Year In Review

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2007 has been the first full year that I’ve been shooting professionally as a staff photographer. One of the things I am learning about the photography business is that the number of days you spend shooting is a pretty good yardstick about how well you are progressing. One of the bloggers that I read daily was pleased with 150 days for the year, for example. I decided to take a look back and tally up how I did this year. It was dismal by comparison, a mere 50 days. Which means that I spent the other 180-190 working days of the year doing design work.

Now to be fair, I am only including editorial and portrait shoots in that 50 day tally. I do headshots nearly every day of the week when I’m in the office, but those are along the lines of Olan Mills – same setup, nearly point and shoot at this point. They are a big money-maker for my department but there is zero creativity involved. The one thing that has been a benefit of the hundreds of headshots I’ve done this year is that it has made me very comfortable with strangers, and I’ve gained the ability to put strangers at ease quickly. I generally have each person for less than five minutes, so it’s vital that I can get them to relax enough so I can get a decent expression or capture something other than the proverbial say cheese smile.

I have traveled a good deal this year on photoshoots: Boston, Houston, Dallas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Columbus, Wilmington, Lyndhurst and Washington DC, with the majority of my shoots have been right here in New York city. My Lightroom library consists of close to 14,000 individual shots. My work has appeared in three issues of Leaders magazine, Fortune, Diversity, Inc., and on the cover of Careers and the DisAbled magazine. Additionally my work has appeared in national advertising for my firm, as well as in a variety of other publications that my firm produces. All in all, I’d say that for my first year, I’ve had some great exposure.

The challenge for the upcoming year will be to exceed the number of days shooting, and to build on what I think is now a solid corporate-photography base. This year I’ve learned how to organize a photo shoot on the road, how to interact with the subjects, and more importantly my technical knowledge has increased dramatically. I am now confident that going into just about any situation I will be able to get the shot.

The trick, moving forward, will be to move beyond “getting the shot” and into getting the great shot. My relative inexperience has made me shoot very conservatively, especially when I’m on the road and the pressure is higher. I need to start taking some risks and push my creativity farther.

At some point over the next year I need to make some choices as well. My staff position is secure, and I like the work. However, I’m not sure that this position will afford me the ability to shoot more in the next year than I did this year, and honestly, corporate isn’t likely to get more exciting. However, corporate is lucrative – if I was shooting for myself and not on staff. So yeah, now that my toe is in I’ll need to think about whether or not to take the plunge.

Other things I’d like to do this year: Nail down a Strobist-style, easy-to-travel-with lighting kit. My shoot in Wilmington before Christmas was a nightmare because I had to drag monolights on the train and then find outlets in the 100 year old building I was shooting in – If I’d had a reliable speedlight set-up I would have been a much happier camper. I put together a kit on the cheap back in February with some Vivitars and slave triggers for a shoot in DC, but it was a disaster. The slave triggers didn’t work, and I was left shooting with my single 580EX. If I had to do that same shoot today I’d probably pull it off no sweat, but back then I was in the weeds. I pulled it off, but have been scared to try that again. I need to buckle down, get some experience using speedlights and save my back a lot of extra strain.

Finally, I want to do more personal shooting. It’s disappointing how little personal shooting I’ve done, mainly due to my hectic schedule. I need to find a way to be shooting daily without investing in more technology. For most of the year I carried my 30D with me everywhere, but it never leaves my bag. Mainly because I’ve been looking for opportunities to shoot that don’t conflict with what I’m doing otherwise. I need to make a point of going out to shoot, rather than trying to make something of a social or work situation. I need to start acting on some ideas, rather than bitching about not having any time. I think part of the problem is that I’ve done the walk around, on the street photography. What interests me is portrait and editorial work, and it’s not so easy to the kind of shots I want without having people to shoot. A note to all my friends: be prepared, I’m going to start asking for volunteers for my personal work.

All in all, a good year though. I’ve started a new career path and launched a business, both of which are very exciting. Here’s looking ahead to a great 2008. Happy New Year everyone!

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