Tuesday, December 23, 2008

What Kind of Photographer Are You?

I’m not asking if you shoot weddings, sports, or just make snapshots of your family. These are one way to define a type of photography, but there is another way to describe your pictures.

If you have your subjects turn and look at the camera and say “cheese” there is a good chance you enjoy making photos for mainly your personal use. You like making photos and putting these in photo albums so you can revisit these moments in time. I think everyone likes to make these types of photos for recording their family history. Earlier in my career when I managed 1-hour photo labs I saw some incredibly well done photography that would fit into this category.

I had a few customers who did an excellent job of getting good expressions of their friends and family looking at the camera. The photos were not so tight of the people that you didn’t know where they were, but they would show their friends in front of the Eifel Tower where you could see the people close to the camera with the location in the background easily identifiable.

This type of photographer, snap-shot or memory jogger photographer, is concerned in recording a moment in time and who was there at that moment.

Another style is abstract photography. This would be an instrumental composition with no words to use music as an analogy. The composition and lighting may be well done, but the viewer’s responses are usually wide-ranging.

Ansel Adams is one of the most prominent abstract photographers. His photos create a mood and tone rather than deliver a specific message.

Elliott Porter, another giant in the genera of abstract photography, gave a prefect example of the portrayal of beauty or eliciting of an emotion with his photography rather than a photojournalist statement of fact. When asked (by a photo editor for a news magazine) what he would do if he came upon a stream polluted and covered with oil Porter said, “I could not help but show the beauty of it regardless of the tragedy.”

In some abstract photographs the subject is recognizable, yet others may be so bizarre there is no subject recognition at all. The common theme for these types of photographers a striking image. A specific message is not the purpose.

Then there’s the communications photographer. Their goal is to deliver a precise message. Many techniques used by the abstract photographer are employed, but the message is the thing.

Some communication photographers are conceptual in approach. Their work is thematic. The theme maybe as simple as illustrating an intangible, say hot or cold or “going green.” Their photos communicate an idea.

Life magazine was one of the first places Americans were exposed to photojournalism. These photographers deliver a message, but beyond the message they are pursuing truth. They want to tell the subject’s story accurately in order to obtain a response from the viewer; to make those seeing the photos want to take some action.

In between the conceptual photographer and the photojournalist are many breeds of photographers who are concerned with capturing a message and having the audience engaged with it.

Some photographers can move easily between these approaches. One day they may be covering a news event for a wire service (photojournalism) and the next day shooting and annual report or recruiting guide for a college. They know how to adjust the approach so they are not violating ethics of the professional photojournalist.

What do these styles have in common? The finest photographers shoot what they love most. This enjoyment usually means they have invested time into their subjects and know them well.

Understanding these approaches will better help you identify the best photographer for your projects. Maybe you’re the best for the job. Maybe you need to hire someone to shoot the project for you.

Most clients look beyond a photographer’s ability with the camera. Can you trust this photographer to do the job on his own? They will be representing you. Do you need to be there directing this person?

If you have a message you need communicated you don’t need have a snap-shooter or an abstract photographer – they can fill the “holes” where the pictures are to go, but that doesn’t express your message to your audience.

Be sure your photographer can communicate your message and be someone you can trust. It is easy to hire a known quantity. It’s not so easy to find the one who will get the job done, but the search is worth the trouble.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Rekindling of Relationships

Christmas 2010 in Morganton, NC. Nikon D3, 14-24mm, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/2500
Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, even when you turn gray I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save. Isaiah 46:3-4

Chelle helps decorate ginger bread house at our friend Jackie Reedy's "Cookie Day" in 2010. Lumix DMC-TZ5. ISO 100, f/3.3, 1/4
“Chelle can you help me put up the Christmas tree?” was my question a few years ago. Our family uses a fake tree due to our allergies and it takes time to unpack and put it together each year. My daughter had gotten finally big enough to help hand me the branches. So together we got the tree assembled and then Dorie, my wife, helped with the ornaments and other decorations around the house. The following year Chelle asked me, “Daddy when are we putting up the tree?” Dorie reminded me we now had a tradition. It continues to this day.

Our Christmas tree in 2011. Nikon Coolpix P7000, ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/30
While I could tell you about all the symbolism of the Christmas tree, for us it boils down to what Christmas is about—the tradition of a relationship being rekindled through a simple tradition of putting up a Christmas tree. It is like the official start for the season for our family. It is a time my daughter enjoys with her father as a special time together. It is my time, as a father, to spend time with my daughter.

Tacky Christmas Sweater Party for Kelly Stancil graduating from Georgia Tech December 2010. Lumix, DMC-TZ5. ISO 250, f/3.3, 1/30
Maybe this is what the season is really about—rekindling our relationship with the father through his son, Jesus Christ. As long as all these traditions help us and remind us to spend time with God, then the season will have been fully lived.

Dear Lord, may these traditions remind me of spending time with you. Help us to not only grow closer to you, but to those around us this season. Help us to celebrate the traditions in a way that draws us closer to you. Amen.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Be a Joiner

Too many individuals are isolated in their jobs. Outside of their work they are unknown. In today’s volatile economic times this may prove to be a costly mistake. Staff positions have been cut, freelancers’ clients have cut budgets or gone out of business.

If your source of income is drying up one good way to find new work is through your network. Membership in professional organizations can be an outstanding resource. Having your name on a membership list can give you access to others in the organization, but to make the organization work for you - you must work for it.

Volunteer. Become involved. Help the group accomplish its goals. Volunteer to call members and invited guest to attend meetings. In the process of making these cold calls you are laying the foundation for a stable career.

You are getting to know others and they are getting to know you. If you ever need to call one of these people for a job you will be way ahead. They know who you are and it is no longer a “cold call.”

Serving on committees lets others see your skills and how you work and communicate. Committees provide an opportunity to show what can’t be shown in a resume, portfolio or reference letter.

You are probably considered an expert due to your experience. People want to employ experts. It is a good idea to volunteer to lead seminars and workshops. While this shows your knowledge in their field, it also shows your ability to communicate clearly your ideas to others. It shows you as a person who wants everyone to succeed.

Volunteer with more than one organization. They don’t all need to be within your work area so long as the help you connect to your community. Rotary clubs, coaching a youth sport team, volunteer for the Red Cross and other groups will help you expand beyond your profession.

Industry leaders are involved in community programs. What better way to get to know leaders than to volunteer along side them?

The number of groups you are a member of is not important. What is important is not to be just a name on the membership role. Active involvement develops the all-important network.

I have been working with college recruiters and admissions offices for most of my career. Many of the suggestions I have listed are things colleges look for when going through applications. They want the best students to attend their college. It is the same with employers and clients they want the best.

Networking builds communication skills. Volunteering improves skills in service roles and leadership positions.

All this volunteering is not just for the future it is for right now. The benefits of networking help in current jobs.

The foundation of building a network is giving. As we learn to give of our time and talents to those around us we learn that our greatest rewards are all the relationships we develop in the process.