It seems these days that there way too many photographers trying to be everything to everyone. Landscape? You got it. Portraiture? No problem. Architecture? Psshh. Easy. Action? Clockwork. Photojournalism? I think I studied that in college. I think. Weddings? Yeah man. I KNOW this camera has a “wedding” setting…
The truth is, these photographers have the right idea, it’s just that (IMO) the execution is poor. There is a fine line between being diverse enough to cover a significant gamut of photography, and spreading yourself too thin and trying to be the veritable “Leatherman” of photographers. However, unless you’re Vincent LaForet, Tom Mangelsen, David Muench, Scott Markewitz or some other iconic and established photog in their own respective genre, you must be able to shoot numerous types of imagery, and shoot them well.
To a certain extent, this goes against much of what I’ve learned and lived by to this point in photography. Previously, I was of the mind that you should find a niche and devote yourself to mastering every aspect of that niche. Whether that be landscape, wedding, commercial or whatever–I still believe it is very important to find which type of imagery really makes your heart sing, and for which you have a great talent and skill. It’s important, however, to be able to step outside that comfort zone, and apply what you know to different types of imagery. Perhaps it’s to earn more money. Perhaps it’s to expand your creative horizons. Perhaps it’s to learn a new technical skill. Whatever the reason, commit yourself to branching out a bit and trying something new. Below are a couple of thoughts that may help you in crossing this new bridge.
1. Don’t forget the basics. While some techniques may be different with different types of imagery, the fundamentals are still the same.
2. Take what you have learned (or are particularly skilled at), and add it to what you hope to achieve. Whether you’re a master of composition, lighting, posing, filters, alternative angles or whatever–take that with you and apply it to this new area of photography. Just this morning, while shooting architectural work for a commercial client, I turned to many of my trusted landscape filters to control challenging exposures.
3. Don’t be afraid to fail. Because you will, and that’s all there is to it. Simply stated, it’s never fun to fall short of excellence, especially when you know you have what it takes in other areas of photography. But we all know you can’t win the game if you don’t play.
4. Be a sponge. Soak it alllllll up! Scour the internet. Ask questions to accomplished photogs. Read books. Shoot, shoot, shoot. There are so many resources at our fingertips these days–there really is no excuse not to be able to excel at something if you put your heart and mind to it.
5. Resist the urge to blame shortcomings on equipment. Strive to beat the odds regardless. Yes–there is always some piece of equipment we lust after. Sometimes, it’s a necessity. Most of the time, it’s a luxury. Most action photogs will tell you it’s necessary to have a camera that shoots 8 fps or more to capture action well. While I agree that it certainly helps to have a faster camera (as I found out this year), it’s entirely possible to nail the shot with less. I was fortunate to have several ski images published this past winter–all shot with a slower camera.
6. Be willing to take advice and apply it. ‘Nuff said.
Now go push your envelope. You will accomplish greatness in new and exciting ways. It just might give you that extra spark you’ve been needing…