Things I Wish I Knew…
We have all been there. The moment when the light bulb clicks and you feel dumb for not realizing it sooner. As someone with no formal training in photography, and the bulk of my learning coming from the advice of serval great mentors, resources like KelbyOne and YouTube, and messing up until I figured it out, I find myself in this position on a frequent basis. In hopes that it may help someone else, here are a few of the numerous embarrassing realizations I have had and some words of advice from my first year as a professional.
I tend to learn much better via hands-on trial and error than reading or watching a video. This ultimately leads to me overlooking or misunderstanding a feature that my be very useful at some point down the road (a bad habit I know, which I’m working on). This could be either in workflow, pre or post, or while capturing the image. Thinking you understand your gear and actually understanding your gear can be a bigger gap than you may realize.
You Don’t Need All Those Focal Points!!
This is from the perspective of shooting action. So, I know there are times you may want to have edge to edge selectable focal points. I used to think I wanted to be able to have pinpoint edge of glass to edge of glass control on every shot. As time went on though, I began to realize it can get really fumble-y and difficult to flip through 64 different points in time to get the shot you want in a split second. It is not worth the risk of missing the perfect moment because you missed the focal point, and it is very easy to do with that many options. Now I have my camera set with single spot selectable on 9 focal points. This allows me to be able to flip to any 3rd with one toggle.
Spend Some Quality Time With Your Gear
Even if you think you know your gear, do a quarterly or yearly “date night” to catch up. Flip through every single menu item, and if you don’t know what something is, look it up. Do test shoots where you very well may not produce any usable images because you are testing out the extremes of what your gear can do.
This can be a good exercise for even experienced shooters as they keep jamming features into the new products that can be very helpful and make your life easier. It often helps spur ideas for shoots when I’m thinking about ways I can incorporate that particular feature into an image. The image above was shot after one of these experimental sessions and was shot as a test after researching the rear curtain flash sync setting.
Relax, Breathe, And Then Get To Work
To use a Nashville music business reference, “making it” overnight takes seven years, but one bad performance can set you back several. The pressure is real, and it intensifies the further you get into your career. If you are not on point, or you produce bad work when your name is called, word can travel fast. And much faster than if you nailed the shoot. You have to be on your A game at every shoot. It is very easy to get overwhelmed when something is not working and all eyes are on you to get the shot.
One of the best ways I have found to prepare before a shoot is to take time to relax and have a short meditation. This may sound crazy, but it makes a big difference. Visualize the entire shoot from start to finish how you want it to go with the results you want. This will help you walk into the room more confidently and ready to deal with anything thrown your way. Remember, they hired you for a reason.
Final Words Of Advice
Don’t take yourself too seriously (or take yourself more seriously depending on your personality). You know where you fall here. I find myself on the side of needing to lighten up sometimes. Don’t forget why you started photography. Don’t forget where your fire to create came from. Art is unique in the fact that most people don’t get into it because someone made them or, “it’s what society says you’re suppose to do.” 99.999% of us started because we found a passion that brings us peace and lights a fire in our soul. It’s very easy to lose that in the day to day grind of making a living in photography. Find time to shoot for you, create what you want, and create with a purpose