A former professional skier, Scott Markewitz now spends his time on the other side of the lens as a pro outdoor photographer. It’s his job to travel to dramatic landscapes and capture athletes doing what they love. We caught up with him between assignments to find out how he got the job, the best places he’s visited, and how digital cameras changed the photography world.
What is a typical day at your job?
I don’t really have a typical day. Everyday I go out and shoot, and each day is different. I go to amazing parts of the world and work with world-class athletes, so there’s a lot of variety in what I do. The shooting part is the fun part, and what you do after is where the real work begins. That’s exciting, and that’s what I really love about the job.
What does that real work consist of?
Once you finish a shoot, you have to go home and put the images on the hard drive. I create three copies of everything and put it on three drives, which takes time. Editing is the next step. In a sense, you have to go to the photo lab afterwards. That allows creativity but is also time consuming.
The other part of it is the time and effort required to maintain relationships with clients and businesses. It’s an incredible profession, but it’s a lot of hard work. Nothing’s ever guaranteed—even once you’re established. For me, I’ve always taken the business side very seriously. I try to deliver the best images possible no matter the situation. There are so many different things that can happen, so you have to be able to adapt to that, be really on top of it, and maintain a positive attitude. It is competitive, so it’s easy to get a little bit down with how difficult it can be. If you can maintain a positive attitude, your clients can see that—it’s more fun to work with someone who’s positive.
What do you wish you would have known when you got started?
I wish I would have had a more technical photo background, but I think I figured that part out pretty well. There are things you can definitely figure out on your own. Understanding the business side is an eye-opener. It’s another story to turn photography into a successful business, understanding what your clients want and expect from you, and delivering quality images every time.
What advice do you have for people who want to become a professional photographer?
I would say you have to work really hard and develop your own vision and style. These days, to be successful, your work has to be really good. You can’t get away with just being a decent photographer. You have to push your limits as much as you can to create better photography. You have to take care of your clients and be consistent.
How has the industry changed?
I’ve been a photographer for 27 years, and the industry has drastically changed. With the advent of digital, the barriers of entry for photography are lower, and there’s so much more competition and more images out there. But at the same time digital has allowed the quality of photography to evolve and drastically improve because there are so many more things you can do with digital than film. Film just can’t compare with the quality of digital.
How has digital changed the way that you shoot?
On the technical side, digital responds differently to light, so there’s a learning curve with what the light will do compared with film. It’s subtle, but important. Having the ability to see the shot instantly is a great feature of digital. You can see if you got the shot you wanted, so you can progress your style and vision rapidly. It allows you to be more creative because you have nothing to lose if some shots don’t work, so in that sense you can shoot a lot more. With digital you don’t have to worry about how much film you use or how much it costs. The other thing that’s great about digital is the incredible ISO range. You can shoot in pretty dark conditions and get incredible images you could never get with film. Having that ability opens up so many more creative options and situations where you can get really cool images.
How has digital changed the way that you approach your business?
The whole workflow is different. I’m the photo lab now; I have a lot more people working with me. You can get images out to clients much faster and have instant turnaround. At the same time, it’s more competitive now with digital. In the film days you really had to know your stuff, but with digital it’s pretty easy for someone to come in with an inexpensive camera and get decent shots. You have to raise your game high now. There are so many more people doing photography, trying more things, and getting more creative, so it pushes you to become a better photographer.
What is the hardest part about your job?
It’s very competitive. There’s no guarantee of your next job, so you’re always striving to get that next job and that next client. It’s a challenge for any photographer, and some do it better than others. For outdoor photography, it’s physically demanding too. I have to move around the mountains and keep up with the athletes with 50 pounds of equipment on my back.
What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part is all the amazing places I get to travel to and the people I get to work with. It’s a fun job. What I photograph is people having fun—basically enjoying life. I’m working with people who are pretty much living their dream, so that’s a pretty fun place to be.
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