30 Mar 2008
It’s easy to get lost in all the rules and technical aspect of making a perfect picture. Ah the perfect picture, you know the one with an iconic figure, historic event, beautiful landscape, or architecture. Don’t get me wrong, working to capture that perfect image is an important goal for a photographer but what if you ignored the established rules in order to create something non-traditional? What would happen if you periodically stepped away from the computer or the instant gratification of digital? I have been asking myself these questions for the past three years, as I search for a happy medium between analog and digital. Allow me to offer 10 options to expand your perceptions on the creative process of photography and the idea of “the perfect image”. These ten tips aren’t for the faint at heart. However, if you need an escape from the mundane or you’re craving stimulation and adventure, please continue reading but put on a helmet because this information could blow your mind.
1. No Boundaries, no rules, no matrix – Anything is possible therefore do not limit yourself to the definition of photography. There are so many artistic genres which could be blended together to create a photographic hybrid.
2. Plastic Fantastic – I heard a story about a photographer who worked for Sports Illustrated Magazine, Swimsuit Edition. The unique part of the story was this man used a 35mm point and shoot camera for all his sessions; while his colleagues used very expensive cameras and equipment. I challenge you to venture into the world of cheap cameras. There are many options like Holga, Diana, 35mm action samplers, old brownies, and don’t forget the many varieties of Polaroid cameras. The point is don’t assume you can’t make wonderful images with a cheaper camera after all 95% of the final image comes from the observations of the operator.
3. Eyes Wide Shut – Here’s an interesting project a teacher made me do. All you’ll need is a blindfold, a camera, and a friend. Set your camera on autofocus then venture outside with the blindfold on and start taking pictures. Your friend can’t tell you what to photograph, they’re only there to laugh and keep you out of danger. The purpose of this exercise is to free you of all technical thinking and it allows you to operate based on your senses.
4. Look up, look down, look all around – If you are too busy focusing on something right in front of you, you could be missing an opportunity to capture something unique. One day I was focusing too much on a subject in front of me when I notice I had walked into a mural of the United States on the asphalt. Moral of the story is don’t be afraid to look down.
5. Film? – Don’t forget about film, yes film, and yes it still exists. For a while, I was engrossed in the wonderful world of digital but film still holds a special place in my heart. There are many film and alternative processing options still available. When’s the last time you cross processed something? Have you ever made a Polaroid transfer or cyanotype? Recently I bought some black and white infrared film. Don’t miss out on a chance to explore the wonders of film while you still can.
6. Light and Shadow – Light is the most important part of photography, my challenge to you is to think about photographing light. I don’t’ mean metering something and snapping a picture. Think more about light itself and the shadows created by light.
7. Close, Closer, Closest – No matter how close you think you are, get closer. Obviously, I am not inviting you to violate someone’s personal space without permission. On the other hand, you should be violating the space of inanimate objects and buildings. Sometimes the most interesting photographs come from simple objects around us.
8. Spontaneous Combustion – Photography happens! The best images are usually the unplanned ones. Are you ready? The best tip I have is to always have a camera with you, the rest will happen on its own. Feel free to fire the shutter in the grocery store, at work, at school, or out the car window.
9. Work in a series – Create projects for yourself and work until a series of a cohesive body of work emerges. For example, you could pick an object and photograph it once a day for ten days. These pictures could help you look at objects around you differently and it could evolve into another project. Sometimes you need to do something simple in order to stimulate the creative part of your brain.
10. Information and Inspiration – Check out your local bookstore for tons of inspiration via books or popular magazines. I would encourage you to look at a variety of art magazines as inspiration can come from many different sources. The internet is another great source of inspiration and it’s a great way to connect with your peers. A few of my favorite sites are flickr.com, myartspace.com, jpgmag.com, and learningtoloveyoumore.com; which is great for random projects.