Stuck, stalled, and blocked. Its been a point of discussion for creative people around the world since... well I don't know since when. It’s been that way for a long time and we all get it. this inescapable feeling of grasping at smoke. An idea pops up in your mind. Well, not an idea, but a piece of one. You catch a glimpse of something that could be great and you try to force it into something whole but it doesn't work. The more you force it the more it cracks. Like trying to remember a dream after waking up. What a shitty feeling.
The flip side to this is when the ideas come flooding in but you’re already too busy to do anything with them. I’d say this is equally frustrating. But in this also lies a solution to the aforementioned blockage. When I have those rare moments where what could be a great idea pops in my head, I write it down. Seriously. I know it seems simple, and it is. It’s also very effective. I carry a small moleskine journal everywhere with me. Before I carried that journal I wrote on anything I could find. Napkins or post it notes, any slip of paper I had in my pocket or bag seemed to be scribbled on. One time I had an idea for a portrait and I wrote it on the inside of my hat with a sharpie. I know I can use my phone to take notes, and I do, but something about the feeling of putting pen to paper creates a more effortless conduit for the transfer of creative thought.
So, now you have a bunch of would be masterpieces tucked away in that journal. What do you do? Anything, Just pick one. Don't ponder over which would be right, just pick and go. Stick them all to the wall and throw a dart if you need to. I approach old ideas like a project for a client. Even if I don't think it’s a particularly good anymore I will still find a way to produce as high of quality deliverable as possible, even if its just for me. Just remember, It’s better than doing nothing.
What makes a good bag? For years I have been looking for an answer to that question. I have slings, messengers, backpacks, and hard cases. Not to mention all the straps and harnesses. What it truly boils down to is what you like best and what you will use most. Different bags for different situations. Lets take a look at the variety we have to choose from.
Sling bags are designed with speed in mind. To be able to get to your gear fast and with as little effort as possible. These bags have a single strap that is typically worn across the chest like a bandoleer. Two of the most popular slings I seen and used are the Velocity series by Tamrac and the Slingshot series by Lowpro. Both offer a variety of capacities. The great thing about a good sling is the convenience. I love being able to swing my bag around, pull a zipper and there is my camera. There is one issue I have run into while using a sling. The motion of swinging the bag around sometimes causes one's shirt to crumple up and the time saved by having fast access to gear is lost while straightening your shirt out.
Cons: Somewhat limited capacity, Screams “I have a sack full of camera gear!”
Pros: Fast and easy access to gear.
Who this bag is for: Event photographers, Photojournalists, Amateur Photographers, Street Photographers
Who doesn't love a good messenger bag? Not only do they generally look nice but they allow fairly easy access to gear and they don’t stand out like a flashing neon sign that says “CAMERAS HERE!”. Pick any bag company and you stand a VERY good chance at finding a messenger line dedicated to photographers. Some of my favorites are Timbuk 2 bags with padded camera inserts, the Retrospective series by Think Tank, and the bags produced by Tenba. But really, there are so many good ones out there. I recommend going to your local camera store and checking out your options. I love messengers as multi-purpose bags. I can carry a camera body, a couple lenses, flash, batteries, cards, laptop, notepad, pens, gameboy, phone, headphones. I can go on and on.
Cons: Limited capacity for camera gear, lacking in protection,
Pros: Low profile, comfortable, versatile
Who this bag is for: Commuters, street photographers, travel photographers, students
The workhorse! When hauling gear is called for, nothing beats the backpack. There are TONS of options in the category. To start with, there is a strong trend with backpacks that sport a laptop compartment in conjunction with a moderate camera compartment and a pocket for various small items. These can usually accommodate a body with attached lens, additional lens, flash, and spare batteries/cards. Of course this arrangement is subject to your gear and needs. Bags like this include the Kata 3N1-35 PL, The Tamrac Adventure 9, and the Lowpro Fastpack 250 AW. I have owned a couple bags like this over the years and my only real qualm is that there is room for a little bit of everything but not enough for all the gear you may need. The other type of backpack is the pure pack mule. These are the ones where you open up the front to reveal a honeycomb of modular dividers that can accommodate damn near EVERYTHING. These include bags like Ape Case’ ACPRO2000 (Which I personally consider the best bang for the buck), The Lowepro Trekker series is extremely rugged and designed to outlast even you, and the incredibly travel friendly Airport TakeOff™ bag by thinkTANK.
Cons: Can be large and bulky, very heavy when fully loaded.
Pros: Room for EVERYTHING!
Who this bag is for: Travel photographers, nature/wildlife photographers, photographers who demand a full range of glass and gear at all times.
Interesting thing about photography today is that it can be compared to web design in the 90s/00s. Once programs were released that enabled anyone to create a web page the industry exploded with thousands of people calling them selves web designers. It's the same today with the amazingly low price of high quality cameras and editing software.
I constantly hear people state that there is no point to attempt a career in the photographic industry because everyone and their cousin now has a DSLR and Adobe Lightroom.
I believe this to be false. I theorize that, in time, the photographic industry will follow the trend of web design and other highly accessible creative mediums.
Simply put, the bar will rise and prospective clients will be able to identify high quality work and distinguish it from... everything else. I would go so far to say that it's a healthy phase for the photographic industry. Photographers are having to present some really amazing and innovative work to get their names out there. In the mean time, everyone who got their first DSRL come to realize a few things:
- It's a highly thankless job
- The hours are crazy
- 30 minutes of shooting = days in Photoshop (I'm not kidding, days.)
- The pay is... variable
- You have to be a business owner first, photographer second. At all times.
- Equipment is extremely expensive and is prone to breakage. Renting is a great way to go until you can save enough for some nice gear.
- You have to have a regular job (or be independently wealthy) to pay the bills until your photography starts being profitable. This can take some time depending on what type of photography you're going into.
All that said, I love photography. I don't feel content unless I have a camera in my hands. We all have to start somewhere and I know I still have a ton to learn.
Allow me to start by saying that these are simply some tips that I have taken away from my experience photographing various events. Don't take me to seriously.
1. See it from their side.
- When I'm booking an event I think its important to sit down and really get a feel for what your client needs to see come out of your work. Sure you have creative freedom but keep in mind that this is a big deal for them too and they have a vision of how the final product should look.
- Develop a shot list. Go over it with your client before the event starts. Find out what's most important to them and find out where those subjects will be. Maybe they want the main attraction to be the food, the band, etc..
2. Be a fly on the wall.
- Although it is really exciting to be there. You're there as a professional, not an attendee. Its easy to get wrapped up in a great party and start chatting up other guests but keep in mind that you're being paid to capture the highlights of this evening. That gets exceedingly difficult when you're wrapped up in a conversation about what kind of camera someone should buy their daughter for her birthday.
- Dress for the occasion. Nothing says amateur like showing up to a black tie event in a t-shirt and shorts. Dress accordingly and I guarantee your client will appreciate it. I default to black shirt (button down), shoes, and slacks. It hasn't failed me yet. (Side tip: Keep a spare set of clothes in your car)
3. Stay for the after-party.
- You're burnt at this point. Shooting all night, moving equipment, and ducking trays of expansive looking food. Although you want nothing more than to pack it in and head home, stay. Some of my best contacts and referrals have come out of staying after an event and just talking to people. Hand out business cards and talk yourself up. Trust me, its important.