Part of being a commercial photographer is learning that while your eye is why someone will hire you, they might not necessarily want you to use it. I’ve been shooting the way I shoot for a pretty long time. I try to cultivate a sense of vulnerability and intimacy with people who are often strangers, many times with a strong erotic slant. Wrapped up in that is often some form of styling or clothing that lends itself to “fashion,” which means mostly nothing, or at least, something different to everyone. On top of that, I try to get some sense of honesty (another word with no meaning) out of the person in the moment that feels genuine. This often lends itself to “portraiture” which has a meaning you can probably bank on. Viewers often respond to these images positively and people who hire me often tell me they really like my work…
…BUT…they don’t want me to shoot anything like that for them. To me, it’s kind of like of like being in the parking lot of a Porsche dealership, kicking the tires of a 911 Turbo, talking about how much you love it and then asking if it comes in a minivan.
This has happened to me nearly 95% of the times I’ve been hired for a job. This is probably a thing that happens to everyone else as well, especially as the idea of “branding” has become so pervasive. Companies inevitably want you to style your work to match the rest of their work. I try not to get my knickers bunched up about it.
My point is, in the longest way possible, is that it can be easy to get in a mode where you don’t challenge yourself artistically because you keep getting hired to shoot in a way that feels like is more profitable than your artsy stuff. Composition is the big one for me. I get locked into composing things I know people like. So I took this opportunity last week while I was standing in the brightest of afternoon sun (when I never shoot) with a Canon Powershot (which I never use) to do some quick framing and composition studies. I love formal relationships and I don’t explore those areas very often.
It forced me to think like me again, and anytime I’m able to do that I’m a lot happier.