You, A Professional Photographer

Recently I was asked by an intern that assisted me on a wedding and portrait session to give him some advice on his photography porfolio, since he was starting to get into the photography business. I ended up writing a letter (email) that was longer than I had originally anticipated it to be, so I thought it may be helpful if I shared it here.

If you want to achieve and hope to reach the level of one of the truly great photographers, then your work has to stand out beyond what the average or below average run of the mill photographers are producing. You want to show your very best work in your advertising and display.

Can’t Take My Eye Off You

I think aspiring photographers should learn more about composition, using lines of direction and one of the most important elements to a beautiful portrait, expression. If you study the works of the masters, you’ll see it immediately. Have you ever looked at a truly great photograph and it is just stunning. You don’t want to take your eyes off the photo. If you study it, you’ll find that the maker used many elements in creating this masterpiece.

The (PPA) or Professional Photographers of America has a print competition that utilizes these elements in awarding merit prints. They are the necessary ingredients to a successful and beautiful photograph that becomes a masterpiece. I joined the PPA back in the early 1970s and had been a member for over 35 years.

The ingredients to a successful photograph are: Impact, Technical excellence, Creativity, Style, Composition, Presentation, Color Balance, Center of Interest, Lighting, Subject Matter, Technique, and Story Telling.

Make it an Award Winning Print

Photographers that have done any number of weddings, probably have learned by now it’s not always possible at a wedding to apply the above principals to every photograph. You can however, strive to come up with a story of the wedding day utilizing some of these elements. Many times, in addition to photographing the bread & butter shots for the bride and groom, I would see an opportunity of creating a possible award winning photo and I would take the time to create it.

It was the PPA and another group called the (WPPI) Wedding & Portrait Photographers International that really helped me get started on my way of becoming a professional photographer. Not only did I see some of the world’s most beautiful photographs that were displayed at their conventions, but I was also able to meet and become friends with many of the world’s greatest photographers. I was able to pick their brains and the thing that really made a difference was that I learned about the way they think. And I later decided to enter print competition.

From Failure Comes Success

Yes, print competition can be brutal. I didn’t always agree with the judges and some of the prints did not score very high. But, as time went on I realized the ingredients I was missing, made the changes and started getting merit prints and winning awards and also joined our state and regional professional photography group.

I would recommend joining the PPA: and WPPI: and also your local professional photography organization. And also, study the work of one of my first mentors in photography, Monte Zucker. Not many photographers do bridal portraits the way Monte did. He did some of the most beautiful classic bridal portraits I have ever seen. He was a master of getting expression out of the people he photographed.