Photographers, raise your hands if you ever taken an amazing picture and heard someone say “you have a nice camera!”
That’s a lot of hands raised.
For the shot above, the least essential part was actually the camera. If everything else was the same (lighting, models, experience), it could have been made with a $500 camera or a $5,000 camera. Of course there are advantages to a nicer camera, but the point is, it’s not the camera.
In a world where everyone can afford to have a nice camera, what is it that makes professional photographers stand apart? I almost said lighting. We’ve spent thousands of dollars on lighting gear. Even if you spend $1,000 on a new DSLR camera, chances are, you aren’t going to spend several thousand more on lights. So, I win. That’s what makes me a pro.
Except lighting is just like a camera. At the end of the day, it’s a tool. Used for good or evil. Quality photos or mediocre. It’s just a tool.
So what is it? How am I different from the mom up the road who just bought her first camera and now considers herself a pro?
Two things, vision and experience. Without vision driving the use of any tool, it is just a lifeless tool. Likewise without vision, cameras and lights can create lifeless photos. You have to bring vision to each and every shoot. After you’ve shot your hundredth portrait in the same location because everyone “loves the look of it,” you have to bring something new to that location or you’ll end up with 100 photos that look exactly the same. There’s a difference between having your own style and being lazy. And that’s what most people don’t understand, being a photographer requires mountains of creativity and that’s hard to muster sometimes. It turns out it’s a lot more work than saying smile and clicking a button.
On top of having a vision for every shoot, you also have to juggle numerous other factors to pull off a successful session. You have to learn to deal with location issues, model issues and the good old rule “if it can go wrong, it will.” You have to know how to roll with the punches and still make amazing photos every time. Some shoots you go into having no idea where you are going to shoot or what you are looking for. But, with experience, you pull it off every time and the client is none the wiser.
I used to look at the camera other photographers were using and decide where I ranked compared with them. Then I realized comparing yourself creatively with others based on something that can be purchased, isn’t a good measurement. It’s all about creating a consistent body of work and always growing.