Fujifilm Festival 2017: 2 Days to Become a Better Photographer
I recently had the opportunity to attend the inaugural Fujifilm Festival, and it was life-changing. In recent years, Fujifilm has lead the charge toward mirrorless digital cameras, which are smaller, lighter, and more mechanically simple than DSLRs that have been the industry standard for the last two decades. What this means for me is that I can (and do) carry a pro-quality camera around everywhere I go.
Fuji has also taken massive steps toward building a community of photographers that competes with the Nikons and Canons of the world, and one of the most impressive examples to date was the Fujifilm Festival. After two jam-packed days in NYC learning from top-notch teachers and leading photographers with around 80 others, I left with three takeaways:
1. You can learn an unbelievable amount in two days. I took classes on off-camera lighting and street photography, each taught by one of the most prominent practitioners in those fields. It's challenging to truly learn something in just a few hours, but I walked out of each of the classes with the sense that every photo I take will have been altered by the experience. With compelling material, great teachers, and plenty of hands-on time, I learned more than I ever anticipated I would. the ability of a simple lighting setup to completely change a photo, or the incredible depth of composition you can construct in a photo of kids playing on a corner, are endlessly fascinating.
Photo Tip: Always look to compose a scene rather than capturing only your subject. Look to balance your shot using the Rule of Thirds (dividing the image into nine equal squares and placing important elements along the borders of them), and look for triangles created by the arrangement of your scene.
2. Community is key for figuring out the things you can't master on your own. I was almost exclusively self-taught prior to this experience, but there are some things you can't ever learn without seeing someone else do it, or without feedback from someone with a different perspective. Learning the process of creating your personal aesthetic from an immensely successful commercial and editorial photographer is something you can't replicate independently. Learning how to light scenes from an expert with decades of experience (and the number one source for off-camera lighting instruction on the internet) is exponentially more helpful than fumbling through it alone. And what's more, seeing your peers do with the same subject matter is extremely instructive.
Photo Tip: You can change the entire mood or story of a photo by changing the lighting. It doesn't need to be complicated – lighting your subject from straight on versus from an angle can make a huge different in the feel of the photo.
3. I've barely scratched the surface. What the Festival really opened my eyes to is how much I still have left to explore. If a 5-hour class can totally change my approach to photography, imagine how much more there is out there. I've come to appreciate how much there is to read and practice (and, as one of the instructors noted, how strange it is that photographers don't often consider the need to "practice"). There are so many different forms of photography – I met amazing still life and product shooters, National Geographic nature and travel shooters, and people who document immigrant life via their camera. I met studio portraiture buffs, lifestyle photographers, and wedding photographers. And every one of them cared about what they shoot as much as I do.
Photo Tip: When learning to compose scenes, it's often helpful to shoot in black and white, even if you intend to use the color version. Black and white simplifies the photo into your subject and whether the light is good, and removes questions of color from the equation.
Thanks to Zehnder, thanks to Fujifilm, but most of all thanks to the instructors and other attendees for pushing me to work harder and be better. The ability to create better imagery for clients is endlessly important, especially in the age of social media and a constant flow of content. If you can't keep pace with getting a high-quality message out rapidly, you'll quickly fall behind. Adding these types of capabilities across the agency leads to a more agile organization that can get better work done faster.