The Illusion of Control
Every so often I get into conversations that I know from the start, I’m going to loose. Just too many myths to kill, too many ingrained bad habits to overcome. To my great surprise, my last dialog with a couple of photographers, I beat the odds. The point of the conversation, who is in control in photography, the photographer or the subject? I’ve always thought and worked under the assumption the subject is in complete control. With wildlife photography, that sentiment is generally accepted. Normally the first example used to counter this contention is the studio shoot. This is where the photographer has complete control of the lighting, camera, background and in theory, the subject. After this example is fully dressed by whomever I’m talking to, I then simply ask, “Who is in control of the facial expression?” Conversation stops. Then they usually comeback with, “What if it’s a product, no smile to worry about.” I usually say, “Ah, then you have the AD (art director) to make smile.”
My point is not to argumentative but rather make the point that photographers need to be not only flexible, not only a problem solvers, but in this entire process, creative and imaginative. How do you make that model express the emotion you want the compliments the lighting you set up? How do make that AD smile with that “simple” product shot? What tools do you have at the camera and behind the camera (that’s you) to pull off the photograph? The vast majority of the time, those tools to make it all come together come with time. You’ve gotta put the time in to get the results out.
I wanted a shot of the F2G-2 at “sunset” but it wasn’t sunset yet. In fact, we would be on the ground when it was sunset. So how do you get that photo? Underexposure shooting right into the sun came to mind. What’s the first problem with this solution, when you shoot right into the sun? The damn sun, it kinda over powers everything let alone that little thing known as flare. But what if you ask the pilot in the F2G-2 to fly so he casts his shadow on me in the photo plane? First, you need to have a great pilot in that subject plane. Next, you have to realize the subject is in control. Lastly, you need to make the underexposure, put the subject in the right part of the frame and go click.
I guess the point of this mini rant is to have photographers lighten up, flex their creativity a little more and not beat themselves up when the photograph fails. Photography among many things is the art of having fun and when you’re trying to be in control in an environment when you really aren’t in control, fun tends to go out the window. Photography is about a ton of illusions and one of those illusions is that of control.