One just doesn’t walk in off the street to get a job at National Geographic anymore. That was almost half a century ago when there were many more magazines being published that used good photojournalism. And the number of really fine photographers was not nearly as high as I believe it is today. So it’s much tougher to do what I did so long ago. But not impossible.
[...] I would never tell anyone you can’t get there from here, regarding getting to photograph for National Geographic. But, if that’s what you want, you have to want it really bad and dedicate yourself to developing your eye and photographic abilities to the very best you can, and then try to do even better than that. Don’t worry about being better than anybody you know personally or whose work you admire. Simply try to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. You are not so much in competition with others as you are with yourself. Be your own toughest critic.
Here’s an old clip in which Steve Jobs talks about how he sees the world:
When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money.
That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.
Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.
All the most famous and powerful images captured throughout history were shot by ordinary human beings as well…
Did you know that in addition to making his famous landscape images, Ansel Adams made ends meet by shooting commercial work? Although he made photos for clients as large as IBM, AT&T, and LIFE, Adams didn’t like his job. In a 1938 letter to a friend, he wrote,
I have to do something in the relatively near future to regain the right track in photography. I am literally swamped with “commercial” work — necessary for practical reasons, but very restraining to my creative work. [#]
It was around this time that one of his photos was chosen for the cover of LIFE magazine — a cover that’s now considered one of the publications 20 worst covers. LIFE notes, that shortly after the issue was published, “the photographer stopped taking pictures of lutists and began photographing Yosemite.”
If you think you can’t compete as a photographer because you’re past a certain age, think again. Here’s a fantastic quote by National Geographic Editor-in-Chief Chris Johns from an interview he gave back in 2005:
There are a lot of exciting photographers out there. Our new director of photography, David Griffin, and assistant director Susan Smith are making a much stronger push than we have in the past to identify young, emerging talent. They’re not necessarily age-specific either. Often photographers start to find their traction in their 50s.
Johns also says that photography’s transition to digital has also helped photographers develop more quality; getting feedback is easier than ever, and many of the prohibitive costs are no more.
Poke around on Craigslist, and you’ll find that it’s filled with ads selling professional services at dirt-cheap prices, including photographers offering to shoot weddings for just a few hundred dollars. Does this spell doom for the wedding photography business? Probably not.
Well yesterday [a friend] called me and I could tell he was kind of upset. I asked what was wrong and he said “Jeff, do you know what they are charging for weddings on Craigslist? How can I compete with a $300 wedding?” I told him flat out that he can’t, nor should he. It took me a few minutes to get through to him but when I did, he finally saw the light. I asked him if he thought that the people that were hiring a $300 wedding photographer would pay $2500 for the same service. Probably not. That’s means that he isn’t really competing for those customers. His customer is the one that recognizes the value of a true professional that will deliver professional results. Get that? The key word here is professional.
His point is that you shouldn’t be competing on price, but on quality. Focus on that, and you’ll be targeting a different segment of the market.
Transform is a short film by photographer Zack Arias that offers encouragement to photographers who are going through a slump and hard times. It’s an incredibly powerful piece that everyone interested in photography — pros and enthusiasts alike — should see at least once, though you might find yourself coming back to it again and again in the future.
Back in 2006, Flickr user André Rabelo submitted the above photograph to the group pool of DeleteMe!, a group whose members vote on photos to weed out any photos that aren’t “incredible pictures, amazing, astonishing, perfect”. Sadly, the photograph was very quickly removed by popular vote. Read more…