“When I was the Manager at XYZ Portraits.” The Assembly Line Portrait Photographer says. “We didn’t do Shoots like this one. We only did ‘healthy’ accounts.”
“Oh yeah?” I say in my usual here-we-go-again voice. “And what makes an Account Heathy?”
“Well, for one thing, if half the parking lot is Handicapped Spaces, we wouldn’t book that location for a Shoot.”
“And what happened to XYZ Portraits?” I say with a lilt of an eyebrow.
“They went out of business.”
For every Good Shoot, there are at least four or five bad ones. It wasn’t always this way, and it may not always be this way in the future-it will probably be worse. Time was that being an expert meant something, being a professional meant something. Time was you had to go to school to acquire skills of one sort or another. It cost money. It took time. Not so much any more.
You Tube has millions of How To videos on everything imaginable. Bit Torrent sites have books, DVDs, and cracked copies of the most expensive software you can name-all things that once made it hard for someone to learn to become a professional. Now all you need is a little time-and a lot of free hard disk space and bandwidth.
Amhearst Press keeps whipping out new books for Professional Photographers and I keep flipping through them and even reading them once in a while. But these are not books written with the lowly Assembly Line Portrait Photographer in mind. But it is possible to use some of the info in some of these books-especially when we have the occasional Super Model walk in the door. A minor gripe about all portrait photography books, videos, and workshops, they all use professional models who are twenty years old and have perfect features. Ok, maybe not all, but enough.
I met an Old Timer once in a while who wants to know what f-stop I am using or what speed I am shooting at or some other old school and out dated info. I say that I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. Assembly Line Portraits was way ahead of the curve on this one. Long before everyone started taking pictures on Auto, Assembly Line Portraits was all about setting up the lights, the subject mark, and the exposure. Photographers have always been the unskilled labor of all high volume portrait photography from Pony pictures, to kids harassing you as you walk into a theme park, to all those tiny little studios in the big box stores.
This other Assembly Line Portrait Photographer who was a District Manger, and has worked his way through almost as many Companies as I have, has his own ideas about what is wrong with The Company. I like to say we are polishing the brass on the Titanic, but this fellow likes to say they are trying to fix the results instead of the reasons. Or something like that. It’s his own little catch phrase he likes to use and then smile enigmatically -showing that he is the only one who knows how to fix the problems The Company is facing. He doesn’t share this info and is not at all impressed with any of my own meager suggestions.
He’s another one of those people who wants to start something of his own, like maybe shooting pet portraits for one of the big chains. He was honestly surprised when none of the national pet chains wanted to hire a one man operation to take pictures of pets in their stores. The next logical step, talk to a local pet store, does not seem to have occurred to him.
I’m not as worried about things as I once was. Oh I still love to bitch and moan, but my heart isn’t always in it any more. After a while, you either leave or you just accept things as they are. That’s what it amounts to whenever you work for anyone-and this is why I have seldom stayed very long at any other Company.
But I have reached the end of the line-there are no new companies to fall back to, and none that I would want to return to out of the handful of Companies that I once worked for that are still in business.
I now have permission to take all kinds of interesting portraits, and I do from time to time. I thought about using some of my old lenses, but that whole business of using an f-stop and adjusting the depth of field was taking a bit longer than I really wanted to spend. Not to mention that whole autofocus thing. Who does all that work anymore?
I was watching I Am Number Four the other day and one of the characters had a camera collection. She walked around with all these old film cameras just snapping away without have to focus, advance the film, change film, or adjust the settings in any way. There was then a scene where she was in a dark room, surrounded by her perfectly exposed and composed images hanging on an old style drying line. Cute, but film never worked that way-did it?
They haven’t figured out how to Outsource Assembly Line Portrait Photographers and Passers yet-but I’m sure the Company is talking to IBM’s Watson and seeing if he can be trained to take and sell portraits.