Friday came so quickly this week. Lots of work and lots of pre-production for next week.

A Fringe Benefit of Being a Photographer: Better Family Portraits.

I saw a statistic today that 85% of the people who work are not happy with their jobs and feel disengaged. That stunned me. I figured that at least 50% of the people in the workplace were fairly happy with their working situation. I read this piece of news as I was sitting in my office at 6 am sending along eight links of 2 gigabytes each to a client I worked for yesterday. To say I had fun yesterday would diminish the sheer pleasure I had in pursuing the same career I've worked at for the last three decades. This photography stuff is just plain fun.  

I mean, think about it. My "boss" (me) bought me four new cameras this quarter ,and as many new lenses, and he consulted with me at every single step of the selection process. I don't have "office mates" so there's no one to annoy me with silly stuff and stupid ringtones, and no one to keep track of how I choose to spend my time. The business seems happy to try and schedule my appointments around mission critical commitments like: swim practice and long lunches. The pay is good and the meetings with staff (zero attending) are very, very short and to the point. 

But the most fun part of the job is to continually do new and different stuff for a wide range of clients. Yesterday was a blast. A client hired me for the day to shoot a community service initiative and, while I am committed to creating images that work hard for them, I also saw the day as a perfect opportunity to test three new cameras. 

I love working for clients who are comfortable letting me figure out what's needed photography-wise and how to do the job. No one had an extensive and anal shot list. Just a few sentences in an e-mail with some general guidance. No one tracked my progress, and no one offered course corrections or in the field critiques. My essential task was to make the clients look good while they made themselves look good in the community. 

But that was yesterday and not all jobs are so much fun, right? Well..... the day before I had a portrait session in my small studio in West Austin. I got to decide just how I wanted to play with lighting design and spent time evaluating the various merits of Profoto versus Elinchrom versus Photogenic flashes. Did I like the big Octabank better than a smaller softbox? How would I light the background? Would I include a hair light? 

When my subject showed up I got to meet an interesting person who had moved from a career as a doctor to a career as a CEO of a large holding company. He came to the studio alone, without an entourage, which meant we could chat about anything we wanted to for as long as we wanted to. We talked about his businesses and then we talked about our kids. What could have been a 30 minute session stretched into an hour of me getting to look into a business I wasn't aware of, guided by the CEO of the entire enterprise. We had a fun time. The photographs looked great. I made a new connection into a different industry. And I got to practice using the Eye AF button on a new camera. 

I did a few more portraits for people from vastly different companies in the afternoon. I guess it was officially studio portrait day. Each person who graced the small studio space yesterday had clocked enough years and miles in their respective industries to also have great stories to tell. And I was interested in each one. It's a constant learning process. Each subject adding more to the sum of what I might know. 

The day before I packed up all the necessary gear and went on location to make portraits of eight people. I used to dread working on location because I never knew what sort of room I'd end up in. Would the ceilings be high enough to accommodate lights? Would there be blinds on the windows? Would the space have enough linear run to let me put the background out of focus? Would there be coffee? Would it be good? I kid about the coffee but location work is always a challenge only now it's a challenge that I view more like a technical puzzle to be solved. I no longer worry about things that are out of my control but I make sure I've got what I need to control what I can. (Like the keyboard bench...). 

I'd like to think that whatever career I choose in the future would be as much fun. If I move more intentionally into video production the same basic fun stuff remains: meeting new people, learning about new industries, and solving technical puzzles (multiplied by 3X). If I choose to concentrate on writing then I'll have to put myself out into the world in some way to have new experiences to write about. By the same token, if I went into sales I'd have the chance to meet an all new species of customers. 

I'm feeling in a bit of a celebratory mood today for a number of reasons. My decision to shoot with Sony cameras is panning out (well). My kid is coming home from college for the Summer this evening. My clients keep delivering fun projects to me and following up with checks. But mostly I am celebrating being able to enjoy what I do so much that I can't imagine doing anything else. It's almost like being a photographer  in this day and age, and in this culture, is a strange but compelling privilege. 

Next week is all about video. I can hardly wait.


Michael Matthews said...

There they are again. Those beautiful eyes. And you didn't need eye-priority facial recognition autofocus to do them justice. Amazing.

lsumners said...

Enjoy the boy while you have the chance. It ends so soon then you wait for grandchildren.

Craig said...

A great read, it's sort of reassuring to see someone who's (mostly?) confident & comfortable in their work and (more importantly) seems quite satisfied. I'm getting the impression it's because through your work, you're always being presented with new environments, situations and connections; consequently, you are still learning and broadening your worldview.

The 85% figure didn't seem so surprising to me, however - I think many people bump up against the walls of their career or role and start to get restless and stagnant. Most jobs have more external constraints than yours (i.e. rigid hours that seem more concerned with attendance than productivity). Even if the work is satisfying, the environment or context in which it must be performed can often be the most frustrating aspect.