I haven’t posted to my blog in quite some time. Since last October, I believe. Eleven months. It’s not that I haven’t anything to say, I do. A lot. But sometimes finding the right words isn’t easy, and I would like to believe that what I write about has some meaning to it, instead of just babbling on.
Over the last 11 months I have begun to notice something interesting about some of my fellow photographers, and I find this particular thing somewhat upsetting. Over the last year or so, I have met several photographers who have taken the attitude that if there’s no one paying them to shoot photos, they won’t even pick up the camera. It would seem that some of them lack passion. Passion for photography. Passion for creating images.
I remember meeting a young lady at church one Sunday. She had with her a very nice DSLR with a 70-200mm lens. She explained that she was there to shoot a friend’s child being baptized. I asked her what she liked to shoot when she wasn’t being paid.
“Nothing?” I asked.
“Nothing. I don’t pick up a camera if I’m not being paid.”
I think this is one of the saddest things ever.
And I also think, “you call yourself a professional _______ (fill in the blank) photographer, yet, when I ask what else you like to shoot, your answer is, ‘nothing.’”
I also thought (but did not say), “You could just as easily be a truck driver. Most trucking companies will not only supply you with a uniform, they’ll give you all the tools you need to do your job (i.e., the truck), and the pay is steadier, too.”
Not too long after that I met another photographer who said the same thing — no money, no shooting. I wondered if either of these people had hobbies . . .
I have a friend who moved to NYC a number of years ago, where he set up a studio, and started hiring himself out. He had quite a successful little business for quite some time, then decided he’d had enough of the rat race, and moved back here. Within a short time after moving back, he sold all of this gear — cameras, lenses, lights, all of it. He was done shooting photos. Why? “No business.” The last time I saw him, he was no longer interested in shooting anything, ever.
Out of fairness, I have to say that I actually do kinda understand, a little. Not a lot, but a little, especially in his case. Before I became a professional photographer, I worked in theatre — crews, lighting/set designer, production manager. Did that for a long time, and I must confess that it became just plain work. Hard work, to the point that these days I don’t care to even see a concert or a play unless there is something extremely compelling about it. I just don’t care. I was burned out. So I understand other people getting burned out. But when I hear people who aren’t old enough to have been a professional photographer for more than a few years (or as little as a few months) say they aren’t interested in shooting unless they are being paid, well, it’s not burn out. There is something else going on there.
I believe it’s a lack of passion — for photography.
Alternatively, I recently reconnected with an old friend who moved to the west coast 30 odd years ago, right after he photographed my wedding. Hell of a photographer. He specializes in architecture photography, along with headshots and portraits. And he’s a hell of a photographer. He recently moved back here to OKC, and the very first time we sat down for a chat, he was immediately asking when we could go shooting. So we set a date, and went out and shot some blue-hour images around a section of town known as Bricktown.
It was fun, and during the course of the evening, we chatted about shooting, and business, and this and that. It became apparent that I may have found in him one of the very few people I’ve ever met who is as passionate about photography as I am. Possibly more so.
See, I can’t think of maybe one or two things I’d rather do than shoot photos. And I don’t care what the subject is: wildlife, architecture, people, landscapes, still-lifes, sports . . . If I can see it in a viewfinder (these days, an EVF), I want to shoot photos of it. The subject isn’t important. It’s the idea that I’m creating photos that matters.
And my old friend feels the same way.
But consider this: the more you shoot — any subject — the better a photographer you’ll become when you shoot whatever someone is paying you to shoot. Shooting wildlife may not seem like it has much in common with shooting toddlers, but if nothing else, it sharpens your senses, and increases your reaction time to events that are unfolding in front of you. It makes you more aware of how your camera works, and how to get the best results from a myriad of different shooting styles, situations, and subjects. As a matter of fact, I really believe that shooting subjects you aren’t crazy about or know nothing about will make you better at shooting your favorite things.
I think some of these photographers need to ask themselves one simple question — why did you get into photography to begin with? Was it because photography seemed easy (the best ones will tell you it takes some serious work)? Was it because it looked like a good way to make a few bucks (even the best supplement their photo income by teaching photography).
Or was it because you discovered (often by accident) that looking in a viewfinder and capturing a spectacular image was the thrill of a lifetime?
I think we all need to invigorate our passion for photography. Take your camera with you everywhere you go. Shoot anything, even things that make no sense to you. Actively try to be a better photographer, regardless of what is in front of your camera.
I promise, if you don’t become passionate about your work, your clients will see your lack of passion, and after a while, your business will suffer.
Don’t be like those first three friends I mentioned. Be like the last one — be passionate. Shoot because you love it. Shoot like your life depends on it.