There once was a man named John who decided one day to become a professional photographer. So he set off on an incredible journey. He first purchased 10 Alien Bee lights (because that’s what he was told to do). He purchased a Rebel TSi and all the lenses he could afford (because that’s what he was told to do). He purchased the fastest computer his money could buy and all the latest Photoshop software and accessories (because that’s what he was told to do). And now that he had all he needed, he was ready for business.
His photos were awful and he didn’t know why.
He set off on another journey and asked more seasoned photographers why his photos were not looking professional. “Oh, that’s because you’re shooting with Alien Bees didn’t you know those lights were awful, you need better lights!” So he got rid of all of his Alien Bees and then purchased Profotos – 10 in all (because that’s what he was told to do). The seasoned photographers looked at his camera. “Oh, I know why your pictures look the way they do! It’s because you’re shooting with a Rebel, you need a better camera!” So he got rid of his Rebel and all his lenses and decided to purchase a Nikon DX3 and all the lenses he could afford (because that’s what he was told to do). Now armed with “better” equipment, he was ready for business.
His photos were awful and he didn’t know why.
John was incredibly frustrated. He read up on all the latest equipment. The best that money could buy. He went to an even more seasoned group of photographers and asked why were his photos not looking professional. “Oh,” they said. “In order to get professional photos you MUST shoot with Broncolor lights! Anything less will be considered amateur!” He got rid of all of his Profoto lights and purchased Broncolor – 10 in all (because that’s what he was told to do). “Now that you have all these wonderful lights,” said the more seasoned photographers, “you just have to get a medium format camera, because all the professional photographers shoot with medium format cameras!” Like before, John got rid of his Nikon camera and lenses and set forth to purchase a Hasselblad H5D (because that’s what he was told to do). John was very proud of himself now. He had the best equipment in the world. He was ready for business.
His photos were STILL awful and he didn’t know why.
He lamented day after day, photo after photo and he had no idea why his photos were not professional looking. He heard about the one person who could truly help him. The Wise Old Photographer. The wisest and oldest in all the land. If he cannot help you, no one can.
John set out to find the Old Wise Photographer. He saw his work on line and it was amazing. He purchased all his books and was mesmerized. He even found that he was having a seminar and John immediately signed up for it.
John was unimpressed. The Wise Old Photographer shot with an old shoddy camera, a single light and a cheap lens. Every photograph the Old Wise Photographer took was a masterpiece in composition, feel, highlights and shadows. John would try to take the same photograph and produced garbage. The Old Wise Photographer took hold of John’s Hassleblad and snapped a photograph and produced a masterpiece. John was perplexed. He had all the best equipment money could buy and when The Wise Photographer took a photograph it was amazing, when he took a photograph, it was awful.
Still determined to become a professional photographer, after the seminar, John approached the Wise Old Photographer.
“Oh Wise Photographer, how does one become a professional photographer?”
“Well, young man,” the Old Wise Photographer replied. “It’s quite easy. Would you like to learn?”
“Oh yes, yes yes.” John said quickly.
“Well,” the Old Wise Photographer began. “You must first get the best studio space you can find. Make sure it is all white and make sure it has lots of windows. Return to me when you find this.”
John set out to find the perfect studio (because that’s what he was told to do) and after about a week, he found an amazing studio with incredible windows and it was entirely white. He rushed back to the Wise Old Photographer and told him what he found.
“I found it!” John exclaimed excitedly. “I am ready to start shooting!”
“No!” the Old Wise Photographer said. “Not yet. Now for the next three days you must watch the light and how it enters this room. Day 1, you watch it in the early morning. Day 2, you watch in the early afternoon. Day 3, you watch it in the late afternoon. Study the light and understand what it does.”
So for the next 3 days, John studied the light intensely (because that’s what he was told to do). One the 4th day he rushed back to the Old Wise Photographer.
“Oh my God!” Exclaimed John, “the light was so amazing and so different on every single day! I don’t know which one I liked more! I am so ready to shoot!”
“No!” Screamed the Wise Old Photographer. “You must determined which light is best for you and that will be the light that will make the most professional photograph.”
Was that it? Could that be true? Just decide the best light for me? And as he pondered this thought and the Wise Old Photographer touched his arm.
“Once you have determined that light,” the Old Wise Photographer said softly, “you must stand by that window.”
“Yeah, yeah,” John said eagerly.
“You must then open that window.” the Old Wise Photographer said even more softly.
“Yeah, yeah?” John said breathlessly.
“Then start throwing your money out the window.”