July 24, 2014
Imagine your “office” being in the open tail-gunner’s position of a B-25 Mitchell bomber, and you’re strapped in tight.
Paul Bowen, of Wichita, Kan., doesn’t have to imagine.
Bowen, a commercial photographer who specializes in aviation photography, has taken air-to-air shots in just about every plane imaginable, including his favorite, the B-25.
Yet he says he probably only spends about five days each month behind a camera, primarily shooting business aircraft for advertising or marketing purposes. The rest of the time is spent in either pre-production or post-production work.
“I may be on the computer working on images already shot, trying to drum up new business, or doing the filing and bookkeeping necessary to run a business,” Bowen says.
No two days are the same, and, not surprisingly, his favorite part of the job is actually taking photos. “I’m a problem solver,” he explains. “There is a beginning and end to each assignment, and the client or customer comes up with a problem or a need, and I determine how to achieve the highest quality photo in the timeframe and budget given.”
One of his least favorite parts of the job is the hours. “Because the light is best in the morning and evening, I do shoots prior to sunrise and during the first hour of light, or prior to sunset and just after. I’ve seen more sunrises than anyone should see.”
Bowen says while you don’t need a college degree to become a commercial photographer, he recommends you get one since the degree will make you well rounded. But other things are a must — including taking photo and Photoshop classes, viewing countless online tutorials, and practicing and analyzing photography.
“Today’s photographers are 50 percent photographers and 50 percent Photoshop technicians,” he says. “If you know what you can do with pictures after they are shot it will help you in shooting the picture originally.”
While Bowen isn’t a pilot, he did take lessons years ago. He says that helps him understand what is proper to ask the pilot to do during air-to-air photo shoots. “We always have a 30-minute briefing before we start,” he says, noting they start with the artistry of the shoot, but always stress safety. While it may look like the pilot is posing for the camera, he or she is actually looking at the chase plane, making sure that a safe distance is always maintained, Bowen says.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of photographers is projected to grow 4 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Salaried jobs may be more difficult to find as more companies contract with freelancers rather than hire their own photographers, the BLS states.
Bowen’s tips for photographing airplanes
Shooting airplanes on the ground at air shows, airports or elsewhere:
If taking photos of planes flying by at an air show or elsewhere:
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