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Becoming a photographer, part 2

By Jeff Hanselmann


This is Jeff Hanselmann again. That's me on the left, in case you were wondering what I look like. This picture was taken about ten years ago in the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming. The picture below is of me and my wife last month in the Philippines.

It’s been about a month since my first blog describing my decision to join my father in his photography business and become a professional photographer. It has been a very busy month.

I'm beginning to realize that there are a lot more skills necessary to becoming a professional photographer than I first thought. It seems like shooting pictures amounts to only about 10% of what I have to learn. The other 90% includes editing pictures after they are shot (I have an 800 page book on that), managing a website (another 800 page book), learning about Search Engine Optimization (another big stack of books), understanding and managing social media marketing, printing pictures, writing blogs and newsletters, selling pictures and trying to actually make a little money.

And then there is my Mr-Mom-day-job. Even though I would like nothing more then to go out everyday and shoot pictures, I seem to have a few other responsibilities. Things like dealing with the mountain of laundry that needs folding, my son’s buffalo report for school and the fact that the kitchen cabinets that I built 6 months ago still don’t have handles on them. So, as much as I would like to, I just can’t quit my day job right now.

Needless to say, I have been more than a little overwhelmed with all this new information my Dad thinks I need to learn. To keep myself from having a panic attack, I keep reminding myself that becoming a photographer is a long term goal and that I don’t have to learn it all right now. And, I'm also beginning to see that just maybe all this is going to be a bit more difficult than I thought.

Anyway, right now my main focus is learning the technical aspects of the camera, taking lots and lots of pictures, learning how to edit those pictures and learning how to use social media to communicate with our customers. (My Dad decided social media would be my job since FaceBook totally confuses him. He's definitely a little behind on a few things.)

I figure that learning just these few things well, will probably take me at least a year.

So, back to actually learning about photography. Since I've decided that the only way to really learn how to take pictures is to get out there and shoot, I’ve been shooting as much as possible. When I shoot, I make sure to stay off the automatic mode, so I can better understand how the camera works. In doing this, I take a lot of really bad pictures, but I am beginning to understand how the camera works. Mostly I've been learning how to use depth of field, how to use exposure compensation and how to freeze or blur movement.

So, I tend to take about six thousand pictures (OK, maybe only 20 or 30) of the same scene, and then study those pictures and figure out what works best. This seems to be the best way for me to see how the camera works.

I've discovered that you can only learn so much from photography books. (And I have lots and lots and lots of big fat books on digital shooting also. As you can see, my Dad is very big on books.)

But in the end, I've found that you just have to get out there, take pictures and experiment. As even my book-loving Dad says, "The only way to really become a photographer is to make your own mistakes. Everyone seems to have a completely different set of mistakes he needs to make and then solve all by himself. You can't just tell a student how to do it, it seems that he has to do it wrong first. "

In my first blog I said I would tell you about a lesson I learned the hard way, so here it is...

This was one of my first photo shooting trips. I finally managed to squeeze out a little time in the day to go out and shoot. But I hadn’t quite finished all my household chores so I thought I would try to do a little multi-tasking and walk the dogs at the same time. As it turned out, this was not such a great idea.

After walking around for hours and shooting some really boring pictures, I was beginning to feel a little discouraged. Finally I came across a beautiful scene: a scene filled with great New England trees, their leaves holding on to the last bit of the mostly long-gone fall color. These trees were reflected wonderfully in the perfectly still lake nestled in the foreground. With just a dusting of snow to really pop the colors, it was absolutely perfect.

So I set up my tripod, mounted my camera, took a couple pictures. Then I realized I was in the wrong spot, moved my whole set-up, found the right spot, set up again. At this point the light was beginning to fade and I was in a bit of a rush to get the shot. Finally I had found exactly the right spot, nice composition, good light, everything in place and I still had just enough time left to get a few shots off before the sun dropped behind the trees and I lost the light.

Just as I was about to take the shot my dog Charlie (1/2 black lab, 1/2 miscellaneous and all stupid) came charging towards me from out of the woods. That's Charlie to the left.

"Oh shit", I thought. There was nothing I could do as he bolted through the legs of the tripod sending the whole thing, camera and all, flying into the air. I watched in horror as everything came crashing down into a pile of particularly wet snow. I then watched Charlie plunge into the lake and destroy any chance of a reflection or a picture.

About this time I began to realize that walking dogs and shooting landscape photographs don’t mix. Lesson learned. Never again will I bring my dogs on a photo shoot.

In my next blog I want to talk a little about what goes on in my head when I’m shooting. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’ve come to realize that I don’t think about much of anything when I’m shooting, I'm still just pointing and shooting, and hoping for the best. So, my next blog will be about working the shot, finding something that interests me and working on the composition, balance, point of view and mood of the photograph.




Below are a few of my favorite pictures from my recent trip to the Philippines