I have been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of some great advice over the years. In this article, I go over the five bits that have resonated the most with me and that I think of on every shoot.
If Other Photographers Like it, You Have Gone Too Far
Never ask photographers for feedback on your photography. As photographers, we look at the images in a technical way, in a way that no other viewer will ever see them — the blown-out highlights, chromatic aberration, color fringing, and if the image is perfectly sharp. In reality, no one else cares about these things. What they want to see is a great image, not a technically perfect photograph. If you are becoming a big hit with photographers, but not the public, you may have delved too far down the rabbit hole of technical perfection. There is a reason why some genres and styles of photography only exist on photography sites.
Make Sure the Food Looks Good; Nothing Else Matters
I am a food photographer, so this makes sense to me. If you are not a food photographer, just change the subject, and I am pretty sure it will still hold true. This advice was given to me by Howard Shooter. He was kind enough to spend a lot of time over the phone with me when I was trying to work out if I wanted to be a food photographer or stick to the portraits that I had been working on in previous years. The best bit of advice that he gave me is also the simplest. Make sure the food looks good. There isn’t a great deal more to it. An elaborate setup is wasted on bad-looking food. It’s far better to have a good stylist than a good camera. I think as technically minded photographers that we often lose sight of this.
Remember, You Are the Only Person in The Room Who Can Solve the Problem
When the client is breathing down your neck and everything seems to be going wrong, the stress and pressure can come over you like a wave. I have often had clients stating problems with images and realized that I could not instantly fix them. At these times, it's important to remember that you are the only person in the room who will eventually be able to fix it and that they know nothing of the magnitude of the task in front of you. Take your time and work it out; no one else can. It is reassuring to know that although the clients are asking for the moon, they have no idea how to get there, but you will be able to work it out. I often remind myself of this when I am in a tight spot.
Shoot to Mitigate
Early on in my career, I had a really technical and large-scale production to shoot. I was in well out of my depth. But my friend reminded me that as long as I shot backplates, kept focus in place, and had my camera on a good tripod that we could do a lot in post. He advised me to shoot to mitigate any issues that might arise later on. Whenever something looks a bit tricky or if I am unsure on what a client has signed off on the day, I will make sure that I shoot additional shots and back plates to cover myself when they look at the images again in a few days time.
Only You Care About The Gear
My partner has a background in working for ad agencies. When I was starting out shooting with bigger agencies and bigger brand names in the advertisement world, I started to get really paranoid about my Bowens lights and 35mm Canon cameras. Were they good enough? Was the bit depth enough for the food? Would the optics render a nice enough image? All of these questions and more. It turns out, I was the only person worrying about this. I have since shot worldwide campaigns on everything from a Canon 5D Mark II with a speedlight and a $5 umbrella through to Broncolor packs and Phase One backs. As long as you can execute the creative brief, no one cares what kit you use to do it.
What is the best advice that you have received?