Some people, want to define it very narrowly and say photography is for capturing an image of reality. Fine. There are people that use the camera like an office worker uses a xerox machine. If that’s how you want to define it for yourself then that is all well and good. But that’s too narrow for the rest of the world. Likewise, there are people who use a camera like Picasso used a brush. These people are every bit an artist. So, the question really is, either what have you defined as your personal boundaries or what has your profession defined? Look at it this way, if I’m working for the National Geographic magazine they have very strict standards of what can be done with an image once it’s shot. My friend, and Nat Geo photographer, Ami Vitale told me she has to send in the raw files to her editors, completely untouched. In fact, they’re not even allowed to delete files from the card. That’s fine. If that’s the way the magazine wants to do it, and you want to work for the magazine, then you do it their way. You have a choice, their way or the highway. The fact is, there is no right or wrong when it comes to using this tool we call a camera.
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- Take a lot of pictures. Some of your photos will be keepers and capture the scene in a way you could never have imagined possible. You'll see one of Jesse's photos of the Taj Majal showing a flock of birds in flight that didn't attract his attention at first; he was too busy looking at the seven workers in the foreground.
- Have your camera always ready. Hang it on a strap around your neck, have your film or digital card loaded and primed, and know that you just might walk into something amazing. Develop the reflex to lift the camera up and start taking pictures right away.
- Look behind you - sometimes that's where the best picture might be. I love the example Jesse gives of taking a picture of a man approaching him with a water buffalo - but then he turned around and took another amazing picture of the pair walking off into the sunset. In other words, be prepared to explore all angles of your subject.
- Keep learning. Jesse talks about the need to avoid the phobia of reading and understanding every setting, button, and trick in your camera manual so you'll know what your equipment is capable of producing. The latest generation of digital cameras are sophisticated, computer-driven instruments, and mastering the owner's manual is important. I might add that once you have the technical aspects down cold, it's vital to let your creativity kick in so you direct the camera to do your bidding.
- Have fun. Photography should be about capturing the joy inside of you as you witness an amazing subject. Your photographs should transport the viewer to where you are emotionally as well as physically. Becoming a professional photographer is all about cultivating passion and enjoyment, and doing your best work in that exalted inner space.
As if by some form of blog magic, I’ve landed here with an opportunity to share all of my knowledge about marketing with you. As the Director of Marketing for the New York Institute of Photography, I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen photographers who have amazing websites and some who have less than stellar websites. I’ve even seen some with no website at all.
In today’s world, whatever your experience level, some sort of online presence is essential to success. That rule holds true for business ventures of any kind. And photographers looking to make money with their photography should learn to treat themselves as a brand, or business. Sure you’re an artist, but if you want to make a living, you’re also a businessperson.
I’ve been invited to share some of the tips and tricks I’ve picked up along with way with you, and will continue to do so until we’re all millionaires (I wish).
Lesson 1 is simple: Think of yourself as a brand.
Marketing has a tendency to take on an ugly connotation with some people, conjuring up images of sneaky advertising or annoying salesman. But what marketing is, for our sake, is the simple act of building a brand, promoting your work, and attracting the attention of potential customers.
Any good business starts with a plan, or strategy. What is the name of your business? Is it your name? Your studios name? Whatever it is, that’s where you start. That is your brand. And in future editions of this Photo Marketing 101 blog series, we will explore how to build around that brand, and expand the reach of your brand to attract attention.
Homework: Your assignment, should you choose to accept, is to brand yourself. Name your photography business. And share that name with us in the comments below.