One Useable ImageTuesday, February 22, 2011
|Ivette Hernandez as La Santa Muerte, Kodak Plus-X|
1. Contact the person you are going to photograph (usually by phone and of late via email) without offending them.
2. Show up on time. This implies that you might want to investigate the place where you are going to take your picture in advance. It also includes the idea of researching your subject so when you face the person it is not cold turkey.
3. To take one usable image. In some cases it need not even be artistic, just usable. In magazine and commercial photography you can never tell your client or art director how big the fish was that got away. You have to produce. I tell those who ask that a professional photographer has to produce on demand with no excuses. The photographer cannot afford the luxury of being a cat, a baby or a man who rarely perform on demand.
Since I arrived in Vancouver in 1975 I understood how photography is much like taking off in an airplane. You have to make sure that every bit of your equipment is working and you have to consider alternatives if this or that piece of equipment should fail. In the past whenever anybody has told me, “it should..” or “ It will automatically…” I know that there is a good chance it won’t and that it will automatically not! Nor do I trust any camera repairman or photographic equipment person who starts with, “Trust me.” You can have a camera that works fine, you can have the right film (or working sensor) but if you plan to use some sort of flash modifier (a modern term now) like a softbox in conjunction with a studio flash system or a portable one you are dead on the water if your connection between the flash and camera (be it a wire or a radio transmitter) does not work.
And nothing in photography is ever a joke. I remember going with my writer friend John Lekich to photograph actor Peter Coyote who was filming in that restaurant (thank God it finally closed its doors!) that feature waiters dresses as Franciscan monks. While Lekich and I were waiting I noticed a beautiful extra sitting in a wing chair. She was dressed to the teeth in 40s style. I asked her if I could photograph her. This I did. Once she was gone I took out a roll of film from my camera bag that I kept to test my Mamiya RB backs if they were failing. I showed it to Lekich and said, “Here are the pictures of the girl,” and I opened it (it was a roll of 120 film that has a paper backing) and then unrolled it. Lekich flinched and I laughed and I told him it wasn’t the right roll but a test one. But it wasn’t!
|Ivette Hernandez as La Santa Muerte, Kodak b+w Infrared|
The key to my success has been that I have rarely not produced that all important one usable image. To do this I have always had a Plan B and a Plan C. Once in a Calgary shoot to photograph a new CBC TV announcer my Mamiya camera body failed. The solution was finding a camera in a pawn shop which I rented (on the phone) and which a cab (I called on the phone) brought to the CBC building.
Now most photographers with their digital cameras might show up at a job with that one camera. They will take their pictures in what is called a RAW format. This is way of using the digital camera in which the image taken gives the photographer a big leeway for exposure mistakes and also gives the photographer the choice to change the image to b+w and or change the colour in a myriad of ways. But my argument would be that the variation will always be one image at a time.
In my case I like the unexpected bonus of shooting with more that one camera (or with my Mamiya by using different backs with different types of film). In the case of the two pictures here, one was taken with my Mamiya (6x7cm format) in b+w while the other with a Nikon FM-2 with Kodak b+w Infrared Film. The pictures are quite different and I like that difference.
While most art directors will sigh in relief if you hand them that one useable image they will become quite excited if you give them a choice.