So it’s opening day for Major League Baseball and I am always fascinated by the parallels to baseball and so many aspects of life in my case this is about photography. First and foremost good luck to my hometown Minnesota Twins and the Boston Red Sox my new local team. While I was thinking of the upcoming season and how the faces of players come and go in the offseason, wondering who your team will sign, how much the front office will spend to get the big name players and if each player is worth the money they spent on them. Will they make a run for the pennant or will they an end up a .500 ball club? Will they call up the next phenom nobody knows about that vies for Rookie of the Year to give hope for the future? Will you remember this season forever like 1987, when I was ten and the Twins won the series, or will it end like most uneventful?
All of this may seem unrelated to Photography but bear with me for a bit. Lets start with the payroll each team can spend as much their market can support or just enough to field a team. Which this year teams range is as wide as the Grand Canyon with the New York Yankees fielding a team north of 225 million dollars and the Houston Astros spending nearly one tenth of the Yankee payroll. The check New York cuts to Alex Rodriguez would pay all the Astros and give them 5 million more to buy every team member world series tickets behind home plate, which unfortunately for them is the only way they will get there barring the most shocking events in baseball history. Will the Astros win some games? Yes. Will they win a world series? No. Will the Yankees win a World Series for spending the most money? Most likely not this year with their highest paid player sitting on the couch for most of the season. The Oakland A’s of last year proved you don’t have to spend the most money to make a run into the playoffs, hats off to Billy Bean.
The payroll each team pays per year is very much like the gear and locations each person uses to make their photographs. Some can roll with systems that are in the $30,000 range for 3 flagship Nikon, or Canon bodies with an arsenal of pro lenses, some in the 500 dollar range using older bodies and maybe a kit lens or two prime lenses. Some photographers have gigantic studios with expensive Pro Pro Foto lights, beautiful brick walls and huge North Facing windows spending 4000 a month for their space. While some use a small bedroom in their house, a local park, clients own home or business and just use natural light and spend nothing but gas and use extra space. Does this have any bearing on the ending image? Do these things matter? Yes and no, while the photographer that spends a lot of money has a better chance for successful images merely because he has all options open. That does not mean he can make enough money to pay for all of those expenses and might be better investing in future marketing to build a sustainable business and not dump money into expensive lenses you might pull out 10 times a year. The photographer using less gear has to get more creative and work harder to get great images but they are still very attainable.They can then invest in marketing and add pricey tools when they can afford them. As long as you have the knowledge and the skill to maximize the tools you have anything is possible.
Now let’s look at one of the most important aspects of baseball and photography. Talent, hard work and the ability to work hard at improving yourself. Every player starts his career as a kid learning how to throw, hit and field fly balls. Some have innate athletic ability, some have to work from not being very good to being great. Both of those type of players still need to work hard at getting better, practice, have humility to learn from others, take criticism, be their hardest critic, bounce back from failure, have a passion for the game, and the ability to believe in themselves when everyone else says its impossible. There are 1200 people players U.S in major league baseball at any given moment (more in september) and about 6,000 people working hard in the minor leagues in North America to get their shot in the big show. I am guessing at this one but there is probably another million that would want their shot in the minor leagues. The road to the majors is very hard and if a player loses his focus or drive to get better there will always be someone there wanting to take your job.
Photography requires the same drive. From the moment everyone starts taking photos some people “SEE” and some people learn to see. But just being able to see a great photo is not enough. There is still a drive inside that you must want to get better. Once they start learning and taking better photos there is a point where one decides they want to get more serious. If you take courses in school, read every book you can find, or learn by talking to people who know a lot more than you do, or all the above, you still have to be able to apply that knowledge in the field. So now what? Shoot! Be your hardest critic because unlike baseball where there is an Umpire and a scoreboard to tell you if you won or lost there is no instant gratification. There is only the satisfaction of your final image, maybe a few people who comment on your photo, or clients that may say you did a great job. But is it enough to keep your interest? That is where you need to have passion for photography to stay with it. The people who can become great photographers take criticism well, ask questions, bounce back from disappointing outings, keep up on new and current trends, have a love for photography that transcends monetary value, and have an inner vision or style that comes out when they shoot. If you don’t do or have these things there will always be someone looking to push or surpass you.
On the road to the majors I am sure each player has hopes and dreams of making it into the majors if even for a few games. But on that road there are probably very difficult times for players when they get dropped down a level traded or worse cut. It takes a strong-willed person to keep at it and overcome those and keep walking onto the field and playing because their love of the game and their hopes of making it to the bigs. Every year I have guys that I love hearing the stories of a guy who played in minors for 10 years and finally gets his shot and comes out and has some of the best games in his life.
In photography it is not much different you can scratch and scrape to make it and then you can get that one job or make that one contact that can jump-start success. Some times you think you have made that contact only to find that the project gets cancelled. This happened to me last month and I admit it had a negative effect on me and my confidence. What to do? Get back out there and shoot I found a great story which was my last post about my neighbor and it turns out to be very meaningful to me and reminds me why I do this, because I love the story each moment can tell.
Play Ball! When the game starts in baseball the team starts down a path that was thought about before the game started. The manager makes a lineup and decides what game plan is best for the team. As the game begins this game plan changes to what the situation dictates; playing small ball by bunting runners over, letting your clean up hitter swing away on the first pitch, bringing the infield in or intentionally walking someone. At the end of season teams with great managers that make great decisions will win a lot more games.
Once a shoot starts there was a plan; picking a location, deciding what gear to bring. Do you need to schedule make up artist, assistant, or bring candy to keep kiddos interested? No matter how much you plan something always changes the situation; bad weather, clients showing up late, wedding party not ready, no nap for the kids, wrong time of day, or equipment issues. Differences between great shoots and the mediocre are how we as photographers handle those changes. Having backup plans or equipment should always be common practice, explaining to clients why it’s very important to be on time so they understand why you picked that time. This planning will improve your success rate immensely so be the Manager for success don’t let the situation dictate success or failure.
Most important parallel NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAM!
Just my take on baseball and photography there are many more but time to watch the game:)