This photography thing is a lot harder than it looks!

I received my first camera when I was about 10 years old.  It was a film camera.  Nothing fancy, no bells and whistles or anything like that.  It did have automatic film advance and rewind, and a flash, so I was pretty much the "cock of the walk."

Fast-forward a century or so, and I got my first digital camera for Christmas.  No longer requiring film, these new-fangled cameras now took something called "compact flash" memory cards, and would revolutionize photography.  I had a 64MB flash card and could snag an incredible amount of photos in a single sitting.  45, to be exact, and then it would only take an hour to transfer them to my computer!  (Can you see the sarcasm?)  The camera was made by Hewlitt Packard and required 4 AA batteries that seldom lasted until the memory card was full.  Great stuff.

That camera lasted me through high school, and into college, where it finally died and was replaced by a Canon Powershot.  That camera was a lot more advanced, took some great (and some NOT so great) pictures, and lasted me through five years of undergrad.

I graduated from college, got my first job and, with my first REAL paycheck, purchased my first DSLR Camera.  I dropped quite a pretty penny on a Canon Rebel XTi kit and knew, at that exact moment in time, that I was now a professional photographer.

Wait, that's not right.

See, purchasing that camera, with that thought process, was so incredibly wrong.  The worst part?  That's the same thought process that probably close to 75% of DSLR purchasers will have when they wander into that Penn Camera, or shop around on Amazon. 

"I've got this big, expensive, fancy camera, so now I'm a professional photographer!"

If you talk to photographers who got their start shooting film, you'll get the impression that they didn't exactly ring the bells and throw parties when the digital age started ushering in cheaper, more user-friendly SLR cameras.  This fear and distaste toward the market was definitely not without merit.  

Suddenly, everyone and their mother were walking around with an SLR camera set to "Full Auto" (shutter) with the 18-55mm f/5.6 kit lens (slight shutter), thinking that they no longer had to hire photographers to shoot sports, or take wedding photos, or take engagement photos because "I've got a camera sort of like pro photographers, surely I can take pictures that are just as good, for half the price!"

Now, don't get me wrong.  You can certainly take some stunning photos with a consumer level DSLR and the kit lens.  Heck, I've seen some absolutely stunning photos that were taken with mobile phones.  It's the attitude, however, that makes a truly great photo, and it's that attitude that takes a while to break before you realize that great photography is a lot harder than a lot of people think.

Little did I realize that it would take me almost five years to become truly confident in my ability to take good photos, and that that time would only come through hours and hours of practice and work.  More often than not, especially in the era of "Point and Shoot" cameras, people don't realize that photography is more than just pressing and releasing a shutter button and uploading the photos to facebook.  So much more happens after that button has been pressed and, heck, so much happens before!

To give you an example, I'll comment on my last group of photos that went up on Patch.  I began the event by receiving notification of it, and confirming that I would be able to make it.  I then prepared my equipment, made sure everything was good on location and directions, and made my way to CCBC Catonsville.  Upon arrival, I conferred with Patch Sports Editor, Dave Snyder, and made sure I got all of the details.  

This was the easy part.

For the next two hours, I dodged overthrown softballs, dirt and dust, and conversational fans, to grab as many great shots as I could.  At the end of the game, it was a mad dash to get the proper equipment to grab shots of the cheers and jeers and then a hustle home to get the photos processed and prepared to go to print.  Why did I hustle, you might ask?  Post-processing, one of the most overlooked parts of photography, and also one of the most time consuming.

Post-processing is the task performed after the photos have been taken and "developed" on a computer of some sorts. I personally use a Macbook Pro to do my image processing through Adobe Lightroom 3 and Photoshop CS5.  Once downloaded to my computer, I'll check each photo to determine which shots I deem worthy to develop, and will then go back through and correct each photos color, brightness and general appearance.  It's important to note that, for a majority of photos (especially those of sporting events), very little is done in the way of "effects," rather only color correction is performed, to better bring out the aspects of the image.  If this were an engagement shoot, or family portraits, things might have been done differently.  HDR is the latest trend in photography, along with what I call the "Instagramification" of photography, but more on that in a later post.

After I've delivered the images, be they sports shots, engagement photos, pet photos, it's difficult to estimate exactly how much time was put into the entire process.  It could be a quick process, if the lighting was perfect and the camera was set properly, or I could spend an inordinate amount of time in post, correcting light and color.  

One thing is for sure, though: photography is way more than just clicking a button, and it's definitely a lot harder than it looks.