Do you know what are two of the most important skills all photographers need? Since photographers don’t usually apply for jobs with a traditional CV, we’re not really used to thinking about things like soft skills. Yet, we really should.
As a photographer, you are very conscious of technical skills and you ‘sell’ them to the client. But what about soft skills? Usually, everything falls into the creative category, but learning to recognize individual soft skills can help you to improve as a photographer and grow your list of clients.
What are soft skills?
Soft skills are a list of personal competencies or attributes that impact the way you do your job. Because they come from a personal level, they are not necessarily job-specific. However, some are more important than others for each professional profile. Two important skills all photographers need are resourcefulness and flexibility.
A streak of bad luck during the shoot, or a slip of memory that made you forget some equipment, can happen to anyone. This is where soft skills kick in – how do you solve the problem? I’ll give you two examples where simple things can go wrong, and why these are important skills all photographers need.
Example 1: a broken tripod
You have a photoshoot where the composition was laid out considering a high point of view looking down on the subject. Unfortunately, the quick-release plate of the tripod breaks. What would you do? Problem-solving may lead you to change the settings to do the photo handheld, but sometimes you can’t.
Let’s explore some other ways to deal with it.
It means that you’re able to face a difficult and unexpected situation by using any resource you have at hand. In this case, you’ll need to find a steady support for your camera. Look around and find any stable thing that you can use considering the height you need to reach. You can use your equipment cases, or some boxes, for example.
Next, think about the angle you need to give your camera and find something malleable to put on top of the boxes. Most photographers have a sandbag to put weight on the tripod. You can use that. Otherwise, you can find a cushion, a bag of sugar, or anything you can find. This would potentially solve your problem with resourcefulness.
If there weren’t any resources available to solve the problem, or not in an acceptable way, then you need flexibility. This means that you have the ability and willingness to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, being open to change the aesthetics of the image by rearranging the composition and reframing it.
If you’re working with still life, products or food, you can even place the camera on the same surface as the subject. If it’s a portrait or a landscape, try placing your camera on the tripod without having to angle it.
Example 2: no flash trigger
A wireless flash trigger is a device that allows your camera to communicate with your flash so you can fire it in sync. Usually, it’s two pieces of equipment – the transmitter and the receiver. If you forget one of the pieces, run out of batteries, or it breaks, what can you do to trigger the flash?
Even if your set-up involves several flashes, you can use most speed lights and strobes in slave mode. This means that you only need to fire one flash and the others will react to it. So, which flash can fire without extra devices or cables? The one from your camera (if your camera has an onboard flash).
Normally, you don’t want to use that flash to illuminate your scene, as it tends to be quite unflattering, but you can use it to trigger your other lights. Using a piece of cardboard, or a small box, block the front (and at least one of the sides) of the flash so that it won’t spill any light into your scene.
Leave open one side so that the light triggers the slave flashes.
Another possible solution is to fire the flash manually. In order to do this, you’ll need a longer shutter speed so you can react and fire it on time.
The last time I faced something like this, I started processing whatever I had shot before the trigger broke, this way the client didn’t feel we were just waiting around doing nothing and I used the time productively. If not, you’ll need to be open to reschedule or run to buy a new trigger (or batteries, depending on what happened). In any case, flexibility is key.
As you can see, soft skills are small things that you probably already have but never considered an extra asset. The important thing about identifying your soft skills is that you can improve on them.
Also, now that you know them, don’t be shy about letting your clients know about it. In the end, they want a photographer that gets the job done, no matter what. This is why resourcefulness and flexibility are important skills all photographers need.
Have you faced any scenarios where you had to think quick on your feet to get the job done? Share with us in the comments!