Photography DIY

The photographer is a lone wolf. They have no infrastructure to rely upon, no expert on hand, no IT department to call upon or support network on call to solve problems, supply new equipment or provide training. In an analogue world this was not too much of a problem but in a digital world it can be a major issue.

The multitude of production software packages, image storage solutions and online opportunities available can be confusing and frustrating. The wrong decision just as expensive as the right one. Hours can be spent and wasted seeking solutions as pointless cul de sac’s are travelled down and never ending rabbit holes explored. It is rare indeed that a solution is simple and easy to find.

And yet the photographer has little if any choice but to try and master every challenge that is thrown at them, pay for help or rely upon friends, colleagues and community to offer support based upon personal experience. Whichever of these options are adopted the potential for learning exists and the photographer must seize whatever nuggets of gold that are on offer to build their own knowledge base. The importance of the photographer today being a multi-faceted, multi-talented and adaptable problem solver cannot be under estimated.

I personally work on a need to know basis. I am not someone who has an interest in computers, technology or programming. I don’t read manuals and despite having used Apple products since 1991 I have no knowledge of how they work or why they go wrong.

I may not know how to replace a mother board, or re-build anything within a computer, but I do need to work out how to resolve issues, upgrades, and basic coding corruptions every week. I need to know my way around Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Audition and InDesign. I need to understand the CMS (Content Management System) behind WordPress and that of my website provider. I have had to master RSS feeds, podcast provider analytic tools and how to deal with Twitter, Instagram and all manner of other platforms when they decide to lock you out for no reason!

I have had to get to grips with Mail Chimp and Kick Starter, various newsletter software and Medium, Patreon and Substack. There is no end to the different platforms I have explored, adopted and occasionally rejected. Each one requiring new learning to respond to their non-uniform architectures.

You may not be as broad as I have been in my platform adventures but I know that other photographers go far deeper into post production process’s than I do or focus on developing archival retrieval systems and image storage solutions. Some are good at both! I am quite happy to admit to being a ‘Jack of all trades and a Master of none!’ My photographic practice demands this of me.

However, when things go seriously wrong I look for the expert knowledge I need from those who have it and it is at this point that sharing what knowledge you do have with others for free receives its rewards.

I am always happy to pass on whatever experience I have to others in need of help and therefore feel comfortable in asking others for help. Such an expectation must be appropriate and mutually respectful to work, but I know people who know what I want to know and I am confident in my knowledge to share it with confidence.

The writer John Donne commented that, “No man (or woman of course) is an island entire of itself; every man (or woman) is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” The photographer has to embrace the concept of DIY (Do It Yourself) but there is no reason why that can’t be as part of a mutually supportive community.

Dr. Grant Scott is the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019).

Grant’s book What Does Photography Mean to You? including 89 photographers who have contributed to the A Photographic Life podcast is on sale now £9.99

© Grant Scott 2021

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