Sometimes the phone rings and someone asks you to go photograph a floor. Sometimes they will even agree to pay you a pretty decent chunk of change to go do it.
No models, no makeup, no wardrobe, no lighting – just a floor.
My first reaction is usually something like “I’m not a floor photographer.”
But then I remember that people who own big buildings with floors often have money, and I figure income is better than no income, so I agree to go photograph a floor.
Which brings me to the question: Why would anyone go out of their way to find a floor photographer and pay them a healthy sum of money to go out and take what I consider to be natural light snapshots of a floor?
The answer is that as photographers, we have developed some considerable talents that many of us take for granted on a regular basis.
Top 10 Talents Photographers Don’t Know They Have
Talent is what creates value from professional photography, especially in a world where everyone is a “photographer”.
1. We See Light
Have you ever been driving down the road and you see this amazing light and you just have to stop the car and get out and create a photograph? Or do you catch yourself out walking the dog at dusk making comments like “Whoaaaaaa, look at that light Daisy”?
If you do, you have learned to see light. The thing is, until you learn to see light, the qualities of light are completely invisible.
Yes, non-photographers can appreciate a nice sunset, or beams of light shining through mist – but then these same people go out and snap a photo of a flower at 12:00 noon in July.
2. We Are Artistic
I am going to go ahead and say that if you consider yourself a photographer – you are artistic – and you are probably artistic without even knowing you are being artistic.
Most people are not artistic. Most people could not produce something creative if their life depended on it.
Is this the most and artistic photo of a floor anyone in the world has ever created? Well, no.
But I do consider it to be creative. The symmetry is not an accident. I saw this woman approaching to go up the stairs and I waited until just the right moment to snap this photo.
Could a non-photographer take this photo? Well, yes.
But, the point is: I knew exactly what I wanted this image to look like before I captured it – I just knew it would look good.
3. We See Details
Attention to detail is one of the hallmarks of a professional photographer – and it is something that only comes with practice.
Ohhhh wow, look a wide angle natural light shot of a floor.
Right, but do you know what you don’t see in this photo?
The cleaning guy’s mop cart and “Wet Floor” cones that I pushed out of the way. The cleaning guy who I paid to go take a coffee break. The giant bra ad that was behind the railing at the top of the stairs. The pink bubble gum that I scraped off the grey tile circle.
What about all the people? They were not there at 7:00 am, three hours before the mall opened.
If you are a photographer, I’ll bet you start re-arranging furniture at other peoples birthday parties before you take a photo of them blowing out the candles. I’ll bet you re-arrange the food on the table behind you before you take a selfie at a restaurant. I’ll bet you would never ever take a photo of your kid with a dirty face.
And, I’ll bet you do it without even knowing you’re doing it.
4. We Understand How To Use a Camera
Really – have you ever tried to teach a non-photographer friend how to actually use a camera? Its like trying to teach your mother-in-law how to learn “the computer”.
Sure, everyone knows how to take pictures. Some people even know how to use a camera.
But very very few actually understand how to use a camera.
There is a very big difference between trying to figure out how to trick your camera to automatically take the photo you want by adjusting metering modes, exposure adjustment settings etc. versus just knowing what settings to use and understanding why to use them.
5. We Know The Difference Between Good and Bad Photos
You would think it should be obvious – but non-photographers have no idea what specifically makes a photograph good or bad.
Of course, they have a reaction to photography and can point to a photo that they like better than another – but when asked why – they are stumped.
Is this a good floor photo?
Its not a great floor photo, but I like it well enough.
Technically it is good. It is in focus. The white balance is good. The lighting is good. Yay for me.
But there is something else – there is just something a little bit more interesting than a gray faux-leather bench and gray floor tile.
The composition makes this photo good (click here to find out why composition is so damn important).
In fact, I took this photo from four or five slightly different angles, and this is the only one that I would consider good….you know, as far as photos of floors go.
6. We Have Better Cameras
Ok, Ok – we all know that its not the camera that takes the picture, but the reality is that having the right photography gear does influence the quality of the final images.
Ask any mechanic and they will tell you that you need to use the right tool for the job. Well, we have the tools – the right camera body, the right lens, the right lights, the right light modifiers etc.
Is there anything special about the tools that I used to take this photo?
At first glance it probably doesn’t look like it – I mean to me its still just a natural light snapshot. But again, that is taking talent for granted.
I took this photo very early on a very dim and foggy morning. I needed a fast lens and a camera body capable of shooting at ISO 3200 without noticeable noise (or a tripod I suppose).
What you might not also notice right away is although this scene is lit by outdoor cloudy ambient light, the ambient blends perfectly with the tungsten balanced overhead artificial lighting. That was not a coincidence, and I needed a camera that had customizable white balance and RAW to make it work.
7. We Understand that a Camera Sees Differently than a Human
Speaking of blending cloudy daylight ambient light with artificial tungsten balanced fixtures, to a human eye they look the same – but there sure is a difference to the camera.
The same can be said for a whole range of variables that photographers make a conscious decision to manipulate.
For example: depth of field, white balance, lens flare, long exposure, dynamic range etc. are all ways photographers use their cameras to interpret the world differently than it is normally viewed.
8. We Know How To Edit
Post production is not adding a one tap cell phone filter.
Editing and post production is making conscious decisions to selectively apply adjustments to enhance what should already be a good photograph.
Can you tell what post production was done on this amazingly awesome photograph of a floor?
They’re pretty minor and all done in Lightroom, but critical to produce a polished finished image.
Here are the recipe ingredients in the order they were applied: lens profile correction, exposure adjustment, + contrast, – blacks, + shadows, + clarity, + vibrance, crop, -1.0 exposure gradient from the bottom, + shadows, – blacks, spot removal, export sharpening.
9. We Are Efficient
Non-photographers snap a million photos of the same thing. Professional photographers photograph specific things. Non-photographers never really know if they took a good picture. Professional photographers shoot until they know they have nailed the shot, then move on.
When I started getting paid to take pictures, I used to snap thousands of photos for relatively simple gigs. Whats even worse, I would actually deliver thousands of photos to my clients, because I couldn’t tell the good from the bad – even if they were almost all the same shot.
Now, I don’t even bother taking a photo unless there is a purpose. I have to see the finished photograph in my mind and know – yes – this is an image I should create.
That is not to say that every photo I take turns out exactly as I plan. There is still a huge amount of experimentation and a high ratio of rejects to picks – but the more I shoot the more efficient I get.
10. We Are Reliable
Reliability is probably the most important reason anyone will pay you money to take photos.
This is especially true today when pretty much anyone thinks that they can photography pretty much anything.
Only they can’t.
Yes, most people can take decent photos of easy things – but without items 1 to 9 – they are hit an miss.
But ANYBODY Could Take Those Floor Photos!
I know right!? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with them – they look pretty good to me, as far as floors go.
Maybe they suck compared so someone else’ floor photos – but someone else didn’t get paid to take them.
Maybe they are a waste of money compared to the free photos the site foreman would have taken with her cell phone – but my client was not willing to take that risk.
Talent Is Valuable!
In the end, the point that I wanted to make is that talent is valuable.
And because we accumulate talent over a long period of time, it is very easy to take talent as a photographer for granted.
The fact that ads for every new consumer camera and every new cell phone app tell us that talent is no longer relevant doesn’t help.
But the truth is that no matter how sophisticated cameras and editing software can get – talent will always be valuable because talent is the human touch.
Now go out there and make money from your talent!
What Talents Do You Take For Granted?
Is there anything you do on a regular basis that you just assume everyone does?
Have you undervalued your work because you take your talent for granted?
Have clients ever challenged the value of your talent as a negotiating tactic?
Leave a comment and let us know!