It’s YOUR Photography!
“I was reading on the web…” was the start to an email over the weekend. That’s always a HUGE red flag to me. But in the process of learning about photography, reading is definitely part of the equation. The problem comes though when website A says black and website B says white and you’re stuck in the middle wondering which is right. And more importantly, which is right for YOUR photography! When you’re starting out or even further down the road, where do you turn to find the answers?
“Your images all look dark!” This was a comment made about my prints at our recent Photo Bi$ class. And the observer was right. He wasn’t talking about the printing job but rather that the majority of the tones in my photos are on the subdued side. You could generalize that the majority of my images are technically, underexposed. And if you look at the entire body of my photography over the last three decades, you’d see that same thing runs true through all my images. That’s how I like them.
How did I start out more or less with the underexposure “style” that I still use today? Back in the day when I started, there was no Internet but there was this great resource called books. I love to read but photography books in my day were mostly photos, short on words. I learned to look at photographs, look for those aspects I liked and then figure out how it was accomplished. This was a training that has served me well, one I still use to this day. In this process, I constantly found myself pulled to the “darker” images. The color, mystery, the use of space, the importance of light and bright to me was obvious as a simple yet effective tool to visually communicate. And since I was seeing images like this in print, from masters, then to me it was obvious. This was a style that worked.
Are there possibly technical drawbacks to this style? Of course, and who cares! Other photographers in their very normal insecure style will happily point out all the technical issues. The general public though, the mass consumer of images doesn’t give a rats ass! They will simply vote thumbs up or thumbs down with the flip of a page. What they look for in a photo is education and entertainment, not noise or that other stuff you’re constantly told you need to worry about. Put a smile on a viewer’s face and you can even have a photograph not tack sharp. It doesn’t matter, you created the smile, that’s all that matters!
Still comes back though to the issue…how DO YOU arrive to that point? Reading is always good but make sure you combine that with looking at photographs. I’m talking really looking and looking at just as many images in print as on the web. Keep in mind that many of the images on the web have had no filter, they are just put up because the person likes the photo. But those images in print have gone through a very important filter, the editor. It is those folks who have taught many of us what works and what doesn’t work and why. Their knowledge and expertise in what reaches the masses successfully is a very important learning tool that ultimately is the best way to learn about photography. So, no matter what you read or someone tells you, remember it’s YOUR photography!