Wednesday, May 27, 2009

He Who Shoots Best Laughs Best (And Last)

Not too long ago, I lost one of my semi-regular gigs to another photographer. It wasn't over rates or availability or who knows who, it was because the other photographer's work trumped mine.

Hard to swallow.

Hard to accept.

Hard to admit to.

After finding out about my displacement, I'll admit to taking a peek at this other photographer's work. I was duly impressed. Looked like nice stuff. Really nice stuff!

But then, out of the blue, I received a phone call from my former (occasional) client. They wanted me back.

"What happened to your new shooter?" I asked.

"We decided to stop using him," I was told. "His work wasn't very good."

"What do you mean his work wasn't very good?" I said. "I took a look at it and thought it was pretty good!" I honestly added, probably foolishly, looking gift horses in the mouth and all that.

"Well, the work in his portfolio kicks ass," the client said.

I agreed.

"But the problem is," the client continued, "The pictures in his portfolio don't really represent his work."

"You mean he stole someone's work and called it his?" I asked, rather incredulously.

"No." The client told me. "It was all his work."

"So what gives?" I asked.

"Well," the client said, "The guy is one helluva Photoshopper. But as a photographer, he kinda sucks."

"He does?" I asked, again rather incredulously.

"Okay, maybe he doesn't suck." The client said. "But he's not that good. He knows how to Photoshop his pictures. He knows how to do that incredibly well. He probably puts lots of hours into each of his photos," the client added. "But that's about it. And that's not the kind of stills shooter we need."

Ya see, in my work, I don't process images. Someone else does that. Most others who do my sort of work don't process images either. Leastwise, not for our clients we don't. That's the job of the art guys. So if the art guys say someone's work sucks, i.e., the unprocessed, out-of-the-camera work that's handed in sucks (or really isn't very good) and needs lots of heavy post-production work to fix, that person is in big trouble, at least in terms of keeping their production gigs.

While someone can have, what looks like, a really great portfolio, sometimes most of what makes that portfolio great is more the result of Photoshop skills than photography skills. The people I work for want shooters with excellent photography skills. In other words, they could give a rats ass how well someone knows how to use Photoshop. They're more interested in how well someone knows how to use a camera and lights and all that stuff.

I'm not downplaying the importance of learning to use image processors, i.e., learning to use them really well! I'm just saying that mad Photoshop skills often ain't enough. Not if you want to score and keep many of those paid photography gigs.

So ends today's lesson.

Lupe, the pretty girl at the top, is from today's shoot. Photographed her on a white cyc. Snapped a few using some crepe paper for a prop and a fan to move the paper around a bit. I lit Lupe with 3 Profoto Acute 2 heads, the mainlight modified with a 7' Photoflex Octodome and the two kickers modified with small, shoot-thru umbrellas. Canon 5D w/70-200mm f/4L, ISO 100, f/6.3 @ 125th. MUA was Ashley. Mikey A. assisted, wielding the fan.


Ed Araquel said...

Interesting post and I agree wholeheartedly.

You are a photographer first so that means knowing photography/lighting/directing models/etc/etc so that you can deliver the best product BEFORE post production.

If you rely on post production (your own usually) to save your pix, then you should just hand your camera over to someone else because you're not doing yourself any favors.


Tom said...

Jimmy, I know EXACTLY what you are saying! I am attending school to get a degree in Photography (why? - hell, I don't know, I just want it after shooting for 30+ years!) and it amazes me the comments from the kids - "Wow, your Photoshop work is great!" they say, and then I tell them "I don't do that much - I try to get it right in the camera!" They look at me like I am an idiot! Most of the shots in my MM port are right out of the camera or have very light PS work (color cast removed or something). I don't understand this 'shoot it and fix it later in Photoshop" mentality!

Grind said...

That is so funny. I started a thread on GG about shooting 24 good images straight out of the camera and so many were insulted when I defined a photographer as one who can 24 images and have 20 good images without Photoshop. Glad to know that good photography is still appreciated!

Anathaema said...

good read and thank you, because I agree with you.
if you got my email, I'm still waiting for an answer.


jimmyd said...


Sorry. Don't recall seeing an email from you. I'm pretty good about returning emails except when I brainfart. But don't think I brainfarted on this one altho I could be wrong... such is the way with brainfarts.

steve prue said...

agree completely. i would rather it be 90% out of the camera than have to "fix" it in pshop.

don't get me wrong, i love photoshop and use it when i have to...but i would rather do less work than more.