Monday, January 25, 2016


Once again trolling through the internets I run across a common theme.

Can I charge for my images?

NO! You are a noob! You must spend years mastering the light saber I mean the camera! Your technical grasp must be perfect, only then will you be able to present images with sufficient midichlorians!

which, as usual, I find offensive and lame, and not just because everyone insists on saying "images". While there are plenty of noobs who take terrible pictures out there, the notion that they must focus on technical mastery like some sort Movie Kung Fu student is both ubiquitous and maddening. Usually this is trotted out by dopes who have indeed spent years on technical mastery, and 0 seconds on any of the soft skills. Dopes whose work shows, tragically, how poor their non-technical skills are, and how labored their technical ones are.

It takes a couple of days to "master the camera" if you're of reasonable intelligence and are not being distracted by imbeciles. You don't know anything about using strobes or filters or gels and on and on, but you can shoot. Any of the special topics can be knocked out in a couple days, on an as-needed basis.

I make no special claim about being a mighty artist, but I can shoot some. I can grind out various quasi-professional tropes, I can occasionally scratch together a little photo essay that makes some sort of an Art point. I am absolutely convinced that I could teach anyone to shoot as well as me in something like a week. It took me, um, 30 years or something, but I was dithering about on stupid paths almost the entire time.

Still, mastery is a real thing. I can't shoot a portrait like Tuck and it would indeed take me years to learn how if I ever could. I can jolly well light like Tuck. Or, more precisely, I can steal one lighting setup or another from him by looking at a picture. My light saber technique probably isn't quite as good as his, but that mainly turns up as me taking 10 minutes more to curse at the gear. The technical stuff simply isn't that hard. So why can't I shoot like Tuck?

The reason I can't shoot like Tuck hasn't got anything to do with the technical. It's in the softer skills. I don't know which lighting setup to pull out when, and I don't have any feel for how to adjust it to suit. I mean, I could do something, but it wouldn't look like Tuck, and it wouldn't work like a Tuck portrait.

But here's the biggest reason I can't shoot like Tuck. I have no idea how to interact with the victim. Not only do I have no idea how to pull the picture out of the magical gestalt between photographer and subject, I have no idea how to bring the gestalt about. I'm just a dope mumbling at the camera, while the subject sits and twitches uncomfortably.

These are the skills that take years to master. These skills are soft. They're about looking and about seeing. They're about responding, and interacting. They're about finding a way to wrap yourself around a subject and make sense of it in your own way, or in collaboration.

The light saber is easy. It's working out who to stick it in to, and when, that's hard.


  1. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

  2. Why would you want to shoot like Tuck?

    1. I don't, particularly, although I think much of what he does is truly excellent. He's serving as a contemporary example of Mastery. And I'm not even paying him! Ha!