Early in my career I worked as an assistant for a prominent still life photographer in New York. I learned the value of attention to detail in making strong images, often moving objects a 1/16″ to make things look just right. It was a lesson well learned, and a focus I’ve brought to every genre of photography I’ve been involved in over the years.
Though that focus has served me well, there are downsides to this approach. One, of course, is that there can be a lack of spontaneity to the image making process. Another is that by being so attentive to optimizing one situation, you don’t see the other opportunities that exist right alongside the solution you are focused on.
This idea is something I stress to attendees of my workshops. And though I do not shoot for myself during a course, I do shoot photographs of other solutions while a participant is working and show them that idea when it does not interrupt their train of thought.
In last week’s Santa Fe workshop, one of the attendees was shooting her model in profile against a river bed. When I looked at the scenario, it seemed to have some wonderful possibilities from the standpoint of contrasting textures. At the same time, it seemed to me that there could have been more separation of values between the skin tone and the background. And that possibly shooting with a shallow depth of field with a simpler background would make the model pop more.
Since I am shooting behind the scenes and not actually directing the model, this is not a finished photograph. What is does, though, is give an indication of the possibilities. If this were my shoot, I certainly would have tried this approach as well as the initial one.
Over time, I’ve come to a method of working where I shoot in a location for a while, then force myself to move left or right, up or down just to see what my other options are. And though I stay focused on the details while I am immersed in a specific image, I always think about what other wonderful images may be out there to explore.
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