How Photographers Can Avoid Burnout, With Jermaine Clark

In order to maintain creativity and avoid burnout, my suggestion is to explore all the corners of it. Creating a diverse portfolio is key to not only showing your array of skill but cultivating your creative helping you ultimately thrive.

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I had the pleasure to interview Jermaine Clark. Jermaine is a professional photographer and videographer with over 10 years of experience specializing in wildlife, underwater, and portrait content.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been fortunate in my life to visit 66 countries so far. Early in my travels, I would attempt to tell friends and family about my experiences — the food, the customs, the wildlife but I found that my words fell flat, and I could never quite deliver on just how amazing the world is. When I showed pictures, even poorly captured ones, people understood more and pointed out details I hadn’t noticed. We always found a connection through the imagery and as a result I learned the strength of an image.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Something interesting happens every time I share images. It’s when I get to hear other’s perspectives and interpretations of what I’ve shot that keeps things interesting.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The funniest and saddest story that I learned from early in my career happened on a safari in Hluhluwe, South Africa. Each night, after we returned from the reserve, there would be a massive hoard of bats swarming the skies and I was determined to get a good shot.

Then one night, I sat outside a crevasse where the bats frequented and aimlessly shot. Seconds later, I got the greatest picture I had taken in my photographic career up until that point. The picture was a bat with his wings spread flying directly at me, lit from my flash, grabbing a moth in perfect focus.

I ran around showing everyone! Since I had taken hundreds of pictures, I only wanted to keep the amazing shot, so I started deleting all other pictures and singled out my prize image. I went to sleep with a sense of accomplishment that night. When I woke the next day — the image was no longer in my camera. I had accidentally deleted it. I was crushed; what I learned is NEVER delete images in camera from your memory card. Always download and backup your best images and review, edit, delete from the computer. Because we all know: “Picture or it didn’t happen”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Photography can be taught, the skills for successful social media marketing can be learned, but my company stands out because my team has curiosity — that strong desire to know or learn something. We are constantly seeking knowledge because we actually give a sh*t about helping people change narratives, capture compelling stories, and be their best selves.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

There’s pressure to put artists in siloed boxes: wildlife photographer, portrait photographer, underwater photographer…etc. but the world of photography is so expansive. In order to maintain creativity and avoid burnout, my suggestion is to explore all the corners of it. Creating a diverse portfolio is key to not only showing your array of skill but cultivating your creative helping you ultimately thrive. An easy start is creating a few Instagram accounts that show your diverse content. For instance, I use 3 different accounts to showcase my work: @j.alexander.clark is focused on wildlife, travel, and adventure photography; @thestreetshot is focused on style, street, and fashion content; @thestudioshot is focused on portraits and studio content.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’m originally from Flint, MI and we didn’t have much growing up. To provide a better life for her family, my mother decided to join the Navy. Somewhere along the way, my mother developed a curiosity for electronics and she was the one who gave me my first serious camera; a congratulations gift for getting into West Point. It was a Sony Mavica .4 Megapixel camera that actually took 1.4 MB floppy discs (about 20 times the size of an SD card). My mother invested in me and it is because of her that I am where I am today — and to her, I am grateful.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

I am working on two exciting projects that are using curated social media content to combat hate and assist in ocean conservation. Both projects are focused on the importance of education — educating the masses on diversity and the current, yet unfortunate, climate of our beautiful oceans.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I donate my work to the UN for World Ocean’s Day and offer workshops lessons to St. Jude’s hospital. I have recently started a YouTube page to share everything I’ve learned with anyone who wants to know.

Can you share “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Take Stunning Photos”. Please an example for each.

The great thing about photography is that it can be taught pretty easily. Some easy techniques that will greatly enhance your mobile photography include:

1. Get low — Typically we take pictures at eye level or above, but taking shots closer to the ground level adds a unique perspective.

2. Use The Grid — Use the grid in your settings; align your subject with the points of intersection for a better composition. On iPhones go to Settings>Camera>Grid (toggle the grid to the right — green) — while you’re in there, toggle HDR as well.

3. Move Your Feet — Most cameras don’t have an optical zoom — they have digital zoom which means they aren’t actually zooming at all — they are just cropping the original image. With an optical zoom, you can actually increase the quality of the image without moving — with a digital zoom you essentially get the same picture you would’ve gotten with no zoom at all. So, move closer to your subject and make them take up a significant part of your screen. You can crop later if need be.

4. Find Contrast — If you really want your images to “pop” you need to create a light on a dark scenario. Find areas where naturally occurring light and shadows are and play with silhouetting your subject and maximizing your phones abilities.

5. Use Diffused light — At this point, phone sensors are competing with DSLR camera sensors — and the quality of light is the only differentiator. Find places where the sun reflects or passes through objects (like under a white fruit stand, or off of a high-rise building) this will greatly increase the quality of light hiding wrinkles in faces and making people look overall better!

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think most people have a myopic view of the world which causes them to focus on the wrong things and not see how their actions accurately affect the future or their surroundings. If I could start a movement to bring the most amount of good, I would start a movement that focuses and teaches truth and empathy. As a West Point graduate, Iraq war veteran, minority, wildlife conservationist, uncle — I have met people with many different viewpoints on the world, where it’s going, and how it should be. It seems clear that there isn’t a single source of truth or common ground to build a lasting solution. Additionally, we don’t seem to care or try to empathize with those who don’t agree with us. So, my movement would highlight useful, universal, undeniable truths in an effort to build empathy and make positive change together. I would love to make content for this movement!

How can our readers follow you on social media:

YouTube: @j.alexander.clark

Instagram: @j.alexander.clark

Instagram: @thestreetshot


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