In Search of Style

What Kind of Photographer Am I?

One of the purposes of putting up this web site is to showcase my work to potential clients. For that purpose I have a section called “portfolio”. In that section I put some examples of my work. The question is what should go in there?

It doesn’t necessarily contain my best work. “Best” is a totally subjective term anyway.

I have been pondering this for a long time and changing the images in the portfolio accordingly. Should I show the kind of pictures that are most likely to pull in work? Should I show the kind of pictures that I want to make? Is there a difference?

Well there certainly is a difference. I can make pretty good pictures of children. It is also something I really enjoy doing. But it is not something I wish to do day in and day out. Likewise I can make the kind of portraits seen in many high street studios. They are fine if that is what you want to do and I also like making them. But what really excites me is the idea of heroes and villains. “Bringing out the hero or villain in you” is the signature line in all my emails. And it is this that I find the most fun in exploring and creating.

I also wonder if the term “photographer” truly applies to me. I use a camera and lighting gear and I work as hard as I can to get the image as right as possible before firing the shutter. But I don’t always stop there. When I see the results from the camera they are usually perfectly well exposed and lit. I don’t use Photoshop to correct errors at the time of shooting but raw digital files do not usually look right straight out of camera. They are often flat and need a contrast tweak. Or the white balance is a little off. So far these are the kinds of changes that most photographers make. But I sometimes go further. And sometimes a lot further.

I do not have the consideration “it is a photograph and it is supposed to look like a photograph”. I am making an image on the screen, or in the print, that corresponds with an image I have in my head – my idea of what the end result should look like. That idea isn’t always a high fidelity portrayal of what was in front of the camera. It is certainly true that I could achieve with lighting some of the effects that I now achieve with Photoshop and where I can do that without adding a lot of extra time to the shoot, or without spending a fortune on gear, I will do that or learn more and then do that. But the main point here is still that I work to achieve as close a representation as I can to the image I have in my head.

The last paragraph is about what you might call my “art”. At this exact time I do not know that my art is something that will enable me to eat. I haven’t sold enough of it and it is still in an early stage of development. But there is also “art” in making pictures that I already know people will buy because they already have that aren’t what I would most like to be doing.

I do have the consideration that being a starving artist is not cool. I agree with Steve Jobs that “real artists ship”. So do I have a problem? Yes, and that is okay. The problem is to survive long enough to prove or disprove whether or not “heroes and villains” is a viable product.

Time will tell. I’ll give it a couple of months anyway.

Posted in Photography business related
One comment on “In Search of Style
  1. Leon Godwin says:

    Bernie, thanks for the input on my website. I came over to yours to find this post, and I love it! Your philosophy on the nature of image-making is a breath of fresh air. Why should we all be making the same images? Why should it be a bad thing that some folks take HDR to the point of no longer being realistic, if a photo is just a fabrication anyway? Why NOT pursue the vision in your head? Keep up the good work man.

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