Saturday, September 18, 2010

Be Prepared (Parte Tre)

The first two parts of this "Be Prepared" stuff focused on gear, including one's brain-- your brain being a piece of gear that should always be with you when shooting. (It should probably always be with you whatever you're doing.)

This time out, I thought I'd babble on a bit about some intangible (perhaps nebulous?) things like shooting with your client's shoes on -- allegorically, of course -- and having passion for what you're doing.

I've rarely, if ever, met a serious photographer who wasn't passionate about his or her work. By "serious photographer" I mean someone who thinks of (and pursues) photography in ways beyond merely using a camera to capture an image of a moment in time simply for the sake of having a photographic remembrance of that image or moment. Generally, that form of photography is called a snapshot.

Serious photographers are usually searching for more evocative and creatively unique ways -- be it with tools, uncommon perspectives, or artistic visions -- of that which lies visually before them. What lies before a photographer could be a beautiful model, a still-life object, an engaging landscape or street scene. It really doesn't matter. What matters is each photographer's point-of-view of the subject and how that point-of-view will be recorded on film or sensor.

Passion is most always a requirement of being prepared. Without passion for what you're doing, you will be less prepared because you care less about the results. When you care more, you automatically work harder to always be prepared.

Sometimes, passion (that is, your personal passion) needs to take a back seat or a second seat to the expectations of someone else. That someone else is called a client. There are many types of clients. Some of them pay you money for your work. Some of them pay you with gratitude or in other ways. Regardless, clients have expectations and those expectations sometimes require you to step into their shoes and shoot in ways that might be contrary to your personal style: That style you're most passionate about and the style you've carefully honed and developed (or hope to develop) as a result of your passion for photography.

It's not always easy to temporarily forgo one's personal style for doing something (in ways that are true to one's photographic passion) in order to help someone else realize their expectations. I've found the best way to do so is to understand what you're client is passionate about and to do all you can (with as much passion as you can) to help your client fulfill their expectations.

If a client wants me to photograph a model in a certain way because the client believes that way is the best way for them to achieve the results they're looking for, then I'm not only going to work hard to achieve those results, I'm going to do so with as much enthusiasm and passion as I can muster.

Clients, by the way, sense and appreciate things like enthusiasm and passion. When they sense those things, coupled with your ability to achieve their expectations, they're more likely to want to remain your clients.

In my world, the Number One thing my clients are passionate about is money. When they hire me, they have expectations that my work, the work I'm quite passionate about, will consistently deliver results that will help them achieve their passion, i.e., make money. That means I might have to forget, for a time, a photographic style I might be most passionate about and adopt a style that will help them, through my efforts, achieve their goals.

Some might see that as "copping out" or as compromising artistic integrity. It probably is just that... to varying degrees.

To those who refuse to compromise, I can only wish I had the luxury to pursue photography purely as an art or a hobby. (Pure artists and hobbyists have no need to compromise.) Unfortunately, I don't have that luxury. I make my living with cameras in my hands. That means I must, at times, compromise. Leastwise, if I want to continue making a living this way. And I generally compromise with passion. Passionately compromising might seem a bizarre way to look at it but it works. Leastwise, it's often worked for me.

Whenever I show up on a set, I'm always prepared to compromise. I always check my ego (at least a big chunk of it) at the door. Another way to look at this, other than compromising, is I'm always prepared to adapt. Adapting goes beyond accommodating the limitations of environments and gear and subjects. Adapting is also about accommodating the needs and expectations of the client, no matter how far removed those needs and expectations might be from my style and personal passion. I think I said that in my first article on this "Be Prepared" subject: Always be prepared to adapt.

None of this is to say I don't share ideas with clients if I think I have a way to accommodate their needs and expectations within the framework of my personal style. I do that regularly. Sometimes, the client recognizes the value of that input. Sometimes, they don't. When they don't, well, that's why I always check as big a part of my ego as possible at the door.

After all, the customer is always right: Even when they're wrong.

The gratuitious eye-candy at the top is Paola. She hails from Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So I guess she's the Girl from Ipanema or a girl from Ipanema, just like in the song.

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