How I Cheated in Photography

There are many ways to cheat, but I picked the easiest two:

Let’s not waste any time reinventing the wheel here. People have been taking photographs since 1814 and just like classical painting, some things work well and some things don’t. I have no interest in making a mistake once, let alone for years until my learning curve gains enough altitude to figure out something that other people have already recognized. And to that effect, I cheated; I went straight to the source. I was introduced to Master Photographer David Ziser by Kevin Ford of Ford-Ellington event design (for whom I had worked several years previous). I was lucky that David had worn out his previous assistant (or he spontaneously combusted or something) and was looking for hard working cheap labor with potential. That was me. I had been a “photographer” for ten years at that point. You know the type, I had a point and shoot and once in a while the planets aligned to allow me to be in the right place at the right time to press the shutter and capture something great. Now, I could identify greatness, but constructing it was a foreign language. What David did was to show me how to see all of the components that created masterful portraiture. Boy did my eyes open! I was horrified at my previous work, but I could start to see why the specific “alignment of the planets” created a great portrait in front of my innocuous point and shoot. It was the angle of the sun at that time of day that illuminated a light colored wall that my subject was facing that created the soft diffused light, not magic. And better yet I could create that with a flash! How long would that have taken me to figure out on my own? Who knows, but conversations like that catapulted me forward in ability. If you are serious about being good at anything find someone who is awesome at it and ask as many questions as they will tolerate! Find a network of people and learn from each of them. They may all not be good at everything but everyone has something to teach.

Which brings me to my next cheating strategy, do it. Whatever you learn, practice it, review the outcome, do it again, review it, and do it again in a different circumstance until your trigger finger gets a blister! I practice my butt off. I carried my camera with me for three years and I only passed up an opportunity to try to capture a really cool image 5 times. (Note- This will piss off family, friends, and co-workers, proceed with caution) A blacksmith or someone who works leather will eventually be able to predict how the material will react under different amounts of stress, heat, stretching, or whatever. That’s what you want to know about your camera and lenses. You need to know before you raise the camera to your eyeball what the settings will likely be and which lens will have the combination of F-stop, clarity, and focal length to capture the image. The best way to do that is to take as many pictures as you can in as many circumstances as you can. The more you do the better you will get. Eventually you’ll find yourself setting the camera on the way to the shoot anticipating the first shot. 200 ISO, 250th of a second F4 with the 70-200 for the portrait outside in the park. 60th of a second with the 17-85 at 800 ISO, F5.6 for the cocktail candid hour before the wedding reception. Then you won’t waste so much time taking the first picture. It’s runnin’ and gunnin’.

That’s how I cheated. If you love it, it’s easy. I can imagine that isn’t what some readers were hoping for when they saw the post title, but if you are serious about sustainability this has the max output with the least input, and that’s really what you are looking for when you cheat, isn’t it?

1 comment:

Nikki said...

Sounds like the "10,000 Hour Rule" Malcolm Gladwell is always bringing up in his talks/books. If you love something enough to devote 10,000 hours of practice to it, you can't help but become one of the greats at it.

I don't agree with everything Malcolm says, but this makes sense to me.