Web Edit: Finding Center with Doug Ellis

Sep 27, 2018
Consulting Case StudiesPhoto Editing

Santa Barbara, California-based photographer Doug Ellis came to Wonderful Machine with a mission to develop his commercial portfolio but wasn’t sure exactly how to achieve the right balance. Doug specializes in photography that captures body, mind, and spirit – and his clients look for a conscious approach and an open heart.

Doug had been working with cause-driven communities such as the Esalen Institute and the Transformational Leadership Council in addition to well-known self-help speakers and workshops. He also had an established retail business shooting weddings, family portraits, personal and business headshots. He wanted to maintain both businesses for the time being but focus more on building out his commercial identity and clientele. Here's what Doug had to say:

Initially it was a challenge to even see what a commercial photographer actually is, or if I even had the chops to become one. I was truly wondering if the distinction is even valid, or just a vestige of some arcane photo industry custom.

Despite Doug’s hesitations, we agreed that separating his commercial work from the weddings and retail portraits would help Doug present himself in a new light. He would build a new website to showcase three main galleries: Conscious Business, Transformational Events, and Spiritual Lifestyle.

Conscious Business would highlight his corporate portraits, especially those of spiritual leaders and enlightened business owners. Transformational Events would showcase work from personal growth retreats, events, and workshops, and Spiritual Lifestyle would reflect mindful living and atmospheric imagery. Doug and I had important conversations about what his workshop and retreat clients were seeking, and I did some independent research on the clients he’d mentioned to hone my own understanding.

The other part was trusting that someone besides myself might find some sort of narrative pattern or overarching theme in these nine years of work that I was just too close to see, especially folks on the East Coast that are in the commercial world all the time and aren't all workshopped out and drinking the woo woo Kool Aid like me.

Doug had a wide variety of images, and not everything neatly fit into one category. I wanted to mainly focus on the sense of community and interplay of spiritual and human connections– people interacting with each other, or meditating peacefully. It was especially important to do with the Transformational Events and Spiritual Lifestyle galleries,  where I wanted to create a universal narrative without sacrificing what made the images and experiences special.

In the first round of edits, the corporate headshots didn’t quite hit the spiritual note we were looking for, so Doug helped provide further context for the subjects. We worked to include portraits that were more varied and nuanced than just headshots, pulling in groups or three-quarter views.

After agreeing on his final edit, I recommended that Doug re-process his images so that the processing matched and the edit flowed smoothly in color and style. Processing can be a powerful tool in photography, but it’s important to maintain consistency on your website. Some images might be designed to fit the aesthetic of a specific client, but don’t work within the context of the rest of your portfolio. In Doug’s case, applying a consistent post-production style really helped tie everything together.

Molly steered my tempestuous creative seas with a firm and patiently unyielding hand.  There was some collaborative give and with the collaborative take she was able to articulate a bigger context and broader reason for her selects that made the choice well reasoned and on point.

We also decided that Doug’s new site would better function with a photofolio template that would offer him customization and a sleek, organized look beyond his current retail platform. Once the sequenced files were sent his way, Doug set to work on building the new site. With some research and a little help from our graphic designer Lyndsey, Doug’s new website sets him up for success.

As a photographer, it’s no easy task looking ahead into the future of your business, especially if you’re trying to transition from one area to another. A new edit can help clean up and focus the work on your site, but it can also help you take a closer look at where you are and where you would ultimately like to go.

Whether this focusing of my tribe and my particular vision will monetize itself remains to be seen, but at the very least I understand where my growing edge is and what I aspire to in my next generation of images...For now, though I am going to enjoy getting this aspect of my work out into the world and see what opportunities present themselves next.

Get a look at our process with this before/after screencast:

Looking to refine, update, or reorient your own portfolio? Give me a call at 610.260.0200 or reach out!