"All art completes itself when it is appreciated by someone else" - Sean Tucker
There are millions of opinion as to what makes a good photograph.
I don't think that there is a single definitive answer as to what makes a great photograph. Some say a textbook composition makes a good photograph, others disagree, some say lighting is the most important element and others will say something else and so on.
For me, having been involved in photography since around the age of 16, I would say it's the communicative element to a shot. With every shot I take I want to communicate our story with the viewer/audience. My people shots as I like to call them, although some may categorise it as street photography, I like to talk to my subject before taking a shot. Even by a wink, nod but mostly I talk to them. I want them to feel something that will be expressed in their face or posture. I don't tend to travel around with a big long lens as I don't like feeling like I'm snooping around like an uninvited observer and then click at a distance like from the earth to the moon, the essence for me is in being up close and personal. Being in that moment with others.
Composition is an important thing to understand. The rules are there for a reason. Once you learn the rules then if you break them then you know that you are entering a slightly different creative field. I will talk about composition in more depth at a later stage.
Learning about other artists, their techniques, their quandaries, a bit of history of art, styles, colour, texture and so forth helped me gain a better insight into what my goals would be everyday.
How far can you go in the post-production of an image before your work is categorised as fine art?
Does it matter? If you want to produce fine art, if you want to post-process something or compensate for your message to shine then do it. There are no real rules after that photo has been taken. You define your own limits.
The key for me in my work is knowing what shot I want to take. I think carefully as to what mood I want to create? Peaceful? Disturbing? Questioning? Rhetorical? Documentary? Journalistic? Travel? Fun? The list goes on.
Ultimately as Ansel Adams said, 'Art implies control of reality.'
Black and white or colour?
A lot of street photographers especially the ones that feature so highly on social media show their work in black and white. Cartier-Bresson style. I like Bresson's work and the iconic brand he has come to be associated with but it isn't the camera that makes your work stand out but the shot you took. The fact is that ANY camera can produce an outstanding piece of artwork.
You've got iPhonegraphy group who shoot with the iPhone and perhaps a gadget or two as a modular type tool. I've seen some really great shots taken this way (this is true of other mobile handsets, Android, Blackberry etc). In fact Time magazine featured a series of shots taken with only an iPhone. I don't think it matters what device you use to take the image(s). I have sold work that was taken on a camera phone! It's all about what you see in your mind's eye and it really does not matter what form your camera comes in, what brand or what didgeridoo you have got to compliment it in order to take your shot. Natural light, strobes, light sticks, fire, moon, sun, oh the list goes on but it is the image in your head and the thought that goes into producing the shot that determines the real impact of an image.
In landscape photography, Anselm Adams features as being highly esteemed by all photographers. He shot most of his acclaimed work in black and white and it serves us well to remember that his process for developing his images way back then is largely different to how we get our images produced nowadays. Some had a team to help develop their film and even today some photographers have a marketing team behind them
Story-teller or not?
I love to see one-off shots that tell a story as much as I love seeing sets that create a special ambience.
Your creation is your creation and so it's up to you to inspire yourself and create your own magical story. Refer to books, artists whose work you like, explore what piques your interest.
Seek within yourself and produce what you see. Imitating others serves only to demonstrate that you can produce what others can produce but leaves out the most important ingredients to your art and that is your vision.
'Know thy camera as you know thyself.'
For me the one thing I cannot stress enough to myself is the above self-defined motto and that in other words you must understand how to use your camera.
Different people may have their own strategy when it comes to photography. Street Photography is in the here and now. So if that's what you are into or want to get into then know that you really have to be ready for that, 'decisive moment.'
Fine art, landscape, seascape and traditional photography to some degree or other depend on precision. The artist has to predefine their intention, sometimes it is organic and so he/she develops a concept over time and further contemplation. For me I like to visualise what I want. I research the conditions, is the shoot indoors, outdoors, the lighting conditions, weather, is it a cloudy day, sunny day, what time of day, how the image will be affected by light, whether I need flash/multiple flashes/strobes, reflectors, what lenses to use, which camera bodies to take and use..? It involves a whole range of things to consider as you already know. When I have been given a brief for commission work for example I study it. I ask myself and the commissioner questions. I make sure that all the details are ironed out before proceeding to a pre-contractual agreement and if the work involves people then I make sure that I have the relevant model release forms.
For product photography consider the in-house style of the zine layout and how it works with what you are asked to produce.
Creating a mood board can really help you realise your idea. You can share them with whoever you are working with or use them for yourself. If you don't use cloud-based applications, then Pinterest is a free and useful tool plus you can share your ideas and get ideas from there but there are other methods to help you form your concept online. I've found Dropbox useful in the past but there are other shared cloud-based options, just Google them, there are plenty. If you don't use the internet then drawing out in a notebook is just as useful as a storyboard.
Seek only to improve your own work
Don't feel disheartened by some of those social media platforms where someone gets ten thousand likes and you don't get as many likes. Sometimes it is a case of who you know or pay to get resulting hits not a display necessarily of their creative talent and remember likes only feeds the ego and does not make one's work of any less value.
From here on in, through my blogs, I shall relay my photo bubble universe to you in stages. I'll show you what gear I use and in which conditions, which lighting I prefer and techniques etc so until next time, keep your mind on the shot...