Sharpening Your Photographic Mind: The 2 Types of Photographers

The link below is to an article entitled above, and is from the PetaPixel Website.

It’s a long article, but so worth the read, I can heartily recommend it if you have a bit of time to spare…

Lincoln Arboretum

We’ve All Done It……

You’re out with your camera – you see another photographer shooting something, anything – and you just have to pause, to look, to see what they see that you might have missed.

We don’t trust our own judgement – we have to have a ‘quick look’, just in case.

There are some shots that I return to again and again – always in the hope that the ‘thing’ will change – different sky, different weather, different times of year.

Then, when you’re stood there, surrounded by your gear, along comes the iphoneographer.  You look at each other, you say nothing, he obviously thinks there must be something there worth taking (well you’re there with your stuff aren’t you?) – he whips out his phone – points it, takes one shot and leaves.

You stand, and watch him leave – slowly, or quickly, vanishing into the distance.  You’ve  shot this thing for many weeks, in all weathers, and he comes along and just ‘takes’ it.

You are left wondering if what he took was better than what you were doing.

Is he happier with that one shot than you with your 50 odd?

What do you think?


Take a photo – Make a photo ?

Is clicking the shutter really enough ?  Do we spend too much time post processing ?   Should we be ‘pure’ in our art.  What comes in the lens, comes out in the print….

I’d say NO.  Clicking the shutter for me, is only the beginning of the process.

Whilst digitally enhancing images has become far easier, it’s nothing new.  The practice has existed since photography began. There was an exhibition in New York in 2012 which examined this whole thing.  Click HERE for the link.  The exhibition featured images created in the period 1840 – 1990.  Look again at the first date…… 1840 !!!  The photographs were altered using a variety of techniques including multiple exposures, combination printing (images used from more than one negative), painting, and retouching.   Nothing new really here, apart from the speed – it was much slower then to get the same results as nowadays.

untitledUnknown Artist, American School
Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders
ca. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House
Photo Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The earliest example I could find was this one…. a two headed man – created in 1855 !


So why is manipulation such a huge problem for some people?

My all time hero – Ansel Adams was one of the greatest landscape photographers of all time.  He was probably one of the perfectionists.  His images were printed, edited, printed, edited, and printed again.  His ‘zone’ system is complex, and, for his time, revolutionary.  Google him – look at his images before and after editing.  One of his most famous pictures – Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico’ – is a perfect example of his post processing skills.

So, next time the ‘purists’ start shouting about images coming straight out of the camera, because that’s how it should be done, just remind them that although sometimes it’s done that way – most times it’s not.  That old adage that ‘the camera never lies’ is bunkum.  It lies most of the time.

The reality is that the people who make the cameras in Japan, or where-ever are the people who are ultimately telling you what your image will look like – especially if you are shooting in JPEG.  They decide the colours, the saturation, the sharpness. You decide on the crop.

The ultimate decision of course is the photographers  own.  There is no right and wrong way to process (or not) your own images.  There is also no need to preach about perfect out of camera images – nor is there a need for people to stop manipulating images just as much as they would like.

There’s space for all of us…….

No go out and MAKE some photographs…………

untitledMaurice Guibert (French, 1856–1913)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, Albi 1864–1901 Saint-André-du-Bois)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Henry P. Mcllhenny, 1982-14-2

The Rule of the Fool

Are you a fool?  Why do you think you are, or not, as the case may be?

In my head, the fool usually rules – he challenges the norm, and his job is to question the rules, conventions and so on, that keep you thinking the same things.

Sometimes, in photography, you have to let your head rule, let the fool inside you out.

As an adult, I think it’s harder to do than when you were a child.  Children act the fool all the time, and everyone smiles and chuckles and says “how cute” – once grown, the same actions are seen as unhealthy and immature.  Now I’m not suggesting for one minute that we all go around acting like a  5 year old all the time, but I am suggesting that you let your mind wander. Laugh at yourself.

I had an idea a while ago – not an original one I hasten to add – but I’d seen images created of people apparently levitating.  A quick check on the web pretty much told me how they were achieved, and then, with the aid of a pal, we set off to see what we could do.  It was harder than we both thought, to get the light right, to get a natural looking lift, and more importantly, to get perspectives right so it ‘looked’ like we’d got a person to float.

I was reminded of a quote I’d read

“If you tell people where to go, but not how to get there, you’ll be amazed at the results”

And that’s how we were – we had a rough idea where to go, but it was up to us to come up with a ‘fool’ proof route.

A problem was posed, and we had complete freedom in our imaginations as to how to solve it.

At school, we learn that failure is not an option – you are scored throughout your life – tests, exams, sales figures, business goals.  We learn to be right with only one answer as often as possible. We keep ‘mistakes’ to a minimum.   You have learned not only to not make mistakes, but you learn to not put yourself in a situation where you might fail.

The photographic judge looks at your photo, and doesn’t like it – he/she scores it 8/20 – you are deflated.  You won’t make that mistake again – you won’t enter a competition again – at its worst – you won’t take any more photographs if that’s the attitude.

The question is – Are you afraid to fail?  Are you afraid to try something new in your photo journey because of that fear?

What I see with most amateur photographers (and by that I mean new starters mostly) is that they post online everything they shoot – the good, the bad and the ugly…..  The people who are rated more highly, are the ones who (apparently) shoot good images all the time.   WRONG – they are the curators, the people who only post their good shots.  You only see what you are allowed to see – because yes, they make as many mistakes as the rest of you – it’s just that you don’t see them.

So, be brave, be curious, make mistakes and play the fool.

My experiment with levitation, by the way, not only led me on an interesting journey through the ‘how did they do that’ process, but ultimately led me to images that I like, and have entered into national competitions, with some degree of success.

Enjoy being the fool……


Are we Scared of Change?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about photographers who were doing the same thing year after year, and me thinking that they were not as interesting, as those who moved on, tried different things, and were willing to experiment.

To some extent, I take that back.  There are photographers who are interesting, and have been, and will remain interesting, no matter what they do – mainly because they are very good at a particular genre. I would however, bet my last dollar, that at some point they have tried different things, and that they have in some areas failed (See my fear of failure post).

I realised only the other day, that I’m pretty guilty of this myself.  Now, I’m always happy to have a go at something new, something different – and at least try, even if I do fail at it.  But, yesterday, I drove for just under 3 hours to get to Wollaton Hall, where there were Red Deer, in the hopes of seeing some of the rut.  I’ve done this for the last 6 years (not the long drive, just the photos), and I’ve had some pretty good images.  What dawned on me yesterday, was that I was trying to do the same things I was doing before I moved home into deepest Lincolnshire.

Where I lived before, for example – deer parks were pretty easy to get to.  Lyme Park was 20 minutes away, and then there was Tatton, and Dunham Massey – all National Trust, but then I was a member, and all three were accessible for early morning, and evening shoots.  Here, now, Bradgate Park, and Wollaton Hall are probably two of the few places with a Red Deer Herd, and I made two mistakes yesterday.

  1. I left home too late, and
  2. I left home far too late

Nearly 3 hours there, three hours on site, and same back.  Exhausted? Yes, Pictures? Yes – Good Pictures? – Weeeelllll…. maybe some pretty OK ones.


Bradgate Park Leicester is 84 miles and 2 hours.  I went there last year, and yes, it was better access, time and more deer activity.

I did wonder as I crawled into bed last night whether I shouldn’t reconsider what I was photographing on a weekly basis.  I’ve not adapted my photographic behaviour to my new location – I’m still doing some things I was doing before, and maybe, not as well – just because of the distances involved.

I’ve learned the hard way – I need to adapt to what I have now, and move on, accept the changes, and next week, I’m back in the car, and looking for Stags…….


Every Day is a Challenge !

“Every day is a new challenge for a photographer. Will it be a portrait, sports, fashion or something else completely? And no matter what that day brings, it must always end the same way – with a great shot.”  I read this only today……

And that’s what I’d like to happen in my world.   There’s always that old adage that you are only as good as your last shot.. but the problem as I see it, is that a lot of amateur photographers, post online everything (and I mean everything) they took on a shoot.

We are constantly bombarded with a miriad of images – and photographers asking which we prefer – the colour one, or the black and white ?  The landscape orientation, or the portrait?  The processed image, or the straight out of the camera?

Now I understand the need sometimes to get another persons opinion – but in the end analysis it has to be what YOU, the photographer like, and not what some unknown person on the other side of the globe has to say about your pictures.  Mostly it’s about personal preference and so posting your two (sometimes pretty poor) photographs asking for a choice, is a bit like asking what shall I eat today – an apple or a banana?  Some will like one, some the other – so in the end you are really no further forward.

There was a group on Facebook, that I joined a few months ago, as I was looking for information on Photoshop and Lightroom – and thought that I might get some ideas as to how to work more effectively with CC.  Instead, I was bombarded with “which do you prefer” images, and after only a week or so, I just abandoned the group to its own devices.

I wondered why the photographers were so unable to make their own decisions, and came to the conclusion that it’s to do with self image.  The uncertainty of their work, and the fear of rejection in the real world.  After all, how many images posted on Facebook, or Flickr or other photo sharing sites have negative comments posted below them?  That would be incredibly few.    The problem here is that the more people say “wow”, “incredible image”, “amazing work”, to poor images, the more the photographer has the self belief that what they are producing is actually good, and so they continue to produce more of it.

There are of course the photographers whose work is most definitely amazing, and incredible – and all the epithets that go with them are true – but the trouble is, they sometimes get buried in the sea of unexceptional work, though some just rise to the surface and become photographers impossible to ignore… their work just ‘shines’.

What’s the answer?

Three answers really…..

  1. Find and follow the truly amazing photographers and be inspired by them.  A good place to start is – a fantastic community of photographers.  Join for free – make your own gallery, and collect, and curate the images here that inspire you. (Other sites are available – and don’t forget, when you see brilliant images,  you WILL know……)
  2. Stop saying things are good, when they obviously aren’t.  Seriously, I know it’s your friend, but sometimes it’s kinder to be honest than to continue to encourage mediocre images. Saying nothing at all can be more honest than saying something is good when it’s not.
  3. Visit exhibitions. Photographic, art, painting – everything.  You’ll see works from the ‘masters’ the top class image makers.  Look at it and analyse it.  What makes it good for you – and if you don’t like it – what makes it bad for you.  Read……. read books about photographers, books about making images, books about creatives.

Lastly, I would say, stop posting EVERYTHING from your last shoot, holiday, portrait session – just give us the good ones to see.  Deep down, most people know what’s good and what isn’t.  The trick is to sort out the wheat from the chaff….. and if you really can’t do that…. then yes, ask a friend… but only if you are prepared to hear the unadulterated truth.