The one image that says everything I want said about the work that I do

The one image that says everything I want said about the work that I do

It’s sometimes pretty hard to explain to a client how deeply serious I am about the work that i do, or what I’m seeing in them when I work with them.

To many clients it’s just about the image, whether it’s something to post online or have printed for display.

The honest truth is that there is so much more to a picture – it’s real value only becomes apparent after time.

The other side of the story is that creating a truly valuable image is, to a professional photographer like myself, a very deliberate act that takes many things into account.

I recently challenged myself to find one image that encapsulates all the small and important things that make me truly work at creating imagery of value to my clients.

I thought I’d struggle to do that – I ended up being wrong.

The Story of Luke:

In earlt December 2014 I received a phonecall from a client enquiring about pricing to photograph one of his dogs, a beautiful Labrador cross named Luke.

The sad part of the story is that Luke had been diagnosed with melanoma, which saw him lose a toe. As is often the case with this horrible form of cancer, it had spread before it was noticed. Luke had metastases to his lungs and wasn’t expected to last too much longer.

Scott, his owner, wanted a lasting and beautiful portrait of this amazing dog to gift to his wife.

I was only too happy to help. Memories and heirlooms are priceless, and I immediately agreed to help. I cut my rates considerably as well – I don’t believe in profiting off of a bad situation.

In the subsequent conversations I had with Scott I came to learn Luke’s story – which is truly incredible.

Scott and his wife Janet run a business training and working with sniffer dogs.

Every one of the dogs they have trained has been a rescue animalo which would, had it not been for their stepping in, been headed for destruction. These dogs are then handed a brand-new lease on life doing something amazing.

Luke was the first dog in New Zealand trained to sniff out Paua (abalone), poaching of which is a well-documented problem in New Zealand.

Approaching the assignment:

I’ve mentioned before that every successful image is the coming together of a number of small decisions – no less so in this case.

I wanted to create an image that made Luke the star, captured his character and told his story.

I did it this way:

  1. Photograph him on a pure white background – make him stand out.
  2. Employ my lighting expertise to bring out the detail and texture in his fur.
  3. Capture expression on his face, and make sure that it’s an expression that his owner is familiar with. (Get confirmation before calling an end to the shoot.)
  4. Photograph the foot with the missing toe. This is part of his story and deserves to be incorporated into the image.

Notice that this makes no mention of taking a sharp, well exposed or well lit image. These are basic skills that should go without saying. I call this having a professional standard as a baseline – all the additional considerations are personal, and a measure of my commitment and experience.

I know I succeeded, because I met my own objectives and got glowing approval from my client (and the dog’s vet.)

Sadly, Luke was put to sleep in January of 2015.

I am very happy to have helped create a memory – a memento to remind his owners of his story, his character and his beauty.

Scott and Janet have since become business friends – an outcome I strive for with every client I work with.

I like to believe that this happened because I looked after them and took their needs as seriously as they deserved to be taken.

Coming back to having one image convey everything I want conveyed about my business ethic and skill. Without doubt, this would have to be that image.

  • It’s beautiful because I concentrated on the small things.
  • The image is striking because I aimed to make it so.
  • I aimed to do so because I took the time to connect with my client and discover the story behind the work I was asked to do.
  • I was able to create a striking portrait because of my attention to detail, my experience and the fact that I am a skilled artist with a camera.
  • I took time to learn Luke’s story because I care deeply about every client’s reason for approaching me.
  • I dropped my fee considerably to get this job. I did this so that I could be sure they’d have the perfect image and, by assumption, the perfect memory.

I am immensely proud of the work that I do and the fact that I’m creating something that lasts.

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