While sitting on the throne today, I was thumbing through a dog-eared copy of "Studio Photography" magazine. Usually, when I'm throne-sitting, I snatch up some rag I've already thumbed through five or six times and search for an article I skipped my first half-dozen times through.
This particular issue had an article titled, "The Business of Referrals." It focused on methods wedding shooters use to develop new business. I'm not a wedding photographer, hence, the article wasn't a priority on my "To Read" list.
The article included a profile of Michael Erdkamp, a wedding shooter. In it, Mr. Erdkamp is quoted as saying, "Professionals miss great images all the time by getting tripped up on calculating the F-stop/shutter-speed thing. It needs to come naturally, like shifting from second to third gear."
This got me to thinking about the importance of becoming automatic when shooting. I believe good shooters go beyond being able to manually and effortlessly change gears as the needs arise: They become like automatic transmissions when it comes to shifting their technical approaches to a shot, i.e., in terms of making those F-stop/shutter-speed decisions and more. In fact, I think good photography comes when shooters can flip-on an internal, auto-pilot switch with all the tech decisions.
I've been around a lot of other shooters in the course of my work. Often, I tend to make instant decisions about photographers I might be observing. First off, I decide whether the shooter, in general, seems to know what they're doing. If I decide they are practically clueless, I usually quit observing them unless it becomes entertaining in a comical way. Okay, maybe I'm sounding a bit smug and arrogant here, but there's something I find amusing while watching a shooter try his or her best to figure out what they're doing as some model stands in the lights, fidgeting, rolling her eyes about, and generally getting more than a little impatient. (Believe it or not, nearly clueless photographers sometimes manage to score paid gigs.)
If I decide the shooter knows what they're doing, I'll watch them work. (If time permits.) Mainly, I'm hoping to learn something while observing them. I also make some further decisions about the shooter. And one of those decisions is about the shooter's apparent comfort level and knowledge of their gear.
From my observations, entirely un-scientific I might add, the best shooters are those that seem to go on auto-pilot when it comes to making those pesky tech decisions or in the operation of their gear. This, of course, allows them to spend nearly all of their time interacting with the model.
The best way to reach this auto-pilot comfort level is to shoot, shoot, and shoot some more! It's also accomplished by taking the time, when you're not shooting, to learn, learn, and learn some more! From where I sit, it seems the best shooters are those who live and breathe this photography stuff. They are photographers who know their stuff so well they seem hardly to be paying attention to it. That's not to say, of course, that they're not paying attention to the technical details of capturing good images, it just seems that way to those observing them.
The gratuitous pretty girl at the top is Eva. Here's another shot of this buxom beauty, somewhat more candid, after the dress and the spectacles, came off.