Ten Things to Remember As You Begin Your Photographic Odyssey
I stopped doing what I was doing and began to be a photographer one day. I had been around photographers, but I didn’t have any clue what being a “professional” really meant. I simply started out as a photographer, then learned that I needed to assist first, then hit it again as a photographer. I made a lot of mistakes. I went to the School of Hard Knocks for undergraduate and “Mean Streets, U” for upper grad work. I learned from the seat of my pants, and took a lot of risks… some paid off kinda good, some didn’t work out at all, and a few hit big time for me.
But when I talk to a lot of photographers who are starting out, they have a false idea of the business. They don’t understand the focus needed, or that it may be kinda damn tough for a while. Sacrifice means they may cut back on cable channels, or get a 15? MacBookPro instead of a 17″.
I have ten principals that will keep you going when you start out. I wish I had known about them when I started out. I know they work for me now as I start yet another company in a down economy… heh.
Here we go…
1. You are going to have to work harder than you do when you work for someone else. Got that? Let me say that again – You will be working harder at being a photographer than you will work if you keep your corporate, or other kind of ‘employee’ gig. It isn’t up for discussion, and you better damn well be prepared. No one is going to be watching your clock, that is up to you. There is no one who will be telling you to get up earlier and stay up later… you will have to do that. Work is good. Work is healthy. You will be good and healthy when you are moving toward a successful photographic career.
NOTE: If working harder than you are working now doesn’t appeal to you, go ahead and skip the other 9… take a nap or something. It really ain’t no big thing. Photography as a career may not be right for you.
2. You can never give up. You can never give up. You keep at it until you have NO other way, then you find another way. I don’t care about what challenges you have, you must not give up – ever. Even when you want to (we all want to now and then… believe me, it will pass), you keep going. It takes years to get this thing going on… so be prepared.
3. Sacrifice will become something that you become familiar with. Maybe you move into a smaller apartment, drive a used car, eat macaroni and cheese a bit… trying to live the life of a successful photographer while you are scrapping along makes no sense, and will drive you to ruin faster than most anything else you do…
4. …except spending too much money on gear you don’t need. Rent, borrow, marry someone with great gear… just don’t spend all of your capital on a lens you use now and then. Make a detailed list of what you need… go ahead, we’ll wait. Got it? Good, now trim a third of that… there ya go. I am a photographer – I know what my list would look like… heh.
5. There is a reason you are a photographer. Find it or keep looking till you do. Some call it a vision, some refer to it as a calling. It is YOUR defining work. Shoot and shoot and shoot some more until you find that special work that is YOURS. Then keep at it until other people know what it is you are doing. You will know when you connect with your vision… you can feel it. Do not let anyone else take you down or sway you away from your own vision.
6. You are gonna screw up. And you are gonna screw some things up pretty bad. So f’n what? Everyone fails at some point. It is what you do after the screw up that makes that failure critically dangerous, or greatly empowering. Did you learn from the screw up? The answer better be yes. Will you screw up like that again? Answer there better be no… emphatically no. Learn from your fail, get up, dust yourself off and keep going… (see #2 above).
7. No matter what, death is not on the line. You are going to be a photographer, and work really hard, and fail occasionally… but it wont kill you. You will survive the screw up, the short month, the fourth meal of mac and cheese in a week, the used Toyota… You. Will. Survive. People will tell you that you are crazy and it isn’t worth it… that’s what people do. Tell them thanks, and keep on with it. You will survive. And you will grow, and one day look back and be able to tell others about your struggles… and no matter what, you will embellish to make them sound even worse than they were when you were going through it.
8. Wake up in the morning and be happy, grateful even, that you are doing what you want to do. Sure its hard, sure it has its challenges… but it also has its rewards. And it is what you want to do – well, need to do really. You wake up a photographer and you get to make photographs. That is soooo much cooler than what you were doing, right? And we know way too many people who hate their jobs. They wake up and count the days to the weekend… we never really work a day in our lives, but we are engaged at a level most will never be. 12 hour days or longer? No problem. We are photographers, in charge of our own destiny, and doing something we can love.
9. Don’t sit down. Don’t get cocky. Don’t let a lazy day stretch into two. You are in a race, a competition, a driving force of creativity that is pushing you – and others – to get the work. One hit isn’t a career. (Remember Christopher Cross? Yeah, neither do I – look him up.) Letting up gives the ones that are drafting a chance to gain the lead. Now, look, I am not saying that you need to be petal to the metal and fiercely competitive and never ever have a moments rest. I am not saying that… I mean to say that it may feel that way. You must learn to deal with constant competition, constant need to grow and constant irritable distractions that make it harder to keep going.
10. Do it all out. Do it full on. Give it ALL you have, then dig down and find a bit more. You know that silly marketing thing – 110%. Yeah, that is really mathematically impossible and totally irrational in our business. In this business you give 115%… get it! And love love love what you are doing. It feels so much better, and it gets easier when you are going big. Really big. As BIG as you possibly can.
I know you have heard some of these before, but we rarely hear them in schools (they are afraid if you really know what it will be like, you will quit and they wont get their money). We rarely hear them in the forums because so many in the forums have no idea of what they are talking about. And many times those that do don’t get heard due to the noise level of the naysayers. Sometimes they are simply busy doing it, so really don’t have time to argue with those who think they read something somewhere that a guy said his brother’s girlfriend once heard…
Get out there. Shoot shoot shoot. Build a business. Don’t quit. Learn from your mistakes and keep moving. Tell the naysayers that you are too busy to hear them tell you about not being busy.
And love what you do everyday for a change.
More amazing portraits from the last portrait group. Just so impressed with the hard work and growth that was the hallmark of all these classes. (more…)
P52 Alum and member Catherine Vibert explains the necessity of having a perfect headshot for Social Media. This kind of client centric marketing will create an interest in those needing to have the best headshots they can get. And – that is EVERYBODY on social media as a business person.
Well done Catherine.
“Social media and marketing collateral formats are not a one size fits all thing. You will need to be able to crop your pictures to fit Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, About Me, and any other myriad of social media outlets. This is my speciality. I shoot with cropping in mind. To get the most bang from your buck out of one single headshot, it needs to be shot to be chopped. I made a little collage of various crops from the same picture.”
Project 52 Alums Anna and Filipe (McGunn Media) have created a set of templates (mattes) for shooting to formats that are many times required – especially by social media.
They have made them available free on their site as well, so you can download them if you need to shoot to a specific format (say a Facebook Header) and want to make sure the composition fits.
We had an assignment on Lighting Essentials that was fairly easy to be involved with… sort of. The assignment was to load one roll of 24 exposure film into the camera of your choice and shoot each shot as though it were the ONLY shot you had. No ‘bangin’ off a motor drive, more like treating each frame as a singular image with the importance of a view camera.
Below are the amazing shots the photographers did in contact sheet form. Damn I miss contact sheets.
First up, Rudy Giron, Guatamala.
Rudy Giron's Comments on his 24 Frames
• Canon EOS Rebel XS [EOS 500] from 1993 with 28mm 2.8 lens
• Lens: 50mm F1.4 AIS, 105mm F1.8 AIS
• Film: Expired Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 color film from 2001.
• Scanned at Kodak mini lab, Antigua Guatemala
24 frames of film for May 2015.
I used an expired roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 color film from 2001 on a Canon EOS Rebel XS [EOS 500] from 1993 with 28mm 2.8 lens. Some frames exposed more or less well, while others were under/over exposed. I don’t know if this is camera error or simply the film was too old. Most frames were shot at f2.8 while others at f5.6 if enough light.
My theme is entitled “Come in” [“Pase adelante” in Spanish] which is what vendors would say as you enter their business. I tried to show all kinds of business as seen from the doorway. About half the roll is from tiny business found in villages around Antigua Guatemala while the rest of the roll was captured on the more affluent shops in downtown Antigua Guatemala.
My cost for this film project was $3.75 for film developing and scanning of the 24 frames at 6 megapixels [8″x10″] plus an index print at my local Kodak mini lab. I had the roll of film and I provided an SD card to the lab so I didn’t have to pay for a disc. The turn around for developing and scanning the 24 frames was 1 hour. They still sell a roll a 24-frame of film at this Kodak lab for $5.
Next, I will get some black and white C41 film as this is the easiest and least expensive way to have black and white film developed, scanned and printed in Antigua Guatemala. I have a few more themes in mind, for instance, portraits of the vendors inside the local market.
Alfred Kypta has a write-up on his blog about the 24 Frames in May assignment.
Steve Gray's description for his 24 Frames submission.
As with last year, I used my trusty Minolta X-370, using a 50mm f/1.7 lens. This time I opted for Ilford Delta 100 black and white film. Apparently the light streaking I saw last year was indeed caused by the old film, and not by the camera. Yay!
I sent the film off to The Darkroom (www.thedarkroom.com), which did an okay job. I did see a little bit of oddness in one or two frames (probably from handling the wet film). I corrected what I could with Photoshop, and I tweaked the cropping and contrast a little…so these are not genuinely straight out of the camera shots. Still, I’m okay with what I got. I bought a second roll of the same film, and now I need to plan an activity to shoot with it. If I keep this up, I’m going to have to splurge on a developing tank, chemicals, and a scanner. Heh.
The images can be viewed individually on my website @ http://photos.gray-imagery.com/p171174507
My base website is www.gray-imagery.com.
From Catherine Vibert:
Hi Don, here is the contact sheet, and the link is here: http://catherinevibert.
Melissa Hanson‘s entry.
Melissa Hanson, Utah Pentax K1000, 35mm Sigma 28-70 zoom f:2.8 Sears 70-210 macro-zoom f:4 Kodak High Definition ISO 400 Lab: Atelier A.F.A. http://atelierafa.com/index.html Flickr album: https://flic.kr/s/aHsk9U6KyW
Chris Dean's Info
Camera: Hasselblad 500 C/M with 80mm Zeiss 2.8 Lens
Film: Kodak Portra 160
Developed and scanned by a local lab (www.photorgaphique.co.uk)
No cropping or editing
Full size pictures available at: chrisdeanphoto.co.uk/blog/2015/6/8/24-frames-in-may-2015
Last year’s 24 Frames in May was my first (serious) attempt at shooting film. This year I thought I’d make things even more interesting (difficult) for myself by getting to grips with a medium format camera. There’s a lot to learn!
It has a 6cm x 6cm negative, so everything is short in square format (a 1:1 format rather than the 3:2 of my DSLR).
It has a waist level viewfinder which means you look down into the camera, and left-right is reversed, which is a little confusing!
There’s no built-in light meter so you have to take light readings separately (or rely on the sunny 16 rule).
The negatives are a lot bigger than the 36mm x 24mm of a “standard” (35mm) film camera, which means the depth of field is very shallow, and you need a very steady hand (or a tripod) to avoid blurry shots. Focusing is critical and hard!
Unlike a digital camera where you can take hundreds of shots, you’re limited to 12 shots per roll of film. So you need to make sure you’ve got that shot, especially when you’re trying to treat each frame like gold dust.
May was especially hectic this year, so I didn’t ending up spacing out my shots to the extent that I would have liked, and the medium format camera slowed me down even more than the film 35mm did. So I rounded off the roll by taking a portrait of everybody attending a fancy birthday dinner I was having.
I had great fun. I’m looking forward to shooting more film, and have booked myself into a black and white darkroom developing course – can’t wait!
Participating in Don Giannatti’s Project 52 has a lot of fringe benefits in addition to the exceptional training; for example, a challenge to get out a film camera and shoot 24 Frames In May. I was happy to be able to participate this year, and also to find a clean Pentacon Six medium format camera (and some really clean lenses) on eBay.
The official challenge is to shoot 24 frames, one a day, and with a medium format camera that would mean two twelve-exposure rolls. I had to follow a different path to my 24 Frames. Since the camera was new to me, as were the lenses, I shot some tests as well to make sure everything was working. As I was using some extension tubes for some of the calla lily images, I was estimating the compensation factor, and so did some bracketing. The nature of my life and of the calla lilies I acquired for the project did not permit making only one frame a day. In the end, I exposed six rolls of 120 film over two separate days, and selected 24 from amongst the test &bracketed images, ignoring the failed test images. I used Portra 160 for the color images, and mostly Ilford HP5 (ASA 400) for the black and white (the last two you see are Ilford Pan-F — ASA 50). Lenses were mostly the 80 and 65 mm, though I also shot with a 120, 180, and 300 as well.
I went to some of my favorite subject matter: the marina area and some calla lilies in the studio. I used open sky window light for the callas. I think next up will be some portraits with the Pentacon!
The film was sent to The Find Lab, using their Fatboy scanner option. Great service and quality scans.
The only post I did was some slight levels/curves for those images where neither bracket was ‘just right’ and I needed to be somewhere in the middle. I retouched a very few hot pixels that appeared in very few of the scans, and applied a light sharpen to the images.
all images © Bret Doss, All Rights Reserved
Jorge Rodriguez Santos shoots in Cambodia.
Learn more about Virginia Smith‘s film work on her blog.
24mm Olympus lens
Tri-X 400 black and white film.
I limited myself to the 24mm for the entire 24 frames.
1960 Yashica Mat
Kodak Porta 400 120 film.
These are out of the camera, no post processing.
Developed & Scanned by The FIND Lab
Darla Hueske had a film mishap and only 15 of her shots came out unscathed. A shame because so many of her images are really good.