Thoughts on Life, Art, Photography, Technology, Teaching and Travel…..

Slowing Down The Photographic Process…

Most photographers shooting with digital cameras seem to have a tendency to work through the various phases of the photographic process (previsualization – final image) very quickly due to being able to instantly see their pictures in the viewing screen on the back of their cameras.  When we shot with film I believe most photographers were a little more deliberate in their approach to making (composing)  photographs images.

You had to really scrutinize each composition and think a little longer and harder about exposure, framing, angle of view, subject placement and depth of field because it would normally be a few days before you got the film developed.  Film (and developing) was also expensive.

There are so many creative decisions to be made when framing and composing great images.  Most professional photographers work through the various phases (steps) of this creative process intuitively – almost as if it were an involuntary response.

The point is…I believe all photographers should constantly remain acutely aware of the variables that go into taking that “great” photograph.  This forces us to “slow down” and really LOOK at the potential subject that caught our eye initially. How do you want to translate that subject photographically? What is the best angle – vantage point and amount of depth of field based on your personal vision / style as a photographer?

8 – 32 gig memory cards allow us to make hundreds of high resolution images compared to the roll of 24 or 36 exposures that we used back in the film days.  I think this relatively recent technological innovation has its good points and bad when it comes to taking “making” unique and visually interesting pictures.

I think the biggest down side to digital photographic technology is the ability to view our images immediately and take hundreds (thousands) of photos in one shooting session. Don’t get me wrong….I love all the new creative options digital photography has to offer – I just think we shouldn’t forget about our roots when it comes to making photographs.

Fifty+ years ago photographers like Ansel Adams had to lug “large format” camera around on cumbersome tripods and only had a few big film holders to load into these cameras. They had to “slow down” and get those images right the first time.  Today is so much different. We have incredibly powerful tools and applications at our disposal now – its just a matter of harnessing (mastering) these new tools just like those early turn of the century photographers had to master theirs.

So with that said…I intuitively  “slow down” when shooting with my film cameras because I don’t have the luxury of seeing my pictures the second after I snap the shutter.  I suggest doing the same with your digital cameras. Take that extra moment to run through that checklist of creative options before snapping your shutters. We don’t always have the luxury of doing this especially when photographing action and wildlife – but when at all possible remind yourself to stop for a brief moment and think about the WHY behind your decision to take a certain photograph.

Why did it initially catch your eye in the first place?  How do you want to translate this subject? What does this picture communicate?

Mount Williamson—Clearing Storm by Ansel Adams

There are so many ways to compose, frame and capture subject matter for pictures now – take a deep breath and give yourself that split second before snapping the shutter to think about those creative options and decisions. You may not always come away with majestic, visually dynamic pictures on the same level as Ansel Adams, but I bet you start getting more photographs that you are happy with and get more positive responses from people who see them.

3 comments on “Slowing Down The Photographic Process…

  1. Teresa G
    August 11, 2012

    So true. While I respect digital and appreciate it’s convenience, I do so love film! (And all the work that comes with it)

  2. keoughp
    August 12, 2012

    Thanks for your comment Teresa! They both have their strong points. I think it is just a matter of changing your mindset a little when going from digital photography to film. Either way…making photographs is a intensely creative endeavor and allows us to explore the world in new and exciting ways.

  3. Michel
    August 29, 2012

    Oh, to the days when we had to wait to see if we caught ‘the shot’ on film and people used telephones to talk to us; with their voice.

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