Friday, June 28, 2013

Robotic Snap Snap Snap, or Inspired Image Creation?

It was our regular photo club meeting—well attended as usual.  This, our monthly opportunity to see a slide show of images from the club members while a critiquer comments and makes suggestions for improvement.  As is typical for these meetings, we had two theme categories.  The first grouping of shots taken from our club's monthly outing, which in this case happened to have been the South Coast Botanical Garden.  The second themed group of images were taken in response to the assignment "Low Perspectives".  (the images I've include here were my submittals to this second category)

Our critiquer was a relatively new club member, but a long-time professional photographer--I'll call him John.  John did a great job.  He's kind, insightful, and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share, which he willingly and frequently does.  As is often the case with our various rotation of critiquers, John had something positive and encouraging to say about every single image, even those that didn't seem to have an immediate appeal.  What impressed me about John and the way he handled this was his recognition that most people need, want, and deserve that sort of encouragement otherwise they might just quit and not have the motivation to learn, try harder, and get better.  And after all, this is a hobby for most of us, and if it isn't fun, then what's the point?  Anyway, he did include some minor constructive criticism also so they got a little something to go work on.  For the “better” images, he provided some really good feedback, never being cruel, but never holding back either.   His comments contained the information you wanted/needed to hear because with it, you knew you would learn and could improve.

As the evening went on, something struck me about the two themed grouping of images.  Partly because I was looking to validate a theory, and partly because I think it was true, I noticed that the theme of Low Perspectives led to quite a number of forced images--shots you wouldn't have taken except for the need to satisfy the theme.  That’s not necessarily bad, but I think illustrates an interesting challenge that we have as photographers, and that a professional photographer has to deal with day in and day out…

That is, if you're an enthusiast or casual photographer, you have the luxury of going around and only stopping to take pictures if some catches your attention or interests you.  And when it interests you, you're typically in the mood and mindset to make the best image possible and you employ all the skills and expertise you have.  On the other hand, if you’re told (paid) to go take images of something, there's a natural tendency (which you must resist) to simple go out and snap snap snap as if you're picking up milk on a supermarket run.  Instead, you have to be creative, inventive, and imaginative, and approach assignment-photography with the same interest and passion, that is, if you want to end up with stunning and impactful images—whether that’s portraiture, sports illustrated, fashion, products, etc...

Because of that, assignment-photography is one of the best ways to help an amateur photographer get better.  It forces you to think and plan and work a scene in order to create an interesting image--a process which takes practice.  And it's in this active work mode that the best habits are formed, so that when you're out "free-styling", those same skills will be there to go along with your natural interest in the subject matter being photographed.  No more snap snap snap!

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