A tiny film I just finished about bread: Amelia’s

When Tom Battista grew up, he remembers having great, fresh bread every day with his family.  He remembers all his friends having great bread, too.  Last year he founded a bakery to bring back old school, artisanal bread made locally, right in the neighborhood.

Here’s my minifilm about Tom and his bakery Amelia’s, named after his grandmother.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/103913167″>Amelia’s Bakery</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user25629029″>Harold Lee Miller</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My column now running on APA national website

I’ve started a regular column on the APA national website.  The first one is on the site now http://apanational.org/news/entry/sensible-portfolio-strategies/

Here it is:


What’s your portfolio say about you?

by Harold Lee Miller

It’s hard for some artists to decide what work to show.

I’m one of those artists. As a lifestyle and portrait photographer, I want to populate my website and book with images that will attract assignments. I’ve got a lot of images and I regularly undergo a pretty fierce internal battle about what’s relevant.

The challenge can be confusing and complex but it really it comes down to this: do my website and portfolio reflect my skills, interests, and vision, or do they reflect my insecurities?

For me the answer is…both. It remains a work in progress.


Should your portfolio contain mostly your art?

One simple approach is to show potential clients only the kind of work you want to do. The photographer Stewart Cohen once told me that you can’t chase the market, it never works; you should put work out there that reflects your strengths and passion, not what you think people want.

Some photographers make this look easy. Mark Katzman has said that even if a shot is great, if it doesn’t fit into the look he’s promoting, he doesn’t use it. Go through his website and you’ll see that he’s done a great job of editing his substantial body of work into a consistent statement about what he does and what he wants to do.

Then look at Nadav Kander’s website. There’s a prevailing aesthetic, but several styles. He doesn’t worry about maintaining a strictly consistent look, but I think it works. He does so many things well — landscapes, portraits, abstract images, documentary images — that it would probably be counterproductive, if not impossible, to more narrowly focus it.

Katzman’s site projects a more commercial approach; Kander’s is just as overtly artful. I think both are true to their owners’ vision, because when I look through their sites, I am not confused about what they do.  They’ve both done a good job of showing potential clients what they as photographers want to shoot.

…but it really it comes down to this: do my website and portfolio reflect my skills, interests, and vision, or do they reflect my insecurities?

Earlier in my career, I tried a scattershot approach and included work in my book I wasn’t that interested in, but knew was in demand. I was afraid to show the work I really wanted to do because I feared it wouldn’t attract assignments. But the fact is that all bases can’t be covered. It has always been true but now, more than ever, successful photographers are specialists, not generalists. An art buyer must believe a photographer has great depth of experience in the desired type of work.


Or should it focus on your commerce?

I now consider carefully what my portfolio says about me and what I want it to say. I continue to work on trusting that the work I care about will find an audience.

And I don’t always edit my portfolio alone. Finding someone I can trust to help edit my work is invaluable. They won’t know how hard an image was to get, they’ll only see it for what it is, and they don’t have my emotional baggage in their way. I’ve asked for help at times from other photographers, my reps, consultants and art directors. I’m not always comfortable with their judgment but I have to remember that my discomfort doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Ultimately the decision comes down to me, of course. There’s no outsourcing the difficult, personal effort required.

My editing philosophy today is: each image must be artful, interesting, and look like it belongs with the others, as well as be work I’d want to get up early in the morning to do. I’ve gone through my portfolio and made choices with that in mind. I’ll let you be the judge — did I listen to my aspirations, or my fears?

About Harold Lee Miller
Harold Lee Miller has a journalism degree from the University of Arkansas. He worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for 10 years before opening an advertising photography studio in 1989.

His interest in photography began in 1972, when he was invited into his high school’s darkroom, and first saw black-and-white photographic prints developing in a tray. The magical quality of that process hooked him, and he began taking photographs at first just to have something to develop, but over time became attracted to the possibilities of creating perfection within a frame – images that were carefully composed, exposed, and presented, which is another way of saying, gaining control over a small part of his world.

Since that time, Miller has struggled to reconcile his need to make a living shooting photographs for assignment, and his need to create images that are entirely his own. The struggle continues daily.

On set for Scott bath tissue

Secret-Swap_0097-2_fHere’s one of the images we did for Kimberly-Clark with agency Tri3ect — worked with senior writer Kurt Warner and senior producer Steven Anderson to create a bathroom set for Scott’s Secret Swap campaign.  Monica Zaffarano produced the shoot, Sage Reed propped it and handled the set.

photo2Here we are during the shoot — that’s Lisa Button, my Chicago rep, in the red sweater, and Monica right behind her.




Shadow Mission exhibit at my Indianapolis studio



I’m having a show at my Indy studio June 6 that gets into some of the work I do with other men in the Mankind Project.  I call it Shadow Mission, after the process by which men in the MKP come to terms with the dark impulses that drive their behavior and keep them from being their truest selves.

I’ll have a bit more explanation at the show, so if you stop by, you’ll be able to see what these men have shared about themselves and how they use their insight to create a better world for themselves and everyone else.

20 photographs of 10 men.  All are invited, and all will leave challenged and changed.



Got that slow internet feeling? Here’s what you look like.

Everybody knows this feeling, right?  Well there’s a company out there called Ubiquiti that has a solution — a new way to deliver the internet to rural areas, urban areas, wherever areas, with fast service and good coverage.  Too sciency for my limited abilities, here’s a link to their site — you do the thinky-thinky.

Meanwhile, me and Jim Riddle of DGWB in Santa Ana created these images for a campaign Ubiquiti will be running soon –


The campaign focuses on the unpleasant wait times many internet surfers have to suffer through in areas with slow service.  Did I even have to say that?  No — we did such a good job conveying the message and emotion, I didn’t have to say that.

NBI_1361d AptV2_0051-b

Sprint shoot pops up, makes me think

Worked recently with the good folks at Digitas Chicago and New York on project for Sprint’s mobile learning app.  Shot everything at the York Community High School, a beautiful old building in Elmhurst that offered great locations throughout.  Here’s one of of the images we did for this project, which was printed into a 3D popup with four views –


Sprint_PopUp_ClassroomShooting this required background plates, foreground plates and some spatial pre-visualization that required I get rid of my gum before I could think it through.  This direct mail piece went to education professionals.


Producer Judith Gatesman’s solid leadership kept the fast-paced shoot running smoothly, and we finished on time, on budget and in good spirits.  Thanks to the staff at York and thanks to a great production team from Digitas: Senior Producer Noah Wilker and senior art director Ryan Ruark.