(Editor’s note: Bob Coates is a photographer whose talents stretch over many genres. Bob has authored books and articles on photography. He has presented seminars and programs from Hawaii to the Caribbean. He is Panasonic Lumix Ambassador who to stays up with the latest technology in micro four-thirds cameras. Bob is a successful commercial and fine art photographer based in Sedona, AZ with his wonderful wife, Holly, who makes it possible for him to do all he does in the industry.)

The subject of monetizing personal projects is near and dear to my heart. I put together a ninety-minute presentation about the subject and shared with my fellow photographers to a wonderful reception.

A phone call leads to art

in a call from Tennessee I was asked to go there and give the program, but “Could you make it a three-hour program?” “Sure, no problem,” I answered without thinking. Then, I thought, “What was I thinking? How can I keep people interested in this subject for three straight hours?”


So I started researching my files. As I was assembling the files for the presentation, I suddenly thought, “How am I going to fit all of this into three short hours?” That was when I realized I’ve been using this technique to build my own photographic business for many years.

The first time I photographed Mark Small
Musician Mark T. Small

Intimate music

I enjoy live music in an intimate atmosphere and work to capture that type of image with an art twist. One night my local bar and restaurant was hosting a blues guitar player named Mark T. Small. I made some images of him while enjoying the show. Returning to the studio I experimented. The experimentation led to an impressionistic look that I liked. All experiments are not winners but at the very least I get some practice in and learn something about a technique.

Art created with an impressionistic feel that I shared with Mark on his return engagement
Art created with an impressionistic feel.

Next time he came to town I brought the resulting photo for him to see and he was extremely excited. He shared with me that he was working on recording a new CD and asked if I would be interested in creating the art for it? You know the answer to that!

When I checked if he had a title for his album he said not yet. I talked with him about the feel for which he was looking. He wanted it to be a bit gritty, with a blues emotion and mentioned the importance of it being eye-catching for when the CD is sent out to radio stations for possible airplay. With that in mind, I came up with a working title called ‘Smokin’ Blues’ and went to work.

With the title “Smokin’ Blues” in mind I went with a cold toned image that featured smoke coming from the guitar. As I worked I felt there needed to be a source from which the smoke originated that led to the glowing embers. I added the graphics and went to Mark for feedback. He was wowed! So much so that after researching the title to make sure it was available he ended up using my working title for his release.

(CD packaging) This six-sided CD packaging was a challenge to put together!

With the cover art finished he then he asked me to design the six-faced CD container and his point of sale marketing materials and postcards.

The promotional poster is 11 by 17 inches.
The promotional poster is 11 by 17 inches.

Needless to say, this was a project that paid off. It did that because I produced an art idea to learn a technique and then shared it with Mark. I also shared this imagery with the restaurant owners. Eventually led to me photographing musicians at an entertainment venue, which I have been creating art for the “Hall of Fame” for the last five years and, so far, there are around one hundred and eighteen pieces in the collection as décor for the restaurant.

And that’s a post for another day.