Become a Better Photographer
Have you ever wondered how to get your photography published? Well, it’s both easier and, almost always, less financially rewarding than was the case in days gone by. The incredible democratization of photography that has occurred through digital photography and the internet has led to tens of millions of people being involved in photography in a way that was not possible back in the days of film-based photography. Let’s look at some of the more positive aspects of this revolution.
Once the camera and memory card have been purchased there are, theoretically, no extra costs involved with making photos. Naturally, you have to store those photos. But the price, availability and capacity of external hard drives is such that it’s now far cheaper to store digital photos than it would be a similar number of photographic prints in traditional albums.
Farewell, Old Yellow
You never have to buy film and processing again. How significant is this fact? I worked for Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd for eight years. I started there in 1990, on the factory floor, when Kodak was a 20 billion dollar company (the Apple of their day, some might say) with over 130,000 employees worldwide. Back then Kodak even owned Sterling Winthrop, the manufactures of Panadol.
Working at Kodak had been a dream of mine since my early days in photography retail. When I joined the company there was an internal only hiring policy in place at the time. But I was determined and found a way in. It didn’t bother me at all that it was a blue-collar job. I was actually working at Kodak and, anyway, the fact that it was a shift work job would allow me to make most of my classes in the full time photography BA in which I was currently enrolled.
I worked hard during my eight year tenure and progressed, while undertaking various tertiary level qualifications in photography, from blue collar factory worker through various customer service and technical specialist positions to become the Product Manager in the Professional Imaging Division at Kodak for Australia and New Zealand.
Film was the great cash cow for Kodak, being highly profitable and driving sales for photographic paper and associated chemicals. But, as a direct result of the digital photography revolution, those days are long gone and that once great company is but a shadow of its former glory.
One of the great advantages of digital photography is having the immediate feedback through the viewfinder (i.e., mirrorless camera) or via the camera's LCD screen. Of course having that feedback is one thing, but knowing how to act on it is another thing entirely. This is where continuous education, whether technical or aesthetic, becomes so important.
Your camera is here to record the events that help shape your life, but it also has the capacity to process those images for you. So, for folks using their DSLR or mirrorless camera on JPEG mode (which, in my opinion, is what the vast majority of photographers should be doing), their camera becomes both an image recorder and photo lab. Amazing!
You can, of course, significantly improve your photos on the desktop. But the point is that each of your JPEG photos has already been processed, to a pretty decent standard, by the time it reaches the memory card. And, for most folks, that’s an advantage that cannot be overstated.
Of course those of us who want ultimate control over the quality and appearance of our images will continue to work in RAW. But we are exceptions to the rule. I’m convinced that JPEG makes more sense, both from a workflow and a financial point of view, for most amateur and a lot of professional photographers (e.g., newspaper, sport, low end wedding and portrait photograph). It’s not my way, but it’s the most appropriate way forward for many of them.
The World Has Become Your Audience
It’s hard to imagine life without the internet. While I’m rarely excited by incoming emails, the opportunity to share my thoughts and photos with the world has certainly changed my life. I have a whole new audience for my work, which has led to a significantly expanded range of creative and commercial opportunities. In my case commercial means what I want it to mean: primarily private one-to-one teaching and photo tours. Other opportunities will follow.
Of course, while the ongoing need to improve and share one’s work with an ever larger audience is important to most artists, the initial struggle to grasp new technologies, techniques and workflows has been a major impediment to many.
Personally, I found this to be an incredibly difficult road, particularly as the digital revolution reached me well into my photography career. In fact I didn’t use a computer until I was in my mid twenties. Since then I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars over the years on cameras and computers, not to mention travel, and I don’t even want to think about all the hours I’ve invested in education, both formal and self taught.
But I’m better for it and, these days, learning new software applications and techniques isn’t all that difficult. I’m no geek, but I have a workflow that allows me to keep track of all my images and the skills to be able to process and share them quickly and efficiently. The best thing is that I love the act of making photos, in camera, more than I ever did. With such a busy life the act of getting outside, into the fresh air and natural light, is so important to our well-being, health and happiness. It grounds us and allows us to reconnect with so much of what’s most important in our lives.
The Proof And The Pudding
The most obvious extension of this effort has been the creation and upkeep of my website and blog travelphotographyguru.com which, if you consider the hundreds of regular blog posts I’ve produced, I must have invested several thousand hours into. The site is, primarily, a labor of love that has allowed me to keep up to date with emerging technologies and trends and, as a consequence, stay relevant to the needs of my students and other folk who regularly visit the site.
The good news, thankfully, is that any ongoing study is now much easier. My ability to absorb and act upon new information is now so much faster than it used to be. I’m no longer afraid of technology although, as in all things, practice makes perfect. Software has become far more intuitive and computers far faster and more reliable. Likewise, internet speeds are keeping up with my needs. Although, of course, I’d like the internet to be faster and more reliable, particularly when I travel.
A Slave To Love
I’m now at a stage where my internet endeavors equate more to a serious hobby, rather than a full time commitment. As I teach photography online I still spend a great deal of time at the desktop, and I find that to be far more interesting than watching endless hours of TV (though Netflix has been somewhat of a revelation to me). My mind is, for the most part, actively engaged, rather than being in a state of passive submission.
Back in the day working in the darkroom was seen to be the natural extension for the artist photographer. Today the desktop has completely replaced the darkroom in my artistic workflow. It’s quicker, healthier (though I must remember to get up and stretch more often), repeatable and far more efficient. And, just like the digital camera, once you have a computer and sufficient storage space for your photos, there are no ongoing costs associated with the processing of those photos.
Which Horse Do You Ride?
It’s true that, for folks like me, more than one computer is required. I need the power of a desktop computer, in addition to a large monitor, for some of the serious image processing I conduct and for some of the tasks associated with my online teaching. As a consequence I run two 27 inch monitors most of the day. I also utilize a laptop for travel and off-site teaching. Though a second monitor is ideal for hangouts, for most folks a single computer should more than meet their needs.
No Longer the Great Unknown
Over coming months I’II be paying more attention to systems and workflow so that I will be able to produce and share even more of my photography with less effort and in a more timely manner. Naturally, whatever I learn I can teach.
Because I’ve spent so long in the trenches I truly understand how frustrating photography and it’s associated technologies can be for the enthusiast. It’s a great feeling to know that all those years of struggle are largely behind me, that something of consequence (my online teaching and my website and blog) has resulted and that I’m able to share what I’ve learned with many, many good folk throughout the world.
Making a Difference
Everything I teach is based on the premise that photography must be experience based. It must allow us to be in the moment, free from the restrictions of technology, in such a way that allows our creativity to bloom. The trick is to be able to utilize technology, without fear and without becoming a slave to it. That approach, and my ability to explain seemingly complex subjects in simple and actionable language, is what makes me a great teacher. There, I’ve said it!
If you’d like to investigate a single or multiply session one-to-one photography course with me feel free to check out the details below.