Training: Education and Experience

Education and Experience: Always

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been insatiably curious. I’m either reading, tinkering or physically-experiencing something when something interests me. Then I’ll just dive into it and decide whether it’s worth pursuing or not. I’m a bit fearless in that respect. Or naïve! I totally don’t understand the fear of not trying to figure something out. Especially if it’s something you think you would enjoy.

Me and IT

Me and IT

With my first career in IT, it pretty much the perfect fit for me. No matter where you are in IT, especially in the support and development fields, you are always learning! Though I enjoy the work and never thought of learning something new as a chore. It was always an adventure into learning what this new technology could do and especially when I had my own consulting business, how it can help my clients. You can never peak in IT. There is always something new to learn or improve upon. But I think this is the case in any field. The question in this case becomes: Do you want to be the best, be in demand, charge accordingly and live the life you want to live? I know I do….

I consider myself a pretty darn good photography in many areas. Put in a particular situation, I can probably do a good job. Recently, I’ve had a regular gig where I’m shooting in churches. And as many of you know, it’s quite dark and flash photography isn’t allowed usually. In addition to this, I shoot with a micro-four-thirds camera which is even more challenging! When compared to a full-frame camera, it’s only about 30% – 50% as good!

One of my first church images.

One of my first church images.

A serious challenge! But I love challenges! Especially if you want to make it as a full-time professional photographer getting the type of work I want and making a great living at it as well. You gotta love challenges. Wrap yourself in them and get inspired by them.

Image Pre-Tuned Lightroom Preset

Image with Pre-Tuned Lightroom Preset

What I also thought from the start is “What a fantastic learning opportunity!” This can help me with other jobs like weddings! Many photographers are either scared or loathe doing weddings because of screwing up or the work involved. They can be very stressful and post-production lots of work. Though regarding the latter, that’s why you charge an appropriate amount. I mean, would you take a week off from your day job to process photos if you got $5000+ from the wedding gig? Most of us would. Gladly! With the former, I’d be more concerned about doing a kick-ass job and having the work live up to my expectations.

So for the first few weeks of this gig, I was learning where to be practically invisible to the audience while still getting the shot. How to move as attract as little attention as possible. Even what shoes to wear to be as quiet! How about this: what color clothing as to blend into the general crowd and surroundings? Yes, even that. Though as I’m in a church, you can never really go wrong with dressing professionally. But there is certainly a difference in dressing in a grey suit vs navy one.

Image with Tuned Lightroom Preset

Image with Tuned Lightroom Preset

I also started creating and saving customized settings for the camera. Every week or two I would tune the settings more and more. Some of these settings were very obvious: silent-mode (thank you mirrorless!), higher base-ISO, program buttons for easy ISO and focus point changes. These are just a few of the settings I changed. Months later, I’m still tuning.

Another thing I’ve started doing is customizing Lightroom presets for different locations and lighting within the church(s). Sometimes you’d have much brighter and colored lighting in certain areas. Others would be very dark. Other areas you’d want more detail and saturated colors than in others. Skin tones are especially problematic. People would look too pink or red with certain lighting. So instead of tweaking an image from scratch, select the right preset and done! Instead of taking several minutes to adjust the image accordingly: 15 – 30 seconds! When you’re processing dozens to hundreds to thousands of photos, the time savings can be huge! This gives you more time to bring in more jobs and money! Wait, even time to have a life?

For this gig alone, I have over a dozen customized presets…

Flowers in Church. Perfection.

Flowers in Church. Perfection.











As good and fast as I am becoming, I still wasn’t completely happy with the quality of the images and the number of keepers. Then I was just reading random photography articles and I came upon an article that was reviewing a particular lens. The reviewer was using a similar camera as I do and was doing nature photography. He was shooting at particular high ISOs and images were looking quite sharp with great color detail! I took a look at the camera settings he was using and just thought “Hmmmm…..”

The one thing I took away from the article was: It’s better to get a sharp image than a bright one. And boy, was this article right!

With my typical lens used in this scenario, the Panasonic Lumix 12-60mm f/3.5 – 5.6. It came with my camera and I really like using it. I can’t give some measurement on how much better I thought my image had become, but I would say a solid 15%. It was definitely noticeable.

As improved as my images were, I still felt there was a good deal of room to improve the quality. Then I thought about something that scared me a bit: How about using my Panasonic-Leica Nocticron 42.5mm as my primary lens? The two bonuses with this lens is: Up to 400% faster shutter speed for a sharper image or 4x lower ISO values for better color detail in a brighter image. But there are also serious challenges as well. How would I get those closer shots? The wider ones?

My Babies: Panasonic GX8 and Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2

My Babies: Panasonic GX8 and Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2

Mind you, the Nocticron is one of the sharpest lenses you can get for my camera. So cropping an image to get a close-up actually doesn’t hurt the image quality much to a degree. The wider shots are tough. I’ve had to stretch my body out to get that wider shot and in some cases, it will never happen with this lens. It’s largely a portrait lens. It’s not designed for wide shots in smaller locations. But at least 80% of the times, I’ve managed to do well with it. It certainly has pushed me to be more creative and frankly, be more daring!

Now, I’m extremely happy with my images in this scenario! Mind you, I still feel they can be improved upon. But on a professional level, I think they are more than sufficient to satisfy some of the most demanding people I could find. Again, I can’t come up with a specific percentage on how much better I think the images are but it’s noticeable. The only shots I’m not entirely happy are the wide ones for reasons I stated already. That brings up a question: Do I shoot with fast primes or the sharpest zooms I can find for event photography? Honestly, I’m leaning to the more challenging former. Challenging but I would get the quality I want.

I’m super grateful for the desire to always wanting to learn something new and challenging myself. Totally the spice of life!

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

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