Do you take photographs or do you create images? On the face of it it seems that this is the same thing: every time we take a photograph we are creating an image. Well, yes and no. I would suggest that every time we depress the shutter button we are not always creating an image. So what do I mean by ‘creating’ an image? Perhaps the best way to answer this is to talk about what I do to achieve the result I want. But, let’s be clear, this is not opportunistic photography. Rather it’s targeted photography: going out with a specific plan in mind. For example, photographing wading birds or specific birds in flight or photographing mammal behaviours etc at specific locations.
So how does my thought process work?
When I’m at my predetermined location and I have ‘visual’ of the target species, I simply observe. Meaning, I watch and and try to absorb what’s going on: Light ( always number one on the priority list), wind direction (this always affects animal behaviours e.g. Birds, in general, land and take off into the wind). Are they feeding? If so, on what? &etc. These things are my starting point.
Next step is to envision the image I want.
Remember in the days of film when photographers did this?
This was because they couldn’t see the final photo until the film was developed: They wanted an idea of how it would look in terms of framing before they took the shot. Fortunately, we don’t have to do that these days because we have ‘live view’ on the LCD at the back of the camera. More of that later.
I have, by now, decided on the image I want…let’s say birds in flight. I’ve ‘framed it’ in my mind’s eye and I know what I want the final picture to look like. The next step is to decide what tools I’ll need to ‘make’ or ‘create’ the image that I envision: Direction and quality of light, depth of field (Aperture), Shutter speed (to freeze the flight), ISO (to maximise appropriate use of the available light and give me the shutter speed I want), exposure, flight direction, composition (rule of thirds perhaps) etc. Once I’ve applied the ‘tools’ I need I’ll take a test shot to check exposure, composition and what the final image might look like. The rear LCD gives me an instant picture of what I’m trying to envision. It also gives me instant information to fine tune these ‘tools’ if I need to. And I can also check my histogram (more on that in Down The Rabbit Hole – Part Two).
Now you might think that all this seems rather laborious but once you get into the habit through practice it all happens very, very quickly (remember learning to drive and how many things you had to do to achieve what you wanted… and how long it seemed to take…sooo many things to remember? I bet you do all those things instinctively now without thinking. This is no different). And once it all comes together you take the shot, look at the LCD and the image you have created. It’s not random, it’s not opportunistic and it’s certainly not luck. YOU have CREATED your IMAGE!
If you’re still unsure about trying to frame the image you envision then turn on your camera’s live view and take a look at what the final image will look like in terms of framing. It’s also a great way of ‘stepping outside’ and seeing things as others would see your image. Putting yourself in the place of the viewer instead of just the creator will help you understand how others see your images.
I understand that we all learn differently and for some this process will be easier than for others. But if you stick to the plan it will pay dividends. For me personally it was a long journey of writing down all the information I used to create every image I took. I still have that little book after all these years and I still get a kick out of flicking back through the pages and seeing all that information that is now stored in my head ready for instant access.
TIP OF THE DAY:
Turn on live view, press the info button a couple of times and a live view histogram appears. This allows you to adjust your ‘tools’ and instantly see the results in real time. Some have said that this is cheating but I say that if the camera gods have given us this then why not use it?
Stay safe my friends and keep creating