Plan, plan and plan some more

The great Boston photographer, Louis Fabian Bachrach Jr., known as Fabian Bachrach, passed away last week at the age of 92. (

He came from a family of photographers, most of whom worked and still work in the family business. His grandfather, who started the studio, photographed Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg!

According to the NY Times article, when John F. Kennedy was a US senator, he sat for a portrait with Bachrach. The results were what Bachrach considered unusable, which, in the words of his son, "ate on my father for months and months and months". Any commercial photographer can relate, although most not at the same level as that of photographing a US senator. But when Kennedy became president, Bachrach convinced his office to let Kennedy sit for another portrait. This time, Bachrach was kept waiting for 8 hours only to be told that the session had been cancelled. Pleading to be allowed to go ahead with the session, he was given 10 minutes, "from start to finish", as the Times article says. This 10 minute session resulted in the president's official portrait, which is arguably the most well known portrait of Kennedy. See the NY Times article and the gallery of Bachrach's work to see the photo.

There are so many lessons here, for people photographers especially. When you screw up, the first thing is to admit it to yourself and to your client, and then to get over it. Easier said than done. But you can! I have a quote from Joe McNally on my wall. You can find it in his blog post, (, look for the paragraphs that begin with "I’ve shot a lot more bad pictures than I’ll ever shoot good ones". That I read his quote periodically is closely related to one of my blogs from last week in which I talked about being the photographer you want to become. Even that phrase is a quote from another great photographer, Craig Tanner. But when you doubt yourself, step aside! Try to step away from your own person and ego for a minute and ask, what would <a photographer that I admire> do in this situation? Obviously, that person could be anyone that you admire, not necessarily another photographer.

Another lesson that I took away from the Bachrach anecdote was how necessary it is to plan. Plan, plan and plan some more. Try to envision what the situation will be like, how you will feel and how you will act and react. You need to be reacting to the environment and to the things that could not have been anticipated. You should already have thought about all of the things that you knew about beforehand. Clients don't want to wait for you to have a happy accident. The art, creativity and imagination that you bring to a commercial job begins where your technical knowledge and experience leaves off.