Swimming Against The Tide: Proving Yourself To Others

In the last few months I have done more commissioned work than I ever have before. It has certainly been an experience working with others and I think it has helped me improve on the ways in which I communicate in conjunction with the quality of the work I produce.

When I’m working with others I try to make my photographic process very clear so that collaboration becomes almost second nature. In spite of my efforts it is often difficult for a working, semi-professional college student to be taken seriously. I am constantly written off at first glance as being “A teenager that does not know anything about photography” which is followed swiftly by an often ill and idiotic treatment that even a six year old would object.

This past weekend I found myself photographing tires in a school bus parking lot for my photography I final project on defining transport. A truck pulled into the lot. A grumpy old man stomped angrily down between a line of buses and began questioning my motives for “being in the parking lot.” I was told that I would be the “first person to look for” if he were to find any fresh cracks in the windshield of any yellow school buses. The look on his face told me it would be best to hastily inform him of my photo project, I did, and everyone had a good laugh.

The point of the story is not told to illustrate how lucky I was to escape without fines or further accusations towards the well-being of the school buses but to make a point about jumping to conclusions. Since one of the buses was vandalized earlier that week, when the man saw a car in the lot he assumed it was “those meddling kids who broke one of my bus’ windshields” and was very stern with me when it was quite unnecessary, a textbook example of a misunderstanding in modern society.

A similar situation happens all the time during shoots. It is extremely typical to discredit a photographer because of their age and/or give too much credit strictly because of age. Herein lies the issue of proving yourself to others. It is typical of a total stranger to not take your work seriously. After viewing your work/completing commissioned assignment their perception of you will change dramatically.

While sitting in the photo lab waiting for my negatives to finish drying, I started wondering about ways to decrease or offset these misconceptions that occur so often in photography.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have some more credentials? Like becoming a Certified Professional Photographer or an Adobe Certified Photoshop Expert? I’m in college for the very reason of becoming educated in my field and earning a Bachelor’s Degree as it is something that I think will assist me in getting jobs when faced with competition.

Many people feel comfortable with the statement, “I use Photoshop” which sometimes roughly translates to the more conceited, “I’m better than you at Photoshop.” For whatever reason, in photography it seems to be the norm to hear, “I could take that picture” or “I can do that” from someone who has clearly not been photographing that long.

While the type of photography you do should speak for itself, you wouldn’t take your broken car from the mechanic and say “I’ll just do it.” However, for some reason this is okay to do with the arts.

There was one client I had a few months ago that, when I was explaining the camera RAW format, she said,”So why don’t you just send me all the files and I’ll edit them?” and I knew the information was lost on her and that it wasn’t really worth explaining further because she just didn’t understand. So, for those times when the client needs more convincing that they can’t do the job they hired you to do, it would be quicker, easier, and less stressful to just say you are certified. You have a piece of paper that says you know the information. That is the end, no argument, no contest.

There’s always the argument that credentials aren’t everything, creativity is hard to embody within a standardized test. If you know how to use a camera then that’s great but if the end product isn’t awesome then you might be wasting your time. But from time to time, to cut through the BS, a credential might come in-handy.

Prove yourself.

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