The Q&A post: answers, part III

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Delving deeper into the abstract…

The final part of the epic. Find parts one and two here, the rest after the jump.

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The Q&A post: answers, part II

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Gratuitously painterly header image.

Continued from part one. Read on…

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The Q&A post: answers, part I

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Jazz time – put some music on. This is going to be a loooong post.

From an earlier post where I opened the floor to the readers, here are the answers. There were some enjoyable ones in there I really had to think hard about; I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of questions submitted, but decided to answer pretty much everything with the exception of speculative or ‘what should I buy’ posts about equipment. There is no way to answer these meaningfully without understanding the output objectives and skill level of the person wielding it; give a skilled photographer anything and it’s possible to make a compelling image, there is also the recommended gear list, and if it’s not on there, then there’s probably a reason.

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Because somebody will eventually ask…

…”what gear do you use?” is the most common question I get from aspiring photographers or keen amateurs.

Gear doesn’t matter. Practice, on the other hand, does. I’ve got images in the Getty library that were shot on digital medium format; I’ve also got images shot with my iPhone. But I admit, like every other photographer, there is an element of gearhead geek in me. So here’s the current list:

Primary – Leica M (I’m Leica sponsored); M9-P chrome, 35/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH FLE, 50/0.95 Noctilux-M ASPH, 90/4 Macro-Elmarit-M (on it’s way, I’m told). Zeiss ZM 2.8/28 Biogon, ZM 2/50 Planar. I’ve also got a Visoflex III and Bellows II for macro work, and a home-made hotshoe mount PC sync cable that fits under the Visoflex housing to trigger my flashes.

Primary, special purpose – Nikon FX; D700+MBD10, D800E (on it’s way), AFS 24/1.4 G, AFS 60/2.8 G Micro, AFS 85/1.4 G, AFS 28-300/3.5-5.6 VR G. Zeiss ZF.2 2/28 ‘Hollywood’ Distagon. A whole bunch of extension tubes and adaptors. Three SB900s and one SB700.

Compact – M4/3; Olympus Pen Mini E-PM1, ZD 12/2, ZD 45/1.8, ZD 14-42/3.5-5.6 IIR. Panasonic Lumix G 20/1.7. Contemplating the upcoming ZD 75/1.8 and ZD 60/2.8 macro.

Point and shoot – Leica D-Lux 5 (incoming), Ricoh GR Digital III and of course the iPhone 4.

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…”how do I get better?” comes from people serious about learning.

As I said before: practice, practice, practice. Also, look at other people’s work; famous work; what don’t you like, what do you like? Can you figure out how they did it? Can you figure out why the shot works, or doesn’t? Critical analysis of an image often yields insights into composition that will help you instinctively arrange your frame when you look through the finder. And the two most important tips are a) watch the edges of your frame and b) make sure your subject is clear: if you don’t know what it is, then it’s almost certain nobody else will, either. And that makes for a very weak photograph.

…”how much do you (or should I) charge?” comes from people who want to turn pro.

How much do you think your work is worth? What is your opportunity cost? If you’re asking how much I charge, if we were in head to head competition, could you justify what you’re asking?

…”what’s your workflow like?” comes from professionals.

RAW > ACR > Photoshop – nothing else gives me enough control over individual files, and even batches of files. I don’t like libraries; I don’t like batch editing; and I don’t believe in using JPEG unless you don’t have a choice, or your image is baked and done (and it’s appropriate for the final intended use).

…”what’s your day job?” is what I inevitably get from old hands who’ve seen the game change from film to digital to social media and wonder how on earth there can be so much content out there – some truly great and probably only made accessible by the digital era; yet so little appreciation for art.

A job is a means to an end: sadly, yes, I do have a day job that provides the backbone of my income. Suffice to say it isn’t photography, or even photographically related 🙂