Why do you take photographs? This is a question of often ask students and occasionally ask myself. It seems a bit of an odd question when first asked but I find that the answer can be surprising and for many people there can be multiple reasons. Why you take photographs or what you want to photograph effects the techniques you need to learn and the equipment you might need to buy.
Many years ago I purchased a light weight pair of binoculars that fitted in my pocket or camera bag and used until they fell to bits; I wanted the big, heavy expensive pair but the salesman, to his credit, pointed out that after a while these usually got left in the car. This often happens with big flash DSLRs; you cannot use a camera you have left locked in the boot because it weighs a ton. Trillions of photographs are now taken each year just because everyone carries a camera in their phone.
I want to be a professional photographer
Let’s start at the top with one of the most common answers. ‘I’d love to be a professional, sell pictures, make money.’ Really – would you? A professional photographer has to photograph what a client wants, when the client wants, whatever the weather, They must produce the goods no matter what goes wrong and whoever refuses to cooperate. I spent many years as a wedding photographer, a job I truly enjoyed and met many couples who hadn’t used a professional photographer at their wedding. They admitted that Uncle Harry, although he was a great amateur photographer had not been able to cope with the rain, or the fact that the bride’s parents and their new partners were no longer speaking. Unfortunately his camera batteries were flat by the reception and after six glasses of champagne most of the pictures were out of focus. Most pros use expensive full frame cameras and have at least two of everything in case one breaks down. They’ve not only mastered the art of getting good results in challenging circumstances but manage to remain diplomatic in the face of the most annoying subjects.
It would be nice to sell some photos
There is an alternative of course which is to take pictures and then try and sell them. An experienced amateur or professional can do this and, if a shot does not come off, there is no angry client threatening to sue. This is a process have adopted over the past ten years as I have become older, wiser and more laid back.
There are some downsides of course. The internet is a wonderful medium to get your work out there and visible to a wide range of people but it seems to have generated a tranche of photographers who are willing to give their work away for free. In the past I have produced a lot of work on spec that was used by a variety of paperback book publishers. It never bothered me that I had to run my small workshop studio, pay models and invest my time in the photography and editing as I would generally sell 3 or 4 covers and maybe some stock photos from each shoot. This has changed over the past few years. I recently had a call from a publisher which went as follows:
Publisher: ‘I really like your work and would love to use some of your pictures on my covers.’
Publisher: ‘But you are charging.’
Me: ‘Yes but I am sure we can do a deal if you want more than one image.’
Publisher: ‘I currently have two guys who produce them for nothing.’
Me: ‘I am a professional photographer using paid models so I cannot compete with that – I guess you’ll have to continue to use them’.
Publisher: ‘Yes but their work is crap and yours is so much better.’
Sound of phone going down.
I want to record life’s memories (and take better photos)
Probably the best answer. If you are new to taking your photography seriously read Take Better Photographs and the linked articles. Always Carry a Camera. Don’t spend a fortune on gear, learn how to use your phones camera effectively then upgrade to a suitable camera. Despite my barrage of Nikons and assorted lenses the one of my cameras that produced the most photographs, and a lot of sales, was a Canon G10. It was always in my pocket when I was traveling, dog walking or visiting the local supermarket. I say was as I have recently upgraded it.
So why you take photographs and what you want to photograph is important. Explore some of the answers below