The New Manual DSLR Project

Hi, and welcome to my blog. The Manual DSLR Project was started March 30, 2010 with the intent of devoting one year to learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I invited you to join me as I took this journey. You celebrated with me as my fingers began to remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings. I was brutally honest in sharing my mistakes.

A year passed quickly...and I achieved my goal of demystifying the manual operation of my camera.

While the Manual DSLR Project was intended to be bound by time (one year), I am eager to keep the conversation going. So look for additional posts on anything related to photography. And interact. Let me know if you are reading the blog and find it useful.

All the best...

Monday, November 22, 2010

What makes a pro a pro?

In the short time that I have been following photographers on their blogs and on Twitter, I have learned that there seems to be a categorization related to photographers. With tongue planted firmly in cheek, I would like to speak to some of these categories:

Amateur – This is the category in which I find myself considering that I do not make my living from photography. I have, out of need for a particular illustration, had a few photos published in books that I wrote. My employer has used some of my photos in publications. For the most part, however, my photography has been for personal enjoyment. One should note that the skill level in this category varies widely from beginner to expert. I suppose I fall somewhere in between the two.

Professional – Most of the photographers that I run into online tend to be in this category. Some are photography “rock stars” with names like Chase Jarvis, Scott Bourne, Derrick Story, David Ziser, and Tamara Lackey. Others are perhaps equally talented but perhaps less well known. These are people that you have never heard of, but who do beautiful work and make a good living for their families. Still others may have less (or more) skill, but seem to just get by.

Then there is another group. These are the ones who buy a “good camera”. They take a few shots on Automatic mode. (Yes, with the pop-up flash firing on the shots they take from the nosebleed section at the football game.) Someone tells them that they take good pictures. “Look at this portrait that a professional photographer took. The background is all blurry,” they might say. “But the telephone pole lined up just behind Little Johnny’s head is just as clear as the little squirt himself”. You probably know where I am going with this.

So the photographer decides that it is time to go pro. After all, he has a good camera. What else does he need?

I experienced the work of one of these pros recently. I was very nice when the person was shooting the event and, in fact, did not shoot myself since a professional had been hired. I don’t want to be the “Uncle Bob” in this story.

Then I saw the photos. The composition was poor. One group shot chopped off the heads of several; one was chopped at the level of the eyes. I understand artistic creativity, but let’s get real. The images were over processed to the point of being ridiculous. There is one shot where two of us have blue noses. I’m not kidding! Blue noses! Okay. I’m exaggerating. It might be more of a teal color. Maybe aqua. What??

But you know what? There are some pretty good pictures too. One is of a really cute pose of a child. I would have probably approached it differently and opened the aperture to really focus on the subject and let the background blur. But it’s still a good photo. A few good ones and a few bad ones.

Why do I consider these photos to be less than professional? Lack of consistency. They should all be good. Do we all have throw aways where eyes are closed or the lighting wasn’t just right or whatever? Sure. But the customer should never see these. These should NOT be in the album. But when that is all you have…

I would include a copy of some of the botched photos, but will not due to copyright issues. Neither will I include one of my shots on this post since it’s a post about what not to do. Until next time I’ll just assure you that I am not exaggerating about the quality of these shots.

And by the way…the next time someone tells you that you take good pictures because you have a good camera. Set your ISO to 3200. Aperture to the biggest setting that the lens will allow, and the shutter speed on maybe 1 second. Hand it to them and ask them to take your photo. You think maybe Scott Bourne is right when he says that the camera may not be the most important component in the photo? I think so. What does Scott say? “90% of all cameras are better than…”

So do I want to be a pro? Not until I am the best amateur photographer you know. And I'm still working on that. All the best...

1 comment:

  1. Mike, your observations are 100% spot on and I totally agree with all of them. I, like yourself have reached that certain level, where you can produce a very pleasing result, according to taste obviously and I firmly plant myself in the very keen learner(with a good understanding of all the dynamics of picture taking) category. Time and time again I see, just as you have, people who, every now and again produce a 'not bad' shot, friends tell them its fantastic and then 'hey presto' they are freelance photographers...what the hell. Friends have told me to go pro, I simply tell them, when I consistently produce 1st class pictures all of the time, I might consider myself a decent amateur. Oh, always love the old chestnut of- thats a great shot you must have a fabulous camera to take a picture like that, never fails to amuse me..