I follow a very nice group of people on a forum on Facebook. They are all trying to start their businesses with varying degrees of luck and success.
One of the things that is emerging is that many of them are simply not ready to be professionals and in business. And that is a shame.
It is not a shame they cannot be in business, it is a shame that they thought it was as easy as buy a camera, get some business cards on the way home from the camera store and then shoot like one of their heroes shoots.
Not having any understanding that their hero spent years, decades even, learning and honing their craft, they think that if they copy the light and methods, success will be right around the corner.
It usually isn’t.
And while the perky workshop husband and wife teams go merrily out the door selling young photographers on how ‘easy’ it is to become rich shooting families and babies and weddings, the reality is that it is anything but easy.
Yes, they may have opened their doors five years ago, but they were shooting a lot longer than that.
Marketing plays a huge role as well, but that is a discussion for another time.
My take on all of it is that first, before the business cards and the promos and the vouchers and the awesome website and the perky videos… one must first BE a photographer.
Being a photographer means shooting technically and artistically without encumbrance. It means knowing the gear, how it works, how light works and how to use it to make the images you see in your head… or on someone else’s Pinterest.
Being a photographer means not struggling with simple light, and being able to concentrate on the shot at hand. Being a photographer means knowing what the shot is going ‘to turn out like’ before committing it to the film or sensor.
It takes time. And a lot of shooting and failing and screwing up. It takes understanding the win, and working through the challenges.
Football players generally play more than 8 years before they are considered by the pros. Tennis players play for years and years before getting to the pro circuit. Cello players and rock drummers play and woodshed and practice for decades to get to the point of becoming a paid musician.
Why would anyone expect photography to be any different.
I think it is important to shoot a lot of photographs, and love making photographs so much that it is all you want to do. Live photography and breathe photography and dance photography.
When you are shooting photographs that matter, photographs that everyone thinks is awesome, photographs that YOU think are awesome, you may turn around and realize that you are already a professional photographer.
I recently completed an assignment for an advertising agency here in Phoenix. The Lavidge agency has been around quite a while and it was a lot of fun to shoot this industrial gig with them. The client was United Rentals – a major player in the tool rental niche. These guys have everything from wrenches to cranes.
Tim (the toolman) Taylor would have been in heaven here… heh heh heh.
Whenever I am on assignment, I try to get personal work done as well as completing the assignment to the satisfaction of the client (and myself). If we had a bit of down time or were getting another shot set up, I took advantage of that opportunity to make some shots of these guys… an elite group of guys who know the ends and outs of all kinds of equipment.
While there we shot lots of large tools and heavy equipment for the client. I got some portraits mixed in with the tools, and that’s what made it even more fun.
20-35 Canon L
24 – 105 Canon L
50 Canon f1.4
100 Canon Macro f2.8
135 Canon L f2.0
6 Profoto Compacts
Large Softlighter Umbrellas
54″ Octabox with Grid
And – Charles… thanks buddy.
Below are some of the portraits I shot while working on this gig.
This was the first assignment completed by the Project 52 PRO’s. Photographing strangers can be a very delicate and scary idea for a lot of people. The fear of rejection or having the subject be angry stops most from ever attempting photographing people they do not know.
I wanted to get a very uncomfortable assignment right up front. Let’s get over some fears and find our work in the best circumstances.
Knowing how difficult this assignment would be made it perfect for working through the tough issues to follow. To their credit, all the pros made it through the assignment just fine. No broken bones, no irate subjects and very few flying bullets.
All in all it was quite a success.
This is a random sampling of some of the best from the assignment:
I met Jan about five years ago when he flew to Phoenix to take one of my one day workshops. We met again in Seattle when I was doing the workshops nationally. I knew he had a strong work ethic, and a powerful desire to be a photographer, and encouraged him to make it happen on whatever level made sense to him.
Jan left his job in Seattle and became a full time photographer two and a half years ago. After working the Seattle market and finding some success there, he decided to make the biggest move he could… New York City.
Jan in Northern Arizona, just south of Springerville.
Klier wants to be a full time fashion photographer, and he is doing the work. Relocating his family to a little town north of the city, Jan has begun building his business. He is working closely with ASMP there as well as a fashion trade association. These groups give him contacts and a great inside view of how the business of fashion photography works.
Still in the beginning stages of his career, he is learning everything he can and has a lot to say about the business of photography and breaking in to a profession that is highly coveted. I think it is important to hear from the startups, the movers and entrepreneurs who see the challenges and find ways around them. This interview will give you quite a perspective on making the jump into professional photography, at least from one shooter who is actually DOING it… right now.
This past week Jan and I spent two days looking at his current work, past work and the shoots he has planned for the upcoming weeks and months. Building a strategy is more than simply making photographs, it is making the right kind of photographs for the market you are trying to reach.
To understand that, one has to work with a bit of magic as well as detailed strategy and occasional logistical nightmares. It also helps to have a mentor, or someone you trust to help you navigate the way, even though you may believe you have found it on your own. Outside perspective is so important.
Gary Crabbe is a full time landscape and environmental shooter living in Central California. Recently, one of his blogposts caught my attention as it is something I am wondering about as well.
I just came back from Zion and Bryce Canyons and while there found myself staring at those “postcard, iconic” images of these places. My light was no where near as wonderful as some of the shots I had seen, but I nonetheless snapped off a few frames. I ‘got it’ – that shot of Inspiration Point, and the bridge over the river in Zion. Recognizable images, but not very spectacular.
“This month I was fortunate to spend a week traveling through Death Valley as the guest of some friends who were leading a photo workshop. We arrived at Zabriskie Point on the first morning, which is one of Death Valley’s prime photographic postcard locations. Zabriskie Point is a true icon, in that it has become one of the ‘must-have’ shots for photographers traveling through the park. It was somewhat disheartening for our small group to crest the hill only to find a large workshop with two dozen other photographers lined up on the hill below and in front of the paved viewpoint. Their presence in front of everyone else made it difficult for anyone who arrived later, or those with mobility issues who were limited to shooting from the paved viewpoint to enjoy or photograph the scene with any sense of unobstructed natural beauty.
A friend remarked to me this week that nature and landscape photography has become like a competitive sport. I found that to be both an incredibly appropriate and sad assessment when discussing those many “must have” icon shots. Seeing this group, who set themselves up to arrive early and get the best location in front of everyone else, seemed to epitomize that competitive urge to ‘get the shot’.”
A very lively discussion follows, and I wanted to chat with Gary about his opinions on the desire for so many to get that “iconic” shot.
David Giral is a photographer in Montreal, Canada. I met him a few years ago at a workshop near Toronto, and we have stayed in touch. He is a talented young man, for sure, but he is also tenaciously working on his business.
From leave-behinds, to websites, to email campaigns, David has one thing that drives him… success. He knows how important this phase of his business is, and brings 100% effort to everything he does.
Hector “Big Boy Drums” Cruz… I met him a few years ago on on of the Flickr forums we were both hanging out on. His sense of humor and humility was something that was refreshing.
He wanted to be a photographer, and was bound and determined to learn how. We bantered about stuff many times… and then we both sort of drifted away from that forum and on to other endeavors.
Recently I began seeing Hector’s work on Facebook and I was very excited to see how far he had come in a short time. While others are bitching and moaning Hector Cruz (“Big Boy Drums” were dropped a while ago, I am told… heh) is out there making photographs for clients all over the country.
He has recently moved to Nashville, and maintains a studio in Orange County as well.
I will let Hector share that with you in this interview. I had a blast chatting with him and I am making it a priority to sit down in person and have some Corona’s while chatting about photography and drums… my two favorite topics.
Glad you dropped by. This is my love and my muse. We talk about photography here, as well as the folks who make images. I am very focused on commercial and fine art photography, and we don't really spend all that much time on weddings and such. I have written 5 books - two I give away here, and two are for sale at Amazon, and the 5th one is being edited and designed right now! Thanks for visiting, leave a comment or join me the social networks...