Enough about story. No really. Actually, I’m gonna touch on story periodically, but I think I will fast-forward to contests. Um, are you sure THIS is where you go next? I mean, we haven’t even learned aperture, F-stop, black and white, lighting… post production! Yes, it does feel inside-out to start with what seems like an end, but for this amateur-amateur it was a boon to my creativity, a catalyst to my understanding.
I spent two whole months snapping photos of subjects like my grandfather’s memorial service and our family gathering afterward, as well as even more photos of our magnificent area in Arizona. I even took a few on our way from Arizona to Georgia for the memorial service. And on the way back. I didn’t take pics of everything though, and I kicked myself for the oversight. But that brings up a valid point: we must LIVE our lives. We cannot always be snapping photos as if we were outside our lives looking in. We are the heroes of our stories, are we not? We must be present for the memories, too.
An article popped up on Facebook, something like “15 jobs to earn extra money from home.” Having just moved and looking for a way to add to the family coffers and still maintaining a bit of freedom, I clicked on the article. Most of what I saw didn’t appeal and required qualifications I didn’t have nor wanted to have. But one did stand out...
FOAP is a place where amateur-amateurs can go to post pics they’ve taken, presumably with their phone. It does say that this is the purpose of FOAP: outsourcing visual brand stories to 2M freelance photographers [with mobile phones]. Businesses go to FOAP online and can browse photographs to buy or start a contest with parameters for people with cell phones (and yes, even professional cameras) to submit photos. The phone app is for the freelance photographer to upload and fellowship with fellow photographers; the website is used by both those seeking photos and those selling them. Every photo costs $10 (unless winning a contest) and half of that goes to the photographer and half to FOAP.
Wow! I could make money taking photos? I could make money with photos I’ve already taken? I have photos. I have old photos. Photos as far back as 1982. I am sure there is a nugget of gold there. I have them scanned(!) and stored on Photobucket. (There are other online storage places, but this is who I started with a bazillion years ago and I am not going to move all those photos to a 'better' site.) I skimmed through the images and found about 15 or so that I thought could do the trick. I downloaded them to my phone from Photobucket and directly uploaded them to FOAP. Not a bit of touch up. Blurred and all. Crappy composition and all. Yeah, I still keep them there. I love those photos, they bring me joy. And they demonstrate how far I’ve come (my current photos demonstrate how far I still have to go). I also scrubbed my recent photos and uploaded them.
Then I started browsing other photographers’ photos. Wow. Some were every bit as amateur as mine, maybe even amateur-amateur-amateur. That is amateur to the 3rd power, cubed. Other’s though, just wow. I don’t believe the amazing photos I witnessed were all taken with mobile phones, but kudos for magnificent photos. Mine were shamed. I still didn’t take them down. They are who I was.
Contests. This is about contests, and the challenges (contests started by photographers for kudos). The contest section opened my mind even as it sets parameters. I started actively looking for composition. I still didn’t know the rule of three, or any rule, really, (other than one about cropping a photographer friend once told me and I desperately try to do), but I did have guides. One contest was for the color orange, another about cityscapes at night. Some I dismissed, like the cityscapes at night. My “city” doesn’t have much to look at when night falls. But the color orange… I could do something with that. I searched my house over for anything orange. And it just so happened that we, still in a very empty house, had painting supplies from Home Depot. And guess what their logo color is? Orange. Boo-yah! I set up studio shots in about four different locations in an empty, echoing home. Took a minimum of 50 photos. 50 photos. That is 50+ photos. I found one that I liked, maybe three. I uploaded them and waited for the money to roll in. Still waiting, actually. My family makes fun of me.
But did you see what happened there? I actively worked on composition. I found subjects and manipulated them to get what I wanted. I tried different angles, different lighting, different backdrops. And through all of this I wanted a story told. It just so happened to be the story of our life at that time, too. Please don’t mistake, I didn’t just manipulate everything for this orange contest. After my initial 2 hours' worth of effort, I put away my phone and did chores and watched Netflix on my tablet (we weren’t due to get our household goods for another few week). Then we went shopping. There was orange everywhere! And it wasn’t even Halloween season yet! I snapped away. And uploaded a few of these too.
Contests spurred me to improve my thinking, to expand where my eye would look. I actively looked for settings, situations, serendipitous-in-the-moment shots. And my work got better.
**You can click on the image to see it in its original format.
Darcien Balog (that's me) started as an amateur-amateur at everything in life. She started making renaissance clothing 20+ years ago and by 2013 had reached a skilled professional status. And so it has been with almost everything in her life, from schooling her children at home to crafting for resale to writing novels.