A while back, I wrote a Tip of the Week with the same title that appears above. “Installment 1” of Freaky Photo Fallacies received lots of great feedback, so below is installment 2. As with the first installment, I want to lighten things up a bit yet still provide information that ups your photo game. As a reminder, the idea came to mind when I heard someone mention an often-used statement: There are two sides to every story. This got me thinking. We are all hard-working photographers who care deeply about our craft. Unfortunately, what we go through to get the shot is often misconstrued by outsiders. I offer a look at what we do from both our perspective and an outsider’s.
The Nature Photographer: I was gone for two weeks and now I have to sort and edit 5,922 RAW files. This is going to take a long time with months of work. I better start somewhere to get the ball rolling.
The Public: Wow! Every shot you post on social media is amazing. All your pictures should be in National Geographic. It must be nice to have all that free time to yourself to work on them and have every click of the shutter produce a fantastic photograph.
Reality: It takes a long time to edit, sort, categorize, organize and optimize every image from every shoot. Everyone has their own method, but all take time, patience, dedication and hard work. I know many photographers who are a year or more behind. Persevere and don’t give up. There’s always an end in sight. Once done, show only your best and let the public think what they may.
The Nature Photographer: I finally got the shot I wanted. After all these years of fighting poor or iffy light, weather, seasons, traffic, missed wake-up calls and lots more, that elusive one I wanted is now in my files.
The Public: WOW! How cool it must feel to go to a special location and always come home with that lucky shot!
Reality: The reality of it all is mirrored in the text above for the nature photographer. The public doesn’t know how many times we tried and how close we’ve come each of the eight previous trips we made to a given location. Sometimes the light was good but the background was wrong. Sometimes the animal displayed lots of behavior but the light was flat. Sometimes the light was great but the subject didn’t show up. I could go on with many more frustrations. It wasn’t a “lucky shot.” It was the shot for which you worked super hard. It’s not—it’s hard work, dedication, perseverance, persistence and more.
The Nature Photographer: I just spent $600 on my winter photo gear. I bought heated glove liners, heated socks, a heated vest, waterproof wind pants and more. Now I can withstand lower temps for longer periods of time, but I know I’ll still need to take a break to warm up from the average temp of negative 10 degrees.
The Public: Sweet—the sun was out and you had all that snow to reflect the heat back onto you. It must have been like a beach day!
Reality: Yes, you did finally make the warm gear purchase that allows you to endure colder temps for long periods. But when it’s that cold, the body shuts down unless you get back to a warm car or another place of refuge. Your obvious goal is to stay out as long as possible because you know that as soon as you seek shelter, everything will fall into place and it often does. The same scenario can be applied to when it’s brutally hot and humid, wet, snowing, howling wind, infested with insects and any other outside elements that have to be endured.
The Nature Photographer: There’s another T in the road—should I go left or right? There’s another fork in the trail—should I go up or downhill? Should I wake up and drive the 30 miles to point A or sleep a bit later and go to point B that’s much closer?
The Public: How does it feel to always be right and have such an easy job? Every time you go to [insert destination here], you get the most amazing photos.
Reality: Every time we go out to shoot, we make decisions. Sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad. Some days bestow us with great choices and others end where we don’t even lift the camera to our eye. We feel good when everything comes together. We need to feel the same if it doesn’t and know that a future session may net a once-in-a-lifetime image. Feel good about the choice you make.
The Nature Photographer: Russ was right—his above advice worked! Everything finally came together, fell into place and perfectly aligned. It was an iconic session and I can’t wait to process that image—yeah, baby!
The Public: Wow, you have a great camera. Look at how good the light and animal look in that photo. I bet it cost at least $500!
Reality: A $4,000 body attached to a $12,000 lens on a $900 tripod and gimbal head doesn’t mean anything unless the person driving all the pieces knows what he or she is doing. A great chef can cook a great meal with a $50 set of pots and utensils, the same way a great photographer can make a great image with a $500 camera and kit lens. Let the public continue to think it’s all about how much money you spent on your gear. I don’t need a Ferrari to drive to work if my trusty Ford Focus still runs! You still have to put in the time to learn the craft, know how to read light, understand the behavior of the subjects and deal with the conditions.
PPPHW—Planning, Patience, Persistence, Hard Work = The Shot.
To learn more about this subject, join me on one of my photo safaris to Tanzania. Please visit www.russburdenphotography.com to get more information.