Edgy, Learning to take Unprofessional Portraits

The new buzz word among Photographers is “edgy”.   There are some very talented photographers that are convinced that clients want to buy the same crappy pictures they can get from student photographers (at a fraction of the price) at studio prices from them.  I have seen video of really good professional photographers throwing everything they know about photography to the wind and trying to light, pose and position their camera differently, just for the sake of being different. Then in their infinite wisdom try to salavage these crappy images with Photoshop effects (just like the student photographer do)  There are professional photographers that think it is a good idea to learn from the unskilled students that don’t know anything about lighting, posing or camera angles so some of their “edginess” will rub off on them.

Fashion photographers create images that I would consider “edgy” although I would pick another word because I realize that to use a word that is already over used makes me look like a “doofus” (my buzzword for someone who follows the flock like a sheep)  You must, “think outside the box” (another buzzword for those in the flock).  All sarcasim aside, clients in my area don’t want their portraits to look like the student photographers that know nothing about photography took them.   They want a “portrait” that has a fashion edge. This is one of those times that there is a huge differnce between what sells and what photographers think sell and like to talk about.  Why would a client that likes the unprofessional look the student photographers produce come to your studio and pay 6 or 7 times the price when they can buy crappy, or excuse me “edgy” photos from student photographers.  People can’t swing a stick without hitting a dude with a camera that doesn’t know what he is doing, but has looked through Cosmo and willing to give it a try.

Once again the key isn’t unlearning professional photography, but learning the best of whats new and merging that with what you have already learned.  Some clients want fashion photos, most clients come to a portrait studio for portraits with a unique style, but I think the market for “unprofessional” professional photography at higher prices is fairly limited in any state or area.


~ by jeffsmithbooks on March 2, 2010.

One Response to “Edgy, Learning to take Unprofessional Portraits”

  1. Well said! Years ago Don Blair and I had a conversation and he asked me if I knew the difference between a professional and an amateur. He then stopped me before I answered and asked me to consider the difference between a whore and a prostitute. He continued to explain that one does it for fun and one does it for money and it really has no bearing which was better!

    Recently I read an article that invited photojournalistic wedding photographers to learn how to use a strobe. It actually said that most photojournalist do not use a strobe. Let’s consider that real photojournalism is coverage of a newsworthy event where the photographs tell the story. I may be crazy, but those photographers do know their trade and do use strobes. It sickens me when I think about all the years I spent learning our art and that someone would consider that well meaning individuals are out there calling themselves professional and they do not know how to light or pose, yet somehow they have devalued our industry’s worth and have taken business from deserving artist mostly based on price!

    Photography, like all art, is evolutionary! Jeff, I believe the lesson we need to walk away with from your article is that we can step outside the box, and improve on edgy look that fashion photographers are using and add our lighting background and posing background to it creating our own look!

    Bill McIntosh once told me that sometimes he used a lot of lights to impress his clients when creating their portraits explaining that even though he could have split one light that using more made what we do look very complicated and added value to what he was creating. Another wise man once said to be successful in the future you must understand the past! Photography has become one of the trendiest professions. With the age of digital we have learned that anyone with an eye can go out buy a decent prosumer camera set it on P or if they dare to A or S and hang out a sign to do business. It is imperative that we as an industry strive to separate ourselves from the well meaning students and soccer mom’s that are out there thinking they are doing everyone a favor by selling $10 8×10’s. My father had a bumper sticker that sums it up, it read “don’t trust your once in a lifetime memories to a once in a while photographer”.

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