Bill Kund interview – Part 2

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Last week, in Part 1 of this interview, you were introduced to Bill Kund, a highly respected, and in demand, photographer…the first photographer I have ever interviewed, by the way. His primary focus is Architectural and Interior photography. He has established a successful career even though making that change later in life. For those of you that think it is too late to begin a fine art career, Kund’s story will be inspiring.

If you missed Part 1, I encourage you to check it out. (I provide a link at the end of this post). You will learn how we came to know each other, how he came to be a professional photographer and establish his career; what’s the most enjoyable part of his profession, his design principles, working process, pricing, finding his voice…and much more.

I know you’ll enjoy Part 2 of this very interesting interview. (Click images to enlarge)

Bill Kund

How do you describe the type of work you do to a prospective client?  I usually direct a prospective client to my website. When we do meet I will have examples of work with me and try to show work similar to the project they are envisioning.

I will also explain in great detail what is involved with getting the photography the client needs and try to clarify the difference between merely recording the subject matter and creating a mood around the subject.

When you receive an assignment, please outline the steps you follow until the job is completed.  If possible I like to go on site with the client and discuss what the goal of the photography is. If we’re doing architectural and interior work I note the orientation of the building to see what the sun is going to do for us. That also gives us the shot order for the job.  I  like to stay a step ahead of the sun so we can integrate as much natural light as possible. If I’m doing my job properly it should look like we didn’t light the shot at all.

When possible, I’ll set up the laptop and link the camera to the computer so we can see how each shot is progressing from start to finish.

Once the photography is done I’ll do the post production work, which can take several days depending on the size of the job.

If possible I like to deliver the job personally to make sure everyone is happy with the results. Having a happy, satisfied client is as important to me as getting paid for my work.

How does a photographer determine the price for a job?  Having worked in the industry as long as I have gives me a good idea what the going rates are for photography. I charge a day rate, plus expenses, for the photography and a per-shot fee for image processing. That includes color correction, perspective control, and basic retouching which usually takes care of most of it.

More advanced, time consuming, retouching is billed separately on a per hour basis. This includes having to build in incomplete landscaping, removing HVAC systems from roofs, etc.

Do you work with art directors or directly with the client, and how much direction are you typically given?  I’ve worked both with art directors and/or the client directly. For me it comes down to collaborating with the person who, in the end, makes the decision about the photography.

Typically I like to have the art director or client let me know what he/she has in mind and make suggestions from there. I actually prefer to have the decision maker on set and shoot to the computer so we can collaborate on and build the shot in this manner. That way there are no surprises.

When you arrive on site for the first time, what do you do; what are you looking for, and are you able to visualize quickly what you want to do?  There are many variables. If we are doing an architectural shoot with no people we try to do that when the building is closed. There are simple things, like location of outlets, breaker boxes, etc.

Some of the recent school photography we’ve done raised other issues. If students are present it really limits the amount of lighting we can do. We don’t want to trip a kid or drop a light on someone.

We’ve done several shoots at the Biltmore Estate In Asheville.  Before we showed up we were given a 10-page document of do’s and don’ts. Typically they wanted us to shoot when there were no people in the house because of liability issues. One of my favorite shooting areas was the entry way which was available to us until 9 a.m.  We had to be fully cleared out by that time.

We went in the night before, took a compass with us so we could visualize what the sun would do the next morning, and then lit the shot, keeping in mind what we thought the sun would do the next morning.

In the morning we went in, waited for the sun to do its work, got our shot and got out. It was a bit stressful but yielded great results and was, actually a lot of fun.

Do you have assistants?  When I need an assistant I typically use one of several friends who are photographers in their own right. When these people work with me I always collaborate with them to see if they have a better idea than I do on a particular shot.

I like to keep the folks assisting me actively engaged so they have a creative stake in what we are trying to do, too.

How do you decide on focal point/point of view of a subject?  A number of factors dictate this. With furniture, or room interiors, a lower camera angle tends to be more intimate. I used to shoot sofas and easy chairs from an angle just above the seat. When we shoot classrooms without people in them we come up high enough to see the tops of the tables and to be able to create a compositional flow with the arrangement of the furniture. In general I start as low as possible and raise the camera from there as high as I have to.

Most people use too high a camera angle for snapshots, too. Your standing eye level is typically too high unless you’re doing a straight on face shot. If I take a photo of a whole person I usually have the camera at their waist level. Kids should be shot from a low angle. Get down on the floor with them. Shooting down on them, especially with a short focal length lens (the iPhone) makes their heads look too big.

I could write a whole chapter about suggested lens selection. Long lenses compress the image, so It’s great for sports. If you place a short lens close to the main subject it makes it disproportionately large, which can be an interesting effect. Portraits are often shot with an 80mm lens, and so on.

How much manipulation of an image is typically done before delivery?  I come from the film days. We were required to produce a color correct, properly exposed image that required little to no retouching. Sports shots on 35mm film had to fill the frame without cropping.

Although I still strive for this, there are times when it’s not possible or practical to avoid retouching. In one of my recent architectural shoots in Colorado there was still damaged vegetation from the construction outside.  We had to build that back in using photo shop. Shooting into glass when you have to light a room presents issues.

When all is said and done, unless otherwise specified, I will deliver a screen sized sRGB Jpeg  file and a large, full sized TIFF file, color corrected and sharpened of each image to the client.

How important is good equipment?  The key is the quality of the lens. I don’t need a lot of fancy automated features in my camera. I typically use manual settings. Probably the most useful feature in modern cameras is the histogram (a graphic representation of an image) after you’ve shot it. The complete exposure range needs to be represented in the histogram. The picture you’re looking at on the screen in the back of the camera does not always give you good information.

What would be a good all-round camera for us artists?  Most of the cameras on the market today do a good job. Find one that is easy for you to use. When I buy a new camera I always buy an after market users’ guide.  They are better written and offer more detail than the manufacturer’s instructions. Often, the author will explain why he chooses a particular setting over another. The camera’s have so many features that I don’t use very often so I carry the users’ guide with me at all times.

Just for reference, I currently use the Nikon D810 body – mainly because it produces a crystal clear 36.3 megapixel image, that translates into a 16×24 inch 300 dpi image straight out of the camera.  I like f2.8 lenses and usually carry one 14mm lens and 3 zoom lenses, starting at 17mm through 200mm.

For what reason would you turn down a job?  I haven’t done that yet. I don’t see any sense in working in an unpleasant environment or being put into a position where the client won’t let me do a job I can be proud of.

What do you consider your strongest work?  The Grove Arcade project in Asheville is one of my favorite architectural shoots.

In sports, I was very pleased with several photos from the Skol Six-Day bike race on a track in London.

When I worked for the Mountain Times newspaper I got a backstage shot of Doc Watson that hangs on my wall today.

The series of images of Sassy Girl in the Bahamas still make me smile and the shoot I did on the Schooner Virginia going to Bermuda yielded some great images.

Pictures of the grand kids rank right up there too.

What’s been your most difficult assignment?  Shooting an empty hammock on the roof of a building 14 stories up in Charlotte at 11 pm in a 20 mph wind was a bit challenging.

What haven’t you done that you would like to do?  Lots of challenging projects after the age of 73.

When does photography become art?  When someone other than the person creating it wants to buy it to put on their wall.

I don’t suppose your work typically hangs on someone’s wall, as mine does; does creating images for publication differ from wall hung photographs?  I love seeing my work in print, especially on magazine covers.

My athletic background has shown me that extraordinarily challenging situations can bring things out of people that they didn’t realize were possible.

What part does sailing play in your life; how did you get into it?  When I turned 50 I decided to learn to sail. It’s always fascinated me and I decided it was time to give it a try. There’s something special about being able to cross an ocean without the use of fossil fuels. Having spent my whole cycling career trying to hide from the wind, sailing gives me the opportunity of putting the wind to good use. Turnabout being fair play.

To read Part 1 of this interview, click HERE.

To view more of Bill Kund’s work, click HERE.

Next week: Patricia Tribastone interviews me for the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society blog.


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