How To Become A Really Good Photographer!
by William Lulow
I was just thinking about the very busy month I just had and it made me think also of the pleasure it gave me. Was it work? Of course! I had to carry my equipment around to several locations and do several studio shots as well. Was I exhausted after each assignment? You bet! But it was a tiredness that was caused by an activity that I enjoy very much. So, therefore, it became an elation. It has happened to me many times in my roughly forty-or-so year career in this business and continues to be the reason I am still doing it! It’s the feeling of accomplishment as well as that of knowing you’ve completed a task successfully.
I have said before, that if professional photography is something you’d like to pursue, you really should begin with several points:
1.You need to LOVE it! You need to be so involved in the process of producing great images that you do it practically in your sleep.
It reminds me of something I read in Keith Richards’ book “Life.” As a member of the band THE ROLLING STONES, Richards used to sleep with his guitar. He meant this quite literally. He would keep his guitar by his bedside and if he had a thought about a song and woke up humming it or something, he would pick up the guitar, turn on a cassette recorder (remember those?) and then go back to sleep when he finished. Well, I have done many similar things. I can remember whenever I would get a new piece of equipment I would look at it, hold it, get the “feel” of it and almost sleep with it. If I got an idea for an image, I would often try to sketch it out on paper (hard for me because I’m certainly not a good illustrator). In fact, there have been many images I have created that I saw in my mind’s eye before I picked up the camera. Then, the camera was almost secondary to the idea itself. The camera was simply a means to execute it.
This was one such image:
I knew exactly how I wanted it to look BEFORE I even set up my lights.
2. You need to have or develop a facility with the various types of equipment needed to produce images.
When Tiger Woods, the famous golfer, was at his peak, someone asked him how he got so good. He replied: “Hit 1000 golf balls a day!” Of course, what he meant was that you had to get so used to using your tools that they become an extension of your thought process. There are things that Woods thinks about that someone who plays once-a-week couldn’t possibly imagine. It’s the same with practically anything that you do in which you totally immerse yourself. You become instantly aware of the smallest detail that will improve the outcome of what you are doing! So it is in photography. Things like adding a background light, positioning a reflector in a certain way, setting up a camera angle. These are all things the seasoned pro thinks about without really trying.
3. You need to understand how follow-through enables your work-flow to proceed smoothly.
Being able to finish a job or to notice other little things about how to make an image better, enables one to concentrate on the details rather than to figure out how to stop fumbling around with the process. Photographers these days have to be familiar not only with the taking of the pictures, but with the computer programs necessary to complete the assignments from editing the images to sending them to the client.
4. Last, and certainly not least, you have to have an “eye” for making great images.
Composition and lighting can be taught, and taught successfully, but one has to have a certain “vision” for what looks good in certain situations and what will be a successful image in a commercial sense, if you plan on getting paid for your efforts.
Here are just a couple of assignments that I’ve done over the last month or so that required different kinds of approaches:
A setup for full-length portraits.
A setup for a series of product shots.
A setup for a series of executive portraits on location.
One of the reasons this kind of thing comes naturally to me is that I have always loved the “workings” of the photography profession. I think from the time I was very young, I enjoyed playing with cameras, seeing how they worked and what different types there were. The same with lighting equipment. Over the years I saw electronic power packs shrink in size from needing dollies to wheel them around, to being light enough to carry several in one bag. I’ve always loved seeing how light works and learning the science as well. Much of this knowledge has been gleaned from experience over time, because I did not go to school to study it. But my “schooling” took place over several years, with several different photographers who did things in several different and distinct ways. But, because I’ve always had a “facility” with all sorts of photographic equipment, all of it was relatively easy to learn. In addition, I have studied the history of photography from early attempts to fix an image on paper right up through the digital age. I have attended countless exhibits both in museums as well as galleries to absorb various artists’ techniques and how they work to create interesting photographs. I have read numerous books on photography, photographic history, techniques and applications. Further, I have written a manuscript about a step-by-step approach to studio lighting which I have published in serial form in many of my blog articles.
The bottom line here is that all of this has been possible because it has been truly a “labor of love”! And, it is one that, so far, has never become a chore. Whatever it is that attracts you, if you wish to become truly good at it, you must immerse yourself in all of its facets!