A fellow photographer I know recently wondered if people will ever understand the difference between paying a professional photographer to take their photos and getting a friend to do the honors on the cheap instead.
Indeed, there are many people who seem to think that producing high quality standard images doesn’t necessarily require a professional photographer these days, especially since our modern world already boasts a vast array of DSLR’s, easily accessible to the masses in delivering superior imagery. Or at least that is the case as far as many non-pro’s are concerned.
Sure enough, these people could do with some educating that any such modern accessible technology, however great, is no substitute for creative talent and artistic skill. In any case, professional photographers continually need to always up their game.
This isn’t so much about how photographers should use their creative visions and artistic skills to transcend technological advancements on the consumer market at large, but how best to communicate such acquired skills to those client prospects who may not realise what really goes into professional photography above and beyond the fancy bells and whistles fronted by the Apple’s, the Canon’s and the Phase One’s. That’s right, I mentioned Apple – as in the iPhone camera. Don’t laugh.
True professional photography is often said to have little to do with technology. Which is absolutely true.
But try telling that to the average Joe who’s already been seduced by the image capture quality and built-in colour editing template tools of the humble iPhone. And it is that reality at stake which is why many serious photographers need to up their game, beyond technology, by pulling out the ‘show, don’t tell’ stops further and moreso now than ever before.
This industry is overflowing with part-time creatives armed with DSLR’s, suffocating our industry by undercutting competitors, or worse: shooting for free. But having a decent DSLR – beit Canon, Hasselblad or Phase One – doesn’t automatically make you a pro shooter, anymore than owning a Ferrari makes you Lewis Hamilton.
Professional photographers can no less take solace in the fact that the vast majority of amateur-to-semi-pro photos uploaded everywhere are, at best, plain homogenous – complete with cookie-cutter instant retouch effects. Claiming that all you need to make great images is superior technology is like saying that all Hollywood has to do to make great movies is to invest in state-of-the-art CGI. Such thinking only results in agonizingly lame movies with a weak story and an even weaker script (Man Of Steel, anyone?).
I use the above movie example to illustrate that, aside from technology, photographers must also utilize a slightly trickier component: story.
By taking a closer alternative look at a subject’s personality and character can enable a photographer to produce the kind of images no-one else can, or would even think to. It’s an ability to play with human subjects that ‘lesser’ photographers either don’t, won’t, or are unsure how to, that can set your work apart from the many small-time Instagramers out there.
For me, there’s a certain tenacity that comes with having a camera in my hand. I find myself connecting with people I wouldn’t normally in ways that I wouldn’t if I had arrived on the scene empty handed. And it shows in the images.
On a side note: do you ever notice how novice photographers in public, when taking a photo of someone, always seem to take forever to press the shutter? They’re so overly-focused on trying for that perfect moment, the perfect framing, perfect distance from the subject etc, that they leave no room whatsoever for any happy accidents to occur. And if pro photographers are completely honest, there are plenty of incredible images they’ve made that, in some small or large part, were either unintentional or simply improvised on the spot.
As renowned portrait photographer Jason Bell says: ‘If a portrait turns out exactly how you’d pre-envisioned it, you’ve failed’.
And just to add to that: a confidently individual and competent style of photographic approach will always transcend technology.