Sunday, January 23, 2011

This is where it begins

I've loved photography for years.  Since I was a kid, even.  My first adventures in photography involved taking stringing a blanket over the backs of chairs, and forcing my animals to "pose" for me.  I was 9 or 10 when I took this gem:

Either the viewfinder was severely misaligned, or I had no clue how to compose a picture.  This particular image was shot with a cheap point and shoot.

When I was 13 I started my first job.  I picked beans and sorted through rotten peaches all summer, and saved up for a new panoramic point and shoot.  I had great ideas for this camera, I was imagining romantic images of gently swaying cornfields and the like.  None of the pictures turned out as I had hoped, and I went back to shooting in the standard format.

Things were getting a little better over the years.  It's funny how things like MY OWN SHADOW seemed to go unnoticed when I was taking pictures.

When I was in my early 20s I took over my dads old SLR.  I had no idea how to use any setting except for "manual", but I felt cool using his camera!  Composition ramped up a little, and having a nice camera helped out quite a bit, too.

I took a trip to Egypt in 2001, and for the first time I took pictures that were actually kinda GOOD.

Not long after that I somehow landed myself a job as a studio manager for one of those little portrait studios inside of a Target.  There was minimal training involved, since it was pretty straightforward:  Sit the kid on the platform, give them a stuffed animal, and act goofy until they smiled, at which point you sqeezed the remote trigger, and yay!  Picture taken!

I was good at it, but I didn't like the actual "management" part, so I talked my way up the chain, and started working as a portrait photographer for the companies "real" photography studio.

But even that was pretty easy.  The cameras were all permanently attached to heavy tripods, the lights were already metered and the sets were already built.  The cameras were all set at f16 as a default, which meant it was nearly impossible to mess up.  I did learn standard lighting techniques and posing, but other than that, it was very cookie cutter.

I'd post some of those photographs, but I'm pretty sure that would violate some licensing laws.

Later I went to work for a woman who owned her own studio in a small town.  She hired me as a photography assistant, which I didn't realize meant that my job would consist of vacuuming, making coffee, and framing prints.  I also got to drive her son to school, pick him up, and accompany him to sporting events.  One of the worst parts of the whole ordeal was that she insisted on using a nickname for me, because she thought our names sounded too similar, and she was trying to avoid confusing clients.  Thus, I was called "Cori" for a year.

The owner kept promising to let me begin shooting sessions "soon". 

I couldn't wait to start photographing, because the owner had no formal portraiture training, and her lighting and posing was always just a hair off, and... well who doesn't love showing someone else up?  That day never came.  

One day I arrived at the studio and was greeted by the owner, who yelled something along the lines of, "get the f*ck out, I can't f*cking stand you!!!!!!!".  

So that was that.  I went home and filed for unemployment, which subsequently got denied because the owner had lied and said that I quit, via email.  She even made a fake email which she presented as evidence.  The believed her, and I got screwed. 

The Canon 10D was released, and I bought it.  I was going to get into the business on my own.  If that mean old lady could run her own studio, so could I. 

I shot a few weddings, did some senior portraits and a large family shoot, and then gave up.  I liked photographing people, but I hated dealing with the financial end of it.  Before every shoot I'd explain my fees, the client would agree to the fees, and we'd get started.

After spending hours editing, I would sit down with the client and present the proofs.  They always seemed happy with the final result.  I'd take their order home, and send it in for processing.

Most of the orders were so large that I felt guilty charging the regular rate (the rate they agreed to), and ended up cutting my prices in half.  I assumed the clients would be grateful.  They weren't.  They still seemed shocked when I gave them the final bill, and since I was young and non-confrontational, I typically ended up bringing home much less than I had originally had charged. 

One order sticks out in my mind.  I had my pricing set at $5 for a 5x7, $9 for an 8x10, and $20 for a 16x20.  They ordered 140 5x7s, 50 8x10s, and 4 16x20s.  Before I took his order home, I reminded him of the fees for the prints, because I knew it was going to add up quick. 

Session fee: $125
Print order: $1230
Total: $1355 

When I presented him with a total, he nodded and gave me 4 100 dollar bills.

So I quit the business.  It was too aggravating.

But I still take pictures.  And I'm gonna get back into the mix.

And you're gonna have front row seats.

Welcome to the begining.