Presence

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a photographic term that I’ve grown to call “presence”. Some images seem to immerse the viewer of the photograph right into the scene as if they were an active participant or perhaps a bystander who is witnessing the event first hand. Yet others seem to convey more of a sense of distance – that of an onlooker who is trying to see but can’t quite figure out just what’s going on.

There is room for both scenarios in good photography, and often, presence can have a direct correlation to how compelling a photograph can be.

If you are trying to convey a sense of vastness, or loneliness, or to portray a scene that has room – perhaps a stark, barren place of desolation, then it seems logical to give the photograph some space. If you are trying to thrust the viewer into a situation that they cannot possibly back away from, then getting close is the answer.

There are a few things to be careful of however. Make sure that you are not so close that the viewer of the image has no context. On the other hand, make sure that you’re not so far away or you’re rendering the image in such a way that the focal point of the photograph is almost indistinguishable unless you’re looking at a rather large print hanging on a wall somewhere. If your target purpose for the image is Instagram for example, make sure that the things that need to be seen can be seen.

I’ve seen many images over the years where otherwise great photographs could have been made much more compelling if the photographer had only stepped fifteen feet forward before pressing the shutter release. And there have been many quite good photographs that were just too close leaving the viewer without enough context to properly get a feel for what’s going on.

So next time you’re taking photographs, try thinking about the term “presence” and pay attention to how compelling your image can be by simply adjusting your distance or your render.

Happy Shooting,

Doug

Ten Things To Strive For In Your Photography

We are about to bring this year to a close. I’ve been busy not just taking photographs but also cleaning out my image library, archiving important images, and starting anew.

As this will most likely be most last blog post of the year, I’d like to leave you with a few things to think about. The idea for this post came about mostly because of what I’ve seen when I teach people photography. Many students I’ve had over the years have experienced difficulty editing their images. There is no doubt in my mind that editing (I’m not talking about post processing here) or weeding out your images so that you’re only left with strong ones, is a necessary skill that has to be developed just like any other skill. And for many it seems, it’s very difficult to get rid of your bad photos.

I also believe that images that are strong generally require very little in the way of post processing. I shoot mostly on film these days, so the only processing I find myself doing is dust and scratch removal, and maybe a tiny bit of dodging or burning.

All photographers have taken lousy images. And most have images that are mediocre, and some that are very strong. But I find that it’s very important to be your own critic and always be in the mindset of trying to objectively see your images from another persons standpoint.

Here are a few things I always try to ask myself when looking at photographs:

1.) Does the photograph possess a beauty in and of itself?

2.) Does the image draw you in or shock you in some way?

3.) Does the image have a universal appeal or value?

4.) Is the photograph poetic or symbolic of something larger?

5.) Is the image interesting to look at?

6.) Is the photograph significant in some way? 

7.) Is it useful in that it documents a place and time or describes a human condition?

8.) Does the image spark an emotion in you?

9.) Does the photograph have enough context for you to know what you’re looking at?

10.) Has the photographer confined the significant detail and rid the image of the unimportant clutter?

Now, you may not be able to satisfy all these criteria when taking your photographs, but trust me, it’s a good idea to always have these questions in the back of your mind when you’re editing.

Happy Shooting as always, and I wish you the best year of photography ever in 2017.

Doug