Incredible photography passes our eyes everyday. It only takes a few minutes of looking on social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, you name it and you see plenty of awesome photos. There is one technical fault that stands out among many of these images, most are overworked beyond reality. This doesn’t make it a bad photo in my view, but is it misleading? I suppose it depends on how the photo is presented, after all, a photograph is a story and they say a photo is worth a thousand words. Does the story (photo) illustrate the facts, fiction vs non-fiction, or does it really matter? I don’t want to debate the issue of should or shouldn’t we reveal to our viewers if a photo was manipulated or not. The answer is obvious in most cases. After all, when we share a photo we hope to capture an audience regardless of how we finished the photo. I prefer to discuss what it takes to capture the photo that grabs our attention, our imagination or our interest.
Today, on Facebook, I saw a beautiful photograph taken during the blustery snowstorm last week (Jan 2016) in New York. The photo captured a young man helping an elderly woman walk through the cumulating snow, howling winds and frigid temps. The photo was obviously enhanced, but what impressed me was the effort the photographer took to capture the moment. It takes motivation to even consider walking out of the house in these conditions, let alone the thought of taking a camera along.
Often, the photos that leave the greatest impact are those taken at the most unexpected moments or not staged. This doesn’t mean a planned shot doesn’t have impact. When I look at a photograph, I focus on the subject first and let the composition tell its story. How the photographer finishes the photo is secondary in most cases but does play a role in the story telling and drawing attention to the subject. Vignettes are a good example of this role play. (A vignette is a lightening, darkening or softening of the edges of a painting or photograph to draw attention to the subject). Painters have used this technique for centuries. Today photographers use heavy saturation and exaggerate color to emphasize their subject or to hold the viewers attention. Over done manipulation can be distracting, but that doesn’t take away the effort and talent of analyzing a situation and composing a compelling picture on the front end. Most people are captivated by the story or subject of a photo, photographers are generally the ones who notice an overworked photograph. Yes, of course, a beautifully finished photo has value but most people overlook a technically perfect photo over one that leaves an impression, tells a story, or evokes an emotion.
Most photographers plan their photo shoots. Weekend outings or vacations planned around photography is what makes up most photographers collections. Our lives are so busy with work, family and day to day chores that we don’t have time to simply walk around thinking about taking pictures. This may be good reason why we see so many pictures of the same subjects. I’m a professional photographer and I’m as guilty as the next, but what if we chose to have a camera with us every time we walked out of our homes? Think about how different our photo libraries would look. Think about how unique our pictures might be. Think about all the missed opportunities. Great pictures only take a split second to take when you happen upon an unexpected moment.
We are only month into the new year. I challenge you to make a commitment to yourself in 2016 to carry a camera with you every time you walk out your home. Make the effort to stop when you see sometime happening that is special or different. If carrying a 35mm SLR isn’t possible, use your smart phone camera if you have one. Nobody judges a great photo by the camera they captured it on, great moments are great moments. I promise this extra effort will set your photo library apart. Remember the photo I spoke about, the young man helping an elderly woman through the winter storm, I bet there is only one photo of that moment in existence. What’s holding you back?
I would love to hear comments or feedback. Please feel free to comment here or on Facebook.