by JO PLUMRIDGE
It’s nearly 30 years since I was given my first camera aged 10 (a bright red Halina with no focusing, in case you’re wondering!), and nearly 20 years since I started working as a pro photographer.
So I thought it was time for a (light hearted) look back at what I’ve learned over the years. By the way, this article was somewhat inspired by the wonderful Tom Cox (check him out if you like funny writing) who recently wrote a similar article on things he’d learned as a writer.
Anyway, back to the photography…
If you’re a portrait photographer, you will get used to this phrase:
I hate having my photograph taken…
If I’d had a pound (dollar for you guys over the pond) every time I’d heard a client say this, I would be a very wealthy lady by now. It is a truth universally acknowledged that most people hate having their photograph taken. But, nine times out of ten, that’s because they’re mostly photographed when they aren’t expecting it (or possibly when they’re out and might have over indulged in the odd vino or two). Snapshots don’t always make for the most flattering images.
Fortunately, photographing people in a nice relaxed studio environment is usually enough to make them realise that they can enjoy having their photo taken! And clients are always pleasantly surprised by a) how enjoyable a photo shoot can actually be, and b) how they actually like the finished results!
People will think you have a glamorous job
To most people, being a photographer is right up there in the realms of glamorous jobs. Those that know nothing about the industry (and why should they?) think that photographers spend their lives jetting to exotic locations, photographing models on windswept beaches and then drinking cocktails for the rest of the day.
Now, I’m not saying that I haven’t been lucky enough to do some shoots in beautiful parts of the world, that have been fairly glamorous, but everyday shooting isn’t always like that.
For example, it’s somewhat less glamorous trying to shoot a military vehicle in the freezing cold, on an off-road track whilst hanging out of a Landrover and trying not to get covered in mud. It’s also not so glamorous lugging ten bags of kit around in order to get your lighting and backdrop exactly right. And studios can be somewhat dusty places, where there’s a high chance of picking up the lurgy as you scrabble around on the floor trying to find a power point.
Fortunately, I do genuinely love photography, so these are things I’m happy to put up with!
You will have some ‘I can’t believe that just happened’ moments…
…but you won’t always be able to talk about them! Except with a trusted group of other photographers who’ve probably been through the same thing.
Most pros I know, including myself, have had the odd client who’s just so ‘out there’ that no one would believe you if you told them. We all get some strange requests as photographers and, when I was first starting out, I couldn’t always afford to turn them down. The mental scars have just about healed and fortunately I now have some good dinner party stories.
Discretion and the wish to maintain a job prevents me from discussing my own clients but let’s put it this way – if you can think of the most outlandish thing a client could do on a shoot, it’s probably happened to a photographer out there!
Modern life is full of weekend warriors
Client rings up. Client asks you to quote for a portrait shoot / wedding / party / whatever. Pro photographer gives reasonable and inclusive quote. Client announces that someone, usually a weekend warrior, third cousin twice removed has offered to do the job for tuppence and a bottle of beer.
Such is the way of modern life. The accessibility of digital photography means that most people have a camera and unfortunately this sometimes means that they think this makes them a photographer. If you haven’t heard the term ‘weekend warrior’ it refers to an overly enthusiastic amateur with a nice DSLR, who thinks they can make a few bucks doing pro jobs for peanuts because it’s ‘fun’. Unfortunately if you pay peanuts, you often get a monkey.
People don’t realise that photography is still a skilled job. Technical knowledge, understanding light and just simply having an eye for a great photograph can’t be achieved just by buying an expensive camera. Of course, most people love a bargain and will go with the cheapest option. But that’s fine, because I can almost guarantee that said client will be back on the phone to you again before too long, because the photos just didn’t look like professional shots. Softly, softly catchee monkey (and replace them!).
Psst – don’t tell everyone, but photography is still a pretty great job
Despite the little quirks, I love my job immensely. Photography is such a creative job and it’s great to wake up every day doing something I truly enjoy. Besides which, if there weren’t any quirks in life, it could get somewhat boring…!