"At first glance, one might think this book is a book about photography. Dig a little deeper and see that Camera Focus is a business book for people who might get bored early into most business books, a lifestyle guide for people who shy away from “self-help,” and a memoir for anyone tired of finding inspiration but little practical advice in the life stories of others." - Richard Russey VP, Publisher of Inc. Magazine
Camera Focus By Scott Proposki
Foreword By Graham McFarland
Scott Proposki and I are cut from the same cloth. Not only do we share a passion for photography, we also share a little corner of the business: event photography. Currently, my passion has led me to Cherry Hill Programs, which is the world’s largest provider of seasonal photography. If you’ve taken your children to get a photo with Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny anywhere in North America in the past decade or so, you’ve probably seen our work.
I met Scott nearly twenty years ago when he was a customer of my software company, Express Digital. My company developed some of the earliest software for digital cameras, then an emerging technology. Specifically, we created a program that facilitated communication between digital cameras and digital printers. Our software allowed photographers to have a printed photo minutes after it was taken. As Scott would say, it was “photos in a minute.”
Scott was one of our early success stories. Our software was especially valuable for people who were photographing live events, from sporting matches to senior proms. A large part of Scott’s business at the time was just that kind of photography. Not only was he a customer, he quickly became a friend as well. He even went on to mentor several other new clients, showing them how they could also use our software to enhance their businesses.
Growth is a struggle for any entrepreneur, but especially for photographers. Expanding beyond one’s immediate market is a major branding and promotional challenge. At the particular time when Scott and I met, it was even more difficult. Photography as a discipline was undergoing a major shift from film to digital. A lot of people failed to anticipate the speed of that change and found themselves scrambling to keep up. Scott was one of the few who were able to see where photography was headed, and changed his business model accordingly. What he’s done with Photos in a Minute wasn’t really possible in the age of film, and because he recognized that, he was among the few who were actually able to take their businesses from local to the national stage. I’ve been in the photography industry for twenty-five years, and in that time, I can count on one hand the number of people who’ve matched Scott’s success.
The switch to digital was just the first of several seismic technical shifts in professional photography. In the decades since, there have been unprecedented changes, not just in terms of camera work, but also in how businesses are launched and run, and how the consumers themselves engage with photography. When everyone has a digital camera and photo-editing capabilities in their pocket on a smartphone, how does professional photography stay relevant as a business?
Scott has been able to continually reinvent himself and his business, adapting to new realities and staying one step ahead of the crowd. A lot of photographers get lucky once or twice: they happen to be really interested in or good at some aspect of the discipline that suddenly becomes popular, and they are able to capitalize on that. Scott has been better than lucky; he has been proactive. He has been able to foresee upcoming shifts in the industry, and more importantly, he has been willing to innovate. His vision and adaptability have made him a mainstay in an industry that all too often turns on a dime.
Scott cites me as a mentor, but I think our mentoring relationship goes both ways. I can’t count the number of productive, energizing conversations we’ve had over the years. Most of them have had one central theme, one vital to anyone looking to be more than they are at this moment: What will the future look like, and how do we solve problems that are worth solving? With this book, Scott has distilled those ideas into a useful, easily readable guide to anyone in any industry.
The lessons Scott has learned and the skills he has perfected are about much more than just taking pictures. His thoughts on growth, change, risk, and perspective are the result of years of hard work and firsthand experience. Though his journey has been unique, the conclusions he has reached are broadly applicable. Whether you are a photographer or a personal trainer, a veterinarian or a restaurateur, we all struggle with growing our careers, envisioning the future, and developing the focus and skill necessary to make that future our reality.
Redwood Digital Publishing
What does your eyes see that your mind is trying to focus on? Camera Focus will become the book you need to help you super-charge your focus, productivity, and success. Come along with me now, and we’ll see what develops.
Camera Focus is a book for anyone who feels unable to reach the next level—or unable even to focus long enough to decide what the next level is. It is for anyone who is frustrated by a lack of growth. It is for anyone who is looking to cut through the noise of the modern career counseling industry and get right to the heart of the matter. While it may be especially resonant for creative professionals or people with ADHD.
I Was Always Focused on the Camera
If you asked most of my teachers in school who among their students was most likely to write a book someday, I’m pretty sure I would have been near the bottom of the list—if I made the list at all. When it came to the classroom, I generally tried to keep as low a profile as possible in order to avoid drawing attention to how much I struggled to focus on what I was supposed to be doing.
Have you ever seen one of those TV strongman competitions in which modern-day barbarian warriors compete to see who can pull some enormously heavy object with some unexpected body part that isn’t designed to do that? When it came to schoolwork, my mental process felt an awful lot like trying to pull a monster truck with my gritted teeth.
My report cards featured mostly Ds, with the occasional C to spice things up, and that was good enough for me. If I passed a class, even narrowly, I considered it a job well done. It never really occurred to me that I could, or should, ask for help. I took it as a given that I was just not good at school, and I thought if I approached my teachers about my struggles, it would only draw attention to my poor performance.
The Right Lens
Be Great at Just One Thing
We all know what a “good” photo looks like. Or at the very least, we know the difference between a good one and a bad one. Is the subject in focus? Is the subject in frame, or have pieces of it been unceremoniously chopped off? How about the lighting: is it too dark to make out details, or are those details blown out with light? These are some of the most obvious and immediate ways we judge an image, and in general, they are pretty reliable indicators of a photographer’s experience and competence. But when we look beyond simple competence, it can be much harder to pinpoint what separates the merely “good” images from those that are truly great.
The most obvious tells for a bad or inexperienced photographer are a result of misusing or misunderstanding the equipment. Basic photography is about mastering the tools of the trade, learning how the parts of a camera work together to produce an image, and being able to manipulate the scene to get your intended shot. The next level is about learning how to make choices with those tools, and this is where we begin to see an individual’s personal stamp on his or her work...
Getting the Right Exposure for Yourself
In the simplest terms, an aperture is a hole that lets in light. In photography, when we talk about the aperture of a lens, we are talking about the size of that hole, and by extension, how much light it will allow to reach the image plane of the camera (this is the area where the film—or in a digital camera, the image sensor—is located). The lens aperture, along with a couple of other settings we will talk about later, determines the exposure of an image. Exposure is what makes an image an image—without that interaction between the light and the image plane, there’s no photograph—and gradients of exposure also often make the difference between good and bad images.
The concept of the aperture is an excellent metaphor for building our careers: just as with photography, exposure in our professional lives must be carefully managed. Too much light ruins an image by obliterating all the details, while too little light renders those same details invisible in the darkness. Similarly, professional exposure is a balancing act. Tip too much to either side, and you’ll end up obscuring the image you wanted to project...
A few reviews from the most trusted voices in the business.
Camera Focus is a business book for people who might get bored on page three of most business books, a lifestyle guide for people who shy away from “self-help,” and a memoir for anyone tired of finding inspiration but little practical advice in the life stories of others.