Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tip of the Day: Add Value II

Neither in focus, nor necessarily properly exposed... and wtf is going on with the bottom image???

The following question stems from a discussion on the Facebook LUCIMA Workshops page about this particular blog post.

One thing you've pointed out, but should elaborate on more, is the "quality" of the photographer. Some businesses that pay their photographers are still struggling with photographers that can't deliver. While beauty is in the eye of beholder a quality photographer must deliver sharp, well-exposed, properly contrasted, white balanced pictures if shooting catalogue/website. Because these clients need to post these images online within 24 hours or their sales will suffer. And if you don't budget enough time to finish the shoot the client might have to overpay just to complete the project. So there is much more to a qualified professional photographer than what appears in the portfolio.

If heaven forbid you find yourself shooting a catalogue then I certainly hope you know your fundamentals. Otherwise you'll lose out on that particular minimum wage job. Or was it TF? Is that sarcasm you hear in my voice? :)

I don't think anyone will argue against every photographer having fundamental knowledge of proper photographic techniques for basic jobs such as catalogue/web. It's 101 stuff. If you can't operate your camera or obtain proper exposure/white balance, focus, etc. then you're not qualified for the job. Any job for that matter.

Are there plenty of photographers out there that lack these basic requisite skills? Probably. But for the clients that are "struggling with photographers that can't deliver" I say "you get what you pay for". If a client can't find a good photographer to shoot basic web shots of their weekly inventory of new products, it's probably because they're too cheap to hire a proper photographer. They've probably hired the owner's high school cousin or worse, some random photographer off of craigslist *shudder*. Because any half decent photographer should own an Einstein and know how to put the camera on a tripod for 1,000 identical shots. We're not talking rocket science here. My 13-year-old dog can shoot catalogue/web if you give her a floor-mounted shutter-release button and some arthritis medicine.

But rather than argue about the proper "quality" necessary for shooting catalogue/web, let me rephrase the above question for lookbook/campaign instead of catalogue/web... basically what defines a "quality photographer" for better jobs such as campaigns? Because I have a story to tell...

A while back, I lost out on a job to another photographer. When I say "lost out" I mean that I was told I had the job but later taken off the project and replaced with another photographer. Shit happens. Life goes on. Anyway, this particular photographer didn't use strobes, seemingly didn't retouch, didn't have a studio, and for most intents and purposes she wasn't a *better* photographer.

But there was one thing she possessed that I didn't have. A particular aesthetic. An aesthetic that the client wanted. And that's all that mattered at the end of the day.

You guys sometimes don't see the forest from the trees. Too often you're staring at the worm in the hole in the bark on the trunk in the middle of a single tree. What you fail to grasp is that exposure, white balance, contrast, sharpness, etc. that's jargon to a client... jargon that they neither care about nor want to understand. All they know is they want a specific look. And for their lookbooks and campaigns you either have it or you don't.

And most of you guys don't. Because most of you guys don't have any look. You don't have any aesthetic. You have what every other photographer has. A jumbled mish mosh of random pictures. Some of them are nice. Most of them are average. But all of them are forgettable. Because at the end of the day you haven't left an impression on the client's mind.

So you you ask me, "But Charles what about the "quality" of the photographer?" I respond, "Define quality?" I'd rather you struggle with exposure, white-balance, sharpness, etc. if it means that you have a specific look that a few clients want and will pay you for.

Because consider the alternative. Tack sharp, well-exposed, white-balanced, contrasty images that no one wants.

And just like the client getting exactly what they paid for, as a photographer you are paid exactly what you're worth.


  1. Interesting and quite controversial (for many photographers) topic, but no coments, just silence. Is this because now, everyone worry if he has this particular aesthetic?

  2. I don't know. I don't usually benchmark my posts based on the responses. The sample size is too small given that most of my posts only generate single digits responses.

  3. A band can have good production and a quality recording but if their music doesn't have any 'soul' who gives a shit

  4. Very well put!! Thank you for the words of wisdom