Lots of things have come together in the last month or so to make me think a lot about my life as a ‘one-man-band’ in the worlds of editorial and corporate photography. The trigger for writing this blog was a survey being conducted by the company that supplies my accounting software. Like most surveys it didn’t ask the questions that I wanted to answer. The attraction of a free-prize-draw for those who took part made me complete it anyway. However, it did make me think about how (very) small businesses and the self-employed are treated by those with whom we do business.
The corporate side of my work is definitely better paid than the editorial but it comes with lots more preparation, admin and general hassle.
I often refer to my photographs as “telling a story”. That’s how I look at what I do. Portraits help to tell that person’s story and the rest of my work is all about creating images that either tell the whole story of work with other elements to achieve that goal. Stories don’t necessarily have to have an ending. Many of the best stories ask a question of the reader/viewer and leave them thinking about what they have seen, read or experienced. That, in my opinion, is what photography is about; telling the right stories and asking the right questions and how you choose to compose your pictures is one of the vital elements of visual storytelling.
Please accept my apologies. This post starts with a short rant.
Every time I read an opinion about which of the many utterly superb cameras that are on the market produces the best colours, my heart sinks. When the writer gives their opinion on the colours or the contrast that this or that model produces I know that I can safely ignore them but I also know that others listen. They often sound convincing because what they say has some small foothold in reality. I find it unbelievable but some people actually base their selection of equipment on how they perceive a camera model to render colours using the factory settings and often under conditions over which they have little control. Even worse; others actually allow the opinions of these short-sighted and wildly ill-informed folks to influence their purchasing decisions.
Ten years ago I bought an 11″ MacBook Air. It went everywhere with me because it was so portable, so useful and did the job that I needed it to do. Four years ago I tried really hard to find a way to use an iPad to do the same sort of on-location quick edits that the small laptop had been so good for but I never really made it work. I kept the rapidly ageing laptop in service for longer than I should have and carried my 2017 15″ MacBook Pro on more jobs that I would have wanted to. When Apple released the M1 powered 13″ laptops earlier this year I thought that I might finally have found a solution and the reports coming from other photographers about how good they were helped me make my mind up to invest in one.
When I was posting an archive portrait a day to my instagram account during the COVID-19 lockdown I had about thirty images in my mind that were ‘must-have’ pictures that I remembered being something special. When I started to put to the set together two things surprised me;
Some of those thirty must-have pictures weren’t as good as my memory told me they were.
Quite a few others were available top take their place in the top thirty – either because they were way better than I had remembered or because I had totally forgotten about them.
Working with teams of photographers on big sports projects is one of my main sources of income these days. Get a bunch of photographers together and they will almost inevitably start to tell stories about what they’ve done and who they’ve met.
Recently a colleague mentioned my Instagram project from last year and how he had enjoyed seeing my early work. That lead to a discussion about how lucky we are to go places and to see things that the general public can’t or, at least can’t without spending a lot of money.
A colleague of mine, Edmond Terakopian, put a post on a Facebook groups a few days ago talking about the Nikon FM2 cameras that he has owned for many years. From there lots of people agreed with what he had written and a few others moved the conversation on to some of the kit that they’ve owned through their careers.
Most of the comments were about how good and how reliable the earlier kit was and how bodies and lenses from the 70s, 80s and into the 90s are still working and still able to run out quality pictures. Lots of nostalgia for the way things used to be!
Personally speaking I wouldn’t want to go back the shooting and processing film – even if that meant you could get a complete professional kit (two FM2s, two motor drives, 24mm, 35mm, 85mm and 180mm lenses and two flashes) for under £2,500. I was never as big a fan of the FM2 as so many of my colleagues were. The much more expensive and robust F3P/MD4 combination was my favourite of all of the manual focus film cameras but the arrival of the EOS1N made me realise that auto-focus was the way to go.
Whatever you do for a living, for fun or out of necessity the general rule is that the more you do it, the better you get at it. Like a very large number of people I have been doing what I normally do a lot less through the COVID-19 pandemic and I have found that has caused me to stop and think a lot more.
I haven’t been into a single school for almost a year and a half and I haven’t shot a large set of corporate headshots for almost as long. I haven’t been asked to photograph retail spaces, conferences or the work that takes place inside hospitals. That’s a massive chunk of my core photography work missing from my life and the relatively few editorial and news jobs that I’ve done certainly haven’t made up for any of the regular commissions.