This is a mashup episode of the Improve Photography Podcast, the Digital Photo Experience, and The Digital Story Podcasts. In this episode, the joint group talk about some of the most common questions photographers ask and give answers for these questions.
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Guide to Episode 23
[2:24] What gets you inspired to go out and shoot?
Jim Harmer: When I have a specific vision of a photo I want to take, this is what inspires me. What helps me to become passionate about photography again is to look at photos for hours until I see one that I like and want to do my way, in my place. It really takes a vision of a photo in my head before I can get the creative juices flowing again.
Dustin Olsen: Sometimes I struggle with always being in the same place. I like to challenge myself. I’ll go back to a place I’ve shot a hundred times and try to get something new based on inspiration I’ve found online.
Derrick Story: The kind of photography you create is connected to your personality. The sooner you make that connection, the better your photography will be. Just get out there. Go somewhere – anywhere – and just start. You will begin to see shots (not right away). Get out of “work mode” and leave the world behind so you can be in “photography mode”. I have a saying: “Fatigue is the enemy of creativity.”
Juan Pons: I do a lot of research ahead of time and create a “shot list” – things I want to create while I’m out taking photos. Then I’ll go out and see what I can create. I also like to look at the work of the photography masters to try and rekindle my passion.
[13:13] Who inspires your photography?
Jim Harmer: James Neeley (a photographer in Eastern Idaho).
Dustin Olsen: Dave Black – his black and white and that he can take his photos in one shot.
Derrick Story: Galen Rowell – amazing creativity, and freely giving of his time to other photographers.
Juan Pons: Eliot Porter – one of the first wildlife/nature photographers. He is one of the masters of color in nature photography.
[20:30] Gear vs. Craft
Jim Harmer: Sometimes an extra piece of gear can help you make really important progress (in the case of a flash and learning how to use light). But a lot of the time, a new piece of gear isn’t going to help you if you don’t understand the basics of what you’re doing.
Dustin Olsen: You don’t always need the latest gear. It’s time to upgrade your gear when you have mastered your current equipment and it’s now holding you back.
Derrick Story: If a new lens or a new reflector or something like that inspires you to go out and get more creative or to go out and do a shoot, there’s a great benefit to buying it for that purpose.
Juan Pons: While new gear can be fun and give you a reason to go out and shoot, a new piece of gear is not going to do much for you. Instead, take a trip to a location you’ve never been to and see how that gets your creative juices going.
[27:40] What is one essential piece of equipment you recommend to improve someone’s photography?
Jim Harmer: Yongnuo YN-560 Speedlight Flash. Very easy to use, really inexpensive, and can really open up some creative possibilities in flash photography.
Dustin Olsen: The Rogue FlashBender with the diffusing panel. It’s great for impromptu flash photography.
Derrick Story: The collapsible reflector. 32″ diameter is a great size. Light from a reflector is the most flattering, beautiful light.
Juan Pons: A high quality (something in the $300+ range), easy-to-use tripod. It slows you down and makes you more deliberate. It also ensures that you have a sharper image.
[39:10] How did you get started in photography?
Jim Harmer: I started to get serious about photography during law school – it was my creative release, and my hobby. I didn’t have a lot of mentors. I was mostly just learning on my own, trial and error, trying things I’d read in a book, etc. Once I decided to do this for a living, I started doing events (weddings, etc). I worked on my SEO and got myself to the top of Google for a lot of keywords in my area, and then the phone started ringing. Once I got tired of the event photography, I moved to landscape photography and then on to teaching photography.
Dustin Olsen: I started in the school newspaper, and would take the nice camera every now and then. I had a class in college as part of the program I was studying, and then I started teaching.
Derrick Story: I started in the newspaper business as a junior high kid. My first photo in the paper was taken during a heat wave and my friend’s dad asked me to print some photos for his article in the paper.
Juan Pons: A teacher in high school was very inspiring to me. She was very open to anything new that was out there for photography and we would try new processes. I’ve always had a passion for nature and wildlife. I decided a few years ago I’d shoot for myself and if people like what I do, then great. It’s about being fulfilled in what I do.
[47:50] How did you find your niche, or your voice, and how did you develop it?
Jim Harmer: Ask someone (a non-photographer and someone not close to you) to order your photos. This helps you see where you’re strong and where you’re weak. The things you might love the most might not be where your strengths are.
Dustin Olsen: I was exposed to a lot of different styles but I really came to love flash photography. I love being in control of the scene and being the artist. I love automobile photography and do a lot of that.
Derrick Story: You have to forget about the camera and figure out what you like to do. Do you love watching people, sunsets, bugs, animals? What really excites you? Let that lead your photography and see where it takes you.
Juan Pons: I love to study the behavior of animals. Photography has given me a chance to do that, and helped me develop my own niche.
[53:45] What’s your advice for people who want to become professional photographers?
Jim Harmer: Go one step at a time. Really focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to do a little of everything all at once. Right now, I think the best direction to go is commercial photography. But whatever you choose, master a specific market, and then see if you can pivot if you don’t love where you’re at.
Dustin Olsen: Don’t quit your day job. You still need to pay the bills day-to-day. When people are coming after you all the time, that’s the time to start thinking about doing it full-time. In the meantime, do your photography on the side.
Derrick Story: Get close to photography in your everyday life. Don’t try to become a professional photographer all at once. Work your way into it, and you will meet people along the way. Networking is really important.
Juan Pons: What does your photography mean to you? If it’s an outlet, think hard about whether you want to take the one thing that provides you an outlet and put pressure into it to provide for yourself and your family.
[1:03:05] What’s your best photography tip?
Jim Harmer: Sit down with your camera in a dark room and see if you can do all the functions in your camera. Figure out how to use all your buttons.
Dustin Olsen: Night photography. It requires you to use a tripod (it slows you down) and you really have to understand how ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed work together.
Derrick Story: Learn how to see the world the way your camera sees the world so you’re not disappointed when you see the LCD. Learn how to use your flash so that it creates the type of light that you want.
Juan Pons: Make an imagine instead of taking an image. All the little changes you make create such a difference in your photographs.