It’s a cold rainy Saturday December 23, 2017, I’m sitting in my recliner pondering 2017 from a career, business and photography perspective. In many ways all three are intertwined. My day job is a 9-5 where I’m Director of IT and Technical Maintenance Manager and nearly every other waking moment is occupied by my family of recreation and technical websites. Through a series of unfortunate events and now desperate decisions by the ownership I believe that fate of the day job is not looking good for myself, my girl and my coworkers. My own website businesses are on the decline because while most do not realize it the internet has become pay to play and the voices of regular folks with little or no budgets are being drowned out by big money, marketing teams and Google greed. When was the last time you searched the internet where the results didn’t return big online stores or websites quietly operated by big businesses, like publishing companies and news outlets. Folks like me are forced to run advertisements or click bait to Amazon just to cover costs.
All this has me wondering if the day job fails can I survive with some sort pf photography business that’s tied to my other skills. Is there a niche I can carve out where I actually can create demand for my services and earn a wage I can live on. In a world where iphone or smartphone pictures rule the day is there a place for a guy with an expensive Nikon D810, a fortune in lenses and other equipment? Can I take the control of my career from others and place it in my own hands this late in life?
To that end I have decided that perhaps I would do best to be honest with myself and measure my photography strengths and weakness from the last year because every year I’m a better photographer than the year before. A self evaluation is needed.
2017 Photography Disappointments
Composition – Simply put I’m very mechanical and do not have an artistic bone in my body. I find composition very difficult, especially with human subjects. While I can recognize a great photo opportunity when I see one, I struggle to create composition from scratch. With inanimate objects I am much better but I often find myself envious of similar better pictures from professional photographers.
Outside Influences – Today it seems for me as society becomes one of instant gratification and everyone is a photographer I find clients want great pictures and they want them now. They don’t want to listen to suggestions about time of day and lighting or where and how to stand. I find myself constantly battling noon overhead sun, crappy LED’s and spaces where other elements will detract from the subject. I need to be more forceful and not let myself be forced down a path of pictures that I know will stink for many reasons. I’m done proving I’m right by spending hours editing pictures in Photoshop.
Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom and Other Software – My Photoshop skills are stagnant. I know exactly what I knew 3 years ago. Same with Lightroom, Capture One and Portrait Pro
Setup Speed – In my home studio it takes me too long to switch from portrait to product photography and vice versa. I also spend too much time trying to get mixed lighting sources set right.
Conditions – I’m not good at overcoming unexpected bad location shooting situations. Too many times after the shoot is done I think to myself “Damn I should have done this or that”.
Rookie Mistakes – while I try to make a every effort to make sure items that don’t belong in photographs stay out of photographs I keep missing mobile phones until after the fact, especially in group photo’s. Every now and then I violate the rule of resetting my Nikon D810 before each use. Normally it’s not a big deal but every now and then I have the wrong white balance setting. Not a big deal to correct but it’s extra work none the less.
2017 Photography Improvements and Successes
Equipment Familiarity – I didn’t buy much gear in 2017. I’m forcing myself to stick with what I have and make it work. My work with flashes is much improved, though I think the SB 800 will always be a pain to program.
Camera Familiarity – I have gotten tremendously better at quickly maneuvering through my camera settings as well as getting to know how my Nikon D810 works with my lenses. I have found muscle memory was reverting to controls from my previous cameras (Nikon D90, Canon 60D, Nikon D800)
Software Training – Adobe Photoshop and/or Adobe Lightroom are must have tools for most photographers. I need to embrace this fact to be competitive.
Elinchrom Skyport – I have gifted my pocket wizards to a friend and I will be embracing Elinchrom EL-Skyport. This is not a dig at Pocket Wizard but stems from the decision to go with Elinchrom D-Lite RX 4, BRX 500 flashes and a Sekonic LiteMaster Pro L-478DR-U-EL exposure meter. It all just works harmoniously together. Additionally with the use of the EL-Skyport Receiver Plus I can incorporate my Nikon Speedlights in to my lighting.