Photography: Andrew Houser
One of the great things about the new photography world is that each new entrant brings with them not just enthusiasm for digital photography and a willingness to learn and experiment, but also the skills and knowledge they picked up in their old jobs.
That’s likely to influence their image-taking. Andreas Reinhold, for example, is an engineer by day but his love of photography has led him to create a second career for himself as a car photographer, regularly winning commissions from leading auto publications. Andres Rodriguez was a Web designer. Now as one of the world’s highest-earning microstock photographers, he creates the images that thousands of other designers use every day.
Photographers Just Push Buttons
That additional knowledge is something that Andrew Houser has used to his benefit too. A Web programmer by profession, Andrew had experimented with film photography after high school but hadn’t been impressed. In fact, he came to the odd conclusion that photographers did little more than push a button, never producing anything of their own. It was only when he picked up a simple point-and-shoot digital camera that he became hooked, quickly upgrading to a prosumer model and finally to his first Nikon D-SLR.
“There was such a lag between when I took the shot and when I saw the results [on film] that learning that way was nearly impossible and certainly not enjoyable,” Andrew explained. “Digital has changed all that for us and photographers are much more involved after the shutter has exposed the image.”
Today, Andrew shoots a mixture of landscape photography, portraits, fine art and nudes, as well as long exposure for fun and development. He’s been earning from his images for about two years and offers prints and commissions through his website.
Photography: Andrew Houser
What helps Andrew stand out as a photographer though — and become well-known — is a combination of his love of looking at beautiful images and his knowledge of coding.
In addition to creating outstanding images, he’s also the creator of FlickrLeech, a way of avoiding Flickr’s clunky search engine. Users can search favorites, sets, groups, specific member’s images and even the whole site bringing up as many as 200 thumbnails on a single page. Best of all for photographers like Andrew keen on seeing and learning from other great images, FlickrLeech also offers 500 thumbnails at a time when exploring photos that Flickr’s algorithm has marked up for their “Interestingness.” That’s a vast improvement on the handful that Flickr offers on its own site.
“I found that being able to see only ten photos at a time, I had to click through 50 pages to see everything,” Andrew told us. “What’s worse, because the algorithm behind Interestingness is dynamic, it meant that sometimes I’d change pages and an image that was on page 3 was now on page 4. Even worse, I could miss some images as they moved up the list before I viewed them. Being a programmer as well as a photographer, I decided it would be great if I could take a snapshot of all 500 images at once and not miss anything.”
The response, says Andrew, has been generally positive despite complaints from some photographers that FlickrLeech steals images (a charge Andrew refutes). The tool, which in its first incarnation took just two evenings on the sofa to create (the latest version took two weeks), makes clever use of Flickr’s API to enable photographers to find the best photos on the site and improve their own picture-taking by looking at the best new uploads.
Skills that Make Friends… and Make you Stand Out
That makes Andrew a friend to other photography-lovers (or at least to those who recognized that FlickrLeech only displays images without swiping them) and an important member of the online photography community. It might also make him a friend – and well-known — though to image users looking for photos to buy and hoping to use a system that can dramatically cut their search time.
Andrew, of course, didn’t create FlickrLeech for any of those reasons. He did it because he didn’t like the way that Flickr displayed images on the Explore page and thought he could use his skills to create something better. But that was true of Andreas Reinhold too, who simply liked cars and cameras… and now finds his images on the covers of magazines.
The point is that that anyone who comes into photography from another profession brings with them a set of skills that gives them a unique advantage. You don’t have to use those skills with the goal of winning a benefit but you might well find that when you do use them in the world of photography, you get to enjoy those benefits anyway.