APA|DC 2014 Holiday Party



You’ve worked hard all year–  marketing, negotiating, shooting, processing, billling, [repeat].  You must be all tuckered out! Now it’s time for us to take care of you.

Please join us on Tuesday, December 30th at the Madhatter in Dupont Circle for a New Years Eve (Eve) celebration of our chapter and our members. Bring a guest and enjoy some light food and a few drinks on us. We’ll be sharing our members’ work, catching up on the past year, and making a few resolutions for the new one.

But, we need your help with decking the halls! Send us 5 of your favorite images from 2014 and we’ll put ‘em up on the big screen for all to see. Please size them at 2000 pixels on the horizontal axis and send them as a .zip file to Erikia (director@apadc.com).


Tuesday, December 30th, from 6 – 9 pm.


1319 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC
(nearest METRO – Dupont on the Red Line)


APA members and one guest.

APA|DC Photographer’s Survey: Using Assistants

2014_Assistant survey graphic



If you’re a professional photographer who uses assistants, please help out the industry by taking a moment to fill out this ANONYMOUS google survey. The responses will be used to help with assistant training and help to educate everyone in regards to going rates and common practices. The results will be made available at a later date.


 It should take less than two minutes and your help is very greatly appreciated. Please share this with your peers!




November 2014 Featured Member: Tracey Brown

14-133-082When you meet Tracey Brown the first thing you’re likely to do is smile. This is probably because she was smiling first and once you see it, you just can’t help but join in yourself. It’s just one of those things. Such was the photo shoot and interview.  A commercial and editorial shooter, Tracey photographs people and building equally well, an enviable skill. Her very graphic style is a natural fit for her many corporate, medical and architectural clients, yet it complements, rather than overpowers, the subject’s personality. The shoot took place in her fantastic studio on the third floor of an old factory in Baltimore– one of those with incredibly high ceilings and the old wooden floors that most of us can only dream about calling our own. The space is light and airy with just enough eclectic props to make it feel personable but without the slightest sense of clutter.  It’s the kind of place that just makes you want to create images…

Photos and text by Matthew Rakola


Okay, first question. Tell me about Paper Camera. What’s in a name?

I decided on the name Papercamera, as I was looking for a name that fit my business and was memorable.  My name is unfortunately very unmemorable!  Papercamera to me describes what I do, as I’m working with a camera, but my images get translated into annual reports, brochures, magazines, and the like.  It’s also a nod to my background in Studio Art, which is what I studied in college.


So you studied studio art in college – what led to the transition to photography? Do you ever wish you had gone a different route?

I studied everything in college- drawing, photography, painting, ceramics, printmaking.  I would say that my twin passions were photography and drawing, but photography made more sense as a career, since I wasn’t interested doing illustration commercially.  I don’t have any regrets over the way anything turned out, and I’m happy with the direction of my career.


Do you think that this background has influenced how you shoot? Can you see any similarities, stylistically between how you illustrate and how you shoot? Composition? Color Palette? Lighting?

Yes, I believe it does.  In both drawing and photography, I am drawn to the effect of light and contrast, as well as texture in my work.    A good image to me is where the light works as a player in the image, setting the scene and creating the feel of the finished image.  I think that’s what draws me to architectural and interior work especially, but I try to use it in all of my work.


how did you find work when you were starting out in the business? And, is it different than how you find new clients now?

I’m sure I’m not the poster child of how to run a business!

14-133-025I found work in unexpected ways when I was starting out.  Sometimes, I would get a job referred to me from a photographer I assisted when the job was too small for them.  I would also research clients I wanted, ones I thought I would be a good fit for and contact them and try to meet and show them my work.  This is so unpredictable though.  Sometimes, I would come out with a good feeling and never hear from them.  Other times, I would hear from them months later and get a small “tester” job to see if I was a good fit with them.  I would also do mailings to keep my work in front of people I was interested in working with.

I definitely think I find clients differently now.  This is partly because I’m more experienced at it and understand the business end of things better, and partly because of where I am in my career.  I think making connections with people is still critically important, but I think social media is also important because it’s a great way to get seen and keep your work in front of people.  It’s definitely still a multi-pronged approach.


So a mysterious benefactor hands you a blank check and tells you to spend two weeks on any project you’d like, what would you shoot?

I’m not sure if I need a blank check to do this, but I would love to photograph the old mills surrounding my studio that aren’t rehabbed yet.  I love all of the textures, the light, the history of these places.  They definitely have personalities that I like to document, sort of like portraits of places.

[Too bad the blank check couldn’t buy me a building!  Or access to places.]


Hey, why not? When we were shooting we talked about how we both loved to have a shooting space to call our own, even if that’s not where we make the majority of our pictures. What kind of building would you buy? And what do you think it says about you?

I would definitely buy an old industrial building, as I love the character of old buildings.  There’s just something about the quality of the materials used, and the attention to detail in these older buildings that is missing in so many structures.


So what do you think that says about you?

I think it says that photographers generally enjoy having interesting locations to work with!   (laughs)

Seriously though, I think it says that I appreciate the built environment, especially when done well.  These spaces often have great light, because the builders wanted to bring in as much daylight as they could to light their space, since artificial lighting wasn’t the best at that time.  These spaces tend to be a great combination of wonderful light, great textures, and solid construction.  These spaces often have great nooks and crannies that are great to explore.  I like exploring and working with what I find.


You started your business in 2000. If you could text message your younger self, and offer one piece of advice, what would it be?

14-133-053I think I would tell my younger self to position myself for growth.  I became a photographer because I am passionate about the art, not because I’m a business person.  In the beginning, I knew less about running a business than I do now, and getting any type of work was a big deal to me.  I would text myself the importance of how to price myself, when to start passing on certain jobs to be open to other opportunities, and just the importance of doing what you’re good at and outsourcing other tasks, rather than trying to perform every aspect of my business, so I can focus on the things I am essential for.  I think that these things help one do more of the type of work they want to do.


Last one: three words that describe you as a photographer. 

Creatively. pursuing. perfection.


See more of Tracey’s work at www.papercamera.com

APA|DC Photo Assistant Workshop, Part 1: Introduction


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One of the most useful ways to start a career in photography is by beginning as an assistant. But, the common problem persists, how do you begin your career as an assistant with no experience as an assistant? APA|DC is offering a 3-Part series on assisting to help interested students and new photographers make the transition. While no amount of workshop instruction can replace on-the-job experience, each session builds on the previous one and covers a comprehensive list of topics, ensuring that participants are introduced to standardized material, appropriate for each level.


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Part 1 of the series is a basic introduction to assisting, comprised of a gear demo, presentation on roles and responsibilities, and a panel discussion with veteran photographers and seasoned assistants. It is designed for people who are new to the photography world and have no or little experience on a photography set. We’ll cover the basics– the sorts of things that you need to know whether the project is studio-based, architectural, or location portrait.


Attendees will immediately break into two groups  for two 45-minute sessions of cursory- yet very fast-paced- information about the real world of assisting. There will be a lot of ideas, tricks, and know-how packed into these two sessions– attendees will want to take notes.

•  The 1st section will give students a look at (and feel for) some of the basic photography gear that they would be likely to encounter on a small photography set, from cameras to lighting gear to grip equipment, courtesy of f8 Rentals. We’ll cover the proper way to wrap a cable, set a light, and secure a set as well as many other fundamental skills.

•  The 2nd section consists of a presentation covering the rights, responsibilities, and general etiquette for assistants. We’ll go over an assistant’s tool bag, location etiquette, roles and responsibilities, and some strategies for billing and invoicing.


After the two sections conclude, we’ll all come together for a panel discussion with photographers Renée Comet, Jon Feingersh, and Max Hirshfeld, and several experienced assistants to hear stories, opinions, and thoughts on how it all comes together. Hear firsthand what photographers look for in assistants, what some going rates are, and a few anecdotes from the field.


Thursday, November 20th, 1200 U Street NW, Washington DC. (1/2 block from U Street Metro on the Green & Yellow lines)



5:00 pm             Registration Begins

5:30 – 6:15          1st Section

6:15 – 6:30         15 minute break and switch sections

6:45 – 7:30         2nd Section

7:30 – 7:45         15 minute break, gather in auditorium for panel discussion

7:45 – 8:30         Panel Discussion with photographers and assistants

9:00                    Must be out of facility.

This will be a very busy evening so all students must plan on arriving on time.




Students/APA contributor and supporter levels $25; General Public $35;

APA Leader, Professional, and Associate levels – FREE


Space is limited, REGISTER HERE to guarantee your spot.




Show-Off-October 23rd














Some call it a slide show, some call it a salon, we call it a show-off.

10 APA members x 10 minute blocks to use however they’d like- a behind-the-scenes look of a recent shoot, some personal work, editing help, a new video–  It’s totally up to the photographer.

Here’s how it works:

    • APA members only get advanced dibs to show work. Please email matt@apadc.com to rsvp. Any unused spots will be made available at the event to anyone interested.
    • The first 10 replies are in. After that, we’ll squeeze in as many as we can until the library kicks us out.
    • Email matt your images in advance (aim for 1800 pixels wide for horizontal images and at least 1200 pixels tall for verticals)  so we can get them queued up. Dropbox or .zip file is fine.
    • Think about what you want to get out of the presentation. If you want feedback, ask for it in advance. If you want to practice presenting in front of people, let us know.

Other Things to Keep in Mind:

    • The more the merrier. Please invite anyone to come who you think might be interested. This is a FREE event. However, it’s likely that only APA members will be able to present.
    • Be respectful. This isn’t an opportunity to shred someone’s work. We are here to help each other.
    • Plan to stay the entire time. The last presenter shouldn’t be presenting to an empty room.
    • Video is fine, we’ll have speakers available, just make sure that it’s in an easily readable format.
    • If you sign up to present, please stick to it. Otherwise it just screws everything up.



Thursday, October 23rd at 6:30 pm.


Northeast Library
330 7th Street NE (basement conference space)
Washington, DC 20002
There is usually free parking to be had and the Union Station Metro is a few pleasant blocks away.

Magic Hour|Happy Hour – October 15, Sauf Haus



By now the nights are really starting to get chilly and that can only mean one thing– Oktoberfest is upon us!

Naturally, we couldn’t pass up an opportunity to celebrate this month’s happy hour in one of DC’s newest beer halls. So, we would pleased as punch if you could raise a stein with us on O(k)tober 15th at the Sauf Haus in Dupont Circle. Prost!


Wednesday, Oktober 15th, 6 – 8 pm 



The Sauf Haus Bier Hall + Garten
1216 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
nearest METRO – Dupont Circle on the Red Line.


Because you work so hard and deserve a break.

John Harrington – Real Business, Real Estimates, Real Life

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Real Business, Real Estimates, Real Life: Surviving and Thriving as a Working Professional

Harrington Portrait
Join John Harrington, author of the best-selling ‘More Best Business Practices for Photographers’, for an insightful and solutions-oriented presentation on how to generate more revenue from the assignments, through pricing examples and discussion, negotiation strategies, and demystifying licensing of your work.

Unlock the mysteries surrounding how to price your work, and learn ways to negotiate from a position of strength. When it comes to licensing, how do you write a license that gives the client the permissions they paid for, without leaving loopholes you could drive a truck through?

Through a series of actual negotiated assignments, we will break down the negotiation and explain how to plan for the questions you’ll get, and to know the best ways to answer them. When it comes to pricing, there seems to be a world of secrecy around rates. We will discuss solutions for stock and assignment pricing, as well as discuss tools for you to establish your own. When it comes to licensing, we’ll discuss and explain the standardized licensing solution that is the Picture Universal Licensing System (or PLUS), and how to write a license, where to put the licensing language, and what the best format will be. Throughout the program, all of these elements will be integrated into each assignment discussed.
John will be selling signed copies of his newly released second edition of ‘More Best Practices for Photographers’ at the event.



September 25th, time 6:30pm – 8:30pm


The Torpedo Factory
105 N. Union St. 
Alexandria, VA 22314
Closest METROs:  King St.  Metro Station (Yellow line) Then connect to the King Street Trolley

APA/ASMP/ASPP/NPPA/WPOW member + students : $10 online/$15 at the door.

General Public : $20 online/$25 at the door

APA Members always pay $10. Join APA at the event and get in for free!




September 2014 Featured Member, Ken Cedeno


Interview and Photos by Matthew Rakola


Ken Cedeno is an editorial photographer based in Washington, DC. With over 20 years of experience and a variety of clients that include The New York Times, The Ad Council, Central American Medical Outreach, Corbis, and Weber Shandwick, he keeps busy. His images have appeared in National Geographic Magazine and National Geographic Traveler, Newsweek, TIME, Paris Match, and many more. We met up recently to make some studio portraits and talk shop.


Let’s start with the basics: When and why did you decide to become a photographer?

It all began in high school–ninth grade actually. As a young boy, cool sounds were always interesting. One of them was the sound of a motor drive. I started thinking, “hmmm, photography.” I was always drawn to photojournalism–I grew up on LIFE, LOOK and National Geographic magazines.


So it started with the sound of a motor drive, huh? Have you ever pursued music?

Would you count playing the clarinet in 5th grade? In the early 80’s, I was a radio DJ at KWHL in Anchorage, Alaska for 4 years (I was an Air Force brat so I moved around a lot as a kid) and got to go back stage for a lot of concerts. So, to answer your question—no.


14-125-068So you went to school at Brooks but only stayed a year. What happened then?

I moved to Chicago for four years and assisted many different kinds of photographers, honing what I really liked to do. And quickly became aware of what I never want to do again.

I assisted in a catalog house and on industrial shoots, and assisted photographers with table top products, cars, corporate, fashion and Playboy. I then moved to Washington, DC where I was a lab tech with AFP (Agency France-Presse) and also got to shoot some assignments, covering the White House and Capitol Hill. After AFP, I started freelancing, which I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. And while I’ve really enjoyed covering politics in DC, I’m starting to focus more on travel and stories. Capitol Hill can get a little dry–people standing at a podium, two men shaking hands, or people testifying at a hearing.  About five years ago, a vacation to Costa Rica led to an assignment for a travel book. There were no stiff politicians, no jockeying with 15 other photographers for the same photo, and no pressing deadlines.  That got me away from the Hill and to places like Haiti, North Dakota, Honduras, Alaska which opened up some opportunities for me to refocus my work.


You’ve pretty much run the gauntlet in the photo world– how do you think that affects how you approach your current editorial work?

Perhaps subconsciously that range of experience kicks in to develop a new look when shooting editorial. I’ll look at a situation and try different angles, locations, and lighting situations and play with it. I’m sure everyone applies their past experiences to solve a present problem—photographers are no different.


Speaking of which, what have you been shooting lately?

In April, I was in Israel and got to photograph Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the West Bank. I send everything worthwhile to my photo agency, Corbis Images, in New York City. The Israel trip provided some incredible images especially because we were there during both Easter and Passover. The religious history goes way back, and the ongoing issues between the Jews and the Palestinians is ever present in the West Bank. Last fall I was in North Dakota for a self assignment covering the rich oil boom and the massive increase in population as well as the ongoing need to increase its infrastructure.

And later this month, I’ll be returning to Honduras to cover CAMO (Central American Medical Outreach), an organization of dedicated U.S. doctors who provide primary medical care and other important surgeries for the local community. Through a friend of a friend, I was asked to help them improve their visual storytelling and the images on their website to help them raise awareness about their mission and work. And while there, I also stumbled on another story of destitute families who pick through these massive piles of garbage—the dump—to earn literally a few dollars a day.


I always ask photographers, “What makes you want to make pictures for a living?” In other words, why do you want to do this for a living as opposed to a hobby– what motivates you to shoot?

I love what I do and never considered photography a hobby. I’m attracted to the involvement of breaking news, and of sharing it. People, places and moments are what motivate me to shoot. Whether it’s a simple portrait, a wedding, covering a protest in Greece or a clinic in Honduras, I like to capture the moment and people’s emotions.


14-125-052Is there one specific moment in your career that you wish you had made a different decision? Or, the opposite– can you think of one definitive decision that has shaped your career for the better?

Hmmmm. This one I regret: I wish I had listened to my heart and gone to a photojournalism school rather than to Brooks Institute. Brooks is a really great place for commercial photography, but it wasn’t for me, and I went for the wrong reasons. Had I taken the time to research more, I might have found the Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia or RIT in NY. Either one probably would have been a better fit for me. I sometimes wonder where I’d be with my photojournalism today if I had gone to one of the other schools.
Follow your passions harder people!

Dream client and assignment?

Well that would be the commonly and often mentioned National Geographic Magazine, who most people would love to work with. There are other admired organizations like the Pulitzer Center, who shed spotlights on stories and issues that are under reported and ignored. There can be many great stories the Pulitzer Center can help push through. As far as assignments, there are many. I think covering the Arctic Circle or the Antarctic would be a fantastic opportunity. Or any location where people just don’t go. You could also throw a dart at the globe and I’d do my best to make the most of that spot and get the best images possible. We’ve all heard the saying that our own backyard has thousands of opportunities …

Thanks for taking the time to do this. I have one last question. I always associate you with eyeglasses? How many pairs do you have? Do you think of it as part of your personal and/or professional branding, or are they simply utilitarian?

I have many pairs and styles and divided into two different strengths. One is used for shooting. I look at the images on the back of the camera rather close to my eyes. The other pair is for editing. The distance of my eyes to the laptop is a little further away. I don’t like the standard glasses for men. They’re very boring. I actually buy women’s glasses. Nothing too feminine– no diamonds and flared corners but a good fancy design is great. I often get great compliments on them with the occasional, “Really?” or “You look gay” comment. I really don’t give a shit if I do. I’m fine with it. I think it’s developed into sort of branding both personal and professional.
I just ran into a great friend and colleague, Melina Mara who’s shoots for the Washington Post. We both have the same pair.  [Editor’s note: awkward.]


You can find more of Ken Cedeno’s work on his website, www.kencedeno.com

Magic Hour|Happy Hour – September 16 – Board Room



Well, happy fall y’all!

While the summer was nice and we here at APA|DC enjoyed it from various places around the world, it’s refreshing to feel the weather changing and we’re all ready to get back to work– enjoying another Magic Hour|Happy Hour, that is!

Yes, let’s meet up and recount the beautiful days of summer– sharing our experiences and coming up with photography schemes for the cooler months. It’s time to meet your fellow shooter (and editor, and art buyer) and plan for things to come!


This September we’ll be back in the Board Room in Dupont Circle. There will be the usual assortment of drinks and food and an added bonus– board games, if we’re feeling oddly competitive.


Reconnect with old friends and meet the area’s newest transplants.

The When

September 16th, 6 pm to 8 pm (and beyond)

The Where

The Board Room
1737 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20009
closest METRO – Dupont Circle on the RED line.

The Why

September 16th comes but once a year.


JUNE 2014 FEATURED MEMBER – Robb Scharetg


If you’ve been in the DC photo scene for any period of time, odds are you’ve run into Robb. Or, perhaps he’s run into you pulling a nutty U-turn on G Street in his Mercedes wagon. Splitting time between DC and San Francisco, he has shot for a wide variety of advertising, commercial and editorial clients from Amtrak to Wyeth and just about every letter in between. In the last several years alone he has been recognized by the American Advertising Awards (a pair of silver and one gold in 2014), Luerzer’s Archive Top 200 advertising photographers (2012/2013) and One Eyeland’s ‘Best of the Best’ (2012-2014). He can now add ‘APA|DC Featured Member” to his CV.


Portrait and Interview by Erika Nizborski

Robb, you have been working as a professional photographer for 28 years now.  When you were right out of college you spent a very brief time working an office job, what made you decide to take the jump into a photography career, and what struggles did you encounter when you first started working as a photographer?

Like most answers to ‘life decision questions’, this one is a bit lengthy.  At the time I graduated from school (SFSU) I was still in a job I enjoyed – working at and helping to run a busy SF bar & restaurant. The bar (the key component of this equation) was located only three blocks from The New Lab, at the time one of the three best K-14 & E-6 film labs in the country. During my time working at the Supper Club I met and befriended many VERY noted photographers, who’d end their day shooting by dropping their film at the lab, come to the bar for a drink, and then go back to the lab/edit/walk to FedEx/ship/come back to the bar and have more drinks. This happened pretty much every day. I made a LOT of contacts.

My first and only ‘real job’ – working (in my education field) was doing research and analysis on energy resources (mainly petroleum/oil), its movements (rail/ship/pipelines) and then helping to plan for emergencies related to said oil. As you might imagine, being inside for 8 hours a day, in a cube, for a few weeks didn’t quite jibe with what I’d envisioned I’d be doing with my degree after school ended. At the least, I expected to be out in the field, ideally in some far-away land.

Around week three  I went to the principal partner of the firm and asked him ‘so, this work . . . the plan is to . . . be inside . . . mainly, staring at a screen?’. He seemed somewhat surprised at the question, thought for a moment and said ‘well, yes.’. I replied ‘like, everyday? All day long? Like, five days a week, 50 weeks a year?’. Again (looking even more puzzled) ‘um .  .  . yeah. This is mainly how analysis and research get done. By being inside. On the phone, the computer, and by going to meetings.’ I nodded and went back to my desk. After coming back from lunch, I went to the fellow, thanked him for bringing me on-board, and entrusting me with the responsibility I’d thus far been given. And then I told him ‘as important as this work is, and as much as I understand the need for it, I just can’t do it. I can’t be inside all day, every day. Just can’t’. And that was that.

As for ‘struggles’ . . . I’m not exactly sure I’d say I had any really tough spots per se’. I started to assist, for many of the people I knew from the bar. And then went full time with one fellow, a noted advertising & editorial portrait photographer, for two years. After that time I could pretty much pick who I wanted to work with, as he had a reputation of being quite demanding, and the theory seemed to be that ‘if I could work with him for two years I must not only be very good, but also very thick-skinned.’

Ironically, I ended up full-time again a few months after that, working with Dan Escobar, a great studio shooter and one with mad lighting skills. Eventually  I branched  out into production and quit assisting. I was a Location Scout and Producer for four years and about halfway through that time I also was introduced to casting by my late friend Loni Weholt.

Basically my plan was to learn and excel at every part of the overall process that makes an ad campaign shoot run smoothly; and at the same time as I was learning all the ins-and-outs, to also be paid well and bank that money for when I was ready to head out on my own.

I ended my production period working with Jim Erickson, who’s been a good friend for close to 20 years. Jim’s jobs were like graduate school – LONG hours, lots of work & stress, but an incredible experience.  At a certain point I knew it was time for me to go out on my own. Which I did.

Coming out of CA is like being part of a Fraternity or Club – I run into people I know, or those who know people I know,  all over the globe. It’s a great place to be from.


All of your photographs and multimedia pieces look like you had a lot of fun creating them.  What motivates you and what photographers do you admire?

One of my rules on set is ‘if we’re not having fun, we’re doing something wrong.’

What motivates me? I’d say visual challenges,  creating a tight & compelling narrative, conveying brands visually,  the opportunity to collaborate with other creatives, travel & light, and great food.

I’m more motivated and inspired by painters than by photographers! However to name a few photographers whose work I appreciate: Peter Henry Emerson, Irving Penn, Michael Kenna, my friends Andy Anderson, David Burnett, Lee Crum & Jim Erickson.  And also the work of Harry DeZitter, Koto Bolofo, Paolo Roversi (!), Simon Norfolk, August Sander, Dan Winters, Andy Mahr & Julian Calverley. I mean there are a LOT more, but that’ll do. [Editor’s Note : Yes it will– that was about 10 minutes of hyperlinking!]


You spend a lot of time writing, what inspires you to write and do you feel that your writing goes hand in hand with your photography?

Reading, and writing BOTH work to help strengthen your skills as a storyteller. It’s simplistic to think that any of us is always (or even often) creating something ‘new’: rather we all follow on the shoulders of giants. Much the same as writers are inspired and fed by what they’ve read, the ability (or opportunity?) for photographers and other visual artists to actually step away from the ‘creative process’ of photography, and immerse oneself in reading & writing narrative only helps to hone our OWN skills as storytellers. But in the visual medium.

I’d challenge you to research any noted (and posthumous) photographer, and find that he or she was NOT a skilled writer. That ability, to create a visual narrative, is EXACTLY what our clients want, and why, in this ever-increasingly visual age, is why ‘a picture IS worth a thousand words’.

I can tell that you are very passionate about film photography and the craft.  When you show up to a shoot with your large format camera how do your clients react, and do you feel that your technique and tools help set your work apart?

‘How do they react?’ . . .  well, the older I get, the more puzzled they seem to be when they see a 4×5 or an 8×10. And the comments (priceless) range from – ‘wait, it’s broken! The picture’s upside down!!!!’ to ‘well, I keep looking at the back of this, where’s the “zoom in” button?

Seriously though, I don’t often have the opportunity to shoot film, esp. LF sheet film, on jobs anymore. Especially on ad jobs – the premise of ‘there’s not enough time’, and ‘well, if I can’t see it, how can I approve it?’ seem to be working against that. Now, if we COULD get LF Polaroid film back . . . maybe. But, that being said, I always bring a film camera along, and I’ll shoot a few sheets, and send them in along with the digital edit – I usually scan the film first. I must say though, that sending a FedEx package with a box of 4×5 or 8×10 chromes to an AD or AB (and photo editors too) who WERE skeptical when I was shooting with them on set . . . I can always tell when the FedEx has reached them, The phone rings, and they’re just in love with the tangibility, the look, the dimensionality – all of it. I have spent about the past 15 years collecting an array of unusual, rare and oft-times VERY fast old LF lenses that I LOVE to shoot with. And, I don’t care how much you muck about in post, you’re not going to get the same look. It’s just different. Plus the process of shooting LF slows things WAY down, which is a good thing, in my opinion.

You mentioned that it is very important to be able to work fast, and that much of your work is shot with one lens.  At what point in your career did you realize that “less is more” and in what way did your work change?

I think instead of ‘working fast’ I prefer to think that I work decisively. That comes from years of experience and practice. After being a location scout for about 18 months I found that I was submitting fewer & fewer locations to my clients. Same with my casting choices – you hone your eye, and just know instinctively – this will work, this is it – the location, the composition, the talent, etc. That’s part of it. And then, by using (primarily) one lens, usually the equivalent of the 50mm, I’m seeing like our eye sees – in terms of spatial relationships, DOF, scale, etc. My work on some level has always (according to clients and friends) been ‘very graphic’ and ‘almost simple’. But that’s HARD, not easy. It’s EASY to clutter up a frame, put in lots of visual detritus and hope for the best. The challenge is in making a simple AND powerful SINGLE frame. Every time. My goal nowadays is to do that – to take away every superfluous element until I’m left with something simple, graphic and compelling.

Personal projects keep you inspired, what are you currently working on?

I always have a few projects going on, always. I’ve been working on three books for the past . . . well, one of them was started back in 2004. Almost done with that one! The other two . . .  one will (should) be done in late 2015 and the other in 2016. Most of my projects start as simply things that I find interesting. And then, when I show them to others they tell me they feel the same, so I keep pushing.

I’m lucky, because I’ve been doing this a long time, and as a result it’s easier to get the work shown, and that builds (and sustains) momentum. Clearly paying jobs take priority; so keeping the momentum of personal work going takes discipline and focus. Ideally one finds a balance and if possible a way to combine the two! Incidentally I just started another project about three months ago – that one should be ‘done’ – by the time I’m 50? I hope.


What advice do you have for photographers starting out today?

First off, before anything else, be patient. And humble. Please.

I’ll never understand the belief that simply having a degree in photography or art, and owning/knowing how to use a camera makes one ‘a photographer’.  I mean, if you went to cooking school, and bought some knives – would you call yourself a chef? Does owning a full set of copper make you a better cook? Similarly, just because you went to law school and passed the bar doesn’t give you the qualifications to be a partner in a firm.  You EARN that.

Be nice- always be nice. Because, odds are, if you’re a jerk to someone, that someone will have more power over you than you’d ever expect. I watched a photographer I assisted for, who’d been a jerk to a janitor we met, suddenly have to contend with having no power in  the location he wanted to use.


•  Courtesy and hard work are two things that are ALWAYS appreciated and oft-times overlooked. 
•  Assist. And be prepared to work harder than you ever have.
•  Be early, being on-time is late.
•  Always have a grip bag, a watch (on your wrist), and a sharpie. Sharpies are key.


See more of Robb’s work at www.scharetgpictures.com