Sponsored by EIZO
B&H is a place near and dear to my heart because it was quite literally the first place that allowed me to stand in front of an audience and share my passion for photography. I still can’t forget how nerve-wrenching that first time was. The lights in the room seemed awfully bright, and the small audience of twenty to thirty people made me feel petrified. I had spent weeks preparing my three-hour presentation, hoping that every single word was spelled correctly and that every picture was in its place. Even with the amount of preparation I had, I still stumbled on my words. It was my first time standing in front of an audience and while I powered through the ordeal, I learned quite a bit from that single experience. That was almost four years ago. Since then, I’ve taught dozens, if not hundreds of lectures around the world, in front of tens of thousands of people collectively.
So, here we are in 2016 and I’m standing behind the very same podium that started my career as an educator. The nervousness is gone. The fear of failure is gone. The only thing that’s left is an experienced young author, photographer and educator, speaking with a small group of colleagues. I say that with the humblest heart possible, because it’s through many trials, tribulations and experiences that have left me battle-hardened enough to feel that confident.
Photography for me is very similar to that scenario. Through my experiences as a working professional, I’ve learned the importance of mastering my craft – although, I assure you that it will be a lifelong commitment. During my lecture at B&H (sponsored by Eizo), I discussed the miscellaneous lessons that I’d learned while working as a professional photographer, along with many of the insights that I’d acquired while working with some truly amazing people from all around the world. I’ve had the pleasure of working with subjects who’ve been photographed by many talented photographers, like Annie Leibovitz, Mark Seliger, Mario Testino, Patrick and Victor Demarchelier, and many other amazing photographers. Being the inquisitive individual that I am, I’m curious to learn what differentiates those “legendary” photographers from other professional photographers. I found that almost all of them express the same difference – communication and conversation.
Albeit, when you have assistants and a full production team to help you coordinate your production, it becomes a little easier to focus more time communicating and conversing with your subject. But if you strip away the production and monitor aspect of that story, my takeaway from those conversations is that we should be able to hone our craft to a point where it becomes second nature – where we have more time to communicate and converse to capture the best image of our subject matter.
So during my time at B&H, I also discussed the impact that listening to those stories made in my life, both as an artist and as a business person. I find that focusing on core necessities on set, I have more time to spend working with my client. For example, I purposely restrict myself to using a single light on set, unless absolutely necessary because it means that I only have to worry about the power, direction and position of a single light. I use Eizo monitors because they allow me to judge my images for color accuracy without failure. In short, the more equipment that you work with on set, the more time you’ll inevitably spend fiddling that gear; especially when you’re working without assistants.
The point of this article is this: Whatever you choose to do in life, always seek to continue evolving your skill set. Hone your craft and never let perfection inhibit your ability to open your mind. Also focus on the fact that you’re not photographing an object. You’re focused on photographing a person. Never forget that. People will be more relaxed and confident in front of the camera if they don’t feel like they’re part of a science experiment.