Monday, February 05, 2007

The Total Photographer - The Necessary Support


I have talked a lot about being a photographer and pursuing a personal vision. There are other things that are important, that in the course of photography we have to pay attention to.

1. We have to be organised and make the process of photography and maintaining our images efficient

Perhaps it is because I am a commercial photographer, I think a lot about the process of photography. And it starts with client management and ends with delivery to the client and collection of payment. There is a paper trail over the whole process which enables me to quickly plan a shoot, manage logistics, document the technical details and fault find issues. When I first started my business, I had no business plan, no MBA. A friend's father who runs his own business told me to have a job sheet for each job. Although the job sheet has evolved from an all encompassing job overview to a financial overview now, the idea of documenting the process stuck in my mind. For a commercial job, I have
a. A job sheet to document the incomings and outgoings
b. A quote for the client to sign which forms an agreement between the client and myself
c. An equipment checklist that my assistant gets to prepare for the shoot
d. A tech log which records the equipment used and the exposures in an image. There is a diagram of the set layout so that I can reconstruct a shoot if I want to.
e. A digital log which tracks my digital images from camera to computer and all the renaming, metadata input and post processing.
f. An invoice
g. A receipt of what is delivered to a client.

Like I said, the documents I have help me plan a shoot and then examine how the shoot was executed. Although such detail documentation is more beneficial to a commercial photographer, it would help any photographer think about a checklist of equipment and some record of how the shoot was executed. For the commercial photographer, spreadsheets for costing and the quoting a shoot and then spreadsheets for profit analysis is useful for understanding how your photographic business runs.

I have recently blogged about Iview Media Pro. And now I also believe that managing your photographs as assests, will enable the photographer to 1. gain financial leverage from the archives and 2. review and learn from one's past work. This also takes some thought and organisation. How are images, both digital and film, stored. How are the images named and what metadata do they carry? What program for cataloging is suitable for your needs. For a larger company of commercial photographers, Iview Media may not have the networking muscle but it is overkill for an amateur photographer who mainly takes holiday snaps.

Once the organisation is done and past photographs are easily accessible, one can easily find images for sale to individuals or stock. One can also group images for tailored portfolios or for creating an exhibition. Doing this with files of negatives or a hard drive of un-organised images is unproductive.

2. We have to promote ourselves, find our audience and a way of reaching out to them.

Whether you are a commercial photographer or fine art photographer, whether you are a professional full time photographer or an enthusiastic amateur, we have to show our images to other people. And depending on what type of photography we do, the options open to us differ. As a commercial photographer in weddings, there are wedding portals, trade magazines and wedding shows that the wedding photographer must advertise in. A commercial photographer will need to have a portfolio to show advertising agencies, magazines and other clients. A fine art photographer, will need to organise exhibitions of work and find gallery representation. The amateur can join photographic clubs, enter competitions or join online communities like Flickr.

I think that the internet has opened up a lot of opportunities for photographers to get their work viewed. It has also made the competition much harder as we now will be competing against photographers from all over the world. In that we can present our work next to award winning American and European photographers is great. But for us to get anywhere, we have to raise our standards to those of international photographers. A real challenge but an exciting one.

3. We have to keep renewing ourselves and our work, and sometimes this means taking time off from photography. We need to live a balanced and engaged life, which will reflect back in our photography.

To me photography is a creative process. And it is a journey, not a destination. I think when we start photography, a lot of us go through a technical phase. One where we learn about the f-stops, camera capabilities and lighting equipment. And to a certain extent, it is an ongoing endeavour. But it is also so important to understand what we want to say with our images. In fact, it is important to try and say something with our images that goes beyond the mere documentation of a scene. We need to experience life, find something worthwhile to say with our images. And then we need to understand the emotional impact of our photographic practises and tailor those photographic practises to our message.

Sometimes, taking a break from photography and engaging with life, friends and family, is just as important as photography itself. What is the use of perfect technique, if it serves to say nothing.

No comments: