“So what your saying is that The Gloves Are Off now?” asked a surprised Photographer at one of our endless meetings.
“Yes, the gloves are off.” Says the man who was then the Head of Photography, but now seems to have other things to do. “We want you to be as creative as you can be.”
After a few months of shooting the New and Improved Geewhiz Portrait a funny thing happened-the customers-who never really asked for this geewhiz crap-started to send them back to The Company. Why is this picture off center? Why is my head cut off? Why is it so dark? Why is it so bright? And so on and so forth.
Shooting Church Directories is mostly taking portraits of old people. Like The Shrine, the active members of most churches are people who don’t have anything better to do. This means people who no longer work. No longer have families to take care of. No longer have much of a life outside of the church. Most of these good people don’t like having their portrait taken in the first place. They are not really in the market for a Fashion/Glamor/Beauty Shoot.
The Company looked around and saw the Portrait Studios in the Malls with their sleek and modern posing and lighting and said-Wow, we need to do that. They didn’t notice that everyone in these sleek and modern portraits was under thirty-a good majority of them were kids by themselves. All well and good for Mall Assembly Line Portraits-not so swell for Directory Work.
I place most of the blame for the returns on The Passers who sold portraits they should not have sold. These geewhiz portraits are meant to be cropped and displayed in a certain format, and the Passers sold them in a different format. You can’t put a Square Image into a Rectangular Frame and expect it to be perfect. Cropping a Square Image into a Rectangle means that a full frame shot will have important bits of the image lopped off. People were cut in half or had parts of their face hidden when the portrait was framed.
So The Company is now backtracking as quickly as they can-We still want you to shoot these geewhiz shots-BUT we want you to frame them the way we used to. In other words, take the new style portraits the old style way. Uh, say what?
Basically, The Gloves Are Back On.
When I first started working for The Company I had about eleven years of experience taking portraits. I knew what I was doing going in. So I locked horns with The Company several times over the kinds of portraits I was taking. The Company used to have a long list of requirements for what made a Perfect Portrait-most of these rules were nitpicking over minor details that no one but a trained photographer would notice anyway.
There is nothing new under the sun in Portraits, just as there is nothing new in much of anything else. So a few of these Geewhiz portraits were some of the same ones they were yelling at me for taking when I first started. A few of them where Portraits I had taken when I first started but had long since stopped taking as no one liked them.
I have been locking horns with The Company again about the Geewhiz Portraits. And I am not the only one. Lots of us Old Timers are shooting the portraits that we know will sell. So The Company has been doing their best to run us Old Timers off. We aren’t Team Players, among other things.
Some of the complaints have nothing to do with the Geewhiz Portraits or the Passers. Lazy photographers who can’t be bothered to center the image or move the background light out of the frame or shoot off the background. All crimes I have been guilty of from time to time. All signs of the Feast or Famine nature of the business that sends us from sitting at home for weeks at a time to working 6 days a week for a couple of months.
The Company is trying to save face by not doing a complete 180 on the new portrait styles, but what they want now is not really all that new. They just want a modified version of what they have always done. The problem now is that they have hired a lot of new photographers who have only been trained to do the geewhiz stuff and have nothing else to fall back onto. Once they get rid of the last of the die hards like me, they will be completely up a creek without a paddle. Or so I would like to think.