Chapter 58 and 59 from the book: Don’t Shoot | 66 Reasons NOT to Become a Professional Photographer

time AND place …

Are these the most important things in photography?

You’re about to spend more time than you ever imagined being a photographer, and there’s a good chance that after you ignore your friends and family you’re still not gonna have enough time to make it. If you think you’re going to be able to fit a photography career in between training carrier pigeons, your bobsled lessons, and your trips to India to become a yogi, you’re smokin’ crack.

The Kaufman Desert House in Palm Springs at dawn.

Are you good at photography and Grand Theft Auto, too? How about bungee jumping? kitesurfing? macramé? trolling online forums? raku? model trains? Olympic curling? That’s nice, but you’re gonna need to choose. Sure, you can pick a hobby or a pastime in case you ever get a vacation but first get your butt back out there and take some more photos. And guess what? 90% of the time you’re supposedly doing photography you won’t have a camera in your hand. I swear some weeks I use the damn stapler more than my Nikon.

“My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.     — Steve Jobs

More than talent or equipment, time is the most valuable commodity for a serious photographer. Learning what not to spend time on is just as important as what you should spend time on. This changes as you go from a startup with lots of time and no clients to a pro with lots of clients and no time. You have the chance to choose two things in life: what you will do best and everything else.

“One of photography’s problems that the other arts don’t have is that something has to be in front of the camera.”

— Henry Holmes Smith

What does Brad Pitt have in common with the International Space Station? You’re not allowed near either one. Access is your second most valuable commodity. Though it’s rarely mentioned, every pro has a wish list of people or places she wants to photograph, but can’t. You may have lucid dreams about photographing your favorite rock star, imagining how you’d pose them and light them and which lens you’d use. On the other hand, when that rock star hears his publicist scheduled another photo session he thinks, “Crap, what a hassle. I hate photo shoots! How can I get out of it?”

When I wanted to photograph one of the most famous modern houses in Palm Springs, I spent many nights going to architecture events and eating rubber chicken at fundraisers, trying to meet the owner and having people introduce me so I could make small talk. She eventually decided to take me seriously, and gave me access to the house for three days, dawn to dusk. Hell Yeah! (it only took two years.)

The things you want to photograph most are people you don’t know and places you can’t go. If you want to create images of celebrities, important people, exotic landscapes or exclusive places, you will find that having access can make or break your photography and you’ll be working far longer and harder to get access than during the three minutes you are granted with your favorite rock star for his portrait.

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