Freelancer's Life

Two Wisconsin Weekends Two Wisconsin Weekends

12 days on the road in Wisconsin to cover back-to-back racing weekends, first the IMSA Tudor Series Sports cars at Road America and then the Verizon Indy Car Series at the Milwaukee Mile yielded a ton of photo opps for any ambitious motorsports photography willing to spend a couple of weekends in cheese country.

Here are a few of my favorites from my Wisconsin take

A Porsche takes to the dirt at Canada Corner

Under the Indy Banner

Yucatan Eyes the IMSA Competition

Scott Dixon looking for 2 in a row

Quick Pit Work at Road America

Josef Newgarden makes an Indy Pit Stop

Teammates Battle for Milwaukee Win

Road America winners atop their car

Click here for more Road America IMSA photos from

Click here for more Milwaukee Indy Car photos from


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When did my photos become digital assets?

As the digital age continues to permeate every aspect of our everyday lives, I recently had to ask myself: When did my photographs become digital assets?

Back in the day, a photograph was a photograph. We could stash the original negative or transparency away in our files while various copies of it were circulated in an effort to make a sale.

Then the digital age arrived, and slowly our photographic world began its relentless change. For anyone able to access one of the very pricey original digital cameras, the quick transmission and distribution of images suddenly became easier. Computers improved, the internet improved and the world of photography changed even more. Before we knew it, it was very easy to distribute an unlimited number of camera originals to as many outlets as we wanted! Of course this carried with it the possibility of unwanted distribution and copyright infringement, but still the digital age was viewed as making our jobs easier and our output more efficient.

Still the improvements continued and computers, cameras and full function photo websites became available and affordable to anyone who wanted one. The laws of supply and demand kicked in and the prices for our photos began to plummet. Not really a good or bad thing if looked at objectively, just the way things are.

One day, a couple of years ago, I came to the realization that my photos were no longer photos, but were now “digital assets”. I was conducting a search on the internet for software to catalogue my digital images when I was struck by the fact that this software was not called photo management software our photo cataloging software. It was called “Digital Asset Management” software. In other words, my photographs were, in the eyes of these programs and the programmers who created them the same as a word processing document or an entry in a digital address book database. My labors of love had been reduced to string of numbers that could be quantified and recalled by the asset management program in response to an input query.

At first I was taken aback by this realization, then, the more I though about it, the more liberating the concept felt.

Here is the way I’ve begun to view my “digital assets” on the internet. If power, influence and even income on the internet all begin with traffic to your internet offerings, it makes sense that the right kind of “assets” could pull more traffic, resulting in more power, influence, and income for the person who controls these assets. Therefore, if I take one of my images, digitize it, annotate it with well thought out titles, captions, and keywords, I’ve converted it into the kind of digital asset that I can plug into my management program to pull traffic to my site. If I have thousands of these assets, I should have more traffic. In fact, the more images I employ as digital assets, the more traffic I should have to my site.

Now, the number of assets I have, does not address the question of the quality of the images from which these assets were created. The quality does not matter, however, as a larger number of assets will still draw more traffic. So, in this day of affiliate marketing, online advertising, pay per clicks, etc, a crafty online marketer who also happens to be an average or even below-average photographer could create a hug database of images which could draw traffic to a site which he could use to create more income than if he were trying to market his images as stock photography, especially in this day of declining stock photography value.

So in this age of “digital asset management” just think of what a talented online marketer who also happens to be a talented photographer could accomplish!


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Let's Get Horizontal

As I was setting up to shoot the checkered flag at the MOntreal 200 Grand-Am race this past weekend this though occurred to me: “ The vertical photo is a dying breed!”

As the cars raced toward the finish line, I instinctively started to turn my camera to shoot a vertical shot, which is what the shot really should be, to minimize empty space within the frame and to isolate the action which is taking place. Suddenly I remembered that this shot would go into the Grand-Am event photo gallery and most likely end up on Grand-Am’s homepage on their website, both of which call for photos that fit a pre-defined horizontal photo hole. I turned the camera back horizontally and fired away.

As a long time freelancer, I remember the days when you would shoot everything horizontally and vertically, depending on what your subject was. By shooting lots of vertical shots, the hope was that an editor would pick one up for the cover of his or her publication, which paid more money to the photographer. In those days my checkered flag would have been a horizontal shot, no questions asked.

But as our industry’s print segment has shrunk and the electronic segment has grown, more and more I find myself shooting to fill a pre-defined horizontal hole. Much of the decision making has even been removed from the process of cropping our images. For instance, I know that on the Gran-Am site, if I crop all my images to a horizontal 16:9 HD ration, they will all fit neatly and perfectly into the photo holes throughout the site. Where-as cropping used to be a free-form art, the electronic age has tended to reduce our options when it comes to cropping our images.

Over the last couple of years I’ve noted that my shooting has gone from probably about a 75% horizontal, 25% vertical mix to the point where I shoot almost exclusively horizontal shots. There are few thing more frustrating to both a photographer and I client than having the photographer produce a spectacular image that the client can not use because it is in the wrong format.

This development is neither good nor bad, it’s just the way things are and the photographers who accept these types of things will be the ones who will thrive as they press forward in the digital age.


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1st quarter of 2011 a busy one at

With the traditional Florida opening of many of the nation’s top motorsports series, the first quarter of 2011 has kept me pretty busy.

The new track surface at Daytona brought Gtand-Am and NASCAR teams to town in January to try out the new pavement.
The Daytona tets sessions were quickly followed by the 2011 Rolex 24 at Daytona for the cars of the Grand-Am Rolex Series.
A few weeks later the NASCAR boys arrived and their media day afforded me the chance to update my files with fresh portraits of the top stars.
This was followed closely by one of the best Daytona 500’s in recent memory.
Soon after it was off to Homestead for round 2 of the Grand-Am Rolex Series.
Back to Daytona for the AMA’s season opening Daytona 200, featuring on the most thrilling finishes ever!
It was soon time for the annual classic in the center of the state: Sebrings 12 Hour sports car race.
Finally, as a diversion from al the motor racing, I started fooling around with digital infrared photography in my spare time.
This second quarter doesn’t look like it will be any slower, with motorsports assignments coming up at Barber Motorsports Park, Talladega, VIR, and Lime Rock Park, not to mention any interesting self-assignments or projects that might come my way.

Whether you’re an editor, publisher, or webmaster, please keep in mind as a viable option when it comes to quick online search, purchase and downloads for your editorial stock photo needs.


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Tiny Fish, Rising Cream and My Take on Photo SEO

As yet another faceless freelancer in an ever growing sea of photographers who are placing their archives online in an attempt to gain even a small share of the editorial stock photo market, I see myself as a very small fish in a gigantic pond. I look at it as a challenge that is worth the effort and am excited that after more than 30 years of surviving in the world of freelance editorial photography, I'm still up to the challenge of learning new tricks.

A little over a year ago, I was invited by a photographer friend of mine to join Facebook. Although I'd heard of it, I was never inclined to join, as I knew that this was what was known as "social media" and I've never been much of a social butterfly. My friend, however, was posting a photo of me and I needed to join Facebook to see it and curiousity got the better of me, so I signed up. I'v enow got nearly 300 facebook friends and recently launched a by Brian Cleary Facebook Fan Page, which now numbers nearly 150 fans.

6 months later, scrounging around for ways to promote my newly updated website, I read up on Twitter and ways in which business people can use this site to promote their wares. I signed up and began to tweet. Just yesterday my 700th tweet went up on my Twitter account.

In the past year or so, invitations to connect with associates on LinkedIn had been arriving in my e-mail. I joined, but my account lay dormant as I was not quite sure what to do with it. In the last few weeks, I've become more active on LinkedIn as I've discovered that this professional network offers connections to many associates in my profession as well as access to valuable info and articles on how I make a living.

As a spinoff of all of this, I've started to become aware and learn more about tracking the visitors and traffic to my various online presences. I know that in the past 30 days 1,288 visitors to my website have viewed 16,133 pages. The average visitor to my site spends 5 minutes and 10 seconds there and views 12.53 pages.

I know that a visitor who arrives from Facebook will spend 4 minutes and 47 seconds there and view 10.55 pages, while one arriving via Twitter will stay for only 45 seconds and visit 4.65 pages, and finally a LinkedIn visitor will spend 1 minute and 40 seconds there and view 8.72 pages.

Although I'm still not sure what all this means and how I can use it to survive in this tough business climate, I do believe that it is important. As the volume of online photography for purchase(supply) grows and the value of stock photography plummets, the stock photographer will be forced to rely more heavily on a large volume of sales to make any money. To achieve sales volume, he'll have to attract buyers, and to attract buyers he'll need a high internet profile.

As a small kid growing up, I was often among the last ones picked for sports teams. But, having a little athletic ability I always felt that my talents would eventually be discovered and I would become a valuable and appreciated member of the team. In other words, the cream always rises to the top. I think this same principle can apply in the world of online business. The little guy with a lot of hard work and the desire to learn coupled with a good product and a lot of perseverance, can eventually rise to the top.


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One of those weekends- Coming home with a bunch of broken stuff

Although this past weekend at Virginia International Raceway was a great shooting weekend (see my VIR AMA Big Kahuna Nationals Gallery), it was one of those weekends that the self-employed freelancer dreads: Lots of broken stuff! Fresh of my recent smashed iPhone episode, the after effects of which I'm still dealing with, I cut a fresh swath of destruction through my gear at an otherwise fine weekend at VIR.

1- I discovered that my scooter had some contaminated gas in its tank, which made it impossible for me to travel more than a couple of hundred yards before conking out. Although not a serious problem , I still was unprepared to deal with it, having neither the time nor the tolls to make the repair.

2- During one of my halting scooter rides, my camera swung down against the moving rear wheel, smashing the lens hood of my 7-200 zoom. POOF! there goes $50.

3- About half way through the day on Saturday, I began to notice the dreaded horizontal light streak through the images on the back of my EOS 1D Mark IIn. Blown Shutter and another $300 evaporates just like that.

4- Early Sunday morning as I was unpacking and setting up in the media center, I fumbled the same 70-200 zoom and it bounced on the floor, now the front barrel of the lens wobbles unsteadily. Although the lens still shoots, I'm certain this effects the focusing and it will have to go in for repairs, probably another $200.

5- Later that day, in a hurry to get out on the track to shoot, I shoved my strobe in the pocket of my cargo shorts, and halfway across the paddock, it flew to the ground, smashing the transparent plastic piece on the front . Another $100? $125?

Thank god the races came to an end before I was able to cause any more damage and now I'm scrambling to fix everything before heading out to next weekend's Grand-Am race in Montreal!


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Thoughts of a part-time motorcycle racing photographer

Just off my latest assignment, covering the Tornado Nationals AMA Motorcycle races at Heartland Park Topeka, in Topeka, KS:

-Motorcycle racers are among the craziest people I ever point my camera at.

-They all have that look in their eyes that says they've been to a place where the rest of us will never go.

-It's a pleasant change to be able to wear shorts while covering a motorsports event, this is generally unheard of in car racing.

-Are there snakes in Kansas? Spent a lot of time tromping around in knee-high grass this weekend contemplating this.

-When you make a mistake on a motorcycle, the consequences are quick and unpleasant!

-Motorcycles are smaller and quicker than race cars, and much more difficult to shoot.

-It's hard to get a large variety of photos when the race is only 20 minutes long.

-Motorcycles and motorcycle riders seem to attract a lot of pretty women.

-I'll be on a plane en route to Watkins Glen in 2 days to transform back into a race car photographer.



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Half-A-Lifetime taking pictures

It's official. I recently to turned 50 and I was 25 when I got my A.S. degree in photography from Daytona Beach Community College. I've been making a living in photography ever since then, so then next time I think "Damn, it seems like I spend half my life lugging these cameras around", I actually have spent half my life lugging these cameras around. Well, not these particular cameras, but cameras in general.

In fact, the cameras I use today were science fiction fantasy when I started my career. Many other things have changed since I earned my first dollar taking pictures:

To start with, back in the day, we had to carry around a large supply of film and fumble with the camera after every 36 exposures whether it was freezing cold out, pouring rain, blowing dust or whatever. Today we can shoot hundreds or even thousands of pictures without opening the camera, depending on the photo resolution and memory card size.

In the old days when the shooting was done, you usually found yourself elbow deep in chemicals, breathing fixer, fumbling in the dark to actually see the results of your efforts. Nowadays the day ends hunched over a laptop computer with cramping hands as you try to stay a step ahead of editors and clients anxiously awaiting your photos. If you want to see any particular photograph, just glance at the back of your camera seconds after you've taken it.

Years ago we'd be frantically twisting the focus ring on our lens back and forth trying to keep a moving subject in focus, while today we are often just as frantically mashing a button on our camera and cursing the autofocus system for being too slow.

If you are familiar with wire service work you might remember the days when sending a photo over the wire was similar to a kindergarten art class project involving scissors, tape, and glue. You'd "soup" your film, make a print, bang out a caption on a Brother typewriter, paste it to the print and clamp the whole creation to a revolving drum transmitter to send the print over phone lines a picture desk, usually in Washington or New York. An adept photographer today could send a hundred fresh photos via e-mail or FTP in the time it took us to send one picture years ago.

I remember thinking that when the digital age arrived, our lives would get easier, but that hasn't been the case. Editors and clients today want more pictures and they want them faster. As technology advances, so does our work load, but, as I like to remind myself, there are worse ways to make a living.

Anyway, those are just a few of my memories from the "old days" (which weren't really that long ago) and I welcome and look forward to hearing any of yours!


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Bowling in Florida

Eddie George carries the ball in the Florida Citrus Bowl.  Phot by Brian Cleary
For the working freelance sports photographer in Florida, New Year's Day can mean only one thing: Bowl Time!

This year there are 5 major bowl games in the state including the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, the Outback Bowl in Tampa, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, the Capital One Bowl in Orlando and the Orange Bowl in Miami.

For the ambitious freelancer with connections, these games provide opportunities on several fronts. First, its a chance to start the year off on the right foot, with a decent payday on the very first day of the year, there is also the opportunity to get good play in the media if you can capture good shots from these high profile, high energy events, you also get the chance to fill your files with photos of potential future NFL superstars (the above photo shows Ohio State running back Eddie George in action at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando in January 1995), and finally you get to see some good, fun college football firsthand, from the sidelines rather than planted on your couch in front of the TV.

One of my favorite College bowl days stories comes from a photographer I know who lives nears Tampa. One year, as he tells it, he arose early New Year's Day and drove to the old Tampa Stadium to shoot the first quarter of the Hall of Fame Bowl. In a driving rain storm, the photographer jumped into his car and took off up I-4 to shoot a portion of the final quarter of Orlando's Citrus Bowl from an opening under the grandstands. Then it was back in the car, over to I-95 and north to Jacksonville where he worked that evening's Gator Bowl!

For the Florida freelancer, New Year's Eve is often a night of moderate celebration and early bedtime followed by the first working day of the New Year.


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