Monday, 27 September 2010

My first experience of using a studio and a model

Originally uploaded by James_at_Slack
I went to Elgin Studios last weekend to learn about studio lighting and shooting with a model, in this case Claire Emson. The instructor was David Porter who clearly knows his stuff. I, on the other hand knew nothing about using a studio or using a model. David set up the lighting for this shot, so please don't praise me for that. All I tried to do was use the props and get Claire to pose, take a shot that was exposed well enough.
I would love some real constructive comments on this shot as I discovered that I didn't have what might be called a natural flare with posing models - in fact I was crap at it. It was my first real experience of doing it and I'm sure I would get better at it if I did it more. I didn't shoot enough and left too much time in between shots which meant Claire lost her momentum of posing and wondered what I wanted as I wasn't taking any shots. So that's a lesson learned.
I felt a bit awkward as I suppose I'm a landscape photographer generally and when I walk about looking at a beautiful Aberdeenshire landscape, I decide which part of the chaos I'm going to frame and wait for the correct light. With studio shots using models, the lights are in your control, background (and foreground) is in your control and there is no chaos to frame, there a model standing in front of you. Yes, you deicide about how much of the model you're shooting but the real skill I think (as well as getting the lighting correct) is what you do with the model (or what she gives you).
Anyway, that's some initial thoughts.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What I decided whilst in hospital regarding me and photography. Part 3

Upstairs, Badenyon
Originally uploaded by James_at_Slack

I have decided to remain a hobbyist photographer who will shoot mainly local Historical sites and abandoned communities. Will I be bothered then if there is no interest or enjoyment from my pictures? The answer should be no because I will be shooting what I’m passionate about and I should be fulfilling my creative urges. But in reality, we humans like to get some encouragement and praise - don’t we? We tend to trust the people who are like us so if people who have an interest in local History and/or abandoned communities see that I too have that interest, then perhaps I will have an audience for my work. It is like serving a market where you are already an ‘insider’, so it should help me empathise with that market.

The question ‘Am I good enough?’ will come up. A question like that will never be answered probably, and self doubt can be the motivator to improve one’s craft. I will be (and have been) dogged by such a question but I know that all I can say is, I’m getting better, I’m improving but will fall short of being ‘good enough’ because I will always want to be better. Talent is not easily evaluated or quantified.

I need to tackle and focus more on questions like ‘Am I willing to work hard at learning my craft?’ ‘ Am I willing to research and learn and make mistakes?’ ‘Am I willing to put my work under scrutiny of my peers so I can improve?’ ‘How passionately do I want this?’
I have to accept the fact that highly talented photographers may not need to work so hard as less talented photographers. That said, how do we know how much work someone has put into their craft? Why do we tend to think ‘they got lucky’ or ‘it was handed to them on a plate’? I need to always assume they have worked hard to get where they are. For me, bold steps are needed. Some interests and activities may need to jettisoned or at least cut down.

High quality, technically perfect but mediocre photography is everywhere now and organisations have a vast quantity to choose from, and at the best price - free! I don’t know if I can rise above this but I’m going to try and recent deals with publishers and record companies and a solo exhibition success has given me some encouragement. However, marketing knowledge will now take a back seat to honing my craft. I want to be a good photographer. I want to produce images that people like and get pleasure from and that is why, for the meantime, I will remain a hobbyist photographer.

Taken from Visionmongers by David duChemin.

Monday, 6 September 2010

What I decided whilst in hospital regarding me and photography. Part 2

Originally uploaded by James_at_Slack

So I’ve decided to shoot what I love and learn my craft. Also, I can see that I will probably not be a professional photographer. Why not?

I like my day job and it can fund my hobby.
I can shoot what I want.
I can create when I want to - when I’m inspired and when I feel it is the right time. Only financially secure and successful professional photographers can do that as well as complete commercial work I would imagine.
I can love my photographs, get opinions on my work without feeling my work sucks just because nobody buys it/wants it. I can feel like a ‘real’ photographer without having to have people buy my work.
In truth, maybe I’m just not willing to do all the hard work that is needed to become a successful professional photographer (and to some extent to sacrifice my passion for commercial reasons). I’ve put my creative urges to one side for too long and it is now or never for me to pursue my creative vision.

Hobbyist or professional, a photographer should know who they are and what they have to offer. I need to ask myself which shots gave me the most satisfaction and is there a pattern? I have studied and taught History for many years now and local History, namely abandoned settlements, is still an big interest to me. I’ve been told that I have captured the spirit and essence of these abandoned places. Whether that is true or not, I’ve certainly felt the toil, hardships, relationships and tragedies of these places. I enjoy researching these places beforehand, planning the route, finding the remains and, if possible, enter these premises. The real challenge is trying to get an interesting shot which conveys the drama and remoteness of these abandoned communities.

More of my time will have to be spent honing the skills of my craft. I’m still not there when it comes to getting the exposures right. I can still screw it up and wonder why it screwed up. Also, my processing and printing needs more of my attention. I will probably never be one of these Photoshop experts who spends hours and days on one shot, but I could make small (and continue to make small) improvements to my processing and workflow.

To be continued. Taken from Visionmongers by David duChemin.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

What I decided whilst in hospital regarding me and photography. Part 1

I will buy the best camera and lens I can afford but acknowledge that it will not make me any more creative or talented. Photography is a craft that can take years to learn and get better at. Gear can just help with that craft. It takes hard work to be good at something - accept that and work harder at it. Stop relying on gear and start trusting my vision and loving the act of putting the world into a frame.

I will probably not get to where I’d like to be - or where I think it is. That is, the life of a professional photographer is not what I think it is. I guess it is the journey not the destination that’s important. As a hobbyist photographer, I seem to have so little time to learn, take shots, process shots, attend courses, read books, see exhibitions, etc., so it must be even more difficult for a pro as they have so many other ‘business’ issues to deal with (and, in the current climate, worry about).

If I was serious about becoming a professional photographer, it would be to take the shots I want to take and hopefully make some money doing it. So it is about being creative and expressing myself really, not becoming rich and famous. But would there be a market for what I shoot? If not, then I wouldn’t make money, so take the shots that make money? No. My original goal would then be lost. So it is all about ‘what do I want?’

If the point was to just make money, then I would be much, much better off staying in the rewarding job I’m currently in. I love photography, so doing it professionally could in fact suck the life from it if I went the ‘Weddings, pets and babies’ route. It is so true what they say - shoot what you’re passionate about. I will still try shooting stuff outwith my ‘comfort zone’ but just for the sake of learning.

I’m focused again.

To be continued. Taken from Visionmongers by David duChemin.