At the Project 52 PRO group, there are an astounding group of photographers all helping to boost each other into professionalism. Most of them have gotten a paying gig this year, and we are well on the way to making that happen for all of them.
The point of Project 52 has always been to introduce photographers into the ways and workings of commercial photography. We are not weddings and portrait oriented, although many of our shooters are indeed doing that kind of work.
To me, professionalism is not how much money you make or what kind of camera you shoot, it is an attitude that permeates all that you do. From the care and lighting of a photograph to working with clients to billing and marketing.
And anyone can learn to do that stuff.
The uniqueness of all of us in photography is in the eye/moment connection. What we see and when we decide to snap that shutter.
Below are shots from many of our Project 52 PROs. I hope you enjoy them.
I will be posting some images from the Lighting Essentials group (non-Pro) next week.
This morning I followed a link on Twitter to a website devoted (supposedly) to helping photographers learn to be better photographers. The name of the post was something along the lines of “12 Super Awesome Ways to Make Epic Images” or something similar – and no, I am not going to link to that post.
Because it was terrible. The advice was terrible. The instruction was terrible, and the examples were – even worse.
So I decided to go at it with a snarky post about how we now have people who are actually not good at something teaching others to be not good at it as well.
But I thought about it again, and decided instead to talk about something more positive.
It just seems better to me.
I have been struggling with my work for a while now. I want to do something different.
I can see what I want through a mist sort of. I work on writing it out (journals are lovely to work with) and I keep shooting. I need to shoot more, but I have dedicated a lot of time this Fall for creating new images and just being behind the camera.
In search of a style? Not really… more like in search for personal inspiration that allows the style to be revealed.
Because that is how I believe style happens with a photographer… it is revealed while making photographs. No book, audio, PDF, class, podcast or best buddy with a case of Corona can reveal it. It flows from photographs.
It is revealed with choices.
BigAss choices like what you photograph.
Big choices like how you light it.
Choices like composition and color.
Subtle choices like cropping, POV, angles and details that are personal and small and oh-so-important.
So I have been shooting and writing and journaling. A trip to West coast, a trip to the East coast, a trip to Midwest and a trip to the Pac Northwest coming up. Lots of new shots.
Lots of stuff I don’t like.
And some stuff I do like… a lot.
Surprising images and safe images and pretty images and challenging images.
I wanted more. I still want more.
But it is a process. A process that is both disappointing and exhilarating.
I am seeing some things that I can tie together, making more of a ‘body of work’ instead of disparate imagery, and I can feel something emerging that is a mix of my old work, current work and the new, shiny, cool and still ethereal work that I can sort of see in the distance.
There are many ways to find the style and lighting and post production mix that gives you images that please your eye, and make you want to do more of them.
Finding that mix can be a journey of discovery, or simply recognizing you are there.
It shouldn’t be a difficult journey, but an exciting one.
It shouldn’t cause angst, but instead create joy.
It should reveal itself with a self confidence that overwhelms all feeling of inadequacy (inadequacy is also known as “photographer” too often in our own minds,)
You should love doing the work, and when you find that moment when it all starts to come together, let it. Let it come together.
Get the hell out of your own way, and let it all come together. Turn off the voices of doubt, fear and concern over what some guy on 500PX will say.
Don’t think it to death.
Don’t question it to oblivion.
Don’t let it be trashed by people who shoot their laundry and kitties.
Don’t second guess it by how many Flickr comments you got.
Then defend the work. First to yourself, then to others by simply showing it. When challenged, and you will be, you will know if you love your work by simply feeling it to be right in spite of the challenge. If the challenge upends your world, maybe you were shooting for someone else instead of yourself.
No one can please every one. No. One.
When you hit on that stylistic approach that makes you like looking at your own images, then you may have arrived at a small plateau. Plateaus are simply resting places before the next climb.
And you can also get some kudos from peers and fans and others.
Don’t bask in it and think you have ‘arrived’.
Just smile and accept it and keep doing more of it.
Keep shooting the images you want to see.
Tolkien wrote books that he wanted to read.
Take photographs you want to look at.
Instagram was a tiny app that grew at an amazing rate. Hipstagram is another app that has grown faster than most, and Snapseed was just purchased by Google.
What does that mean? Is it, as one of the articles below suggests, the end of photography? Or is it a new, and very cool little tool that will grow into something amazing and a part of the arsenal of professional photographers.
I use all three, and really enjoy their quirky twist on the image. But there are detractors as well. I thought it would be interesting to see what others think about the photo sharing tool everyone loves – and some love to hate.
“I became very, very quickly addicted,” says Reid, who works primarily as a web designer. “It’s a fascinating phenomenon, unlike anything. Something like Twitter — that’s a community, but its not such a happy community, where people are all sharing their art and talking about it, like [Instagram].”
Thousands of people like Reid have used Instagram to meet other photographers experimenting with the medium, and even selling their photos on sites like Instaprints. Reid’s own “DCEmmy” Instagram account now has almost 5500 followers, and she has exhibited her work in mobile photography shows across the country.”
Read more at Huffington Post.
David Harry Stewart has a short little rant about Instagram.
I get asked all the time if I feel threatened by this new wave of iPhone bearing Instagramming photographers. Why would I possible feel that way? I think everyone, every single person on the planet should be Instagraming and we would all be better off.
This post at Forbes shows how far reaching the formerly little app has grown; “Google Challenges Facebook And Instagram With Snapseed Buy”
“One reason we can presume Google wants to integrate Nik’s technology into its social network: the acquisition was announced by the man behind Google+ himself, Vic Gundotra, on a Google+ post. “We want to help our users create photos they absolutely love, and in our experience Nik does this better than anyone,” he wrote.
The same post also talked about the growth of Google+ users, saying the network now had more than 400 million signups, with 100 million of them “monthly active users.”
At the Guardian, there is this; “Is Instagram ‘debasing photography’?”
“It’s not just Instagram – other software produces the same effects: Hipstamatic, Snapseed and of course the big boys: Gimp, Photoshop and Lightroom.
For me, these filters spoil pictures: they get in the way of the image and they distort the story the picture is telling. It jars to see a picture taken a few seconds ago, in the summer of 2012, that looks like a picture from my childhood (I’m a 60s baby).”
Over at Bloomberg Business there was this interesting article on pro photographers using Instagram.
“Following the acquisition of Instagram by Facebook, Businessweek.com asked several prominent photographers, editors, and other photography professionals about Instagram. For many of them, the simple app has changed the way they shoot and what they choose to share with the world. Here are their replies, in their own words.”
“8 PHOTOGRAPHY TIPS FROM TOP INSTAGRAMMERS” has some gorgeous imagery and some good information.
“Rather than just snapping drunken shenanigans with pals, some Instagram users are creating mind-blowing pics with just a few taps on their iPhone. Want to know how some of the most popular users do it?”
So what is your take on Instagram?
Or for that matter, what is your take on Snapseed and the acquisition by Google?
For me it is simply a lot of fun, and a great way to amuse myself.
… that the secret doesn’t exist. There is no secret. Has never been a secret.
Lately I have been noticing a lot more “Secrets to Successful Whateverthehellitis-ness”. Secrets that are so secret that you can buy them in a book or an ebook or get them for a buck on your Kindle or iBook or download them bad boys as a PDF…
Real ‘secret’ that mass marketed stuff is, eh? It’s so ‘secret’ that you can purchase it for less than lunch.
I have never bought into the ‘secret’ mentality. Nothing is really secret. BC couldn’t get a BJ in the OO without the NYT finding out.
Secrets? My ass.
(Except for those aliens they have stored up there at Area 51… that is really secret.)
The real secret is so evident that it remains elusive in its ubiquitous. Trees, forest kind of thing.
Work, hard work, is the secret that isn’t.
And work is becoming harder and harder to define and engage. So many people want the results without the work. The answer before the question. The finale without the beginning.
Just tell us how you do it.
Just give us the answer.
Don’t make us think. It’s not fair. It’s not just. It’s not compassionate.
“No Pain – No Gain” has given way to “No Pain, It Hurts Too Much”.
But there is true joy in the questions – real discovery with the pain. There is exhilaration in finding out the answer to the question. And in the finding, a new answer never conceived may be found. A new answer to the question may lead to more new discoveries and pathways and…
When the answer is prepared for us, the pain of the exercise removed, and the ability to challenge the status quo eliminated, we simply become “perpetuators”.
Happily perpetuating what we were told. Perpetuators perpetuate.
And that is fine for the masses it seems. Young pop singers strive to sound like other young pop singers. Innovation that becomes hard to contain in a perpetuated box is turned away.
The safety of the secret is that since it has become defined as simply being as good as the other guy or as ‘hott’ as the new girl, it is very easy to perpetuate.
And the work becomes more effortless, and easy. The challenge of innovation and leading the way is cast aside for the joy and wonder of the beaten path.
Less chance for failure.
Easier and faster outcomes… after all, we aren’t looking to be unique, we just want to be as cool as that guy we saw on Flickr last week.
We want to excel. We want to face a forest with no path and chop our way through it. We want to lift our vision to a place that few will ever see.
We want to fail… and occasionally fail hard.
Without failure, we are not moving forward. We are not facing challenges that challenge. If we win every creative battle we go into, we are not finding battles that are worth winning.
I have been thinking a lot about this lately. My own battles are producing scars and there are days I want to retreat and go have coffee with the contented ones. We can talk about stuff that doesn’t matter.
We can perpetuate the story, the view, the whole damn thing.
Maybe that would be cool.
Maybe I wouldn’t feel so alone. There is a certain glow of enchantment that comes with not trying too hard. Not falling on ones ass and bruising the butt as well as the ego has a sort of charm to it.
But the secret I carry is that I really kinda sorta hate that glow. I really don’t find it very interesting. Or stimulating.
If truth be told, the secret is that the work is more fun, more cool, more fulfilling and ultimately more valuable than the perpetuation of the status quo.
And I know you agree. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
Now let’s go to work.
I love this article on communication, photography and the distractions of gear and platforms.
Photographer Jon Stanmeyer hits the nail smack on the head with this post on the distraction of the medium over the substance of the image itself.
“Now here is what’s key regarding Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and whatnot; Some of these images we publish, the text we write on various social media outlets, etc, they can be pieces of a far greater, even deeper, more richly layered project which has a commodity element behind it. These images can, for a lack of a better way of putting it, be glimpses, headlines, instant breaking information of a much larger project waiting to be presented. Like seeds, images can be sent out to one or millions, dropping seeds of information into the consciousness of others, nurturing a project to grow, both in marketing and funding. The final product, brought to the consciousness via meaningful bits and pieces, is the entity to be leveraged both as information to an event, as product or as a printed photo essay, as a commodity. This is, until the next leveraging aspect of social media is attained, the greater purpose and potential.”
You absolutely must read the whole thing.
I think that there wil always be ‘cameras’ in the way we think of them, but we are a tiny, teeny sliver of the genre of “photographers” these days.
There is a lot of angst in the camera makers worlds out there. They see the handwriting on the wall.
Enter the $2000 full frame.
Enter the kit lenses that make exceptional images.
Enter automatic exposure that makes PERFECT shots under all situations.
Enter video in the camera.
This fellow is a photojournalist. His job is to get the picture.
It will most likely be fine enough at 4MP for news and web. An 8 or 12 MP image is more than enough for the reason the shot exists.
Young people coming into the digital age will never have known what a camera was ‘supposed’ to look like. And that was a HUGE influence over camera manufacturers deciding to make digital cameras look like film cameras. The damn things even have ‘film chamber’ build to them.
“Professional Photographers” would have it no other way.
Well, I gave my kid my old Rebel digital. She gave it back to me… she is totally happy with her Android phone and the P&S Canon she got for Xmas.
Just finished a nice trip to Maine. We had some very flat and boring light in mid-day. Charles would pull out his iPhone and make some simply stunning images. I like to make straight images on my iPhone, then manipulate them later in Snapseed or a myriad of other APPs I have.
There is a tendency for me to think the larger images are somehow ‘better’ or of higher ‘quality’ because they were shot on a big chip with expensive glass.
Problem is no one can tell the difference in the print.
So I start to sound like a ‘gearhead’ and I am NOT.
I am all about the image, and couldn’t care less how it was made. The traps we make when thinking about our work are more dangerous than listening to a blistering critique of your work from a ‘kitty shooter’ on some forum.
I am holding out for a Samsung Galaxy III – (October) as I have seen the images that thing produces. I have not seen a 16×20 from one, but I have seen an 11×17… argh. I don’t care what anyone says, I was totally knocked out by both the sharpness and the overall transitions in shadows.
I was just asked on twitter about what I thought of the new Nikon D600. My answer was that I don’t have anything to say about it that has any value. I don’t think much about cameras these days.
I am struggling mightily with photography, its place in my world, its power to heal or inspire or reflect or reveal or destroy.
Photography is more important now than ever before, and yet we are consistently bombarded with distractions of devices. I think it takes a toll on all of us.
And we forget what it really is about, this whole capturing a moment in time to preserve, enlighten, entertain or simply to see what it looks like captured. I don’t want to forget that in my work.
Below are a few of my shots from the trip done with Hipstagram and the default camera. I like these images for similar and disparate reasons. And some of these I also shot on the big camera, but they are far different in tone and emotional impact than these are. Different, not better or worse… different.
To me that is the power of these little cameras and the apps that are so much fun to shoot with. I get different approaches to the subjects. Kinda like having a new lens to work with. One that has its own quirks and qualities.
It was a bit foggy, a bit dark from deep overcast. I wanted to say something about the dreary, almost mysterious feeling of this entrance. I chose the Hipstagram app to enhance the emotion of the subject.
I loved the texture qualities, and the Hipstagram image supplied a slight vignette and muted tone that enhanced the feeling of the shell isolated on the rocks.
It was cold and overcast (I loved it… heh) and this straight camera shot captured a bit of the reality of that day and moment. I had already packed the cameras, but the trusty iPhone delivered the shot I wanted to get at that moment.
Sometimes an image just wants to be made and it reveals itself. I loved this little vignette of vine and old board wall. A straight shot on my Canon is not as interesting as this little Hipstagram photo. The image needs the context of the frame and the muted colors to make it really look like what I saw in my head.
Flat midday sun, and the Hipstagram delivers. The shapes and textures were so interesting, and a couple of my big camera shots make me happy… but this little vignetted, non-perfect capture that fit the mood I wanted.
This image is about the frame and the ‘space between’ – part of my vision mantra. I like the spatial play and the contrast of textures and colors. Camera phone and big camera – big camera is far different feeling than this one. Not better or worse, just different.
Light leaks and crusty edges makes the retro sign even more retro. Fun images are what the small cameras are about.
A grab shot with the iPhone and Hipstamatic reveals how I was seeing the trip we were on. I would have loved to have more time to shoot the area, but we migrated from point to point and shot what we liked… Maine through a car window – yeah, that is what it was like. Sorta.
In the end it is whether you like the image or not. And if not, no matter. Photography is not about every image communicating to every person. These are my little images. I share them here and there.
Photography is still fun for me. It still answers my desire to make something lasting. How long is that?
I dunno. I don’t care. I just want to make the images I see in my head. The iPhone and Androids seem like they offer me more tools with which to find and make those images.
This line from Jon’s article is dead on for me:
“Don’t waste your time nor mine on any bit of that dinosaur debate.”
Yes, Jon. I wholeheartedly agree.