Generalists

by William Lulow

It has been said that a good photographer can probably photograph anything well. I think that’s largely true. It used to be that if a photographer wanted to become well known, he/she would have to concentrate on one type or genre in photography at the expense of shooting other subjects. With the digital age has come the notion that all you have to have is an iPhone and you’re a photographer. Of course, most of us know that is simply not true. But, most good photographers understand a few things.

(1) They know about light and how it works to create an image.

(2) They know how to use their equipment to best advantage to make arresting images

(3) They know the “tricks” about how to shoot certain things

(4) They know how to finish assignments professionally

So, it’s not really surprising that photographers who know these things can probably handle any assignment professionally. When I relocated my studio from Manhattan, NY to one of the northern suburbs, I had to take on many different kinds of jobs. If you are located in a small town, you need to be more flexible in the types of jobs you accept. You need to learn how to be a “generalist.” There are many studios throughout the country that are doing this sort of thing and making it work. When I was first starting out, there were jobs I accepted without knowing the “tricks” of how to execute them most efficiently. I asked people, read many books and finally figured things out for myself. I was once asked by the art director of Hanes Hosiery, after doing some fashion shots, if I could photograph their showroom – an interior. I said, “sure” and proceeded to learn about all the things I had to know about shooting interiors down to wrapping all the fluorescent lights in magenta gels to balance with daylight film. The shot I came up with is below:

In order to keep your studio doors open, you sometimes need to be able to shoot many different kinds of subjects. The age of the “generalist” is definitely still here and it’s important for photographers to keep learning about everything they shoot.