And then taking a picture.

Really, when was the last time you really took some time to think about a composition before you made the capture?  The digital age has spoiled us as photographers in more ways than one.

In a recent discussion concerning Kodak discontinuing Kodachrome and them giving Steve McCurry the last roll to expose as he wished.. it spawned a greater discussion about the “digital generation.” Basically the “we want it now” generation.

We talked about the joy and excitement of our anticipation taking the finally completed roll of film down to the drugstore and then waiting that necessary 7-10 days for them to send it out to the lab and get your negatives and prints back.  And finally how you’d get that (usually yellow from Kodak) envelope back in your hands with its sticky gummy flap.. and how we’ll finally get to see how our pictures turned out.

I was the type who would take the envelope unopened to some quiet and peaceful place so I could slowly open and savor each print as it uncovered the next in the stack.  I’d watch others rip them open in the drug store and go through the stack of prints in 10 seconds or less and judge the entire roll of film during that ten seconds.  What was wrong with me, why was I taking hours and studying each print and then comparing the print to the negative to see if the lab missed anything?

This translates to the way we approach life, and certainly to our photography style.  The person ripping open the packages in the drug store was probably the person shooting off an entire roll of film in just a few minutes without thought of composition or future use. 

A real photographer will often study the scene, sometimes as in the case of Ansel Adams for hours, days, or even weeks or months before making the capture.  And in truth, since the advent of digital photography one of my greatest challenges is getting my clients to slow down and think about what they’re shooting.  To mentally ‘develop’ their composition before pushing the shutter button.  Their reply is “digital is free, it doesn’t matter how many images we take!”  I might argue this, but let’s say it’s true.  If you’re so busy taking “free” images and not stopping to think about what you’re doing, then will any of your brazillion images be worth anything?

Another photographer I respect greatly, perhaps the best architectural photographer in the world, recently commented how much he enjoyed his new Sony NEX-5 equipped with a lens adapter so he could use his manual focus primes.  He stated that with his Canon G11, a fine P&S, he was often taking many pictures but not using them for anything.  Now, the NEX-5 (so equipped with his manual focus primes) prompted him to change his point and shoot style, to slow down and think more about what he was shooting.   His reward?  More meaningful images he’ll do something with!

The conversation then turned to how many writers who write submissions for local websites would do well to think about what they’re going to write, to think it through like you would a junior college essay question, BEFORE you write.  Make the plan, and then write the plan.  Think the plan, and then shoot the plan.  Slow down, consider your entire environment towards your composition.  Like our feature photograph today did you see the Thai flag in the background or the tulips in the foreground.  The fountain?  Both boat pilots?

If your goal is a big stack of prints then by all means, shoot away.  But if you want to earn that rare photograph which you’ll want to hang on your wall.. then slow down, stop and take in your environment, and put thought into what you shoot.


Until next time..