Instagram self-portrait in N.C.
About 4 months ago I did the “Pay-What-You-Want Workshop at my studio in Nashville. One of the first things I talked about was “what makes a good photographer verses a great photographer. There are countless things that could have been talked about to differentiate the two. But I chose one area and used Instagram as an example for it.
I began by saying how blown away I am by a lot of people’s photos on Instagram, even from people who would never consider themselves photographers. There is a lot of impressive work populating my feed and Im not just referring to cool filters and effects on lame photos. I’m talking about really solid photos in terms of composition, lighting, color, etc.
Then I mentioned how one day as I sat there looking at someone’s photo that I wished I had taken, something came to my mind. What is was was this: It’s really not that hard to be walking down the street and be struck by some beautiful scene, incredible moment or photogenic person. A lot of “good” photographers can do that and even some who’ve never picked up a camera. Part of photography will always be luck and that’s what a good part of shooting from the hip is. I get lucky moments sometimes and I thank God for it.
What is hard to do, and what separates the ameteur from the professional is the ability to re-create that luck on demand. What I mean is anyone can stop and see a perfect moment and snap it using their phone or camera, but how many people can snap a great moment on a specific day, time and location with all the pressure, job specifics and clients needs in mind.
Commercial shoots can be stressful because you aren’t shooting whatever you want for yourself, but rather you’re shooting what they’ve told you to shoot. And part of your job is to please a paying client to help their brand or product make $$$.
So I gave a challenge to the workshop attendees. I put them in groups and told them to go out into the streets and shoot for an hour and come back and I would critique their images. BUT to make it more like what a professional commercial photo shoot is, I gave them certain restrictions on how they could shoot it. They each had to include certain angles, props, movement, etc. And I told them to shoot as if they were shooting for a clothing company. Which meant they had to have a certain focus on the clothes their fellow subjects were wearing.
It was a great exercise and for some a challenge, for others not as much. Some attendees said they had never really had to think so much about what and how they were shooting before. It went beyond “oooh, that’s pretty…click”
So if you rock Instagram and have hopes of being a full-time professional photographer, think about this. Practice not just shooting whatever you feel like, but give yourself, or better yet, have others give you parameters and restrictions on how and what you shoot. If nothing else it’s a great exercise in creative thinking.