In this article I’m going to give an insight into what we as commercial photographers developing our skills and keeping them honed.
Most of the basic photographic skills are transferable across the genres of photography, some require what would be described as specialist skills these are where knowledge goes beyond the technical skills of taking a photograph to an in depth understanding of the subject and industry expectations.
Specialising vs generalising
The areas I specialise in may seem random, as they are so different but there’s a common factor throughout my work whether it’s a headshot, a building or a car understanding your subject and what brings the photographs to life is key it’s about us as commercial photographers developing our skills and style.
When we are commissioned by a client or agent it’s usually because they like your style and can see you would bring value to their campaign. Clients know their product for a better way of identifying the subject in a way we may not, to people outwith a genre it’s simply a photograph and the message it conveys will be passed on to the viewer this is commercial photography we take photographs that help the client to sell and promote their businesses.
Let us look at one genre it’s food photography, there are so many ways to photograph food, some are obvious and straight forward others require to adhere to a brief and consistency no matter what or where the food is photographed.
It is client expectations that drives us to deliver photographs that conform and hopefully innovate bringing our creative flair to our images.
Food photography is both simple and complicated or it can be, once the basic techniques are mastered it’s time to expand to explore to dig deeper into what makes some images work and others to fail, or at least appear less effective.
Dividing food photography into two basic styles that of natural as in a simple they appear in a restaurant on the table lit only by the ambient lights verses the controlled environment of a studio setting where each light is set with intention. Asking ourselves a simple question what type of photograph appeals to you, why does it appeal, what makes one of these stand out against the other, these are the probing questions we ask rather than simply taking a one point view on it’s simply a picture if some food.
On that point should all food be photographed the same way, would one technique be suitable for everything?
In an ideal world yes we could develop a single generic style that was transferable across all aspects of food photography and it’s this point that makes or breaks the style as embraced or rejected by the industry.
Copying existing styles is a common approach, it’s a tried and trusted approach, gets the job done and delivers images that a client will most likely like or maybe love. This approach is the starting point, you may like what you shoot but maybe missing the why it works, a fundamental lack of understanding but it works so why bother to go beyond copying a style. Clients and agents see you as an expert an authority on the subject even the whole genre, they expect you to have an understanding of the passion of the cooks, bakers and what the business stands for its core values it is this that sets you apart from another person with a camera.
If we look at another genre that of automotive photography most people immediately think you need to be a gearhead a passionate car enthusiast to be able to take georgeous images of cars anywhere and time and in any lighting and know about the cars styling and key feature. In many ways this is true but it is also myopic a singular view of the photography. We need to step back and look at the subject, how it photographs what the designers were doing when they took the concept to a production vehicle. It’s this understanding an emphathy with the creators of the car that you need or hopefully have some appreciation of the art and skills of the creators.
Similarly a building isn’t just a place for people to occupy or do business from it was conceived by architects and designed for both visual form and functionality each aspect of a building isn’t simply following a formulae it’s about the people who gathered around the table from the initial desicussions on what they wanted and how the idea became a reality. Again as commercial photographer we can roll up to a building and simply photograph what we see what is presented at the time, but there will be hidden aspects we would never know if we hadn’t researched our subject the why’s of this world.
Asking questions and gaining a deeper understanding will help make us better photographers and add value to our work this is the reason we are hired in the first place or we hope it is the reason.
Specialising doesn’t mean you only do one thing, specialising in creating something that a client wants is the point of this article, it’s about us and as commercial photographers developing our skills I specialise in what appears to be a wide range of genres but when you boil it down my subjects are all very similar some are just bigger, tastier, or prettier or not it’s the fundamental knowledge and the approach to each commmission where you pull on your experience and understanding rather than your camera kit or technical knowledge.
I hope this article has brought some insight and inspired you to look beyond simply pointing our camera at the subject and hoping the client will like it.
Commercial photographers developing our skills
Remember we as commercial photographers developing our skills is investing in ourselves and our business you do need to invest both your thoughts and time into what you are doing rather than continuing to simply take a picture after all you are a creative, an artist and we do like to be appreciated, don’t we.
For more information on my commercial photography
To see more of my work head over to my main website