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Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Do I Shoot Photography?

The question has been posed to me several different ways. Questions like: "How is your business going? How do I make a living at photography?" or statements like "Man, it's gotta be fun doing photography for a living."

If there is a standard of success in the business of photography. Well, I can truly say...with some level of certainty. "I ain't there yet." All I can say is that I am a decent photographer. All I can say is that I am an advanced amateur with a camera. I know what I need to know to get the shot I want looking how I want it "in camera"...nothing more. When something new comes around, I look at it. I always keep my educational options open in photography. You never stop learning in this business. When you think "you know it all", that's when ego takes over and you start walking around like a diva, that's when your business nose-dives.

When you look at the guys who have been doing this for some time; they all have one thing in common, they have devoted their life to photography and they are all doing something that they love to the very core of their being.

I bought my first 35mm SLR in 1984 and back then I was a "spray and pray" artist. Half the time I shot, I didn't know what the heck I was doing, the rest of the time, I thought, if I hold the camera this way, I'll look like a photographer. I bought my first DSLR in 2006. I turned my poor D50 in and out. It was my camera, instant development lab and photography tutor all wrapped up into one. I swore to myself that when I picked up that digital SLR, I wasn't going to stick it on P and let the camera make my decisions. For the first year and a half I shot in M. I learned what aperture settings did, what shutterspeeds did...and how each affected the resulting shot. I took my first camera course in 1985. My mother enrolled me in it. With the two week turnaround on developing 35mm film, by the time I got the rolls back, I couldn't remember what settings I had shot my images on. When I got my Nikon D50, I challenged myself to learn whatever basics of photography I didn't learn (which was darned near all of it) when I took that first class way back in 1985. I tested myself on composition. I learned everything that I could know about the basics of photography. Then I started challenging myself to create better looking images, taking into account what I learned of the basics, what I learned about the Rule of Thirds. I studied both online (thru various websites), through photography books that I read and re-read until I could understand the concepts (and believe me it took a long time) and through experimentation. All I can say is if you have the chance to take a formal course of instruction in photography, do it. I did it teaching myself because that was the best way for me to learn. I could go at my own pace.

If one is thinking about selling their images...take these points into consideration. As far as selling images are concerned, it's a tossup. You can put years and years of effort into your craft, but whether someone will like the output, you'll never know. Frankly put, it takes lots of time and effort perfecting your craft. Even then you'll find people either like it or they don't. You take the good points from all the critiques and utilize them. Above all, never stop learning. I've had good friends - Scott Linstead, Ethan Meleg, Jamie Douglas, Bob Krist, Darwin Wiggett and others' images to see what they produce and sell...and my main commitment was if I was going to make a living out of this field of work, my work had better be up to the quality of the above names. The only suggestion that I have is "Commit to being the best at your craft that you can become. Figure out what the pros are coming up with. Learn your craft to the point where you can create images with that same quality over and over that it isn't a matter of luck, but ingrained." Don't be a fly-by-night...spray and pray "artist". Learn your gear, learn your craft...ingrain it into your memory so that you don't have to fumble around with your gear.

Understand that this is 5 years of intensive self-teaching until I got to the point where I was even considered competitive. I crammed the equivalent of a degree in photographic arts into reading magazines...and wearing the living daylights out of my Nikon D50. Keep in mind, photography isn't completely about gear, it's about knowledge. Knowledge is the key to your success as a photographer. Read what books you can obtain or are available in your country on the subject of photography. Learn your the functions of your current gear inside and out. Learn about photography: Why is Rule of Thirds important and why do you have to learn it before you even know when and how to break it. What is the Golden Mean (as it pertains to photography). Why does shutterspeed, aperture and ISO impact what your photograph looks like. What is Depth of Field, What is Bokeh. Why do different lenses have different DOF and how does each lens affect your photograph. How do you push your ISO to gain shutterspeed? These are the questions you have to learn and drill into your shooting technique until it becomes rote. Only then...should you even consider "do you have what it takes to start a business in photography?" It's not hard to learn all just takes commitment.

I'm not a professional yet. I'm just a serious amateur who was lucky enough to find someone who liked my images enough. Why do I shoot if not for money? I shoot for the love of the craft and the fact that I enjoy wildlife and landscape photography, I shoot well and I take pride in what I do. And that is why I charge for my images if someone wants to utilize them. And that is why I don't let my work go for less than the going rate of art prints. I respect my professional photographer friends to not devalue their work by not letting mine go for peanuts.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article! I agree that knowledge and experimentation are two of the best things you can ever do as a photographer. I am by no means the greatest, but I also know some people who "call" themselves photographers and I am pretty sure my eyes want to bleed every time I look at their albums on FB. I have even seen one that says she has 17 years experience and my 9 yr old takes better pictures than her. Just because you own a camera, does not make you a photographer, you are simply a picture-taker, is what I want to scream at these people, lol!!