Should a nightlife photographer watermark photos?

I decided to wait a few weeks before writing about this so that I could really absorb the idea that this happened.  Its not a huge feat I guess, but I suppose it gives one bragging rights when one Top 100 DJ's in the world uses your photo to thank his fans for viewing his "Waiting" video on YouTube 16 Million times.  I like this song.

That being said... their is a slight frustration that comes along with this.  In order to talk about this, we have to start at the beginning.

The show was put on on by a group of promoters, namely, Odin Works, Livewire, AROH, Pure Coalition and The Artist Movement.  This was my first show shooting with multiple promoters.  At this point, I had only worked out how I would watermark my photos with Photocyclone's logo along with only one promoters logo, but five logos is an entirely different setup.  I admit my mistake... I could have done much better if I had just stopped and thought about it.

The second thing, that frustrates me about the sharing of this photo, is that when I posted the set to the Odin Works page, I cropped it.  Since the, I have learned that its ALWAYS better to crop in the lens, then in post. 

Now before I get to the last thing, the reader should note that this event was held back in October 2012, it wasn't til April 13th 2013 that the photo was downloaded from Dash Berlin's website.  The photo at this point still had the watermarks, however, they were then cropped out and re-uploaded by TransFamily IR.  The watermarks are atrocious to the composition of the photo, and has made me rethink the whole ideas of watermarks in the first place.  This is an example of how not to watermark.

Now at this point, I had no idea that photo was re-uploaded to Facebook until April 17th.  That's when Dash Berlin shared my photo to 1.2 million of his Facebook fans. that's pretty freaking awesome right? It is but, I am still uncredited at this point, and that brings me to my final concern.  I needed to make sure that I got photo credit.  So being that the photo was originally uploaded by TransFamily IR, I contacted them via Facebook asking them to tag me in the post.  They apologized, almost instantly and they tagged Photocyclone in the photo.  A small conversation sprouted out that initial contact and it turns out the they are AWESOME people.

Now, because it was credited on TransFamily IR's page, it also was credited on Dash Berlins page as well.  Keep in mind this all happened in a matter of a few hours.  This however is not the end of the story, in fact, I'm not sure if this story will ever end, because I've learned something here... something important.

I learned that cropping my photos is almost never good, and after today, I will no longer watermark my photos with anyone's logo except my own.  That's a pretty bold step, but I think it will make the photos look better, and that is the most important thing to me.

By the way, this event was awesome! Thank you to the promoters who put in the hard work to make it happen!

Tell me what you think of watermarking by leaving by clicking the Facebook button below.

It's pure coincidence that the first two high key photography shoots I have done have been two female models with dreadlocks.   It was a lot easier then I thought it was going to be once I had the right equipment.  Because I shoot night life most of the time, it came as a bit of surprise how shooting in a controlled environment changes things so much.  I was able to take less shots, allow the models to pose, and take the next shot.  It was very pleasant and much slower paced. 

I wanted to have absolute control of my lighting so the regular house lights went off and my wireless flashes went on.  Call it what you like, but I found that it is still easier for me to focus in the dark. 

Be sure to check out Mandy's line of scoodies on her Etsy store as well as visiting Amethyst at the Corner Cafe & Bar in Chinatown Honolulu.

Daniel Lissing and Sahr Ngaujah
I worked in Disney World as a culinary assistant back in the late 90's.  It is well known that every employee of "The Mouse" must endure a process called "Traditions."  This of course is Disney's way of educating their employees on how to handle certain situations with the public.  I remember one such class about handling celebrities.  The most important thing that I remember most is the need to treat them as if they were anyone else.

The thing is they aren't just anyone else.  If they are in attendance to an event that I am shooting, in many cases they are being bombarded with fans trying to talk to them.   This of course is understandable, and I think that when they walk in to a venue, they are aware that their is always a potential for this to happen.  In most cases, it least in my experience they seem very cordial. 

The photo above is of Daniel Lissing (left) and Sahr Ngaujah (right).  They were living in Hawaii while shooting a TV show called Last Resort.  Sarh is a big fan of house music and really enjoyed the Soulgasm events put on at ThirtynineHotel every third Friday of the month.  Like clockwork, every month Sahr would bring the cast of Last Resort. 

Daniel and Sahr were always eager to be in photos, however I sometimes encounter a few familiar faces that haven't been so eager to be seen in the scene.  This of course brings up ethical issues on when and when to not take photos of someone.

The same rules apply to a celebrity as it would anyone else.  What are the rules about shooting anyone else?  Well you can check out my previous post here.  The main thing is be friendly, and don't treat them any different from anyone else, they are just as important to the event as the regular Joe Schmo that walks into the venue that wants to hear good music and enjoy a night with friends. 

What do you guys think though?  Should celebrities be treated any differently then the "regular customer" at a venue?

This is Sarah, and it goes with out saying she is probably one of the nicest people I have encountered in my experience with night life over the course of the past year.  She is a go-go dancer, and a very good one at that.

Recently, she recently posted on her Facebook, about how she is frustrated about people wanting her to work for free. 

There is no doubt that if you have worked anywhere in nightlife you will encounter this issue.  Its a tough subject because nobody likes to talk compensation with people they have become friends with.

I love photography... a lot, and when I first started, I did a lot of free work, but I sucked at it.  My first paid gig was the Black Friday events by Kelli Bullock and Scott MacGowan.  It was the first time I felt like I was worth anything as a photographer, and it had a huge impact on the rest of my year.  I had received a lot of compliments after that set.  Other promoters such as Odin Works and Nephilim Halls began to notice my work and hired me for their events on a consistent basis.  It's interesting to note that the behind Black Friday, Odin Works and Nephilim Halls, are all great photographers themselves.

So why did other photographers hire me for their events when they all have cameras themselves?  I have never really asked them this question directly, but I think its because I offer something unique.  They understand the impact of quality content being posted to their Facebook or their website.  There is a lot of competition out there in Chinatown. 

Many people aren't aware of the costs a photographer has when doing a shoot.  Colors in low light comes at a HUGE  cost.  My trusty Nikon 24mm 1.4 is my signature, it allows me to shoot at low light and grab the colors of the room while still giving the photo a nightlife feeling.  That's an expensive lens.  I bought it knowing that when I master it, it will make my photos unique and colorful, and it has.   They also know that people now EXPECT good photos from their events.  In turn,  it draws those patrons  to the promoters page where the photos are posted, creating traffic so that others will notice future events.  Cameron Peppers is very savy with this, he sometimes slips pictures of his flyers into a photo set that I posted on his page.  He knows that an easy 4000+ people will browse through that photo set on Facebook and will be forced to see his flyer. Lotus Downtown, on the other hand, has taken a rather unique approach by having the photos displayed on their TV's above the bar!  I love this!

Have you ever heard this? "Hey come to my event and shoot a set, and I'll get you in in at the door."  If people are asking you to show up to their event and work it, it usually means that you have a commodity that they wish to add to their night, whether its photography or in Sarah's case, go-go dancing.   I mean, there are all sort of things that going to making an event awesome besides photographers and go-go dancers, like DJ's, Fire Dancers, VJ's... the list can go on and it does. 

So... what should you say  to those that approach you to work for free?  The response is very simple:

"Would YOU work for free?"

If the answer is no, then they should think about hiring you.   If the answer is yes, then you probably shouldn't work for them anyways.  There are always alternative payments besides money that may work best for you and your client.

Don't get me wrong, I love photography, and I love taking photos of all the patrons and night lifers out there.  With out you guys, their would be no photos!  And I am always happy to snap a photo of anyone who asks me if I have my camera on me... after all, I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't love it. 

I'll see you guys tomorrow night at The Gibson Ball. I will be dressed as a Daily Planet photographer... of course.

Cameron Peppers
1. Where did you get the name Odin Works?

The name Odin Works came from wanting a solo project after wtfHawaii. Odin is actually the russian word один meaning solo in this use, transliterated to english is odin.

2. How did it start? What was your first event and where?

Well, been around and doing stuff for more years than i care to date myself... but for Hawaii (dance music events), it was in July 2009.  I had just met Miko Franconi [Soundsex] and he was going out of town and asked me to host and run one night while he was gone.  So I threw the Electro Tease event with one of my DJ's from Columbus Ohio, Jeremy Funktrain, burlesque dancers and an aerialist. At the time, there were few events on the island and it seemed and hard to find out about them unless you were in the know. A few months later when wtfHawaii fell apart, I started a weekly at Soho Mixed Media Bar, "TapThat Thursdays" and it grew from there.

Photo by: Cameron Peppers
3. One of my favorite photos I have taken is of Gabriel and Dresden framed by a crowd of hands in the air. You used to be a nightlife photographer, what is your favorite photo?

Not sure of an exact favorite, but this one came to mind first so we'll go with that.

4. What has been your favorite event that you put on since you started?

Oh man... that's a tough one to answer.  So many of my favorite artist and friends coming out.  I will say the Waterslide Thursday I did was up there, yes I put a waterslide inside of a nightclub, haha.

5. Your favorite musical artist?

You know I can't answer that with one! I will say I'm HTID.

6. Who do you look up to?

Everyone who is living their dream and pushing forward for what they want in life.

7. Have you noticed any personal growth or change in yourself since you started in night life?

Well I have been surrounded by it for quite a while, but as for club nightlife yes of course! I have definitely grown into working with larger agencies and venues which are well organized and fully legitimate, which i appreciate a lot.

8. As a photographer, my dream is to shoot Daft Punk, and submit photos and articles to Spin Magazine and Rolling Stone. This is a lofty dream. Does Odin Works have any lofty dreams?

Of course... I want my own club to do as i dream with.

9. When your just out enjoying your evening instead of putting on awesome event, where is your favorite place to go?

It's probably a toss up between ThirtynineHotel and Nextdoor for a random night, I know I'll like the music at one of them, and i can walk in alone anytime and know people, always a good atmosphere.

10. What is your favorite drink?

Cherry 3 olives with a splash of red bull. Always!

11. Who is you favorite bartender?

I'll answer it this way: I get the most laughs from Nicole at Nextdoor, and always end up with 13 straws and a weird glass when i order.

12. Your favorite local artist?

You know I can't answer that. It would be 50 separate sub categories! haha

13. What do you like most about night life?

Easy, the music.

14. With out condemning anyone, what do you like the least about nightlife?

All the separation, politics etc. We're all supposed to be here for the music.

Lorenzo Eduardo Taylor and Barbie Skunk at Lotus Downtown
It still remains my biggest fear about photography.  Do I have permission to photograph you?  The answer is an easy yes, I do.  That doesn't mean I should.

From time to time I encounter people who don't want their photo taken.  Shit, before I got into nightlife, I NEVER wanted my photo taken.   On many occasions, I have denied photographers from taking my photo, for whatever reason.  Mainly because I didn't want to be plastered on Honolulu Pulse, or Nonstop Honolulu.  It's completely understandable and not uncommon at all.  I encounter this about twice a night, and even then, their are some shoots where I can photograph anything but they will be filtered by another photographer to post else where.  All of this sits okay with me, because I just like taking good pictures.  If a person doesn't want to be in a picture, then it doesn't make for a really good shot unless its a candid.

So we raise another point.... candid portraits. Its an important type of shot in any set, because the photographer is able to capture that very moment.  No posing, no making sure the hair is okay, its how the event unfolded. 

All of this leads to ethics.  Is it okay for a photographer to take a photo of someone with out them knowing?  The answer in short is yes, but then you have to show them the shot.  In most cases, they are surprised, and enthusiastic about the photo, but sometimes they immediately request me to delete it.  Both is okay.  I have never experienced anyone getting pissed about me taking a candid shot... they understand what I was trying to do.  When I delete, I show them the notification I get when a photo has been deleted.  

As a nightlife photographer, it is very beneficial to know the crowd, and for them to get to know you.  In my experience, the more comfortable they are with you and your big ass lens, the better shots you will get.  They will feel confident that the photos of them will turn out great.

Marques Wyatt Returns to Hawaii
Marques Wyatt at Lotus Downtown Honolulu
When I was in high school, my band teacher Vic Izzo used to try to explain to us about what a musical experience is.  "Its not just the sound, though its important, its about how you feel; When the hair on the back of your neck stands up."

Marques Wyatt has once again proven that he is the Master of House.  The night was perfect.  The drinks were being poured fast and proper and the sound quality at Lotus Downtown is second to none.  The crowd wasn't just dancing to the music, they were all in sync with each other as if Marques had some sort of  secret jedi crowd sync button he brought with him from Chicago.

That being said I had a good night and I left really late, too late in fact as I had to work early the next morning.

Be sure to check my facebook page to see the entire set.

I started night life photography back in 2011.  I was sitting at Lotus Downtown sulking in the idea that I had just broke things off with a really special girl.  By this time I had dabbled in nature photography with my dad's old Nikon D100 that he had sent me for my birthday.   My stuff was decent, thanks to a house mate I had who happened to be a combat photographer for the United States Marine Corps.  He had Nikon D700 at the time with a case full of Nikon lenses.  The photo on the left is still one of my favorites from that period of time.
I was approached by a photographer named Ana Medina.  Canon 5d that really caught my interest with a big plastic thing on the top flash (Gary Fong Lightsphere). 

"What is that?"  I asked.

"Its a flash diffuser" Ana replied.

"Who do you shoot for?"


I then whipped out my phone and showed her my photos of flowers, bugs and lizards.  I was thrilled, she liked my work! 

She said "Come shoot with me next week."

"What?! No, no, I don't shoot people, I'm way too shy for that." I hesitantly replied.

"Just bring your camera next week, I'll show you how."

So I did.  She tricked me, well... maybe not... but I didn't JUST bring my camera, I ended up shooting, and I liked it and made new friends.