Advanced warning: you will think this post is either humorous or insulting, depending on which camp you fall into…
Studio/ commercial photographers
Live inside white cubes with huge soft boxes suspended from rails; have one or two assistants to act as fluffers for various products – ‘Yes, oil up that bottle a bit more. Really work it. Niiiiice…’ Cannot function without a tripod and look down on anything less than medium format digital and a full set of Profotos. Almost always shoot tethered, and employ a separate retouching department to make everything look perfect afterwards. Are thought to have the uncanny ability to position things exactly in the same orientation time after time, but really rely on photoshop composites and duct tape to mark cues on the floor. Considers ISO 200 ‘a bit high’. Wistfully remembers the day when technical cameras were de rigeur and 8×10″ sheet film was chargeable to the client.
Now with video! Run around the world putting couples-to-be in increasingly odd locations and positions, with completely unrealistic settings and makeup – those are the good ones. The ensuing (retouched) images look nothing like the couple at all; the less they look like the couple, the better the wedding photographer. ‘Wedding photojournalism’ as a genre doesn’t work by definition, because retouching is the antithesis of every photojournalist, and every bride expects to look like a Vogue model even if they have skin like the surface of the moon and ‘freestyle’ teeth. Increasingly employing wide-angle lenses for portraiture, with either the bride a minor footnote in an expansive, dramatic landscape or with enormous manga eyes and tiny feet. Possibly the only paid photography market that’s expanding, with couples often paying thousands of dollars for pre-wedding location shoots where the intention is to pretend-fairytale that they met and fell in love in Paris, when the reality is that the photographer has booked six other couples back-to-back for that trip and will make exactly the same pictures seven times.
Rove in uniformly black-garbed packs; if they’re well-equipped, they’ll have two bodies and huge flashes. If your event organizer ran out of budget after spending too much on the meet and greet ‘talent’, then you’ll see somebody with an entry-level DSLR, kit zoom and pop-up flash continually chimping their screen trying to figure out why their images look horrible. They are probably students who just happened to agree to work for US$50 for the entire evening, and supply their own equipment. Regardless of expertise, will be cajoling random groups of non-associated strangers together for group shots against sponsor walls all night long. Doesn’t like raw files – have you ever tried to deliver a thousand edited raw images the next day? I thought so. The really good event photographers operate like good photojournalists – you don’t see them, but you see intimate moments (both involvingly touching and involving touching) well-captured afterwards.
Fashion photographers – editorial/ advertising
Employ armies of assistants, make up artists, wardrobe coordinators, location managers, stylists, art directors and general minions; all they have to do is hold the camera (and sometimes not even that) and push the button while shouting wildly and acting like a bit of a diva. A generally glamorous lifestyle that involves private jets both as transport, and later on, as props. Sometimes also lions, tigers and other wild beasts. Photographers also known to turn into wild beasts when informed of budget cuts by their clients.
Live pampered lives, eating their way from assignment to assignment, with Michelin-starred chefs on speed dial; that is, providing they haven’t covered their food in oil first and replaced all of the ice cream with mashed potatoes. Or gotten sick from the undercooked (but oh-so-juicy-looking) chicken. Known to obsess over the placement of a fork, or go in surgically with tweezers and surgical forceps to move around a leaf or two to the perfectly right position. Keeps a spritzer handy in their lighting bag just in case something needs to be made fresher, wetter, or shinier.
Fashion photographers – catwalk
Spend their working lives cooped up in a pit at the end of a runway with a hundred other photographers, trying to produce something different (if they’re freelancing) or cookie-cutteringly perfect (if they’re shooting for a magazine or agency). Standard equipment is a monopod and stepladder, or better yet, a monopod built into a stepladder. Must occupy a zen-like mental plane in order to work effectively; shoot like crazy during the fifteen minute shows, then spend the intervals running to the toilet and pressroom to upload the images to the agency server whilst their assistant guards their territory in the pit against possible intruders.
Consider 8fps slow, and 300mm a short lens. Live for the moment, literally; it’s like being a wildlife photographer except you know the life is going to be wild and happening in front of you in neat 45-minute halves, ostensibly with rules but nothing that prevents a creative or curious photographer from being taken out by a ball, club, boot, bicycle or sometimes high-speed flying tyre. Like catwalk shooters, spend time between action running to the toilet, media center to upload stuff, and having their assistants defend their turf against other agencies – just go the media areas of any race circuit or stadium around the world, and you’ll see bits of tape or crash barriers marked with ‘AP F1 2005’ or similar marking territory. Also known to have very itchy trigger fingers, because moments are rare, worth a fortune if you get the right one, and never presented again for a do-over. Would probably make bad policemen or snipers because of this, despite likely possessing excellent marksmanship due the similar breath-control skills required for good long telephoto work.
A curious hybrid of sports photographer and catwalk fashion photographer with a singularly voyeuristic bent. Any photography of the target is a good one. Ready to shoot a picture at the very hint of a wardrobe malfunction, and pathologically unable to release the shutter or move away until attacked by bodyguards – just in case that image is the one. Also likes to get close – both for more unflattering detail, and to block out competitors. Know all the latest celebrity hangouts by memory, and sometimes try to make friends with the bouncers, but it never works because they’re always below celebrities in the pecking order. But might cultivate inside sources amongst the lowly-paid entourage with a grudge. Uses a moped to get around quickly, outrun celebrity motorcades and arrive at places before they do. Flashes with high voltage fast-cycle battery packs are a must. Disavowed by camera companies as being proper photographers, but secretly loved at the same time because they have the highest turnover for cameras out of any type of photographer – perhaps the camera companies have some bouncers and bodyguards in their employ, whose sole purpose is to ensure that any dropped or broken cameras are total loss incidents. Also known to use long lenses,
Use housings more expensive than their cameras; have constant nightmares about grains of sand in o-rings and flooding. Like seeing fish through the viewfinder, but not in the viewfinder. Always the first to buy the widest lenses possible to minimize the amount of water (and floating crap) between them and their subjects. Carry their strobes on arms; known for their sensitivity towards their subjects – most of the time. Those who are not have no qualms about picking up or poking rare endangered species to provoke a photographically favorable reaction. Always think of the camera as an impervious defense shield from attack by anything; won’t dare to swim with sharks and no cage, but would think nothing of poking their housing right up at the nose of an electric eel.
Photojournalists – the serious kind
Have a jumpy, taciturn attitude and a nervous tic that comes from being around one too many live explosives that have actually gone off; will often bear the scars to prove it, too. Tote around a pair of incredibly beaten-up cameras and a wide-angle lens; needs straps that will work comfortably with a flak jacket. Capable of sleeping anywhere, anytime, and surviving for weeks on end with nothing but coffee; no wonder images are almost always motion blurred (never mind the extreme lighting conditions they almost always work under). At the same time, also capable of waking up to the drop of a pin; it can mean the difference between receiving a World Press Photo Award in person or posthumously. Often gets themselves into locations that secret agents would envy. (Why hasn’t anybody made an action movie about the photojournalist who discovers something secret that he has to diffuse/ deactivate/ fix/ expose before the world all goes to hell?) The stuff that legends are made of, however most of the time it’s about luck, timing, and having the balls to raise one’s camera and shoot some pictures instead of crapping one’s pants in fear. Also known to strut like gunslingers or drink like fish (never the former after the latter) after returning to civilization.
Photojournalists – the average newspaper kind
Rove in packs to press conferences or outside courtrooms, aiming standard-issue 24-70s or 70-200s at their subjects from inside the media cordon or outside the police line. Doesn’t have to do much beyond capturing a useable image that allows subjects to be identified; they’re not paid enough or trained to do more than that (at least not in this part of the world). Has never heard of raw or bounce flash. Usually attached to a reporter.
Covered from head to toe in camouflage gear, including their lenses and tripods. If they stood still against a bush, you wouldn’t see them taking a photo of you from three feet away, which of course they’d never do, because everybody knows that near focus limits of a 600mm lens are about two meters, even with extension tubes. Happy to spend days in a swamp being blood donors to an entire family of mosquitoes just to get that one shot of the rare lesser-spotted mangrove warbler, or something similar. Will use monopods and beanbags in a pinch, but much happier with those enormous 3-m tall Gitzo systematics and gimbal heads that look as though they could support a .50-caliber machine gun.
Black-Leica toting, hyperfocal-shooting; sometimes with flashes. Often spring up like flashers with camera at the ready and speed light firing into their startled subject’s face; have mastered the art of disappearing down a dark alleyway fast enough to prevent angry subjects from turning their beloved M9s into expensive paperweights. Alternatively, extremely stealthy like ninjas; shoot from the hip without looking at subject or finder. The smoothness of their shooting technique is counterbalanced by the incredibly chaotic nature of their photographs – just look at any of the modern Japanese work. Always eating ramen because they can’t afford both proper cameras and proper food; street photography is not a commercial occupation.
I include this category as an afterthought because most of them are either not photographers, or if they are, they’re covered by one of the other categories. (I think ISO 200 is a bit high’, so that should give you a hint.) Always carrying the latest equipment, sometimes lots of it as they’ve got many reviews to write; photograph anything and everything, so long as it makes a useable sample shot, or can be executed at ISO 104,000. Tend to classify themselves as street photographers, but this is a bit of a dangerous catch all term for people who just take random photographs when outside their homes. If engaged in conversation, they will wax lyrical about features they’ve never used or don’t understand, but be very shy about showing their photographs to anybody in person – yet be happy to let it all hang out on the internet. Is on first name terms with their referral account manager at B&H or Amazon.
If there’s anybody I haven’t managed to insult yet, leave a comment and I’ll do my best to get around to it. MT
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