What does it mean to be a professional photographer? Thoughts on getting a memorable photo.

I've decided to start sharing my thoughts and opinions about photography in some blog posts to hopefully solicit conversations and to pass along some wisdom (or lack thereof) to budding photographers. Please note that this will be a running feature or dialog as there are many, many elements, and opinions, of what it takes to get a great photo. I hope that you will provide some feedback as well.

To begin, the photo above sparked this idea - I really like this photo and have elevated it one of my favorite shots this fall. The backdrop is that I was at the local HS soccer pitch to shoot a state playoff match and I arrived about 45 minutes before the action. Element one of being a professional photographer: seeing a good photo with you mind's eye. While my attention was drawn to admire the beautiful sunset, I was a lone person seating in the stands. I immediately "saw" the photo that I wanted to take - a silhouette of the person sitting alone with the backdrop of a beautiful sunset. I quickly moved to a position so that I could get the angle ang lighting of the photo that I wanted to take.

Element two of being a professional photographer: technical knowledge of and experience with your gear. I quickly raised one of my cameras with the lens that I wanted to use and with muscle memory dialed the settings that I instinctively knew would capture the image that I saw in my mind. Click. In one shot I had captured what I had envisioned (the photo above).

This photo speaks to me on several levels. Clearly the sunset is beautiful. The lone person in the stands some 45 minutes before a game shows the dedication of parents, fans, school administrators to young athletes. The blue glow of a "smart glow" in the scene represents how we all sometimes miss the beauty and events of life while hypnotized by what's on a small screen. A good photo contains many elements and asks many questions.

So the main topic of this blog is Composition, the ability to see, and help create a photo. While the photo above is a static image, the same is true for great sports photos as well. I work very hard to observe the action and prepare for a specific shot by getting into position and dialing in the settings of my camera to get the shot.

Here's an example:

I observed through the first half that the team in white loved to slide tackle. That's part of the game, but at least through my lens it seemed that there were many hard tackles that took out the offensive player and should have been called but were not. So I planned to get a photo like the one above. To capture this photo and a sequence of about 15 shots showing what happened as #9 flew in the air when a shout of agony on his face, I positioned myself very close to the touchline and grabbed the camera with the best lens for this type of shot. I knew that the blue team likes to push the ball outside and advance up the line quickly so I waited. Click+15 - I got the shot - OUCH. Nothing was called but fortunately #9 continued to play. Please note that I got the shot not to upstage anyone. I got the shot to tell the story of the game.

The number #1 answer to the question "How do you take a great photo" is gear. If I had a nickel for every time someone told me - "I could some great pics if I had your gear." No, simply, no you couldn't. Maybe after many years of studying and practice maybe but getting a great photo depends on much, much more than gear. To put things into perspective: most people cook. Is the quality of their dishes limited solely by the gear that they have - I think not Tim. Plopping them into a state-of-the-art kitchen will not magically make them a Michelin cook.

Lesson of the day: know the technical aspects of the gear that you have so that changing things is second nature (remember, the "P" on your camera does not mean "Professional mode") and shoot, shoot, shoot (ie, practice) and learn.

Until next time, be safe, be good and aspire to capture a great photo.