Does your light tell a story? Or is it just a tool?

I admit it.  When I look back on my early photographic work, I laugh a little and feel a bit ashamed.   (Did I seriously light that photo that way?  Oh heavens...)  HOWEVER,  I am not sorry I posted the photo.  Why?  Because it was my work and I was proud of it  That was where I was on my learning journey and it taught me things.  If I wait until I am perfect, I might not start my career until I am 62.  (Not that starting a career at 62 is would just be a shame to spend 40 years working towards a career without engaging IN it).  I am happy I messed up a few times.  You know why?  Because I was able to develop my own style -- my own signature -- my own photographic eye.  I didn't study under a master and gain their way of looking at things.  I didn't go to school and learn all the right rules.  I read a lot and experimented a LOT and I came into my own as a photographer.

NOW.  I do not think that everyone should never go to school and should just do what they want.  In fact, I think doctors should go to school even LONGER to make sure they know what they are doing.  (The massive headaches endured after my 2nd c-section remind me that I wish my anesthesiologist should have had a few more courses.)  Art is different.  Art is personal and art should be influenced by other's artwork as little as possible.   NOW.  I did not say that art should not be influenced by others.  I said it should be influenced by other's artwork as little as possible.   This is the thing...if you are so heavily producing art in someone else's style, you aren't really opening a dialogue or producing something amazing.  You are repeating things.  Sometimes repeating is great -- like when you are a line cook and feeding the masses at a restaurant.  You SHOULD be creating meals that are heavily influenced by the head chef.  When you are an orchestral member, you should be blending in with the style of the piece and the conductor's vision for the music.  When you strike out on your own though -- you should be different.  You should bring new eyes to the world -- not eyes that have been fully trained by someone else's eyes.

NOW.  Photography is an art.  Photography is also a science.  There are a lot of technical things to learn when it comes to photography and if you don't learn them, you aren't being creative -- you are being stupid.  NOW.  don't get me wrong - I think you should start experimenting right away even if you don't know everything (who does?!), but you should not forsake the learning of the technical side of photography.  You should learn from the technicalities from the masters, soak up their tips and tricks and then -- THEN use your creativity.  Break all the rules -- do what you want -- see with YOUR eyes.  Show off your work and the clients who love YOUR style will come to you.  If you don't get clients, you can take 2 roads.

#1  Learn more.  Perhaps you aren't as good as you think. 

#2  Change.  If you want to be successful, but you also want the freedom of creativity, you might have to adjust your methods a little.  Change what you are doing and see if there is a response.  You don't only have one idea do you?  Try out new things -- be brave, just use YOUR eyes.  Bring your vision to the changes you make and then you will have a successful business on TOP of creative freedom.  Win-win. 

#3  Ok, so there are 3 roads.  If you are passionately inspired and nobody gets what you are doing -- keep going.  You might be brilliant.  Don't make it your day job though.  Get a real job - put food on the table and be brilliant like no one is looking (because clearly they are not, but who cares?)

This is a picture of eggs.  At sunset.  With lots of shadows.
 Lit well with off camera flash.  Still at sunset...can you tell?
I know they are just eggs...but even eggs can tell a story.  The picture above?  Those evenly lit, "well-lit" eggs?  Those look like regular old eggs.  There doesn't really seem to be a story.  They are fine -- evenly lit.  Eggs.

The eggs below though...they are experiencing a setting sun.  They are telling a story of hot eggs laid just this morning, collected and washed and piled high.  They are telling a story of a drifting day, from lazy afternoon to a dusk full of shadows.  They are just eggs...but the light tells the story of the people that own these eggs.  Wouldn't you rather tell a story with your photos?  Wouldn't you rather include the light as a storyteller instead of just a tool?

  Half and half splits of light and shadow.  


Becky Jane said…
Using the natural sunset lighting made such a profound difference...I'm a pitiful picture taker, but using this one technique could fool a lot of people about my Thanks for this tip!
Felicia Kramer said…
You were correct: someone else's style. Someone else's eyes. It's the possessive form.

Now if only my photography were as good as my grammar!