I recently read a blog post “Wow, how did you do that?” by Cole Thompson, an amazing photographer. If you have a minute, I encourage you to read it. For those who don’t have time, here is the part of the article that really spoke to me.
“However when I see people focusing on technique first, I find they usually never get around to putting that same energy into finding their Vision, and as a result their work is technically perfect and masterfully imitative. Technique alone misses the mark.
So instead of focusing on Photoshop and its hundreds of features or following the latest fad technique, put most of your time and energy into your Vision. I promise you that this approach will yield better images and much more satisfying results.
Technique is not the key to a great image. Vision is.” – Cole Thompson
I am so thankful for Mr. Thompson’s words of wisdom! I have had so many conversations recently through which I have been told that I need to master Photoshop and manipulating images because that is the way to go. I have always held to my belief that shooting to capture my vision is the best way to work – I suppose I am a purist, but I want to capture what I see, what I feel, and what is inspiring me. I want to use the light to make my images, not have to go back at the end of the day to try to make what I thought I saw by using a technique that someone else is using. To me, that would then become me using a vision that belonged to someone else. I don’t want to lose my vision, or myself to what others think I should be doing to be successful. Success will come with patience and through hard work and sharing my vision. The beauty of working with my vision, and using manual settings on my camera and not focusing on a technique, is that I can successfully use a film camera or a digital camera to capture my vision. Kind of cool, I think!
I’ve been told by photographers that they shoot with the purpose of using the image for an idea they have in PS, or other editing software. To me, that is digital art vs. photography. To call it photography don’t you have to be using the camera to capture light and use your artistic vision to compose the image and use the light to successfully create your vision?
To be clear, I am not opposed to post processing a digital image, after all, isn’t the software for digital imaging like the darkroom to film photography? In fact, you have to process an image to some extent, don’t you? Some images are fabulous straight out of camera (SOOC), but others need a little processing – a color burn, a dodge, a color balance, etc., and there is nothing wrong with HDR work when done effectively so that the subject doesn’t look fake. The reality is that no matter how hard we work to achieve the perfect image in camera, the camera doesn’t always see what we see. My goal is always to get as close to accurate as possible with exposure and white balance and the best possible composition – do the very best at what I can control and edit what maybe I couldn’t control as well.
I think that Mr. Thompson’s insight is accurate as far as differentiating artistic vision using photography vs. the art of digital manipulation and creation. A little dodge and burn, etc. are post processing tools that even the greatest photographers used in the dark room. But the over saturation and complete manipulation of an image to the point that the original image is lost, to me, is another art form – digital art, which, in and of itself, can be amazing when done right, and should not be discounted as an art form, just designated as digital art vs. photography.
Another link to check out is the website of Jerry Uelsmann. He is a film photographer that has been called the father of Photoshop, not because he uses Photoshop, but because he uses tools, techniques and expertise in the dark room to develop his negatives. Through his years as a photographer he has overlaid negatives, and done amazing, and sometimes crazy, things to create images, often using multiple negatives to do so. His work is thought-provoking and time intensive. But, his work was all created through his vision captured in the form of photographs. He often combined his visions to create new visions, but because he used his vision and captured that vision in the form of photographs it still falls into the realm of photography, to me at least. The title applied to his techniques; “the father of Photoshop” certainly applies as he inspired the digital art world to become what it is today.
Realizing this post has the possibility to be controversial to some, I want to note that I am in no way trying to offend anyone or discredit the work of any photographers or their techniques. I’m just stating my opinion and explaining my thoughts and letting you, the reader, know how I work. I thought Mr. Thompson’s article was very valuable and may perhaps inspire and help others to find and use their vision and grow as photographers vs. attempting to do the work others are doing. The reality is that none of us can truly copy another’s work when it comes to photography because photography is capturing a moment in time using a vision that will never exist with the same light again. I think the key to successful photography is knowing your vision, knowing how to use your camera to capture your vision through manual settings, and following your heart to further develop your vision through post processing.
Another link I’d like to share with you is the website for the International Center for Photography in New York City. One of the current exhibits is titled “What is a Photograph?”. I can’t wait to see it and hope that some of you make your way to visit the museum as well.
Enjoy going out and creating “your” art this weekend!