Stop Shooting Start Crafting

Many times photographers go out into the world merrily shooting away only to come home and find their images don’t look like what they remember seeing. I’ve been asked many times why I like to go out shooting with other photographers. Sometimes, my students will ask me questions like, “but…won’t you just take the same photos.” My answer? A resounding, “No!” It’s almost impossible to take the same photo as somebody else, even if you stand just where they did. Both of these examples boil down to the same cold fact: we just don’t all see things the same way. Our “sight” if you will is impacted by our emotions, our biology, our circumstance, and many other elusive factors.

Don’t believe me? Next time you are hungry, notice how much you start to “see” food. I don’t know about you, but there’s nothing worse than sitting down to watch a movie on TV when you are hungry, only to be bombarded with tons of fast food commercials. Do you honestly think those commercials go away when you’ve had something to eat? No, actually what is happening is that you notice them more. Every mention of food, every sight of food, ever even hint of food makes you stop and think, “hey! Wait a minute…I’m hungry!” Don’t even get me started on the subject of sex, as you can already see where this is going. We tend to see what we want to see, what we need to see, what we feel like seeing, what might put us in danger, and the like. It’s just how our eyes and brain function. It’s in our genetic makeup, probably why the species has survived for as long as it did (well, that and the entire opposable thumb business, but there you have it.)

So, what does this have to do with crafting images? If you really want to make images that exist the way your mind “sees” them, if you really want to capture what you “see” in real life, you pretty much have to craft the shot to look like what’s already in your head. To put it another way, you have to craft what it is you want to see in your resulting image.

To do that requires thought. You have to think about what you see, what you want to see, what you need to see, what you should be looking at, heck even what you wish you’d seen but couldn’t manage to pull it off. The clarity of thought is not a concept foreign to most good photographers (and artists as well.) As Ansel Adams once said, “There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” Those are some words to live by right there. In order to craft images it takes a sharp concept.

This week, as I assemble my folio and get ready to go out shooting, I’m reminded of these concepts. I am thinking about what I’m going to shoot, already composing images in my head. “I think I’ll do some of this and maybe some of that.” Ideas are tossing around like a mixed salad up there. Now, I may not get to them all, heck, I may not even get to any of them. That’s alright. So long as I have the clarity of thought I know, deep down in my heart, the process is working.

I always strive to stop shooting and start crafting. For me, photography is all about that craft.

Until next time…

This image is the view from my hotel room in Santorini. What a spot, right? Every hotel should have a view like this!

1 Comment

  1. Janice / Dancing with Sunflowers
    May 22, 2015 / 10:14 am

    What a lovely place!
    A sharp image of a fuzzy concept – yes, a great quote.
    I guess at the essence it's about knowing what story you want to tell and taking photographs that tell it. Or trying to….!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *