I often get questions regarding photography from photography students around the world. Today after receiving a set of questions from a student in Australia I asked if I could answer them via my blog. Thanks to all the students at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.
1) How did you break into the photo industry?
After attending art school in Atlanta, Georgia I returned to New York to work as a photo assistant for photographer that I admired. Working on the set of photo shoots every day prepared me to work in the industry and sharpened my skills. When I shot my first assignment on my own it felt natural because assisting prepared me for any situation.
2) What are your personal thought towards what skills and attributes are required to enter into and succeed in the photography industry?
It has always been necessary to really know the fundamentals of photography. With digital some are skipping this part, but I believe it is crucial to understand how your camera works to produce an image and how the camera and light work together. Once you have a deep understanding of camera and light you have a good foundation. I also think it just as important to be able to communicate well. If you're a great technician but bad with people skills you may not go far. How you interact with people is crucial to success in this industry. This is the reason why I always suggest this book, "How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie as a must have book to read. Lastly, I believe learning to use our creativity will make you stand out. To do this look for the things that inspire you as they will help you create images that come from your soul. Fundamentals of photography and lighting, learning to use your creative vision and being good with people will lead you to success and a long career in photography.
3) Who/what inspired you to become the photographer you are today?
My father had a huge impact on me and gave me my first camera. He also taught me how to develop black and white film by turning the 2nd bathroom into a make-shift darkroom. Reading about other photographers also made me dream. Books by Gordon Parks showed me I could make a career in photography and images by Ansel Adams inspired me to work hard to achieve beautiful images. Today I find inspiration through exhibits and shows of all types, books, movies, plays, etc. When you get away from the computer and experience life to the fullest you have great material to use in your photography. I'm inspired by life and all it brings to use.
4) What regular and irregular activities are involved within your career?
Photography is evolving at a staggering pace and as it changes we have to change. For 50 years photography was the same, but today every years seems to bring about new change. Today social media is a big part of my photography and used for promotion and education. My interns are using social media every day at the office and even when we shoot. Staying in contact with clients has always been something I've done regularly but now a lot of it is via social media. I still believe it's important to have face to face meetings and lunches. We are always looking for great concepts and ideas to turn into new photography. From time to time we also look for great photo contest to enter into and decide what images to enter. This exposure in contest gives us world wide recognition and expands our client base. We are always looking to be more creative. Oh, I can't forget about archiving files. After 24 years I have a zillion images and staying on top of the film archive and digital archive is a never ending job.
5) Could you describe your average day or week?
No day or week is ever the same. Some weeks we are shooting or prepping for a shoot, other times we are working on getting more work via meetings, promotion, social media, printing exhibits, speaking, etc. The best days are when we are shooting of course because that is my first love, but there is a lot of work that goes into pre production and post production. Some days we are just casting models and looking at new hair, makeup and stylist for future assignments. When you work for yourself there is always something to do. This week we were prepping for a five image advertising shoot, while at the same time getting prints to a client in DC and getting retouched finals to yet another client. It's always busy with work even when it's not busy with shoots.
Thank you again and I wish you and all the photo students at James Cook University the best. Join me on Twitter for tips every day on photography. www.Twitter.com/Matthew_JordanS
Always Dream Big,
Matthew Jordan Smith