Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Single Terrific Image Effect

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The American tycoon, JP Morgan, undoubtedly represents different things to different people: positive things as well as negative. For some, he's remembered most for being a ruthless, robber baron. Others recall him as a one-man economic powerhouse who acted much like a central bank before there was a central bank in the US.  Still others remember Morgan as a huge patron of the arts. It's said he spent nearly half of his considerable fortune on art.

Morgan commissioned a number of portraits of himself; painted portraits, that is. The problem was, leastwise for the artists Morgan engaged, JP wouldn't sit for more than a few minutes even when a painter managed to get him to sit at all. Finally, one of JP's painters engaged a young photographer, Edward Steichen, to photograph Morgan. The painter planned to use Steichen's photo-portraits as a guide for painting Morgan's portrait. As it turned out, Morgan wouldn't sit for Steichen for too long either. All the young photographer managed to snap were two photographs.

Of the two photos, the first was, in a word, unmemorable. But the second photo, because JP became somewhat agitated waiting for the photographer to continue, became a sensation. And it wasn't a photo JP Morgan cared for at all! In fact, he tore up the proof of the second capture the moment he saw it but, as a result of that image, Edward Steichen's photography career was kick-started in a big way.

Have any of you ever snapped a single photo that ended up being a boost to your photography career?  In my last update, one where I wrote about new or better gear and what it might or might not do for you, I related a personal story regarding how a single head shot I snapped back in the day, an 8x10 for a forty-something-year-old actress, kick-started my head shot business. It's one of two photos I've snapped over the years which directly resulted in a fair amount of work for me and, directly and indirectly, a decent amount of money put into my pockets. I'm not saying either photo made me rich and/or famous,. (That's obvious since I'm neither rich nor famous.) But each image, in its own way, did quite a lot for me in the near-term, and even the longer term,  after I snapped them.

This sort of single terrific image effect, i.e., where a single image might do a lot for a photographer, can be an anomaly or it can be because the photographer has the requisite skills to increase the odds of a single image doing much for him or her.

Sometimes, I view a photographer's work that, for me at least, isn't too good. The work does not invoke a sense (in my mind) that the photographer is skilled to any great degree or has much experience. Yet, that same photographer might be someone who manages to score a lot of paid work. Some might credit that to exceptional marketing and tooting-one's-own-horn skills. And that might be true. But other times, I wonder if it's the result of the single terrific image effect because even the world's worst photographers might manage to somehow, in some way, snap at least one, truly memorable, photograph.  Photography is funny that way. Skill and experience play a big part. But Lady Luck and serendipity can also sometimes play a big part, if not the only part.

The gratuitous eye candy at the top is Devin. It's one from a set I snapped at a location house sometime back. The image is, except for resizing and a very modest  "curves" adjustment, SOOC. (Straight Out of the Camera.)  I always try my best to snap photos that are competently shot SOOC. I'm not always successful at doing that but, at least 80% of the time, probably more, I can consistently snap SOOC pics that hold up well.  Doing so is simply a matter of experience. In my opinion, every photographer should be striving to become a competent, SOOC photographer. Besides being a good practice, doing so will radically increase the odds of snapping that often elusive single terrific image which just might be responsible for catapulting your photography to great success or, at the very least, some decent levels of success.


Winston Cooper said...

Jimmy, the STIE can be just as rewarding to we hobbyist as you pro's but of course in a personal satisfaction way rather then a financial way. This last spring I had the golden opportunity to shoot model Liz Ashley in a workshop. It could be argued that it is impossible to shoot a bad image of her, i.e. I could have used my old Argus C3 to capture a great shot...but I didn't, I used my D800, with my 85mm f1.8, with my camera and picture settings, with my composition and pro that she is, with my modeling directions. One of those shots is now matted and framed large on my wall. It is 90 something percent SOOC and tad Adobe CC. Every time I pass by it I say to myself..self, ya did good..and it motivates me to keep-on-a-keeping on. Point being here is that one good STIE, for pro or hobbyist, is reason enough to keep working toward that nirvana called "just getting it right it".....

jimmyd said...

Winston: Didn't mean to infer that only pros can benefit from STIE images. I've never shot Ms. Ashley but I know of her and have seen more than a few pics of her. I can relate shooting her with shooting Tera Patrick, whom I've shot many times. It was hard to snap a bad pic of Tera. That, of course has all to do with her and so much less to do with me. But yeah, I get what you're saying. :-)