02
Sep 14

Album Photography for The Hello Strangers

Band Photography, Lifestyle Photographer, Ryan Smith

I have the very good fortune of being married to an amazing singer and songwriter. My wife, Larissa and her sister, Brechyn, started a band named The Hello Strangers in Austin, TX and have worked hard to create an authentic sound that highlights their sibling harmonies. I love their music. It’s not just because I’m married to Larissa. It’s because their songs are filled with stories and each is executed with precision and grace. They are the kinds of songs that you can listen to over and over again without ever getting tired of them.

As someone who spent his youth listening to punk rock and heavy metal I never envisioned myself being married to an Americana musician. The fact is that we all grow in one way or the other and years ago I opened myself to all kinds of music and am a much better person for it. I love music and I enjoy seeing how different bands present their stories, emotions and poetry to the world.

There are numerous benefits to being married to a musician. Aside from getting in to shows for free, hearing new songs first and feeling cool for being married to a musician, I also get great joy from collaborating with The Hello Strangers on their image and identity. Larissa, Brechyn and I have been collaborating on photos and videos for years now and each one has it’s own unique set of challenges and rewards.

I am exceptionally thrilled about The Hello Strangers’ self-titled debut album. They worked extremely hard with Nashville producer, Steve Ivey, to create an album that is excellent. And I’m equally thrilled about working with them to create the photographs used in the album packaging. I’ve worked with them on other projects and have worked with other bands for promotional photos, but this was my first time working on photography that would encase the entire album. These photographs needed to introduce The Hello Strangers and to build a story in the viewer’s mind about what they were going to hear on the 13 track album.

We worked together to craft a general idea of how we wanted to present the music and this idea changed multiple times over the course of this project. What we ended up with is new and old photography that shows who The Hello Strangers are while also creating a mood and story about music. The images we shot and selected went through numerous changes, and with expert guidance from Designer Carl Nielson, we were able to lay everything out into a unique package that introduces The Hello Strangers and their music to the world.

Their songs have a wide stylistic range, but at it’s core each song is meant to be sung by two voices. The harmonies are key, regardless of whether they are singing a murder ballad, a love song or a honky tonk number. These photos are about the love and respect Larissa and Brechyn have for one another as sisters, musicians and friends while also paying homage to the dark stories they create.

I’m proud of the creativity, love and hard work they have put into this album. I’m also proud of the photographs I helped create. These photos help give their songs and voices a visual identity. I couldn’t be more grateful to have been a part of this process.

If you have never heard their music, take a listen to a couple of my favorite tracks. It’s really hard to just pick three, but these are my current favorites live and recorded alike.

If you like what you hear, then please consider downloading an album. The albums aren’t yet available for mail order so when the opportunity arises for you to come to a show, be sure to check out the schedule. You can pick up a real hard copy of the album then.

140901_004_RS copy 140901_053_RS copy


25
Aug 14

Be Flexible . . . But Don’t be a Pushover

Sometimes, it’s really hard to turn down work. Especially when the work sounds interesting. But, there comes a time in every photographer’s career where you are faced with a choice.

“Do I go against everything I believe in and sign this shitty contract to make a few bucks or do I politely decline and stick to my guns?”

I recently had the opportunity to politely decline what sounded like an interesting project because the contract was simply bad. The contract was a “work for hire” agreement which requires that I sign over any and all rights, including copyright ownership to the client. Some people will say work for hire is evil and should never ever be considered. I take a more optimistic approach in that each project is different. If I were approached by a client who required a work for hire agreement and understood exactly what it meant and how much it should be worth then I might negotiate a rate that compensates me for handing over my intellectual property. That’s the core problem right there though. If I sign a work for hire agreement then I have no opportunity to make money from those images in the future. Technically speaking, I can’t even use them in my portfolio. Shitty. If a client is actually willing to pay a fair price for that, then hell yeah I’ll sign it, but I don’t know that any company exists that is willing to pay a true work for hire cost.

Here’s the thing though. They don’t need this kind of agreement. They really don’t. It’s a contract that was crafted by the company lawyers, who in all fairness are just trying to do their job. In their legal minds they only see one side. The client’s side. I get it, I really do. However, it locks creative professionals like myself into a contract that doesn’t have any flexibility. If I can’t negotiate a fair wage based on the end use of the images I create then how do I survive as an image creator?

The client of the agency that contacted me made it clear to the agency that the contract crafted by the company lawyers could not be altered in any way. No changes, nada. It was a really bad contract and I had no options for negotiating changes.

Despite that, I aired my grievances to the Art Director, who quite frankly is put in a tough situation every time she needs to hire creative services. I suggested changes to the language in the contract that would essentially give the client what they need without asking me to give up everything. She was extremely understanding of my position, but despite her best intentions the contract could not be changed. She seemed really nice and I did want to work with her, but we had no way to change the terms of the agreement.

I really feel for agency creatives that are forced to ask other creative professionals to sign these kinds of contracts. It must suck knowing that you are asking photographers to hand over their rights for a nominal fee, without having any alternatives.

The worst part about this whole ordeal is the fact that the next photographer in line probably signed that terrible contract without a second thought. It’s a reality of my profession though and I intend to continue to negotiate each and every contract that comes into my inbox. I know for a fact that all parties involved can reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial and respectful to the rights of one another if everyone involved is willing to communicate and be flexible. So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll remain flexible.

BadContract

 


15
Jul 14

From One Road To The Next

Last night as I drove home after a 16 hour day of photographing and being on the road I was suddenly struck by the glaring contrast of where I often work and where I live. From country roads, farms and rural living to the hustle and bustle of NYC and back in a day. It almost feels like I’m living two lives on days like this and as much as I love it, sometimes it’s challenging. The transition from one life to the other can be difficult because of it’s stark differences. I’m required to shift gears from being the slow, easy going country boy to the aggressive driving, fast moving photographer in the same day. I just always remind myself to enjoy every day, regardless of the role I have to play.

Usually, I’ll stay in a hotel near the shoot location, but sometimes the way the schedule lines up it just makes sense to save the client some dough and make the long trek in the same day. And, when it happens like that I don’t mind, because I love coming home. I love driving out of the loud and raucous city and then getting out of my car at the other end to silence. Some people might think I’m crazy for commuting 4.5 hours for one day of work, but I love what I do and get a thrill out of transitioning from one life to the other. That’s why I live where I do and do what I do. I get a little taste of both worlds. And although some days can be extremely long and tiring, I have plenty of days that are filled with gardening, drinking coffee in the fresh morning air and playing with my son to make up for that time spent in the car and in hotels.

From one road to the next. Here’s to enjoying every day.

57th Street, Manhattan, NY IMG_20140714_223617


24
Apr 14

A Look Back At Winter

Lifestyle Photographer, Ryan Smith, Philadelphia, PA

Although I try to send out a newsletter every 4 – 6 weeks it doesn’t always happen that frequently. Sometimes it takes longer for me to get around to and sometimes it’s faster. Regardless, I like to use my newsletters as a way to look back at recent work. This months newsletter takes a look back at winter. Check it out HERE.

And if you like what you see and want to stay up to date with what I’m working on, you can subscribe to the newsletter HERE: 


22
Apr 14

Happy Earth Day!

Lifestyle Photographer, Ryan Smith, Philadelphia, PA


31
Mar 14

Cell Phone Cameras Are Fun

image

Clearly I haven’t updated this blog in months. While that saddens me it’s also a good indication of how busy I’ve been, which as it happens is a good thing when it comes to business.

I’ve been enjoying working with clients new and old on a wide variety of projects over the past few months. I’ll be talking about some projects in more depth later, but for now I just want to share an image I like. I like it for two reasons. One, I think it’s interesting. Two, I shot and edited this entirely on my cell phone. This second point is interesting to me because I think it represents the future of photography. Hell, it represents the now of photography.

While I don’t think I’ll be trading in my Canon 5D mark III anytime soon, I have really been enjoying experimenting with my Galaxy S4 phone. It really is a pretty amazing device and some of the images really are quite nice.

I just got back from a personal trip to Jackson Hole, WY and shot everything on my phone and a GoPro. It was fun to use only small cameras and really allowed me to focus on the experience. To keep in line with this mobile trend I’m posting to this blog from my phone for the very first time. I don’t think I’ll do that too often because typing with my thumbs is tedious.

If you want to see more mobile photos of mine follow me on Instagram. My handle is @ryansmithphotog