Ever heard someone else, or even yourself, using any of these excuses?
“It’s easy to take a photo when you have the latest camera and speedlights”
“If I had all the gear he had, I could take photos as good as him”
“Once I get that new *insert gadget here* I’ll start taking better shots”
Well slap that person round the back of the head, even if it was you, because quite frankly, that’s crap.
A good photographer can take a better photo with bad gear than a bad photographer can take with the best gear available.
If you are waiting until you can buy the latest and greatest camera body, or that new lens before you start pushing yourself, that day will never come. There will always be that next thing you tell yourself you need before you can become better. It’s a crutch and you don’t need it. Waiting for something to happen or making excuses won’t make you a better photographer – taking photographs will.
I think we are all guilty of hiding to some degree, myself included, so don’t let yourself hide anymore and stop making those excuses.
Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.
And to underline my point, here’s the Strobist, making stand out images with a Buzz Lightyear novelty camera and a cheap knock off flash!
Is it just me, or is everyone a photographer these days?
I don’t mean everyone has a camera or that photography is a popular hobby, I mean I’m seeing more and more people proclaiming to be a bone fide, card carrying professional photographer.
They have a large black camera, the kit lens and maybe a flash, a web site and business cards but seemingly no idea about the craft of photography. Perhaps you don’t need to know an f-stop from a bus stop when you’ve got a shiny new DSLR? Surely a £1000 camera takes care of all that. But when it inevitably doesn’t, they still post online galleries full of unimaginative, poorly composed and technically inept images next to the words “portrait sessions just £399”.
Then there are the ones who are “now booking shoots in December” when it’s only March. Really? Your out of focus images of your cat have got you enough bookings with aspiring models, brides and families to make it through the year already? Or maybe that portfolio comprised of images from a single group shoot is really working for you and going through the agonizing process of whittling it down to 20 stunning images and ego crushing portfolio reviews just isn’t necessary.
Now don’t get me wrong, group shoots (where a studio will hire a model for a day then sell time slots to aspiring photographers) are a great way to learn. All the details are taken care of and the studio owner is there to assist with lighting and camera settings. The whole day is designed so you learn a few new ideas and come away with some good shots. So when you download your images that night and find some nicely lit, tack sharp shots of a good looking model bear that in mind. Look at them critically, analyse what worked and what didn’t, learn from them. Don’t simply pat yourself on the back, decide you have learnt all there is to learn and start trying to charge potential clients.
Buying a pen or a sports car doesn’t make you an author or a racing driver any more than buying a camera makes you a photographer. It gives you one of the items you need in your tool kit. Now you need to collect the ones you can’t buy, so know your foundations (the exposure triangle and reciprocals) get out and practice (a lot) and look at (really analyse what you like and don’t like about) as many photographs as you can.
That’s when you can start calling yourself a photographer.
The fact you are here, reading this blog, probably means you are like me and you love photography. Not just like or enjoy, but love. Put a camera in my hands and I’m happy. I love being able to unleash my creative side that starts to scream from inside if I keep it bottled up too long. I love how it makes me think on my feet in changing light and situations. I love being able to make a picture that looks nothing like the actual scene my subject and I were standing in at the time and seeing the reaction on their face.
But two weeks (sometimes two days) later I look back at the images I was so pleased with and hate them. I see all the imperfections, I criticise my lighting. I scroll though my portfolio judging everything: “This sucks, this sucks, that’s old, I should have done a better job on that, this all sucks!”. Nothing stacks up against the work I see coming from the photographers I admire.
Chase Jarvis posted on his blog last week asking his readers to finish a sentence: “My pictures would be better if…”. So I did. I thought about it carefully and put my reply out into the world amongst the huge stream of comments.
My pictures would be better if I got myself out of my comfort zone more often, took more risks and had a better idea of where to aim my passion/energy/hustle.
So now it’s out there, maybe I should clarify.
I stay in my comfort zone by only working with models I know when I could be arranging things on Model Mayhem and Purestorm for more variety in my portfolio.
Taking more risks would allow me to go after jobs and arrange shoots that the nagging voice in head tells me I am not ready for. There are lots of great venues I’d love to shoot in (bars, hotels etc) so I need to pop into these places and talk to the boss. I’ve done it once and that resulted in a shoot in a cinema in a couple of weeks so why don’t I do it more? Could I shoot a family portrait session or even a wedding? I have come a long way but I know I can go a lot further.
The big one is knowing where to focus my energy. I get myself super motivated, I produce solid work and I’m ready to work my face off – but I don’t know where to direct all that enthusiasm. I can’t progress if I don’t know what direction to set off in. Although it feels safe to hide behind the fact I’ve not sat down and thought about it yet, it’s much easier to steer a moving ship so it’s time to get sailing. There’s no point in having lots of business and marketing ideas if I don’t hang out my shingle so I need to work on a business plan and find out if there is a market for what I want to do. I’m talking about walking away from my day job on a whim but I do want to be able to spend more time doing what I love rather than what I must. Isn’t it better to try and fail than not try at all?
Hence the image at the top: my Big Book of Hustle. This is where the ideas go. There is where I write down the hard questions, and with any luck, some answers too. Time to man up!
Am I alone in this or do others have a heap of motivation and energy but no target to aim it all at? Am I the only one who has a clear picture of the end goal but has yet to work out what achievable steps to take to move towards it? Hit the comments below if you have the same problem or any solutions.