"Depth of field is insufficient"

Started Dec 17, 2011 | Discussions thread
lnbolch
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Re: "Depth of creativity is insufficient"
In reply to Rick Knepper, Dec 17, 2011

Rick Knepper wrote:

This forum in general seems to have a perverse need to seek superiority over photographers they deem as amateurs (and will seize every opportunity to bash this vast majority of shooters known as amateurs) but in my experience, advanced amateurs are at the cutting edge. Many p;rofessionals are too conservative or too set in their ways and change very slowly.

It rolls down hill. Photographers work for art directors, and it is they who make the choices that get published. They work for account managers in ad agencies, who work for the marketing departments of large companies. Each person in the chain is worried that the boss will be shocked by a bleeding edge concept or shot. Perceived errors in judgement by the company liaison can put the job of the marketing director in jeopardy, perceived errors by the account manager in the ad agency as a like effect upon the company liaison, and so down the line. People rarely get fired for choosing something wholly inoffensive, even if it is totally boring. Everyone plays it safe.

What working photographers shoot on their days off may be very surprising. When you don't have a paranoid editor worried about what the managing editor and publisher may think, you can shoot freely. Same with agency work. Few photographers would actually shoot a grin-and-grab shot with men in suits shaking hands—looking not at each other—but looking into the lens. Chances are that one of the men in suits is the person authorizing payment for the shoot, and that is what he thinks makes a great photograph. Everyone in the food chain below him may cringe, but they know who signs the checks.

On a typical shoot, I would take the safe shot, and I would also push the edge as far as the circumstances would allow. The editor or art director would see the whole range. If I handed them the wildest shot only, I would probably not shoot for them again. By giving them both the safe and wild, they know I can go beyond the safe, if the assignment permits. I also know that most change jobs frequently, and the wild shots will be remembered if they move to an agency that is a bit more daring.

With magazines and newspapers, it is even more restrictive, since a photojournalist must shoot as objectively as a human can be. Good composition and high image-quality are appreciated, but don't get creative with the facts.

However, shooting lead shots for feature stories, one can often push the edge, if you are shooting for a publication that is institutionally brave and has editors willing to take a chance. Luckily, I spent more than a dozen years for such a publisher, and it was an exceptionally satisfying job. Quite often the assignment would describe the feature story, and read "shoot something symbolic and use your darkroom magic". Such assignments are incredibly rare outside of that specific publication.

Enthusiasts have only themselves to please. After half a century, shootin' for the Man, I am finally in a position to shoot only for me. It is incredibly liberating.

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