10 Things that Pro Photography is Not About

Illustration/Uttam Kumar

Illustration/Uttam Kumar

Raj Lalwani discusses common misconceptions about professional photography to give you a reality check before you enter this exciting career.

Have you ever looked at the world of commercial photography and wanted to be a part of it? Do you enjoy shooting pictures and wish to convert your passion into a profession? There are a few things you need to keep in mind, and several misconceptions you need to safeguard yourself against. So instead of discussing what a pro photography career involves, let us first see what it is not about.

1. It is Not the Easy Way Out
A lot of people believe that photography is an attractive career option because it is easy. “I get money for pressing a button,” they think. While digital technology has definitely made things easier, it still does not mean that making a good picture or building a successful career has become any simpler.

2. Not About the Glamour
Certain genres, especially fashion photography, are seen as fields that are really glamourous—they involve a lot of money, attractive people and an extravagant lifestyle. But then, speak to any model, designer or stylist and you will realise that there is a lot of hard work involved.

3. Everyone is Not a Photographer
Democracy can be a good thing as there are a lot more people who are shooting today. But that also makes the number of pro aspirants more.

Competition is fiercer. Also, almost anyone who has a DSLR tends to open a Facebook page that has their name with the word ‘Photography’ in front of it. With the number of people who seem to be jumping onto the bandwagon, one can summarise that photography is definitely a lucrative option, in terms of making money.

But making a living through selfsatisfying photography without selling out…that is a challenge. It is not impossible, but if you wish to take that path, be prepared for a tough climb ahead.

4. Not Just the Technicals
Iconic photographer Prabuddha Dasgupta had once said, “In today’s day and age, my dog can shoot a technically perfect photo.” Exaggeration and humour left aside, he was basically commenting on how easy our lives have become due to automation.

But then, the easier it becomes, the more difficult it actually is. Today, being a technician is not enough. When absolutely everyone can shoot a sharp, vibrant pretty picture, it has become even more important to go beyond the technicals.

You need to put your own signature on an image. Your work must convey to the client why they would rather have you shooting the picture, than someone else.

5. Shoot and Delete is Not an Option
In the digital age, a lot of us tend to have a casual attitude; it will be corrected in Photoshop, we think. Or we assume that we can make do without understanding the fundamentals of lighting. The best images are made with a strong understanding of technique, a respect of the rules and the knowledge of when to break them.

6. Your Camera Does Not Matter
Equipment is not a shortcut to success. An expensive camera may last you longer, or may make it easier to shoot in a particular situation, but it is eventually your skills that matter. If you have an EOS 1000D today and do not like the pictures you make, chances are that you will face the same problem, even if you use a high-end camera like the 5D Mark III.

7. Flashes of Brilliance
Are Not Enough A few great photos can help build up an impressive portfolio. But if you do not produce good results consistently, the clients will stop coming.

8. Popularity is Not Everything
If everyone likes your work, either you are very good, or you are simply playing it safe. That may work from a short term perspective, but you will eventually get stuck at a particular point… if you are trying to please everyone, you are probably pleasing no one, especially not yourself.

9. Not Just About Being Better
Wanting to be better than someone usually means that you are trying to be someone in the first place. You would rather try to be different. This does not mean being different for the sake of being different, but more about understanding the kind of person and photographer you are.

10. Complex Does Not Mean Better
The biggest secrets are the simplest ones. This is not just true of life, but also of photography…both in terms of light and composition, a simpler approach may actually work better.

So this is what a career in photography is not about. What is it, really, then? A way of seeing, the right kind of stories and some smart marketing… but then, that is just the beginning!

It Is Not Just About Photography

  • Photography, from an art point of view, is not so much about the act of pressing the button. A photograph is made in a fraction of second, but what really makes that picture are the several seconds, minutes and hours that go in the preparation for that photo. Our personality and style are built through the various other things we do—the books we read, the music we listen to.
  • From a commercial point of view, photography is not just about photography alone. The photography is the main aspect, but how you deal with a client, whether you convey his vision, how you maintain your bills, promote yourself… it does play a big role at the end. A successful photographer is a psychologist, a manager, a public relations expert, a tactician, an entrepreneur.
Tags: Raj Lalwani, october 2012, professional photography, photo tips, suppu, 10 Things that Professional Photography is Not About