Merry Christmas! Happy Hannukah, Habari gani… well – you get the idea. It’s the holiday season and as we near the end of 2016 I wanted to take a few minutes and share with you MY Holiday wish lists for all of you. This year has been an incredible ride, meeting and talking to people from all over the world who all share the same passion – Photography. I want all of you to know how much I appreciate your support and the many kind words and wishes.
So I have put together my Christmas Wish Lists of things that I would love to see all of you at least try in your photography in the coming year. These are all things that I am confident can help you to become an even better photographer. I’ll even share with you my top ten list of things that I hope will go away in 2017.
And without further ado, my Christmas Wish List to you:
Wish #1: Don’t be a zombie photographer.
What is a zombie photographer you ask? Zombies have no soul and their brains don’t function. They wander aimlessly with a lust that they cannot satisfy.
The most shocking thing that I have learned in this year of creating videos and speaking with photographers from all over the world is that a large portion of the photography community behaves like zombies. They read an article or watch a YouTube video from a photographer whose work they admire. They ignore the fact that often times that photographer is sponsored by a camera brand or equipment manufacturer and then they take the information in the article or video and decide that they have to do it that way, and only that way. I mean if a famous photographer says that you should always shoot at f/1.8 that must be the right way to do it, right? I guess it’s okay to take picture after picture and only get one eye in focus because you don’t really understand how to use the lens. I actually had someone tell me recently that they are happy if 50% of their photos are in focus and if they shoot enough images they will eventually get that WOW shot. Really? And if another famous photographer always uses high speed synch and $1,500 flash heads that they didn’t actually pay for – well then you’re going to be a better photographer if you do exactly the same thing with the same gear. If another photographer lusts over bokeh and is willing to use every adapter known to man to be able to put some obscure lens on his camera JUST so the background looks cool, well heck, you better get an eBay account and start bidding on those weird lenses because apparently the background is more important than the subject.
The real problem with becoming a zombie photographer is the lack of soul. Your photos become BORING, because you are doing all the same stuff that everyone else is doing and even using the same gear to do it. Unfortunately, zombie photographers’ lack of soul translates to lack of creativity. And let’s be real, a photograph with no creativity is a photograph that lacks soul.
Understand that nice bokeh is something that can be achieved at apertures other than wide open, if you understand how to use depth of field properly. Fast action can be photographed with a flash – even outdoors – without using a shutter speed over 1/200th of a second, if you understand how to shoot action. Understand that I can get the same light out of a shoot-through umbrella as you can get out of your several hundred dollar adjustable parabolic reflector / octo / dome / box / dish/ modifier thingy.
By all means, try the things that you see other photographers doing. Even go ahead and use the same equipment if you can afford it and like to throw money away. But my wish for you is that you think for yourself. Don’t follow the pack. Don’t do it because somebody else does it and if somebody else does do it, find a way to make it your own. And if you are going to buy the latest greatest coolest gear, at least be smart enough to understand how it really works. When you buy it, remember that people have been creating the same kinds of images for decades without this gear. If you take the time to learn how it’s been done before, you will actually have a better understanding of how to do it with your new gear.
Wish #2: Take more photos!
In other words practice. Henri-Cartier Bresson is one of the most influential photographers in the history of photography. He is known for the famous quote: “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” Which means that a lot of you have some serious shooting to do so that you can get to the good stuff! It is also worth mentioning that Bresson was a photographer who chose to ignore much of the technical elements of photography. He worked mostly by intuition, capturing the moment, as opposed to the image.
Wish #3: Control your GAS!
Understand that camera, lighting and accessory manufacturers need to sell products to stay in business. So very wisely they use technology and keep coming up with new products to solve problems that have already been solved. That’s how we wind up with f/1.2 lenses and High Speed Synch flashes and cameras. Then there’s the softboxes or octoboxes that come in 30 different variations and sizes, some which just look cool because they have stripes on them. My list goes on and on. How did we ever take good pictures before all of these options existed? Hmmm.
We all love gear. But please, my wish for you… don’t lose sight of the fact that the gear doesn’t make the photo. The photographer makes the photo. Put more emphasis on your subject than your toys.
Wish #4: Read your manuals! And get to know your gear.
I have explained before – most of you get in a car, start the ignition and drive without giving any thought to how do I operate this car. Yet you pick up a camera and fumble with settings, struggle to get things in focus and stress over anything that doesn’t start with the word AUTO. My wish for you is to take the time to read your camera manual. Google the parts that you don’t understand. Practice changing settings on the camera and take test shots to see what the different settings do. I guarantee you this will not be wasted time. Even if you upgrade your camera in 6 months, the things you learn now will make the learning curve easier on the next camera.
Wish #5: Find people to collaborate with!
Creating with others is fun and can take your work to a whole new level. Don’t be that photographer that thinks you get all the credit. I am blessed in that my photos are the result of working with incredibly beautiful women who gave themselves to my camera and my ideas. And I am also blessed to have worked with amazingly talented makeup artists and hair stylists who didn’t just do hair and makeup. They created with me and pushed me and challenged me to do more and to do it bigger and better.
My wish for you is to get over the fear of “I don’t know”. Fake it till you make it! If you don’t take that first step and begin collaborating, you will simply be stuck in the mud right where you are now.
I also wanted to share with you my top ten list of things that I hope will go away in 2017.
Spot Color – 2005 called and said it’s time to stop using spot color once and for all.
HDR – 2012 called and said please, can’t we all just learn that HDR only works in moderation, and not as a 1 click preset?
Frequency Separation – So 2016.. wait. Okay, you have a few more days to make people look like plastic dolls and then it’s time to stop, alright?
Bokeh – bokeh, bokwho cares
SOOC – Straight out of the camera is NOT a badge of honor; it simply means you’re too damn lazy and don’t really care about quality images. All digital images need to be processed. When you hear somebody say that they don’t like to process their images because they prefer a natural feel, it means that they don’t know how to use photoshop or lightroom.
Watermarks – Learn to let your photographs speak for themselves. Don’t take my word for it, visit the websites of all the top photographers and see how many have watermarks on their photos. If you’re afraid somebody is going to copy your image, then don’t put it on the internet. If you want to be sure that the photo you put on the internet can’t be used for publication or printing, learn the right way to process and size images for web use and then it’s not a problem.
No More FILTERS! Glass ones are fine. I am talking about the one click kind. Thanks a lot Instagram.
Young photographers boasting about shooting film – Sorry kids – there is nothing special about film. It’s been around for over a century and most of us were smart enough to evolve. Using film does not make you special and certainly doesn’t make your photos better. At the end of the day only photographers care about how you made the shot. Everyone else is simply interested in their own experience with the finished image.
Canon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus – Just kidding!
Zombie Photographers You all have the potential to be so much better than that!
Ok gang! It’s time for me to go and decorate the tree before my wife gets upset. I hope all you have a happy and joyous holiday season. I hope Santa or whoever is your gift giver is good to you and brings you some of the gear that you have been hoping for, and I hope that all of you will continue to watch my videos and live shows in 2017 so that together we call all learn and improve as photographers.
Thank you all for an incredible 2016 and be sure to find some time to shoot during this holiday season because your best shot – after you get those 10,000 bad ones out of the way – is your next shot. So keep learning, keep thinking and keep shooting! –Adios