After 20 years of shooting in and around the Sioux Falls, South Dakota area, I certainly have my go-to spots for photography. There are places that are niche to a specific style or look, and places that depend largely on the personality and type of client we’re shooting. Then there’s the event itself. Are we talking about a wedding or a newborn session? Are we talking cold as in keep the bride from getting goose bumps and a Rudolph nose, or critical cold, like this baby is only 1 week old and are you freaking nuts?! Is this a large extended family with great-grandpa and his bad knees or is this a young mom with 4 toddlers climbing all over her and maybe we should not have set up next to the cliff? Even the weather, the season, and the time of day all act as pieces to the puzzle, and yet the single greatest factor in determining what makes a great session is still and always will be… your photographer.
The landscape is constantly changing and evolving, and I’m not just talking about the footprint of man on some of our most beautiful locations. Yes, Terrace Park was gorgeous before they cut down that giant of a willow tree that used to weep with her long branches down into the mirror of the water while the baby geese paddled by. I once photographed a mother there, cradling her babies while that tree cradled her, only days before she died and just before Christmas. To me that tree is still there, even though I can’t see her today. And yes, the parks are constantly under construction or being ‘made safe’, which usually translates to some man-made mark upon the otherwise flawless face of some Gone With the Wind prairie scene. Sometimes the city planning feels like I’m watching a story unfold of a drunken maiden putting on lipstick in the roadhouse bar bathroom at 1:45 a.m after 10 too many rounds and 3 too many trips around the dance floor. Sometimes it just seems off the rails, like we’re coloring outside the lines just because we can. Did we really need to put a fence there? Did we really need to reinforce that beautiful old bridge with 2×4’s and metal supports and yet still put a big post in the middle so no cars try to drive over? Did we really have to take the merry-go-round away because someone complained that someday a kid might get hurt?
But what I’m really talking about is the landscape of photography. The business, the art, the beauty and by all rights the very love for it is all up for grabs. Where there was one photographer, now there are 20. Smartphones try to compete with professional cameras, and social media has turned the blurry snapshot into something ‘good enough’ for a society that is on the go so much that family supper has turned into a trip through the Culver’s drive-through. Fewer and fewer people print their family pictures or hang them on their wall these days – An Instagram or Facebook post suffices, and they say the average attention span is down around 2 seconds anyway, which means I’ve already lost nearly every reader, save you… Hello there. Nice to meet you. I am the Ghost of Christmas Past. 😉
So why does your photographer matter?
#1.Because it’s all in the head. If the wind kicks up and your hair goes flying, if everything goes to heck that was planned in the day, or if your little one decides that right now at this very second that this is the best time for a temper tantrum, you need a photographer who can stay calm, smile, deal with whatever scenario is fluttering about, work with it and not against it, and then reassure you. Then that photographer needs to be good enough to still think about all of the technical aspects like the light, the aperture, and the composition. None of those things can happen unless your photographer has the right attitude.
#2. Because they still care about the art even if our culture is forgetting. They are still willing to educate John Q. Public that if you don’t print these images and they only live on your hard drive, that someday that hard drive will fail and your kid’s childhood will have vanished along with it. They call this generation the Lost Generation, because in the course of modern history, these will be the single largest group of people who will have nothing for anyone to remember them by. So, without that photographer going the extra mile and taking time out of their life for yours, and without that proper attitude, a great session won’t matter because it simply won’t exist. It will live only in a figment of your imagination my friend, and that’s no place for a family portrait, is it?
So now that we have that cleared up, in our next posts we can talk about what makes some of the local places in Sioux Falls great or not so great for photography and why, sound good?