Tag Archive for 'skill'

Photography’s Loss – Hey Diary, by Todd Kunstman.

Hey Diary,

It wasn’t so much the email barrage that I sent out that is keeping me from sleeping. I didn’t throw a thousand dollars of my family’s grocery money out in to a windstorm, flush it in to the ocean, or burn it in hellfire like I did when I sent out the post card. Neither created a single call. But it was the post card, (created by marketing experts by the way) and the shame I had to return to my family with when it failed that hurt so much.

And it’s that I don’t have any answers. I don’t know why it failed. I wake up at 3:48 am and stare at the blackness: maybe the post office lost it, maybe the printer never delivered it, maybe I had the wrong phone number, address and studio name on it. Maybe a reverse Santa snuck in to their houses and took the post cards and left a cookie and warm milk.

I can never know.

It’s too bad my timing is off right now. Maybe I can find a way to hang on for a year or so, but I don’t think I can absorb a mentoring session from the person someone recommended. Not after I saw her portfolio.

I just want to cry about what I saw there. It’s so sad. It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so gut wrenching to witness what is happening to photography: the lens choice that distorts bodies, the horrible lighting that can only be described as accidental when it looks like lighting at all, the total disregard for posing, composition, color.

The complete lack of taste.

The pillaging of the industry, the snapshotty abomination and arrogant disregard of all the hard work of those who have previously sustained this art form actually makes me physically ill. It rips at the core of all I hold sacred.

But you say she knows marketing? That’s too bad. Then the profession may indeed be doomed. To have the power to litter the world with this unmitigated garbage without the responsibility to the profession from which it is derived is a recipe for catastrophe.

There can only be hope if she and the millions like her who are diseased by their ignorance can be saved by an appreciation for what the craft could offer if they would only learn. Maybe that’s my job. God help me. God help us all.

If I have to abandon all I hold dear to my soul to continue in this profession by not condemning this atrocity then, at the risk of sounding arrogant myself, it’s photography’s loss, it’s society’s loss, it’s humanity’s loss.

Sincerely,

Todd Kunstman, M.CPP
KenMar Photography Inc

A Camera Makes You a Photographer? the Panasonic Fail

by Gavin Seim: Panasonic seems to be making a statement with this ad they released earlier this year before infamous Nikon Page Fail. I’m seeing a pattern in the industry. The Lumix spot insults skilled photographers everywhere & mislead consumers into thinking skill and experience is irreverent as long a you have a good camera.

Perhaps it’s meant to be funny, perhaps it’s creatively done, but if you understand photography and how much work it took you to master it, I think you’ll know how insulting this this really is. But it’s not just this ad. It’s the whole mindset and it’s part of the attitude that is breaking down this industry. Watch it, then lets talk.

  • The photography world is inundated with the idea that experience is not necessary and it’s breaking it down. This promotes that and that promotes the idea that a photograph is of no value. Anyone can do it.
  • It’s not true. A great photographer cannot be clueless about how they made a photo or how their equipment works. That’s a snapshooter. Understanding shutter speed, aperture and beyond are the most basic essentials to consistent quality. People who don’t understand the basics often think it’s not critical because of marketing like this. They are wrong.
  • Photographers that have spent years and even decades mastering their craft are shown in this ad as irreverent. As if their saying “Those skills don’t matter as long as you own a good camera.
  • The man here is portrayed as doing a showcase to his peers. He’s the expert. Yet in the real world you won’t get accolades by snapping photos that are only as good as your camera can make them. Anyone can do that.
  • Great is no longer great when everyone else is doing it. A camera can have good quality, but without skill you just have quality snapshots. That’s what everyone else, including many so called pro’s, are making today.

So this is targeted consumers. What’s the big deal right? Wrong. This is also targeting would be photographer, but that aside this mindset is a big problem right now and it’s really hurting this industry. People are believing this stuff, and those that do are being mislead into thinking that a camera makes a photograph and not a photographer. Some have told me their are great photographers who have no idea how they make their images. I have yet to have one shown to me.

I know this is extreme, but imagine an ad for a scalpel that says “it’s so good, anyone can do surgery”. Imagine a world where everyone claimed to be a surgeon, airline pilot, etc and you did not even know how to find one that was actually experienced. Photographic skills have not really changed over the past 150 years. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you won’t make great images. You’ll just be making images like the droves other consumers and even pros who have bought into the idea that cool gear makes you good. The problem is, it’s not great when everyone else is doing it. That defies the meaning of the word. We need to Raise the Bar.

Finding a Style – And Why Most Photographers Don’t Have One.

By Gavin Seim, Updated 10/11

Something one often hears tossed around in this industry is the word ‘style.’ “It’s my style” or “love your style.” Sometime it can get pretty funny: “My style is, uh, everything.” Now, this is not a bash session. We’re all at different levels, and that’s OK. This is just another post to get us thinking, something to get us all to raise the bar. I think the idea of style bears consideration and refinement. So let’s start where I often start, with the word, itself.

Webster’s Dictionary – Style.
1. a distinctive manner of expression (as in writing or speech)
2. a distinctive manner or custom of behaving or conducting oneself
3. a particular manner or technique by which something is done, created, or performed.

Hunters Bridge - 2009, HDR Portrait.

SO perhaps a photography style is just what you thought it was. But look carefully. “Distinctive, distinctive, particular.” I see photographers (especially new ones) frantically trying to define their style. But they don’t. It may change from week to week and month to month. If you go to their site right now, that high contrast, over saturated look is their style. But really, it’s probably because they know nothing else or saw someone else doing it. Your style is a big part of your brand. But developing it is not quick or easy. It’s a process.

NEXT let’s get one thing out of the way. Just because you do something does not make it your style. The most common “style” I see is “high contrast” or “edgy” or “bold” or “fun”. Now all those things can be a style, but they’re generally non-distinctive and used by people who don’t really know their style. Sometimes these vague styles are used by photographers who are inexperienced and use “art” or “style” as an excuse for their work. (I.e. “The high contrast look is my style” or “The flat light is my style” or “The blown out highlights are part of my style”)

NO. Those are not your style. You just don’t know what you’re doing. The first step in developing your style is to STOP trying to be something you’re not. It takes years and years to become a good craftsman. If you’re a new photographer, stop trying to fake a style that you don’t really have or convince people that that thing you do (because you don’t know any better) is your style. Don’t do it. Using style as an excuse just slows your career because it allows you to make excuses and avoid learning to things properly.

BUT can’t high contrast, blown out, journalistic, be a style? Sure. But often it’s not, because people who are comfortable, experienced, and have really found a style generally know better than to take the cliches and call them a style, because the result tends to appear like a generic copy of everyone else.

SO WHAT makes a style? Sure, it can be somewhat subjective, but let’s go back to the dictionary for the facts. A style is “distinctive.” It’s “particular.” That means it has the ability to stand out on its own. So based on that, if your style looks like 80% of the rest of the world’s photographers, it’s not much of a style. That is, not unless you call your style generic, which does not sound too appealing.

Now, I’m not saying a style can’t be inspired by the work of another photographer. In fact, it’s almost impossible to do something completely new. But there’s inspiration, and there’s outright copying. Most photographers don’t have a style because they have not yet taken enough time to refine their craft and develop that style. This can apply to a newbie as easily as to a 25 year veteran.

A STYLE is not simply taking photos. It takes something more. It requires thought, planning, and skill. But even further, a style is your brand. It can be combined with your personalty, the products you make from your photos, and the way you present them on your website. It does not mean being in a rut or always being the same or applying a particular technique to everything. It’s a process.

WHAT is my style? I’ve been making photos for over 14 years now, and in just the past few, I’ve started feeling I understand my style. It took me that long. I know what I do, and I know how to make it come out nearly every time. I feel I have a style, but I’m still improving on it.

If you were to go to my portrait or wedding site, you might see me describe my work as “A natural cinematic style inspired by the masters and tempered with modern flair.” But the text is merely the beginning. I have an visual in my mind of the kind of image I make, and while every one is different, I have a focus. Also, the way I display my final prints as carefully crafted wall portraits is a very relevant part of my style. It’s taken me about 13 years to pin myself down this much. And I’m still discovering and refining my style.

WHAT does all this this mean? Well, my goal here today is not to say you can’t have a look, or that you can’t describe your work. It’s not to make this style thing abstract and confusing. Maybe you’ve truly found your style, maybe not. But my intent is to get us all thinking. To raise the bar on our style, study, and practice, and become such proficient craftsman that we truly understand our medium and our style. Maybe you’ll be faster than I was, maybe not. But either way, it’s a process. A valuable one.

SO, STYLE is important. But it’s not something you can simply make up. Before you can really define your style, you have to know your craft well enough to understand what you’re doing with it. You have to have worked enough to find that distinctive consistency in your images. Imagine a singer. A singer does not have a style until they learn to sing and perform. It takes time. They have to work it out. Photography is no different.

WHY do most NOT have a style? Because they’ve not refined their craft . It does not mean they’re all bad photographers. But in truth a lot of photography today lacks distinction. Admittedly, it’s hard. Finding your style take more than just doing a wedding every weekend. It takes more than copying the latest trend you see your friends using.

I often see photographers who are really busy with jobs, but it’s all they can do just to keep up and get the jobs out. They’re generic. If you’re paying the bills that way then fair enough. If volume is your business approach, it may work for you. But it’s not usually distinctive. Rushing offers too little time to experiment and define your work. You probably want something more. To define a unique style, you have to take your extra time to study and refine what you’re doing until you draw out something unique about it. Until there’s a pattern. Until it becomes a style, not just the latest fad.

How to Find Your Style. A style is images, personalty, presentation, branding, and more. Really finding it takes enough experience to know what you do and how you make it unique. I think the way to find your style is to stop looking so hard. Stop trying to rush to having it all figured out, and spend more time figuring. Study your craft and be content with the fact that you’re making good images and improving. Forget about your style for a while and learn how to style better. In time, you’ll find your own unique approach. You’ll find your STYLE naturally.

WHAT AM I GETTING AT? Stop having confidence? Stop charging for quality? Heavens, no! I’m not even saying at what point you have a style. I’m just saying slow down and think about it. Take the time to make images just for the joy of it. Explore ideas and techniques, read books, go to workshops. Do that, and your style will blossom, as will the quality of your work. Photography is not a quick journey. It’s a long one. It’s OK to be starting out. Just be honest with yourself. Keep working on your craft and always raise the bar.

Keep styling,

Gav

Midnight Seattle - 2009. 2010 PPA Loan Collection. 2011 PPA Magazine Feature.

 

A bit of Gavin’s work below. You can see more on his website, seimstudios.com

Continue reading ‘Finding a Style – And Why Most Photographers Don’t Have One.’