Technical Knowledge or Something More

I’ve given a few photography classes over the last year.  I’m a self professed nerd and so the technical side of photography really appeals to that side of my nature.  The creative side is the balance to my more day to day work.

I found that when I give the lessons it was really focused on the technical aspects of taking a photo.  Composition, settings, understanding light etc.  and then I was reminded by one of the participants that it’s more than just that…  very true!  So what is that something more and how do you explain it?  Where does it come from and what makes a picture something more than just matter of fact?

I received a huge compliment the other day from a song writer that told me that after a few minutes of flicking through my website he was inspired to write a song!  He was really touched by the photos and the subject matter.  I’ve thought about how to explain what makes a photo interesting or how I do “it”.  So perhaps putting down my thoughts based on other people’s observations of my work may help to inspire you a little or just annoy you in that it makes it less tangible…

The theory goes that you should be “telling a story” with your photos.  It doesn’t need to be complicated but there should be a story.  This uses the basic rules of composition to enhance that story, but when telling a story you can easily break these rules if the story is strong.

But going beyond the story that’s in front of you, and this is only my 2 cents, perhaps it’s an understanding of the situation, and a connection with the circumstances.  Perhaps empathy plays a bigger part in some of the situations than I think.  Why do I say that?  When I take shots of people I’m relatively aware of waiting for that split second when they express themselves in a manner that reflects a genuine emotion.  The scene is often very simple, focused on few items (not a cluttered frame), and isolates the subject.  This all sounds very pretentious but look at the difference between a nice candid shot of your friends and a cheesy smiley shot of them… try and describe the difference you see.

Maybe that’s what it is that makes the shots stand out.  That ability to capture a genuine emotion.  I’ve been asked to cover parties and a wedding recently.  People really like the candid approach because it’s like being at the party, seeing people genuinely enjoy themselves, frozen in the moment relaxing, laughing etc.

So rather than try and pick apart what makes my photos different for the observer (as that’s personal taste after all) I would say when you’re setting up your shots ask yourself what is it that you’re trying to portray?

Of course blind luck and being in the right place at the right time do have a part to play!

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