Photographers what are you doing when you don’t have an assignment?

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

“It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters.”

— Paul “Bear” Bryant

The Army’s Airborne School has training that takes place before you jump out of the plane with a parachute.

Photographers would do well to learn a few things from the military in how they approach their jobs.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

When you come out of the plane a lot of things can go wrong. On one of my son’s jumps the carabiner came loose from the parachute, he quickly grabbed the parachute and held on tight. He knew the alternative is a smaller backup parachute where you come in much faster and more prone to injury during landing.

Training had alerted him to the process and what to be aware of when he jumped.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 400, ƒ/5.6, 1/2000

To have the parachute open properly and be prepared to land on almost any type of terrain below requires preparation.

It amazes me as to how much training is involved before our armed forces actually go off to actually perform their duty in a “combat” situation.

Nikon D3s, 28-300mm, ISO 200, ƒ/5.6, 1/800

When they are not actively training there is a lot of waiting involved.

Tips from the military for the Photographer

  • Spend a lot of time getting to know your gear
  • Practice shooting assignments that are similar to those you will do for “real” later
  • Stay fit by eating right and exercising. You need physical stamina for those long day assignments
  • Expand your skills. Just like the military personnel will go for more specialized training you must also continue to add more skills to make you valuable
  • Military Camaraderie – There is nothing in the civilian workforce that can approximate the bonding that occurs in the wardroom, ready room, or foxhole. Military personnel in those environments put up with much hardship – long hours, stressful working conditions, danger to personal safety, separation from loved ones, and more. However, because they all in it together, they get through it. This mutual self-sacrifice, teamwork, and covering each other’s six contribute to individual bonding, unit cohesion, and, ultimately, the camaraderie in question. See your competition more as your colleagues rather than just competition. 
  • Military personnel understand how lack of preparation can cost them their lives and those around them. The lack of preparation for the photographer will cost them their careers.
My son is a 1st Lt in the Army and next month he goes off for Special Forces School for three weeks. If he makes it through this then he will spend the next two years training before he can call himself “Special Forces.” 
Because of his investment the military will also invest in him and give him a job for even more years. If you stagnate today in the military as soon as your contract is up you are most likely discharged. 
If you are not growing in skills as a photographer and offering more to your clients you too will be discharged and someone else will replace you with your clients.
Have you been training and preparing for your next jobs that you don’t even have assigned? If not, then don’t be disappointed when you have to find another career to pay your bills.