Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Don't Forget to Make a Picture!

How many of you have heard the expression, "can't see the forest for the trees"?  Show of hands?  Anyone?

Well, I can tell you I've experienced that more times than not, especially when it comes to photography.  It is so easy to get wrapped up in the technical aspects of taking a photo (at least it is for me, maybe its just a guy thing).  Should I use the umbrella or the softbox?  This side or that side?  Rembrandt lighting, butterfly lighting or over and under?  There are so many possibilities when taking a photo, any photo, that your mind can miss one crucial element.   

Don't forget to make a picture!

Let me explain.  Recently I conned a friend in to sitting for me for a few portraits.  I knew exactly in my mind how I wanted to compose the shot, how I wanted to light the shot and how I wanted him to look.  I set about getting my lights set up, discussing with my friend the pose I was looking for and took a few test shots to start the session.  While I was taking them, his wife and my girlfriend were cracking a few jokes off to the side.  I was kind of annoyed by this because I was looking for a dark, brooding expression from my friend and he started cracking a little smile.  I didn't say anything at the time that this was bothering me because honestly, this shoot was all in good fun.  However, I was afraid I didn't get the look I was going for.

After I got the photos downloaded to the computer and started sorting them, I was pretty satisfied with the results, but there was one portrait where my friend was just slightly smiling and at first I didn't like it, but on further inspection I realized that his half smile is what really made this image stand out from the rest.  When you look at this image, you can't help but wonder what is on his mind and what was he thinking.  So what I thought was going to be my least favorite in the set, turned out to be my very favorite shot ...and everyone else's as well.

So my point from all this is, try to keep in focus what you are wanting to accomplish with your photograph and photography in general.  Are you wanting to convey a mood?  Are you wanting to tell something about the scene or person you are photographing?  Are you wanting to sell your image for stock?  All these questions are examples of things to think about the next time you go to press the shutter.

With portraits, I've found, its always best to try to capture some element of the person that gives the viewer something to think about or a way to connect with that person.  So the next time you are about to start a session, don't get so wrapped up in the technical aspects that you forget to see the forest for all its beauty.



Christy said...

Maybe you should have a peanut gallery more often! ;) This really did turn out awesome. You know it did if he made it is FB profile photo. It's the first time he's ever changed it! Awesome job - loved seeing the setup too.

laura said...

this is so true john, so very true. like the shot by the way, it definitely makes you wonder what is going on in his head.