This past week I had two seperate groups of red River Photo student come and interview as part of their course. I always make time for folks like this, its a great way to redefine some of my thoughts on things. I am sure both groups were a bit overwhelmed with my rants! So This 5ive will some advice I offered. In no way to a profess these to be revolutionary or original thoughts, just some I think that are important.
1. Show up
In every sense. Show up on time. Show up ready to work. Show up by returning phone calls and emails, even the ones you cringe at. Show up as a photographer, as a business person, as someone who delivers service to people. We can all rant about crappy customer service, don’t let anyone rant about you. SHOW UP! Hand out that business card,anyone asks you are a photographer. If it’s apart time thing, still own it. When people ask what you do, you aren’t a Starbucks Barista who happens to do weddings, you are a Photographer who also assists in caffeine distribution.
2. Be Prolific.
Malcom Gladwell, talks about the idea of 10,000 hours invested into something is a good start on being an expert. I think there is something in that. Be prolific means take a lot of pictures, make a lot of images. Thats 10,000 PHOTOGRAPHING, Not running PS actions, not tweaking the themes on your Tumblr or reading the forums on Flickr or obsessing about the gear on twitter. 10,000 hours with camera in hand shooting what you want to shoot. Take pictures, every day, every waking moment, with your camera, your phone, a tin can, whatever. You are a photographer, PHOTOGRAPH!
3. Know the gear, forget about the gear.
You gotta know the gear. Know the gear so well so you can forget about the gear. The females students who interviewed me laughed when I referenced this, cuz some of the guys in the class are gearheads. Gearheads are half way there. They know the gear, but at some point you need to quit talking about the gear and start using it. Find that combo that sings for you. If you make amazing images with a 85mm wide open then shoot with that. If you like 35mm at F8, then mine that! But find your thing and then USE it, to the point where using it is natural and intuitive to you. With the way the tech is now you could probably glide through a majority of stuff without knowing the gear really well. But when things go wrong, and they still can, horribly go wrong, or your faced with less than ideal conditions, knowing the gear will make things so much easier.
4. Put it your vision out there for all to see.
Its really easy to post everything you take, out there on the networks for all to see. We all love those “likes”! But spewing forth everything isn’t presenting your defined vision. Make sure your portfolio site has the work you want to do. You’ve taken the time to know the gear, find your thing now make sure we can tell what it is. Share it with anyone who can offer an opinion. I told all the students who came to see, I wanted to see their work. To date I have yet to receive an email from anyone. They could be amazing photographers, but I have no idea. (I also didn’t get a business cards from anyone, after asking for mine) Whats the harm in letting one of your peers seeing what your are working on? Unless, you don’t consider yourself to be my peer, then you need to re-read #1!
5. Never ever stop learning.
Someone asked be “when did you feel you knew enough to feel established?” I joked with him and replied 20 years. But thats kinda true. I have never stopped learning. I love to read about how people do things, I watch behind the scenes videos, I assist people, I love looking at other people’s work, even friends travel snaps. All this informed and educates me and gives me insight on where my work fits into the world. I am constantly trying things, playing with lighting, testing, trying different processing.
Like I said nothing revolutionary. If photography is your “thing” I can’t promise it’s going to be easy. In fact I will guarantee it will be hard, fraught with frustration, heartbreak, pain and suffering. But we go through all that for the other moments, where we create the the images that speak to us and other people, when we connect with our subjects, when we bring happiness to someone’s life, hopefully ours.