This image was not created during the normal course of a self-assignment. The original image was "commissioned" by me, while working on a different image for my portfolio. It was then licensed to a client, who had it digitally altered to show a damaged engine intake. Which begs the larger question...do photographers create images for themselves while creating images for clients? Most will admit to having done so. If this is the case, is this somehow cheating your client, or taking away from what is the job at hand? Not in the least...
Let me explain. Many years ago, I attended a lecture given by Jay Maisel, arguably one of the most talented corporate photographers of the last century. Fortunately, Jay is still around, and still making images. He told a story of how he handled an impromptu situation as he worked on an annual report in San Francisco. While on board a helicopter going to a shoot location early one morning, they came across a beautiful scene of the Golden Gate Bridge enveloped in fog, except for the towers. Even though it might make them a few minutes late for the job, Jay asked the pilot to turn around, so he could make some images. The art director mentioned that it might throw them off schedule, and, Jay being Jay, put it to him this way: "I can make these images now, or I can be pissed off all day long because we didn't...your call."
He made the images, and worked his fanny off the rest of the day, making images for the client…and the client was happy with the result. The point is that, as a professional image maker, Jay recognized the "once in a lifetime" situation, and "Made the Shot".
There are times when a photographer feels "compelled" to deviate from the assignment, even though it's not in the script, so to speak. It's part of who we are, as image makers, to want to make great art, and there are times when it's almost a compulsion to shoot something, because we recognize that the light is fading, the composition is changing, the gesture fleeting...
I can't tell you how many times I've made an image in my head, without a camera. After many years of being a photographer, it's virtually impossible to turn it off, this compulsion to "see". The act of pushing the shutter button is largely mechanical, because we've already made the image...in our head.
So is this cheating the client? No, as long as it doesn't get out of hand, I don't think so, and here's why. It keeps us sharp, it keeps us involved in "seeing", it keeps us "tuned in" to our environment. It's like a knife that is constantly being honed, ready for the next task.
This is beneficial for our clients, because that's what they hire us for…to capture images no one else sees.