If you go back a ways in my blog you will find a series of posts called, “big boy pants” posts. This is one of them. Probably long overdue. It grows from a conversation I had yesterday with the truly inimitable Gary Fong and it also grows from lots of conversations with new photographers who think they’re doing everything right, but who find themselves in tough - and in some cases business ending - situations. Every once in a while I feel a need to put my foot down and say, ‘Doggone-it folks ... get better!’ (I rarely say Doggone-it!)
Here is my challenge to new professional photographers.
- If you take money from someone to take pictures of something then you’ve made a commitment to that person to do the best possible work for them. This means you must be adaptable. It isn’t their problem if there isn’t enough light (or too much) it’s yours. It isn’t their problem if they aren’t terribly photogenic. It’s yours. It isn’t their problem if circumstances create challenges with moods. It’s yours. You took money from them to make great images of them. Make sure you can do that; anywhere, anytime, of anyone. That’s your job.
- It’s not ALL about the equipment, but your equipment is definitely a part of it. There are a lot of “Pros” who don’t have anything approaching pro gear. That’s a problem. For why see #1 and also understand this. There is a BIG difference between the sensor in a Rebel and the Sensor in a 1DX. A 5D or a D700 has much more robust internal components than a kit camera. The breadth of aperture (I recently heard this referred to in a workshop as “the thingy that opens and closes” and I actually think the ‘teacher’ was confusing the function of the aperture with the function of the shutter), frames per second, focusing speed (or lack thereof), and data capture (megapixels), all serve to give those who know how to use true pro gear much greater latitude in tough situations. Ask the bride whose $20,000 wedding was not captured because the photographer’s Rebel or D70 malfunctioned just after the processional whether she is happy with her photographer. Ask the photographer if they’re happy with themselves.
- You must learn light. I saw a great image the other day of a couple standing and looking at the sunset. He said, ‘great sunset’ and she said, ‘F8 at about 1/250.’ I think that’s about right. Great photographers are motivated to train themselves to see the world this way. Do you?
- Posing isn’t a four letter word. Even if you are a “PJ” photographer (and this doesn’t mean you take pictures in your jammies), you need to have a really good understanding of the angles necessary to shoot different body types and faces. Anyone can take a decent picture of a model. Few people can take good pictures of me (cuz I’m an UGLY bastard!). If you are a pro you must be able to size up the big nose, the wide set eyes, the high forehead, the jutting chin, the jowls, the gut and the back boobs and immediately have a plan that doesn’t include changing what they look like in Photoshop. (for the record, I only have back boobs when I wear my strapless dress)...
- Your gear must be an extension of your body. I have a very good friend who is an amazing guitar player. I recently asked him how he is able to shift so seamlessly to play virtually any kind of stringed instrument. He looked at me and smiled and said, “Practice, and the knowledge that the only way to know you’ve practiced enough is that you stop playing the instrument and you start playing the music.” Is that where you are with your gear? Are it’s functions and capabilities second nature to you? Do you play the guitar or do you play the music?
This may sound a little rantish ... it probably is. Here’s the thing. I hear so often from so many new photographers that they’re tired of established professionals wagging their fingers in their face and telling them they have to learn this stuff. Trust me, I get tired of the wagging too and I get plenty of it, but that doesn’t make these people wrong. If you are a photographer than photography is your business. Marketing, branding (if you must make it a different science than marketing), accounting, etc. are all aspects of the business to be sure, but it starts and ends when you look through the viewfinder and compose an image that makes your client smile. Be great at that first and then worry about all of the other stuff...