Monday, July 11, 2011

...from Professional Photography

Everyone takes pictures but only a select few make it to the list of top photographers and land their dream job on National Geographic. Like in our jobs, those professionals also compete to get recognized and rewarded. Although for some it’s a lucky shot, for most it’s a studied and practiced profession. I’ve taken an interest in photography and, most recently, made it a hobby to become better. I’ve come a long way, from almost returning my new DSLR after a disappointing photo shoot in Paris to testing the waters in a National Geographic online contest.

This is the practical guide of lessons learned while taking pictures - uncropped and unedited.

The Ten Things I Learned…from Professional Photography

1. Planning and patience gets you the perfect moment
The best photographers sit patiently for the perfect sunset, the unexpected animal sprint, or for that annoying tourist to move. The perfect shots you and I see weren’t just lucky, for the most part, they were planned and required patience. In your career, plan for that perfect spot and word hard - be patient getting there, the sunrise will be worth the wait.

2. Practice to get perfect
I’ve read professional photographers take thousands of pictures to get that perfect one we see. In sports, hundreds go unpublished waiting for the exact moment in which a baseball touches the bat. The days of 12, 24, and 36 count films are gone, and digital cameras let you practice. Like anything in life, to be good at what you do at work, you need to practice.

3. Perfect only your best work
When photographers get that perfect picture – out of a thousand – they fine tune it using Photoshop or some other editing software. Alterations can range from cropping and color balance to complicated techniques I wouldn’t even know how to describe. Interestingly, they don’t have this level of involvement with every picture, only their best. Put your finest effort in your best work to make it perfect; for everything else, cropping and color-balancing will do. 

4. See things through a different lens
I stood in chilling silence watching the sun rise over Ayers Rock in the Australian outback, thinking what I had in my view was picture-perfect until a gentleman asked me to take his picture with his fancier camera. The wide angle provided a completely different perspective; it captured an entire different scene just steps away from mine, and my hobby was born. When it comes to your job, see things through other people’s eyes, more commonly expressed as “walk in other people’s shoes”.

5. Focus
An obvious analogy to business lessons, a simple action that unfortunately isn’t put into practice enough in today’s business world. Today’s more sophisticated cameras let you chose what to focus on, and it’s amazing how in seconds you can shift from a bouquet to a single foreground rose. Depending on your business circumstance, change your focus to get a crystal clear image of what it is you want to see and click forward.

6. Be curious
Hobbies let you explore your creative side; in music, painting, and reading everyone can add their unique touch. Photography, and your job, is no different. Like a photographer playing with lighting, speed, angles, and moments, to capture that one-of-a-kind image, you too should explore your creative side and kindle your curiosity at work.

7. Observe others
So maybe you’re not be that creative, no problem, copy others who are. We’re all guilty of taking pictures of scenes we’ve seen before and although we don’t get the credit, it helps us practice the skill and understand our limitations. In today’s world, learn new skills by observing them in others.

8. Smile
No portrait is complete without a cheerful photographer saying “smile”. It’s another simple instruction that goes unused in many business situations. Your most important moments in life were captured with a smile: your birthdays, your graduation, your wedding. Turn your business meetings, although difficult sometimes, into important moments and smile, it’s contagious.

9. Use the right technique for the right moment
Ever wondered what all those buttons on your DSLR camera do? How is AV different than TV? And when do I use P? Trust me they all have a purpose and different results - whether it takes pictures faster, wider, clearer, sharper, or more. Put into practice different leadership styles to match the right situation. Like a dial on a camera, you too can switch from coaching to motivating to providing constructive criticism.

10. Take some chances
I’m realistic with my photographic skills but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming – only that dreaming doesn’t get me anywhere. Actions do. I submitted some pictures to a National Geographic Online Contest pretty certain that I wouldn’t win…but what if I did? I cautiously paid a fee to take a chance, but it’s a personal win nonetheless. You win with every chance you take.

There’s a camera terminology called depth-of-field which describes how much of the scene appears sharp. Hopefully this blog expanded your depth-of-field of business and you now have a much broader & clearer picture of some skills needed for your perfect shot.

Check out some of my favorite pictures on The Ten Things I Learned Facebook Site and become a fan.

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