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Photography for the Professionals {10 Truisms}


I’m a fan of age-old photography wisdom that’s still relevant today.

When I stumbled upon the book “Photography for the Professionals,” written by Robin Perry in 1976, I thumbed through the dusty pages. What I found surprised me, no different than this 1937 gem.

If age-old wisdom stands the test of time today, imagine future value? That’s something a new book won’t buy!

Despite being published over 37 years ago, the abundance of ‘golden nugget’ information relevant to today’s professional photographers inspired me to write this post for The Photo Life. Here are Ten Truisms from the book “Photography for the Professionals” that are applicable to today’s professional photographers.

Ten Truisms, 37 Years Later:

10. The key to success in photography (or anything else for that matter) is education.

As Mark Twain said, “Never let school interfere with your education.” Going into debt for photography school isn’t a sound investment. At all. However, self-improvement by attending workshops and conferences, reading magazines or the PhotoLife blog, and engaging in learning opportunities like CreativeLive can pay off in dividends.

9. Self-teaching is an honorable endeavor but it requires great control of your time and the ability to discipline yourself.

Keep in mind this was written before the age of the Internet. However, think how much time we waste while looking at other photographer’s blogs and Facebook pages that don’t amount to a pile of CF cards of awesome photos – photos that pay! For photographers struggling with low self-confidence, self-teaching can be self-destructive.

8. Even a monkey can take good photographs.

There’s a difference between a camera operator and a photographer. While nerding out in forums can be entertaining, true artists are not just technicians. “Liking” a photo says nothing about whether a picture is “good.” What are the credentials of the person(s) judging the photograph? Therein lies a dangerous sense of false confidence for photographers.

7. Photographers shouldn’t consider themselves ‘professionals.’

You can’t become a professional by buying expensive cameras or swanky studio space. You become a professional the hard way – through years of practice, professional conduct and business acumen.

6. The photographer should choose the camera system best for the job.

This also can make or break a professional photographer’s profit margin. Good gear isn’t cheap. So, choosing the right tool for the job might seem easy, but it’s more than handing over a credit card to a camera store. There are hours of testing, researching, and trial-and-error to determine what works. This process is highly subjective. For example, I wouldn’t feel comfortable shooting an entire wedding using film for the risk alone, yet I value the art behind it and love the images that result. I make a conscious decision picking up my 35mm DSLR versus the MF Phase (which gets used for 80 percent of anything with a flash). Selecting gear is a responsibility that rests on the photographer, so business acumen is critical.

5. Understand the case for the 8×10 view camera.

This is the one chapter which will draw skepticism. Shooting with larger cameras (like a view camera on a tripod) forces you to think before pressing the shutter. Slowing down forces you to pay attention to details, encourages critical thinking, and planning. All of this contributes to your overall photographic expertise, which leads to improved shooting with a 35mm DSLR.

4. The portrait is an incisive, intellectual statement of the sitter’s character.

In order to “see” this character, the photographer must think like a psychologist, a sociologist, a student of human behavior, as well as a superb photographic technician.

3. Photography is a living, growing craft and the basic techniques can be learned quickly, but the finesse is in the intellect of the photographer.

This is where wisdom, emotional growth, and life experience serve as an advantage for the seasoned photographer who’s well-rounded in life.

2. Almost anyone can learn the mechanical functions of photography and almost anyone can learn the techniques of photography, but the professional photographer needs other skills in order to survive.

First and foremost, a professional must be a business person. They also must think like an artist, a psychologist, an economist, a writer, an interior designer, an electrician, and so on.

1. May we all flourish and be able to work until the day we die.

Being a photographer is a rewarding profession and offers me personal happiness – which is why I love to share as much as I love to create!

The next time you find yourself in an old bookstore, don’t discount the value of old books. You might be surprised not only to pick up one on the cheap, but you could also benefit from the sage advice within.

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About RJ Kern

Photographer RJ KernRJ Kern is a Minneapolis Wedding Photographer who loves to create as much as share. He loves to share his enthusiasm in his free photographer resources blog posts. He’s been enjoying the process of bringing back medium format into the wedding market, but this time using pixels. Tech humor, duct tape, creativity… garnished with light… remains an important part of his photography style. RJ has been a Pictage user since 2006. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!