Your Best Shot: Professional photo advice and observations
As part of the Your Best Shot Amateur Photo Contest, The News recently posed six questions to Abbotsford professional photographer Jason Brown, who provided his input on the following topics:
1. Are there careers in the future for photographers? If so, which fields do you see as promising and realistic?
I believe that there will always be careers for photographers. The primary fields of photography that I see are fine art, wedding, portrait and commercial, with each of them having their own sub-areas; such as architectural, promotional and products for commercial photography. To succeed in any photography field, I think it requires some luck and skill combined with a lot of hard work. I see each field as having its own challenges and opportunities which may help determine which direction is the best for a photographer based on his or her interests and ability. I don't think that one area of photography will be easier or more realistic to establish a career in as there are photographers of all levels of experience, skill and rates working as professionals. I think that specializing and having a niche area of photography will become more common. For example, a portrait photographer may choose to only photograph newborns or a commercial photographer may only offer food photography.
How does one prepare for a career in photography – education, etc.?
I have two pieces of advice that I offer people who want to go into photography as a career. The first is have a back-up career that can pay the bills while you work up your photography business. Most businesses are not profitable enough to live off of in the first two to three years. Photography is no different and may take even longer to establish due to market saturation. I have noticed that the industry is starting to divide into low- and high-priced photographers. I think it's easier to make a living on either of those ends of the spectrum and that the cheaper photographers are squeezing out the middle-priced photographers, which is where most amateur photographers turning professional should be pricing themselves.
The second piece of advice is to get a good, classic education in proper photography techniques and business. I'm not talking about taking a photography workshop but rather going to a long-term program that will teach you how to use studio and natural lighting. My wife and I both studied in the evening commercial photography program at Langara College while we worked our regular jobs. The work we see from the current Langara graduates is amazing. They know what they're doing! My wife also received business training from the Self Employment Program through Community Futures which has proved to be invaluable to our business success.
One other thought I have about pursuing photography as a career is that I think there's something to be said for keeping an activity you love, like photography, as something you do just for yourself and not for people who hire you. When a passion becomes a career you have to make artistic sacrifices. Just because you love taking photographs and are good at it doesn't mean that you should automatically pursue photography as a career.
What do you think the next major development will be in digital photography?
Digital photography has changed the photography industry as it has made it an affordable and accessible field to start a business in. We started our business with film 13 years ago and have seen a lot of change in the number of photographers and the level of photography that the public is willing to pay for.
A few things I think that will continue to evolve is how people store their images. I think that digital archiving will become its own industry. The programs and file types that we are using now will probably not be accessible in 20 years – think back to floppy disks which were used only 20 years ago. I think people will need help managing their digital assets like the photographs they take on their digital cameras. I hope there will eventually be a move to printing images as that is an excellent way to archive them but I'm not convinced that will happen in our busy, instant culture. I think there will be a continued move towards videography and cinematography as well.
What are your essential pieces of can't-do-without-it kit, other than basic camera and lenses?
I can't go without my calibrated Eizo LCD monitor along with my Color Munki calibration tool. The Eizo monitor is a pleasure to view even after hours at the desk. When calibrated with the Color Munki, I am confident that the color and contrast of images are consistent from capture to final print.
My Expodisc is a very well-used piece of gear as well, and it also plays a big role in colour accuracy. I use it at the beginning of sessions to set the white balance and exposure. It ensures colour accuracy and consistency and saves time in post production.
(Here's a video of Jason giving an Expodisc demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVRGl6QlqQ0)
How does an amateur photographer take their work to the next level?
To take your work to the next level you need to take time to analyze your images. Developing the discipline of stepping back and thinking of what you can do better next time, I think, is a healthy part of the artistic process. As an artist, nothing is ever perfect and part of the thrill is pushing myself to create the elusive perfect image. I have lots of work that I'm proud of, but my best project is always the next one.
I'm also a believer in being a life-long learner. Keep trying new things. Take new courses. Watch new tutorials. Use a new angle or lens. The possibilities are endless and are often only limited by our knowledge and willingness to step away from what we normally do.
One last tip for taking photography to the next level is to find inspiration in unexpected places. I don't make time to follow many photographers but love watching movies for inspiration. I am inspired by camera angles, types of film processing, lighting and how cinematographers capture people, scenes and emotion. I also like to find beauty and shapes in unexpected places. A few weeks ago I gathered garbage along King Road and photographed it. This week I was on the ferry and did a quick photo project of capturing details of shapes and colours. I also find inspiration in art galleries and live performances such as music and dance.
Jason Brown is a professional photographer and co-owns Revival Arts in Abbotsford. He was recently awarded the 2014 Commercial Photographer of the Year from the Professional Photographers of Canada and represented Canada in the 2013 World Photographic Cup. More of his work can be seen at www.rastudio.ca and www.facebook.com/revivalarts.