Red Bull Photography recently joined our community with a verified brand profile of their own. This partnership isn’t just about amazing photography — it’s also about amazing stories. Behind every shot on Red Bull Photography is a talented photographer, a wild story, and a few lessons learned. We’ll be telling those stories every week here on 500px ISO and the Red Bull Photography website.
The great Henri Cartier-Bresson once described photography as “a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument.” In other words, a landscape photographer, a sports photographer, and a fashion photographer have very little in common except the tool that they all use as part of their job.
While we would never contradict the great HCB, we might add that photographers from different genres actually share a number of non-creative skills, which are equally as important as anything they do with a camera.
Photography is a strange profession, since the vast majority of practitioners are freelance, self-employed, or own their own companies. This means that photographers also need to be marketers, business experts, bookkeepers, administrators, people managers, location scouts, sales reps, agents — the list of skills that a successful professional photographer must have is endless.
So while landscape and fashion photographers might have about as much in common as Tom and Jerry, they do share some of the same roles. They have to market themselves to potential clients by advertising their services, developing concepts, and pitching for jobs. They also have to be social media savvy and know how to use Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to create a buzz about their work. Marketing is an art in itself (albeit a dark one) and no business can be successful without it.
Two weeks ago we discussed how interpersonal skills are important in portraiture, but other types of photographers need to be good with people too. Consider an advertising shoot on location: you might find photographer’s assistants, make-up and hair artists, clothes and set stylists, models, agents, clients, catering staff, and even security guards on set. This can easily add up to 20-30 people, which is the size of a medium-sized business. At the center of all of this is the photographer acting as a managing director, and keeping everyone happy.
Given these extra roles, you might wonder where photographers find the time to actually do any photography. But this is why personal projects or shooting photographs purely for enjoyment continues to be so important for many working in the industry.
It’s very few people who come into photography purely to make money; most have a deep-seated love for the picture-making process, which must be safeguarded at all costs if that creative fire is be maintained. Spending too much time as managing director, away from the camera, can make it very difficult to be creative. In fact, juggling these two sides of their businesses is perhaps the biggest challenge that professional photographers face today.
Headline image “Colorful wake” by Chris Garrison/Red Bull Content Pool