I would hope that the photographer is the most obvious cornerstone of good photography. Even when robots fly the world solo, snapping perfect golden ratio compositions in optimum light, I believe the input of a photographer will be required to at least commission or curate.
All four cornerstones of photography really fall in the photographer’s scope: naturally technique is a crucial skill of the photographer, as is selection of subject and kit, so this is perhaps our catch-all category, where we consider everything that comes before and after the moment of exposure. Firstly planning, then post-production, presentation and more broadly the profession:
Even if it’s just having the foresight to bring a camera with you, or to pull your phone out of your pocket, some element of planning is needed prior to any successful photoshoot.
The better planned a shoot is, the better the images will be. One might say that planning is what separates photographers from snappers. The planning could simply be that we’ll just go somewhere inspirational and let creativity take it’s course, but if we decide to do that when the light is interesting, we should get more interesting shots.
Once we’re at the inspirational spot, in beautiful golden hour light, we’ll be kicking ourselves if we spot a spoon-billed sandpiper in the distance but didn’t bring the 400mm f/2.8L and 2x extender. Conversely, if that’s all we brought, we’d be equally gutted if a family of elephants appeared in the foreground and we hadn’t packed the 16-35mm. And if we walked miles, but saw only insects all day, we’d probably regret having lugged the 400mm f/2.8 all the way.
Working with humans adds significantly to the planning requirements: ensuring that everyone gets to the right place at the right time, with the right clothing and accessories, sequencing the shots so the make-up can be built up over the shoot, providing changing facilities, food, adequate breaks, remembering to get the release forms signed, etc.
In the old days the shoot got us a latent image recorded on film – not even visible until we processed the film, which then in most cases gives a negative image that requires enlarging onto photographic paper. RAW images are digital equivalent of negatives – these also require processing before a visible image is formed. While this may be done in-camera, the greatest degree of control and broadest dynamic range will be available to us, if we shoot in RAW, developing the images after the event.
Digital Asset Management – looking after our images and ensuring we can find them when we need them, is another critical role of the photographer that we’re going to consider with Post-Production so we can keep the alliteration.
Presentation is something that enthusiast photographers often neglect. In the old days we had shoe-boxes full of slides and negatives. Now we have terabytes of RAW files. If we’re diligent, the best images are processed and key-worded, but they still somehow need to be presented if the world, or even just our significant other, is going to notice.
Instagram, Flikr, Facebook and other social networks are helping images to get out there. We may want to take the next step and present images through our own website, or a one-off presentation. But there’s nothing quite like a good sized and well mounted print to complete the creative process. Books and albums are also a hugely satisfying way to present larger collections of images.
In our final catch-all we consider all the extra intricacies of getting paid for our art: How to win work, how to price it, how to ensure we get paid, and how to win repeat custom. Then the additional complexities of insurance, permitting, working with other professionals, etc.
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