Podcast #171 When good is good enough

Over the past eight months, I have been dealing with the loss of my little brother. And while I have amazing family and friends to offer their support, it has been a long creative rut I have been in. Rather than process my feelings with my creativity I tossed myself...

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Podcast #170 Observation, listening and emotion in photography

I believe that storytelling is central to humanity. From our earliest days, we have told stories. If you sit in a coffee shop and listen, all people are telling our stories–stories about family, friends, events, and work. At the core of a photograph is also a story. It is the driving element of a need to share something about how we see and understand the world. 

In this week’s podcast, I talk about how three key areas of a storytelling event are critical to the story. While not the only aspects of good storytelling, these three elements are what I think are central to helping photographers make better photographs. To really get to the heart of the process, you need to be observational, listen and find the connection to the emotions you are experiencing. 

These don’t have to be too earth-shattering notions. They can be as simple as the awe of a beautiful sunset over the beach. What drives a better experience of the photograph is your ability to use these three elements to make your photograph. By understanding your emotional reaction, observations and what you listen to (non-verbal or verbal) will go a long way into making your photographs more interesting–at least to you.

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Podcast #169 Insta language in photography

Have you ever taken a look at the names of some of your program and apps that you use to create photographs? Many of those names are all about speed-, insta-, snap- and a host of other quick action words. In Photoshop and Lightroom, we use fast presets and actions to speed up the workflow. Now while I am all for efficiency in workflow, I began to wonder if all the language around our creative tools impact how we view and see our images. 

What if Instagram was called meaningful photographs or important photographs? Would we spend more time looking at the work and engaging with the work? Would we think that our photographs are worth more to our own experiences or are they just insta swiped away? I believe that the creative act is sort of like a good wine. It takes time to develop, and once you create the wine, you should take time to enjoy the bottle. Great wine isn’t something that you drink as quickly as possible; it is something that you enjoy and notice all the subtle nuances created by the efforts the grape, barrel, and winemaker. Shouldn’t your photographs get the same appreciation?

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Podcast #168 What are perfect prints?

Do you ever think about what it might take to make the perfect print? This week’s podcast is about what are some of the non-technical considerations for creating the perfect print or deciding if that is even possible. 

When we are working on a photograph one of the most significant challenges is to let go of what we know and learn to see what is in front of us. This focus has us learning to evaluate and see a given image with a more precise set of eyes not bound by our expectations of the future or regrets of the past. In allowing the photograph to be what it is, we can take a step closer to getting a better final image made. 

The second consideration is about your printer verse your image. Just like with a camera, the type of printer doesn’t make the image. There are subtle differences between printers that photographer or master printers might notice, but the average person wants to look at amazing photos. They are not concerned with microns and d-max.

The third area that influences the nature of the perfect print is if the process is easy or hard. Just because it is easy to make a really good print doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth it. Just like a tough image to print, doesn’t make it a good print. The time spent in the darkroom doesn’t determine the value of the print.

Finally, your perfect print today will likely be a bad print in the future. As you get to be a better photographer and better printer, your photographs will improve in the future. You will see more, get to do more and be better at both your art and craft. Those advances will appear as more perfect prints, but you shouldn’t judge the past with the same eye as your future. We are all doing the best we can to make the best photographs we can.

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Podcast #167 Personality and photography

This week’s podcast comes from looking Ricahrd Zakia’s Perception and Imaging. A few podcasts ago, I talked about the Gestalt approach to learning. From that podcast, I was reminded that Richard’s book also had a full chapter on gestalt and meaning. As I returned to this book, I also found the chapter on Personality interesting. In that chapter Richard talks about a lot of methods to understand personality, but Carl Jung’s approach to personality traits sort of stood out. 

I thought it was interesting to see how Jung’s model of sensing, feeling, thinking and intuiting could be applied to how we see and understand images. So this week, we dive into how, if at all, your personality traits as defined by Jung might impact and influence your photography. Jung’s work offers more than just a right and left brain approach, the various models by which we understand certain aspects of personality can give us insights into a better understanding of how we relate to the world. 

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Podcast #166 Sports betting, new box smell and deep dish pizza

This week’s podcast is a mash-up of topics that I was pondering as I worked on the flower beds around the studio. To extend the creative space to the outside the studio, I have been working with Lori to plant some cool plants to support the creative energy I want on the inside. 

As I was working in the garden, I got to thinking random thoughts and how they relate to photography. The first was how sports betting sets odds to determine how betting is done. The house attempts to make sure that all bets are placed evenly, so they don’t lose a bunch of money. But, it got me thinking about how to bet on my images when I take them and process them. What odds would I give every shot that it would be a good photograph?

The second thing I was pondering is what is it about the new box smell of a camera that jumpstarts our creativity.
Finally, do you think that there is a right way to order pizza? Is Chicago style or New York style the right and correct type of pizza? Is there a right or correct photograph or just a different way to arrange the ingredients? 

Don’t forget that if you like the podcast, I would love a review on iTunes or google play. Have a great week. 

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Podcast #165 Importance of celebrating your photographic successes

Photography can be hard, and it is easy to get discouraged. It always seems like there is so much to learn and so many people out there doing amazing things with a camera. I sometimes find myself getting discouraged and struggling to make sense of my practice. I have learned that one of the most important aspects of a creative life is to celebrate your successes. 

If you spend time thinking and celebrating how far you have come in your journey from where you started rather than obsessing only about the future, you might find that you are better able to move your creative practice forward. In the celebration of our successes not only can we find the motivation to continue and the impact of happy dopamine in our brains, but we also get to stand back and appreciate how much we have grown as photographers. 

This week’s podcast is all about why you sometimes need to step back and celebrate how amazing you are, even if the journey is never over, and some ways to meaningfully celebrate your photography growth. 

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Podcast #164 How our context of the photograph defines our understanding

How do we know that something is true or not? It is often defined by the context. When we are judging and looking at photographs the context by which we frame our feedback can make a huge difference in how we appreciate and understand the work. I think many of us at times have used our own egos as a context to judge if we could do better work than what we are looking at. Other times, we might take a less egocentric approach and dive deeper into the work in an attempt to find some meaning or higher understanding. As we critique work, be it our own or the work of others, we need to find a way to identify the context we are evaluating the work and determine if the context is appropriate or limiting our experience of the work. In the analysis of an image, any supposition we enter the conversation with will impact our relationship, but by understanding as much of the bias or context ahead of time as possible, we should be in a stronger position to provide meaningful feedback. 

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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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