In the eyes of the IRS, I’m a professional photographer because I get paid to make photographs. In the eyes of certain friends and coworkers, I’m a professional photographer because I’m “good enough” and the right price. In my own eyes, I am an eager-to-learn amateur who lacks certain qualities I associate with professionals, including the presence of mind and resourcefulness to walk into any situation and find a way to accomplish the mission.
That sort of professionalism comes from experience, and nothing in my photographic past prepared me for two hours as the sole photographer at a reception for Journalism and Feminism icon Gloria Steinem.
I had shot in the room before – unsuccessfully – so I came into the situation nervous but with a plan. There is no ceiling to speak of, and the eastern and southern exposures are picture windows. Ms. Steinem would be backlit for the entire event, but I would have no ceiling on which to bounce flash. I chose to shoot the entire event with on-camera flash units and diffuser domes.
I had liberty to roam the room and shoot at will, but I had a responsibility to Ms. Steinem and the attendees too, didn’t I? I couldn’t just keep clicking and firing flashes during their discussion, as much as I wanted to. Ms. Steinem is one of the most photographed people in the world – I wanted my chance to make a special image of a special person, but it was a reception for her, not me.
I made one photo that I like (at the top of the post) and several that will serve the purposes of my employer and possibly help some of the other community members who participated in the event. I got to spend several hours listening to a fascinating person. And I got experience, which is sometimes defined as what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.