Do all photographs have to tell a story?

I have a quote from Gary Winogrand that says all photographs make a new fact. As I looked back on that quote, it got me thinking about how much narratives and storytelling come into photography. Anyone who has been introduced into photography in the last few years have been hit with the importance of storytelling and narratives in photographs.
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the importance of narratives in photography and discuss how direct storytelling in a photograph might not be practical or even possible. As we consider the various options for storytelling, I encourage you to go back into your work and see where you might benefit from taking a different approach to your storytelling. See if you end up with a better overall photograph when you shift your approach. You might find that even if it is just a pretty composition with the write supporting context, something more important emerges.

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Traffic roundabouts and intentions in photography

I love being able to drive on a roundabout. If they are well designed, they make the traffic flow so much better, but if you haven’t ever driven on one, knowing what lane to be in can be problematic and stressful. As I was recently driving through a local roundabout, it reminded me of a question I am often asked. That question is, where do I point the camera to make a good photograph?

Part of pointing the camera is knowing what you like to see and understand in the world, and part of it is knowing what subjects/subject matter have stories to tell. Photography is about both. If you are only showing your version as a photographer, you are missing the point. The best images tell a story, and I make the argument in this week’s podcast that it should first and foremost be the story of the subject/subject matter. As a photographer, it is our job to tell that story the best way we can. So light, tones, color, and all the photography things are applied to ensure that the scene in front of the camera gets to shine. If the photograph is all about the photographer, that experience for the subject and ultimately the photo will be drastically different.

As you listen to the podcast, I encourage you to think about whose story you are telling and why. I encourage you to try to think of your work with the camera as more collaborative rather than an I story you want to tell.

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Ambiguity is a good thing

Episode 238

I find that it is sometimes difficult to work with a strong feeling of uncertainty. It doesn’t matter if it is technical, artistic, or just a feeling I have. I like to think that I have some clarity in my work and process. However, the reality is that I frequently don’t have a clear idea when I set out to work what might happen.

In this week’s podcast, I talk about the importance of accepting uncertainty and ambiguity in our photographic process. While it might be uncomfortable to work this way, I believe that the value of learning how to roll with the changes and finding inspiration from learning along the way is more valued than always having a hard correct interpretation.

I also think there is so much we can learn from spending time with the uncertainty of what we are working on at any given time. It is in that space of wonder that our creativity can produce the best results.

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Is your photography signature worthy?

I was recently asked if I sign my photographs. I found this to be such an interesting ask because it seems so simple on the surface and yet within it holds more profound questions. Our signatures carry power. A signature can bind you to an agreement, signify acceptance, and provide a notion of who you are. From signing checks (or a screen) when purchasing something to contracts to artwork, the signature says we accept this object or agreement as outlined.

As photographers, the signature on the work indicates that the work is finished and that we accept the work is as good as we can make it at the time. It is an agreement that we put on the work. The signature says the work is good enough, says what we want, and we are happy and moving on. This, of course, doesn’t mean we can’t improve on it later, but for now, this is what we’ve done.

In the related context, the idea of something being signature-worthy and if the work I create is signature-worthy comes up for many of us. In this week’s podcast, we talk about the idea and meaning of the signature and signature worthy work.

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Trapped and the value of help

I came into the studio early today and found a flying friend cruising around. I guess they came in the night before when I had the bigger door open. After some encouragement and strategic door opening, we were able to work together to get them on their way.
As I worked to get the little one out of the studio, I realized that they had a methodology of looking for a way out and I hadn’t freaked out about things flying by my head. Together we find a way to get someone home.
I think our creative life is a lot like this morning’s experience. There are so many ways and thoughts we each have that can get us trapped and stuck. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at some of those ways and some possible alternatives to getting ourselves unstuck and back to a creative place.

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Part A inserts into part R and twist

If you have ever tried to put together a piece of furniture from IKEA or have been pulling your hair out because your friend can’t give you good directions to their house, this week’s podcast is for you.

That is a challenge that I am asking you to take on this week. I want you to create some instructions for how you take a photograph and edit a picture. Then use those instructions to teach you about your process. What have you missed, skipped, repeated, or do for no reason you can figure out. Then examine what you can shift to try and find a new way to access your creative process. One of the most significant challenges we often face is understanding why we do something. By slowing way down and focusing on the smallest task, we might find some insight into why we make our work.

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Upside down and backwards

I was recently at an art opening that had several photographs of interesting abstractions. Images of plants, buildings, and objects all taken and presented as abstract objects. In listening to people talk about the work, I heard people discussing what they saw in the images or what they thought the actual object in the photograph was. I also observed that many people would tilt their head left or right to gain a new perspective. That tilting reminded me of working with a large-format camera which flips an image upside down and backwards.
In this week’s podcast, we talk about the advantages of using the power of flipping the perspective of an image to help us better understand the nature of seeing, editing, composing and creating more well-seen images. Sometimes to gain an insight into more meaningful work, we need to see the world differently.

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Dangers of too much

There are many traps out there to keep us from making the types of photography that we want to create. Some of them are simple to see, while others are more complex in nature. As I was sitting in the studio watching my dog flip the pillows off the sofa she gets to sit on; it occurred to me that too much of something, even a pillow on a couch, might be a bad thing.
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the impact of too much of something and what that can do to your photography and creative living. The two topics of gear and processing we quickly gloss over so that we can turn our attention to the impacts of talking too much, seeing too much and having too much time for our work.
Each of those areas can be useful and helpful in our photography, but when we have too much of any of them, it can cause us to derail our work. So let’s take a look at those three areas and how we can avoid getting snared in their traps.

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Religion, politics and photography

Episode 232 I think everyone has been to a party where politics and religious topics were not allowed, or you wish they were banned from the family holidays or summer parties. Both of these topics seem to bring out the worst in people's conversational behaviors, and...

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The art of giving up

Episode 231 At some point, we all want to quit. For a host of reasons, we might want to call it a day. Maybe we are tired, bored, fearful, or lost. No matter the cause at some point in your photography, you will want to move on. For some, it might be moving on from...

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The sum of the parts or the parts of the sum?

When you look at an inkblot test, you might see something strange or unusual. You also are likely to see something that someone else might not see. Each of us sees something unique and different, which is why I think many of us are photographers. We find that photography helps us be able to say something about how we see the world around us.
As photographers, we are responsible for the entirety of the frame. We are responsible for what is in the frame, out of the frame, and how everything overlaps and exist in the frame. This week’s podcast focuses on how we see those parts and how they make up the whole of the frame. We also talk about how to approach working on identifying those parts to make better photographs by seeing how the parts make up the frame and how the frame is also just a part of something bigger.

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Updated: Are you setting the right goals?

There are many ways that people measure success. One of the more common ones that I hear people talk about is achieving goals. Goals are milestones that we set to help us keep focused on attaining something in the future. Some goals can be very short-term, while others might last a lifetime. 

In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the impact goal-setting can have on your productivity and enjoyment of your photography. While goals can be critical to helping you achieve what you want in your creative life, setting the wrong goals, or keeping the wrong goals can be a detriment to success. By taking a hard look at how, why, and when you complete a goal can tell you a lot about your creative process.

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