I have been able to tackle a vast range of subject matter as a professional photographer during my carreer so far.
Such diversity maybe makes a little unfashionable today, but was once a common thing, and that is in principle a general-purpose photographer.
Historically, it was not unusual for a town to have one or two professionals, who tackled their clients needs, pretty much across the board.
While much, but by no means all of my earnings directly from photography are today people orientated, looking back at the work and invoices raised, it’s actually been an amazing mix during three decades plus in photography.
That is a lot of shots, and a wealth of experiences to draw upon. I certainly don’t shoot anything and everything, and enjoy the non-people stuff just as much.
At least this is what has worked for me so far. And it certainly has kept me motivated and on my toes.
But there are some things we no longer shoot. That may be because the market has changed, or I simply felt I wanted the challenge of new areas.
And you can only do so much at any one time I think, if you are to do it well.
But my shooting experience and technical knowledge do give a solid foundation to work from across genres and I look to put that back into my courses.
From the beginner who maybe just wants to create nice looking family or travel images, to the pro looking at new genres, or tackling their current ones more efficiently, that ‘real’ world’ background helps. In fact it is invaluable.
Some only know, or see me just as a people photographer.
Others for example just a product shooter, while some, because of the magazine and book writing I have done, the training events, or my technical role with companies such as Nikon, not as a photographer at all. But a ‘technical’ bod.
In truth, that is my fault, as I don’t always fill in the blanks. But you certainly can quite easily become stereotyped. “Que Sera, Sera, whatever will be, will be” and all that.
As for the people photography, I have photographed royalty, actors, politicians and other well-known people on many occasions over the years.
Add to that social photography of the great British public from portraits, weddings or at numerous events, plus business images.
Then the fashion stuff, and numerous other kinds of people work such as for medical and insurance uses. These are obviously not something you hold up for people to critique.
You meet the positive, the negative, the confident, the unsure. But it is your job as a photographer to understand and be able to accommodate each, and get the best from them on the day.
On that score, I am blessed as many say very nice things about my personality and positiveness. I can’t help it, I am who I am:).
Much photography has been done for various and well known high street names, corporations, and goes unaccredited as a consequence.
But working for many business clients over time, has certainly given me an insight to other business professions and practices. In turn, this has broadened my knowledge well beyond my industry.
I think it fair to say that you certainly as a people photographer can get to see the full scope of human nature on a regular basis. We make fascinating study!
So what about that less conventional work?
Throw in architectural imagery, low light photography, then some landscape and close-up images, and it has been an interesting mix to say the least.
But good things have come out of all this.
It has enabled or motivated me to keep a mindset willing to learn about new technology.
I certainly attempt to do so, but at the same time I use mostly the tried and trusted craft accumulated over time, by the generations of photographers that have gone before.
That knowledge remains unequaled by any camera’s electronic programming.
Forget the marketing hype of this or that camera company. Good technology harnessed alongside real photography skills are a world away from pressing a few buttons and accepting what you get.
So for me, the bottom line is this; if you don’t understand the basic principles of image making – I call it ‘the craft’ – how can you truly judge any bit of technology for its benefits? Or get the best from it?
Certainly without some basic craft skills, I don’t believe you will be around long term as a pro photographer, or reach your potential as an enthusiast either.
And when you add up what all this equipment can cost, good pictures are still not a forgone conclusion, unless you know when and how to step in.
With some of those skills, you are not only adept as a photographer, but it gives you that invaluable asset called ‘confidence’. Let alone the pleasure in knowing you are the ‘driver’ not the ‘driven’.
And it was you by design, not a microchip and a bit of luck that was responsible for those magical images.
There are often more hits than misses in an acceptable technical sense from the off today. And that’s no bad thing. But a different day, and that same technology same settings may give a noticeably different result.
But just to clarify my thoughts, technology has never been better. But now there is certainly a lot more to learn on that score. That can just get in the way without some foundations to fall back on.
I have been immersed in it also working directly for, or as a consultant to many imaging companies. Famous names photographers immediately recognised.
I have used film formats from large format through various medium formats,135mm and others.
But a shock to me when I think about it, is that I first came into contact with digital capture in 1988. And of course, have immersed myself in it for a very long time now.
Much of my photography in pure numbers of shots, has and still is captured using the Nikon system.
Many know, and as mentioned elsewhere on this site, I have a long relationship immersed with the brand as a photographer, and for a number of years the UK’s Advisor Of Photography for Nikon.
But I have used most brands over the years for one reason or another.
Many fine shots from various camera formats in fairness, especially medium format options.
And it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge the quality from Zeiss optics across formats also that have served me well.
I can generally find my way around any camera by now, but to be honest, so much technology can sometimes be a barrier to anyone unless you use it often. Hence we also run ‘camera’ courses to help.
The good news is that anyone can learn the basic craft skills, for at worst competent, but more likely, repeatable eye-catching creative photography. It is simply about putting in some time. And that is one of the reasons I have become so heavily involved in running workshops and seminars over the years.
Simply to help people in a step-by-step way, shorten that excessive learning curve, and pass on that hard earned, real world experience for all to use.
I try and am told by my delegates, that this is done in an interesting and informative way. Thousands have kindly been through the ‘JC’ sessions over the decades now, so I guess there must be something to that.
Photography should not be a chore with the technical stuff stifling our creativity, just a vehicle to get there, and realise your vision.
It is certainly true, that as a professional photographer, you can get to lead an interesting and variable existence. From countless studio’s in different cities, sometimes with significantly large numbers of people to organise and work with, to very much time constrained work in places such as airport runways, well known sporting and historical venues. Ambassadors residencies, open fields, our coastlines in bright sunshine, or icy cold and wet days, at night ,or with artificial light.
Not forgetting people’s homes, city streets, Navy battleships and many other locations I have been at work. No matter, you plan properly, and use what has been learned to get the job done to a high standard.
Personally, I do not subscribe to the ‘biggest ego’ wins approach so prevalent in photography today. So forgive me if the above sounds like such.
You can work long and unsociable hours in many genres, meet lots of people, yet spend vast amounts of time with your own company, and need self motivation.
But I am pleased that my own photography hangs on peoples walls, as a center piece of their homes decor, has been published countless times in books, magazines, in our national newspapers, let alone in other media and around the world.
Yet for all that, while I am not looking to be in photography’s all time ‘hall of fame’, I still feel I have not quite achieved much yet.
Guess I had better put some effort in:).
Best wishes and good photography… John.