The AK-47 Approach To Photography – Are You Spraying And Praying?

What’s the difference between many of today’s photographers, and the photographers of yesteryear?

Its what I call the AK-47 approach to photography.

Because they don’t have the proper training and knowledge in photography, they are unsure how to pose, how to light, and how to compensate for different situations, they resort to the “spray and pray” method.

Yep, buy any professional camera today and you have rapid fire shutter action. With an average of 6 frames per second – that’s 360 frames per minute – you can make sure you capture every emotion, every twist of the head and blink of an eye. And with multiple high capacity magazines in hand – one 64GB flash drive gives you more than enough room to store hundreds of raw files, imagine what you could do with a dozen – you’ll be able to follow every move a client makes in front of you.The AK47 Approach To Photography Are You Spraying And Praying

Yet once those flash cards are filled, that’s only the beginning. Then it’s back to the office where the real fun begins.

Plan on a full day, or two, or three, scanning over hundreds, even thousands of images looking for the right ones.

Nope, not that one. Lighting was bad.

Nope, not that one. Exposure was off.

Shoot, that one’s bad too. How could they pose like that?

Oh wait, I guess this one’s okay. Let me take it into Lightroom and see what I can do.

Then the client decides on a couple of the images. They buy a few 4x5s and 5x7s, and are out the door.

What happened? All that time, all that energy, and barely income to survive.

When a photographer shot with film, every image was money. If you added up the cost of film, developing and processing, it would average out to around $1 an image. If you did a portrait and took 50 images, that was $50 out of your pocket before any ordering took place.

And without the instant factor of digital, it could be days or even a week or more before you saw the results. If you made a mistake and a week passed, it was much harder to tell the client what happened. And make a correction.

So before you pushed the trigger, you thought about what you were doing. You double checked your camera settings. You looked through the viewfinder again and again. You focused in on how the subject looked. You checked the background for things you didn’t want.

And you learned from your mistakes and quickly adjusted so you could improve everything you did.

So what went wrong? Two things.

1. Photographers no longer care about getting properly trained.

I’ve sat through hundreds of hours of training. I’ve attended hands on classes that taught everything from camera settings, to posing, to lighting. I’ve had the a-ha moments when you see a professional explain how to properly light, have him move the lighting so you can see the impact, and literally see the change happen when great lighting happens. We’ve worked tirelessly trying to achieve the same results.

And when you finally get it, you get it. You know exactly what to do in every situation. That doesn’t mean it always works and that you may not have an occasional problem. But 98 times out of 100, it works. No spraying and praying because every shot you take you know without a doubt is quality.

If you never have those a-ha moments, you never learn. If you focus on perfecting the image in Photoshop rather than in the original setting, you’ll never achieve perfection. Why?

Because you can’t change perspective without it being noticeable.

If I move an arm because it’s out of place in Photoshop, I guarantee it won’t look 100% natural.

If I make sure every movement of the body is perfect before I take the image, it looks natural and I only have minor cleanup work to do.

No matter how much you love Photoshop, its still “garbage in, garbage out”. If you don’t have a good base to work with, its that much more difficult to create quality on the other side.

That being said, the problem isn’t just with the way the photographer shoots. Its also with the way he shares.

2. The customer – the general population – has become untrained in what good photography really is.

We have a client we’re helping with their marketing. When we first started working with them, we recommended a fantastic photographer who is one of the best lighting professionals in the area. He gets lighting. And his portraits are phenomenal.  They’ve used those images for years.

Things change. They’ve added new team members and lost a few others. They wanted an updated look, so they hired another photographer. Only this photographer doesn’t understand lighting. So the images are flat – no depth whatsoever. It’s lit from the side, causing harsh shadows down one side of each of the faces. In one case a woman has such a severe shadow, her nose looks twice as large as it should be. Not flattering in any way.

But the photographer Photoshopped it and added vivid colors.  Obviously the clients liked them enough to use in their new promos. But from a photographer’s perspective, they are anything but professional.

Where does it start?

Digital won’t go away. Photoshop won’t go away.

But the art of photography can come back tenfold.

If you don’t understand every aspect of your camera, take a class.

If you’ve never worked with a true lighting expert to understand lighting, work with someone.

If you don’t understand posing, learn more about working the human body.

If you don’t understand set up and backgrounds, look for a mentor photographer that does it right, and sign up for every hands on class they teach.

Photography shouldn’t be about “spraying and praying”. Every time you pull that trigger, you should know beyond a reasonable doubt that the image was perfect in every way.

Then use Photoshop as it was intended: to make your amazing image phenomenal.

4 thoughts on “The AK-47 Approach To Photography – Are You Spraying And Praying?”

  1. #2 was dead on. I think with Instagram and mobile photos every and anyone think’s they’re a photographer and since that is what everyone sees these days, they assume that is the standard. Quality is now which filter or preset we can use instead of, as you said, fixing everything in camera as opposed to in Photoshop.

  2. I appreciate the perspective. I for one soak up every opportunity for training and find that the more I learn the less I spray and pray. But you are right in that consumers don’t really understand the difference between blurry, poorly exposed, images corrected (made artistic) in Photoshop and those that are awesome because that is the way they were taken. And from a mom’s perspective, when my child is in the picture, the picture will be awesome anyway, so I can relate. The low cost of higher functioning digital cameras certainly provides many more people the opportunity to explore their new found passions of photography and prayer.

  3. I appreciate your perspective. I don’t believe in using Photoshop to fix an image. I go for getting it right in camera and using Photoshop for only slight enhancements. It’s sort of like how I wear makeup. I use minimal makeup to accentuate my features, rather than using makeup to create a different me.


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