I know. Everyone’s a damn photographer. Any weirdo willing to shell out the cash for a DSLR camera, the even more intriguing ones who think they don’t need a DSLR, and everyone with a decent smartphone or a Go Pro is suddenly a “photographer” on the side. Arguably, the amount of “models” there are now (AKA every female and a whole lot of individual members of other genders on Facebook) warrants that more photographers be born into the ecology of print work to keep proportions sustainable. With more photographer friends and Facebook acquaintances than I could possible rattle off the top of my head, I can say-from my artistic perspective-that up to several of them have no business asking people to pay neither their time, nor their money, to get their heads symbolically chopped off, their noses rendered invisible by excessive use of the “exposure” tool in cheap editing software, or worse-to never receive their footage at all.
Eh, why stomp all over their crayons? As an actor and writer, I consider myself a perpetual, creative student. Who am I to tell these budding artists that they shouldn’t be contributing to the creative entropy of the universe? Maybe they are chopping off their subjects’ heads to be ironic. Maybe those poorly lit photos of naked bodies wrapped in duct tape ARE art. With these notions, I did the unthinkable-which I always secretly wanted to do, but thought I was already putting too much energy in other sectors of the creative career sphere to pursue. Plus, I would be “mucking up the industry”.
I became a photographer. It happened in a whirlwind last Saturday. I didn’t take a class, my skills were not vetted through a trial period, and I didn’t show anybody a portfolio. A friend specifically asked for someone “decent” with a camera, and I raised my hand high-in dire need of money that wouldn’t mean working until 4am at my bar. Doing local theatre three nights a week for a month with health problems makes one do strange things. Then, there I was, snapping away gorgeous pictures of a beautiful family event for a local organization. The theme was Thanksgiving-positively forcing elements of the season (by way of colors indicative of leaf death and a turkey gutting demonstration) on a sunny, warm day in Florida (though the coordinator did so fabulously and the activities appeased children and adults alike). Also, I got paid. This means I am a pro now. This means it’s time to share my wisdom with fellow budding photographers, those who hire photographers, those who have taken a photograph, those who have been in a photograph, or just some really kind Facebook followers who want to read my two cents on an industry I have usually been on the other side of the lens to experience.
Things You’ll Need:
- An image capturing device of some kind.
Use your discretion. For time purposes, painting or etch-a-sketching (which requires a lot more talent) is not recommended. Most importantly, a legitimate camera helps you exude a sense of knowing what you’re doing, while cell phones exude a sense that you just like to collect photos of strangers-Lilo style in Lilo and Stitch, but less adorable. Speaking of creepy…
- Creep factor.
A certain degree of creepiness is required to master the art of photography where people are involved- because animals, places, and things, don’t equate secret pictures of themselves to potential danger and embarrassment as humans do (unless you count that trend of shaming disobedient dogs with signs around their neck saying what they did wrong today). As I ninja’d around the event last Saturday, I combatted the stink-eye from parents with photogenic children whom I followed for multiple shots; the abrupt turning away of less photogenic, cynical children when they caught me snapping pictures of them being happy; and the occasional awkward silence when I asked grumpy people for a posed picture. Nothing makes you feel more invasive than attempting to squeeze yourself and the brick around your neck into people’s personal bubbles of fun to capture the moments- for both their keepsake and your own selfish feelings of accomplishment when you’ve taken 500 photos, some of which you deem magazine-worthy and secretly hope that attendees will eventually frame 10 copies of for all of their relatives at Christmas.
In fact, the one photographer I see in the area the most is one of the creepiest event photographers I have ever come into contact with-over and over and over again. At numerous events throughout the area, I have had him follow me around, taking multiple candid shots of me in a single space, and pulling the anti-feminist “smile, you look so much prettier when you smile” crap repeatedly. And guess what? Some pictures he took of me are my favorite candids of myself-which is a vain way to say that he knows what he is doing. We could all learn a little something from Event Photography by Creepy McCreeperson.
I’m not saying I’m godlike and everywhere, but the other day, I might have actually gone through mitosis-split myself in half and watched the other half regenerate, one of me going outside into the courtyard to capture children popping their balloon animals faster than the stilt-walker could remake them while children watched in tears, and the other half venturing into the kitchen to document the families making a huge Thanksgiving-worthy meal to learn what goes into cooking for large groups of people. This meant stalking families in two different “food laboratories” at this nice hotel while kids got their hands dirty in dough and parents chopped onions so the kids wouldn’t have to hold giant knives. And I Got. It. All. I am still confused about why I had to wear a hair net while my hair was in a slicked-back bun and none of the other people had to, but I guess my appearance screams “lice” or “chronic shedder”. Anyway, I got four hundred something pictures that took me two days to upload onto Dropbox. I guess that is an achievement.
- Your appetite (*if it’s an event and the client is nice).
Speaking of lice and food, if you’re working an event-whether you are the photographer or the “dance motivator” (we’ll get to that later)-you might be fed. Whether or not this is a good thing depends on the venue, but as for this particular event-Amen. Thank you, and amen. Who knew tiny baby hands and CEOs could make such a bountiful feast (*with the help of a couple professional chefs)?
It was so delicious, I had no choice but to carb up despite having to wear a two piece costume at my play later that night. I looked super bloated, but I was still on a cloud of cheddar biscuits.
Of course, there are also clients who don’t realize how much food has been made by the caterer and believe that dancers and photographers and clowns and face-painters and other “creatives” are second class citizens who should watch rich people over-indulge in spinach artichoke cups and chocolate fountains while the workers starve and sweat. To each their own.
- A good eye (though two good eyes are great too).
This means a good eye for framing, balance, and lighting. This is especially important if you don’t know jack about editing. You should also have an eye for photographable moments, or you will end up with hundreds of pictures of people in clusters while making unflattering faces mid-sentence, scolding their children or spouses, or pretending they can’t tell you are getting a picture even though they can totally see you and are absolutely putting on a show like a catalogue ad.
- A loner spirit.
As an Aquarius, I am evolutionarily equipped to handle the photographer lifestyle. In social situations, I often feel like I am on the outside of a fish tank, looking in…watching basic b*&%$es and bros doing the human equivalent of seahorses “doing a little dance” as they mate (a phrase I am borrowing from a Discovery Channel special I watched as a child), or watching Betas fight to the death. This means I am especially suited to photography life despite often being the one IN the films/pictures instead. My first gig was especially trying because some of the coolest chicks I know were also helping carry out the event, socializing with each other while helping kids do crafts. I got to take pictures of it. That’s the life we chose, guys.
-Able to capture incredible photographs while overseas, using only a Kodak Easyshare from over 10 years ago (which speaks to my natural skill).
-Nonprofessional landscape photography called “breathtaking” by My Mom.
-Former owner of a Barbie polaroid camera, an “I-Zone” instant sticker camera, an Olympus digital camera with 5 whole
megapixels, and numerous Sony Cybershots before obtaining a Canon T4i a couple years ago (recalled for causing skin rashes, but I am fine).
-Family historian in a family that virtually never pauses for pictures.
-Modeling portfolio portraiture with my sister which was subsequently rejected by agencies.
Career Aptitude Test
If you are interested in becoming a photographer, I advise you to take this brief self-assessment to gage your abilities as they currently stand. I am including my own responses for comparison:
You’re a hostage. Could you use Photoshop to save your life? No
Make this photo look like she is decapitated and holding her own head.
Um. When you arrive somewhere? The opposite of “departure”?
When participating in a “time for print” OR “TFP” exchange with an aspiring “model”, what is a decent turn-around time for the agreed upon amount of edited pictures:
- 1-2 Weeks. It helps my portfolio too!
- One month. First, I have to delete 75%, because that’s my usual ratio of unfocused crap to usable images.
- 9 months. These are my babies, and I don’t want them to be ugly.
- Never. Her soul is mine.
One Correct: Myspace Level
Most of your photography experience is taking selfies in mirrors (you know it looks better outside of a bathroom and without a mirror, right?). Your smartphone is good enough. Please don’t ask for money.
Two Correct: Event Photographer
You might not have any idea how to edit or even change settings on a real camera. Lucky for you, there is an auto setting and events don’t require much editing. Mom has a black eye? Great. It was part of the moment. Part of the history. You might even get fed if you’re lucky.
Three Correct: Go-To “Photog”
Your calling card is for Hooters and Winghouse calendar submissions. Your computer is full of pictures of women in bikinis, and you’re girlfriend “doesn’t even like, care”. You might just do this full time.
Four Correct: Nat Geo Level
Call the best magazines-every time you click, it’s gold. You could photograph the Loch Ness, you expert, you.
*Disclaimer: Some of my friends are excellent photographers, and insinuations of my expertise are meant to be satirical. Still, I did a damn good job.
Let’s wrap this up with a little shameless self-promotion. Check out my photos: Gypsy with a Camera.