I wasn't born with a Kodak Instamatic in my hand, but it didn't take me long to get my sloppy hands on a camera. I got my first SLR camera as a teenager in 1982. It was a manual focus Pentax (with the Sears name on the outside) that served me well for 15 years until it quite literally died at the Alamo.
I flirted with a Minolta camera for another decade before leaping into the digital age with my old Canon Digital Rebel XTi (She still serves me ably as a second body when I need it).
To me, photography is more than simply a way to preserve memories. It becomes a reason to visit places I might not otherwise see. By itself, the challenge of capturing a beautiful image makes the journey worth whatever money, time, or effort is involved.
In effect, the process of capturing the photography: selecting the best time and vantage point, deciding on the lens, the camera settings, and the decision about what sort of image I want to capture, becomes a part of the journey itself.
It’s a mistake, I think, to devalue the photograph. It may only take an instant to capture and it seems like there a billion new ones created every minute, but it never gets any easier to capture an image that really captures its subject and speaks to the viewer.
Whether pursuing my own muse or working on assignment for someone, the challenge and the process are both the same: Between deciding what to shoot and actually opening the shutter is a long list decisions, some instinctive and instant, others carefully considered. It’s the time taken to stop and think about composition, exposure and the quality of light that separates “taking a picture” from photography.
When it’s just me, it’s only a matter of my own personal pride and satisfaction that stops from taking a “snapshot” and makes me slow down to take a “photograph.” When my clients are involved, it becomes a responsibility to make the finished image the best it can be and not merely good enough. Looking at a finished image and thinking, “I wish I had done this, that, or the other thing,” is fine for my personal work, but unacceptable when another person’s livelihood may rest on the quality of the image.
To me, that defines the essential nature of what it means to be a professional. You may ask yourself why you need to hire a pro photographer when your cousin Buford has a shiny new DSLR with all the bells and whistles. Well, if all of Buford’s pictures look like they could have been taken with his cell phone, you’re probably not going to be satisfied with the results.
If you hire me, I’m not being paid just to show up with a camera. Your Aunt Tilly can do that. I’m being paid to bring along 30 years of knowledge, not only about how to “work my camera,” but what makes a pleasing image and what it takes to reach that goal. Not only that, the person you hire must be able to deliver professional results in a timely fashion. If Cousin Buford doesn’t deliver your baby pictures until after you’ve sent Junior off to college, and they’re still not very good, you haven’t really saved very much.
What I offer is my own passion for the craft, the pleasure that I derive from creating an image that not merely a good picture, but something that has more enduring value. The payment for my services is small compared to the satisfaction I get from seeing a client’s face when they see an image that exceeds their expectations.