Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Complimenting a Photographer

Sometimes photography is perceived as what a camera can do for the admirer of your photograph. That is so archaic I can hardly stand it. When someone tells me "nice capture!" or "what camera do you use?", I have a hard time responding directly.

Sure, we all pick our subjects to photograph. We snap the shutter at the appropriate time. We use the appropriate camera for the work we do. But photography is so much more! A true photographer is not trying to capture a bird image or anything normally seen. There are thousands of photographs of a bird species, but there are few with a land bird in flight with water moving in the background, shot with a shutter speed to smooth the flow of water, shot 10 minutes after sunrise on a bird just rising after a long trip over the Gulf of Mexico the previous day, with the glow of the soft early morning light, using a tripod, a high ISO, a infrared filter, flash and 20 feet of depth in the photograph, and using a long focal length lens.

Photography is about light and framing, in addition to use of equipment. To get the right light, a photographer knows many tricks of the trade. To get the right frame he has many tricks and ideas as well. Light is more technical than art, but framing is more artsy than technical. Sometimes knowing exactly what he wants, a photographer will pursue the acquisition of an image through props and setups, including the placement of light. He also knows what he can do with the photographs after he completes his acquisition, so he seeks an image with a post-acquisition process already defined. This is not say that a photographer is not an experimenter. He definitely does seek new images through experimentation. He might take 1000 photographs to get one that he can say he is proud of.

There will always be an intriguing  story to a great photograph. Great composition comes from planning and patience. For human portraits, some subjects are easier than others. Lively personalities make for great photos but often take much more time, effort and experimentation than of a tranquil subject looking for a decent portrait. For the right scenic photograph, the photographer may have to wait 11 months when the sun is in the right place, or when nature is most cooperative for splendid shots. Excellence is achieved from the photographer with the skillful help of equipment, not solely from the equipment.

So the next time you want to say, "nice capture", you might reconsider how you express your good intentions. It is likely a "great piece of work" or a "nice expression through imagery". There was probably a great deal of thought and effort put into the photograph. And when you ask the camera make, maybe it is more appropriate to be interested in the other facets of the artists work. The camera and related equipment was made to put the image in digital form. The photographer probably did many things to make the photo turn out like it did. For sure, don't think that by getting a nice camera that your photography will be spectacular like his. Know that a great deal of learning and training has taken place, whereas the camera learning was almost nothing compared to the preparations by the artist required to acquire and publish the image.

This is the reason that every photograph taken is protected by law as the property of the photographer. To use it for anything except viewing, you must have the permission of the owner. To get that permission often will cost money, if the property is valued as such. One can search the internet to find the misuse of such property. I have discovered such abuse of my property in the past, as well as hundreds of other photographers.

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