Most photographers, when they are learning about camera gear, learn that the lens controls the perspective. This isn’t exactly accurate; the subject to lens distance determines perspective along with the point of view. However, from a podcast a few weeks ago about fear, I was asked about perspective and meaningful photography. This week’s podcast is about how our perspective and approach to the things we photograph will be a cornerstone for what defines important personal photography.
I don’t know a photographer who sets out to make or take bad photographs. Yet, we all come home with lots and lots of bad pictures. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the value of the bad photograph. I feel too many photographers don’t take photographs for fear of the bad photo, but you have to respect the photographer that in the face of that fear is willing to pick up the camera and make photos every day. While most of us might want to avoid making them, I argue that there is value in appreciating and making bad photographs.
I have often wondered what people think is the hardest thing to photograph. When I have conversations about this, those conversations more often than not start with some technical aspects of photography. Learning how to use studio lighting, getting in a good location, or finding a unique vantage point are all topics I hear people talk about.
This week’s podcast focuses on what I feel is the hardest thing to photograph. That is the thing that causes us to feel fear or some reason. Maybe it is not photographing people for fear of rejection, or perhaps it is not figuring out what is unique about a location to you, so you end up with a cliched shot. No matter what you photograph, I would venture to say that at some point, you haven’t gotten the shot you wanted because of some fear. The challenge we all face is that in the face of that fear, can we still photograph. My guess is that when you take the risk, you end up with some fantastic photographs.
If you listen to this podcast for very long, you know that it isn’t really about camera gear, but this week I did want to focus on the five most essential pieces of gear you should always have in your camera bag.
Luckily, you can get all of these pieces of gear for little to no money, and many of you might even have them already around the house. The purpose of this equipment is not to add to your physical gear, but rather to shift your mental approach to your photography. Each one of these pieces of gear is about changing your approach to your work so that you can focus on the most favorable results, embrace any opportunity, and find motivation when things fall apart.
In this week’s podcast, we take a look at two important questions that can have a significant impact on your approach to your photography.
The first question deals with our approach to failure. What would you do in your photography if there was no such thing as failure? Do you think if you took a risk, would you see the world in a new way?
The second question focuses on our notion of taking and giving in photography. If you could give one photo to someone, what would it be?
As you will hear in the podcast, most of this week’s work falls on you to think about and answer these questions. How would a failure-free, giving photographic experience look?
I was recently having a gear conversation with a friend who was asking me to validate a decision they make on a new camera purchase. They wanted me to tell them that with that new camera they were going to be able to take the photographs they always wanted. I just couldn’t do that. Anyone who has listened to this podcast for a while knows that it isn’t the gear that makes the photo.
So this week’s podcast is all about the validation of our decision-making process and how it can impact our work. I encourage you to think about when and why you ask for validation of your work and creativity. Is it because you have already made a decision and you want someone to agree with you? At times, we all need to have our work validated and supported, but that is different from the need to have a decision you already made, and believe to be true, agreed with. That isn’t validation; it is something else. This week we focus on how focusing on validation for agreement sake isn’t always the best use of our time in our photography.
I am always bothered when I hear people say that you are too optimistic, or you’re wearing rose-colored glasses. My response to them is always the same. Your damn right, I am. The outlook you have on life, and your creativity is the most significant decision you can make.
Now, this isn’t to say that I don’t worry, fret, or get stressed at times, but when that happens, I work to get back to a place where I can focus all that is good and great. I often hear photographers worry about new gear, software, techniques, or locations they would like to go. When they don’t have what they want, it is a problem for them. In this week’s podcast, we take al look at how that approach can be a huge block that leads to apathy in your work. As we dive into the topic, we talk about how a shift to positivity and excitement can do more for your creative life than any issue you imagine that you need to overcome to finally get the click you wanted.
I have several friends who like to gamble. Poker and blackjack for the most part. When they are playing, they always talk about being on a hot streak or a cold streak. When it is good, things are hot, and the universe seems to give them the cards they need. When it is bad, well, it is bad.
I think many of us approach our photography in the same way. We remove the focus, effort, energy, and vision to an external source calling it a hot streak or luck. Luck is something that we see as a way of explaining a variety of events that are good or bad, where we seem to have no choice in the outcome. In this week’s podcast, we take a look at the idea of a hot streak and what it means to do meaningful work. Work that is personal and driven by our vision rather than by some hand of the universe, giving us the power to see.
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.
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.
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.
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.