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Chris Carlson has done photography in more than 40 different countries covering some of the world’s greatest sporting and political events. He’s been involved in the business a long time but attributes his consistency and reliability to be one of the keys to his success. Learn how to just show up in Episode 49 of the Defining Success Podcast.
Chris Carlson has been a staff photographer at the AP in Southern California for the past 6 years, Prior to that, he has been on the staff of the Orange County Register where he shared a Pulitzer Prize for coverage. During his career, he has been on assignment in over 40 countries.
Chris’s family was in the newspaper business. Early on he realized his spelling was so bad that the only way he could stay in the newspaper business was by becoming a photographer. Like any field you get into, you have to hone your craft. Chris was very lucky to work with people who were very skilled. Many people took Chris under his wing and helped develop him into a world class photographer.
When Chris started in photography, there was a huge delay between the time he took a picture and the time he had it developed. In some cases it was several hours. Now, photographers know very quickly whether or not they have shot something great or not and they have the ability to take more if they are not happy with what they’ve shot. Twenty years ago photographers were not as lucky because if they took bad shots, they would not be able to recognize this until hours later and in some cases this meant the opportunity was gone for good.
In photojournalism, they have deadlines and now the deadlines have sped up excessively.
One thing that Chris thinks many people in photography may not realize is the way that professional photographers are able to effectively use lighting to create a better picture. The average person would be able to look at a picture and say it’s beautiful, but the professional photographer would be able to understand why the picture looks beautiful. A good photographer can take any situation and make it look like it was shot with photo studio lighting.
Some people get into journalism because they want to get into the world. Chris got into journalism because he wanted to see the world. Being a photographer has given Chris the opportunity to see how the world has unfolded before him.
One of the best assignments Chris ever had was the 2007 U.S. Open where Tiger Woods won in a 19 hole playoff and watching him make a put on the 18th hole to force a playoff was probably the most exciting thing he had ever seen. Watching the crowd react and watching Tiger’s reaction and seeing how competitive that day was was amazing. And he felt very fortunate that photography was the vehicle that gave him the opportunity to witness the experience in person.
A lot of pressure comes from being a photographer. Chris works hard to capture special moments, but sometimes many factors can contribute to the missing of a moment which can be lost and gone forever if he doesn’t capture it as it’s happening. The stress of capturing these events can be a burden. Over time the stress of having to capture that one moment can weigh on you a bit.
Chris attributes his success to luck, good decisions, hard work and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, something happens that you couldn’t plan for and in his case he feels very lucky. Somebody once told Chris that a key to success is just showing up. If you show up and do work you’re already ahead of your competition. He looks at his colleagues that are very successful, he sees that it’s because they have a very strong work ethic.
One of the biggest mistake Chris has made was that he didn’t know if he enjoyed it enough in his time. He wonders if when he retires if he’s going to say that he enjoyed it enough while he was doing it.
Working at the Associated Press, Chris feels fortunate that they cover big stories and the one event Chris wants to go to that he hasn’t yet is the Masters Golf Tournament. Every year Chris covers the Kraft-Nabisco women’s golf tournament events which conflicts with the Masters, but he hopes he can make it to the Masters.
Chris has done countless brush fires, earthquakes, civil unrest. He was on the presidential campaign with President Obama and he’s done the Iowa Caucus and recommends that if anyone has an interest in politics that they should visit Iowa during that time because they are all very knowledgeable about politics.
If you’re interested in becoming a photographer you need to decide what kind of photography you’d like to do and then position yourself to be able to do that. Sometimes it means starting at the high school level and hone your skills to build up to the big time. Photography is incredibly competitive and in order to be successful you must love photography and if you have a good work-ethic, you’ll have a chance to be a good photographer.
When they started introducing digital cameras, your competition grew and the ability to make a living in photography is a lot tougher than it used to be.
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh
Engaging Discussion Questions:
- What does it take to make a great picture?
- How important do you think being reliable is to business?
- Would people say you just show up?
Links to Great Stuff:
AP Images – “AP Images gives you access to the world’s largest collections of historical and contemporary photographs, so you have all the imagery you need, right when you need it. AP’s timely, powerful and informative images cover topics ranging from breaking news and sports to business, entertainment, weather, fashion, travel, royalty-free, rights-managed, microstock and more. You can purchase the images you need immediately on our site or set up a subscription service with your sales representative. And with our new API delivery method, you get images in a more flexible, fast and reliable way, within your own interface. AP’s Assignment & Publicity Services is also ready to assist you with start-to-finish planning, execution and distribution for all your promotional needs.”
The International Center of Photography – “The International Center of Photography (ICP) is the world’s leading institution dedicated to the practice and understanding of photography and the reproduced image in all its forms. Through our exhibitions, educational programs, and community outreach, we offer an open forum for dialogue about the role images play in our culture. Since our founding, we have presented more than 500 exhibitions and offered thousands of classes, providing instruction at every level. ICP is a center where photographers and artists, students and scholars can create and interpret the world of the image within our comprehensive educational facilities and archive.”
MSNBC – Pictures of the Week – “NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative and powerful news brands that deliver compelling, diverse and visually engaging stories on your platform of choice. NBC News Digital features world-class brands including NBCNews.com, tv.msnbc.com, TODAY.com, theGrio.com, NBCLatino.com, NBCPolitics.com, Nightly News, Meet the Press, Rock Center, Dateline, Newsvine, Breaking News, and the existing apps and digital extensions of these respective properties. We provide something for every news consumer with our comprehensive offerings that deliver the best in breaking news, segments from your favorite NBC News shows, live video coverage, original journalism, lifestyle features, commentary and local updates. NBC News Digital reaches an audience of more than 58 million unique visitors who generate more than 1.2 billion page views and 140 million online video streams each month.”
New York Times – Lens Blog – “Photography, Visual and Video Journalism.”
- “Success is balancing my career, my family life, my social life and my future.”
- “I got into journalism because I wanted to see the world.”
- “The one thing that separates amateur photographers from professional photographers is the way they handle light.”
- “Photography is about capturing the moment.”
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by Robert Hanashiro