The number of times that a lens or [insert other gear here] has made
something cool magically appear in front of my camera.
Running a business for the last couple years has taught me a lot about stepping back and considering the value of investing in purchasing one thing or another. When “gear lust” comes a knocking I have to be honest with myself and say “hey, Bryan, does that cool new thing you saw have real utility, or are you just excited for it in the moment?” A good question to ask is: will it directly lead to the business making more money with new opportunities?
Like it’s important to deliberate over, say, whether to buy a specialty lens or replacing your tripod first, what I’m, suggesting here is that there’s even more important things to consider spending your money on than just lenses, or tripods, or octocopters, and it’s the most important thing for actually developing your portfolio. My argument is that this should be the priority. What is that thing? Well it’s whatever you’re putting in front of the camera.
sidenote: The assumption of this article is that you already have good enough quality equipment that you can create sharp images. I’m merely saying do you REALLY need that 50mm 1.2 lens or can you get away with using the 1.4 and having really cool content instead? You can even rent lenses too once you have a specific purpose you need it for.
Zion National Park
This post is inspired by a recent personal trip I took to Las Vegas with my wife Jessica, where we also rented a car and made the trip to beautiful Zion National Park! This was of course an excellent trip and for our own enjoyment, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I’m always fuelled by the photos I’ll get out of a spectacular destination like that!
In particular I had seen some really interesting photos from the top of the canyon in Zion, and knew that Thomas and I wanted to expand our portfolio to include a few more “epic, looking at mountains photos”, especially ones that appeared more international and showed how we travel outside Alberta. With all that in mind, I thought this vista would be perfect.
Now getting to that spot required renting a car and paying gas and fees to get in to the park etc. and it’s not the cheapest vacation day but it’s so worth it especially since I’m getting a valuable image out of it. This got me thinking about how often Thomas and I go out of our way to arrange creatives with interesting people in town, or get really cool photos while we’re traveling.
So what’s the gist?
#1 thing: Your book is what matters most.
#2: The dirty secret is that as long as you do the photos of a high quality, art directors and other people can’t tell that you put that shoot together just for yourself.
The art directors are mainly looking for one thing, really, and that is whether there are any anomalies like weird technical errors or poor judgement in composition, or anything that just isn’t that good level of quality but you thought would be good enough for your book anyway. These things are what make it appear that selecting you could be a risk.
Other than that, the content you show is a gateway to the kind of things you want to shoot, and more often than not the content, and your personality and connection to that content is what’s going to make you memorable.
Take the time to reflect on what is it you want to do, who your potential clients are, and what kind of images they’d want to see. From there, consider what you have to do to make it happen or what naturally occurring opportunities you might be able to exploit for images you want in your book!