It has to be said that being a photographer is not easy. There are a few things we wouldn’t care to admit to our clients, our friends, or even to ourselves.
Some of what’s in this post may surprise you and you may not agree with all of it. But I have carefully explained my reasons for each.
It has more to do with the camera than we would care to let on.
Saying, “you take really nice photos, you must have a really good camera” to a photographer is a surefire way to wind them up.
It’s not the camera, it’s me. I took the photo, it’s my composition and lighting, I am the reason the photo is so good… to a certain extent at least.
The fact of the matter is that, if you have good gear to begin with, all of this becomes a lot easier to do. It’s no longer an uphill struggle, just a regular flat ground one.
Does the right gear make you a better photographer? Certainly not. Does it make it easier for you to learn and take better quality photos? You betcha.
Recently on holiday, my brother and I were playing with our cameras in the hotel room. I was using a 50D with a 35mm f/1.4 and he was using his Digital Rebel with the kit lens. Who do you think was getting better photos? Clearly I was.
Even when I picked up his camera and started making adjustments so that I didn’t need to use the flash, the images from his camera were noisier and far less sharp.
I can pick up my own camera, boost the ISO a little bit, widen the aperture and start clicking away, capturing sharp images, at reasonable speeds.
Sadly, for a lot of clients, price is more important than quality.
When you combine clients who have (IMO) poor taste with a bad photographer who charges very little, you start to see some very questionable photography.
This is pretty clear if you’ve ever been onto the website: You Are Not A Photographer. It’s a guilty pleasure for many photographers who like to be shocked by the terrible photography from these fauxtographers. They still manage to run fan pages and charge money for their photos.
There’s no accounting for people’s tastes; you can be the best photographer in the world and even charge your clients the same amount of money.
There are still going to be clients who want pregnancy photos of a belly with the ultrasound photoshopped in over the top and spot colour spelling their unborn child’s name.
Yes, I’ve seen that before. It’s worse than you’re imagining.
Half of the problem is that they don’t know the difference between good and bad photography because they’ve never had the opportunity to compare. They’ve gone for whatever is cheapest because, to them, a photographer is a photographer.
The gap between amateur and pro is narrowing every day.
In 2005, nearly 7 years ago, the Canon EOS 5D Mk1 was released. It had a full frame sensor, 12+ megapixels, ISO of up to 3600 (when extended) and cost $3,299 USD. It was impressive at the time and very cheap in comparison to other full frame sensors.
Now, fast forward to today and the Mk2 can be picked up for $2,399 USD. Not only is it cheaper but it’s a whole lot better as well, making difficult situations easier to handle.
For example, the ISO response is much better. When shooting in low light, it’s easy for the photographer to get better results.
As these improvements start to add up and the price continues to come down, it becomes easier for amateurs to buy professional quality gear.
I’m not saying that anyone is going to splash that sort of cash on their first camera but, after a couple years use of an entry level camera, the jump to pro starts to seem much more reasonable.
Just having the right gear isn’t going to make you a better photographer. But it makes it easier for photographers who have what it takes to finally become the professional photographer they want to be.
And that means that the market is going to start to flood.
Artistic integrity is often sacrificed for the sake of the client.
So, the client wants me to go around taking photos of people posing that show what a great time they’re having.
More boring photos that could have been taken anywhere rather than the fun, impressive, candid photos that I was going to take, which the client would have looked at time and time again. It’s not my style, I don’t like doing it but, if it’s what the client wants, I’ll get it done.
This is just one of many examples where I’ve sacrificed what I think would have looked good to give the client what they want. Don’t get me wrong. I usually end up doing both or come to a reasonable compromise. But it’s still time that could have been better spent.
The fact of the matter is, if you’re a working photographer not making a living from your fine art prints, your target for a photography job isn’t to take lots of great photos.
It’s to make the client happy. Happy client, happy photographer. Or at least well fed photographer, if you know what I mean.
I would personally love to make a living from my personal collection of photos but I can’t just yet. I have to focus on keeping my customers happy.
There are certain things I won’t do (I’m looking at you spot colour). And I will tell the client that they should look for a different photographer but you do have to make compromises.
We’re not actually married to Manual mode.
Some photographers will tell you that they only ever shoot in manual mode. While that may be true for them, I know plenty of photographers who speak differently.
They mention aperture priority mode to me like it’s their dirty little secret. They sound scared of what their snobby colleagues may think of them. The fact of the matter is that I shoot equally as much in aperture priority and shutter priority as I do in manual.
The following is taken from my post entitled ‘An Insight Into How I Use My Camera‘
When I have plenty of available light, I use Aperture Priority. It allows me to set my aperture to where I know it will be sharpest and usually the best depth of field. That’s usually around f/8-f/11 – a couple of stops larger than the smallest aperture.
Shooting in this mode means that the shutter speed will change accordingly. At longer focal lengths where you need a faster shutter speed to prevent motion blur, this may be a problem. If I have to, I can always widen the aperture.
When there’s less light, I find it best to use Shutter Speed Priority. You can fix an under exposed photo in post production but there’s nothing you can do about a blurry one. If I’m shooting on a 35mm lens, I like the shutter speed to be around, 1/50 of a second. But I can hold it still for 1/25 if I need to.
Again, the aperture will sort itself out. Even if the camera’s flashing a warning because there’s not enough light it will still take the photo.
If you were to shoot in low light in manual, your camera would tell you that the aperture isn’t wide enough. And that you need to widen it or slow down your shutter speed. If you were to change this, you would essentially be doing what Shutter Speed Priority was doing for you in the first place.
Manual mode comes out in my camera when I’m in unfamiliar conditions. And, more often than not, when I’m using my flash in the dark or when I’m in controlled conditions.
I’ll give you an example of that. Last night, I was shooting with a model and I had my shutter speed set to 1/10, aperture of f/2.8, ISO 640 and my flash compensation boosted by 2ev.
I know that the speed at which my flash fires, will freeze any motion from the model and any camera shake that my hand may produce.
Nevertheless, I would suggest that everyone learn on manual mode. It’s like learning to drive a car in manual. The more you learn, the more knowledge you’ll have to help you in the future. Even if you drive an automatic.
We have a great list of photography terms you should check out for more information!
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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