Many people jump into photography head first. They generally work their way through the same process as everyone else, trying to find a style and a niche. Now not everyone necessarily wants a style or niche, some just shoot every subject matter and are very happy doing this. Regardless of what you shoot though you need to be sure you take advantage of every opportunity that is available.
Now I’m not talking about taking specific jobs or models or whatever… I mean that when you have a shoot to do, take full advantage of the subjects you are photographing. Whether that be people, landscapes, architecture or bathrooms (hey, someone took those photos of bathrooms you see in home reno magazines) really think about the different opportunities you have during that shoot.
One of my favorite portrait photographers of all time is Annie Leibovitz (which may be a bit cliche, but I really don’t care). There is a fantastic documentary on her called Life Through A Lens, which I’ve probably seen about 50 times. In it she talks about her mentor Bea Feitler totally berating her after she shot a portrait of a large group of musicians including Bruce Springsteen & Jackson Browne, in a very simplistic way. She simply lined them up on a white wall and clicked (I mean clicked in the literal sense, because the image sure didn’t click). Bea told her that she was given this great opportunity and she wasted it. This is a line that has always stayed with me, and one that I hear in my head when I’m doing shoots now.
While many of us won’t be photographing a large group of highly popular musicians anytime soon, it is still very important to take advantage of every opportunity, no matter how small. I remember when I was in university I loved going out on the Sackville marsh and photographing there (I actually still do, just not in the winter as it’s miserable out there). There was a barn there that I had photographed a few times, in many different angles & light. A few weeks after I had spent at least 3-4 hours photographing this barn I went back to find the barn had collapsed and the metal roof had been removed. I was very happy I had shot as much as I did of it before it came down, (I also took many images of it after it had toppled).
Last year I attended Gala Expo 2010, put on by ACS Formals. I was there with a photographer that I work for. This is a huge event complete with a fashion show with many models showcasing both wedding and prom gowns. I was able to shoot some of the fashion show and I watched as many photographers photographed the models who were walking around the show throughout the day. I started to think about how I could make the most of this opportunity the next year.
Fast forward to 2011. There are usually 15-20 models, both male & female, hair stylists on hand and make-up artists at the gala. Soooooo I contacted the organizer and asked if he would be okay with me setting up a small studio behind the scenes. The idea was that I had all these models available, with their hair and makeup professionally done, and all these gowns that I would be able to photograph. I was inspired by a post I saw on FStoppers.com where King Street Studios had 1 photographer covering the fashion show and 1 photographer covering the models backstage. So I set-up my backdrop and lights backstage and began pulling the models to shoot with me. I was very happy with how the images turned out and I was able to make some great contacts, and met a lot of great people. I have narrowed down the images to roughly 80 and will be able to add some of these images to my portfolio.
So no matter what it is you enjoy photographing make sure that you are taking advantage. Before you leave the subject you are photographing think about how maybe you could shoot in a different angle, composition or lighting technique. You never know whether you’ll get to come back to that subject matter or not. Take advantage of every photographic opportunity that comes your way, no matter how small.