top of page

Why Making It Look Too Easy Is A Bad Idea

RotorDroneMag image

Recent shot for I knew how I wanted to illustrate this and where I wanted the elements. Kai (rider) and Chris (quadcopter operator) were spot on and we got this in just a couple of runs.

With 25+ years experience, I’ve come across almost every type of event on a shoot, from the serendipitous to the near-disastrous. I’ve learned to be prepared.

But I also have reached the level that creating what I envision is usually easy. So easy, in fact, that sometimes clients and others on the shoot think it really is easy. That anyone can do it. I capture the action in one or two images, not tens or hundreds. I know when the peak of the action will happen. 25+ years experience shooting, and over 30 actually participating in many of the sports I shoot lets me capture and convey the action.

Going into it, I know what angle I’ll shoot at, what lens I’ll use, even what the light will look like. I see the world as light, see how different light affects different people and objects and scenery. Driving down the freeway, I’m analyzing how the light and shadow affects the signs, the textures of plants, the people in cars. Direction, specularity, reflections from other sources, it all plays in to how we see things and has a huge influence on how we perceive them in photographs. I’ve spent my life studying this.

I have had clients get mad at how little time I seem to spend setting things up and shooting. I know instinctively where I want to place a light or a reflector, what details can and cannot be brought out in post, where a person will stand out from or blend into the background. I know how much depth-of-field I want in a given shot. And I do it different every time, based on the look that is needed for a given image. My work is not easily pigeonholed, I don’t have a shtick (oh, sorry, some people refer to that as a “style”).

All these years of experience make me work quickly and easily with my talent. We always have fun on shoots. Same with the clients who get it.

But some clients are put off by it. They either think what I do is so easy (modern cameras do make it easy to get an adequately exposed image) that they could do it and save money, or that they’re just simply paying me too much. They miss the years of experience, including THOUSANDS of hours spent testing/practicing so I can be this good when I need to be. At this point, I’m often telling one of my favorite parables:

I’ve even gone so far as to rent extra lighting and grip to make a bigger-looking production than I need to add a little more to the dog-and-pony show. Some people don’t appreciate the final image, they need the process to look bigger/harder/more complex. That’s fine, I’ll accommodate them. It’s the same thing with fees. The more you charge, the more people appreciate what you do. There’s solid psychology behind that, but that’s a topic for a future blog.

Friend Eddie Fiola told me the story of a series of shows he was doing with a guy who was the “Wheelie King”. He could ride a wheelie over ANYTHING. Including cars. Eddie watched him practice before the show, and he was flawless. Not a bobble. But when the crowds were there and he had to go over a car, he got up onto the car and fell off. The crowd gasped. Eddie was perplexed, he’d seen this guy do this hundreds of times.

He got up, dusted himself off, then went for it again. He made it further across the car, but fell again. Again, the crowd gasped, but cheered as he got up and tried again. The third time, he made it across, just. The crowd roared! Showmanship. Make it look as hard as it actually is and people appreciate it more.

I certainly need to follow this advice more.


bottom of page