To be a successful photographer you have to take risks, you have to be daring and you have to make mistakes. We try to avoid making mistakes, we play it safe, but often the lessons learnt from those mistakes we make are the most valuable ones.
The business of photography is extremely competitive; lots of people trying, just a handful of successful photographers. Wether you are a food photographer or a portraiture photographer, everything is changing, and the change is happening fast: the way we capture images, and the way we consume images, it’s so different than it used to be only 5 years ago.
Instagram was launched in October 2010; the first iPad was launched in April 2010. Think about it, not even four full years! Back then I was shooting a 12 MP camera; today I have 60 MP in my gun – and I am looking at mounting my DSLR on a Drone to do aerial photography, as well as fitting it with a water housing to take it into the ocean !
Technology keeps improving itself – who knows what we’ll be able to do in another 5-10 years time. However, it’s the photographers who take risks and make mistakes that ultimately will make the most out of these incredible opportunities.
If you are asking yourself what I mean by being daring and taking chances ( and failing ), this is the image I entered this year’s Moran Prize with:
The brief was “… contemporary Australia with a focus on every day life… ” ; I thought a citizenship ceremony would have been a spot on subject, given all the talk and the attention reserved by the media to the boats of immigrants and the debate around it. In my vision, a citizenship ceremony well illustrated the other side of the same medal, the happy one. So I chased my inspiration and I did everything that was in my power to make this shot possible; it wasn’t an easy image to pull together and it wasn’t cheap either and, in short, it didn’t pay off – my image wasn’t even shortlisted.
But I am happy all the same, I know where I went wrong and I have learnt a huge lesson from this experience: in a photographic prize, the concept is important but it has to fit in with the contest and the end result has to suit the expectations of the judges. I had a good idea, but the image I produced is not what the judges were looking for, in terms of mood and style I guess – far from it.
And I kinda knew it, but i took the risk nonetheless: the venue where the Ceremony was held ( Town Hall, Sydney ), and the Ceremony schedule ( there were over 200 people in that room , wanting to use this same stage while I was shooting ) gave me no other choice than to light the scene entirely with flash and to create a composite image later on , at the Studio ( the little girl, the Lord Mayor with the two characters in the centre, the photographer and the other two in the background, and the person taking an iPhone pic ( that’s me by the way !! ), are all from different frames ).
I had never done a composite before, and I learnt a lot from this project; retouching was quite intense but since I kept lighting, exposure and camera angle consistent all the way, it all worked pretty well.
As for the Moran Prize, at least, next year I’ll know what NOT to do; I guess it’s important not to complicate things for ourselves, and to look for a friendly environment – I did exactly the opposite of that.
It’ funny because, as I write, I am actually 2 days away from becoming an Australian Citizenship myself, and the Ceremony will be held in the same exact venue as the one in the picture; only this time there will be no professional photographer and I’ll probably end up with just a couple of blurry, dark , iPhone pics of myself holding my citizenship certificate; it will be a happy moment though, and one I’ve awaited for a very long time.
Dario Milano is a professional food photographer and food stylist, based in Sydney and servicing predominantly advertising and commercial clients, restaurants and the food packaging market.
He also teaches regular food photography and food styling workshop in Sydney, as well as in Melbourne and Brisbane.
To get in contact, email email@example.com