Dance Project

Dance video project, copyright Mark Stout, all rights reserved.

Dance video project, copyright Mark Stout, all rights reserved.

I don’t normally announce projects that I am working on prior to their launch, or post any work from it in advance.  But I am making an exception this time. Continue reading

Music and Entertainment Photography

An essential part of a photo is what it communicates, and this won’t happen without some thought, planning, and hard work.  No where is this more true than in portraits for musicians.  The image has to communicate what the music is about and motivate the viewer to pick up the CD and listen (or click the link as is the case today).  When the image doesn’t do that, no amount of savings on the photoshoot is worth the loss of sales.

I will tell you more about this photo soon.  It is part of a larger project I am working on currently.  The work I have done in the music industry has to be one of my favorite things to do as I’m working with other artists and doing so pushes creativity to new levels.

Entertainment photographer

Portrait of a musician, copyright Mark Stout

Open House at the Actor’s Menu

I have been hooking up with some of the greatest people lately.  One such group is the Actor’s Menu.  Each time I have been there, I feel I am witnessing something special.  I have flashed back at times while there to a research project I did many years back on some of the more notable celebrities, in particular the life of Marilyn Monroe, and her years spent studying method acting under Lee Strasberg.  It was in those moments, what was passed down, that you learn who Marilyn really was: how different she was than the icon the world knew, and the dues she paid to get there.

When I observe and photograph the class, I often feel that I am part of something special.  Instead of just reading about the lives of those who have become stars on the “silver screen” (yeah, I know, we don’t have too many of those screens left), I get to be part of those lives.  To see them work, struggle, practice, and dig deep within themselves to unleash the creativity that entertains the rest of the world.

I’m going somewhere with this.  We live in an “instant” world.  Someone whips out their iPhone and snaps a crappy picture or a short video of something that is going on, presses a button and it’s on Facebook for the world to see.  That’s not creativity.  It’s an app, a machine.  The gadget is cheating us out of the substance that really matters.

Real creativity exists within us all.  But it has to be nurtured, developed, and the person has to work hard, and often to overcome the most unbelievable personal obstacles to bring it out… and get the nerve to then show it to the world.  And it doesn’t matter what it is the individual chooses to excel in, the dues get paid.

I consider it a great honor to have had the experience of being able to work with so many that have chosen to do just that during my career: to be able to document their success, to help them show it to the world, and to many times help their careers by doing so.

Guess I’m a pretty “lucky” guy.

Here are some photos of the open house.  The ones I have selected were chosen to give you a feel of the emotion, work, dedication and fun that goes into the making of an actor/actress.

DSC_7587DNG DSC_7611DNG DSC_7612DNG DSC_7637DNGcrop DSC_7655DNG DSC_7673DNGhighlightsCrop DSC_7688DNG DSC_7689DNG DSC_7699DNG DSC_7708DNG


The Mind Makes it Real

I wasn’t planning to write a blog post today, but an email in my inbox this morning changed all that.  You might say it blew my socks off.

One of my friends turned me on to an inspirational email blast by a man named J. Michael Dolan.  I read them each day and find he usually is telling me exactly what I need to hear.  He also sees life in a different way, one that closely aligns with how I see it and I have had the good fortune of exchanging a couple of emails with him.

This morning I read a response from him to my email commenting on his blog post “Choke, Stall and Flinch“.  I had remarked on how true I found the line in it “The one thing we artists & treps have in common is that we worry about the future. Why? Because we’re charged with inventing it from nothing—then we stake our entire livelihood on it.”

His response to it left me in tears.  I felt like someone really understood just what it is like to be an artist.  But more, what the world itself is really like.  You see, life is like our art.  We create it from nothing, it only seems that it is the world around us that dictates our actions.

Then I re-read his blog post and saw the missing piece, where I have been making my mistake.  You see, we do create our futures, but we also create what we don’t want as well.  I will be moving to my goal, something will occur and I put my attention on it instead.  I will flinch, and in that instant I’ve lost.  I put my attention on the barrier, the problem, the upset with whoever, the threat coming in at me – instead of the goal – and what I object to becomes more real.  I put more effort into trying to solve it and it grows more formidable.  The goal is lost as long as I try to solve the problem  instead of simply moving forward to the goal.

I can explain this best by likening it to the Matrix.  While there are many key points there in regard to this, such as the line about  “…seek to see the truth.  There is no spoon.  Then you will see it is not the spoon that changes, it is only yourself.”  Or when Neo is bleeding after the jump scene and Morpheus says “The mind makes it real…”  and the line about “I’m trying to free your mind.”

There is a point in the movie that was not spoken that I now see.  Who built the Matrix in the first place?  Well, it was built by the people it now enslaves.  And that is the key.  Once you take responsibility for creating it, you are free to control it. It can no longer harm you.  The Matrix exists only  because it is being created by those who fight it.

What we experience is what we create.  It may seem otherwise, but that is the simple truth of the matter.  And the things we create are those that we put our attention on, whether that be past misfortunes, something we object to in the present… or something we desire inn the future that did not previously exist.  Freedom, or lack of it, depends on which we choose to do.  As Morpheus said, “free your mind” and choose to create the future you desire.

The photo I am posting with this is part of a series I am working on along this very line.  It is an effort to communicate the role of the spirit to the material world and just how illusionary this world is.  And I urge you, if you work in any of the arts, or are an entrepreneur, or simply have a dream or ambition beyond being a cog in the 9 to 5 work a day world, click one of the links above and start reading Michael’s blog.  What you will get out of it will be different… but it will be what you need to get.

The Mind Makes it Real, copyright Mark Stout

The Mind Makes it Real, copyright Mark Stout


APA Colorado Holiday Mixer: Join Industry Pros for Fun and Networking

Join APA Colorado for our holiday party. Great fun! Great Networking!
Open to all, photographers, film makers, models, agencies, art directors, stylists, make up artists. This is a great opportunity to meet photography industry pros and solidify relationships while having fun.
Dec 4th at Breckenridge Brewery 471 Kalamath. Details at

Photography is a communication

A lot is said about art, and photography is an art form.  However, it seems what is most often overlooked in the discussions is that art is a communication.  A much higher level communication than the written or spoken word as it uses aesthetics.  In commerce, it is the communication that drives sales.

If that isn’t quite clear, consider for a moment how many pairs of jeans Guess would sell if they simply took out ads with text telling you how the denim was top quality.  Probably none.  It’s the aesthetic in their ads and the values communicated by that aesthetic that make the consumer decide it is worth a couple extra bucks to buy that brand.

This isn’t a matter of being technically proficient, it is the work of an artist.  Or a team of artists.  It is how all of the elements – the models, the styling, the setting, the light, the composition – come together to create desire by sending a message the consumer wants to identify with.

Yet when the campaigns that drive the sales are mentioned, the photography is rarely part of the discussion.  I found this article on “M&S & Tesco: How Photography Drives Their Advertising Campaigns” a great read on this subject.

Perhaps it is time we began to give more credit to the role photography plays in a successful marketing campaign.

The most important thing I have learned as a photographer

I’m frequently asked what it the most important thing I have learned as a photographer. I never hesitate with the answer. It is how and when to say “No thanks.”

I still remember the early days when any appreciation or recognition for my work seemed so valuable that the temptation to throw away good business sense was strong. But most of these “opportunities” amounted to nothing other than exploitation, and to accept them would mean giving away the only thing I have that really matters: my integrity to myself and the value of my work.

A rather interesting such “opportunity” hit my email box yesterday from a large stock photo company wanting me to shoot a concert for their library and I thought I would share it with you.

Dear Photographer,

A ______ concert will take place at _____ in Denver, Colorado on _____ . Since you are in that area, we need your help as a skilled photographer to provide imagery related to this event.

We need about 3 different images.  The images might be featured on in our “In the News” section which will provide them good exposure and increase their sales potential. This section has become a common reference for major newspapers and magazines throughout the world. Your efforts will help them to cover this event in a more accurate way.

To an “emerging photographer” trying to “break in” this could seem like an opportunity to get photos of a big name performer in one of the largest venues in the city. But this is not what it seems. This is a microstock agency that contacted me wanting the images for their library where they will license for a dollar or two. After they take their cut off the top, and with the limited sales due to constrained subject matter (no matter how famous, a celebrity picture will not gain the stock sales that a generic one will), I might stand to make $20 off the images in a year.  How will that help my business?

Meanwhile, if I was to accept it, I would be doing considerable harm to many sectors of the industry and my fellow photographers. For example, the Chicago Sun Tribune could not have laid off its entire staff of photographers were it not for the exact type of action requested here. Why would they pay for a photographer to cover the show when they could license the image a day later for $2.00?

My response was:

This is a request I will need to pass up for many reasons.  As someone who has worked in music photography for years I understand well the issues this creates.  One, (venue name) will not allow photography at the venue UNLESS you have been issued credentials by both the band’s manager and the venue.   I’m not big on sneaking into venues.  Two, the pay that this will result in is not worth the time, effort and expense… yes expense, it DOES cost us money each time we do a shoot.  With prep time, shoot time, travel time and post production I would be spending an entire day of my time for three images that are not likely to earn much.  Three, having microstock move into this area of photography destroys yet another market and means the artists, venues and media no longer have to pay fair prices for the images AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PHOTOGRAPHER.  This is taking jobs from media photographers, it denies the artist control over where and how his/her image appears, and destroys the earning power of all photographers in the entertainment industry.

No thanks.  I can’t take part in that.
Mark Stout

This, as in deciding whether or not to take all shoots that come my way is a judgment call. There are many factors to consider. And while profitability is a factor to consider, there is always a broader issue to be looked at. What will be the impact on the greater industry?

This doesn’t mean there is never a time you say yes to a shoot that doesn’t pay well. Just as photographers are at different levels of skill and ability, clients come from different walks. There may be a reason you want to help that client. Or you may see some value gained other than money (but be careful with this one, as usually the case is you should be getting both that value… such as the exposure the shoot will gain… and the pay for doing the work).

But when you see examples such as above where a multi-million dollar corporation is asking you to help them profit by cheating you and your fellow photographers out of your pay… or the case of an ad agency who asked me to do a two day shoot for a Fortune 500 company for less than I would make were I to shoot a high school student’s Senior Pictures, it’s time to say no and walk away.

So again, the most important thing I have learned? Separate my creative ambition from my businessman’s hat. If I don’t do the second part I will not long be able to do the first.

Please !

Off the Clock Photo Exhibition in LA

While I was in Los Angeles meeting with the National Executive Board of APA, one of the highlights was to be there for the opening of Off The Clock 2013.  OTC is a juried show that features the best of hundreds of entries from the top professional photographers in the nation.  It is the work they shoot when they are “Off the Clock.”  The 2012 show was sent to APA Colorado where the opening exhibition was so successful that we held it over for a second showing at Emmanuel Gallery… but nothing prepared me for what I saw at the OTC 2013 opening in LA.

Beyond the spectacular quality of the work, what caught my attention was the sheer number of people attending the opening night.  My guess was there were 1000 people present.  Seeing how professional photographers and the industry as a whole pulls together in support of the industry was truly inspirational.



Canadian Photographers Win Copyright Ownership

I saw this news a couple days ago and had to share it.  Canadian photographers, after fighting for 20 years to gain it, now have the same copyright protection granted to them upon creation of their images as US Photographers do.

When you see the photos in this article you will see just how thrilled the photographers there are to gain this right.  I believe this also should serve as a reminder to us here in the US just how valuable our copyright is (and we too had to fight for it years back) and why it is so vital that we work to protect it.

I can’t encourage new photographers enough to take the time to learn, understand and protect their hard earned copyright in all of their business affairs.  There are a number of good books on the subject, and membership in a professional organization is invaluable if you hope to be successful.  (It is after all photographers united through a professional organization and the work they did that resulted in the Canadian victory)