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The true life of a professional photographer

January 22, 2011

Photography is a wonderful hobby and has lead to a fantastic career for me. A lot of people get the romantic idea that they are going to quit their jobs and travel the world in search of photographic fame and fortune. Trotting around the globe photographing wonderful scenes and beautiful people dance in their heads.

Before you hand in your two week's notice, I thought I would bring folks down to earth to the reality of being a professional photographer. As for fame and fortune, the people at the other end of the camera are usually the famous ones and I don't know of any photographers with private jets. I hate to burst your bubble, but being a photographer is hard work.

We are working when other people are playing. Nights, evenings and weekends are when most photographers work. You have to constantly be watching what is going on artistically, while trying to make sure you are ready to go technically, in hopes of capturing that meaningful image of sometimes difficult subjects.

Yes, I said artistic and technical skills. Just because you have a nice camera and have taken some nice snapshots doesn't make you a professional photographer.

You really need to know what all those knobs, dials and menus do on your camera to be able to capture a technically correct image and be able to produce an artistically appealing product. Today's cameras are very good, and a blind person could probably take a decent photo with most of them. But there is a big difference between professional photography and snapshots.

This past week I was in Texas at the Professional Photographers of America Annual Convention, Imaging USA. That sounds like a lot of fun and I will have to admit I had a good time, but it was anything but champagne wishes and caviar dreams. I spent most of the time attending classes on the latest trends in photography, business practices, marketing, digital workflow and graphic design. Photographers today can often spend a lot more time in front of a computer screen than behind the camera.

I'm not trying to get a pity party started for me; I love what I do and can't imagine doing anything else. It is sometimes frustrating for me to spend so much time doing things other than making images, but I guess you can't have fun all the time.

Plus, I'm sure the cost of gas in a private jet would be really high and I would probably get sunburned photographing bikini models on the beach in Rio.

(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a master photographer, certified professional photographer and president of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia.)



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