The Adaptive Photographer

 In short, an adaptive photographer is a highly-skilled generalist with a solid understanding of light. The longer explanation is a more interesting read. Keep scrollin’.

adaptive photographer Sam D’Amico’s Photography classes were voted the Best Art Class in Washington, DC.  

What’s an Adaptive Photographer?

There’s a lot of adaptive photographers out there.

Some are professional, and some are amateur. But what they have in common is a solid understanding of light that allows them to understand what needs to be done to photograph various things.

For example, an adaptive photographer, assuming they had the appropriate equipment and understanding of technique, could photograph almost everything from architecture to zebras in the wild while they were riding in a moving safari truck.

Photojournalists, especially at smaller news publications, tend to be adaptive photographers because they’re usually asked to photograph a wide range of work under various lighting conditions. Stuff like portraits, spot news, feature stories, staged events, sports, real estate, food, etc. This is where I learned to light with a portable flash, making me a more adaptive photographer and getting me more assignments.

Ain’t an Adaptive Photographer a Jack of All Trades but a Master of None?

Absolutely not!

Most of us see mastery in the specialization of subject matter, but this isn’t what adaptive photographers do. Instead, their interests lie in understanding light.

That’s because an adaptive photographer understands what all the stuff we photograph is really about. It’s not so much about characterizing subject matter; it’s about the characteristics of light specific to the subject matter.

What adaptive photographers have going for them is that they’ve realized that we need to understand light.

Because if we understand light, we understand what we need to do with our camera to get the best pictures we can regardless of the subject we’re photographing.

It’s all about the light for adaptive photographers.

And from that understanding of light, assuming we’ve got the equipment and technique down, we can do a variety of work. 

Do Adaptive Photographers See Light Differently?

Nope. But adaptive photographers sure think about it differently.

For example, when considering a landscape to photograph, most of us see and describe the landscape as whatever physical features we see.

Maybe in the landscape, we see mountains, a fast-flowing river, with fields of brightly covered wildflowers and tall green grass that’s moving in a steady breeze.

That’s an excellent detailed observation and description of the landscape, and most of us would leave thinking about what we’re seeing at that. 

But while adaptive photographer sees and thinks about the landscapes the same way most of us do, they add some additional thought that helps them understand the light they’re working with.

For example. An adaptive photographer, since they understand what they’re seeing as a bundle of light characteristics,  would view the moving river, breeze-blown moving grass, and flowers as reflective light sources moving. Of course, the mountain would be a reflective light source, not moving. 

An adaptive photographer would tie the observed movement to the shutter speed.  Then they’d figure out which type of shutter speed would support their intended composition, faster or slower.

Of course, there’s more characteristics of light to consider in addition to movement.

Here they are in alphabetical order. We’ve got color, direction, distribution, duration, intensity, movement, and texture.

And an adaptive photographer consciously works with and thinks about those characteristics of light during camera operation and composition. 


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