Through mentoring and workshops I critique tens of thousands of photographs every year. Many of the images do a great job of capturing what the photographers saw but few of them capture what they felt.
If you’re worried that I’m going to get all touchy feely, I can assure you that you’re safe. In fact this advice works on the level with which I feel the most comfort: Superficial. 🙂
In my last post I wrote about eliminating the extraneous as a way of making your photographs speak more clearly. This time, I’ll add another piece of advice that’s truly going to make your images sing.
Whether you’re taking a photo of something as small as a leaf or as large as the Pacific Ocean, your tendency is to include too much. When you do, you’re often recording your subject in the most representational way possible and your photos miss their mark. You’re thinking about the subject but not what drew you to it.
Here’s another way of going about things: Instead of photographing nouns start photographing adjectives and verbs.
When you’re photographing, look beyond your subject and instead focus on the elements or qualities to which you are most attracted. Chances are that you’re not attracted to the leaf, you’re attracted to the Color, Texture or Line within the leaf. When you hone in on what you love most about the subject it helps me appreciate the same qualities that you did when you photographed it.
Photographers, as with writers, are communicating the things on which they place importance. To be a better photographer, I’d suggest thinking like a writer. Describe what makes your subject magic. Show me its beauty or convey its message in the clearest way possible. As your mother used to tell you, “Use your words.”
Now, go out there and photograph, but when you do, be concise, be descriptive and ignore the nouns in front of you.