"The Photographers ABC's"
Attitude - Attitudes are contagious, don't infect people with your negativity. Instead, be the person people want to look up to. Nobody wants to do a 9 child session but being negative won't get you through it... it will most likely make things worse. If you see a challenge, rise to the occasion and put your happy face on. Then you can put that on your "Yeah... I did that!" list and be admired for your ability to capture “the impossible.”
Brainstorm - An empty notebook will remain empty if a pen never touches its pages. The same goes for your mind. If you are being redundant in your artwork, it's because you're not brainstorming new ideas. If you find yourself constantly in la-la land thinking of poses and new techniques, then you probably aren't producing mediocre work.
Critique - You are not perfect and neither is your art. There is always something that could have been done differently and always someone who will tear it apart. Do not be appalled. Instead, listen to what this person has to say and ask them questions. Ask them why they feel this way and then critique it yourself with these new opinions in mind. Being stubborn and dismissing criticism from others will not help you grow. Don't write off others opinions because they conflict with yours. A lot of times this could be because you are taking it personally. Nobody said "I hate this picture because YOU took it!" Be appreciative that someone isn't blowing smoke up your butt with "THAT'S AMAZING!" and instead giving you a real, honest and useful opinion.
Determination - Sitting around waiting for your big break or lucky shot will leave you... sitting around. People who are truly famous and truly talented worked their butt off to get to where they are. Acclaimed photographers took their spot in the artistic world instead of dreaming about it. Push yourself, have faith in your decisions and don't ever stop trying.
Energy - If you photograph with energy, your portraits will come to life. You will find that you'll experience random inspirations out of nowhere and your excitement will show in your final product. Treating your work like a meat processing plant will not produce the Grade A beef you so desire. Do a little dance, keep things lively and do NOT forget to smile. Also, it's okay to breathe
Flexible - When working with customers, your initial vision and ideas may not be possible as time goes by. Children will become cranky, adults will be awkward and uncooperative or the atmosphere may have changed in someway. Don't give up or reschedule your outdoors session because it's raining! Use that once in a lifetime experience to create something powerful and spontaneous! You'll be surprised how pleased you'll be. Work with what you have and make it work for what you need.
Genuine - We're all sick of fake. Having a genuine appreciation and passion for what you do will impact your work tremendously. Be genuine when sharing your feelings or opinions with your clients. They will appreciate your honesty and wisdom. Have a REAL relationship with people, much like you would have with a best friend, and you’ll notice the difference in the atmosphere.
Humble - Get off of your pedestal and stop acting like you're better than everyone else. Nobody wants to be around a self absorbed artist. Be proud, think highly of yourself, but do not put others art or ideas down for the simple fact of it not being yours. If you're too prideful and arrogant about your work it begins to lose value and beauty in other peoples eyes.
Inquisitive - Ask every question you can. You do not and will not know everything there is to know about photography. Someone will always be doing something new. Art is never at a standstill, it's constantly evolving. If you think you know and refuse to ask questions, then you're ultimately wasting your talent.
Jubilate - Celebrate your accomplishments. Praise yourself and thank the ones who helped or inspired your success. Rejoicing in you and/or your fellow photographer’s accomplishments makes everything worthwhile. Don't beat yourself up if you didn't get the results you were expecting or if something didn't work out the way you planned. You have a gift and being excited about each little accomplishment will keep your passion thriving.
Keep Going - If the shot you're trying for is not working out, keep going. If a child is not cooperating in a certain pose, try something else. Switching it up instead of prodding at something over and over again will yield better results. Children get restless and so do you. If it's not working out, just keep going on and don't fret about that one pose you didn't get.
Listen - This applies to every aspect of your art. Listen to what your client is asking or needing from you. They might not outwardly say "I think I look fat" but you should be able to listen to what's NOT being said by the guest when she sees her images and looks uncomfortable about them. Listen to yourself and don't be afraid to try anything. If your artistic eye is screaming at you, don't hesitate to give it a try. Listen to your surroundings, FEEL the connection and take appropriate action. Don't get stuck in one idea and waste the opportunity of capturing another because you've forgotten to listen.
Mistakes - Make them. Learn from them. Don't ever forget them. Everyone has a vision and it isn't always achievable the first time. Do it anyway. Don't give up on your creativity or doubt yourself because you made a mistake. Use that mess-up as an opportunity to see what could change or be done differently next time. You'll also find that when you make a large enough mistake then you'll probably never make that same mistake twice.
Natural – Photoshop is an amazing and, in some cases, image-saving technology. As much as drool is a part of a baby, or pimples are a part of teenage-dome, people who don’t get portraits taken very often usually do not want to spend a lot of money on portraits with such “imperfections.” Thus, Photoshop was born. When editing the majority of your images, keeping it natural and only making slight adjustments to your work (if necessary or preferred) will usually give better results. Over-processed and over-edited images don’t look professional, but more like a teenager using picnik.com got a hold of it. Using different techniques such as over–saturation and HDR can be a fun and different style of photography/editing, but in moderation. It is ultimately up to the taste of the guest or photographer, but there is a noticeable difference in a professional’s natural editing style.
Oppose - At times it is necessary to oppose another’s opinion. However, do so with tact and professionalism and never tell someone that they are wrong. Neither of you know “the answer to art” and both of you have room to learn. Opposing someone else’s views constructively will cause others to respect your opinion and seek it in the future. If you feel passionately about something, but instead agree with another’s opinion in fear of "stirring the water," then you have just lost your voice. Stand up and firmly announce your feelings and refuse to blend in, otherwise you'll never get noticed. You'll find that the people who speak up and share their opinion are the ones that are widely known and widely appreciated/hated. People will or will not like you, regardless of if you share your opinion or not... so why waste it?
Patience - Anyone who has worked with the general public comes to terms with the fact that people are rude, needy and demanding. Fighting these people back and "giving" them your two cents doesn't solve anything. Getting frustrated or giving up on a hard sitting doesn’t solve the problem. Take your time and give it your all.
Quest - We all get inspiration from somewhere, be it a friend or a well-known photographer's website. Go on inspirational quests to see what can be done and what hasn't even been thought of yet. Take an idea and magnify it. Seek out new props, background ideas, poses and products and do not stop looking… even after you've found what you're looking for.
Re-assess - Look back at your previous work from five years ago, last month or yesterday and assess your work. What could you have done differently and what did you do well? What have you learned over that period of time and how has your work reflected that? You'll know you're growing in your skill when you look back and think "Man, what was I thinking!?" With every day you should be getting stronger and really nailing the small details that set you and other photographers apart. If your work looks the same as it did then, you need to assess what you need to do in order to revolutionize and refresh your work. Don't get stuck in monotony.
Separate - Don't bring your work home with you and don't bring your home to work. Separate and appreciate the time you have with your loved ones and keep the complaining to a minimum. Talk about your successes and your defeats. Ask advice about certain situations and take an "outsiders" opinion seriously. Find out what it's like to be on the other side of the lens. However, coming home with a steaming head and a mouthful of profanities will not create a pleasant and "retreat-like" atmosphere to come home to. You've worked hard all day, enjoy it and make the people waiting for you at home enjoy having you around. Artists tend to get caught up in their jobs because they are so passionate about what they do and forget that a person who is not artistically passionate JUST doesn't care about the lady with 7 children you had to photograph. To them, it's the same thing over and over again. Enjoy your time with your loved ones and separate your work from home.
Trust - Don't let yourself get the better of you. Don't think you're not good enough or unable to do something. Trust that you CAN do whatever you put your heart to. Trust your inner artist and commit to your vision. Trust your instincts and then back them up afterwards. If someone doesn't like something you took and asks why you would do it that way, then respond with "Because I hate boring. I've trusted myself this far and created some d*** good artwork. Trust that I won't stop now."
Unpredictable - Don't get caught up in the boring grind of pose, snap, pose, snap, pose, snap. Make your work unpredictable. Make fellow artists wonder "What will he do next?!" There are only so many school headshots you can see before they all start looking the same and you've lost interest in them. Be different and continue to change it up.
Vision - Some have it from birth, others must be taught and some will never understand “what” makes a good photograph. Either way, a photographer is an artist that must have a vision of WHAT they are looking for before the camera reaches their eye. "Hoping" for something good and snapping whatever will not get you far. Know what your goal is and pre-plan your shot.
Waiting - Understand the beauty of waiting. Wait for the shot. Wait for that perfect time in which you can "feel" the magic happen. You'll know you've waited when your heart flutters for a split second after pressing the shutter. Just. Wait.
Xenagogue - Meaning "guide" or "someone who conducts strangers" it is imperative that we step outside of our comfort level to "get the shot". We must orchestrate our guests with confidence and convince them to let you do what it is that you need from them. Make them jump, make them bend, make them get extremely close, make them laugh, make them react… make them do what you are envisioning. You are the artist, you know what looks good. Do NOT be afraid to mold people into exactly how you want them or your work will remain stiff and rigid.
Yearn - Push yourself to want more than what you think is possible. Yearn for greater, yearn for the unthinkable. If you can imagine it in your head, then it is in someway possible. Yearn for self-development on a daily basis in all that you do.
Zigzag - Standing in one place while photographing makes for a dull and lifeless session. We must constantly be moving and "zigzagging" around the portrait studio or your subject to be able to truly capture something unique. Straight forward shots are boring, add some zest to your photography and try every angle you can possibly imagine. Be underneath, beside, over, around and in between your subjects. Never stand in the same place twice.
I do not know who to accredit "The Photographer's ABC's" to, however I believe it's wonderful advice for any photographer, professional and hobbyist alike!