Arts & Culture

There and Back Again

If you have ever begun to take photography a little more seriously or plan on making it a new hobby, you may find the idea of merely beginning quite daunting, particularly if you plan on publishing your work. Taking a simple stroll through photography accounts on social media will instantly reveal people with far more experience and skill, so why bother? Most of those people can be called artists, and artists work on great spouts of inspiration with a degree of skill that would be unattainable by most. However, I can safely say from experience that most of these assumptions are false: the people behind the photography are just like you and I, and they had to begin from somewhere. Inspiration is a fickle mistress that comes and goes on a whim. Thus, it can’t be trusted. And in an attempt to dispel any other beginners’ concerns, this is how I take and edit my pictures.

Preparing to go out and take pictures is often strikingly similar to preparing for a journey, which means packing becomes essential. Some journeys take you a long ways; others only take you to your backyard, so it’s paramount to keep the destination in mind when preparing for a shooting session. That idea is extremely important to remember because I can personally recall more than a few times in which I’ve taken far more equipment than I really needed. Unused lenses or flash gun modules become dead weight, which becomes a major hindrance when a photographer needs to be light on their feet in order to reposition quickly and not miss those split-second “photo ops.”

As for taking the picture, this can require varying degrees of patience. Some subjects are relatively easy to frame using common conventions for how to compose the picture. Others, however, present more of a challenge and sometimes abiding by those conventions becomes tiresome. In such cases I simply envision what kind of image I want to create. Granted, the result may not turn out as expected, but it does provide a goal to aim towards. It usually takes a few tries to get the exposure and composition just right since taking a good picture often requires taking several bad ones. As another solution, I try taking a picture while adding a challenge or a gimmick, such as taking the picture upside down or deliberately underexposing the subject. These experiments have often resulted in complete failure. Nevertheless, I have encountered those rare instances in which they unexpectedly paid off. So, even when you think a certain method of shooting might not work, try it anyway; you never know unless you experiment.

While not every picture needs this, editing usually is the final step of a picture’s development. Even if it isn’t necessarily the most difficult part of the process, it can be the most tedious for a variety of reasons. The tedium depends on how many pictures you’ve saved out of the ones you’ve taken. It’s a good idea to save as many pictures as possible, but not every single one is worth publishing. Usually there’s a need to weed a few pictures out of the editing process, but it can get out of hand quickly like one instance in which I had to sift through two hundred pictures just to find the best forty. When editing my pictures, I also remember not to overedit them since doing so will often spoil the original intent of the picture or create artifacts in the image, particularly when adjusting the brightness and saturation too much. The purpose of editing is to elevate a picture’s strengths, and typically shouldn’t be used to turn bad ones into good ones because a poorly shot picture will always be a poorly shot picture.

As you can tell, this entire process seems awfully mundane and somewhat boring. In fact, most people would indeed find it boring and uneventful. So why do I take pictures and go through the tedium of editing and publishing just for a few people to see them? Because the destination isn’t important; however, the journey is. It’s the simple desire and pleasure to express creativity and to make something beautiful that’s important. And better yet, nearly anyone can embark on this journey if they wish. Just find a camera of any kind and start taking pictures. Will this journey be easy? No. Can it get excruciatingly boring? Of course it can. However, is the journey worth taking? Absolutely.

2 Comments

  1. Good job!! I feel like I’ve learned a lot from your articles. Thank you!!

  2. This is excellent Samuel!!!! Wonderful life lessons to take with you wherever you go!