Thursday, April 1, 2010

As I Was Sayin'


I read an article in which the author compared today's dwindling market for the professional photographer to its increase for the amateur. Towards the bottom of the story, two people from either side of the issue expressed their opinions, and I found myself thinking afterward that they both had exactly made the point I have made so many times.

Gray Squirrel, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida
Gray Squirrel, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida

The professional photographer stated, "I’m not sure I’m going to trust an amateur to understand how important that visual communication is. Can an amateur take a picture as good as a professional? Sure...Can they do it on demand? Can they do it again? Can they do it over and over? Can they do it when a scene isn’t that interesting?”

The amateur photographer then said, "“I never followed any traditional photography rules only because I didn’t know of any — I never went to photography school, never took any classes. People don’t know the rules, so they just shoot what they like — and other people like it, too.”

I find myself upset by both opinions and to use an oft quoted expression, wanting to smack them both in the head with my shoe. Now, figuratively speaking you understand, because this issue, I will readily admit, frustrates me more than most any other. Reading that it is still out there, still forefront in people's mindsets, dedicates me all the more to stomping it out.

Bok Tower in Sepia, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower in Sepia, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida

If I have not said it 1,000 times already, then this will make 1,001. Photography is NOT about what camera equipment you use, it is not about your experiences, how far you've traveled, or what connections you've made in the marketplace. Your thousands of dollars in lenses and huge portfolio doesn't make you any higher on the scale than the mom at home photographing her garden flowers. Yet, on the other hand, photography is also not something you can just pick up on a whim and treat casually either. If you are going to put your work out there for sale, then show the world you have acquired some knowledge about your craft. Make an attempt to learn something! If then along the way life treats you well and you find yourself going pro, remember what it was like when you were an amateur. Remember that others can glean from your work to make themselves better.

In the photography world, we are all on a level playing field. We are also all a part of a big puzzle. I only know what I know about photography because I learned it from someone else. They took the time to impart to me their knowledge. I took the time to read what they had to say. I chose to follow the rules, to find out how to get the right exposure for that image, to train myself in what is good composition. I did this so that I can BE consistent, even as an amateur, taking the same great images over and over again, in any situation, even the poor ones.

Azaleas at Springtime, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida

I also maintained my gratitude, gratitude to the man who showed me how marvelous macro photography was, gratitude to those who wrote articles about basic photography principles, who taught me what my camera was doing when I clicked the shutter, gratitude as well to those countless individuals who identified the many flowers, insects, and birds I have photographed. However, my best expression of gratitude comes from my willingness to pass along what all of these have given me. I respect what I have learned enough to share it with others.

Professionalism is not a reward; it is not something you earn. Instead, it is a character trait. The true professional remains humble no matter how "high up" he climbs. He makes others feel as if they belong inside his same world, as if they too can "get there". When I can spend time viewing your work or reading your words and come away knowing you are kind, knowledgeable, and yet still willing to learn, is when your work really shines. Those are the marks of a professional photographer. I'll venture to say that both sides, the "amateur" and the "pro", from that article have not attained it yet.

Pathway, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida
Pathway, Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida

* These images were all taken this year at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida. Click here, to view the entire set.

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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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