This is my quirky intro to a new unlimited blog series on portrait photography. Every now and then, I’ll share my thoughts on this genre, reveal some tricks of the trade, answer some questions and even learn some things that I didn’t know before. Hopefully, I’ll inspire others who love portraiture beyond the selfie.
Although I had been doing both illustration and photography since various stages of my childhood and adolescence, I entered the professional art world mainly as an illustrator. My professional photography career didn’t start until much later.
My wife has told others that my getting back into photography many years ago, especially street photography and portraiture, socially “brought me out of my shell.” Yes, I’ll explain . . .
It’s common for most of us to throw certain words around too freely without a satisfactory understanding on their definitions. Antisocial and introverted are two such words that various others have used to describe me. Which is quite interesting because I’m quite sure that an antisocial personality cannot also be an introvert, and vice-versa. It is because of this fairly frequent labeling why I have actually spent years studying and re-studying the differences.
In psychology, antisocial personalities and introverts are far more complex than their most simplified, laymen descriptions. It’s my understanding that the most accurate difference between the two personalities in laymen’s terms, however, are that antisocial personalities harbor unreasonable and unprovoked absolute hatred for others or a profound lack of care for others wellbeing. Introverts, on the other hand, possess and unreasonable fear of others draining them of their personal sense of security and strength.
I’ve never been a hate monger, and at times have allowed myself to become too concerned with others wellbeing. That takes the antisocial factor right out of the picture.
Although I don’t like crowds, I haven’t had much of a fear of any singular person or group of people since early childhood and have often sought out groups to either study people from a distance or interact with them. I’m somewhat one of those annoying freaks who want to see the whole wide world become loving, happy and sharing together. Actually, I learned the hard way early in life that my boldness and sense of gaining strength from engaging others had to be reined in through religion, martial arts training and reading psychology and sociology. I can remember my mother repeatedly telling me when I was a kid, “Son, in this world, if you keep trying too hard to be liked you’ll see that people will get tired of you.” So, I’m not introverted either.
Part naturally, and partly because of many personal experiences — very good ones and very bad ones, I happen to be another misunderstood animal known as a loner.
Like the antisocial personality I do not embarrass easily. I will proudly take on responsibilities and practices that are regarded by most others as unpopular but are neither criminal nor clearly offensive in any way. Like singing in public even though I’m not a recognized professional singer or willing to be a police officer arresting someone for committing a misdemeanor in order to ensure social order. I’m also not easily bullied or peer pressured, and I require restraint when it comes to opposing real predatory and menacing personalities who enjoy hurting others in any way.
Like the true introvert, I have definitely always been energized by solitary and creative pursuits. Hey, if you didn’t already know it, I’m a visual artist. I’m also highly selective as to who I allow to get close to me.
So, there it is. I’m a loner. I enjoy others but I don’t have to have a lot of friends, be adored, be the center of attention or the life of the party to feel a sense of security or importance. I function extremely well on my own. In being a loner, I am a quiet, reserved individual who is constantly scrutinizing and filtering every aspect of the social universe.
It’s because I refrain from engaging in small talk and gossip, and it’s likely very obvious that my BS-detector is frequently going off, why I get labeled as antisocial or introverted by those who want me to behave as they do.
All of this is what my wife means when she tells people that photography has “brought me out of my shell.” Photography, especially the genres of street photography and portraiture, is a discipline in which she sees me interact with people much more than usual.
Speaking of interaction and portraiture, if you’re interested in having me photograph you, don’t be antisocial and curtail your introversion. Contact me, and let’s see if we can get creative together.
When my wife and I drove from Canada to South Carolina, we ran into an arborist in Myrtle Beach. I told him that Spanish moss was on my list of things to photograph. He responded by telling me to take as much as I needed with me. Well, South Carolinians may be tired of the moss hanging off of their trees but it doesn’t get old for me.
I didn’t physically take any moss home. I wouldn’t dare try to get that past customs officials. I, nevertheless, did succeed in making this HDR composition out of 19 photos shot in Myrtle Beach State Park. The evening was setting in, and I was really drawn to how the fiery sunlight filtered through the scant amounts of moss that hung on what I believe was a very tall oak that I am not familiar with. Plus, other elemental conditions of the natural environment, like the humidity bleached sky, provided me with an opportunity to create an image out of part of the forest canopy that is just slightly abstract and expressionist.
Focussing on these visual elements allowed me to experimentally direct attention away from the good earth, which is rare for a landscape.
THE CONCLUSION TO AN OVERVIEW OF TECHNICAL ILLUSTRATION
Last month in Part 2, I examined the kinder gentler aspects of getting into the technical illustration (TI) field. There’s always two sides to every story though, right? This part of the overview is going to be a little longer. With continued help from highly respected tech illustrators Roy Scorer of Swindon, UK, who primarily works for the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD), and total freelancer Clint Ford, it’s now time for the bad news. Well, sort of.
Paradigm Shift and Professional Downturn
In my research, I have found that in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, some visual artists began to question whether or not TI jobs were becoming obsolete. This appears to have been because there was a major paradigm shift that many illustrators had difficulty adapting to. It’s the same shift that began to affect practically every other industry on this planet back in the late 80’s. That is the development, and reliance on sophisticated personal computers and powerful software.
There have been people who have worked many years mainly or exclusively as technical illustrators, and they did it the good old-fashioned way. They used architectural drawing compasses, plotter systems, mechanical pencils, technical pens, art markers, brushes, airbrushes, inks, pigments, white erasers, clear-tack erasers, erasing shields, circle templates, ellipse guides, French curves, splines, mill scales, triangular scales, protractors, set squares, T-squares, art knives, burnishers, paper and show card stock, page layouts, stencils, dry-transfer lettering, symbols, frames, vignettes and motives, adhesive tone films, adhesive graphics tapes, adhesive copy text, vinyl adhesive pictograms, drafting machines, pantographs, photo-mechanical transfers (PMT’s), opisometers (map wheels), photocopying screens, acetate overlays, spray fixatives, adhesive mounting, layout panels, presentation easels, drafting tables, etc.
Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, however, desktop computers, mice, tablets, magic pens, styli, Computer Aided Design (CAD/AutoCAD) and desktop publishing (DTP) platforms forcefully revolutionized the commercial arts industry at a lightning fast pace. The tech pundits of the early and mid-80’s said they would.
It was so hard for some tech illustrators to learn the jargon, constantly evolving and competing software, and myriad techniques of computerized illustration. It was even harder for others to get their heads around the idea that people who sought out illustrators and designers preferred and demanded state-of-the-art computer-generated creations over skillfully handmade art that required more tools, implements and media, took longer to make and was; therefore, more expensive. It seems to me that these are little spoken about factors on how jobs were lost in this field.
There was still more to it. I asked Roy if he thought that TI jobs did or had declined or if he thought that there wasn’t a decline but a revolution of the field due to the paradigm shift. He said, “The inevitable; as it has with a lot of things, technology happened. Draughtsmen, and design engineers now have CAD. So, a knock-on effect was 3D modelling software, i.e. Solidworks, was created taking place of the technical illustrator.”
“I started a thread in LinkedIn, ‘Technical Illustration, The dying art of the technical illustrator.’”
“Went down a like a storm. Colleges stopped teaching TI only a couple of years after I left college. 3D modelling is a lot quicker than a technical illustrator even if single line work images are not as good. So, the beginning of the end for TI. The UK has some requirement still, more for the upper end of goods, aircraft, sports cars and the USA regularly has vacancies for technical illustrators but only if you are a USA citizen.”
Clint, of Detroit, MI, US says, “Computers made it so that people who were not terribly skilled at illustration could get a job as an illustrator as the tools make it easier. From my experience, the shift from analogue to digital came in around the early 90’s. I remember my first job interview for a contract position at GM and there was a guy still inking on the board. My college education was split up so that the first half was all on the board and we took that to the computer for the 2nd half. There may be a decline, I’m not sure. All the guys I know stay fairly busy but I do know that there are not that many of us doing Technical Illustration, at least on the freelance level, which is good in that there is less competition.”
To many laypeople who don’t know the details, these issues, this simply looked like proof-positive that pursuing a career in the visual arts is only a one-way ticket to becoming a starving artist.
I think this shift even adversely impacted young art students. 80’s and 90’s high school kids who depended on their parents to obtain personal computers and software for them but didn’t get the goods, where severely handicapped for the washout periods of college and university art school courses. Computers and arts-oriented software were expensive; they still are. Some families couldn’t afford these tools which art students should have been learning to use before attending formal art school, never mind the professional art world.
Handicapping children wasn’t only finance-related either. It was also about poor communication. Many colleges and universities back then weren’t doing as good a job as they assumed in conveying to secondary education schools which computers and software were the most ideal for young high school art students to get their hands on.
For many years, the Macintosh personal computer was ridiculed as the “Monochrome-Mac” but after the Macintosh Color Classic came out in 1993 and showed its versatility in the visual arts fields, Macs became the go to standard for most artists for many years afterward. Apple Inc. owes much of its success to the world’s artists.
The technological information vacuum consequently made high school guidance counselors and teachers ineffective at advising parents and students as to what specific new art tools to invest in. A large number of students able to get into college or university art courses were unable to survive the washout periods of post-secondary institutions. Of course, all of this helped to perpetuate the myth of the starving artist in the minds of the general public.
The luckier art academy students went out and purchased the same computers and software that they were introduced to soon after getting into art schools. Those students graduated from their courses, and went on to have successful careers in the commercial arts.
“I have been very lucky,” says Roy when asked what obstacles or challenges, if any, he faced in becoming a tech illustrator. College for 4 years went better than expected. A bit short on cash sometimes but worked summer holidays to get sorted. The college Head of Department nominated me for a job interview with a few others, and I got the job. So, I left college and went straight into work.”
Clint explains that the challenges he personally faced in entering the field also began during his time in post-secondary education, “My professor in college told us that we may only make $19,000 per year. I almost quit and considered a degree in graphic design. Again, I’m pretty sure my mom convinced me to stick to it. I was also not one of the best illustrators in class, maybe somewhere in the middle, so I had to eventually rely on other skills to get me to a higher level. Once I got out of college getting a job in the auto industry was pretty easy.”
The fact is, artists who adapted to the digital paradigm shift or were trained in art schools that taught the new ways survived, even thrived. TI careers really have never been in decline; at least in some parts of the world. They’ve largely just changed dramatically, even though there is a minority of tech illustrators that still make healthy livings producing work the old-fashioned analogue way. This has been the status quo ever since.
“All my work is digital but in an analogue style,” Roy told me. Corel Draw is the main application. I have not had the chance to use Isodraw or similar applications but this year I have started to hand paint an illustration of the M26 McLaren F1 raced by James Hunt in my lunch times. Going to take all year at least to complete. I still have all my tools, pencils, Rotring pens, ellipse guides which I am now using to help with the painting.”
“All TI work, not just locally but worldwide, is now dependent on using computers.”
Clint echoes today’s heavy electronic impact on his own work, “Now, it’s probably 99% digital. Only occasionally do I sketch out an idea on paper. I mostly go right into line art drawings in Adobe Illustrator now and just refine.”
There is still something important to be said about analogue art skills and techniques, nevertheless.
“A few years ago,” Roy continued, “I had a visit to Lotus F1 team HQ to show them the Ayrton Senna, Lotus 98T cutaway I had produced. The interesting comment from one of the team leaders, was that they could not produce that kind of illustration themselves as there’s just too many parts to put into the 3D modelling application. A room full of servers would not cope.”
“In my field,” adds Clint, “I would say it’s 100% digital.” Even the best people doing it are not working on paper but the best people doing it know the analogue skills. I don’t think you can be a high-level illustrator without knowing the basic fundamentals.”
Personally, I really enjoy hearing all of this but I had to ask Roy and Clint what illustration software they currently prefer or recommend.
“Corel Draw X6 is my main tool for the line work illustrations,” says Roy. He explains, “When compared with Adobe illustrator it has some tools that are much more helpful. For work, Corel Draw also has a much wider spectrum of file types it can import and export with. Adobe Illustrator has a much narrower list. The more complicated colour rendition illustrations are of course done with Adobe Photoshop CS6 with help of Adobe Illustrator to make masks and colour up small parts, then copy and paste into Photoshop using gradients for metals which are quicker than those in Photoshop.”
On the other side of the pond, Clint’s says, “I do the majority of my work in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I use Rhino for basic 3d modeling and to manipulate client 3d data for reference. I use Keyshot for rendering and animation and Poser when I need good reference to draw people.”
For anyone interested, Clint has an impressive online video tutorial on TechnicalIllustrators.org.
All things considered, I had to ask Roy and Clint how they would recommend someone; either young or an adult switching career paths, to go about pursuing a technical illustration career in today’s world.
Roy replied, “TI now seems to be an old man’s game as it is the design engineer who creates the final image. I would have no idea how to suggest to someone in what to do. No full-time courses that I know of. Purchase Isodraw it’s only £4k to buy, then get trained on that. Kevin Hulsey a fantastic technical illustrator in the USA has some tips and basic lessons on TI.”
“In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s motorsport magazines would often have colour cutaway illustrations as centre spreads. The TI that people would see would be the cream of the crop, not the illustrated parts lists for manufacturers. For anyone wanting a career in TI, they would either have to be self-taught or apprentice.”
From an American point of view, Clint advises, “If you can find a college program for Technical Illustration that would be the best start. If not, I would say just draw every day, build the best portfolio you can, reach out to other illustrators for advice or to see if they can send any work your way, it’s a great community of people who are willing to help each other out.”
I wondered what are either artists’ greatest current obstacles or challenges as tech illustrators. Roy explained, “With the day to day illustrations of vehicles and equipment for the military to be restrained in and under aircraft, the biggest obstacle is for manufactures to provide basic 2D drawings. Not CAD files, just a .pdf as our schemes are 2D, but the majority will not provide them so we have to take photos, measurements and create side and plan view illustrations from them. Not easy, and time consuming especially when it is a rush job.”
“For the race cars that I do, the biggest obstacle is convincing a current and prospective customer who loves the cutaway illustrations to be happy to pay more than the minimal wage for 150 hours of work. Everyone that has seen the race car cutaway illustrations comment on how good they are but there is no longer the interest in commissioning them unless I have not sent an email to the right person. Even motorsport magazines are not interested in using for free. So, unless I spend a small fortune on an advert or a stand at a prestigious event it will stay as it is.”
Roy Scorer apparently remains gainfully employed in spite of the odds. He is not a starving artist. I, therefore, thought it was important to ask if he thought working as an artist for a firm is most rewarding or if freelancing is.
“For me, both working for the MoD and my freelance are rewarding. I am senior TI at the MoD, and I illustrate different vehicles and equipment every week.”
“Haynes contacts me when they need an illustration, so that’s a compliment”
“United Autosports (Zak Brown) wants his historic race car collection illustrated.”
Clint’s job concerns appear to be more emotive; “Getting through the slumps where you hate everything you do. Staying positive when you are working on mediocre projects or are dealing with challenging clients and being financially disciplined to handle the slow times.”
I can identify with both of these artists but I empathize the most with Clint Ford on doing client projects that aren’t very stimulating to my brain. I don’t like war but I probably would enjoy illustrating military vehicles and weapons, as Roy often does, much more than designing instructions on how to use an electric hair curler. There are times when you just have to do what pays.
“I spent 15 years on staff for various companies,” Clint told me, “and now about 5 years as a full-time freelancer. Freelancing by far is much more rewarding for me. The variety of work makes it so you never get bored drawing the same thing over and over. The respect and appreciation from clients is also more rewarding most of the time and the money is way better.”
So, of course I had to ask both artists what they’re top 3 greatest rewards or benefits of pursuing a career in TI are.
“This is a difficult one,” was Roy’s response. “An MoD civil servant technical illustrator of 30 years earning the same as my kids in a factory. So, it’s not the money but I am currently illustrating some famous historic race cars which is a pleasure and very interesting to see how they have developed over the years.”
“I’ll come back to you when I know what the greatest rewards or benefits are.”
A fair answer.
“Becoming an independent business owner and defining my own career,” states Clint. “Having the ability to support my family and have it so that my wife doesn’t have to work and for her to be able to focus on our kids and her own education. The adventure of it all.”
A very special thanks to Roy Scorer and Clint Ford for their time and extremely valuable input.
You can link to their websites from the blogroll at the right side of your screen. Do check out the work of these top-quality illustrators.
Some Highly Important Words of Caution
So, although TI is not quite dead nothing lasts forever. The entire universe is in a constant state of flux. Today’s professional digital artists and hopefuls — tech illustrators or not, do need to keep eyes and ears open for the next paradigm shift; whatever and whenever that will be. Survival depends on it.
Thinking “out of the box”, as people say, just imagine artificial intelligence becoming advanced enough within the next thirty years or less that you, an artist or not, can verbally describe how you envision something to look like and function to a computer. That computer will brilliantly produce the illustration or 3D animation for you in a few minutes or even just a few seconds. Yeah, adapt to that!
ALL ABOUT ENGAGEMENT PHOTOGRAPHY
Engagement photography can be a matter that potential clients and I may discuss quite early into a consultation for wedding photography.
An engagement shoot typically costs13% – 15% of a selected wedding photography package (see Part 3 for average costs). For some photographers, engagement work is included in certain or all packages. Other photographers leave it as a completely separate package that can be added if a client prefers.
Can you have access to your engagement portrait before the wedding so that you can display it at the wedding? The short answer is, yes. These days, a “no” is rare. Specify this during consultation so that it can be worked into your quote.
Nine-point-five times out of ten, an engagement shoot will be carried out on a date before the wedding day, so please carefully consider Parts 2 and 3 of this blog series.
For Modes of Flight clients who want to display their engagement picture at their wedding, it is highly advised that clients arrange for engagement photography to be done at least one full week prior to the actual wedding for sufficient post-production, framing and delivery time.
Why wouldn’t you want to show it off? You may have gone through who knows what in your life to finally find the one person in this whole wide world who can make you feel smart, strong, desirable, wanted, needed and protected all at once.
Maybe you’ve listened to a hundred people insist that it’s unrealistic to expect one man or woman to dedicate themselves to only one other person forever. Something deep inside; nevertheless, convinces you that you just don’t subscribe to their point of view. You simply have no need to share your life with anyone else but one person, and that special person feels exactly the same way about you.
Originality and Creativity
You’ve probably thought of, heard of or seen how some guys and gals get their friends or a videographer to record their actual proposal – totally unrehearsed, and upload the videos to YouTube. This has also become part of still photography wedding bookings. All emotional reactions are real; nothing contrived at all. If the betrothal ends in a “yes”, the resulting shots will be some of the best memories you’ve ever had recorded live. It still requires the groom or bride to consult with a photographer/videographer ahead of time, and take quite a risk.
How should you dress? Most people in North America dress casually for an engagement shoot but some do get all gussied up. It all works. Feel free.
It’s excellent for you to ask questions of your prospective photographer, just as a photographer ought to be asking you questions beyond the finance and business aspects.
Whether your preferred package may or may not include an engagement session, in a consultation. I want to hear your story. Knowing this helps me to get a sense of the personalities involved, and conceive how I’m going to photograph your wedding if you choose me.
While details are important, and you may have to break out of your shyness, you don’t have to share everything. For example, when I proposed to my wife, I was wearing nothing but a smile and towel. That’s all I have to say about that.
Yes, this is business but for the sake of creativity I want to emotively connect with the romantic and affectionate chemistry between the pair I’ll be working for. If you’re hiring a photographer to tell your love story through imagery, you should share even the backstory.
Do you want to be creative with your engagement shoot? Then, you should express yourself to your satisfaction. Costumes and regalia that you already have can work well aesthetically without overburdening your photography budget. Location is excellent to think about. Most of my clients leave this up to me but I like it when they have direct input for places to shoot. It feels more collaborative. Maybe they can easily get access to the roof of a skyscraper that I can’t. Set it up, and I’ll make you look like you’re on top of the world!
Can you see the possibilities?
Engagement parties are usually attached to big weddings. Events in which the number of invites of the big day is easily expected to exceed 400, although I have shot parties of weddings with a little more than 100 invites. When this is foreseeable, a party is held sometime before the actual wedding to celebrate the engagement of a couple and bring future wedding guests together. It may very well be the first real introduction of the parents, siblings and other family members of the wedding couple. Make sure there are less potential issues down the road when the knot is to be tied.
If you want to record your engagement party. A consultation is a great time to make certain that your photographer will know the date, location and length of the party and who to photograph.
This Bridal/Engagement Boudoir Photography Thing
Alright. Now that we’re all warmed up . . .
These days most people know what boudoir photography is; a fascinating mix of pin-up, glamour, portrait, fashion, erotic and sometimes fetish photography. A little less familiar is its sibling boudoir engagement photography, otherwise known as bridal boudoir, bride boudoir and engagement boudoir photography. It’s done in the same style as ordinary boudoir but surrounding a wedding engagement theme. It is still not as common as conventional engagement photography but it is growing in popularity in, at least, North America and Europe.
Does terminology really make a difference between bridal boudoir photography and engagement boudoir photography? I think most photographers will tell you that they’re exactly the same thing. Some others will still insist that the technical difference is that bridal is all about the girl, while engagement may include the groom.
Fair enough, except that while the term bridal works for lesbian pairs but engagement seems kind of like a blah label for male couples. If you prefer, try to neutralize it by calling it wedding boudoir (good luck with that).
You can certainly call it a tradition where brides are concerned. It’s mainly women with a grand sense of adventure and self-assuredness who seek to have engagement boudoir photography done. This type of photography is extremely rare when guys, gay or straight, get in front of the lens but even then, it’s a possibility. One has to be willing to try something nontraditional and beyond the comfort zone of most others.
Any kind of boudoir photography is for the girl or guy who feels saturated with sex appeal. He or she wants to show it off in this particular pop-cultured way. The final outcome is usually a special wedding gift to the future mate (I’ll talk about morning after photography another time).
The aim is to create images that depict romance, intimacy and seduction all at the same time. Models can be nude but do not have to be. In fact, total or partial nudity is rare in this artistic genre. Lingerie, costumes, bed linens, tapestries, fashion accents, fetish gear and plain clothes tend to be frequent features.
Wedding boudoir is certainly quite popular but I personally do not get many requests to do it. If asked, would I? Yes, I would but I usually leave it up to the couple consulting me to request it. Those truly interested in it are bold enough to open up the discourse on it. Other clients are likely too embarrassed, and I never want them to feel that way.
Engagement boudoir doesn’t mean that a couple has to give up their more conventional engagement photography either. One type can be proudly displayed at a wedding or in the home in a way for everyone to see while the other is likely to be shown off under much more restricted conditions.
It’s a very special and creative way of expressing one’s desire for another.
In spite of the engagement connotation, a wedding boudoir shoot can just as easily be executed sometime before or after a wedding. I offer it as a separate shoot, with its own price tag and agreement, to be added to a customized wedding photography package. This way, it’s easy to deduct the cost from a package if a client decides to not go through with it. This is totally understandable.
It can be a downright creepy and frightening experience acting sexually seductive for a photographer you barely know.
What will not happen with me is a hardcore pornography shoot. It’s understandable that most people still don’t know the difference between erotica (a.k.a.: “curiosa”) and hardcore. To many, it’s all hardcore and offensive. I won’t get into the details here but in short, erotica, which boudoir is associated with, actually is recognized as fine art in the Western art world. Hardcore is only recognized as one of the lowest forms of commercial art. Whether actual or simulated, and it’s usually actual, hardcore mainly differs from erotica due to its featuring explicit sexual imagery. This is not characteristic of erotica.
Pursuing engagement boudoir photography takes time, and will likely affect your budget so think about Parts 2 and 3 regarding when to search and book, and average pricing for a professional wedding photographer. If you’re really daring, consider what I said about “student and noob shooters”. I bid you good luck if you’re considering the prospects of “DIY and/or relying on guests”.
Apart from time, costs can rise if you aren’t prepared to do your own hair, makeup and wardrobe if you want a certain look. In such circumstances, I will subcontract a make-up artist and anyone else required, and defer those costs to my client. Maintaining client modesty and privacy is extremely important to me (despite the growing popularity of boudoir, people still undeservedly lose their careers, damage deep personal relationships and develop awful reputations just by starring in this type of imagery) but discounts are possible if I am able to use such images from a shoot for self-promotion.
OPENING TO AN OVERVIEW OF TECHNICAL ILLUSTRATION
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” so goes the axiom. From time in memorial, our species have had a need to create things that work to improve, protect or simplify our lives or to understand the universe around us. It’s been how we’ve advanced through the centuries, despite our fallacies getting in the way at times; resulting in tremendous destruction and unnecessary pain and suffering.
Sometimes, we can’t simply build these things in our heads or theorize how our surroundings work. We first have to create models. I’ve used all sorts of things like wood, paper and cardboard, Plasticine and Lego to make three-dimensional representations of things I want to draw or paint. There are countless times; however, that no one can even make an actual three-dimensional mockup of anything without first creating a 3D representation through 2D media. This is technical illustration; sometimes referred to as product illustration. I’m going to start referring to it as simply TI.
This is just the first half of this overview. I’ll explain more about that in the end, and tip you off on what’s to come in the follow up.
TI Earning Potential
I want to clear the air. There is good news and bad news about making a living creating TI. I’ll start with the good news. Being a fine artist is not a 9-to-5 job but being a commercial artist, such as any type of illustrator, largely still is. Whether hired by some company fulltime or contracted as freelance, illustrators spend a relatively fixed number of hours each workday on art projects, and get paid for each of those hours. That’s a steady income.
For those parents who get the crap scared out of them when they hear their children say that they want to pursue a career in the visual arts, in most developed regions around the world, being a technical illustrator is still a middle-income job regardless of what the middle-income currency range is within a given country. Technical illustrators include draughtsmen, architects, archaeologists, paleontologists, engineers, biologists of all kinds, set designers and others. So yeah, your kids will make money in TI. Tech illustrators are needed to create drawings, renderings and diagrams for or about practically anything. Well produced TI’s are highly important for communicating important concepts, plans, histories and other facts. TI’s are still necessary, so people are still needed to make them.
Mum and dad, it’s understandable if you have doubts but please don’t hold your visual art inclined youngins back with your fears. As a professional tech illustrator, he or she won’t be a dreaded, stereotypical starving artist. He or she will be a levelheaded, pragmatic and content commercial artist.
Born in 1965, Roy Scorer is a premier technical illustrator based in Swindon, UK. A specialist in freelance motorsport illustrations, he also regularly does work for the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD). I got the chance to ask him frank and personal questions about how he got into the bizz. How he’s been professionally and artistically inspired, and what support, if any, he had from his family.
“Early 1982 visit to careers officer at secondary school before taking my O Levels. I wanted to be a PE teacher, but I was told I would have to teach a second subject. Easy, art or technical drawing but no, it would have to be a core subject so that ended.”
“Behind the careers officer there was a poster of a cutaway of an aircraft engine, I think. Pencil line one end, then thick and thin ink work finished off in airbrush. Wow now that looked cool. It was the advert poster for the technical illustration course at Portsmouth College of Art and Design. That will do, so I applied after borrowing the poster and showing it to my parents.”
“Parents must have been supportive, as I do not remember them being anti technical Illustration. It would mean leaving home a week after my 17th birthday but that did not phase me or give my parents any concern.”
“I guess parents were supportive, it’s been a few years. Dad was a long-distance continental truck driver and a big motorsport fan. He raced saloon stockcars in the late 60’s early 70’s, raced trucks for the haulage firm he worked for in late 80’s and repaired his own cars. So, Haynes manuals etc. were a crucial item. Full of technical illustrations, so must be a good trade to be skilled in.”
“No impact from parents on me personally on my choice of career. They have always been impressed with what I have done. I tried to become a motorsport artist in the late 80’s and when I had the idea of a stand at the London Olympia 1989 Racing Car Show, dad was happy to be guarantor for the business loan from the bank and also accompanied me every day on the stand, and I sold not a single painting but dad was still upbeat. Better to try than do nothing. That kind of thinking has stuck with me ever since.”
I was also able to interview one of the US’ top named tech illustrators Clint Ford, and ask him all of the same questions I asked Roy.
Based in Detroit, MI, Clint is a freelance technical illustrator, and he provides an excellent viewpoint of the profession from an alternate region of the world in comparison to his British counterpart. Here’s what he had to say when I asked him about his earliest motivations toward the field.
“I was a senior in high school. My mom and I were flipping through a course catalog trying to figure out what path I should take and after reading the description of the Technical Illustration program, I thought, that’s it. I’ve always loved to draw, especially the little details in everything. I didn’t know of any other illustrators, or even if this would be a real career, it just sounded like a good fit.”
“I was very lucky in that my mom was very supportive, she gave me a big nudge and really helped guide me towards a career that would be a good fit for what limited skills I did have. My grades were not impressive at all in high school and the only thing I liked to do besides ride dirt bikes was drawing.”
“My mom was a creative person and recognized my attention to detail. She probably also didn’t want me to join the air force, or at least, I didn’t.”
I love how both Scorer and Ford had the full support of their parents when they were young. I honestly believe it is critical as to why they have the success they do in their visual arts careers. It also helps when you have at least one loving parent who understands the instinctive need to express oneself creatively.
“It impacted me in a major way,” says Clint about his mother’s support. Without her guidance who knows what I would have done. I am constantly thankful to her for guiding me and putting me through college.”
Graphic design (GD) is another commercial art job that is closely associated with TI. It is quite common for job postings to be for filling TI/GD combined positions. This is because in today’s world, TI and GD are frequently applied in marketing, and market analysis and research. People who enroll in arts academies for GD or TI typically wind up learning the intricacies of both and other types of illustration anyway.
TI opportunities include working for a wide range of firms, and going freelance. Freelancing can be harder to do but can lead to establishing and growing a successful firm of one’s own with a team of subordinate artists. A career in TI can lead to amazing, expressive, freeing, inspiring, satisfying and lucrative paths in a visual artist’s life.
In Part 1 I mentioned Ralph McQuarrie. Prior to conceptualizing for Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and other films and TV shows; literally giving them the everlasting multi-million dollar looks they have, he was a technical illustrator for Boeing. Just think, you may have actually flown on an aircraft that he had a hand in designing.
Now, in interviewing Roy Scorer and Clint Ford, I wound up with so much great feedback that I had to split this overview into two phases. I know that some of you don’t particularly like extremely long blog posts.
I hope that you’ll follow the blog into next month to read the conclusion. In Part 3, Roy, Clint and I will cover some of the controversies and benefits of being a technical illustrator. You’ll get to see the kind and quality of art they do that makes them highly sought-after artists. I think it will be a real eye opener for artists and non-artists. Get a real understanding of what it’s like to be this specific kind of professional.
Do check out the work of these high-level illustrators.
Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!
Still strong and free!
AVERAGE PRICING FOR A PROFESSIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER
Soon after I get into a wedding photography consultation with a potential client, the subject of cost comes up. Rightly so. Cost is without a doubt one of the most important and frequently asked questions, if not the most important and frequent. Money talks! Photographers and market reporters try to identify the average costs for a pro wedding photographer in magazine articles, blogs and video posts on YouTube. It is a shame that getting realistic numbers is so difficult. There are way too many variables that can affect the cost of a shoot.
I can tell you that no true pro in North America, Europe or Australia will shoot your wedding for the equivalent of CDN$100.00 or less (yes, this has been asked of me) unless they’re a really, really, really close friend or relative. Pro wedding photography is expensive; no ifs ands or buts about it. How expensive depends on what photography package you’re interested in. In Part 2 of this series, I listed the current packages of Modes of Flight (subject to change).
The best way to get a feel for what you’ll need to budget for is to consult 2-5 photographers that are within 40 km (25mi) of where you live (that’s usually substantial), go through their consultation processes and obtain price quotations on packages you are interested in and don’t commit to anything until the price is right.
Ask if the photographer’s consultation and quotes are free. Most are but occasionally you come across some that aren’t. I don’t charge for consultations or quotes, and I’m willing to re-quote until the cows come home. Bear in mind, however, that no photographer can devote an exorbitant amount of time re-quoting for a potential client when there are the needs of paying customers to be met. So, as with answering the “when to search and book” question, don’t waste time in your decision process.
Yes, I live and work in Canada, and throughout all of North America a couple should consider spending 10 – 15% of their overall wedding budget on wedding photography – varying packages also considered. This has been true since at least the late 1980’s, and appears likely to continue for many more years to come. In my research, this percentage range seems to be pretty standard around much of the world. The lowest I’ve come across was 7% from only one source in the UK.
What does the 10 – 15% range mean in Canadian or US dollars? It translates to costs between $2,300 to $10,000 depending on available packages with a chosen photographer. Prices for the world’s top wedding photographers start at around $7,000. Given the aforementioned price range, overall wedding budgets should be planned to be in the $23,000 – $67,000 range. Depending on how fast you can pay your debts, your budget will dictate how close to or far away from your wedding day you’ll have to start planning for your event.
These general costs also depend on region. A $2,300 package (usually bronze; the cheapest standard package offered by a photographer) in Toronto is likely to cost $2,900 or more in NYC. Both, of course, being major cities. Smaller cities and towns tend to be less expensive if their photographers have low overhead and operating costs.
It also depends on the number of photographers covering the event. I generally work alone as a still photographer, I don’t do videography. Even when my wife is my assistant, I’m the only one shooting. A solo photographer helps to keep costs down for the wedding couple. The potential does exist; however, for me to call in a fellow solo wedding photographer on an event that I’m being hired for or assist a photographer if he or she needs an extra shooter. Of course, there are plenty of wedding photography firms that regularly employ a number of photographers and videographers to cover an event. More photographers, apprentices, assistants and media used, however, translates to greater cost to the couple getting married.
There are all kinds of other costs that could be factored in such as travel, work visas, work permits and applicable taxes if you’re hiring a photographer who is from another country or if he, she or they are from your region but must travel to another country where you intend to have your ceremony.
Again, the aforementioned price ranges are just standard ranges. It is still possible to find good photographers who can well undercut or exceed these numbers. I’ve personally done a number of cheaper weddings. Here’s a hint, they were all customized packages. Discounts have also played a part.
Obtaining references can be good. Some clients, although they’re satisfied with their photographer’s services, don’t want to be contacted by strangers looking for verification that a particular shooter is a worthy candidate or not, so if a photographer can’t provide any references, don’t be alarmed. You may be better off just seeing examples of their work online or in person at your home, in their home, studio, at arts and crafts fairs, bridal shows, etc.
To make it easier, I do recommend that you voluntarily provide your photographer a written testimonial; with your name, after all services have been rendered and you are satisfied with the outcomes (the photography and the service). Do it on paper, e-mail, the photographer’s online interactive reference page or even on their blog. No, it’s not tacky.
Do you have to budget for feeding your photographer? It’s wonderful if you do but no, you are not obligated to. I have shot weddings in which there was no soup for me. Today, most shooters are aware that if they’re going to spend hours recording someone’s nuptial events, they should be prepared to tough out not eating for hours, or take something with them with hopes to find opportunities to discreetly nourish themselves. This is especially true for photographers who are diabetics or don’t want to become diabetics. In my experience, most wedding couples don’t feed their photographers.
Students and Noob Shooters
The price range causes many to question whether or not it’s worth it to have their one day nuptials recorded professionally.
As alternatives to hiring experienced pros looking up photography students and other shooters, who are new to wedding photography but aren’t someone’s apprentices, can be a good idea. Some are really talented, and are willing to work dirt cheap in order to get some experience and hopefully get their names circulated. The drawback is that some others are limited artistically, technically, even technologically and lack too much professional know how in the business sense.
Where do you find these people? Call up colleges, universities and check out online classified ad sites like Kijiji and Craigslist. Also, consider contacting local photography clubs. Besides these, you may know of someone in your family or in your workplace who is beginning to pursue wedding photography, or a friend of a friend who is.
Please keep in mind that if you’re determined to obtain references, the chances of getting any for a student or new beginner are slim to none.
DIY and/or Relying on Guests
Can you shoot your own weeding, with disastrous results? Yes. I don’t recommend it at all!
These days, the majority of photos taken at virtually any wedding are taken by the friends and family members of the wedding couple. Just about everyone can and does take pictures with all the smartphones, I-Pads, automatic cameras, DSLRs and more that have flooded the global market at a wide range of costs. For a short while, it even became fairly common in the early 2000’s for wedding couples to even place disposable cameras at the reception tables so that guests, with or without their own cams, can shoot to their hearts content. Many wedding couples swore that they were quite pleased with the results but this approach did reveal drawbacks . . .
While there are benefits to cheaping out and not using a professional photographer, there are also risks with it. A wedding is an extremely important time in your life. If you can, invest in a professional wedding photographer.
2D visual artist specializing in illustration, photography and graphic design.