Being a Part-Time Pro Photographer

As an HR professional, that immediately sounds like a contradiction in terms- “Part-Time Pro”. The reality for many of us is that is exactly the case. We work traditional jobs and enjoy working with clients when life doesn’t get in the way. Life meaning work, spouses, kids, parents, volunteer organizations, sports, and on and on! Add other complications like outdoor shoots reliant on the perfect sky, sick kids, and last minute business meetings and trips, and you may begin to see why a few things about us are true. Below is a list

1. We truly do enjoy photography!

This began as a hobby for us. Part-Time Pros didn’t just decide one day, “Hey, I should do something to further complicate my life and schedule…why not photography?!?” For me, I can remember having 35mm and 110 point and shoots. I learned on a full manual everything except light meter, and did darkroom work in college. In fact, I was the only non-fine arts major in the class. I have done many shoots without calling them as such, like trick or treating with my daughter’s friends. I enjoy being behind the camera and getting the shot people enjoy for years to come.

2.  We have great equipment, but that’s only half the story!

As something that started as a hobby and progressed, Part-Time Pros have typically been through a few rounds of gear.  We have learned what equipment is needed to make the shot we want to see.  Expect us to have pro-grade lenses and off camera lighting to make a wonderful image under just about any set of circumstances.

3.  We know how to get our equipment to do what we want it to!

If you haven’t read my post “I want to take pictures that look like yours! What camera should i get?“, go read it.  Two images could be shot with the same perfect exposure but look completely different depending on the photographer’s selection of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.  Harsh sun creating hard shadows, low contrast cloudy days where all the color looks flat, dim churches and other indoor venues, terrible fluorescent lighting, all of these factors can change a final image from what should have been a great shot to something just being off.  Photoshop and Lightroom are tools we use to tweak images, and the better photographers try to do as little post-processing as possible.  What does this mean for you?  Less time to get your images and typically more natural looking and striking representations.

4.  We have access to the best print labs and products

Digital images are great, but having a high-quality print on amazing paper is what most of us really enjoy.  I’ve had a few conversations with clients lately around prints.  In the age of digital, they’ve become an afterthought.  I have printed plenty of images at local big-box retailers and drug stores, but until I partnered with a print lab, I didn’t know what I was missing.  Ask, and I will show you the difference!

5.  We can’t do every assignment

It’s not that we don’t want to, trust me, it’s that life gets in the way.  For some, it’s a reluctance to commit to an event multiple months in the future.  For others, we rely on you

Cassie and Jerry

to help find a mutual time that works.  If you feel like your Part-Time Pro is not responding, keep in touch.  Most of us are accessible through every means possible, including phone, email, text, Facebook, name it!  In fact, we probably already know each other or are a friend of a friend or past client.

6.  You may see our families tag along

I was recently asked to take some pictures of a co-worker and her husband.   My family already had a trip planned to the Dallas Arboretum (if you’ve never been there, you should go!), and I had enough room on my membership to get them in as well.  We had a great day together, and they were kind enough to get some shots of us.  My wife will often be involved as a second shooter or equipment handler.  This is often one way to balance time with everything we have going on, and it will not detract from your experience.

7.  Our time is worth a lot

In the event we can take on your assignment, please understand that there is a true opportunity cost to us in the time that we will invest for you.  This time begins with pre-consultation, and continues with location scouting, research into set-ups and posing for your particular situation, testing out techniques prior to your engagement, the time for the shoot or event itself, post-processing, and print fulfillment.  A 2 hour engagement could easily represent an additional 5-10 hours behind the scenes, and significantly more depending on product needs.  When we price, all of this cost is factored in.

8.  We know how important this is for you, and we want to get it right

Part-Time Pros have the know-how and desire to get it right for you, and you should choose any photographer based on their style and ability to meet your needs.  Ultimately, Part-Time Pros are in the business of photography, and customer service is paramount to our future success.

You have all that big camera gear! So why are you taking pictures with your phone?

This question was posed to me when we visited the Indianapolis Children’s Museum this past March.  As a quick aside, if you ever have a chance to take your kids there, DO IT!  Ok, now that’s out of the way, back to the post!

Here’s the setup – my 3 year old was playing with the river simulator.  Over my shoulder was my D600 with a 24-70 lens and an SB700 flash.  Definitely not a small set up. In my hand, however, was my S7 taking a quick pic of her having a good time.  A mom stopped me, looking extremely puzzled, herself carrying a smaller DSLR.  She asked why in the world I was using my camera on my phone when I had pro-level gear with me.    I gave her the obvious answer – I was posting a check-in on Facebook!

It doesn’t matter what one does, but having the right tool for the job is important.  What is even more essential is knowing which tool to use for which job.  I live in North Texas, and it’s not uncommon for people to own a fun-to-drive vehicle and a pickup.  The sports car or motorcycle definitely has its uses, but I wouldn’t want to be in/on one during a spring thunderstorm or when hauling supplies from the hardware store.  Both get you from point A to B, but they go about it in very different ways.

The same is true for photography equipment.  Ken Rockwell writes all over his page about why an iPhone or a good point and shoot is way more practical than a fancy, interchangeable lens camera.  Depending on the application, I will sometimes rely solely on my Samsung Galaxy or Olympus TG-4.  Other times, including difficult light or where image quality and control really matter, I bring out the big guns.  Natural light is often a great solution; however, strobes and speedlights have their place.

For me, this gets back to the fundamentals.  Throw the gear out the window for a minute, and think about the purpose.  What story are you trying to tell?  How do you best want to tell it?  Once you understand that, then grab the right tool.  How do you know what the right tool is?  For that, you just need to get out there and shoot!

I want to take pictures that look like yours! What camera should i get?

If I had a quarter for every time I’ve heard this question!  As of February 2017, I have 20 years of SLR experience.  I started in film back in the 90’s, and I have seen the proliferation of consumer-grade DSLRs take over the market in the last decade.  All one needs to do is visit any grade school event, soccer game, or zoo to see someone with a D3400 on full auto with the pop-up flash and a 18-55mm lens attempting to capture a subject 50-100 feet away in less than ideal lighting conditions.

Equipment is important; there is no denying that.  The right lens can make or break a shot depending on the look one is trying to achieve or the light available.  I was fortunate enough to take a photography class while completing my undergrad, and I saw time and again technique trumping equipment.

Following a curriculum, whether it’s in a classroom setting, on Creative Live, or finding a list of assignments and shooting a lot, is the best way to start your photography journey.  Topics such as light and shadow, depth of field, and motion capturing a variety of subjects will do wonders for anyone wanting to explore past “Auto” or “P”.  Understanding how different combinations of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed create different looks at an equivalent exposure is key to achieving the look any photographer is after.  It’s the difference between a creamy waterfall and a boring stream or a subject that jumps out of the frame vs being lost in the scene.

In addition to the technique required to capture the image, understanding post-processing is extremely important.  For those of us who learned in a darkroom, complete with different enlargers, contrast filters, papers, and real dodging and burning, tools like Lightroom and Photoshop give us creative control that was discovered through a ton of trial and error (and cost!).  Overexposing a roll of film is a thing of the past, and with today’s RAW files, a photographer can easily cover up technical errors in capturing images through an exposure slider.

To me, the bottom line is if you want to make a hobby or a craft out of photography, take the time to learn the fundamentals before shelling out thousands of dollars in equipment.  There are a ton of resources out there, and many photographers enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.  The best thing anyone learning can do is put the camera on M and go shoot a ton!