Photography Q&A with Patrick Oden

Q. Describe the most common types of jobs you do for your clients.

A. Most of my current work is for commercial, institutional, and editorial clients. This really involves just about all aspects of photography however, because of the varied needs of these clients. There is also a fair amount of consulting and design work to keep me busy. My personal projects consist mostly of documentary photography, and portraiture.

Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?

A. It's the day of digital photography and cameras are easy to use. Many who profess to be photographers buy business cards before memory cards. You wouldn't call a person who owned a wrench a plumber, and likewise, it is important to check the credentials of those who call themselves photographers. A few good photos on Facebook does not insure you'll receive consistent quality. I am committed to consistently deliver images that exceed my clients expectations and am prepared for any imaging need.

Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?

A. Not so much a secret, but a little known fact: The time spent shooting represents only a small amount of the time spent on any assignment. There is client consultation, scouting, research, preplanning, shooting, post production and finally the print or digital presentation of the image. A three hour photo shoot may require 10 hours in total from start to finish of the process.

Q. What questions should a consumer ask to hire the right service professional?

A. Everyone who has ever picked up a camera has had a "happy accident." A few images displayed online does not adequately represent a photographer's ability. A client should investigate the photographer's experience and credentials, look at a larger body of the photographers work, and if the client feels it necessary, they should ask for references.

Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?

A. The client should have a clear understanding of their need as it pertains to the end product. This can be uncharted waters for a lot of clients and I am always happy to help a client sift through the minutia.

Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?

A. My studies for my MA in editorial photography and picture editing focused a great deal on how the mind and eye work together to read visuals. When I photograph, I do not merely take a picture, but rather construct an image with depth and with great attention to detail. This combined with my thorough understanding of light, and my ability to capture the decisive moment, makes my photography stand out amongst my peers.

Q. What do you like most about your job?

A. The thing I like most about my job is the variety. Each assignment brings new faces and new situations. Rising to the challenges presented by the varied nature of photography is very fulfilling to me and I take great pride in being able to take on any type of photographic assignment masterfully. The consulting and designer hats I also wear insure things are never routine.

Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?

A. Most questions I receive are about cost and scheduling. I once heard a quote; "There is nothing that a man can't produce of a lesser quality and sell for a lower price, and those who consider price alone are that man's lawful prey." The message in that quote for me is that price and value are two very different things. I encourage my clients to consider exactly what their needs are and what they are receiving for their money. My price isn't always the lowest, but I am confident I will represent the best value to my clients.

Q. Do you have a favorite story from your work?

A. I have many stories, but my favorite isn't so much a story as a period of time. I'm a big basketball fan and the time I spent shooting NBA basketball was an awesome experience. While I was always careful to maintain a professional decorum, I felt like a kid at Christmas.

Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?

A. I wish clients had a better understanding of copyright and licensing. I gladly spend as much time as needed to help my clients navigate and understand both areas.

Q. How did you decide to get in your line of work?

A. I was introduced to photography at age 13, by Washington, D.C. photographer and family friend Dennis Kan. I never shook the love of the image. Initially I deciding to pursue a career as a photojournalist, but I quickly saw the need to be more well-rounded due to the shifting state of print media. I returned to do my MA in visual communications with an emphasis on editorial photography and a cognate in picture editing and publication design. Being a photojournalist requires me to be able to shoot just about everything and these roots have been of tremendous value in becoming so versatile.

Q. Tell us about a recent job you did that you are particularly proud of.

A. I recently spent 10 days in Memphis doing a 26-page magazine spread for a travel magazine. It allowed me to photograph food, musicians, street life, and architecture. I also got to make some wonderful environmental portraits and interview some interesting people.

Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?

A. In terms of continuing education, I attend several conferences and events each year and I belong to several professional ordinations as well. I also maintain close contact and discuss the industry with my peers. This group includes many famous photographers and Pulitzer Prize winners. I am fortunate to have these friends and we rely on each other to stay at the top of our profession.

Q. What are the latest developments in your field? Are there any exciting things coming in the next few years or decade that will change your line of business?

A. Photography has been going through a bit of a rapid evolution with the onset of digital cameras and the internet. Social media and digital publishing will continue to grow. Never before have we seen a time where so many photographs are produced and shared on a daily basis with such a large audience.

Q. Describe your most recent project, what it involved, how much it cost, and how long it took.

A. I always have a personal project or two in the works.

Q. How do you structure your pricing?

A. My pricing is quite varied based on they type of client and use of the images. My pricing is based on time, expense and usage. I provide a very clearly broken down estimate to all clients.

Q. If you were advising someone who wanted to get into your profession, what would you suggest?

A. Take your time and learn all you can. The temptation with digital photography is to jump right in. It is important to understand the fundamentals of photography before attempting to get in too deep. There is a tremendous amount to learn before one becomes a skilled photographer and taking classes or working with a mentor is the best way to develop a solid foundation.

Q. What is your greatest strength?

A. My greatest general strength has to be my versatility. I've worked very hard to build a skill set that allows me to take most projects from concept to completion. Our clients really seem to appreciate not having to hire five different people to get a project handled.  As it pertains to photography in general, I am best known for my use of light and ability to capture decisive moments in an intimate manner.

Q. What are you currently working on improving?

A. Growth is never ending. With each new assignment comes an opportunity to learn and grow. It would be foolish for anybody to think they had nothing left to learn.