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October 15, 2011


I will only do the job if:

1) the organization in question really can't hire a Pro.
2) in the likely event I screw-up no-one is going to yell at me.
3) my own kids are involved in the event somehow.

Number three actually causes me the most trouble. My kids move on in school or sports leagues or shift interests from one activity to another and that organization/school no longer gets my services. People are generally understanding but once they have had decent photos done (and I am only a "decent" photographer at best) they don't want to go back.

I've taken three portrait jobs and was compensated for them. Luckily, all three jobs were successful in that my friends were happy with my work. Their expectations were clear and honest and I followed them to a T. That said, I did not know what I was doing, entirely. Yes, I know how to hold a camera, balance my meter, use an external flash to get some bounce of the ceiling because I know it can look better than point it straight at my subject, and I can shoot someone against a black backdrop. But to be perfectly honest, I was scared to death to do those jobs. One was done outside and I actually shot in direct sunlight, which cast harsh shadows on their faces. I did not know to possibly just put them in the shade (ugh!). One was indoors with a dog and I had to figure out how to interact with her, which is not my forte.

I took these jobs because other people had faith in me. I think THAT was what I learned from those experiences. It's one thing that people have faith in your work, but it means so much more that YOU have have faith in your own work. I won't take another job until I am absolutely certain that I am wielding my camera with the most knowledge I can store into my brain. So, I decided to take photography classes. In the 3 black and white darkroom and Photoshop classes I've taken, I've learned so much about how to make my work better. How to be better technically speaking, and really understand my camera and the relationship of everything in it. I feel a little weird thinking that I did those jobs at all. I'm happy my friends were happy with my work, but I think I had a little bit of luck.

Funny that you posted this, just two days after I shot my sister's civilian wedding ceremony. This was a very intimate event, of which we will probably select no more than 30 pictures. Things were ok in this ocasion.

In the cases I did pro-like work, people were much more tolerant and in the end liked my street photography style pictures more than the ones taken by the official photographer.

Don't complain, at least now you can shoot digital...

Very interesting post, Gordon. I think the one thing that amateurs underestimate when taking on `event` photography such as you mentioned ... is how fast everything moves and this can be the prime difference between the amateur and the professional.
The amateur, I would assume has enough ability with his/her camera to be able to take a photo that the client would like and this is the reason the client asks him/her to do it in the first place but the crux comes when the amateur is placed into an arena he/she is not familiar with and where they cannot control the pace and this is where shots are missed or even vital shots are forgotten about and this is where the stress levels can reach their maximum.
The professional on the other hand will anticipate and know the best location to shoot from, due to previous experience and if he/she misses a vital shot, he/she will know it straight away.... they will not panic but will try to compensate and get similar images and hope the client does`nt notice.
Experience is the key and unfortunately the only way to obtain it, is to put yourself into these `stressful` situations.

Thanks for the demotivation! My mother-in-law wants to recruit me to shoot my nephew's bar mitzvah. I'm currently not working, so she sees this as some sort of charity (she's offered to pay). I know that this effort would only end in tears.

Then again, if she could front me the money to upgrade my K100D to a K5 and add a nice wide-angle zoom and a proper flash...

...then I'd probably lose money on the deal.

OK Gordon, I give up. How do you use fill flash without getting a catchlight in the eyes? I wondered if you'd used bounce fill off the ceiling but you wouldn't do that when someone's wearing a hat. It must have been bounced off a surface to your left but I'd still have expected to see some evidence of that in the eyes of the nearest person unless the reflecting surface was very large and quite far away. I'm intrigued!

I have been asked, but I take the first advice: Run like hell and don't look back. ;<)

With best regards,



>>Experience is the key and unfortunately the only way to obtain it is to put yourself into these "stressful" situations.<<

Everything you said about the pace of a pro shoot is right on the money. I learned how to handle it by assisting skilled professional photographers. When I was on my own I still made mistakes, but fewer and smaller than otherwise. What's important is knowing how to recover, how to stay on your toes, and how to get the job done, come what may. Yes, it can be stressful. It can also be fun.

You have answered your own question, and correctly, I might add. I did in fact direct the flash head upwards and to my left, towards a large, light gray wall. The reason you don't see much of a catchlight is because I set the flash output for fill (1 stop below the ambient light level) and because the flash illumination was reflected downwards at a more or less 45-degree angle. Methinks you're no stranger this sort of thing yourself.

One tip: check your manuals and if your equipment can handle it:
Bracket Bracket Bracket WB, ISO, flash exposure, exposure....

then cross your fingers,,,shoot in raw gray card lying somewhere in background..

I often shoot at family gatherings and happily snap away. I then dump the lot (less the obvious boo boos) onto a photo site and direct those who express an interest to it. They'll obviously be low rez images and I tell them if any take their fancy to let me know and I'll tidy them up. I've never been asked so I assume people are happy with what they get, warts and all.

Amen - I can't say how many people I've talked to who "hired a professional" only to discover they weren't really a professional, just someone with a camera and some business cards. In the case of a wedding, bar mitzvah or bat mizvah, or other "once in a lifetime" occasions, why would an enthusiastic photographer take the job. Yes, they may get some okay photos, but they usually miss so many opportunities because they just don't know how or when to do many of the important photos.

How does one get experience? Go work with a good photographer. First you pack around the gear. After awhile you get to shoot a few frames. Soon, your shooting more and more - all the time you see how weddings are paced, how the professional finds and shapes light to bring out the subjects best features, how to coach them for good poses and expression.

There is nothing wrong with doing photography for the shear joy of it. And as I've been hearing more and more lately, the surest way to ruin a great hobby like photography is to try and make a living at it. Most people don't realize the average pro photographer makes very poor money (well under the national average for wages), and all pro photographers spend the vast majority of their time doing business, not photography. If they get to shoot 15 per cent of the time or more, they're doing really, really well at delegating tasks to others.

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