The Perils of Being a Geek Photographer

March 2, 2009

in Instruction, My Story

Stacey Spring School Girl Headshot

Stacey Spring School Girl Headshot

Being a geek photographer is different from being a photography geek. A photography geek is some one obsessed with the intricacies of how photography works. In the past that was how light acted on film and how to do development. Now is about megapixels and light sensitivity.

A geek photographer is someone who comes from the world of computers or other sciences and picks up photography as a hobby. I find at the workshops I’ve been part of there are a lot of people who fall into this category, and as one myself, I’ve got some tips learned the hard way.

1. It’s not all about the gear. When you are used to building stuff or solving computer problems, you can get real focused on the technical aspects of photography. But don’t forget that in the end it is an art. An painter needs to understand paint, but only so he can express what he wants in his painting. More megapixles are not going to make up for poor composition.

2. Don’t use technology to correct mistakes you shouldn’t have made in the first place. Which brings us to “I’ll fix it in post.” This is lazy. If you say you shoot RAW because you can fix your exposure if it is wrong, you are trying to fix shooting mistakes with technology. You can’t really fix exposure problems in RAW, you can just make your images lighter or darker. The DOF was fixed at the time you shot.

There are reasons to shoot RAW, mainly that you get a higher bit depth from a RAW file – 14 on my Fuji – which gives you more colors.

There are get-it-all-in-the-camera purists, but really you should get everything right in the camera you can. It is fine to shoot something knowing you are going to do something to it in post. But don’t use tech as a crutch.

3. Maybe introverts should stick to landscapes. This blog isn’t just about photography in general, but the photographing of models. While sometimes they may be inhumanly beautiful, they are still people.

We engineer and science types are notorious for our awkward social skills. I’m not sure we can fix it easily, but try to remember that people need you to relate to them. This is why I talk about building rapport in lesson 6 of my free mini-course.

4. Some things need to be perfect, some not. We geeks also get anal and focused on stuff. It’s what makes us create cool software and other processes. But it doesn’t work the same way with people. Models aren’t perfect and you can’t blame them for their imperfections. Your subjects don’t have to be perfect.

You should strive to make your technique as perfect as it can be, and details matter, but realize you aren’t going to be perfect. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to be.

Who are you?
I sometimes wonder who reads this blog. So tell me are y’all geeks? Post a comment and tell me what your day job is.

BTW, my day job is as a Mac programmer.

{ 2 trackbacks }

1 Boyd March 3, 2009 at 9:09 am

I retired from the Navy (but far from “retired”), then I taught myself programming which I did for a dozen years or so, now a college textbook buyer.

I’ve always been entranced with photography, buying a Canon A-1 when I visited Singapore in 1984. I’m definitely a bit of a gadget geek, so last year I bought a Canon 40D after owning a few point-and-shoots. I wish I took more photos, but too often I let my geekiness overtake my schedule.

BTW, I came here through Reactuate, which was linked from another blog that I read regularly (no, I don’t remember which one). I’m also a Texan, but now living in Virginia until I can get back to God’s Country.

2 Dustin Stone March 3, 2009 at 10:08 am

Is it a cliche now for tech people to be into photography? I am the Director of Info Systems for a trade association and have been an IT person for 10 years. It’s my second career, though, as I have a degree in advertising and have long been into photo, video and design. Although I have alot of passion for my IT work, in alot of ways it’s to pay the bills and fund my ‘creative pursuits’.

I love the blog and all of the information and insight you provide. Keep it up!

3 Ron Davis March 3, 2009 at 11:23 am

I lived in North Carolina for a couple of years and my wife vowed we’d never live out of Texas again because I bitched about it so much. 🙂

4 Ron Davis March 3, 2009 at 11:25 am

I was just thinking where I came from and starting thinking how often I hear the story of other geeks getting here the same way. I’ve got a background kind of like yours, with a degree in Mass Communication Radio/TV and one in CS. While you can be creative in software, I’ve pretty much burned out on it. Photography is my creative outlet too.

Thanks for the kind words, Dustin.

5 Richard Turner March 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm

Guilty – I’m the CTO for a Software Development company in the UK, but desperately muttering the mantra “its not the kit, its the photographer” whilst looking at shiny camera kit in magazines. The reason I read your blog and others is to help boost the creative side and to get me shooting people and not landscapes.

(i’m sure a 5d mkII would help though!)

6 Ariston Collander June 1, 2009 at 3:43 pm

Systems Engineering Supervisor…I’m all about virtualization, storage, and photographing beautiful women…what can I say? 🙂

Seriously though, sometimes it’s a refreshing break to stretch the creative muscles when I’m pinned into technology all day.

Previous post:

Next post: