First, I want to thank Scott for inviting me to be his guest blogger for the second time here at Photoshop Insider. It’s always an honor and a pleasure to make his accommodation. Also, let me say that today’s post in no way reflects the views of “this station.” Today’s post is meant to be more than a social observation, but rather a revelation of what’s happening in the field of wedding photography today, why it happened, and what can wedding photographers do about it. It may seem to be a “Doom and Gloom” read but is not meant to be. It is meant rather to be an “eye opening” read that I hope shakes all sense of complacency from our bones, and fires us up to do something about the current state of affairs.
As I researched and wrote this post, I was amazed by the confluence of circumstances that have completely changed how most wedding photographers have done business for years. Most amazing was the speed at which these confluences collided and changed things in just a matter of 24-36 months! And all these changes mean that we must do business in a brand new way if we wish to succeed.
This post is meant to be Part 1 of a two part post. The reason, as I continued my research and writing I was topping out over 2,900 words and I still had about 1,500 to go – whew! So, although most of this post reads like “Doom and Gloom” for wedding photography, I scatter tiny rays of hope throughout. Part 2, to be entitled “Dreams and Opportunities” or something like that ;) , will point wedding photography readers towards concrete strategies about how to grow their wedding photography business stronger and better than ever!
I hope you enjoy today’s read in the social observation context in which it was written. Read on if you dare….
My name is Ted Waitt, and I’m an editor at Peachpit Press / New Riders. Since 2004, I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with Scott Kelby, as well as his extremely talented and hardworking team in Florida.
For many years now, Scott’s blog has been the first thing I read every day—and I suspect I’m not alone. I’d like to thank Scott for the opportunity to blog here. And I’d like to publicly thank him for all of the opportunities that working with him has afforded me over the years. Thank you, Scott.
I’ve had a DSLR for just under three years now. I don’t shoot nearly as much as I’d like, but I do venture out in San Francisco somewhat frequently. These solo, meandering photo walks are often as much about taking pictures as they are a chance to just get out of the house and see the city. Often I return home empty-handed, so to speak, but that’s okay. And every once in a while, I come back with a decent shot.
About a month ago, a former colleague recommended me to a friend who was starting a holiday photo blog called Photo Advent. The idea behind the blog was to get someone to contribute one image each day—along with a “lesson learned”—as a kind of holiday gift to the photo community. I agreed to do it, though it seemed a bit of a stretch that I’d have much of a lesson to give, and I haven’t ever really shared my photos much beyond posting them to Flickr.
I honestly thought the post would go up, a friend might see it, and that would be it. Well, that’s exactly what happened…except the friend was Scott! He liked the shot and asked me if I’d repost here as a guest blog. So, without further ado, here’s that post (slightly edited):
Metadata: ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec., 17mm on a Canon 17–40mm f/4, Canon 40D
This is the first image I ever asked permission to take, and it was one of the first shots where I had started to become conscious of the direction and quality of light. It was August in the Mission in San Francisco. I went out for a walk with my camera late in the afternoon. I had no particular direction in mind, but noticed that the light was low and strong, so I suspected I’d be shooting either in open shade on the west side of the street (in, for example, the shade of a building) or with that hard, directional light if shooting the east side of the street.
For me, what usually happens in a situation like this is one of two things: either a) you take exactly zero shots and, within an hour, find yourself succumbing to the open door of a bar; or b) you take a bunch of crappy shots, knowing you’ll go home, import them (“Maybe something will look good on that big monitor”), delete them all, and then head to the bar.
But eventually, persistence pays off. If you go for enough walks, you will eventually, definitely get some shots. Walking up Harrison, I saw three guys around 20th, on the east side of the street, jumping their bikes from a ramp onto a loading dock in that half-industrial, half-residential space between the Mission and Potrero Hill. They were all a bit older than one might suspect—20s to early 30s. (But then again, it’s San Francisco, where age seems almost always irrelevant.) I watched them for a couple minutes, then decided to approach one of them and see if they’d mind if I took a few pictures. What the hell, right? They decided that one of the guys, who called himself Moody, would be the best subject—as he could get the highest on the jump. (By the way, Moody looked a lot like Will Oldham.)
All I knew was that I wanted a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, and that I’d have to shoot in continuous “burst” mode to increase the chances of capturing Mr. Moody at the height of his jump and in an interesting composition. So I switched to Shutter Priority mode and dialed in 1/500 of second—which, after looking at the shots of the first jump, ended up being not quite fast enough. Increasing the shutter to 1/1000 of a second worked (though it couldn’t’ve hurt to go a bit faster; the shot is still a bit soft…). I shot another jump, showed the guys the back of the LCD, and—with the exaggerated effect of the wide angle making it look more dramatic than it really was—they became somewhat interested. The shot here came on the third and last jump I shot. (I didn’t want to take too much of their time.) I grabbed Moody’s email address and sent him the shot later that night.
The lessons here are: a) Just look around and consciously make note of the light—the hard light creating the hard shadow on the wall is what, for me, makes this shot; and b) approach people. Seeing the light quickly gets easier and easier, but walking up to someone is still difficult for me; I approach only about 5–10% of the people I would really like to shoot. But it gets easier, too, and the worst thing that can happen is they say no. You’ll get exactly what you would’ve gotten had you not approached them to begin with: nothing.
On second thought, I suppose the worst thing that could happen is that you’ll get robbed, shot, and left to bleed out on the sidewalk, but the chances of that are probably pretty low, one would think.
So that’s pretty much it. Thanks again to Scott for the opportunity to share the post and the picture!
Here’s the ol’ Twitter handle if you’re so inclined: @TedWaitt. And if you’d like to check out a few more shots, here’s a small, fairly random set on Flickr.
And, of course, be sure to check out all of Peachpit’s great stuff at peachpit.com ;)
It is an honor to be back here on Scott’s blog. The last time I was here the guest blogger idea was in it’s infancy and a lot has happened since then…. but some things have stayed the same.
My guest blog post in 2008 was centered around shooting Billy Idol in concert, so I though it would be cool to share the experiences I’ve had with them since then. I have been lucky enough to shoot Billy Idol five times in 2010. This blog post has to do with how that became possible and how it led to being able to photograph Billy Morrison at the release of his signature Gibson Les Paul at NAMM this last weekend.
It really is a very simple concept. I only show my best work.
It sounds easy enough in theory, but in reality it can be real tough to do. It’s tough to step back from the time and energy involved in shooting and just pick out the best image from the show. Now, if I am shooting for a wire service or a music website or magazine, I will submit more than one image depending on what was asked for. This one shot is the image that I will try to get to the musician. I am looking for the image that they will like, that will get a reaction from them. Musicians see a lot of photos of themselves, what I want to do is make sure that the image they see from me stands out.
Before I get in the actual editing process, I want to talk about Billy Idol, Steve Stevens and Billy Morrison. In 2008 I was able to photograph the opening night of the Billy Idol tour in San Diego. After the show was over, I edited my images and sent a few of the very best to the person who got me the photo pass. These included a shot of Billy Idol and one of Steve Stevens. These images were then shown to the band members and the next thing I knew, Steve Stevens (Billy Idol’s lead guitar player and collaborator on some of his biggest hits) was inviting me to photograph the band again in Hollywood later that year (which was the subject of the previous guest post). Since that time I have kept in contact with Steve, and when Billy went back out on the road in 2010 I was able to photograph the Southern California dates.
During the summer of 2010 I shot three shows, and the first thing I noticed was that this was not the same band I shot in 2008. There were some additions to the band, most noticeable to me was Billy Morrison on rhythm guitar. The really enjoyable thing about photographing a band like Billy Idol is that it is so visual. Each member has a great look and are not afraid to act like rock stars. After the shows were over, I made sure to send the best photos on to Steve and asked that he share them with the band. The images made their way to Billy Morrison and he had contacted me to let me know that he really liked them. That just makes my day. It’s a great feeling when the subjects like my photos of them. Just plain makes me feel good.
Lucky for me, Billy Idol decided to play a couple more shows in Southern California in December of 2010 and once again I was able to photograph them. By this time I was in contact with Steve Stevens and Billy Morrison directly. When the shows were done, I sent them both images from the shows. The email I got back from Billy is one of my all time favorite responses to my work I have ever got. He loved the shot I sent him. I would reprint that email here, but due to the Rock ‘n Roll nature of the language I think it’s safer to just say that he really liked the shot.
Here is the key… it was just one image. Not a slew of good images with one great one in the middle, but a single image. From there we talked about shooting opportunities and usage for the shot he loved. For example, it was used along with a Steve Stevens photograph for a press release by AKG Microphones.
That brings us to The NAMM Show (National Association of Music Merchants), a show held each January in Anaheim. It’s not open to the public, but it is the place for music manufacturers to show off their goods to music buyers. This includes a lot of signings and endorsements, and this year included the release of the Billy Morrison signature Gibson Les Paul guitar.
So there I was in the Gibson room with Billy as he gets to see and play a production model of his signature guitar for the first time ever. All of this from just making sure I showed my best work. (For more on Billy and his new guitar, click here.)
I think the best moment for me personally was watching as fans came up to ask for Billy’s autograph, and the photo he pulled out to sign was the one I had sent him.
So how do I pick that one image?
First, I import all the images using Photo Mechanic.
I then start looking at the images as I import them, full screen. I find that Photo Mechanic is by far the fastest program for doing this.
I go with my gut feeling on the first round, just picking the images that stand out. It might be the lights, or the pose, or a look in the subject’s eyes, but I don’t think too much about it. It’s either good enough or it isn’t. This is by far the fastest part of the sorting process. I never spend more than a few seconds with each image. For some shows, this means picking 10% of the images, other times it is closer to 40%. I am not too worried about picking too many since I know I will be culling images again in Lightroom.
The next step is to select all the picked images and I copy them into a new folder called Picks. I then import these images into Lightroom. This makes my catalog easier to deal with since it only has the images I think are worth editing. I now apply a preset to the images that turns on the lens correction and applies Noise Reduction of 20 Luminance.
My next step is to go through the images and crop where needed to make sure that the composition is what I wanted. I tend to shoot a little wide and usually have to crop each image a little. This only takes a few seconds per image, but now I can start to go through the images and start really narrowing down the picks.
In the Library module of Lightroom, I select the first image, press E for loupe mode, then Shift+Tab to hide all the panels except for the main screen, and press L twice so that the screen is black. Now I start to look through the images with a more critical eye. When I see a shot I like, I press P to mark the image as a pick.
Once I have gone through all the images, I press L to bring up the lights, and G to see the images in a grid. Now I select all the images that have been marked as picks and create a collection of them. These are the best of the best and will be the web gallery on my website or submitted to the client.
It is from these images that I still need to pick the single best shot. To do this, I ask myself a simple question; does this image portray the musician in a way that I think they want to be portrayed? That usually makes it easier to get the selection process down to a small handful of images and then it is a matter of looking hard to decide which is the best.
I have to tell you that sometimes this process is easy. There are shows I have shot that the minute I pressed the shutter release button I knew that I had that one shot. I wish it was that way for every show but it isn’t.
I have found in speaking to many photographers that this is one of the hardest things to do. They take great photographs, then dilute the images by showing too many. It is one of the hardest things to do and the only way to make it easier is to practice.
So that’s it! Thanks for reading, and I hope you got something out this.
For more on Concert Photography, check out the Kelby Training class I did with Scott Diussa. If you are planning on joining us at Photoshop World in Orlando, Scott Diussa and I are teaching a concert photography pre-conference workshop with a live band, which you can sign up for right here!
“Terry have you ever done a post or video on your photo storage workflow?”
This was a question one of my Adobe Colleagues, Tim asked me last month and after a few moments of blank stares I replied, “hmm, um, no.” The reason this caught me off guard is that while I have certainly talked about photography, computers and the importance of backup over the years on my own blog, I haven’t really put it all together specifically for photographers. I thought this might be a timely topic for my guest spot here. This is also the time where I have to give one of those Scott Kelby like disclaimers and say “This is MY workflow. It’s the way I do it. I understand that your workflow and requirements may be different. So take it for what it’s worth.”
Your digital images are your negatives – PROTECT THEM!
Let’s start with what happens at the shoot
My interests are primarily around portrait, fashion and glamour photography. This means that I’m either shooting on location or in my studio. If it’s the latter then 99% of the time I’m shooting tethered into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 running on my MacBook Pro. If I’m on location then chances are I’m shooting to a memory card in my camera. In either case I don’t leave the shoot without doing a backup. If I shot tethered to my laptop then the images are on my internal hard drive. That’s not good enough. Why? Because what if my drive crashes or becomes corrupted before I get home? What if my laptop is stolen between the studio and my trip home? Not likely, but I don’t chance it. I plug in a portable external Firewire 800 hard drive and copy the shoot folder over to it while I’m tearing down/packing up my gear. I think the longest it has ever taken is about 7 minutes. For me that 7 minutes is peace of mind. Either put the drive in a separate bag or in your pocket so that it’s not with your computer in case of theft (yes I’m paranoid and you should be too. How many hours did you just spend on that shoot?). If I shot to the card then I back up the card to a portable backup device such as the iPad with the Camera Connection Kit (see my review here), HyperDrive Color Space (see my review here) or the outrageously expensive, but very good display of the Epson P6000. Then I head home for more fun.
Have you ever lost or misplaced a Model Release Form?
Although I haven’t lost one, I did have a heck of a time finding one recently. It was over a year old and someone want to purchase one of my photos to use for a tutorial and patent application. I finally found the “paper” form and immediately scanned in all the rest of them. Now I no longer use paper release forms. I do them on my iPad instead. This way a copy of the signed form gets emailed to the model (or property owner) and myself. Once I get back to my computer I move it to my server for digital safe keeping.
The App I use on the iPad (works on iPhone and iPod touch too) is called Easy Release and you can get it here from the
If you’re looking for an App that is completely customizable for all kinds of forms then I would go with Contract Maker Pro here from the
Signing with a finger is cool looking, but get a stylus! Your model/property owner will appreciate it more. This is the one I use.
Also check out my other favorite iPad Apps for photographers here.
Review, Edit, Retouch and Distribute
The next step in my process is to go through the shoot and immediately kill the bad shots. I use the Reject flag in Lightroom 3 for this. If you’re using Star ratings, these would be the 1 Star images (unless you’re one of the backwards thinking people that believe 1 Star is the best :) In your case these would be the 5 star images – BTW, how was that 1 star restaurant you went to or the 1 star hotel you stayed in? I’m just joking. Put down the keyboard, back away. It was just a joke.) The rejects are the ones not suitable for anyone’s eyes. These are the mistakes, out of focus or otherwise horrible shots. The ones that remain are the ones that I choose my favorites from as well as provide to the client to review via the web (see my choice of Lightroom client review web template here). Before creating that web gallery I do convert my Nikon RAW files (.NEF) into DNG format. I do this with one command in Lightroom and yes I do replace the original RAW files (remember my disclaimer above?). I’ve done it this way for several years and have yet to ever miss the proprietary .NEF files.
Another Backup Has Happened in The Background – The minute I get home and open my laptop another backup kicks in automatically and wirelessly. Because I’m on a Mac with Mac OS X 10.6.x Snow Leopard, there is a native automatic backup solution that backs up any changes to my drive every hour. That solution of course is called “Time Machine.” I have a 1TB hard drive connected to my Mac mini file server (more on that in a minute) that serves as a network Time Machine backup. So even while I’m working on the shoot that I just did it’s being backed up AGAIN. Now I have the images in at least 3 places for the time being.
You’re Happy and the Client is Happy – Now What?
I’ve talked about this in the past and even recorded a video on how I handle it. See it below. The question becomes, what do you do with the hundreds of photos you snapped that no one wanted? Again I know that everyone’s situation is different. I also know that some of you may even be contractually obligated to hold on to every frame you captured. I would dare say though that most of us don’t have those restrictions. Here’s the situation: Let’s say you did a shoot and you kept 300 shots from it. You picked out the 10 favorites that you will use. Let’s say the client picked 20 and paid you. Now you’re left with 270 shots that no one chose. You didn’t want them. They didn’t want them. By the way in all my years of shooting I have NEVER had a client come back and say, “hey, you know that shot that made my nose look funny or my belly stick out? Well I want that one now.” It has never ever ever happened to me. I found that I was holding on to thousands and thousands of images that no one would ever ask for and that I would probably never go through again. Even out of the 10 or so favorites that I picked, chances are that I would only use a couple of them. If I ever needed a “different look” from that shoot, I could just pick another one from my favorites. Also remember that you typically show people your BEST work right? When do you ever go back and dig up the second or third best shots to show?
That’s right! I said it. Delete them (see my disclaimer above before you argue your particular situation). Really? yes DELETE THEM. When you actually choose to delete them, is up to you. However, ultimately you’re better off by deleting them. If deleting them right away makes you squimish then decide WHEN you should delete them. Six months later, one year later, whatever it is, DELETE THEM!
For my Lightroom brothers and sisters out there I have a way to identify which ones to delete. I built a Smart Collection to keep a constant watch on the photos that no one choose. Here’s the video on how I did it:
Now that you’re left with the keepers where do they go?
At this point I’ve done all that I’m going to do with these photos. The client is happy. I’m happy and I left with how many ever photos that I’ve retouched or tweaked on my MacBook Pro hard drive. After a while of doing this my drive space is going to dwindle. So it’s time to MOVE them to another more permanent location. I treat my MacBook Pro as my work in progress machine. Once the shoot is complete and I’m moving on to the next shoot, I need to move those photos off to another location. This is where my Server comes in. I have a Mac mini running Mac OS X Server with a Drobo Firewire 800 attached. This server has Terabytes of space in it and no matter how much current storage I have, I know that I’m going to need more in the future.
Your need for space is never ending. You might as well accept that fact.
I had to come to the realization that as a photographer I’m going to constantly be ADDING to my collection of photos presumably for the rest of my life. Think about it. You are always going to be taking photos and even if you only kept 20 photos from every shoot, you’re probably going want access to each set of those 20 photos for life. They are your memories. Client work may be different. You probably want to archive those shots, However, for me I kinda treat them as one in the same. In other words if I do portrait session for a paying client, I will probably still have my favorites from that shoot as well as their favorites. Some may actually make it in to my portfolio. Therefore I want access to my best shots at all times. I don’t Archive! Nope, I don’t store client shots any differently than I do my personal ones. Managing multiple archives is more hassle for me than it’s worth.This is why I went with a Drobo. Before Drobo I was just using the largest hard drives available at the time and of course backing them up. Each drive would last me a year or two before I would need to increase my storage space. This is when the pain would come in because it would require being down for a day while I restored all of my files onto the new larger drive. That pain was cured for me with a Drobo. This is because I can simply Add/Replace the drives with Bigger Drives without shutting down or stopping the work.
Time to move the shoot folder from my MacBook Pro to my Server/Drobo
The remaining shots get moved over my network from my laptop to my server. I keep the catalogs on my MacBook Pro as I constantly use them and add more photos to them (unless I created a projected specific catalog for a project that then gets moved to the Drobo as well). The next time I fire up the Lightroom Catalog it will ask where the photos are (by displaying question marks on the thumbnails) and I simply point one of them to the new location of the photos on my server and Lightroom relinks all of the ones in that folder.
Lastly, I backup the Drobo every night and I have an offsite copy too
Drobos are GREAT protection for drive failure AND they give you the ability to increase your storage on the fly with little to no down time. However, what Drobos don’t protect you from is file corruption, accidental deletion and viruses. Let’s say you accidentally drag a folder over to your Drobo that just happened to have the same name as a folder already there. Yes the operating system will ask you if you want to replace the folder or not and while you meant to click NO, you accidentally clicked YES. Now that older folder is GONE! There isn’t a thing Drobo will do to help you in that case. However, if you have a backup you can restore the folder.
How in the heck do you back up a Drobo?
Luckily for me my storage needs have yet to exceed the current capacity of the largest single volume drives (2 TBs) available. Since I don’t have more than 2TBs of data on my Drobo I can backup to the entire Drobo to a single 2TB external Firewire 800 drive. As a matter of fact I have TWO of these. I backup the Drobo each night using the Smart Update Feature of SuperDuper!, which only backs up the changes as needed. One drive is connected for the nightly backup and I rotate between the two drives each week between home and my safe deposit box at the bank. OK, I’m lying. I wish it were every week, but it’s more like when I remember to do it or get paranoid. In any case I have a duplicate copy of my Drobo and all my files and photos at the bank. If you think backing up a Drobo is overkill, read about my experience here. If my storage needs ever exceed the largest single drives available then I would order a second Drobo to back up the main one and then just rotate the drives from the Backup Drobo with ones in the Safe Deposit box.
The Bottom Line
I don’t proclaim my workflow to be the end all be all workflow for everyone to adopt. My goal here was to simply share what I do and why I do it. Take from it what you need and leave what you don’t need. I’ve used this method for years now and it has worked well and have the years of photos to show for it. Also by becoming more disciplined about what I keep and don’t keep, my storage requirements don’t increase as quickly as they once did.
You might not have been aware of it, but ever since the first moment you thought about getting into photography, you’ve been an explorer. And ever since the first time you put that camera to your eye, you’ve been exploring science and mechanics, physics, emotions, the psyche, yourself, and you probably didn’t even know it. And it’s this exploration that brings us all the rewards that communicating with our fellow man can bring and it’s a lot. And as with any form of communication, sometimes the message doesn’t quite get across the way we intended. This sends us back to looking for more answers, exploring still further with our camera. I can think of no grander pursuit!
How can I, a fellow explorer, help you on your journey? The pressure is on, to write a post that accomplishes more than just fill a web page. It’s really no different than the pressure of when you put your camera to your eye and you go click (we all know that one). The quest for perfection is an awfully powerful one. It pushes our explorations probably more than any other factor. The funny thing to me is I’ve never seen a definition for the perfect photograph. I have for good ones, bad ones, great ones, favorites and especially those that suck. But I’ve never seen one for the perfect photograph. That begs the question then. What are we striving for in our photographs? Where are our explorations supposed to take us in the end? I’m literally starting my 31st year today being behind a camera full-time and I’m just as scared, excited, curious and in love today as I was my first year. And that’s all because as any explorer will tell you, a map is only as good as the person who drew it. Problem is, we have no map or it’s inaccurate so every day is an adventure!
When it’s a cloudy, rainy day, the one thing we tend to long for is the sunshine. (I firmly believe some of the worst weather brings out some of the best photography.) During a power outage, our instinct is to instantly grab a flashlight and turn it on. We make fun of moths heading to the flame and going down in flames in the process, but we’re not so different. We love and are drawn to light in all its shades, colors, emotions and complexities. It’s a science we explore (and at times curse) every bloody time we pick up the camera. And it’s an aspect of photography that requires a lifetime of exploration to master. There is no easy answer when it comes to light. More than a meter, a histogram, a curve can read, light is something that you first have to feel deep inside to begin to bring it out in your photography. (You might wanna check out my book Captured, which has a chapter on just this topic.)
That feeling then must be translated with the science of exposure so it reaches out and grabs the viewer of your photograph. The problem with the science of exposure as I’m sure you’ve experienced is it often leaves us flat. At the very least, it can take the fun out of photography thinking about all that Clipping and Zones and stuff they say you are supposed to worry about. Perhaps putting a mood to exposure might make it simpler and your photography more meaningful. Exposure = emotion, no matter how you clip a highlight or bury a shadow, if you expose to evoke a feeling, can you really go wrong? Sure you can, hence the perfect exposure eludes us some of the time because emotion is something we tend to keep buried deep inside of ourselves, safe from others. We put labels like “blown out highlights” or “lost in the shadows” when a photograph’s exposure doesn’t work, but to the lay person who doesn’t know these terms, they simply have either a positive or negative reaction to our photograph. Tap into the viewer’s emotions and your exposure will always be as perfect as we can get! Most photographers don’t learn this until way too late in their explorations, which means you might wanna try it sooner rather than later.
Still the second most commonly asked question I receive is, “What’s the best f/stop?” I liken this question to “What’s the best adjective to describe a great photograph?” The answer to both questions is whatever fits your style of communication best. But there is no map taking you to that answer for your photography. You have to explore for a long time to find that answer. I’ve been doing this photography thing for a while now, so I have explored long enough to know that for birds, I’m going to be at f/8, wide open for big game, and for landscape, whatever best brings the eye to the subject. What if you don’t know that?
Whenever your mind says, “What IF?” pull on that thread to see where it takes you. If you wonder what f/stop is best, shoot a test! Put your hand in front of your lens and take a picture of it. Just like in the movies, your hand acts like a clacker and tells you a test is coming. Now shoot the photo with all the f/stops available with you. The last frame should also be a picture of your hand to signify the end of the test. Once back at the computer, put all of these tests in a folder labeled “Photo Explorations” and refer to it often. Soon you’ll learn what f/stop is the best, for YOUR photography. But there’s the rub to that knowledge. It might take a turn tomorrow if your new explorations completely change those numbers. And that’s OK!
“Which lens is the best lens?” That’s right up there with which f/stop and is such a valid and important question to ask. That is, of yourself! The physics of how glass bends light and delivers it is so bloody amazing and cool and complicated and of course, sexy. No wonder this question comes up. But it’s how a particular lens bends light that makes its selection so important to each individual photographer. So the question still remains, what is the best lens? And to that question I don’t have the answer for folks. If you watch My Camera Bag on my website, you’ll see I’m lookin’ for that answer for myself as it’s in near constant flux. Right now, I feel the best lenses in my bag are:
The reason this is for all of us is because our photographic explorations are not on some straight line progression but rather a very windy road. Each curve requires its own set of tools to take that turn and while we might have most of the tools to make that curve there are times we need a better one. For example, I prefer 800mm for birds, but no such lens is made any longer by Nikon, so I work with the 600VR with the 1.7x most of the time. The road bump for most is first determining they need that one focal length and then acquiring it (which makes renting such a great thing). That’s probably why this question hangs so often in discussions. Rest assured that just like the perfect photograph, the perfect lens is just as elusive.
With every new camera that comes along, the promise of our photographic life being made simpler is presented us. Be it from personal experience or reading on the web, we all know that right out of the box no camera body takes the perfect photo. It requires input from us to make that investment sing our tune. Some of that input is mechanical, but that has a limit. To get beyond that and to really make our photographs our own, the input has to come from the heart. What “feel” do we want in our photographs? When we take that heartless machine and insert our heart is when our photography goes to a whole new level and our explorations and visual communication starts grabbing other hearts. What I love best about this step in one’s photography is that the mechanical tends to start fading in importance. Gotta have it to start with, but sure don’t need it to continue to move forward.
What do you need to move your photography forward? It’s the same thing any of the greats in any profession will tell you is a must. Passion for what you’re doing! Our history is stuffed with tales of great explorations going down in flames. It is just as stuffed with amazing stories of incredible discovery. Sure, there was some science, mechanics, physics and of course luck, moving these success stories to a happy ending. But connecting all those dots so there was success was heart, emotion, passion, whatever you want to label it, what we are all capable of digging down deep and pulling out from within us. The great photographs come from all those “parts” that are the photographic process only when they are brought together by the heart. And with that knowledge and ability, we start our photographic explorations all over again because we never know where the heart will take us. Fun is the heartbeat of passion and it is from that where longevity in photography is constantly reborn.
You’ve gotta turn your photography upside down at times! Marching down the same path no matter who you are can take the pleasure out of the journey. I’m notorious for hating macro photography, sticking my butt up in the air to take a picture just isn’t natural for a Moose. Still, there are times I have and even once, for a small critter that’s now extinct. There are so many possibilities, genres in photography you could try it’s what I think makes photography such an amazing pursuit. Many know that along with my wildlife photography, I’m now pursuing aviation photography. Other than the correlation that birds fly and planes fly, these are pretty much opposites in genres of photography. I know a lot of wedding photographers who shoot aviation and catalog shooters who do wildlife. I started out in fashion photography, but obviously I didn’t stick with that. The simple act of trying something new is often the genesis of a great adventure!
The more you explore photography the more you’ll know that it is not cut and dry. There is no one answer, no one path, but rather a huge world of possibilities that will light up your passion. Tap that and then make 2011 the year you spread it around. Take that photograph and share your exploration with someone else and put a smile in their heart. It does make the world turn! I leave you with this thought, something a wise man shared with me after reflecting on something I had written. “A good photographer makes an image by holding the camera to his eye, but the great photographer makes an image by holding the camera to his heart!” May 2011 bring you amazing explorations with your camera!
How’s that for a headline? I had actually announced that today would be a “holiday no-guest blog,” but then Nikon just released a 15-minute video as part of their NPS (Nikon Professional Services) Pros Spotlight series, where Joe and I discuss a wide range of photography topics, and Joe is as funny as he is insightful. There is no “interviewer” per se–it’s just Joe and I, and we go back and forth discussing the topics, and it was a lot of fun (which, of course, describes any interaction with Joe).
We talk about everything from our favorite lens to what we see happening in camera technology to our backgrounds in photography, and much more.