N. David King Tell us about your work---what do you do?
I think of myself as an image-maker. I try to use whatever medium is appropriate to the subject to express my emotional response to the subject. Specifically, however, although I also can and do sometimes work in traditional art mediums, most of my work is currently in photography , both stills and motion. What skills are needed?
On a skill level, a mastery of the technical issues involved with the acquisition of the original image , either on film , tape , or via digital media , and then the technical issues involved with the creation of the final display product as a photo print, a video tape, a motion picture , or a digital image for display via computer or hard copy. Those skills involve chemistry , physics , optics , electronics , and a fair selection of computer and software oriented skills in order to use the incredible array of available tools, all of which have some potential impact on the final image. This includes the use of studio and location lighting and light control equipment . But in addition to the purely technical side, there is an equal requirement of creative ability , discipline, and passion that must be brought to the images if they are to of high aesthetic quality and, from an economic/business standpoint, competitive in a highly competitive field. And, lastly but of nearly equal importance is the ability to turn what is a personal passion into a viable business. So the skills and issues involved in marketing, bookkeeping, the writing of letters, proposals, etc., the ability to budget projects, hire and work with resources, vendors, and assistants, all play a large part in the success---or failure---of a commercial/professional photographer or artist. If one teaches, as I also do, then there are skills in instructional design, methodology, communication, presentation, the "rituals" of learning, the writing of course syllabi and curricula, plus, unfortunately, the political vagaries of academia that must be mastered as well. What was your major?
I college I had a double major in commercial art / graphic design and philosophy . Later I got a law degree and then did post grad work in art and art history . How did you get started in your career?
By accident, I was in art school at a time when my drawing skills, which were high, were seen as an obstacle to the "conceptual art" trend that was then current. But photography was a newly accepted art form and therefore allowed me to work in the realistic/semi-realistic imagery that I preferred. I was initially self-taught in the technical side then took classes and workshops from professionals to hone skills and expand my vision of possibilities. Work initially came to me and grew into a fairly successful practice specializing in serious portraiture, advertising (product), and illustration. That led to employment as first and art director then a creative director for an ad agency and that led into video and motion work. And now I am come full circle and applying what I learned in those disciplines back into the world of still photography. What experience do you need in this job?
To be a complete freelance photographer one needs only the experience to consistently produce top quality images that match the client's needs, whatever that is and whatever it takes. That somewhat flippant sounding answer is actually a very broad one and a very demanding one as well. To work for someone else then you would need the experience to understand the technical side completely, as well as the additional equipmental issues based on that employer's equipment and styles. Describe your "typical" workday:
Alas, there is no such thing. What is the hardest aspect of your job?
For me, the hardest job is marketing. I find it hard to promote myself. For many it is the ability to handle the money fluctuations resulting from project work. You will have a large amount of money from a project, then it may be awhile between work. That money must be budgeted and handled properly. For some it is the occasional long hours. On a project, especially a video project, 12 to 14 hour days for a producer are common. Photo sessions go while the momentum is there and can run into the wee hours. Personally I enjoy the work so that doesn't bother me. For others it is the discipline to treat every day like a business day, whether a project is online or not. As a freelancer, if you are not on a project you need to be working at a project. It never ends. No work, no pay. The danger is that in all the extraneous work just to produce an image, that the "fun" and challenge get lost into purely technical exercises where the creativity is lost, the passion is lost, and ultimately, the quality is lost. What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The "rush" of creating a riveting image, a portrait that conveys the essence of the subject, and a client that is ecstatically happy with the work. What are your suggestions for someone considering this field?
Consider Auto Mechanics? No, seriously, this is a cutthroat, incredibly competitive field. But there is ALWAYS room at the top even though there is virtually no room in the middle or bottom. If it is not an absolute passion then keep it as a hobby. If there is not that deep inner itch that MUST be scratched to create images, to express your own creativity, then the non-creative side will be overwhelming and destructive. Passion is the key. With it you have a chance (not a guarantee) but without it you have none.