Coty is the first photographer to be given the brand new 2012 RAW questions. Leave your comments below, what do you think of Coty’s work and what are your thoughts on the new questions?
Tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Coty Tarr, a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn, NY. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA and I am now living and working working in New York City. My work is focused on commercial portraiture, it mostly consists of sports and fitness. I’ve never considered myself an athlete, but sports have been a huge part of my life (obviously a bi-product of being raised in Pittsburgh). And that love for sports has seeped its way into my work.
What inspired you to get started in photography?
My mom was always the shutterbug of the family, taking a thousand family photos every chance she got, and for my 18th birthday, my she got me some FujiFilm point-and-shoot camera to take along on road-trips with my friends. So I started taking that little thing everywhere I went, and it just clicked. Realistically, there wasn’t much else I was good at, so I said what the hell, I kind of like taking pictures, maybe I could make money doing this. A few months later I enrolled into the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, not even knowing what aperture or ISO was, and now here I am, having a good time with it.
What gear do you take to each shoot and what lens can you not live without?
It really depends on the shoot. Almost everything I do is on-location, so if the natural light outside is right, and the sun is in the right direction, sometimes I can bring just 1 light and get an amazing shot. Other times I can bring 4-5 lights to get the look I want. But I would say on average I’ll have at least 4 lights with me ready to use. As far as lenses, I am pretty addicted to my 50mm 1.8 and 85mm 1.8.
How do you market yourself and has social media been an important part?
Right now almost every job I’ve got has come through word of mouth somehow. Last year I got a national ad campaign throughout Canada with Gatorade because a friend recommended me. Right now I have some personal projects and tests on their way, and once they wrap I plan on marketing myself much harder and taking things to the next level. I also work closely with one of the best modeling agencies in New York City at Wilhelmina Models, the people I’ve got to meet through them has been incredible, and I get a lot of word-of-mouth work from that also. Social media is definitely important. I’m not sure it has directly got me work, but it keeps people interested in what you are doing and it is huge for making connections. I’ve met some insanely talented artists here in NYC just through social media, and its great. It brings people together.
What’s your favourite photo that you’ve taken and does it have any significance?
That one is a toughy…I’m going to call a 2-way tie on this one.
This photo is my favorite to date. It was one of my first test-shoots when I moved to NYC. We shot this at 5am along the East River before the sun went up, and it just came out beautifully.
This is also one of my favorite photos due to the significance. This is the photo for Gatorade I mentioned earlier, featuring Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Being born and raised in Pittsburgh, this was a dream come true job for me, and was literally my first gig out of school, so it was a really big deal for me. He is one of the best hockey players in the world, and it was a real honor being able to photograph him.
Select a photo you have taken, explain how it was taken and how did you edit it?
This photo was another test of mine, we shot this on a rooftop in Manhattan. The day we shot this, it was cold, windy, and raining. We managed to get through it pretty quickly and got some great results. It was lit with 1 30×60 softbox as the rim light, and a beauty dish in front of the model. The editing pretty much consisted of some dodging and burning, and adding the sunset photo in post. It was a dark dreary day, so the comp’d in photo really brought it to life.
What processing tool do you use and do you believe in the camera doing all the work or in post ?
For any shoot, I start out in Lightroom and do my basic retouching (color balance, contrast, exposure, etc) Once I have it where I’d like it, I take it into Photoshop and do the bulk of my post-production. As for in-camera, I try to do as much as I possibly can in-camera. The light has to be there, the information has to be there. I do a lot of post-production and sometimes compositing, but if the light isn’t there things won’t match. You should always do as much work as you can in-camera.
Whats your favourite photography accessory other than your camera?
I pretty much can’t live without my Beauty Dish. I use a pretty wide variety of lighting and modifiers, but I’m not sure I’ve ever done a shoot without my beauty dish! It is a must, and if I am only using 1 light you can bet your ass I have that beauty dish with me. If only that damn thing folded so it was easier to transport on the subway!
Where do you prefer to post your photos online and why there?
I’m not really one for posting my images everywhere. Like I said with the whole marketing thing, I’m waiting for some projects to wrap up before I hit the marketing hard. But right now my favorite is 500px.com. It is just a beautiful layout, not much “crap” to filter through, like on there like some other photo sharing websites. And have you seen the iPad app they have? Its amazing.
Do you ever get photographers block and if so what do you do to get inspired again?
Of course, every artist does. And if they say they don’t they are liars. You know, I still haven’t figured out exactly how to beat it. I’ve gone months where I just didn’t feel like I took a single frame. What it comes down to is, I was just sitting there thinking about what to photograph. And I’ve learned that instead of forcing yourself to FIND your style, your next idea, you just need to let it happen. Not think about it. The best thing I can do when I have a block is to just leave the house. Just get up and leave, take a walk, go for a run, anything. Sit in the park and people watch. Just sitting in your underwear staring at your computer screen, re-loading the “Fresh” section on 500px or your favorite Tumblr likely won’t cause a spark.
On top of that, you just need to take some photos. Just create anything, take some photos of a friend. It is no pressure, you’ll get some nice images, and it might just be enough to get you out of your rut. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting up and taking the photos, once you do that, you roll on. If that isn’t enough for you…find a photo you like, but you think you could do better, and do your own little fun version of it. Take that idea to another level, boost your confidence, and just have fun.
Is there anything you wish you had done when you first started in photography that would of made a difference?
Every single year, I look back and say, “Man, I could have worked a lot harder last year”. But everybody should say that, in a way. You should always want to one-up yourself, work harder this year than last. So looking back, I wish I would have started out a little more aggressively, but everybody has an evolution towards their current style that comes naturally. Sometimes you just can’t rush it.
Any advice for new photographers wanting to go pro?
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners. I wish someone told me. All of us do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. for the first couple of years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is DO A LOT OF WORK. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap and your work will be as good as your ambitions and I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” By Ira Glass.