As a professional photographer, I am often labeled—even pigeon-holed—using simple titles like stock photographer, documentary photographer, photo-essayist or fine-art photographer. That makes sense to me, because people want a quick way of knowing who I am as a photographer, and what kind of work I can do. A student recently asked me to explain how one photographer (me), would approach one subject, and photograph that subject different ways while wearing those four different hats.
I have been taking photographs for almost four decades—mostly for money and always for myself. Over those forty years, I have slowly figured out what I wanted to ask the many photographers I encountered along the way. I have distilled this down to a list of questions that I would ask any photographer, knowing that the answers will help any photographer.
I have blogged, lectured and argued for many years that a camera is nothing more than a tool that solves a given photographer’s problem. A camera brand is not a symbol of loyalty to one kind of photography, nor is it some kind of credential for membership in some kind of “club.” The sooner each photographer starts to figure out what their particular challenges are, and which camera works for them to resolve those challenges (regardless of brand), the sooner they will start making the kind of photographs they want. Recent experience has taught me that I need to start talking the same way about the laptop computers that photographers use for digital image processing.
Most professionals (and serious photographers) working digitally, shoot RAW files. They usually do so because of the incredible degree of control and the higher image quality that comes with RAW files. Being able to correct white balance after the fact is one of the many great things about RAW files. The worst thing about RAW files, in my mind, is what I call the ongoing proprietary RAW file wars. In this blog entry, I will talk about what you need to know to stay clear of the RAW format wars.
Someone recently asked for a “super basic lesson on flash” in, as they said, “one or two steps.” When I say flash, I mean supplementary light that is being used when documenting people, places or things as they are presented to you. I am NOT talking about studio work, where you can control the light and the subject. I am talking about when the photographer has to react to the subject and the light as they are given.
For the last two weeks of December and most of January, I was on the road for work, fun and family reasons. I learned a few new things—and reconfirmed a few old ones—while I worked in different parts of India and Vietnam, and spent some time in Singapore. Always the teacher, I was watching my own photographing process to see if there were any lessons worth sharing. One thing struck me as a potentially interesting lesson for any serious photographer.
I've been making photographs since 1972, when I purchased my first SLR, a Canon F-1 and in the decades since I have exposed millions of frames of film. With the advent of digital, I make even more images thanks to the instant feedback on the camera’s viewing screen where I can evaluate the photograph and then continue shooting until I get it right.
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