We do these about four times a year, basically. And this is what it is: We have models: it may be two male or female models, or one of each, or it may be a maternity model, or a baby model, or some kids, or whatever. We have photographers: they will be experienced photographers, newbies, and everything in between. We have gear: We have reflectors, we have scrims, we have light stands, we have umbrellas, we have softboxes, snoots, triggers, backdrops, you name it!
And there is one thing that we have in huge supply: an attitude of cooperative learning. Oh, and fun. In these sessions, we talk a lot about photography, we share ideas and tips, and we help each other get some shots at the session to add to our portfolios.
The world of photography is very competitive. It got a lot more competitive with the advent of digital. One might think that there might be some jostling to get a good angle on the models, and possibly someone ruining someone else's shot with a stray flash. There is none of that. Instead, everyone is helpful. We help each other get a good shot. Is that really so remarkable?
So, our last alliance, cooperative session was two days ago. We had a model family. A photogenic couple and their adorable baby boy. I like this image not just because I got a good, clear image of his eyes, which is always my priority, but because of his expression. He is on his dad's shoulders, and his expression is such a mixture. He is elated to be up on his dad's shoulders. He is having a good time. But, at the same time, he is curious and maybe a little concerned. Who are all these people and why are they so interested in me? And what are those big boxy things that get really bright and disappear?
We had a newbie at the session who had a similar facial expression. We synched up her camera to the lighting system that we had set up and had her go for it. She was blown away at the first shot! So much power! She kept saying she was way out of her league, but what a heady experience for her to be able to feel what it is like for a lighting set up to give her all the light she needed to photograph the family! Next time she will probably have some questions about how to create that herself.
We did some shooting outside with another one of the photographers, a more experienced one, but still young, with a lifetime of learning ahead of her, and we were holding reflectors, a small fill flash, and a diffuser for her so that she could get the family with backlighting from the sun. She got some amazing images! She had a team of assistances helping her to get outdoor light that was pretty close to perfect, and we all had a lot of fun making that happen.
Someone asked me not too long ago, why I spend as much time as I do sharing what I have learned with new photographers. This is how I feel about that.
I started to photograph in the 50s with a Brownie camera and then whatever else I could get my hands on. I studied fine arts (and psychology, which I feel also helps with photography!). I began to be a paid photographer in 1973. That is about 40 years ago. It has been a long, and fun, and wonderful journey all of these years. I have done photography on roller coasters, backstage, underneath things, in the water, up in private jets doing rolls and touch-and-goes. I have photographed and interviewed celebrities, surf champions, and business tycoons. I have photographed insects, birds, cookies, bison, the Alps, the Tetons, and babies while they are being born.
It has been a wonderful adventure.
The way that I see it is this. I am now in my mid-60s, how that happened, I have no idea. I see that I won't be here in this earth life for that much longer. While I hope to leave behind a legacy of images, I also feel compelled to pass along any encouragement or tips that I have learned along the way.
I am still learning. I learn every day. But, whatever I have learned, I wish to pass along to those who follow behind me. And I also wish to encourage those who struggle and wonder. If it is your passion, do it. Learn by doing. Practice, practice, practice. My film professors used to tell us to "burn the film." Just keep shooting. And keep learning!