“A Blueprint for Professionalism as a Photographer”
Stepping into any occupation, whether you wish to gain entry into the highest levels of the vocation, or maintain oneself as a hobbyist plying an avocation, requires that a person attains some manner of maneuvering through that landscape of expertise. Professional skills and ethics are required for anyone who wants to be treated with respect and looked upon as more than a dabbler at best or a bumbler at worst. While success in any endeavor takes time and plenty of trial and error, it is always helpful to have some guidelines that make the journey a bit smoother. This article is designed for those who lack elements of one or both of the primary rudiments of becoming truly professional.
There are endless technical skills that a photographer must master to become truly good at his craft and such a list could fill colossal books on the subject. However, breaking that list down to three crucial categories which subsumes the entirety of what is most important to this vocation/avocation is the most sensible thing to do. To become a photographer in this Modern Age, you must do the following three things well; comprehend lighting, use the rules of composition, edit images with purposeful skill.
1 – Lighting
Photographers live by the understanding that lighting is everything and to a large extent that is true. Fabulously absorbing use of light has the ability to draw any audience into an image and hold them there. The problem is determining precisely what kind of lighting works for the situation that is presented. I see images on Instagram where a PORTION of the naturally lit picture looks fantastic, but because of the limitations of the natural radiance, details in the hair and outfit of the model are lost due to low intensity of ambient light. So the question is a simple one, what is the purpose of the image? In the case of the photograph I recall, there was no obvious reason for its existence except showcasing the fabulous backside of the model. It had clearly not been created for commercial and publication purposes and was just another “social media” attention-grabbing pic. But even then, the image could have been superb had the photographer just paid attention to some details. The model was dark-haired, dark-skinned and wearing a small amount of dark attire. As such, the low light meant the image was certainly going to be atmospheric, but it was too much so. Adding a bit of fill light from a reflector or some type of fill flash or static light would have preserved the moodiness of the image but still have made the missing details more evident and improved the overall impact of the picture. Shadows, highlights, rim lighting, gradations of light, backlighting and all kinds of other techniques to create dynamic lighting are part of the arsenal of a great photographer, but so is having a grasp of the reasons for creating an image.