What is the real difference between the photo on the shelf of your friend and these images that put a silent “Wow!” on your lips?
Why isn’t every owner of camera a photographer? Is it the reflex camera that makes photographers professional? Is it the years of experience? Well, I have some friends that own reflex cameras and I guess my grandmother has several decades of experience with cameras. Do they take breathtaking photos? Well, some nice ones, definitely… but what is the secret about extraordinary photos?
It is just as simple as that: Something about them is extraordinary!
Since photography has fascinated me for several years now, I would like to share what I believe is the core of what makes photos extraordinary. First of all I want to be honest with you. I do believe that photography is an art. Technical knowledge provides the basis for you to deliberately create impressive photos, but still the most important quality that makes you an artist is your creativity. Creativity means to invent something new, to create an idea and play around with it until it really excites you. I think that is when you should consider your creation finished.
Talking about photography, one of the more common situations might be that you see something you think would definitely be worth taking a photo of. This happens to me a lot and therefore I developed the habit of taking a compact camera with me whenever I leave the house. I do not expect something exceptional to happen all the time, but when I have my camera with me I know I will never miss it. I don’t primarily focus on extraordinary events or situations to take photos of, but on impressive motifs and images that might evolve out of the most ordinary situations, but can be optically overwhelming.
To me this is an important distinction: I have many friends who don’t take any impressive photos. They just point and shoot whenever they see something worth memorizing — some remarkable situation or event. But that does not guarantee that the picture itself will look appealing. To me photography is not just about memorizing, but about creating a picture. This is why I might press the release more than twenty times for the same motif, usually playing around with a number of parameters. Let me tell you one thing upfront: The quality of your camera plays a rather minor role in the creation of a breathtaking photo.
It is true that high-quality equipment does enhance your possibilities — especially when you are working at difficult lighting conditions. But it is not a precondition for you to be able to take really good photos!
The most basic decision for you as a photographer is what you want to take a photo of. What is the motif of your picture?
This sounds like a trivial question, but it is crucial — in my opinion it is the main reason why most people’s photos are not eye-catching at all. Most of them are not really clear about what exactly they want to present as the key element of their photo — the focus of the viewer’s attention. The motif should be clear to the viewer within fractions of a second. If your motif is clear and exciting (could a simple red cube fascinate you?), the photo will make a strong impression on the viewer.
Do have a certain motif in mind? Then you might want to do some research on possible locations that provide the right qualities to serve as a setting for your photo. There are some interesting aspects to pay attention to. For instance, you might want to take some time to decide what atmosphere you want in your photo. Should it seem bright or dark, natural or industrial, ancient or modern, narrow or wide, lonely or safe? What associations should the setting of your photo create with the viewer? What colors to you want to be predominant in it?
Are there any particular elements you want to appear in your photo that can only be found in certain locations (e. g. geographical characteristics like hills or rivers)?
I personally take most of my photos during my strolls in the city. The motifs depend on the little differences every single day brings. Sometimes I might come across interesting animals or plants that allow me to take some photos of them, but the cue of cars that stretches to the horizon can also be an exciting motif if you know how to intensify the impression of endlessness or emphasize any other characteristic that fascinates you about the image.
It contributes a lot to the diversity of your pictures to open your mind to the variety of motifs there are all around you. Motifs don’t have to be objects — characteristic lighting situations, abstract shapes, or color combinations can be motifs as well. A motif can be anything that makes your image characteristic.
To have an impact on the viewer, you have to communicate clearly what you want them to see in this photo, the reason why you initially chose to take it — even if your motif is a form of chaos. The more obvious and distinct the motif appears, the more impact your photo creates.
Once you have played around with a few motifs of your interest, you will likely start to see interesting motifs around you more often. Over time you will gain a feeling for the potential of the most simple and seemingly ordinary everyday situations, and you will learn how to turn them into highly impressive photos by choosing and presenting specific motifs.
Read more and see my examples by clicking on the link below!
(c) Dino Schachten 2010. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.