Missing in Action – but not really

babyRight now I am in the middle of planning for an international photojournalism trip. My wife and I leave next week for Prague, Czech Republic. We will be there shooting a project for a few days as well as visiting friends, then we will travel down to Budapest, Hungry for a few days to finish the project. We will finish our time back in Prague before heading home. It’s going to be two and a half weeks of non stop fun.

I am in an interesting place right now in my life as I am working on a M.A. in Intercultural Studies, trying to maintain photography and not having much time for anything else. At the same time, I have gotten to do some great shoots over the past few months that have been challenging and rewarding in so many ways.

The last time that I posted here I was talking about photographing children, it still isn’t something I have much experience in, but over the past few months I have had the opportunity to learn more about this. Recently I shot some Easter pictures for a family of a two month old. It was challenging and fun all the same.

My photojournalistic mind and background creates a challenge for me, I struggle with posing. I am more comfortable with the position of capturing what is happening and documenting a story through it. I find it more difficult to have to situate my subject and pose them. Now make that subject an active two month old and the world of possibilities comes alive. I love a challenge.

So I mentioned going back overseas. We are super excited about getting back to Europe. We will be working with The Upstream Collective, an organization geared to connect U.S. churhces with Europeans. We will be covering the media aspect of the trip compiling both stills and video. The trip will consist of several conferences we will be recording as well as doing a live webinar. We are super pumped about this trip and I invite you to join us in prayer as well as following along with us. More info on how you can follow along with come in a few days.

For more info on the trip check out Jet Set Vision Trips and The Upstream Collective

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Set apart

There’s no doubt about it, “right now is the most exciting time in the history of the world to be a photographer” –Chase Jarvis

That is a bold statement and I couldn’t agree with it more. That being said I will add to it that as exciting as it is, it is also one of the most difficult times to be a photographer as well. Not that the skill set has changed or that the access to quality education and equipment is limited, in fact it is quite the opposite. The market is full of quality educational material, people are sharing and teaching, mentoring, and last but not least gear. There is so much new gear on the market that on average camera bodies are becoming outdated within a year.

It seems as though for every 1 job the client has there is an abundance of photographers to weed through and choose. This leads to either hiring someone you know, or have had referred, or at worst picking someone based on their qualifications on paper. I say “at worst” because sadly there are a lot of frauds in the world and anyone can put anything on paper. Recently I saw this unfold on a website offering coupons. A “photographer” had listed a coupon for a huge discount on a portrait session and there was no limit to how many would be offered. As the count was increasing people began to wonder about it’s validity. It would be something of a miracle to do over a thousand portraits in a matter of a few weeks, let alone across a year.

So how do you get a job in an economy where money is tight and everyone and their neighbor has a dSLR camera? Do something different, be better, and do what they can’t do.

There are many things that go into being a photographer, it’s not just having a camera and being able to take pictures. I could talk all day about the various aspects that go into just one shoot let alone all the other things required for this. Some of the keys to communicate to your clients seemingly have nothing to do with the actual photographic process but rather in helping them have trust and confidence in you.

Flexibility, creativity, communication skills, knowledge of your subject and environment, and your time management will all affect the client’s opinion of you as a photographer.

Recently I was shooting some family portraits and the plan had changed three times before the shoot even happened. We had originally planned to be outside in a park with the beautiful leaves changing and the amazing colors of fall here in North Carolina, but then they asked if we could instead just do it in their back yard. I got some pictures of their back yard to begin planning for this shift. Just as I was getting my mind wrapped around this, a decision was made to change locations once again to inside the house. We have now moved from a foreign environment with a beautiful backdrop to inside a very familiar environment with limited backgrounds.

Although I am by no means a child photographer, I know that the more familiar they are with an environment the more difficult it will be to have them focused for a photography session. This was absolutely the case here. The kids wanted to run upstairs and get various toys, change clothes, and bring things to use a props. I’m pretty flexible so I went with it and made it work. It had it’s moments of frustration, not with the kids, but with the situation, it wasn’t what I had planned for.

The “this isn’t what I planned for” situation though is what gives you as a photographer the opportunity to stand out above the next guy. Your flexibility will set you apart and people will see that you can quickly adapt to whatever situation you are given. As much as I like controlled environments, I love the craziness and fast paced nature of the world. I am a photojournalist, so I work best in the realm of “I have to get the shot and tell the story”. The environment, lighting, and mood are all variables that you just have to work with and again, what sets you apart is being able to make them all come together for the shot.

Simple joy

Last week I shared about struggles with maintaining vision and the need sometimes to just step aside and do whatever you need to do to recharge yourself both physically and creatively.

So I did that. Last week I was pretty low key as far as photography and creativity, knowing that I had a shoot on Saturday I wanted to be prepared and charged.

When Saturday rolled around, I was so excited. It was an opportunity to catch up with some old friends as well as photograph their children. It felt so good to pick up my camera again. I had spent the week mentally preparing for that moment and when it came, I was ready.

This was a new venture for me; I don’t have a lot of experience photographing children. I was excited to jump into this and see what happened. The weather was great; we went out to a local park and got some great shots. Since the shoot, I have been so encouraged through the comments from others about the pictures. It’s great to create something that others truly appreciate and are blessed by.

I am blessed by being able to make pictures for people that bless them. That’s why I do what I do. There is nothing in photography that is more important to me than being able to use my craft to make a positive impact on someone’s life, which is what keeps me going and what recharges my batteries the most.

So now that I’m feeling fresh, I have a list of editorial work that I need to get back to.

Branching out

There are so many different facets to photography and despite each involving a camera and a subject being photographed that is about where the similarities end (for the most part). My background and experience is with travel photography and photojournalism, I have shot a few weddings, done some High School Senior pics, and some all around just for fun stuff, but I have never done much with child photography.

This week I was asked to shoot for a local Pre-K graduation ceremony. I was really wanting to do some shooting and the opportunity to branch out to something new was intriguing. I tried to prepare myself in advance for what I would be shooting, then the morning of I met with the director and we talked through the service. Unfortunately in my head I had this idea of the children being great subjects for photographs and I was going to get these great shots of them walking across the stage to receive the diploma and shake hands with the director, but in reality they had no clue what was going on around them, they couldn’t sit or stand still for more than a second before becoming distracted, and the stage was set up completely different than what I had imagined (go figure).

So I addressed the situation, took an inventory for what was actually going to happen and started to re-think things for the morning. Then it all began. I began by visiting the class rooms to snap some shots of the kids getting ready. Putting on robes and hats was a bit chaotic as the kids were running around playing games and just well being kids.

Once in the auditorium, each child was to walk across the stage as they had practiced, stopping on a big “X” on the floor to get their picture taken. Unfortunately, with all the distractions of people in the audience the last thing they were thinking about was stopping to get their picture taken. It helped when the teachers would remind them to stop so we could get a picture, which turned out with some interesting shots, as many stopped but didn’t know where to look. Finally it was over and they wanted a group shot, again getting the kids to stand still and look forward is a near impossible task if you ask me. So I snap off a few shots and run with it.

I must say that this shoot was one of the hardest that I have ever done. There was a lot of uncontrollable light issues to work around, the auditorium in which the graduation took place has a really high ceiling eliminating the possibility of a bounce flash, and I was also competing with the parents using their camera’s flashes every other second to photograph their child’s big moment, but in the end it was fun and I hope that I am able to provide some great moments for these children and their parents.

It’s always fun to learn new aspects of photography and to branch out of what you are used to.