As a photographer, it is very normal to go through periods of time where you don’t do any photography for yourself. If you’re doing projects for other people all week full-time, there can be little leftover for yourself. The work I do as a scientific photographer is very important, so a for a period of time I was fine focusing on just that. I lived by the motto of “Don’t be lazy.” Laziness could result in not getting data and often it doesn’t take that much more work to give the customer a high quality product. Endurance is key to the success in almost any field, and I needed to put my customers photographic needs above my own.
This can be very confusing for people who learn that I’m a photographer, because I don’t carry a camera with me 24/7. The mindset of people who enjoy photography as a hobby and professionals are not the same. Photographic gear is also not a novelty to me, it’s a tool. I don’t keep or buy old cameras- that’s not a useful tool to me as a professional. I need to spend money on changing technology that will keep me relevant in my career. I don’t carry my camera with me everywhere because I take the time to think about and plan for composing a shot. It is the difference of a painter and someone who doodles. I admit, sometimes that doodle looks pretty nice- but it’s on binder paper and you’re not going to make any money off that.
But when and where to begin again when you’ve been consumed by work? I live in a place I would describe as exhaustingly beautiful. A weekend day trip in the area to take photos is not as trivial as it may sound. The challenge? Do something different that hasn’t been done before. Tourists coming from all over the world just to take photos here. It was a hurdle that I felt overcome by for a while until the 6.4 and 7.1 earthquakes shook our town. Yes, I live in Ridgecrest and you now know where that is. And no, the aftershocks aren’t over yet.
I apparently needed the whole earth to shake me to snap me out of it. I was trapped in a way. The quakes broke me free of that and I have adopted a new motto, “So what?” This might sound like a pessimistic outlook, but applied appropriately it can be a positive impact because you don’t care what others think. This place, angle, season, and time of day may have been done before- but so what? The act of getting out there and just taking photos is enough to open up the possibilities of doing something that is captured in your own style or find something else unexpected.
Composition with Text
Ever look thru the viewfinder and think, “There’s something missing...” and not take the photo? Sometimes this is a good thing because we want to be conscious about the quality that we are producing, but other times you can be missing out on an opportunity. I had a photo teacher during college who was always quick to give feedback during class critiques. But once he gave pause when one of my photos popped up as the next slide in the carousel. “This may look like an image with too much foreground,” he said, “but it’s actually very intelligently done. Leaving room for a graphic designer to add text is the difference between getting your photo chosen for a cover and not.” This wisdom to leave room for the graphic designer has stuck with me throughout my career and helped me be a successful photographer. Something missing? Embody the new motto: “So what?” Ask yourself again, is the area that’s missing something uniform enough that you could place text there and it could easily be read? If so, you might have yourself a winner. In my experience, a cover photo pays 4-6 times more than a photo on the inside of the magazine. And that’s just for magazines- graphic designers make things for ads, billboards, trade show signs, packaging, and more. So maybe that nothing photo is actually $1,200.
My first major exercise has been to take photos and create my own text to go with them for different applications. I chose to use yellow-gold color to give it a classic California look and founds fonts online using Adobe Typekit.