In case you missed it, the best Legend of Zelda game ever (The Breath of The Wild) came out a year ago, today. Every few years the kingdom of Hyrule, once again, finds itself in a perilous fight against the dark forces of Ganon (the main antagonist in the series). The fate of the land rests squarely on the shoulders of our intrepid adventurer and hero, Link.
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.
I shoot people for fun.
Eugh… as a photographer, I know how cliché that statement is… Ah! I shoot people on the street as a hobby.
No – not getting any better…
It’s fascinating how joy, seriousness, comprehension, and innocence can all exist in one person, in the same instant.
I photographed the graduation ceremony of the most recent graduating class of the Detroit Emergency Medical Service Academy. These cadets officially became EMTs for the city of Detroit. In the same moment, you could feel their joy at their accomplishment, while watching the seriousness in their faces – a respect for the ceremony and their newly-earned responsibilities. They had the fresh, innocent look of any new graduate in any industry while, in the back of their minds, they knew what they would see in the line of duty.
In case you didn’t know, I love animals. It’s gotten to the point that I’ll count out the approximate footsteps and speed of movement necessary to “accidentally” cross paths with a dog and owner walking vaguely toward me from a quarter mile away.
Yep – I’m “that guy.”
I’ve been talking with the regional talent agencies to be a referred vendor. Figured it was time for some new portrait promos.
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!
A number of years ago – maybe 3 or 4 – I did a class project, designed to make use of my major for someone’s benefit. My mother manages nursing education at Sanctuary at Faser Villa, a Metro Detroit senior care center, part of the Trinity Health System. This particular center hosts a number of yearly parties for their residents.
In other words, things lined up nicely.
Throughout the growth into my career, I got a boatload of experience shooting events and operating on-site photobooths. For a couple years my girlfriend and I brought a photobooth setup to the senior center; she ran the booth, I shot candids. Over time I began dabbling in video and eventually brought it into the mix. Now each time we attend an event, she shoots pictures, I shoot video.
It’s kind of interesting, working within a set group of people. When you shoot any given event, be it a wedding, or Mitzvah, or company picnic, you have to read the crowd and get a feel for the people. Pinpoint the couple guests who are super outgoing and seem to exude happiness into whatever group of people they happen to be near. You’ve gotta learn the venue and figure out where the best light is. You also have to try to anticipate the event schedule and be in position before things happen. In the end, you’ve gotta do the best you can and work with what you’re given.
But shooting the same event each year gives a different edge. It’s especially pronounced in a setting like a senior center. Activity schedules tend not to change much (it’s difficult for the residents if things change all the time). The setting is the same (it’s in the same building each time). Also, for the most part, the residents live there full time, meaning the attendees at the parties tend to remain fairly consistent.
So, instead of a reset each time, I get to work with the information about the event, guests, and venue I had from the previous party and build on it. It’s unique in comparison to my experiences shooting parties and events.
The most recent party we attended was the Annual Harvest Ball, an Autumn-themed event they host every October. Check out the video below!
**UPDATE** I finally got around to editing the video! Check it out at the bottom of the post, before the pictures (down there). **UPDATE**
At the beginning of September, my girlfriend and I took a trip down to the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee to enjoy an invigorating and adventure-filled time camping and hiking in nature’s majesty. Though we’d undertaken our adventures of years past with all the forethought of a labrador running at a barely opened door with an over-sized stick, we figured such a sizable endeavor warranted some grown-up planning. To be precise, the Smokies are bear country. Personally speaking, I was preternaturally excited at the prospect of crossing paths with a bear. The girlfriend – not so much.
You see, in my mind black bears were the tiniest and least-threatening of all bear species. Roughly the size of a large dog, with a demeanor more curious than anything else, they pose little threat to people – even less to those who aren’t afraid of them. Well, my proclamations of the friendliness of the species fell on deaf ears. In an effort to quell concerns, I purchased bear spray, a hunting knife, a riot baton, an alarm whistle, and a wildlife warning bell. This had the opposite effect than it probably should have. In my mind, I was now completely prepared to stand my own and come out victorious in the inevitable event of a bear attack. After all, we would certainly be strolling through bear-filled valleys and driving to the nearest Bestbuy to purchase more memory cards after we filled our existing 150gig of storage space with award-winning pictures of the majestic Ursus Americanus.
All told, we had line-of-sight to black bears for a grand total of 2.64 seconds. In case you’re curious, that’s not enough time to reach down pick up your camera, focus, and press the shutter trigger. Not. Even. Once.
This leads to the topic of the day: A brief list of stuff we learn in our extensive research of the Smoky Mountains National Park.
1. Your eardrums are gonna get jacked up. This should probably go without saying, but in our case, it was just something we didn’t even consider. You see, in the past 16 years I had not ventured outside an elevation level which, for the sake of clarity, we’ll refer to as “The Midwest.” That is to say, I’ve hanging around the flatest of the flat geography for the past half of my life. This situation became apparent once we reached southern Kentucky and began ascending rapidly. It’s something that’s easily accepted and quickly put out of mind. That is until you’re in the mountains, proper. When you spend a straight week and a half either hiking or driving in and around a mountain chain, you have 2 options: up or down. Suffice it to say, we went through a ridiculous amount of gum and spent more time yawning than a fellow student in Ferris Bueller’s economics class.
2. There’s no air. This is directly related to #1. If you aren’t a mountain dweller, or rarely find yourself venturing more than a few hundred feet above sea level, you’ve probably grown blissfully ignorant of the abundant of oxygen available to you in your day-to-day activities. It’s cool. So did we. During our preparation for the trip, we knew the up and down of the trails was going to be a shock to our muscles, as that wasn’t a common movement in our daily lives. What we didn’t consider, however, was how our activities would be impacted when something like 20% of our oxygen supply was suddenly not there. Factoring in a solid 30 pounds of camera gear, each, things like moving – at all – became rather more straining.
3. The road to the mountains is paved in hideousness. Have you heard of Pigeon Forge? It’s horrible. The mountains are incredible, but to get there you have to go through something equally incredibly but in the completely opposite meaning. I’ll set the scene: You’re driving through rural country towns in southern Tennessee. There’s a home-cookin’ restaurant every so often, pickup as far as the eye can see, and good ol’ boys sittin’ on their rockers on the porch drinking whiskey and spittin’ chew. Say what you will about it, but when it comes to cultural expectancy of a region, it hit the nail on the head. Then, in a span of no more than half a mile, the trees fade away, the neighborhoods disappear, the mom ‘n pop shops vanish, and you’re thrust into the middle of what can only be described as “Vegas meets gift shop meets Jed Clampett meets theme park.” It’s like someone tried to make Disney World in the middle of mountain country, theme it like an old Hatfield VS McCoy cartoon, funded by novelty shop owners, and develpoped by a board of directors whose motto is “Is it ostentatious, gawdy, and over-priced? Build it!”
4. There are no mosquitoes. Yes – you read that correctly. In the 10ish days we were there I was bitten by maybe 5 mosquitoes. But, like all things in life, there’s a trade off. Instead of mosquitos, the Smoky Mountains have spiders. Lots of spiders. Everywhere. They look like this. I’m gonna assume they’re the reason why there aren’t any mosquitoes. Other things the Smokies have in quantities, I didn’t think possible: Butterflies, dragonflies, salamanders, and centipedes the size of a standard Sharpie.
5. The Smokies are one step short of a rain forest. The “smoke” in the Smokey Mountains isn’t smoke. In retrospect this seems more than a little obvious. Smoke means fire and, well, if an entire mountain chain was continually smoldering… I guess I don’t know what that would mean but I’m pretty sure it would be a bad thing. Had I actually considered it, the concept of smoke would have seemed odd, but it simply never crossed my mind. So, nope – that “smoke” is actually “mist” – as in “water vapor” – as in “wet.” All the time. In all fairness, we did go at the start of the rainy season, but still. With the exception of back country camping, all campsites are in the valleys between the mountains. This means that each evening, the plentiful water in the air condenses and settles on things one may want to keep dry, such as clothing, bedding, firewood, and pretty much anything else that fairs poorly when it maintains a wetness level of “permanent.”
That said, The Smoky Mountains were one of the coolest places I’ve been. They’re part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, the oldest mountains in North America. You can feel it when you hike the rivers. It’s history, geologically speaking.
Check out the video (3/22/16 update)
Here’s a selection of some of my favorites. To see the whole gallery, stop by my fine art site.
Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work with up and comers in various creative industries; specifically, people who are looking to turn their passions and hobbies into a career. There have been events like lectures, presentations, and portfolio reviews; and I’ve taught a number of visual media classes. Throughout these experiences, I’ve caught myself using a term repeatedly.
Now, you might say to yourself – isn’t that the same thing as a creative professional? It’s a common phrase and it sounds very similar. And I’ll give it to you that each title shares similar traits. But there’s one big fundamental difference. You can consider it grammar or sentence structure, but it all comes down to which trait is most valuable.
So, what’s the difference between a creative professional and a professional creative?
In each title, there’s a noun and there’s an adjective. One of these individuals identifies them self as a professional while the other labels them self as a creative. They both share similar qualities, but depending on the title, there’s a different emphasis. It’s the noun that deserves priority as it defines what the person is, and not a characteristic they possess.
EXAMPLE: Gray elephant. By looking at the elephant, you know it’s gray, but that’s not what jumps out at you. The first thing you see is “Elephant.”
So, that begs the question: which is more important, being professional or being creative?
Dick Weisgrau – he’s the former Executive Director of ASMP. (for those of you who don’t know, the ASMP is the American Society of Media Photographers. It’s basically THE association of professional photographers.) Dick once said “It’s almost more important to be a good business person than it is to be a good photographer”
There are 2 things to walk away from that with: to maintain a career in the industry, you need to be both creative and professional. They’re the 2 most important aspects. However, to sacrifice any aspect of your creativity for the sake of appearing more professional is the first step in removing yourself from your passion.
If you’re a baker, or a sculptor, or an illustrator, or a photographer, or a graphic designer and you have your own company – when you meet someone and they ask what you do, do you say “I’m a business owner?”
No – You introduce yourself by your passion.
Hi. I’m Jon , I’m a photographer, and I’m a professional creative.
Who are you?