The past few weeks have been full of photography for me. It's been a wonderful time and I'm so thankful because there are many lulls where I hardly shoot anything for weeks at a time. I hate those "breaks" because I feel, first and foremost, bored; and truthfully, also creatively repressed. My day job is to come up with new designs and concepts for medical devices, but that environment has a world of physics controlling it. Photography has no bounds. Imagination, patience, and determination are its only limits. So when I get the opportunity to be creative with photography, I almost always jump on it.
This wasn't always the case. I was terrified of taking risks and really breaking into new niches; I took only calculated moves. Recently though, I finally started to break out. This year alone I've booked two weddings (with another three pending), taken pictures of the GA Dome, a couple of Georgia Tech Football games, some wrestling events, a newborn shoot, publicity photos for local theaters, and countless other items. Are you kidding me? Is this real? I'm still blown away by what I've achieved and where I'm going. I really started thinking about how far I've gotten in this past year when I got my annual renewal notice for this website. The past 3 weeks really demonstrate how far I've gotten and how much my work has progressed.
3 weeks ago I was in midtown Atlanta for an alumni function, and didn't finish until about 5PM. Because I live 30 miles north of Atlanta and 5-7PM is peak rush hour, I decided to hole up in a local Starbucks and get some extracurricular reading done and wait out the chaotic masses. Whilst reading the latest thriller by David Baldacci, two couples and a friend with a stroller walked in. The one couple was having their picture taken by the other couple, and the friend was obviously babysitting on site. As fate would have it, they plopped down in my little corner and started discussing their wedding photography plans. I did my best not to eavesdrop, but couldn't help catching lots of random snippets.
Well, as the evening wore on and they were about to split, the female photographer asked to get a few more images. It was just past twilight at this point, so the light was terrible and she didn't have a flash.
"Dang, I'm getting a really slow shutter speed with this lighting. I don't think we can get anymore shots like this."
"I have a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 you can use, if that's a Canon body."
Everyone turned and looked as if they didn't realize I had been sitting there for the past hour. "Seriously? That would be amazing!" So we swapped lenses and she nearly began to swoon at the fast, bokeh-licious images my lens was providing. The babysitting friend then asked the obvious, "So you're a photographer?" I bit my tongue and held back the easy, sarcastic answer, "No, I just have $3,000 worth of camera gear in my bag for no reason," and instead replied with, "Yeah! I do it semi-professionally with a focus on sports, portraits, and events."
Folks, if you want an instant, on-the-spot portfolio to promote your work, buy an iPad. Just saying that you're a photographer isn't enough. Just handing someone a business card that they will throw away isn't enough. Telling someone about your website so they'll forget, isn't enough. You have to do all of that, AND show them your work. Handing someone an instant, in-their-face set of examples (that isn’t a massive computer) will seal the deal faster than your abilities as a salesman. I watched with glee and utter satisfaction as the male photographer and the friend looked through my portfolio with mouths agape filled with comments such as, "Wow," "That's gorgeous," and, "These are fantastic." I not only got a potential client, I also got second-shooter responsibilities with that photography couple for their future wedding shoots. I would have never opened my mouth and done something like that in the past. Score 1 for being open, friendly, and outgoing enough to get some new business.
The next example came this past week. I recently joined a website community, ModelMayhem.com, that specializes in putting models, photographers, and makeup artists together to find work. I figured it would be a great way to get some exposure and allow me to gain some experience and contacts. A lot of the work there is based on mutual exchanges - time for print. That was music to my ears because I can't afford models! Anyways, I was contacted by one model, Sibahn Doxey, to help her and a coworker do some quick images for a calendar submission. They work at a Tilted Kilt and were semifinalists for their yearly calendar, but needed a specific set of images for the next round. I was floored by the request, as Sibahn’s portfolio is incredible, and jumped at the opportunity.
It was agreed to be a quick 30-45 minute shoot, so I didn't want to bring a whole mess of lights. Instead, I decided on doing a dramatic one-light shoot with a reflective umbrella. I was terrified of this decision, because if I couldn't get enough out of the ambient light as a background, I would have had to work some magic. Well, either I'm getting good, or I got really lucky. I picked a secluded spot in the restaurant with decent lighting and waited for the girls to arrive. As a young man who hasn't had a date in way longer than I'd like to admit, I was very proud of the fact that I didn't have to fight my neck from snapping. Sibahn and her friend are absolutely stunning, but best of all, they are super cool. We had a great time chit chatting and working through the shots. Sibahn is a world class professional at her job. It was a blast working with her and we agreed to keep up the contact for future opportunities.
The single light worked out great. It created a gorgeous, dramatic look that defined lots of features because of the shadows generated by having the light off to my left instead of on my camera. I used a very slow shutter speed of 1/60 of a second, which allowed the ambient light to come in and really bring out the background. The most important addition to the shoot was gelling my flash. The lighting in the bar was slightly orange. Flashes by themselves produce pure white light which would have looked awkward against an orange background. By putting an orange gel on my flash, I matched the ambient light color and the scene came out perfectly balanced. This was such an easy shoot because all I had to do was point, focus, and shoot. Sibahn and her friend did the modeling thing and made my life super easy. The girls loved the images, and I got some stellar pictures for my portfolio. My first legit model shoot was a success. Wow.
In three weeks I got to see how far I've come as a photographer. It's been a great indicator of my progress, and has given me such confidence and a desire to push for even greater opportunities. I hope by the time I get the next renewal update, I'll be booking higher ticket jobs and have at least 3 shoots every month. I think I'm on the right track. Here's to progress and looking forward to the future!