The Total Photographer 

Dear friend,

So it’s total

When I wake up everyday, I look at great photographers and how their images have survived time memorial, I set them as a standard for myself but just immediately I buzz to the reality of the moment, I’m not yet a total photographer.
As a young teenager I had a dream of becoming a total photographer before a certain time, I started the journey but it is really a long walk to freedom.

Defining your totality
Each word means different things to different people. To me totality (In photography context) is the all – round professionalism exhibited by a photographer. This means a lot, the world all round itself is a broad idea. From your ability to plan for clients to working on set, your creativity unmatched, your ability to save yourself from photography pitfalls and the post production hassles. Totality is really a word I would want to sit down and ask, ‘Why were you coined? ‘

What Do I Think Makes You A Total Photographer?
At age 13, I handled a DSLR for the first time. I had no idea of what the lens, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and all the technical terms of photography means but I just picked up a camera and shot. To me at that point, the image was a stunner (it somehow was) I had given myself the feeling that the fact that I had been able to handle such intimidating mechanical device from just observing others when they used it, I was gonna be good. Little did I know that the camera was on Full auto.

1. Automatic is for boys, Manual is for men.

Whenever I’m out shooting and I meet anyone else handling a camera. The first thing I try to do is to check your control dial. When I see it on P or A, I just avoid talking to such individuals. If it’s on Shutter or Aperture Priority, I might hang around a bit and see if you got substance but If it’s on Manual then we can talk like men. In this part of the world (Nigeria) where every Tom, Dick and Harry can pick up a camera (some even pick up compact cameras) and call themselves ‘Professional’, I do not cease to see amazing opinions from day to day. I was once told,

‘Never take your control dial away from Program or Auto, it’s not good for your camera’

‘You will produce bad images if you use Manual’

Don’t blame them friends, just remember the Bible Verse which says, ‘My people perish because they lack knowledge.’ That verse is the main reason why these statements are said with all conviction that can ever be acquired on the surface of the earth. The total photographer must therefore make a switch to shooting in manual always. I shoot with manual focusing too. Some individuals have recalled problems using manual focusing but you just need to know that practice makes perfect. If you don’t do it, you won’t know how to do it.

2. Learn to photograph everything and anything not for money but for art.
You wouldn’t own a $600 dollar camera like mine and keep it in your Wardrobe to rot until when someone calls you to shoot. There’s a photography block people photographers usually encounters when they’re unable to get jobs frequently, they will get bored and might result to working on getting more clients. Rather than do that, why not just keep photographing everything and anything else? I wrote on confusion and this was the main reason. The total photographer would not only photograph for paid jobs, he would photograph to satisfy his artistic urge. He would photograph everything, not because he is told to do so but because he has seen a message to pass on within such image. For this reason, you might embark on occasional projects, visit a friend who does an entirely different type of photography and have a session with him and so much more. Recently, we came home on a forced break and now am home. I’ve been documenting my nephew in the process, this gives me a subject to photograph without leaving my house.

3. The total photographer isn’t really a business man

Several of us are in photography for different reasons. For some, to make a living, for others (like me) to speak with images. The total photographer must therefore not put profit before art or quality. I try not to allow any client lose the chance to work with me because of a few bucks. I try to work with people’s pockets but still maintaining a pricing standard and the same quality. I had a twitter chat with a fellow entrepreneur 2 weeks ago and we discussed how important it is to keep quality at the same level irrespective of amount charged for any job. This is because your work will remain there for the world to see no matter what you charge and it’s what the world sees that will determine what their perception of you will be.

4. The total photographer is a student everyday

You find that funny? Well, not so fast. Everyday, we learn new things. Ask yourself this question, have you learnt anything new today? If your answer is NO, I guess you are not in this world again. The total photographer must be ready to learn new things from other fellow photographers everyday. I am a member of several photography groups on Facebook where we share our images and criticize/applause our works in love. This way, we learn a lot. You can join photography clubs in your area too, they will go a long way in helping you get better. Remember, there’s nothing better than getting better every day. Read photography books, download videos, buy an eBook, go to the gallery to see the work of another photographer these are educational enough for us.

5. The total photographer is open to criticism

As a photographer, we will be criticised. No matter how good our images look to us, show another photographer and you will be shocked that your image might have been better if you had done something or the other. These criticisms, some come in handy, others might be too harsh but all of them have the same purpose just different delivery. The purpose is to make us get better and we must see this reason inside every critique of our work. We should be open to changes where necessary.

6. The total photographer respects other photographers when on set.
As a lifestyle photographer, you might have been in situations where you are not the only photographer. This happens a lot in Nigeria but most times, they are uninvited photographers. In the case where you and another photographer have been hired to document the same event, a total photographer must respect the other photographers. I did a wedding in 2015, (My first wedding job) I had my small a200 with 35-105mm lens and the groom had another photographer, a man who rode on a Canon 7D 18-300mm lens. We wore clothes that showed the contrast in our pockets at that time but what got me angry was the face that he was being bossy. He would occasional step in front of me and block me completely to take his shot I just didn’t complain but went on using the smallest available means to shoot. I started shooting through the gap in his hands, crouched down through people’s legs and whenever I could get a close view. When the job was done, he delivered his images and the bride was just annoyed. She reportedly told me that he had produced a photo book but his images were either underexposed or overexposed. She had to order small prints from me in order to save the day. Oh poor grown fella, don’t be a bully.

Am I the total photographer yet?
For me though, I believe I’m on the part to being one. I have made significant progress in the last one year, I now shoot frequently than ever and I believe the most important wish of mine is becoming a reality; open source photography education. I wish to help people with knowledge, I don’t believe in hoarding knowledge because really, no one invented knowledge. With my blog, I’ve been able to touch several lives, including you reading this post and for me, that is an achievement in its totality.

You can import my view of totality and how to be total in your personal life too. Begin to see everyone as equal, give yourself standards and don’t go below them, be open to criticism, learn from everyone and anyone and don’t be money hungry.

Final word – There can never be a total photographer, no one will ever get to the limits of their artistic ingenuity but we can always get better.

Yours photographically,
Peter Alawode.

Use your two thumbs well 😁 (if you on mobile), fill the comment section below.


6 thoughts on “The Total Photographer 

  1. Wow… Just take some time to appreciate your art, the way that you managed to capture those minute details in you picture, the weight that you have put on certain aspects of your pictures to accentuate the taste of it, and the best part is the description added below it to bring out the true colours of your posts. Hope to see more from you. Have hope, write on!


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