Podcast #162 Proximity and closure in photography

I have been helping a number of photographers recently with editing and sequencing. Some of them have a similar set of photographs that reminded me of my work in one particular way. They were very chaotic images. One of the things that I like to explore in my photography is finding the point of peace or relaxation in a chaotic place. In my work, that is often finding something in nature among the trees, rocks, and waves. 

As I got to thinking about how we deal with this chaos and create meaning, I returned to some psychology books of my past. In there I re-read about the gestalt approach to psychology which was all about how we make order from chaos when we only see pieces of the scene. This research is what bore out the idea that the sum is greater than the parts. 

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Podcast #161 Five elements of photographic stories

This week’s podcast is all about storytelling concepts. It doesn’t matter how much you work your technical skills as a photographer. Eventually, your work is about how well you connect with your audience beyond f/stops and shutter speeds. One of the most common approaches is to talk about the importance of story and storytelling in an image or body of work. No matter who you are or what level of photographer you are, your work will eventually be about storytelling. Your images will start to convey something more than just what you captured in front of the camera. 

While there are hundreds of components and subtle nuances to storytelling, in this week’s podcast I identify five big buckets that I think are important for photographers to consider when they begin to focus on important storytelling. 

In the service of others.
Emotions verse facts.
Shared meaning.
Assume your audience is smart.
Purpose.

Remember that while not every photograph has to tell a story, that when you do tell a story, you want to make sure that it is the story you want. Taking the time to understand the elements of good storytelling can really impact your work as a photographer.

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Podcast #160 Who is your audience

This week’s podcast focuses on understanding who your audience is as a photographer. In general, there are two main groups of consumers of photography. There is the mass audience and then the art-elite audience. Both of these audiences are critical to supporting photographers, but they approach their viewing of photography and what they value is different. 

The mass audience is looking for artwork that we like and feel good at when we look at it. This is the type of work that you might find to hang on your wall because you love the place, color, composition. The standards are more along the lines of beautiful photographs that are well composed. This is a huge space to work in. Think of all the calendars, photo books, prints that you have seen. 

The art-educated group is examining work not based on beauty, composition or approachability, but rather from an examination of critical trends in contemporary art, breakthroughs in new directions of art and how current work is balanced against the prior history of the photographic medium. 

The challenge for the creator is to understand what group is looking at their work and giving them the feedback. If your feedback is coming from one group, but you are targeting another, you might find that your feedback is detrimental to your work. Neither group is more important than the other, but their approach is distinct enough that it can cause angst if you were looking for feedback of one group over another. 

The key is to do work that matters to you first and then try to get the feedback from the group you need rather than randomly hoping for critical feedback. 

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Podcast #159 See, Perceive, Recognize, Act

In this week’s podcast, the focus is all about the process of seeing to capture. From the moment we think we see something to the point it becomes a photograph is a journey. Along the way, there are a number of steps that we take to make that happen. In my experience when we are working well, the process seems secondary, but when things are not going well, it is a challenge. As I was rearranging the studio with Lori this past week, I came across the above quote by Henri Cartier-Bresson that got me thinking about my process. 

That quote inspired me to break down my mental process into steps to see if I can figure out how to make my photographs better. I came up with see, perceive, recognize and act. At each of those stages, something important in the photographic process happens. By jumping ahead or lingering back in the process, I find myself missing some important images. So, this week I talk about how I came to be with this process and how you might consider this or a similar process to find your own method for better understanding how and why your photographs work or not. 

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Podcast #158 Learning new task and what sort of photograph to show

In this week’s episode of the Perceptive Photographer we discuss two topics that can have an impact on how we create photographs and how we share photographs. The first half of the podcast, we talk about how to learn a new task that can be applied in our photography, and the second half we focus on what a photograph should be as an object or artifact. 

Learning a new task is all about the creative practice. Learning new things can add a lot of energy and excitement to our creative process. When we are learning something new, our expectations need to be balanced between how long it really will take with how long we think it should take. Sometimes when we are learning something easy and simple, it might not take very long at all to learn the task. But, when things are more complex, it can take a lot longer to learn. Knowing the complexity of the task can help you set your expectations and also release pressure when you get frustrated when things are happening slower than you want. 

As we move into the second half of the podcast, we take a look at some of the things to consider when you are processing and outputting your photographs. Photography is a very flexible medium and figuring out how you want to share an image and how the photograph should be experienced is an important part of the process. There are a lot of factors that can impact if your images should be prints, digital, composites or used in some other way. I like to consider some of these factors when I figure out how to create the final object that becomes the photograph:

my intention
the feeling I want the person to have when they/I look at the image
longevity of the image
manipulation of the image
replication of the image
the accuracy of the image.

In the next week or two, we will be announcing the workshops happening at Silly Dog Studios so check out that information when it is released in the next podcast or two.

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Podcast #157 Less talking & more clicking

One of the consistent things that you see when you study working artist is that they are always working. While they may spend some time researching, reading and talking about aspects of their work, they all have their nose to the grindstone. I have learned that this is more than just a desire to create work, but it also is a step forward to understanding the work. It isn’t enough to just sit around and think about the work, at some point you have to do the work. We learn who we are as photographers by making photographs. 

We learn about our identity as an artist in the type of work we create, the meaningful photographs are not just things we create for others, but they are foundations for us to learn about how we see and create our worlds. They give us insights into the past, present, and future of the life we have and hope to have. Sharing the ideas of our vision allows us to take steps forward in work. 

In this week’s podcast, we examine the importance of how creating our photographs gives us insights into the way we use our process to help us understand out our life unfolds.

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Podcast #156 Why photograph?

During a recent photogravure workshop, I was standing around waiting for a plate to finish and I started to again think about why we photograph. What is is about photography that compels us to make images? I think for a lot of artists, regardless of their discipline, share some common threads. I believe that an artist is not unique because of some divine intervention but rather a willingness to put in the time. It reminded me of an article by Brooks Jensen from an old Lenswork magazine where he talks about why we make art. In this week’s podcast, we return to that article expanding on some of Brook’s ideas and put a little of my own spin on his foundation. 

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Podcast #155 Top printing questions from listeners

In this week’s podcast, we answer the top five questions I have been answering about printing or the past few months. If you listen to the podcast, you know I am a huge fan of printing, and so I am excited to be able to answer some of the common questions that I have been asked.

What is the proper rendering intent to use to print my photograph?
What is the best paper to use for my photograph?
Should I let Photoshop/Lightroom manage my print or the printer?
I have seen that Canon and Epson offer plug-ins for printing. Are the plug-ins worth printing with or not?
When you switch papers or print the same image months later,  how do you make sure that the prints are the same from day to day?
Hopefully, as you listen to the podcast, you can find the answers to some questions you might have. If you have other questions or want to follow up on something from the podcast, feel free to reach out and shoot me an email, and I’ll see if I can help out.

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Podcast #154 Thinking outside the box

In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the impacts of getting stuck in an easy rut. As we work on our photography, it is easy to find things that we are good at and stick with those techniques, subjects and concepts. However, it is important to continue to push our photography forward. One of the ways to do that is to find edges of our comfort zones and push outside of those areas. Trying new things can jumpstart new ideas, reenforce old habits and show us where we might be just a bit lazy in our approach to our photography. 

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Podcast #153 Hard to learn lessons

I am learning to play the guitar. It is a slow but fun process. I am still early enough in my practice that all I get to do is play some cords and learn muscle memory for the cords. I know that one day I will get to play a song. What I want to play is more blues and jazz guitar. That seems so technical, and far off, I wonder as I strum a G cord if I will get there. 

My own thought process reminded me of working with several people over the past few weeks with their photography. Over the course of some one-on-one session, I repeatedly heard about how things are just too technical. As I related that thought back to my guitar lessons, it got me thinking about what does that really mean? Most of the photographers I know are all technical on some level. As I processed my own feelings, I realized that it comes down to a couple of key areas. 

Is it important for me to know this? Is what I am learning important to me or not. If it is not important, then I should just let it go, but if it is important, then I should accept that it might be hard to learn but needed.
Is it necessary? Do I actually need to know this or not? If not, I should walk away. But, if I do really need to know this then I should keep that as my focus and motivation. 
How do I learn? It might be that you are learning the hard way. If you learn by reading. Then you should learn from a book, not a lecture. If you learn by listening, you should avoid a book. Try and find the best way to learn based on your own learning style. 
Baby steps. Remember that it takes a lot of steps to run a race. Each step is just as important as the next or prior step. 
Fear. Don’t let fear be the reason you avoid learning something. As adults, we often fear looking stupid. If you are working with someone who makes you feel that way, you should seek out other support. Having a supportive learning environment will do wonders for your work habits.
Celebrate. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back even for the small stuff. Every success is amazing. 

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Ep152 Breaking up is hard to do

It is easy to develop bad habits. They can show up in our desires for equipment or software to make our “job easier.” They might show up in the way we approach our work. Some of our bad habits are there, and we don’t even know why we are doing what we do, but we continue because that is what we think is supposed to happen. 

In this week’s podcast, I take a look at some of my habits and the type of people who surround my photography and try to figure out what I should keep and what bad habits should be kicked to the curb. I would imagine in your photographic practice that there might be a list of things you do that once removed might give you more time and energy for the good parts of your creative practice. 

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