For Whom Do You Work? – Part One – Outdoors

For Whom Do You Work? – Part One – Outdoors

That’s a very good question for any photographer to ask themselves – for whom do they work? I sometimes wonder if some of the people toting cameras have asked themselves that – and if the answers they might discover could be entirely different from what they themselves think. Let’s explore the question for different groups…

Note: I questioned people at the recent Photo Live 2018 to see what they’d like to read about in the coming year here in the column. The way to focus the question for some was to ask what they liked to take pictures of themselves – and one of the most popular answers was ” landscapes “.

So who do the landscape photographers shoot for?

a. Travel-related clients. Firms that produce literature designed to get other people travelling need to present intriguing images to entice these travellers. The places that they want them to go can sometimes feature high on the WHO infectious diseases scorecard, high on the gun-deaths-before-breakfast tally sheet, and low on the coming-home-without-being-robbed list. There are indeed the 10 worst spots on earth but oddly enough someone will be prepared to sell you a ticket to get there. It is the job of the travel industry landscape shooter to make the best of the natural beauty of wherever. That they can do it is a marvel.

Whether you think they are just laying photographic bait for the unwary or not, you have to admire them for their stamina and professionalism – they have to go to the hell-hole first and find the mountain, ancient temple, and waterfall overlooking the pristine beach with the happy people in bright clothing. And do it without inflaming the guards with the sub-machine guns. Nerves of steel, tongues of brass, and the ability to sprint with a tripod are all valuable assets in this line of work.

b. Publication-related clients. These can be newspapers ( inasmuch as they actually have photographers anymore…), magazines, brochures, calendar companies, card companies, or anyone else who needs a good non-committal image ( no politics, no sex, no religion ) for any purpose. And it is the bland, though spectacular nature of landscape that makes it such a good subject for illustration. You might be selling vitamins, but if you work it right, a landscape that you don’t have to pay modelling fees to can still push out the pills.

c. Art seller clients. I say sellers, because that really is what a commercial gallery wants to be. Tries to be. Needs to be.

The sellers are arty, artful, and artisanal, all right, and sophisticated, knowledgeable, witty, and urbane. Or folksy and earthy and such…but what they really all want to be is profitable. Nothin’ says lovin’ like something in the bankbook. If they can get a landscape that looks good to you, that’s one thing – if it looks good to them, that’s another. But what they really want to do is get one that looks good to the buyer on the street, internet, or shop floor. Landscape photos can be reproduced endlessly and if you can make one that flies out the door, the art seller will be more than happy to keep on making it.

d. Competitions clients. Your local camera club is one step on the ladder of competition – and it goes up in state, federal, and international steps from there – as well as out to more concentrated competitions like the local image-harvests from councils and politicians. You can fire landscapes all over the country all the time – and if you fire them well enough, some of them will hit their targets.

Telling you how to compete with images of landscapes is far beyond the scope of this column or the skill of this writer – indeed until the camera companies put the little artificial horizon in the LCD finder most of his landscape work ran downhill – including the seascapes. But there are courses, mentors,workshops, publications, and possibly secret rituals that will help instruct you. Shoot Photography Workshops do them from time to time – and from place to place. You go, you learn, you walk, you suffer from the elements*, and you have a good time.

e. The artistic client – this person is different from the art seller or the competition director – this client is, hopefully, you. You’ll be doing all the travelling, paying,walking, climbing, suffering, and working to try to produce satisfaction in yourself. Tough customer.

You may not know what you like, but you know what’s good – you may not know that unless someone tells you what they consider good. You may be hard to please. But you may be rewarded with a deeper appreciation of the very thing that you are breaking your knees to capture – the beauty of the surroundings.

Try not to be an artist. Just make art.

*  Landscapes are kept outside in case they leak on the floor.


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