Learning to see: Photography Education
While receiving my photography education in film school, I had a wonderful mentor who often gave me this assignment: He would take me to the WORST location and tell me to make something amazing with one roll of film. Every time I had this job, my stomach turned. I HATED it. Over and over he assign this homework. My locations were normally about 10 square feet; sometimes it was a parking lot, sometimes a trash can in a corner of campus; every single time I griped “this location sucks!”
I had a ton of excuses for why I couldn’t create beautiful photographs in such horrible conditions. It took me over a year to finally “get it.” I kept looking at the location and seeing it for what it was, rather than looking at my tools and thinking about what I could turn it into. I was reacting to the environment, rather than creating it. The time spent with my mentor was truly the most valuable time I’ve had as an artist.
Many years later, Andy and I are now blessed with the opportunity to mentor other photographers, it’s one aspect of our business which we both absolutely love.
Over the years not much has changed, one of the questions we hear often is “what happens when I have a boring location?”
Our answer is always the same: Look differently. Be creative. Use the tools you have to see beyond the obvious. Consider how you can distort or compress the scene to create something amazing.
Most people look at the environment and see it just as it is: a boring parking lot, an ugly building. Yet as artists, it’s our job to see past the visible. We have the tools to create something that no one can see with the eye alone. We can literally make an environment or person look completely different with lighting,angles and lenses alone.
We’re not just “snapping pictures”, we’re creating. Our lenses can completely transform an environment, we can create light or shadow at will. The possibilities are truly endless.
Here’s a couple of examples from our recent real world shoots:
A couple of weeks ago, Andy and I were trekking around at an engagement session and I saw this location. Our couple looked at me like I was bat-shit crazy, but I used my typical disclaimer… “I know this looks nasty, but I promise it will be worth it!” By stacking and compressing the environment with my 200mm lens, this run down building became this:
Years ago, I would have been stumped if I had to create a beautiful photograph on a washing machine. During the getting ready photos a this wedding, this was the only location I could find that wasn’t crowded with people. I grabbed the coffee filters from the kitchen, used my 100mm 2.8 at f/16 and…. Wala!
While shooting a recent wedding, the only private location we could find was in the parking lot next to a breezeway. By stacking and compressing the environment, it feels like the couple is alone in a lush garden.