A lot of rapid progress can come in your photography when you integrate it with the other things you do in life.
Photography can seem to be a very distinct activity in our lives. We shoot on social occasions, vacation, and on deliberate photo trips (such as my long trips into the country to shoot landscapes) or for work as a portrait or event photographer. But it is rare to find someone who only has one thing as their entire life focus or as their only ability.
Many of us have hobbies in other areas than photography. We may be into model trains, wargaming, historical recreation, quilting, sewing, gardening, cooking, cars, spiritual practices, social work, model making or whatever.
Any other activity we are involved in, either for hobby or work, can not only provide subject matter for our photography but may also bring talents that can be applied in our photography. Let’s have a look at some people doing just this.
David Leventhal has moved from shooting toy soldiers, cowboy and Indian figurines, religious statues and sports models to adult toys. Using shallow depth of field and a large-format Polaroid camera, he creates dioramas that explore American culture. The result is a strong body of work that has achieved great success.
David Lambert mixes a passion for the landscape and environmental concerns with an ability to create model landscapes in a series of works with a strong conceptual basis and great visuals.
Edward Weston’s Pepper image from 1930 should inspire any photographer with an interest in cooking or vegetable gardening to start shooting some of their vegetables before, while, or after they are in the pot.
Anyone who has burned a lot of incense will have seen the amazing patterns the smoke makes in the air. Why not try photographing this, as Mehmet Ozgur did.
I hope you are starting to get the idea. No matter what your other interests, professional or hobby, you can apply them to photography.
If you are a passionate computer game player, set up the camera pointing at the screen, set a long exposure, and capture the movement as dynamic blurs.
A skateboarder could tape on a suitable camera to their board, set to take a picture every five seconds and shoot while in action. Similarly an amateur rally driver or off-roader could affix a camera securely to the car and capture action shots.
Someone with great people-handling skills, such as a psychologist or sales person, could persuade people to pose in unusual ways or in challenging situations.
A lab technician or scientist could take great images of equipment setups in the lab.
A mother could choose to document suburban life, do abstract shots in the supermarket, or serve as an event photographer at their kid’s activities.
A student could create great images of other students or abstracts of study materials or even books in the library.
It is when you draw diverse things together that you have the opportunity to make some unique creative choices. While lots of people shoot landscapes, how many shoot model landscapes seriously? There are many who shoot flowers, how many shoot flowers with bugs from their bug collection? While many shoot insect macros, how many do so using the endoscopy equipment that doctors use?
When you combine very different areas you limit your competition, making it more likely for you to get noticed. You also end up seeing images in situations that no one else does, thus sharing your unique vision with the world.
So try combining your interests. Your life will be easier when you can share time on several passions and your work will have a unique quality.
Do most of your images start with pre-visualization? Or experimentation? Do you only work only one way or the other? Or do you swing both ways, photographically speaking?
Pre-visualization is big in the arts. In your mind, you see beforehand what you want to show, capture or create and then you set out to do so. Pre-visualization can occur in a momentary flash of inspiration or slowly develop over a long period of time. (The image on the right was created through previsualization.)
Experimentation is a sophisticated term for play. Photographically, it means simply doing for the sake of doing, and then seeing what the results are later. Play can be deeply focused, totally absorbing your attention for awhile. Or, play can be sporadic and interrupted. Whatever form experimentation takes, it’s still play.
Pre-visualization is a result-oriented approach. You envision the end result and then set out to make your vision real.
Experimentation is process oriented. You are absorbed in the process and care little for the end result because the result is essentially a byproduct of the process. (The image shown below was created through experimentation.)
Despite what some photographers might tell you, there is no right or wrong way. It depends partly on your personality and how you think. Some personality types are best suited to only one way of working and thinking. Others will be able to choose or change how they work depending on their moods or circumstances.
Personally, I think it is good if you can work both ways. So if you have a strong tendency to only pre-visualize or only to experiment, try to develop the other way too. The value comes from the fact that the two different ways of working are not really that far apart. Pre-visualization can be regarded as experimentation ‘in the head.’ When you experiment (play), you try different things, examine the results, and choose what worked best for you. In pre-visualization all this still happens, but it happens in your mind before you go near the camera, computer or darkroom.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Experimentation: Let go of any expectations about future results. Allow yourself to become totally absorbed in the moment. Shoot with different settings, lenses, and angles just for the sake of the trying it, not for what you hope to get. This in-the-moment thinking can be difficult because results-oriented thinking has become so ingrained in us as business people. So, expect to keep pulling yourself back from considering future results and quieting that internal evaluative voice.
Pre-visualization: Develop the final image in your head before you even pick up your camera. This process may be so quick that you are not conscious of all the stages that occur. But there are still stages. It usually starts with a brainstorming period during which you generate a number of ideas. During the evaluative stage that follows you consider the results of brainstorming stage, editing and eliminating some ideas. A development process of fine-tuning can follow the idea-evaluation stage. In the end, you have a pretty clear picture in your mind of the image your want to create. The issue then becomes a matter of using your photography and image-editing skills to translate the image in your head into an image or print.
Give both methods of working a go and you will find that there is a time and place for both in your photography. Both can be extremely productive and creative and either can be the key to getting yourself to that next level of creative output.
I know that in my case, I was interested in nature photography. But I spent quite a bit of time working with a variety of subjects before deciding it was landscape and macro photography that I wanted to concentrate on. I have a great deal of admiration for wildlife photographers, and love to view their work, but I don’t have the patience to do it myself. So, having decided what interested me the most, I wanted to find what it was that made for a successful photograph.
Along with reviewing work from other photographers that I admire, I made sure to take the time to find what it was about a scene that attracted me to the scene to begin with, and how to turn the image I had in my head to one on paper.
If you haven’t taken the time to find what draws you to pick up a camera, whether it’s for pleasure or profit, I suggest going through your existing images to look for trends. Do you see a pattern developing in your shots?
Once you start to identify these patterns or trends you can begin to concentrate on improving your compositions with an eye toward defining your own style. Hey, it worked for Ansel!
Welcome to the 21st-Century world of amateur and professional photography. Many things have changed, but some have not. Getting published in a national magazine seems to be as much of a goal for photographers as ever. The founders of JPG magazine understand that ambition.
There is something grand about seeing your image and byline published in a quality magazine. Also, how many of us photographers use equipment that we love, and feel the need to share our enthusiasm with the rest of the world?
JPG magazine is published by 8020 publishing and it brings the best photos from an online community to print. About 35,000 copies are printed and are sold through subscriptions ($25/yr) or on newsstands ($6/copy) such as those at Borders and Barnes & Noble bookstores.
The premise is simple. JPG members sign up for an account and shoot, upload, and submit images. Then, a peer community comments and votes on each image and story. Editors create the issue with the final selection of the best of the best. Contributors get $100 and a free subscription.
Issues have themes ranging from Democracy to The Fanatic, Fashion to The Self. The early issues were actually printed by LuLu.com and are still available on demand.
The story behind JPG Magazine is very interesting, particularly because the innovative concept of printing the best content from the web arose at a time when many traditional magazines were under pressure to build strong online counterparts to complement their printed editions. As more and more people started turning to the web for their news and information, some analysts are questioning how long print publications will be able to survive.
JPG Magazine has proven that solid opportunities exist for publishers who think differently. JPG Magazine started in 2005 when Derek Powazek and Heather Powazek Champ saw how many high-quality images were appearing on photo-sharing sites such as Flickr. From those roots, the idea to use reader-generated online content to create a printed magazine was born.
The concept has proven wildly successful. For each issue, thousands of people submit tens of thousands of images. To choose which images get published, hundreds of thousands of votes are cast by thousands of people all over the world. I am a big fan of JPG magazine's submission guidelines. The images need to be authentic, brave, and real. Images with digitally altered text are rejected. No multiple photos on a single upload, no misrotated photos, no digitally added borders, no enlargements, no duplicate photos.
My taste in photography tends to lead toward authenticity, meaning little if any digital manipulation or staging. This is evident in my image Mother and Child which won first prize in HP's 2005 On Assignment Photo Contest.
I am a member of JPG and to date none of the images I've submitted have been published. But that doesn't stop me from shooting images related to each issue's theme and entering and voting. Viewing the winning images in each issue of JPG magazine is just as interesting as it is to belong to the community that votes on the winners.
If you're not yet a member of JPG, check it out. If you haven't yet seen your images published in a national magazine, JPG provides a great opportunity to give it your best shot!
We all get bored sometimes: bored with ourselves, bored with others, and bored with what we're doing. Boredom with our photography can be a great kick to a new start.
The other day I was bored. I was feeling somewhat agitated. I wanted to shoot something (with a camera), but had no idea what. After some hours of pacing around the house and annoying my wife I realized what was going on. I had the need to do something new. So I went into the studio, looked around and started brainstorming in my head.
Some time ago I had been experimenting with LED lighting and fiber optics. I didn't have those accessible at the time, so I kept looking for alternative ways to create the same effects. Then the light bulb went on in my head and I put it all together.
I grabbed some black thin cardboard, a craft knife, my camera and macro lens (also a lensbaby for fun) and my portable flash unit, along with some flowers. I cut slits in the cardboard to let light only to parts of the flower, then propped up the cardboard on books with the flash underneath. I used some aluminum foil to limit the light to just the holes and slits I had cut. With the flowers covering the holes completely and the camera above, the resulting image looks as if the flower is lit from within.
The technique works simply by allowing you to control exactly where the light goes to backlight your subject. It works with anything that is translucent. I used flowers, but this technique can work with other things.
You don't want the light holes to be directly visible to the camera. With many translucent objects the amount of light you need to pump through would only cause massive underexposure if any of the light source was directly visible to the camera.
The effects can be interesting. I was shooting white lilies, but if I put the green end of the flower through a small hole and lit through the stem, the green of this part of the flower acted as a filter on the light, turning the whole flower green.
Now the point of this post isn't the particular technique I've described above (though it is worth trying). What matters is that, having identified what was wrong with me, I set in motion a creative process that I know works for my personality. It not only got me out of my mental state, but also helped me find a new technique (new to me, at least) that worked well. In fact, it has opened up a new series of work that may be interesting. We will see.
Creative people are often at their happiest when they create. Conversely, they are at their lowest when, for one reason or another, they cannot.
Recognize this trait in yourself and find ways to overcome it. Build a file of good ideas you come across. Or clip out images you'd love to figure out how to do for yourself. Keep these files handy. Have stimulating books around to give you a creative kick. Do whatever works for you.
You will find ways to turn a negative day into a positive one. Your photography and your life will benefit.