photographs

Is a Photograph Made or Taken?

Ansel Adams You Dont Take a Photograph You Make it.jpg

In the words of the amazing Ansel Adams... “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”.  I truly do not believe that just anyone can make a photograph.

Just the language used in that phrase right there seems to be a big topic of discussion among photographers. There are some from each school of thought. Some would say that “anybody” can take a photograph and others seem to be of the mind that a photograph is “made”.

Perhaps, depending on the moment or instance, some are made and some are taken. When I think of a photograph being taken, it makes me think of a snapshot or a cell phone shot. That’s just me though. I think as professional photographers, we “make” photographs.

When talking about making a photograph, there are so many factors that go into the “making” a photograph.  It’s more in depth, things like: thought, time of day, subject, camera settings, composition, post production (and perhaps one of THE MOST important things) LIGHT and LIGHTING.  All of these things go into making a photograph. It is all about the photographer’s vision and that’s where it all starts, with the vision!

Regardless of how you view it or think of it, I guess it is up to the individual to interpret their idea/thought on the subject of taking or making a photograph. I was just curious as to people’s thoughts and take on it so I thought I would write it down to perhaps spark a conversation.

Putting Yourself Out There - Showing Your Work

For me this was one of my biggest struggles when I was first starting out as a photographer and believe me it was an ongoing inner battle, I was nervous!  What will other people think of my work? Will they say it sucks? Will they like it?

I was THAT guy who would only show my work to friends and family and of course the feedback was always good, which in hindsight was more of a hindrance than help when I look back on it now.  Showing your work to your family and friends is one thing, they are not going to tell you your work sucks are they? They are going to say the things they think you want to hear which doesn’t benefit you in any way, shape or form.

It’s very tough to put yourself out there, seemingly on display and sharing your work with a bunch of strangers. You feel vulnerable, naked and alone!  After all, this is something you created from scratch you put your heart and soul into this. Everybody is a critic, everyone has something to say. It takes a lot of courage. You are worried about being judged, what will everyone say about you’re work, I get it! You are going to get deflated and knocked down but you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and grab your camera and make more photographs.

You have to reach way down within and find the courage to get your work seen.  Get as many eyes on it as possible!  That way you find out what you need to work on and know which areas you need to improve.  There will always be areas you can improve on even after years of being a photographer and just as in regular life you are NEVER EVER finished learning.

One of my past photography teachers reached out to me recently and we were talking and he said: “…as artists, we thrive on encouragement. It's like the tide, when it's in it feels good and when it’s out, it can be damn lonely!” His words rang in my head for days afterwards. This really struck a chord in me and if you are reading this right now, you know who you are. Thank you for all your words of encouragement as of late, they mean a lot to me.

So people don’t give up!  Keep consistently putting your work out there. Yes, it is definitely not an easy thing to do but it IS necessary!

 

Photo courtesy of Linda Langerak

Male Boudoir Photographers - It's NOT a Man's World

Now I am fairly new to boudoir photography and when I say new I mean I have done a handful of shoots.  I know there are lots of guys out there who aren’t photographers at all but think wow that is so cool and what a great gig that would be. Believe me I have even heard that from a few friends. You get to photograph half naked women in lingerie, look at sexy women all day and so on. While yes this is true I photograph women in lingerie this is not what it’s all about for me, not at all!

When I am shooting a session I am not even thinking about how sexy the woman is or anything like that because I am too busy focusing on posing her.  I am making sure the lighting works for the shot and ensuring my camera settings are correct in order to make certain I get the shot as close to perfect “in camera” as possible. I really don’t have time to be concerned about the other stuff especially when I am in the zone shooting, interacting with my subject.

I know that some people would balk at that and say I am bullshitting and it must be at least part of the intrigue and interest but it really isn’t. In all honesty for me it is truly about making the women who get in front of my camera feel comfortable in their own skin.  Feel beautiful, help them build their confidence, help them love their bodies.  Ultimately I want them to be happy with the images/art I create for them and if I can do that for EVERY woman that gets in front of my camera then I know I have done my job as a photographer.  I will have helped another person to realize their self-worth and beauty and that my friends is the icing on the proverbial cake!

Print Portfolios - How Important Are They?

In today’s world where ease of access, instant gratification and convenience are king, it’s very easy to get caught up and even lost in the digital world. I have been asked many times: “Do you have an online presence?”, “Do you have a portfolio we can look at online?” Yes I do have a website not unlike most people in our business do and I have some work in other places that could be considered a portfolio. Normally when I get asked these questions, it is usually by people who are looking to see a sample of my work in order to jury it to make a decision for a show or a magazine submission. Now in this type of situation it makes perfect sense because it’s quick and incredibly convenient. This is usually the way I roll when it comes to portfolios. A printed portfolio was always more, maybe I should put one together one day. I never really gave it much weight that is until very recently.
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a friend of mine and he asked me if I had ever given any thought to trying to get my art into some corporate spaces. To be honest, the thought had crossed my mind previously but just as fast as it entered, it was gone again. He told me I should give it some serious thought because he had a place in mind for my work. He just so happened to have some high level contacts and said he would be happy to send along an email to attempt to facilitate a meeting for me. Well that was all I needed to hear and I thought why not! Nothing ventured, nothing gained! I immediately told him YES! Let’s see what happens.
The very next day I was copied on an email from my friend to an Executive explaining how he knew a photographer whose work he thought would fit in well in their workplace. Three days later, I received an email with a request for a meeting to show him my portfolio. I was ecstatic, over the moon excited and a bundle of nerves all at once. I knew I had but this one opportunity to rock this meeting and really make it count so everything had to be perfect! I was only going to get one shot at making an impression so I had to ensure I left one hell of a good one! Right away the thought came to me! I have to present a printed portfolio for this one. I replied back with a date which was a couple of weeks away which would afford me the time needed to get this whole thing put together.
That night I went home and immediately got to work on selecting my images - which ended up initially being nineteen but got whittled down to a final ten - which I would send off to be printed. Fast forward a week and there I was with these images in my hands. Wow, what a very different feeling. Actually having the tactile feel of physical images in my hands. It took me back to my film and darkroom days. I immediately went to work placing them into my brand new portfolio book. When I was finished, I stood there and looked at the images this way and I felt proud in that moment to have something like this in my hands that I could call “MY” portfolio.
In my opinion, a printed portfolio goes a long way and speaks volumes. It shows you take pride in your work and care to take that extra step to ensure you leave a lasting impression. Not every situation calls for this type of investment but at some point you will encounter it in your career and I strongly urge you to follow through and make the investment in print, you will be glad you did!

The Importance of Printing Your Work - Preserving Memories

As photographers, printing our work is or at least should be a big part of what we do for ourselves AND of course our clients. In my humble opinion, preserving in print the work we create is a necessity. Photographs are meant to be seen on paper not on a screen. Remember the days of film photography? That is all we had. Shoot your images on film. Take that film into the darkroom and watch your images come to life on a piece of photo paper right in front of your eyes. It was like magic! If you didn’t have access to a dark room, you would just drop your images off at the lab to be processed then headed back in a few days to pick up your images. The excitement you felt when opening up that envelope that contained your images…ohhh the anticipation and excitement! It was a tangible thing. You could touch it, feel it AND look at it. There is something almost romantic about a printed image. You just can’t quite recreate that film look when you are shooting digitally. One could say printing emancipates your photographs!
Nowadays we just take the memory card out of our cameras, slide it into the slot on our computers and start browsing the images in the program of our choice for viewing/editing. You can just edit your images in a program on the computer, export it, attach it to an email and send it off to whomever you want. You can also share your image with hundreds/thousands of others by simply throwing that digital file onto the Internet and instantly have an audience. Digital photography is incredibly convenient for sure but it’s not the same.
There is still something to be said for physically holding in your hands a moment captured in time that was printed on photo paper. To be able to see something you created hanging on a wall framed and in print...you just can’t beat that feeling it gives you. To be able to stand back and admire that gives you an indescribable feeling.

Is Photography Real Anymore?

When we look at something or a scene, our eyes interpret and tell the brain what we are seeing is real…or is it? When it comes to photography, has the advancement of technology over the years done something to possibly alter this perception?
Let’s be honest, it’s next to impossible to determine the authenticity of a photograph in terms of whether or not it is a composite of multiple images. With the level of skill some people possess in Photoshop, it’s incredibly difficult to establish what’s genuine and what’s not.
How far can a photographer take an image and alter it before it is no longer considered a photograph in the true sense of the word? What is acceptable? Is there such a thing as taking a photograph past a certain point in terms of editing before it is no longer a true photograph? Who, if anyone is the person to determine such a thing?
I know there are photography contests or competitions that will not accept images that have been manipulated or composited but what is considered taking it past the point of a “true” photograph? Is using filters, pre-sets and textures in Lightroom or Photoshop or even dodging and burning in these editing software programs considered acceptable?
Think back to the photography of the great Ansel Adams, he used the dodge and burn method in the darkroom when he was shooting, as did many great photographers that came after him. Hell, even when I first started out in photography, I was shooting film and used the dodge and burn method when developing my photographs in the darkroom.
Surely these methods of editing cannot be considered altering an image to an unacceptable form of photography but everyone has their opinion as to what they consider a photograph. Each photographer is undoubtedly going to interpret a scene differently than the next. Just because mine may be completely different from yours doesn’t make it any less of a “photograph” than yours.

 

Image courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Photographers - Stop Obsessing and Get Out There and Shoot

As the saying goes…. There is more than one way to skin a cat, meaning there are several possible ways of doing something.

Now I am going to go out on a limb here and say this saying applies to learning. Everybody learns or absorbs information in different ways. I personally learn through reading, listening and making very detailed notes which I can refer back to later when putting it into practice. I have found over time this is the best method for me to learn how to do something.

I think I can safely speak for the majority of people or at least a large number of people when I say the best way to learn is through good old fashioned hands on training or experience. So when it comes to photography, yes you do have to learn the technical aspects of the craft and your tool which can be done by reading or classes to get a general understanding but if you don’t put it into practice, you aren’t going to fully learn it. Don’t get caught up too much in the technical particulars of photography. You have to get out there and just shoot.

Sitting on your ass and reading about or watching training videos and attending photography seminars is all well and good but nothing beats getting out there with camera in hand and playing around with the camera, experimenting, putting the things you have learned into practice. It’s all meaningless if you aren’t doing something with your new found knowledge.

The more you shoot and experiment, the better the photographer you will become. Stop obsessing over the technical and the training videos and get out there and SHOOT!