Assignment: In your journal blog, discuss what you are learning from the photo-a-day process so far.
I spent quite a few years as a professional photographer in my past–first as a news photographer for a television station, and then also in my capacity as a county government publicist.
While I had some basic training in television news photography in the Department of Communication at Georgia State University, I can readily admit I was not ready for the real world of being a one-man-band reporter and carrying a 50-pound Betacam with me everywhere I went just in case a news story surfaced (back in the good ol’ days). Those professional years as a reporter at CNWG 10News in Rome, Georgia, in the late 90’s were filled with a tedious process of trial and error, with occurrences of bad footage from not clearly thinking through my shots or being in a hurry (or sometimes just being careless–I irresponsibly HATED dragging along that cursed tripod!) But I feel like I eventually became pretty good at shooting for television news, learned some discipline, and was often proud of the creative work I produced.
Then came still photography. I left the television news business to seek more income and landed a publicist job i
n 2001. Much like a contemporary social media director, my job was to promote the activities of my community’s local county government in as many public settings as possible. Suddenly I found myself having to hone my photography skills to a new format which was altogether different from television news photography. Composition became more key. Still shots were less “forgiving.” And I was forced to work with a less-than-professional-grade digital camera (which was top-of-the-line for its time, but still limited. It used a floppy disk inside it to store photos..lol!) After more trial and error, I felt like I got pretty good at still photography, too, and was proud that my shots repeatedly made the front cover of the local newspaper.
That was some 15 years ago. To say I’ve become rusty as a photographer is accurate. And then I find myself engrossed in a daily photography challenge for Social Media Theory. Initially I was very intimidated by the challenge, because I knew that even though I had previously developed an decent eye for photography, it had been a long time since I put that into use. I dreaded to face my own evolved shortcomings because of lack of practice. But I also considered the challenge an exciting one because I knew it would force me to dust off some old skills that I once enjoyed and–hopefully–to enhance those skills.
The first challenging part of the assignment pertained to content. I didn’t want to arbitrarily point a camera at whatever arbitrarily popped up on a daily basis. I wanted to develop a theme. Enter #Bones, a Beanie Baby an old friend tossed me as a ‘good luck charm’ when I returned to college to finish my undergraduate degree in 1996. Bones is small, kinda cute, and easy enough to drag with me everywhere I go, so using him as a subject seemed to make sense. I had seen the phot
ography trend of others who insert stuffed animals into their pictures of world travels and life events and that seemed like a compelling concept, so I figured I would take a turn with the premise.
At first, my journey with Bones was easy. Starting from scratch, thinking of activities to shoot this inanimate object was not hard to do. I’m a big fan of some of my first shots for the challenge, because they were creative and were composed well. I found a mobile editing app that allowed me to do some entertaining things with some of the photos, so that made the first couple of weeks easier, too. But as the process has continued, I’m discovering that to figure out a daily ‘life activity’ to portray in a photo to maintain my Bones theme is, indeed, a challenge. Many of our daily activities in our lives are so mundane that they don’t warrant photography–especially when you’re a stuffed animal with no facial expression and limited animation capability. But because I’m committed to the concept and the content I initially established, I am absolutely determined to keep Bones in the frame for the duration as my own personal challenge to creativity. Some da
ys are easier than others, but there have been instances where I just couldn’t think of anything creative or visually compelling to do with Bones. Those shots are obvious in my series of photographs. There are some rewards to featuring Bones as the subject of my daily photo challenge. I have actually developed a small following for how I chronicle his ‘activity’ among my friends on Facebook. There are anywhere from five to ten people who daily ‘like’ his photos and who indicate they enjoy the posts–one woman even indicating that she “loves the daily pics” of him and that it “brightens her day.” (I should also mention the strange instance where one Facebook user, upon a preponderance of the posts I’ve made with Bones, decided somehow that the trend provided inference into my sexuality and my political affiliations. Go figure.)
But perhaps the biggest challenge for the Photo365 assignment has been concerning equipment. I felt pretty certain that my outdated iPhone 4 could pose some problems for the challenge. My phone camera did take some pretty decent photos (and editing with mobile apps is a BIG help), but for a creative photographic eye, the limited functionality of a phone camera in general has been frustrating. It’s been difficult or impossible to compose some of the shots that I
perceive mentally because that camera was just not designed to do it. And unfortunately, the quality of the camera has not always been conducive to quality shots. There is exciting news on that front, though, because I recently upgraded my mobile service and got a TOP OF THE LINE phone! Proud owner of an iPhone 5S, I’m very excited to see how the quality of my daily photos will improve. Advanced photography still won’t be an option so I’m certain the frustration of not being able to compose as I envision will pervade. But I’m eager to see how I can utilize the new phone camera will improve my work.
In sum, it’s easy to see that the Photo 365 challenge is accomplishing for me precisely its intent. Placing me conceptually directly in the role of a ‘social media director’ who is required to create content for employers on a daily basis, this photo challenge is giving me invaluable first-hand, on-the-job-training in that capacity. I’m also finding that I’m learning how to circumvent the equipment challenges not having professional tools is causing. I’m pretty determined to take the best and most creatively composed shots I can, so when the phone camera situation limits that, it forces me to rethink and find another way to capture shots.
All in all I’m actually having a blast with the assignment and I am edified at my resourcefulness at overcoming the incumbent obstacles. It’s a learning process that I perceive as wildly beneficial and fun to tackle!