Why a Career as a Photographer Might Lose You All Your Loved Ones

This may sound funny, but when we pursue a photographic career, we gradually slip out of certain social circles into a more intimate space. Photography starts with a slight tickle in our life, and it gives us two options. The first one is to be delighted by it, but quickly drop it after realizing that it’s not the discipline for us. No hard feelings – many photographers have started out with other creative disciplines and finally fallen into the lovely claws of light. The other option is to become so in love with photography that eventually we become "passionate photographers". Here, the title of professional or amateur is no longer valid. If you have a true passion for photography, then you’re a passionate photographer. And there’s nothing left to discuss.

We love to wake up early

Not everybody has a good time waking up, especially early in the morning. We, as photographers, love to wake up when the light is soothing and the streets are less crowded. This is something not well appreciated by others, especially those who may live or travel with us. Just as you should not be willing to trust a tattoo artist who has no tattoos, don't trust a photographer who has trouble waking up early.

We love overcast days

This point is similar to the previous one. Photographers love the soft light of overcast days. Many people love to stay inside, perhaps to have a little brunch or just chill during overcast weather. Instead, we’re lured outside. Simple as that.

We lose track of time

We will, without a doubt, lose track of time while talking about anything that has the slightest, most remote relation to photography. A small and random social pleasantry can result in a two-hour (or longer) conversation (or monologue) if it triggers a photography-related thought. Meanwhile, our companions will just walk away from us.

We make movies impossible to enjoy

We always have something to say when it comes to movies. We make comments about the awesome light, the incredible cinematography, the Director of Photography’s poor decisions and, most annoyingly, we pause the movies a lot so we can appreciate the still image. I understand why regular people can’t stand us, at least for certain activities.

We love to wander the streets alone

Regularly, friends and loved ones like to remain calm in a fixed place to chat and have a nice time. For them, wandering aimlessly through random streets is not the most appealing thing to do. For me, as a former street photographer, I love to be in my zone – and that is on the streets, lost and happy.

We often skip meals

I don't know if this is standard, but for me it definitely is. I’ll skip food if I have a chance to get good pictures. I just don't need the food. I get extra energy from, I don't know, photosynthesis (how awesome is that photo-synthesis!). I would rather keep walking the streets than waste time in some restaurant. This one has a higher level of freakiness, because I have been on photo walks (which I don’t always enjoy) where I have refused to eat in order to keep shooting. My fellow photographers have a different way of seeing things. They need to eat. I don’t get it.

We see public transportation in a different way

We see public transportation as a world of possibilities. By travelling alone, we won’t make anybody feel embarrassed about our weird habit of taking pictures of people inside the metro, for example. Also, we'd rather be at a train station than in a shopping mall. The weird list just keeps getting weirder.

Forget about asking us to delete a picture

I don't know why, but this is a common request from friends and family when we take a couple of shots of them using our style. They will ask to see our pics, then ask us delete the ones they don't like. How preposterous is that? I’ve met photographers who don't delete a single picture they take, and their decision must be respected above all. I do delete photos, but during my editing process. I never do it in the camera, no matter how awful the shot.

We don't like to Photoshop things for you

"Hey, you’re a photographer, right? Could you please Photoshop this flyer for me?" Need I say more? These types of requests are just totally off the table. Please stop homogenizing completely different disciplines that use a powerful tool for completely different purposes.

We won't share images right away

It is okay for you to ask us to take a couple of pictures for them in a casual, ordinary moment? There’s really no problem with this at all, but things will be a lot easier for your social media dynamics if you lend us your own phone to do this. Using our camera to take random pictures will definitely take longer and feel like an eternity compared to your usual social media behavior, which is to publish things right away.

Obviously, this was a humorous post. But it doesn't mean it doesn’t contain grains of truth. The big conclusion here is simple: find a loved one who has huge patience with you in this matter (trust me, it wasn't easy for my partner to develop this patience). And remember to be less selfish when being part of a hanging-out group – that is to say, friends and family who are normal and not crazy about photography. They love us, so let’s give them some quality time once in a while.

Originally Published at Light Stalking

5 Books That Every Photographer Should Read

The world of photography is filled with many accessories and gadgets – from lenses, to fairly simple and peculiar add-ons like camera bags and release buttons – that tantalize us and beg us to include them in our repertoire. But there is a category of goods that, for me, is at the top of things in which every photographer should invest, even if they are second-, or third-hand (or countless-handed). They always manage to fulfill their role in teaching and inspiring us. These peculiar articles, which don't lose their value with time and owners, are photography books. There are a variety of types: academic (from dummy to engineering level), playful, philosophical (for lovers of aesthetics and other philosophical streams), and photo books, which are loaded with beautiful images for us to look at.

Here is a book for each of the categories I mentioned above.

Academic

-          Michael Freeman - The Complete Guide to Black & White Digital Photography

This book was perhaps the most important to me in my life as a photographer. Seven years ago, after losing my point-and-shoot camera, I decided to get a DSLR (just like the pros). I bought all my gear in the U.S. and looked for a book that would help me take images I liked better. I entered a Barnes & Noble’s store, and for some reason I was driven to buy this book. I enjoyed black-and-white photography, and this book seemed to me like the obvious choice. Thankfully, I was not mistaken. It became my bible. It taught me the importance of black-and-white post-production in the digital world. With this book, I learned to contrast with color channels and to discern which areas deserved better care in post-processing.

Freeman is a natural teacher, and his books are wonderful for anyone who has a minimum of self-taught discipline. This book is an extremely easy-to-understand guide, and its size is perfect not only for reading, but also for appreciating the images that illustrate it. Its scope is quite broad, contextualizes the reader in the monochromatic tradition, and even teaches us about alternative print formats. I totally recommend it for people who have even the slightest interest in digital black-and-white photography.

Playful

-          Roland Barthes - Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography

This book is quite funny (at least, I found it so) and is perhaps one of the most oft-mentioned documents in the world of contemporary photography. It is not a treatise on photography as an art, nor is it a book on the history of the photographic discipline. Barthes approaches photography in a contemplative way and seeks to decipher the expressive symbol. He tries to understand the artistic object as such. He takes as his starting point a handful of photographs in order to discover "a new science". It may seem like a rather complicated approach, but he knows how to do it in a playful and digestible way. The most important thing I learned from this book were the two valuable concepts of "punctum" the "studium" for reading an image in a contemplative way.

Philosophical

-          Walter Benjamin - On Photography

To me, Walter Benjamin is the philosopher who has approached photography with the greatest passion of all (Theodor Adorno also approached it, but didn't dedicate a complete book to it). He wrote an essay called "A Short History of Photography" in 1931, and his book "On Photography" is an approach to the medium from a much wider perspective.

In this book, he discusses everything from commercial photography to the scientific uses of photography. Benjamin began talking about photography when he postulated his theory in "The Work of Art in its Technical Reproducibility", which analyzes the differentiated nature of photography – which lacks the "aura" of a unique work – compared to works of art that cannot be reproduced.

Photo books

-          Mary Ellen Mark - 55S

For me, photo books are for me (and for many photographers) the summit of any photographic career. To see a work printed in a compendium that covers all the intentionality of the discipline is a delight.

This is the type of book that we as photographers should invest in the most. This one, published by Phaidon, presents the artistic intentions of Mary Ellen Mark as expressed through the photographic medium. For photographers like myself, who love social and documentary work, this book is a jewel. Each image is generously captioned to give us an idea of what was happening in front of Mark’s lens. Her work is a symbolic narrative that leaves us breathless – and more importantly, invites us to think like few photographers in history have caused us to do.

Easter Egg

-          Magnum Contact Sheets

This book is the Holy Grail of photography for me. The greatness of this book (which is immense) is that it transparently presents the "behind the scenes" of some of the most iconic photographs ever taken. It does this not only through text, but with one of the most useful tools of the editors: the contact sheet. Through this book, we can feel less guilty for not capturing transcendental images in a single shot, which we have naively come to believe is possible. We all tend to think that the iconic images of Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others were the result of the sublime ability of each photographer to capture scenes with a sort of magical, highly efficient photography. In fact, our belief is not completely accurate, and this book helps us see this fact for real.

I’m not saying we should be comfortable and simply stop looking for the "decisive moment". I’m just saying that we mustn't feel guilty for not being able to achieve iconic images with a single click, as we think the great masters were able to do every time. In this book, we can see photography in a more human way. Of all the books on this list, I consider this one absolutely essential.

Originally Published at Light Stalking

Photo Contests That Will Help You Grow as a Photographer

 

My position on photography contests is clear. I'm against contests organized by organizations unrelated to photography. Competitions offer a wide range of benefits, but we must be cautious and carefully choose the ones we participate in. Usually the following platforms launch competitions in a traditional way, and although they don’t put forward the same contest year after year, they are always expected to launch some sort of competition. It is wise to keep an eye on them.

1X

1x has maintained their spirit of "in the pursuit of the sublime" when it comes to the photographs they showcase. 1x is not an ordinary "upload everything you want website"; it has always been characterized by pushing back against the phenomenon of millions of images being uploaded to a single place every day. The number of images uploaded to some websites is ridiculous. 350M images are uploaded daily to Facebook, while 1x only publishes a small handful of images received daily by the members of their community. Every month 1x receives a million new visitors seeking the quality that characterizes the website, which is why they promise to give "high-quality exposure".

They hold contests with various prizes. Sometimes they open calls to select work that will be published in their annual books (that are quite a delight), and sometimes they offer cash prices. I recall they once had Steve McCurry on staff. They usually run monthly themes in which many of their community members participate.

Finally, these guys redesigned their website from this to this.

B&W

Whenever I have the chance to buy one of these magazines, I do it without much thought. B&W Magazine is more an art object than a traditional magazine. They carry few advertisements, and they are all art- or photography-related. This magazine calls itself the magazine "for collectors of fine photography."

They hold annual contests that can be seen here. If you’re looking for high-quality exposure, this is the place with contests for you.

LensCulture

Over almost 10 years, LensCulture has become one of the world’s most authoritative entities in photography. They are committed to the discovery and promotion of the best photographers and seek exciting work with various photographic disciplines (documentary, fine art, nature, photojournalism, activism, street photography, sports, fashion, poetic, personal, abstract and human). Their contests offer great benefits besides cash prizes.

To each participant that pays an entry fee, they offer the following goodies:

-          A submission review by a photo-industry professional

-          A LensCulture Portfolio Account                                              

-          Opportunities for immediate exposure

World Photography Cup

Recently established, the World Photographic Cup was born as a cooperative effort by two industry heavyweights, the Federation of European Photographers and the Professional Photographers of America. The WPC’s singular purpose is to "Unite photographers in a spirit of friendship and cooperation." For them, the brotherhood and sisterhood of photography is a bond that transcends language, culture, and geography. There are lots of other contests out there, but there is just one World Photographic Cup.

World Press Photo

The World Press Photo Foundation is a major force in developing and promoting the work of visual journalists through a range of activities and initiatives that span the globe. World Press Photo’s contest is, without a question, the most prestigious photojournalism contest out there. The winner gets a lot of exposure, thanks to World Press Photo’s involvement in breaking news. Their prize is €10,000 and they have no entry fee, but their standards are extremely high. They work to develop and promote the quality photojournalism that people deserve around the globe.

Other Contests

The 500px platform is very popular, and they constantly launch a series of quests that offer interesting prizes and help us better understand how contests work. Prizes run from cash to cool gadgets like camera bags and other stuff. Getting to experience the dynamics of contests is pretty risk-free with them, and it can also be fun because it is not a traditional "likes" contest. One of its most valuable assets is that they set up a gallery called "Inspiration" where you can get a better grasp of what curators and judges look for in submissions.

Everywhere you can find many contests that respond to the spirit of photography, and it’s worth visiting this website to become aware of them. The guys at Format made a decent selection of good contests to consider for people who want to participate in this sort of thing.

The participation in photography contests is for photographers who are committed to the discipline and who have had a certain level of growth, too. This should not discourage newer photographers, and participation as such can work as a goal. We can aim to participate in the coming year, for example, and to have images with a certain quality that will make our participation nurturing, even if we do not win.

Originally Published at Light Stalking