Sunday, October 13, 2013

You Can't Always Get What You Want

For those of us who don’t have a studio, don’t own lighting equipment, and don’t use a camera worth thousands of dollars, shooting in a professional way without all of the “professional” bits can be frustrating.  Sometimes I feel so limited by my photography budget that I just sit around and feel bad for myself because my photos don’t look good past ISO 800, I don’t have enough money to buy a wider angle lens (or any lenses at all), I don’t have reliable speed lights because they’re knockoffs, and I’m not Joey Lawrence, or even dating Joey Lawrence, because guess what? You can’t always get what you want. Nor can you be Joey Lawrence and date yourself. But if you could I would be the first to know.

I regularly think up fanciful photoshoot concepts that require one of many things I don’t have; a studio, studio equipment, lighting equipment, photography assistants, access to high end wardrobes and famous make-up artists, etc. Then I pout and whine because I don’t have what I need in order to actually execute said photoshoot concepts. Perhaps the production value lust is all my own, but maybe you can relate to the general feeling of “Wouldn’t it be so awesome if I did THIS?” and then you realize, hey, uh, oh yeah, I can’t afford that.

I have a word document full of these ideas; and someday, I’ll do them all. But you can’t just live in Someday-Land where you’re rich and famous and Natalie Portman, so I came up with some rules to follow in the meantime:

  • When you’re brainstorming photoshoots, limit yourself. Instead of thinking: “What do I want to do a photoshoot of?”,  Say to yourself: “What can I do a photoshoot of, in the middle of rainy season in Seattle, without lighting equipment, with xyz camera and lenses, and all of my hottest friends?” Because you’ll get an answer you can use and it won’t make you eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. But if you do eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, you should eat Half Baked because it’s bomb.

  • Love your equipment. Seriously, if you start loving your equipment instead of viewing it as a cheap pile of metal holding you back, it will affect the way your photoshoots go. I know this because that’s the way I felt for a long time. Positive reinforcement is key; even if you secretly want another camera, or another lens, or whatever it may be, you need to compartmentalize the shit out of those feelings so you don’t think about it every time you use your camera. Every night you need to sit your ass down in front of that equipment and you LOVE IT. You thank that camera for capturing your best portfolio photos and you just sit there and think about all the good things it’s done for you and helped you with. Then kiss it goodnight and tuck it in and never say a bad thing on it again. It’ll change your life.

  • Stop it with the blame mentality. When something is not going according to plan on shoot, don’t blame other people for it. If you’re the photographer, you run show; so boss up and take responsibility. You don’t have to be self-deprecating and it doesn’t mean the shoot is ruined; just recognize that something is not going smoothly and do your best to find a solution and address it. Don’t just stand by awkwardly if your team is taking things in a direction you don’t like or if a backdrop is malfunctioning; communicate, innovate, do something. Better camera equipment is not a solution (see above). And don’t bring out your frustration on your models, your MUAHs, your assistants, or your equipment. Announce a 10 minute break and go chill out if that’s what you need.

  • Bring snacks to a photoshoot. Because otherwise you’ll turn into a diva. This can also happen to everyone else; so providing extra snacks is heavily advised.

These photos are of Joachim and Jim performing at Challenger Ridge Winery. Joachim is an amazingly talented singer songwriter who has a baby angel voice that sounds like eating ice cream. You can listen to his songs here! Jim is his badass bass player who serenades the world with his sweet bass-y goodness. You can listen to some of Jim’s work here! I go to see them play quite often, but before I adopted the aforementioned technique of only biting off what I know I can chew, I showed up at an indoor concert and attempt to take photos. With my unreliable flash, limited ISO settings, and a limited lens selection, I left feeling like an untalented hack with crap equipment. Naturally when I heard about an upcoming outdoor concert I showed up with my camera! This time not to my disappointment.

The moral of the story: you can’t always get what you want. But if you're a photographer, you probably already have what you need and maybe we just shouldn't complain so much.

- Cindy