I’ve been a professional full-time photographer for a very, very long time — over fifteen years. But when I started my own business four years ago I still had a lot to learn. As a newspaper photojournalist all I had to worry about was getting the shot…well maybe three or four, but really it’s just a couple from each story I did. Usually I only had three assignments a day, so unless it was a sporting event or an in-depth photo essay, I was only imaging about ten final photos a day. Style was only a small part of the process. The most important thing was capturing the definitive moment of whatever story you were covering.
Why am I talking about this? Well it’s probably because looking at these family images is making me realize how much my shooting style and workflow has changed over the years. You’d think after having been a photographer for so long, these both would have been set in stone, but, in fact, this was far from true.
This family below was one of the first I photographed after I left the newspaper and started my own business. I still really love many of the images from that session, but looking at them you could almost think it was a different photographer who had taken them. Of course I still had the story telling images and the family interactions (I am a journalist after all), but four years ago open shade, back light, sun flare, and reflectors were hardly even in my vocabulary. A photojournalist doesn’t modify what they are photographing, they work with what they have. Maybe you throw in an off camera strobe, but really it’s just about capturing the moment, and anything that slows you down or changes the scene you are documenting is a big no no.
In many ways becoming a portrait photographer has freed my inner artist. I’ve had to learn a lot to get to the place I am now as a photographer. I am still telling the story of a family, but now I’m no longer held to the rigid hands off standards of a hardcore photojournalist. This has changed everything from my shooting technique to my post production imaging. I have been using Photoshop since it was practically invented (I probably just dated myself). But while my color correcting skills where top notch, I didn’t have a clue on how to use all the tips and techniques I do now. I had to teach myself everything from Lightroom to skin tone plugins to RAW conversion. As a newspaper photojournalist I would have been fired if I changed the color and tone of an image or added a texture. Now it’s an integral part of what I do every day.
Yes I am still a photojournalist, but now I’m also an artist. It will always be about the story, but now how the story is told is up to me.