What do you do when you’re an educator and teacher that has taught over 100 online courses and 99% of them are NOT on your own website where you make your living?
Believe it or not, this thought brought me around to a really good photography topic… the one mentioned in the title: The Two Types of Photo Opportunities You’ll Encounter. I promise… It’s not all self-serving for me to just talk about my courses (notice I said “all) 🙂
Here’s the scoop. This is a photo lesson, that turned into a personal story, and weaves between the two. I’ll start with a quick note about the personal story part. Then the bulk of this is about the photography part. Finally, if you care to read on, I’ll jump back to the personal story. Ready… go…
Part 1: Personal Story
I was in New York the other day for a project with B&H Photo and Adobe. But I’m also in the midst of finishing up a Long Exposure course. I was going to do one of the videos at a location nearby in Tampa, but then I realized NY had a great spot for this. If anything, a fresh location keeps me (the educator) fresh. Which in turn, keeps the content fresh and hopefully more helpful for you.
When I arrived the other evening there were a lot of people around. So I started thinking about where I’d set up and take the photo. And at first, I just sat there on the rocks, looking around at the water, and this gorgeous skyline behind it.
Then I realized, there’s so much more to this scene then just the technical part of setting up for a long exposure photo. I grabbed my phone and started recording me talking about this for the course. And I got really excited because I knew I was providing something really different than I had done before in my courses on a similar topic.
Part 2: How This Relates to Photography
Well, if you read the previous part, you may notice that I face two challenges as an educator:
- I’ve already done this training before, so what can I do different or better?
- If it’s a class I haven’t done before, it’s most likely a topic someone has. There are very few topics that haven’t been touched on out there.
And that got me thinking that photographers face something very similar.
- What happens if you go to a location that you’ve already shot before?
- And if you haven’t already shot it, chances are someone else has. There are very few places, that we have access to, that haven’t been shot before.
Part 3: What to do if you’re the Photographer who relates to the Statements in Part 2?
I hear and see it all the time. Photographers go to common photo spots and don’t know what to do. I teach workshops and I see people walk off in a totally different direction than the usual spot. I see others that plant themselves and never move, and a range of behaviors in between.
Well, here’s what I’d say. Let’s tackle scenario #1 first. You’re going to a location that you’ve probably been before. I think this is important because we all probably have places around us that are easy to photograph, but we’ve been there before. Well, we don’t want to not go, because that can lead to becoming stagnant. The more you can get out and shoot the better
So if you’re in that group, and headed some place you’ve already shot I’d suggest trying this. Ask yourself what you can do different.
As an example, I’ve been to Multnomah Falls outside of Portland about 8 times. But every time I go, I try to do something different.
Sometimes I shoot the falls close up. Sometimes I shoot the entire thing from top to bottom with a wide angle. Sometimes I stay out in the parking lot and shoot the trees that are hundreds of yards away, framing the waterfall. Or maybe walk up the path to the bridge above (and get soaked).
Or sometimes I play with my camera gear and try different settings, and experiment in hopes that I learn a few things that’ll prep me for a better shoot somewhere else. The point is, if you’ve already done it, then you need to think about what you can do different.
Now, on to scenario #2… and this is REALLY important. In fact, maybe more important than what we just talked about.
What happens if you’re going to a location that you’ve never shot before, but you know it’s been photographed by others? I think the most common thing I see people do is try to do something different than the others do. Which isn’t a bad plan at all.
But let me pose this to you… while other photographers may have shot it before – YOU haven’t. You haven’t put your style, composition, thought, lens, focal length, conditions, and post-processing style on that location. All of those things make that photo yours… even if others have taken it before.
I’m not necessarily saying to try to do something different. What I’m saying is, try to do what’s right for you and the photograph you want to take AND (here’s a really important part…) the audience you have that will enjoy it. That last part is key by the way. If you don’t think you have an audience, think again. Hopefully you’re not taking photos so that people on Flickr or 500px “like” your photo and tell you that you’re awesome, and the photo is the best thing they’ve seen.
You all have your audience. Friends, family members, co-workers, camera club friends, etc… They are your audience. And they don’t troll the internet reading forums and blogs, and have no idea that maybe Multnomah Falls has been photographed a million times. They’ll just see your photo, be wowed by it, and enjoy looking at it. They probably don’t follow photography like you but, instead, follow you because you’re the photographer they know. They are your audience. They’re the ones doing without you while you’re out on your photography ventures. And I hope you keep them in mind when making photos, and decide to shoot (or not shoot) a common place just so you can be different.
Part 4: Back to the Personal Story
Alright, I’ve left the rest of the personal story until the end so you can stop reading here. It has nothing to do with helping your photography or photo editing. It’s all about me 🙂
So here I am. A guy that’s created a ton of courses on Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography. And all of these courses are not on my website – which of course is my primary source of income, and the college fund for the two growing-way-too-fast teens I have. (Yikes!)
Scenario #1: It’s a course I’ve created before
In the case of the Long Exposure course I’m working on now, I have to do something different.
That brings me back to the setting that started this whole blog post – the other night in New York, sitting there watching the water and getting ready to take the shot.
I realized some things about long exposure photos while sitting there that evening. Things I hadn’t thought of (or clearly articulated) before.
I didn’t even have my video camera with me, but I did an iPhone video of the whole thing and explained exactly what I was thinking in a way I’d never done before. Sure, it’s not one of those cool cinematic high production videos with a video crew, and 3 cameras aimed at me. But it’s professional, well thought out, it sounds good, and it’s real life. And, most importantly, it’s good – solid content and advice, that even I had never thought or talked about in this way.
I’m going to go back and record more things like this for this course, and I think it’s what will really set this apart from my previous projects.
Scenario #2: I haven’t done it, but some one else has
Just like I suggested you still go make the photo that has been shot before, I’m still going to do courses that I think are the right fit for me and my audience.
For example, I’ve never done a black & white photo editing course. Others have though. But this is a topic that I think I have something different to offer.
In your case, I suggested that your family, friends, co-workers (your audience) hasn’t seen that photo that’s been shot a million times and it’s your job to bring it to them.
Well, in my case, I think I have a great audience and I think I can do a Black and White course that serves them in a different way than the ones before me have. So I plan on doing it – even though it’s been done before.
Part 5: The Third Type of Photo
You’ll notice I didn’t include the 3rd type of photo we can encounter. That’s the one that got away or didn’t go right. Maybe the weather wasn’t good, maybe your bird photo is blurry and a number of other things that may not have gone right.
My goal as the content creator is exactly what my goal as the photographer would be.
Figure out what didn’t go right. Get back there again, fix it, and get the shot.
So there you have it… ramblings from a guy traveling back home to Tampa on Delta Flight 97something, wishing he was home on his comfy couch, with his wife, binging on the newest season of House of Cards (even though she doesn’t like that show) 😉
Have a good one!
Hi Matt, Great information share by you about photography. I will admire your acknowledgment. Thanks
I’ve been in a photography funk lately so the timing of your article was great as one I think you wrote some time ago. Anyway its so helpful to share on this topic of feeling stuck. btw “House of Cards” awesome !
Great and hit home for me! I have an example. I have a neighbor who belongs to our Photo Group and he has a really good talent for critique photos. So, I was trying out a new technique using Luminar on a couple of Rodeo photos I took and asked him to compare the two styles, and he did. Got some good feed back, but what was interesting was the comment his wife made. Why doesn’t he just show the one he likes the best … it’s his photo! Then I read your post. She’s right … it’s my style. Anyway, I’m looking forward to your new Long Exposure class … I did watch the one you did for Kelby and learned a lot.
Right on Matt!! Not only am I photographer but a home brewer. I brew for what I like. I don’t enter or care about competitions. If my family and friends along with myself say it was an awesome beer. I won the competition!! Same in photography. If I love what I have done and friends and family agree I’m really happy!!
Excellent James! Now I want a beer! 🙂
Just the idea of recording your thoughts was worth my time, thanks for the rest too
I enjoyed this article and can relate to it as I have faced the same situations. I have a question for you about the “3 Tips for Long Exposure Photography” video that I just watched. On the app to determine the right exposure length, is the name of that app “Slow Shutter Cam”? I wanted to make sure I bought the right app because there are many of them to purchase.
Hey Jeffrey – nope, its called Slower Shutter (note the “er) 🙂
Thanks Matt for the clarification. I guess I didn’t listen too good. Thanks again.
I agree with Scott in that all my “friends” tell me how great my images are and, believe me, I love hearing that but the real test is when Princess Cruises uses them because they are different or when I get the occasional sale on Adobe Stock. To me it’s the ones that don’t know that like what I did that make me want to do better.
I do have those Family,Friends and friends of friends on my follower’s list.
I poopoo their raving comments as of little encouragement to my photography. After all, I’ve seen the “real” photographer’s (that I admire), photos at that same location. My photos, for me, don’t meet the standard.
I smiled as I read those paragraphs you wrote. I now understand why my admirers enjoy my photos. They’ve not been there. They don’t troll the internet coveting the talent of other photographers who have preceded me at that same location. Thanks
I’m glad you see it Scott. They ARE your audience. Please them… don’t try to please the people on the internet because… well, you never will 🙂