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Behind The Camera: Dan Hawk

Many photographers’ paths to professional image-making are driven by a romanticized desire to make great pictures of whatever they’re passionate about and have someone pay them for it. And while Dan Hawk’s journey to becoming a professional photographer certainly includes that component, he’ll tell you his secret to success was taking a more pragmatic approach rather than just being passionate about the images he was taking. “I was a banker, doing everything from commercial lending to mortgages to wealth management investments,” says Dan. “I primarily worked with affluent small business owners and executives. When you work with those kinds of people, you see what their budgets look like and I saw how they spend money,” proclaims Dan.

For the last six or seven years, Dan Hawk was a full-time freelance commercial, landscape, and adventure photographer based in Portland, Oregon. Recently he started a job in the photo industry but maintains some freelance work on the side. Dan’s love for photography started similarly to many other folks. “I shot all kinds of film cameras when I was a kid. I had a little dual branded Fisher Price and Kodak 110 camera that was sky blue with big,

rubbery, chunky ends, a big yellow shutter button and you could stick the flash cubes on top. That's what I started with,” reminisces Dan. “I’m 48, so I started off with film. I shot a ton of film cameras. Just lots of snapshots. And then in high school, I took a class and shot a little bit on an OM1. But I kind of sucked at it and I just walked away from cameras for a long time,” Dan says.

Fast forward a decade or two and photography would pop back up in Dan’s life. “I was bike commuting because I'm in Portland and everybody has a stint at that here,” tells Dan “I was commuting to downtown Portland in the golden hour and blue hour and I remembered I used to be a photographer. So I started taking pictures with my cell phone and got hooked. It wasn’t long before I had to pick up a dedicated camera” While Dan’s passion for photography was re-ignited from capturing the city during the best-lit hours of the day, his decision to cut his ties with corporate banking and go full-on with professional photography was steeped in his pragmatic-to-a-fault character. “I knew my cool pictures of the Portland skyline on my commute to work were really beautiful. But I knew that there's probably not a market for that,” explains Dan.

“I think there's a misunderstanding. Most people think, ‘I really like taking pictures. I would like this to be my job.’ And I think they don't realize that most of the pictures they take likely don’t have much commercial value. It's not like somebody's gonna pay you to take pictures of the thing that everybody else takes pictures of,” he continues. “Landscape Images are incredibly hard to sell. Those are fine art, and unless your goal is selling fine art, there’s almost nobody who is going to pay you a decent amount for that photo,” Dan states matter-of-factly. “When I started my photography career, there was literally a conversation where I came home from work and I said, ‘they're changing my job. I don't want to do this anymore.’ And I came to my wife and I said, ‘Can I quit?’ And she's like, ‘What are you gonna do?’ And I said, ‘Well, I've been doing this photography thing and I think I can make that go,’” Dan remembers his decision to go all in on photography. “It had already been kind of stirring around a little bit in my brain. I hadn't been paid to shoot any photos at that point. But I knew there was a need in the business side of things,” says Dan.

You have to figure out what the thing is that people are willing to spend money on,” Dan says about starting a photography business. “The answer is pictures of themselves. And that's where your retail photography, like wedding photography, taking senior portraits, taking baby and family photos, boudoir, all of those kinds of things come in. Those are not commercial, they are meant for the enjoyment of the person buying the photos. It's for the enjoyment of the person hiring you,” says Dan. “That is retail photography because you are selling it directly to the end user. The difference is that commercial

photography is used by a business or an entrepreneur or a service provider to promote themselves. They're buying the photos because they're gonna use them to make their business go forward,” Dan continues.

When I first started my business as a photographer, I decided right at the beginning I wasn’t going to pursue taking pictures of families, babies, and Senior portraits,” Dan explained. “I ruled that out. And the main reason is that I’ve had family portraits done for me before. I've hired photographers to do family portraits, and I know that it was a tough thing to think about spending that money on photos that are just for my family,” Dan continues. “I figured out really early on that taking pictures that people can use to make money is probably a lot more valuable than a picture they take just to put on their wall, right? And part of it was that I knew what business budgets looked like. So I decided to work with businesses. And, admittedly, it's a very pragmatic approach, but for me, I needed a career change and I really like taking photos.”

I didn't know anything about commercial photography at that point,” admits Dan, “so I did a bunch of research and I called one of my old bank clients who was a commercial photographer and said, ‘Hey, what should I do?’ And he said, ‘Well, don't compete with me, but here's how you get into it.’” Dan says that competing with this ex-client was laughable at that point since his ex-client was shooting all the trucks for Freightliner. “There was no danger of me competing with him but he said, ‘You should get involved with ASMP, the American Society of Media Photographers. They put on this event that you should go be a part of. It'll challenge you to be better and you should reach out to some other commercial photographers. Here's a list of some people.’ So I kind of did it that way,” tells Dan.

As well as joining ASMP and reaching out to these other photographers, Dan taught himself how to write contracts and how to negotiate prices and terms. He spent a ton of time on Getty Images and talking to other photographers he met through ASMP, figuring out how images get licensed and what copyright looked like. “I'm kind of self-taught on most of that stuff. I'm very much like, ‘How do I work this out technically and how do I figure out a way to make money out of it.’ But I've been able to engage with a community of people to learn the nuances and to get better at it, which has been great,” exclaims Dan.

Literally the first couple of clients that I worked with, I just reached out and said, ‘Hey, I'm looking at your website. I would love to work with you to get new portraits of all of your employees.’” One of these clients said yes, so Dan says he had to quickly scramble to figure out how to do the job he had just landed. “I had never done off-camera lighting before,” remembers Dan, “So I got on the web and I looked up ‘headshot on a white background’ and I found David Hobby's website, He's got this really great tutorial series on how to learn to make portraits with off-camera flash.” Dan bought the course and the speed light, umbrella, and lightweight light stand that David recommends for beginners. “I bought those things. I borrowed a white seamless roll of paper, and a background stand from a friend, and I called up a bunch of friends and said, ‘Hey, I'm trying to teach myself how to do this, can you come over and pose for me?’ And that's how I learned to do it,” tells Dan. “I quickly figured out the speed light didn't cut it for professional work, so I upgraded to a strobe and a softbox. I added a reflector. I bought my own background stand, my own seamless, and wireless triggers, the whole setup,” describes Dan about his quick self-education.

“I feel like headshots are one of those things where there's kind of a formula to it, how to make this look flattering for lots of different kinds of people. And you need to figure out how to do it in kind of an assembly line way because the big secret here is that with a single headshot, you're not gonna make a ton of money,” says Dan. “The real lucrative way to do it is to get a company to trust you to come in and take headshots for their whole team. I did 40 headshots in four hours one day. It was like a whirlwind but it felt like it only took 20 minutes and then I was done. But the key to making that work is making everything easily replicable,” he continues.

“Part of that is because you want all of the headshots to look the same. They all need to have the same vibe. They need to have the same toning, the same color, and the same gradient if there's a gradient anywhere in the image. So I figured out that setting that up and becoming really proficient at making it look exactly the same was really valuable.” Dan says his ability to create consistent results for his client made him their go-to headshot person. “I think I ended up somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 headshots over like three years for them,” remembers Dan. “That's how I learned, just jumping in with both feet. And I do not have a background education in photography. I was a music major in college. So I learned by doing it, a lot. That has been my MO, my way of doing things.”

I've done some work for some local brands as well, whether it be product photography or taking their products out in the field and doing more lifestyle work,” Dan describes another form of commercial photography that is in his repertoire. “A good example is almost exactly a year ago, I did a studio shoot for a campaign for Portlandia Foods. I got introduced to them by a friend who does a lot of their web design and social media marketing. They're the parent company for Portland Ketchup. Really, really lovely people. If you're an Oregonian and you like the local vibe, Portland Ketchup's the way to go. So I did a shoot for them in the studio and basically set up a little picnic scenario with really bright, colorful backdrops as well as some studio product photography of an apparel line that they came out with. We improvised and set up some random scenes. We brought in a bunch of burgers and then we poured ketchup all over everything, which was cool. We poured out whole bottles of ketchup, got the drips, and just created a lot of assets for what they were gonna do,” Dan says. “I've done a few shoots like that for brands that are looking for assets for either social media or for advertising, sometimes for their website. This one was interesting because we also shot new e-commerce photos of every product for them on a white background and clipped. I'm doing a little bit less of this because that kind of work requires a lot more time and energy to land those kinds of clients.”

The main work that I do now is editorial. I have a few different magazines and publications that contact me with stories and assignments. That's been keeping me busy for the last nine months,” proclaims Dan about his current commercial workload. “The one that I've had a recurring relationship with is Oregon 1859. They're a travel magazine and they also do a publication in Washington, called Washington 1889. I've gotten to know an editor there over the past couple of years and she has been reaching out when they've got stories that she thinks would be a great fit. I recently just finished an assignment with them for their Farm-to-Table series. And that's my third farm-to-table story that I've done for them in the last year or so,” Dan continues. “Magazine assignments are interesting because they reach out and say, ‘Hey, we've got a story a writer is working on or has already written, and this is who our subject is. This is kind of roughly what the story's about. Are you available?’ That's kind of the first step. If I'm available, then they'll send over a contract and a brief that gives me a lot of information about the kind of photos they're looking for, the main subject, the deadline for when they need the photos and any particular things that they want to be included or not included. They'll also give me all the contact information for the subject so we can get a shoot set up,” explains Dan.

“The magazines I've worked with tend to be more either local, regional, or do things that are super niche, where it's a magazine that’s very focused for a specific industry,” says Dan. “One of the things I noticed is that because these are smaller magazines, they are a lot more clear about their budget right up front. They don't ask me what my rate is. They will offer me the rate for the story. Often they pay one rate for a certain kind of story with a certain number of photos. They pay a different premium rate for a cover. And they pay a different rate if they're just buying a single image to use in a story, almost like it’s stock. When you have a relationship with an editor they will often reach out to you directly instead of using a stock photo. Sort of ‘Hey, do you have any photos from this city, from this town, from this restaurant?’”

Dan says that his work with publishers like Oregon 1859 allows him some pretty wide creative control. “The reality is we all have cell phones that are plenty capable, and a lot of times the author of the story has been there in person, so they could take the pictures themselves. But they're hiring me because I capture a look. I'm capturing a feel, the ambiance of what it's like to be there. So sometimes they'll say, ‘Hey, we need five photos. We need a portrait, we need an environmental shot, we need some detail and we'd like a wider angle.’ As somebody where your job is creative, where you get hired to go out there and make the image, I deviate from that list fairly often once I’ve got the shot they asked for.” Dan reasons.

Having the creative freedom to deviate from the approved shot list can also be advantageous to Dan’s freelance work in the branding sector. “The last shoot I just did, the farm has this cool retired Greyhound that is the owner's dog. The owners post their dog’s pictures on Instagram all the time. So I thought the magazine might want some great pictures of the dog but they didn't have room for it in the story,” Dan remembers. “But sometimes you get a photo that the client really likes and the magazine doesn't want to use”.

The way I approach it is that I'm a photographer and I own the copyright to the images. So if the magazine doesn't want the photos, sometimes I can license the photos to the subject for promotion of their business after the story has come out. You can do like a little double dip there,” Dan explains. “You don't always want to go, ‘Well I got this job and now I'm gonna come in here and try to score a business deal off of it.’ But I follow the agreement with the magazine and make sure that I don't publish or share anything early. Then once the shoot is done, I'll reach out to the subject and mention, ‘Hey, the magazine's out. I thought I'd let you know in case you hadn't seen it yet. I'm really happy with how it turned out and here are some other photos from the shoot. Let me know if there's anything you'd like to use,’” continues Dan. “And if they're just gonna use it for basic social media stuff, a lot of times I'll just let 'em use that. I'll just license them for free because they were already really kind at opening up their business to me."

But I'm a talker, so you better believe if I go somewhere I've gotten to know them. We're in touch. We're following each other on Instagram now. And we've been emailing, and there might be some goodwill to be gained for me just saying, ‘Hey, here's a couple of photos that they didn't use that I thought you might like.’ And if they say, ‘Hey, I want to use this on a brochure,’ I let them know that these are free to use for your social media and that sort of thing but if there's anything you'd like to use for commercial purposes, just let me know and I'll send you over an estimate.”

Ultimately, though I take more photos than the assignment required because I'm there. I'm on location. If the light is good and things are happening, I'm gonna take those pictures because you never know. I don't know how often they're going to have the budget or the time to hire somebody to come out and do this stuff. And I'm already there and I do brand commercial work. So hopefully my work kind of straddles between something you’d use to promote your business and editorial storytelling. It doesn't happen every time, but that's worked really well for me.”

“I feel like I kind of have these two sides to me,” states Dan, “Almost everything I ever get paid for is pictures of other people's products, their faces or them doing work, that sort of thing. But I love landscape photography. I still do a lot of it. I go on a lot of trips and that's my decompressor, the thing I do to stay grounded.”

Landscape photography is a very large part of Dan’s photographic journey and has shaped his style, understanding of light, and even the kinds of clients he’s worked with. “During those early days with my first digital camera, I was doing my best to capture light and moments as they happened. It was only a matter of time before I started chasing those scenes intentionally, understanding that the most useful skill was learning how to be at the right place at the right time.”

To say that Dan’s landscape photography is solely a decompressor would undersell it, literally. “I’ve thankfully been able to work with clients who appreciate the nature photography that I do and I’ve merged that style of photography with my client’s needs to create images that cross over into the commercial side of things. That said, I really do love making images, and visiting beautiful places for myself.”

One of the other things that has been key to making my photography career work is diversifying income streams. During the beginning of the pandemic, I was looking for headshot work,- really I was looking for anything I could find,” tells Dan, “And there's this app that's called Thumbtack where you can sign up and say, ‘Hey, I do this service,’ and then people can hire you.” Dan continues, “I had a company reach out to me and say, ‘Hey, do you do dating profile pictures?’ And I said sure. I had done one before. I was taking headshots for a client and they said, ‘Hey, do you mind taking a couple of pictures for my dating profile?’” Dan recalls. “So when that company approached me I said, I did. It was one of those ‘we will figure this out as we go’ types of things. It was weird. It was outside of my norm. It wasn't business. It wasn't commercial. I probably did one a month during the whole pandemic. They just kept sending people to me and it was an income stream. I think you just have to realize sometimes you end up doing stuff that's adjacent to what you thought you'd be doing because you're a professional and you gotta figure out a way to make money,” finishes Dan.

“When talking about diverse income streams, I should mention that I’ve also had a fair bit of success selling my landscape and nature photography to customers as art in a digital format,” says Dan. “While most people know them as NFTs, I don't call my art NFTs,” Dan continues, “I call it digital art. And the beautiful thing about the way the blockchain works is that it all happens directly with the person buying the art. You get the money, they get the art. There's no middleman, it's all handled digitally,” Dan explains, “I've sold far more art that way than I ever have as prints. Or even that I've ever licensed as stock-type photos to magazines or businesses.”

“I know people have some really negative ideas about NFTs, but this is not like that at all. I'm not selling 10,000 trading cards and people aren't using these as investments. In fact, everybody that's ever bought into my art has held onto it,” Dan reasons. “As much as people can go, ‘Oh, it's a Ponzi scheme, or crypto is evil,’ I'm just gonna tell you, I paid my mortgage twice last year with the money I made from crypto that I received for my art,” states Dan. “It's just another part of Dan Hawk photography and I pay taxes on it. Every time I made a sale, I claimed that as income. I think that you just have to look at it as just one way to sell art. I view that as just one income stream among many that has allowed me to be a full-time photographer for a while.

Because Dan does so many different types of photography, he has an extensive list of gear. “I love environmental portraits,” Dan states enthusiastically. “I'm not a big fan of the super zoomed-in closeup portrait, I like a little more in the frame. So for that reason, the 35mm f1.4 is my favorite lens that I've ever shot with,” divulges Dan when asked about how he captures the images in his most recent body of work. “The Sony G Master 1.4 is my current one, but I had the Sony Zeiss version before that which is a great lens. But this one is a lot smaller, a lot sharper, so I love that lens. I think I bought the first one Pro Photo Supply got in the store when I could pre-order it.”

I am a die hard 35 millimeter shooter. I love it. It is pretty rare for me to do a photoshoot of any sort without busting out the 35. It has a pop,” continues Dan, “the F1.4, that fast, wide aperture gives me a 3D depth, a little extra edge, that I haven't been able to get from anything but medium format film. It has the ability to get lots of the scene in focus, but also get a separation, a pop, and a contrast that I find I don't get from a 50mm, a 40mm, or even an 85mm. I love it.”

I started off with all primes when I first started doing most of this business stuff. Then I had a client shoot one day where I was juggling back and forth between a 35mm and an 85mm.

And I kept having to pause and say, ‘Hang on, I need to switch lenses.’ And I have multiple camera bodies I personally own, but I like carrying one camera on a shoot like that. I'm not a big fan of having multiple cameras in a commercial setting,” Dan states emphatically. “And I'm not recommending that you do this, but I literally finished that shoot. Drove straight to Pro Photo Supply and I bought a 24-70mm. They actually had the first version of the 24-70mm f2.8 GM used. I came in, I found it in the used case and was like, ‘that one right there. Yeah. I need that.’ Slapped down my card and bought it on the spot. I was just so dang tired of having to interrupt my client and interrupt what I was doing to switch lenses,” Dan divulges. “I always thought primes with fast apertures are the way to go because I can get the shallow depth of the field. But I figured out that with a lot of my editorial work and a lot of my environmental portraiture and environmental work, I had people at different spots in the room that needed to both be in focus so I was stopped down to like F4 on almost everything anyway. So I needed the versatility in focal length more than I needed the fast aperture. I've been a firm believer that that's your workhorse lens as an editorial and commercial photographer. For what I'm doing a lot of times I'm posing people, I'm setting things up exactly where I want them. I'm lighting it. I've got an assistant helping me get every little detail right. I'm not in a hurry. This is not event photography. One camera's better.”

For sports, action, and concerts, I get why you'd want multiples, because primes are super clutch in those sorts of situations,” Dan counters. “I'm a landscape photographer as well, so when I'm landscape shooting, I'll have multiple cameras.” Dan notes that because he’s recently become a tech rep for Sony, “I kind of have a weird hodgepodge right now because I don't have to own everything at longer focal lengths. I work for Sony, so I have access to pretty much everything Sony has made in the last 10 to 11 years. I love the Sony 100-400mm GM, which is an amazing lens with fast autofocus and is really sharp.

And then, the 70-200mm f2.8 GM version two is amazing. I get giddy every time I use it. It feels that cool to use. It feels like using a fast prime because it's super lightweight and the autofocus is silent and incredibly fast. I always tell people, it almost feels like it's magic. Like there's something going on inside that I don't understand. And I work for Sony and I know the tech specs, but it’s still unreal,” Dan gushes over one of his favorite telephoto lenses.

“I have a very broad range of my own lenses but I've kind of whittled it down a little bit over the years,” reveals Dan. “Probably my second most used prime is the Sony 20mm F1.8 G lens. It's a little bit of a sleeper. People don't think it's gonna be as good as it is because it’s relatively inexpensive, but it is my go-to lens for any kind of Astro nighttime photography. It is really, really sharp. It has almost zero coma out at the edges, even wide open at F1.8. And then on the longer end, I have an 85 that I'll use occasionally for portraits when I need to. It's the Zeis Batis 85mm F1.8. I've had it for a long time. It was kind of my go-to for portraits early on when I was doing headshots. And I prefer it over the faster, longer lenses because I feel like when you get to 85 millimeters, if you start opening up wider, I always find that depth field is too shallow for almost everything I do.”

When I first got back into photography, I started with a Sony NEX-5N, which is a little tiny mirrorless camera with an APS-C sensor. I had that and the kit lens in my bag when I was riding back and forth to work in downtown Portland. So that's what I started with and I just kind of started building from there. I have access to a ton of great camera bodies but my personal favorite is the A7RV. That's the body that I use as my primary camera. I love the high resolution, the advanced subject tracking, and the amazing screen and EVF. I have a bunch of different lenses, but I would say that my 24 -70 F2.8 GM II model very rarely leaves my camera. On a day-to-day basis, I use it for almost all of my editorial work. I use it for almost all of my studio work. It is Blisteringly sharp. It's light, it is just a pleasure to use. I love the way it looks. It renders really well. So that's kind of my desert island setup. If I had to get rid of everything else it would be that camera, that lens.”

As soon as you get into lighting, it opens up this whole other can of worms,” Dan says as he starts to talk about the lights he uses. “I started off with a little 400-watt strobe that was made by Paul C. Buff. I figured out that I mainly wanted to be able to just plug it into the wall for long group headshot sessions. That and I wanted to be able to use big modifiers,” continues Dan.

“Over the years, I've kind of zeroed in on what I like. At this point, I use Profoto strobes for almost everything. My go-to is the Profoto B10. It is pretty small. It's like the size of a 70- 200mm lens. It runs on battery, but you can also plug it in. It's 250 watts, but it easily keeps up with any of the 400-watt strobes I've used from anybody else. And it's small enough that I can just throw it in my bag like a lens. So I use that one a lot. I have the Profoto TTL air remote. I also have a pair of bigger strobes by Profoto the B1 and a B1X.

I don't use them as often and the main reason why is because they're literally twice as heavy as the B10 and they have big handles and stuff sticking off of them. And the batteries are two times as, as large and equally as heavy. I need a roller case to carry these two lights. Everything about them is big and robust. It's kind of overkill for what I do most of the time. I'll set 'em up when I'm shooting in a big studio, like the Portlandia Foods shoot. If I need multiple lights, I'll bring the B1’s out. But if I can just get by with one light, I'll just use the B10. I also have an A1X, which is the Profoto speed light. What's cool about that light is, it's a little more powerful than your average speed light, and it has that round head, so it's a little more diffused. It also uses the same trigger as all the other Profoto air lights, and you can actually use it as a trigger if your trigger ever goes out. You can stick the light on top of the camera, turn off the actual flashbulb and use it as a remote. So a lot of times what I'll do is I'll bring the B10 and the A1X in case I need the second light. And when I'm doing headshots, I use those two lights for the most part. I don't usually bring the bigger strobes.”

“There are so many options available,” Dan admits. “I've rented LEDs, some of the big Aperture 300Ds. I've rented those for a couple of shoots where constant was actually a better way to go. I was able to use my modifiers by just swapping the speed rings, which is cool, so I like those. And I have some smaller LED panels that I'll use occasionally for things. I bring those along and it can look like a fake incandescent light or sunlight. And then I have a couple of Lumecubes as well, and I'll use them when I'm doing more of an adventure shoot where I'm out hiking so that I can just kind of give a little pop of light on things. It's pretty rare that I go out on any kind of shoot and I don't have an LED panel in my bag. I'll use my cell phone sometimes if I forget or if I'm just in a pinch.”

I'm super minimalist when it comes to modifiers,” Dan proudly proclaims. “When I was just getting rolling, I really liked Paul C. Buff. They have a 32-inch softbox that has two diffusers. I really liked that modifier. So I've kind of stuck with that form factor. That main size is my main go-to for most headshot things. I used a Profoto one for a little while, but I didn't like that I had to take it all the way apart every time I used it. So I've kind of gravitated toward the Westcott Rapid Box. The XL Octa box is the one I have. It's a workhorse, it’s been on hundreds of shoots. I actually bought it originally when I was using a different brand of strobes and I was able to just swap out the speed ring on the back and put a Profoto ring on. And then I bought the 24-inch collapsible beauty dish by Westcott, and it's a model that they discontinued now. It was the Joel Grimes beauty dish and they replaced it with the Manny Ortiz signature. That is such a good box. It's fun because it's round, it's not an Octa. So the catch lights in the eyes are actually round and it comes with a reflector. So you can use it as a beauty dish, but it also comes with both an internal and an external diffuser so it can be a smaller softbox. And the whole thing folds up to like the size of a small tripod. It's tiny. I'll throw that in a car when I'm going to a shoot, even if I don't know if I'm gonna need it. Sometimes I'll bring the B10 and that little beauty dish because they're compact enough. And the B10 has the ability to mount to a tripod instead of a light stand as well. So I can like just throw it on a tripod if I need to, which is cool.”

“I have quite a few tripods,” says Dan. “I have a couple of the smaller Mefoto tripods, by Benro. I have a Road Trip, the one that has the leather-wrapped legs.That's my travel tripod that I fly with inside my carry-on. If I'm shooting landscape, I use a larger tripod when I can - an FLM with a Really Right Stuff Ball head. It’s super light and incredibly stable, with no center column. When I shoot any kind of product or headshots, anytime where I'm doing external off-camera lighting, I almost always shoot tethered. And if you're tethered, you kind of need to be on a tripod because you don't want to be carrying around a camera and trying to fiddle with the computer at the same time. And when you're doing product photography, it's gotta be on a tripod. So I find even if I don't stay on the tripod all the time, it’s nice to just have a place to set down while I set up my composition and work through things. I have a giant Enduro tripod that can be almost eight feet tall which I use for studio and interiors.”

This is not a very popular opinion, but I don’t prefer Capture One for shooting tethered. I know that I'm the outlier among people who do studio photography,” admits Dan about his process of shooting tethered in Adobe Lightroom. “I personally think that Capture One is not a very good cataloging app. And because I have such a massive catalog in Lightroom, it makes sense to shoot into the app that I use for cataloging,” continues Dan, “I'm in Lightroom all the time, so I know how it works. And also the round-tripping from Lightroom into Photoshop for whenever I'm doing retouching, it's just so much slicker. That being said unless you're shooting Canon, tethering into Lightroom is kind of unpleasant. There's an $80 app that I use that's made by Tether Tools and it's called Smart Shooter. It works flawlessly and it just makes it so you can tether natively in Lightroom. I already pay for the subscription to the Creative Cloud stuff through Adobe, and I just use Photoshop way too much. So if I'm gonna pay for it, Lightroom comes free. I also love all of the cloud-based stuff. All of my current projects in Lightroom are all in the cloud, so if I am in a pinch, I can edit all of them on my iPad, including in Photoshop.”

Dan is also really passionate about community and surrounding himself with other gifted and successful people in the field. “A lot of people talk about having imposter syndrome, but I'm not afraid to land jobs that are a bit outside of my experience. I’ve done it a couple of times and then I've hired experts, like a producer, stylists, and assistants,” Dan admits. “One of my friends who is a young, but super accomplished photographer, Fletcher Wold, I've hired to be my assistant on a couple of shoots. Fletcher is an amazing photographer, with more training and technical knowledge.

He's really, really talented and he knows lighting. And when I bring him on set, I can say, ‘Here's what I wanna do, here's the look I'm going for. He sees what we’re trying to accomplish and he'll go, ‘Hey, have you thought about this?’ He makes me look really good.”

Here's the thing, there's a ton of people out there who do creative work that have big egos and act like they know everything. I've had clients hire me who took pictures with somebody else and then didn’t want to work with that person again because of that ego,” says Dan. “Don't be afraid to bring in people who are really good at different aspects. Be humble and admit when you don't know what you're talking about or need help. I think clients can kind of sense it, anyway. I would rather be straight about it and say, ‘I’m hiring an assistant you’re gonna love. He went to college for this. He is a prolific shooter and when you hire me, it's like getting two photographers, because I'm bringing good people along with me.”

It's a win-win when I get to bring in somebody who has skills or expertise that I don't have because two things are gonna happen. It makes me look really good and it allows me to share the wealth with the jobs and clients I was able to land. Maybe it's a job or a connection they wouldn't have made otherwise. And when I am too busy, they have now become the go-to person for that client because they've worked together already,” continues Dan on the topic of working with others. “I got to shoot with Fontaine Rittelman as my assistant on a job for a local credit union a couple of years ago. I feel like this is a super big privilege because she is so talented and has so much knowledge. I mean, she was amazing and made me look really good and gave our set some great structure which the client loved. I wanna make sure that people know that it's okay to admit that maybe I’m the one who landed the job because I'm really good at networking and I've got the connections that landed a job with a bigger budget. And then you get to hire people that you believe in. There's nothing quite like cutting a check or sending money to a person who is a fellow working photographer But it's also cool to have a second person on set and have some camaraderie and have a co-conspirator.”

The way I try to do things is to be kind, and be a pleasant person to work with. That's kinda how I try to approach everything including my day job. Being a professional at this, getting your ego out of the way is a really good way to start. It was a hard thing for me to learn because being a pragmatic person, it's not in my nature. I wouldn't say that I'm cocky per se. I'm just fairly confident once I have a skill or once I think I know what I'm doing. It can be easy to rest on that and go, ‘Oh, I know what I'm doing and you should just follow me,’” says Dan.

I think it’s good to know that the older you get, the more you’re going to realize you don't know what you're talking about. There’s always something new to learn. And I hope that I never stop trying to learn. I think that's the thing that keeps me going - I'm always trying to learn the next thing. Hopefully, for anybody who’s reading, there’s a takeaway that you can teach yourself and you can build a business that works. I know there are other photographers out there who are trained formally and know how to do this better than I do, but I've been able to make money doing it and my clients like the work.

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