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Amateur vs Professional part IV

July 5, 2009

Even I didn’t fully realize when I started this rant just how long it would go on. Notice that I still haven’t had much to say about equipment. That’s because equipment really doesn’t matter all that much. A modest camera in the hands of a great photographer will usually produce better results than a great camera in the hands of a hack.

This is my fourth post still on the subject of following the path of least effort. That really is one of the key differences between amateurish results and more professional results.

At risk of seeming like I’m drifting off on a tangent, today let’s start off talking about grocery store shelves. Most of us know by now that grocers place their most profitable items at eye level. These may not necessarily be the most expensive (though they frequently are) but they are certainly the most profitable on the whole. Next most profitable items go above eye level. (Really and truly getting off on a tangent, $0.05 each on 100 pacakges of Oreos beats $0.13 each on 4 packages of Archway cookies. So “most profitable” is relative.)

People don’t like reaching up — or even looking up — but they are more willing to do that than go to “all the effort” of stooping down. Thus, least profitable items go on lower shelves near the floor. Statistically speaking, the fewest number of people will stoop down to reach those items. Especially not to save a mere few cents. Easier to spend the extra dime and just grab what’s at eye level.

So how does all this tie back in to photography? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen photographers — even ones who’ve invested in rather expensive equipment — only take photos while standing up. Every photo they take is from the same vantage.

To illustrate the point, I often will sit or lay down on the floor during some of my workshops. I can see looks of shock cross people’s faces. As though I’m doing something scandalous.

This shot was taken while either kneeling or crouching (I did both while shooting this set and can’t really know which I was doing for this particular shot.)

This one was taken while literally laying across the middle of a dirt road.

Neither of these shots would have been quite the same if I’d been unwilling to “save myself a dime and grab from the shelf that’s not at eye level”.

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