Nobody truly “makes it on their own.” Whether it’s as complex as a mentorship or as simple as a passing piece of advice, every professional has had some level of support or guidance on their way up.
I had an interesting conversation the other day. I was fortunate enough to chat with photographer Ben Von Wong about inspiration, creative vision, etc and he made a rather fascinating comment: “Provide boundaries and problems to spark creativity.” (Paraphrased)
We aren’t just born with knowledge. We have to learn it first. This seems like common sense, yet so many people are afraid of making mistakes they avoid the learning process all together. To get around that, maybe all we need to do is consider the ramifications…
News flash – it doesn’t matter how much you know about your gear, or how well you’ve thought through your current situation. The first pictures you shoot will not be your best work. Translation: put in more time and you’ll produce better results.
I love going to photo class. It’s always a new adventure and there are always cool projects to work on. All the photo gear is super-fun to play with and I get to learn new things every day.
My students seem to enjoy it as well.
I’m currently teaching a lighting class and a recent assignment focused on texture and the ability to minimize or exaggerate it as the situation required. Since sandpaper is all about that texture, it served as the perfect model.
As a professional photographer, I regularly engage in discussions about my career choice. Sometimes it’s mentioned how lucky I am to be in a business where I get to take pictures all day and don’t really have to “work” like normal people do. Other times I get to hear inspirational stories from industry up and comers – how they took senior portraits of their neighbor’s nephew and realized they should open a photo studio.
The adventure through the career of a professional photographer is exhilarating to say the least. From photographing squirrels with an iPhone to shooting for National Geographic in a matter of months and from a fixed income to a 6 figure salary in less than a year, a professional photographer is truly blessed.
For career photographers the world over, there are a number of perks that make it a dream job. I’ve compiled 20 of the top benefits:
1. Anyone can do it.
The phone on your camera produces images 12 megapixels and up. With Instagram filters, it’s easier than ever to express your own unique view of the world with any of the built-in presets.
2. It’s a great career for shy people and loners.
The beauty of a camera is it creates a barrier between you and your subject. Just bring the camera up to your eye and all you have to do is watch and push a button. No more worries about actually having to interact with a person!
3. It’s all about the gear.
Photography is the great equalizer. It all comes down to the camera. As long as you have a better camera than the next guy, your pictures will come out better. It’s simple science.
4. One decent portfolio will get you any client.
People looking for a photographer tend to be incredibly open-minded. It’s natural and easy for people to look at beautiful pictures of wildflowers and instantly know you’re the perfect photographer for their upcoming fashion shoot.
5. All professional cameras are incredibly user-friendly.
Hi-end professional cameras (commonly called DSLRs) come with different “modes” that make shooting in any situation a breeze. Taking little Billy to his soccer game? Just turn the dial the icon for the person running. Showing off that stunning new azalea bush? Switch it over to the flower icon. So easy a child could do it!
6. Almost every photographer finds their true passion in a matter of weeks.
Portrait photography, advertising, and commercial product shoots make up for a surprisingly small amount of business in the photographic industry. The images that usually sell the fastest and for the largest profit are macro pictures of flowers and insects (which can be commonly found in your backyard), sunsets, any landscape shot from a moving vehicle, and cat pictures.
7. Social media pretty much handles your marketing needs for you.
Facebook, Instagram, Flickr… these are only a few of the hundreds of outlets at your disposal. With today’s rigid internet security measures in place, it’s never been easier to safely and securely show off your work. But even with today’s regulations on pirated imagery, you can never be too safe. Be sure to always add a large watermark of your company’s logo to the center of every picture.
8. If you can shoot one thing, you can shoot anything.
After all, it’s the same camera for each picture – there’s really not much difference. Weddings, fashion, and photojournalism all come down to the people. They’re nearly identical.
9. Customers are more than happy to let you express your individuality.
When it comes to photographing people, you’ll find very few customers have pre-existing ideas of how they want their pictures to look. Asking a photographer to replicate a picture they saw one time or to make their images look like a Vanity Fair ad is a terrible faux pas. Nearly everyone understands this breach of etiquette and it’s unlikely to ever hear such a request.
10. Copyright and licensing laws are surprisingly easy to understand.
Unlike the United States tax or legal code, the laws governing ownership of artwork is very straight forward. “The person who takes the picture owns the picture.” It’s so clear and to the point, hardly anyone will ever be confused about their rights to reproduce the images.
11. The money’s great!
It’s a standard of business that a quality product demands a respectable price. When it comes to cherished images of loved ones, advertisements for the season’s hot new product, or coverage of a once-in-a-lifetime event, you’ll find customers are more than happy to spend that little extra.
12. It’s all about the art.
Paperwork isn’t for everyone. One of the best reasons to become a professional photographer is knowing all you have to think about is crafting award-winning images. As a professional, I spend the majority of my days in “the field” capturing fleeting glimpses of the beauty in the world around me. In fact, writing this list is probably the most I’ll even look at my computer this week.
13. It’s one of the easiest jobs to talk about.
Imagine an efficiency expert meeting a new group of people. By the time they explain the intricacies of their job, people might be more confused than when they started. But, as a crafter of unique imagery, all you have to do is tell someone you’re a photographer and they’ll instantly understand that you take pictures at weddings.
14. Getting constructive feedback of your images is an almost effortless process.
Everyone has an inherent ability to determine what makes a picture aesthetically pleasing. All you have to do is send an email of a few dozen full-size, uncompressed pictures to a friend and they’ll be able to tell you what works about the images and what doesn’t. A few sources of good advice might include your grandmother, your neighbor, open-content online forums, Jim in the cubicle around the corner, and 4chan.
15. General education doesn’t really matter when your business is art.
Remember, a successful photography business is about the pictures. There isn’t really a reason to know mathematics or finances. That’s what an accountant is for. If you were never great in English class, don’t worry yourself too much. As we already discussed, photography is a business for “the lone wolf.” There aren’t many instances where presentations or one-on-one meetings come into play.
16. Contracts are a thing of the past.
Gone are the days when simple things like a stay at a hotel or joining a gym require pages and pages of paperwork. Integrity, honesty, and a sense of moral right and wrong are all people need to uphold a deal. The only legalese and business savvy you need to know is how flash those pearly whites and deliver a firm handshake.
17. Once they start, jobs don’t really change.
The professional art industry is one built on mutual respect. You’re offering a service that your customers are paying for and they understand the boundaries of what that means. One of the most delicate situations in a customer-photographer relationship is asking for more than the initial agreement. If at any point your customer asks you to shoot longer or include extra files, happily accept the request. Once the project is done, they will be eager to compensate you fairly for your extra effort.
18. Photoshop will fix any mistake.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a burger flipper, a federal judge, or a heart surgeon – people make mistakes. The beauty of photography is those mistakes don’t have to be permanent. Let’s say you’re photographing a bride after the big dance and her hair is stuck to her forehead sweat. There’s no need to interrupt everyone’s fun to brush the hair aside, just open the file in Photoshop and click the “Fix Hair” icon in the tools pallet.
19. Career advancement is virtually guaranteed.
Just like professional athletes, many of the highly successful photographers are “discovered” by talent agents. By utilizing photo-sharing websites like Instagram and Flickr, It’s easier than ever for agencies to find your work. Just upload a few photos a week and you’ll be solicited for projects in no time!
20. It requires almost no specific training or education.
In the end, your career is all about creating show-stopping images, conveying your unique view of the world around you. If you have an expensive camera, you’re guaranteed to craft masterpieces. Just throw it on “auto,” click away, then sit back and wait for the money to come rolling in!
A big thank you to Ben C. and Elayne G. for their inspiration and help with this list!
When it rains, it pours. When it rains dogs… well, speaking in meteorological terms, that’s impossible, but the idea of it is straight awesome.
The last three posts were all about our fuzzy, drool-covered, blanket-hogging, best friends. So I see no need to stop while we’re on a roll. Here’s dog post numero 4.
Back in another life (it was something like 6ish years ago) I worked at a dog training company for about a year. Recently I got back into the whole Rescue League scene and organized a pet adoption fundraiser (That post down there has all the nitty gritty). Well, in the process of organizing the whole thing, I found myself in touch with that very same trainer.
You’ll never guess what happened.
OK, you probably will. I mean, why else would I be writing a post about this? So to answer the question that’s clearly been screaming from the dark recesses of your mind: YES! Yes I have taken even more pictures of dogs. Not only that, but I also re-branded his company. It looks pretty spiffy if I do say so myself.
Also – not sure how many of you fine folks have adopted or are about to adopt, but I would like to mention that Canine Resolution has my highest level of approval when it comes to learning how to make the best of your time with your best friend. Tell ’em Jon Kopacz sent ya.
Here’s some pretty stuff. Have a gander!
Back in October, I took a trip to Chicago. Afterward, I processed my 17 gazillion images from the adventure and wrote you fine folks a blog post about it. At the end, I mentioned that more images were to follow and that I would relate my experiences with my new favorite hotel chain.
Promptly after writing the post, I completely forgot.
So, here we are. 4 months have passed and you still wake up in the middle of the night wondering whatever became of that followup post… OK That’s probably a bit hopeful on my part. But still – true to my word, I shall visually enthrall you with more optically-dazzling imagery.
FIRST – the hotel. For those of you that spoke with either myself or my lady friend, you know that Ashly and I had been planning this trip for something like 5 months. However, when I say “this trip” I mean a trip. Somewhere. Anywhere.
In the end, we actually planned out 5 different trips… in about 3 weeks. We considered Maine, Kentucky, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, a perimeter-tour of the lower peninsula, and Chicago. Chicago won out simply because of the mind-boggling selection of educational day-trip destinations.
We like our learnin’.
That little back story may not seem relevant, but oh how wrong you are. See, 5 days before we left for Chicago, we hadn’t even begun considering going there. We were still in the planning stages of a Michigan road trip. I don’t really remember how we ended up switching to Chicago, but it happened and we found ourselves with slightly over 72 hours of time to organize an itinerary, buy tickets to stuff we wanted to see, and find a hotel whose room fee didn’t require a bank loan, gold bars, an arm and/or a leg, or a first-born child.
In the end we ended up staying damn-near 45 minutes outside of the city. Were it not for the downtown parking situation (which were completely unaware of) it wouldn’t have been an issue. In fact, all things considered, it was one of the better snap decisions we’ve made.
We found ourselves at an Extended Stay out past Downer’s Grove. At first glance it looks like a normal over-niter for business travelers. We found out that (as the name suggests) it’s designed for people to stay for over a week or 2. But enough rambling, here’s what makes it so awesome.
- Long-term stay means people need more elaborate forms of equipment to use. Example: A FULL KITCHEN. Now, this might not seem like much to you, but I cook. A LOT. It was awesome.
- No explanation needed: It was one of the cleanest hotels I’ve ever stayed in. Period.
- Lastly and most importantly: In order to keep the charges down on a room rental that may go past 3 weeks, the hotel got rid of one of the staple functions of most chains. There is absolutely no maid service. While at first you may think that seems cheap, remember that I am a visual artist in a digital age. I take a LOT of really EXPENSIVE gear with me everywhere I go. I don’t need to drag my lights and laptop with me every step of the way. The fact that no one (trustworthy or otherwise) would NOT be coming into to move things around took my nervousness level from my standard 362% to effectively zero.
And also ’cause the per night price gets cheaper the longer you’re there, our week’s stay cost us something like $50 a night.
Conclusion: Extended Stay: Do it.
Oh and hey – MORE CHICAGO PICTURES!!
Yesterday, I got a chance to revisit my childhood. It was an… altered experience.
Went up to Crossroad Village, in Flint, Michigan. For those of you unfamiliar, it’s kind of like Greenfield Village (a city of historical reenactments) set in the mid to late 1800’s. This time of year is specifically interesting there because they break period-character a bit and deck the entire place up in quite a lot of Christmas lights.
When I was a wee lad, it was just crazy to go to a village in the middle of nowhere and see people who still live just like they had 100 years prior. I would take the train ride out into the country and wave to Santa, who would have, of course, been kind enough to grace us, and only us, with his presence as we rode the tracks, listening to the most traditional, old-timey of Christmas carols (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer).
Now the illusion is a bit lost on me, but that’s not to say the experience is not enjoyable – far from it. In my current mentality of “if there’s something I can learn, you best be sure I’m gonna learn it,” the magic of the holiday spirit has been replaced by super-fascinating historical facts. As an example: The train you can ride (on the Huckleberry Railroad) is actually a real-life coal-burning engine from the late 1800s, pulling a dozen cars from the same period. This, of course, is quite an accomplishment, since people have had to maintain the machines in working and aesthetic order for over a century.
A little side fact: Reindeer are ticklish… let me explain. In the spirit of all things festive, a reindeer had been brought in from a local farm for photo opportunities. As you enter the barn, there is a sign near the entrance instructing you not to touch the reindeer as it is “too ticklish” to them. Being a reasonable adult, I deduced that the comment was a friendly, whimsical way of keeping children from taking an antler to the face. Of course, if I were to wait for the impressionable youth to leave I could have an adult conversation with the reindeer’s handler and explain that I would very much like to pet the reindeer and that I would not do something stupid like hang my coat on it. She informed me the sign wasn’t actually a joke and demonstrated by VERY VERY LIGHTLY petting the reindeer. If the reindeer could have spoken it would have said something akin to, “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?! Get away from me.” In conclusion, reindeer do not like to be petted.
While the antique train and the reindeer with personal space issues were fascinating, the clear winners of my trip were the historical actors. It wasn’t so much the convincing illusion (they didn’t wear Wolverine work boots back then) but the nerdy factoids these folks had in their heads. I got to see a 100-year old typesetting machine printing a news article, found out that frontier towns sprang up based explicitly on the vicinity to the blacksmith, and learned how to use a straight razor (which I was just recently gifted).
And, OF COURSE, there were some pretty nifty photo opportunities. Here are a few of my favorites.