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DPChallenge Forums >> Business of Photography >> Helping out with a HS project
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02/22/2017 01:18:13 PM · #1
I recently had the pleasure of another long-time member reaching out to me for some help. The son of a friend of his is taking a photography class in high school and was given an assignment to interview two working professional photographers. Of course I was glad to oblige.

Shortly afterwards, I received a nice, polite email from this young man with the following questions. Just thought I would share here.

1. How did you discover photography, how did you get into it?

Originally posted by skip:

Even though I grew up around cameras (both my parents were snapshooters...I cannot imagine what my childhood would have been like if they had had access to digital photography!), my first real exposure was through my high school yearbook. We had our own darkroom and I was able to use the school's camera as much as I wanted. Forty years later I'm still hooked!

While I've only been shooting full-time, professionally for a bit over 10 years, I have been a life-long student of the art. I took correspondence courses, bought books, subscribed to magazines, read newspapers, and shot a ton. Anything to improve my skillset. Because it was (and is) expensive, I had to focus on the "art of photography" rather than the "equipment of photography".

2. I looked at your website and saw that you have worked for a lot of different companies in a lot of different areas. For example, the Richmond Folk Festival, how do you land jobs like these? As well as do you have other photographers working with you or are you shooting solo?

Originally posted by skip:

Great questions! To answer them, let me first say that when it comes to the business of photography, there are basically two types of photographers: those that want to get paid, and those that do get paid. I'm not talking about picking up odd jobs here and there, or working nights and weekends because you have a day job. I'm talking about working enough for it to be your living, enough to support you and your family. To do that it means spending more time away from the camera than behind it, because business is more than just doing the work: its making sales, sending invoices, paying bills all sorts of non-photography related stuff that has to be done in order to stay in business.

Yes, it starts with a solid portfolio that shows you are capable of more than getting lucky. But after your first few jobs, it's about selling yourself. That means being able to connect with strangers and develop personal relationships. It means mastering the art of customer service. It means making yourself more than just a person with a camera. It means building a reputation for showing up, on time, and consistently delivering what is expected of you when its expected. You don't get paid to get lucky - you get paid to produce results.

About the Folk Festival. The National Council for Traditional Arts picked Richmond to host the National Folk Festival from 2005-2007 in hopes of seeding a permanent festival (as it has in many cities across the country over the past 75+ years). During the second year, 2006, I was part of the team of photographers covering the event for the local daily paper, the Richmond Times-Dispatch; even though I was a freelancer, I managed to produce most of the photos that ran in the paper over the course of the three day event, including two front-page photos. Shortly afterwards the festival director contacted me to see if I would be interested in shooting for the festival. That was over 10 years ago and it's still one of my favorite gigs.

As to the second question, most of the time I am shooting solo. Sometimes, I will have a second shooter, sometimes I will have multiple shooters, and sometimes I will have not only shooters, but also an on-site librarian and a printing team. It really depends on how much a client needs and when they need it.

3. What has been your greatest accomplishment as a photographer?

Originally posted by skip:

To pass my passion on to my children. My daughter started shooting for me when they were in the 10th grade, 5 years ago, and now makes most of their spending money shooting portraits. After college, they're planning on spending a few years freelancing. Check out lexarowland.com ! My son is a college freshman, studying film with an intent to make movies. I'm absolutely thrilled to see what they create.

Beyond that, it's not as much about accomplishment as it is a continual effort to inspire others. If I can help someone tell their story or help someone find their way, I feel I'm making progress.

4. If you had to choose one picture that stands out to you/is special to you which one would you choose and why?

Originally posted by skip:

This photo was one simple moment in my kid's lives. Dancing on a sand dune at sunset. I captured it. 1/250 of one second. A moment.

A single, frozen moment that launched my career as a professional photographer.

How so? When it was picked as a Kodak Picture of the Day, I sent a press release to the local papers where I lived, got interviewed, got asked if I would like to shoot professionally, and got some opportunities. With each opportunity given, I set out to make the most of it, to prove I was worth the risk. If not for daisy chaining from that one image, we probably wouldn't be having this conversation today.

One other photo is the swimmer. That image ran as a full-page photo on the front page of a local weekly newspaper and was picked as non-daily photo of the year by the Viriginia Press Association back in 2006.

5. What is the best advice you can give to a young photographer?

Originally posted by skip:

Study art. Study composition, lighting, color, motion. Study photography in real life - magazines, books, newspapers. Find images that you want to emulate then try it until you figure it out. Remember: your vision and skill are more important than the equipment.

Shoot with a purpose and be able to articulate that purpose. Be able to talk about your art and what you are trying to do. If you can't explain yourself, you are not likely going to be taken seriously.

Always be shooting. Pay attention to what you are doing and learn what works and what doesn't.

And lastly, and most importantly, do not be afraid to ask for help. If you can show that you are trying and have gone as far as you can by yourself, reach out to someone who has already done what you are trying to do. Even if you have to ask more than one person, don't give up.


Message edited by author 2017-02-22 13:23:52.
02/22/2017 01:28:09 PM · #2
Originally posted by Skip:

Of course I was glad to oblige.

Of course ... great info, as usual. However, in Section 5 you forgot to add "join DPC and enter and comment on every challenge." :-)

You might send a ticket to Langdon and see if he can get this added to the "official" Photographer Interview section here ...
02/22/2017 02:02:07 PM · #3
That's very thoughtful, Skip.
02/22/2017 02:33:52 PM · #4
Very cool, Skip. Interesting questions and answers. I appreciate all the information you share on photography and the business of photography.
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