. Weeks went by. Weeks turned into more weeks. Finally I was getting angry. We were asked to come up with something and we offered all this and this “page” couldn’t be bothered to even respond to say “received” or “got it” or “we will review” or, hold your breath, “thank you.”

So I fired off a message to this page’s owner who contacted us demanding to know what was going on. Guess what, still no response.

Flash forward several more weeks and the owner reaches back out to us asking if we would be willing to sponsor their contest.

I responded immediately to say that we sent a proposal months ago offering several prizes and never heard back. That we followed up and still never heard back. So at this time, how could it be in our best interest to support this contest now?

The response “ok thanks”

He didn’t say “I’m sorry I must have missed that, let me look into it” or anything of that sort. Just “ok thanks”

Don’t apologize, whatever you do. Don’t accept blame, whatever you do. Just say “ok thanks” and see where that ends up.

Perhaps we should consult a magic 8-ball to predict your future.

“Will you succeed with this approach?” Shake shake shake.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

Behind the Scenes on the Elements Fashion Shoot

I’ve known fellow photographer Tom Spitz for the better part of a decade. Early in my career I actually would assist Tom on a handful of his photo shoots, gleaning all I could from his work. When the idea was proposed for us to shoot together I simply could not resist.

Both of us wanted a passion project that was outside of the work we normally get hired to shoot. Something were we could push ourselves creating and try new concepts and approaches that we never had before.

After a handful of lunches we came up with the concept of theming the photo shoot the four elements; earth, wind, fire, water. Each of us would take two of the elements and the unifying features would be that we would both use different colored gels in our shots. Tom took water and earth and I took fire and wind.

Tom found a great location called Whistle Stop Depot in Tucson that was diverse enough for he and I to spend the entire day shooting in.

Prior to the photo shoot we pulled dozens of swatches and samples for lighting we wanted to try or posing we wanted to consider. We also toured the location twice to do as much pre-planning as we could.

We decided to hire stylist Monica Negri to help style all the models for the photo shoot and give it that finished touch. We also hired professional makeup artist and hair stylist Amanda Bland to make each model look their best prior to going on camera.

Ford/Robert Black Agency sent over three of the four models and we were able to get a fourth who was a former Miss Arizona winner.

The morning of the photo shoot we arrived early for a final game plan. We bracketed the models to arrive throughout the day to be respectful of their time. Tom and I were to go back and forth in our shoots.

While I was shooting he was watching my images as they came onto the computer screen offering advice and input and to push me to try something new and different. Then when he was shooting I would do the same for him.

The order of the shoot was:

1) Fire – James Patrick

2) Earth – Tom Spitz

3) Wind – James Patrick

4) Water – Tom Spitz

What follows are my two approaches for the Fire and Wind photos.

Beginning with fire we had the model Tori Rose. She was styled in an edgy and dramatic outfit that complimented the theme of the shoot. I found these metal grates with both lockers and gears welded to it.

Our approach was to build one single light at a time.

We started with on rim light with a strong yellow gel on it. We positioned it on a c-stand behind the metal grates so that it would shine through the material and placed it behind and above her head.

The second light was with a red gel positioned camera right and shooting towards the lockers to create a second color giving the illusion of fire.

The main light we started with a large octabox; but it was too difficult to get light on the subject without killing the colored lights behind her. Thus we instead went with a softbox with eggcrates attached so the light was soft but focused just on her face and upper body. This prevented light from spilling out and eliminating the gel lights.

The final element was to add two smoke machines to billow around her and catch the colored gel lights.

We took a large number of shots to get the right mix of smoke and gel lights.

One of the happy accidents we had was when the yellow gel light didn’t fire and we got another options with just a strong red backlight and a soft main light.

For the wind photo shoot we wanted to illustrate some motion and the element of air. The location had two airplane sides welded in as doors. I chose that as the backdrop as the sides of the plane played well with the wind theme.

Our model, Piper Kelly, was outfitted with a soft pink dress that puffed out around the hips. The color of the dress helped to contrast her from the scene.

I put two light heads outside the doors one with a light blue gel and one with a purple gel – two colors I thought complimented the idea of a windy day.

We used the smoke machine again, but with much less intensity compared to the fire shoot. We fanned it out behind the model so that it would capture the streaks of lights pouring in from the doors behind the model.

The main light was a large softbox, which complimented the subject nicely. The final element was to have a small fan blowing her hair to the side.

We posed her at a strong angle to illustrate a bit of movement reinforcing the wind theme.

Postproduction on each image involved minor skin edits and using the curves palette to burn and dodge areas of the images. The wind image took a bit more time as we pulled in the streaks of light and the blowing hair from another photo to match the pose we wanted to have.

Stay tuned as I will share Tom’s details of his portion of the shoot when he posts them.


Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon 24-70 L Series

Canon 70-700 F2.8 L Series

3 Dynalite Heads & 2 Packs

1 Interfit Head

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto

You’re Asking the Wrong Questions

On a cold and rainy day in Tucson I had the opportunity to present to a special annual high school workshop for aspiring photographers. Myself and several other photographers spent the entire day teaching hundreds of students everything they could or would need to know about photography and growing a career in the photo industry.

Each photographer had his or her own unique business and lecture and students got to select two half-day sessions to attend throughout the day. For example, there was a fashion photographer, a commercial photographer, a photo journalist, a food and beverage photographer and myself which was teaching how to light and photograph the athletic form.

This was probably my 6th or so year doing this conference and in that time I’ve witnessed a growing and (honestly) unnerving trend. It seems like each year, on a whole, the students attending feel a bit more detached, a bit more apathetic, a bit more uninterested in absorbing the information being presented.

Granted, I do not expect every 16-to-18 year old to know without any trepidations what they want to do with their lives and careers. When I was that age, I was clueless on that I would be doing with my future. The difference, however, was I was voracious about finding things out.

I think that came from absolutely hating what I was doing at the time. To make money while I was a teen I worked at a grocery store for a handful of years. I hated everything about it. I hated the rude customers. I hated the snarky bosses. I hated the awkward rules and regulations like when I got in trouble for being too slow on the cash register and later got in trouble for being too fast on the cash register. I hated my job so much that I just knew I had to work hard at something else to get out of there and move on with my life.

Around this same time I was studying journalism and was one of the editors of my school paper; which I loved and would spend all the spare time I could learning more and more about that craft. I would even do unpaid internships and work on unpaid projects with weekly and daily newspapers to entrench myself further in that industry. Yes, I said “unpaid.” The real world experience was everything I needed.

And although I’m not a working journalist today (with the exception of contributing a few articles here and there to publications), it was working in the media which led me to photo journalism which led me to photo editor positions which led me to a career in photography.

Back to that cold and rainy day in Tucson. I, and the rest of the professional photographers in attendance, are spending an eight hour day without pay to pass whatever knowledge we can onto these high school students who signed up to be at this event on their own decision.

In each of my two sessions that day I had a handful of students who took full advantage. They were engaged, they asked questions and when it came time for them to take images with my guiding them; it was apparent that they were invested and trying.

Unfortunately that was a small percentage of all of those who attended.

One teacher, who I’ve known for about a decade, came up to me to tell me to look out for his award-winning student that he was proud of and was excited she was taking my class.

It was not hard to find her. During my entire presentation she sat slouched in her chair (which she brought over because she couldn’t be troubled to stand like the rest of the class) with her face down or in a whispered conversation with her boyfriend. At one point, in the middle of my presentation, she actually got up and walked away with her boyfriend to take photos of him. Apparently my lecture was that boring and too much of a time drain for her to pay attention any longer.

Later when I asked her to take some images using what I was teaching; she declined.

At this point I believe it is important to note that my ego is not fragile enough that I need it to be valued and reinforced by high school students. That is not the point.

The real point is that she was the award-winning student I was told to look out for. Why was I told to look out for her? Because my company hires. We hire interns, we hire assistants, we hire aspiring professionals. Part of being hired and being paid to work as part of our team, they have the opportunity to learn how to grow their own business or careers.

I don’t think this ever crossed this student’s mind. But why on earth would I ever consider hiring or investing into a lazy, apathetic and truthfully rude aspiring photographer, despite how talented he or she may be?

Perhaps that is the most important lesson these students need to learn, that talent alone will not be enough to grow a career. That requires professionalism, hard work and (most importantly) relationships.

The end of the day-long seminar involved a panel where all the photographers got to sit up in front of all the students who attended that day to answer any questions they may have.

Yet the questions that were asked included:

“What are your biggest pet peeves?”

“Is ISO pronounced I-S-O or eye-so?”

What another blown opportunity. I sat there frustrated on the verge of shouting out “you’re all asking the wrong questions!”

You have an entire panel of professionals here who can give you several lifetimes worth of knowledge and the best question you can come up with is to ask what our biggest annoyances are?

You need to be asking about how we got our starts, how we learned to market ourselves, how we got our first big client, the mistakes we have made and the lessons we learned from it, what we did after high school to get to where we are now, how we leverage social media channels to grow our businesses, how we continue to learn and refine our own abilities… the list keeps going on.

Perhaps, going back to remembering when I was that age, these students are not uncomfortable enough. I hated my job at the grocery store so much that I knew I had to find a way out doing something I loved to do.

Maybe then they could start asking the right questions.

James Patrick
IG @jpatrickphoto