PPA member and 30-year professional photography veteran, Fuzzy Duenkel, M.Photog.Cr., quips that he teaches photographers to "make light of bad situations" in his seminars and workshops. And on May 12, 2010, Detroit-area photographers can take advantage of the condensed version of this lighting expert's presentation when the PPA Tour pulls into Motor City.
And that reminds Fuzzy of the times when he first began teaching. "Then, I worried about having enough to say in a two-hour seminar," he says. "Now, I worry about how to fit two days of information into the time we'll have with the PPA Tour attendees."
So if you're looking for instruction on lighting, there are no worries about getting your money's worth. Fuzzy says his presentation will focus on varieties of lighting and, more importantly, ambient light control on location, an area where most photographers need guidance. "Every session is different, and you can't ever completely control the situation," explains Duenkel. "As professional photographers, we need to learn to master lighting in a variety of scenarios with additive, subtractive and accent lighting strategies."
Finding Your Niche
Fuzzy believes lighting is an area that has gotten less attention than it deserves in recent years. "Many of today's photographic seminars focus on marketing, AdobeÂ® PhotoshopÂ® techniques and other skills. Of course, photographers need to be skilled in those, but one of the most basic characteristics of photographic quality is the proper use of light. What is photography other than the manipulation of light?" asks Duenkel.
As passionate as he is about his craft today, Fuzzy wasn't always sold on photography as a career. "I started shooting weddings in 1975 as a fun way to make money off my hobby, but the bug didn't really bite hard until another guy in town hung out a shingle and a friendly competition started between us."
Over the course of a few years, Fuzzy parlayed that competitive streak into a unique style that had potential clients seeking him out... and that's one of the pieces of advice he gives to professional photographers just starting their career. "Pick a style of photography and specialize in it. Become known in your area for it," says Duenkel. "Decide what moves you emotionally and go become an expert in that specialty. The field of photography doesn't need more generalists. We need people who can specialize and be experts at their chosen niche."
Photography: Easy to Get In. Hard to Stay In.
Fuzzy says his counsel to aspiring photographers has changed in the last few years : "What we tell a photographer today is different than five or 10 years ago." It used to be harder to establish yourself as a photographer, but digital changed that, according to Duenkel. Now, he says, it's easy to get into photography, but hard to stay in. "Finding a niche and developing a strong foundation of skills in the elements of quality photography--lighting, posing, skillful retouching--these are the things that will help today's aspiring photographers succeed over the long term."
Competition and Camaraderie: Two Keys to Success
Fuzzy also recommends that people new to the profession form relationships with mentors and get involved in photographic associations. "PPA is the gold standard, from the national organization to state and local affiliates. Each offers something different, but all provide camaraderie and learning opportunities," says Duenkel. "You'll never be able to become a self-taught expert in photography. You are always going to need mentors, colleagues, competitions and education to continually improve."
Speaking of competition, Fuzzy strongly encourages photographers of all ages and stages to compete early and often. "I owe a lot of my success to competition," he says. "I was afraid of it at first, but the point is not to enter something perfect...the point is to learn. There's nothing more helpful than having other accomplished photographers critiquing your work."
Detroit-area photographers can hear much more of Fuzzy's instruction on lighting and his advice about operating a successful studio at the PPA Tour in Detroit on May 12. And if you'd like to see Fuzzy speak in another city, visit his website (www.duenkel.com) for more information about upcoming seminars and workshops.
About Fuzzy Duenkel, M.Photog.Cr.
Fuzzy started entering prints in the Wisconsin Professional Photographers Association competition in 1993. In that and subsequent competitions, Fuzzy has had numerous prints selected for the National Traveling Loan Collection, Epcot Center, exhibitions in Germany, Korea, and the International Hall of Fame and Museum in Oklahoma. Fuzzy has been Wisconsin PPA Photographer of the Year twice, Wisconsin Senior Photographer of the Year twelve times, Photographer of the Year for the Southeastern Wisconsin Professional Photographers Association three times, and is a five-time Senior Photographers International "Photographer of the Year" and SPA Artist of the Year. Fuzzy has had numerous articles published in national magazines, and the Duenkels have been featured speakers at conventions and seminars in over 40 states (most of them multiple times).