Friday, 30 March 2007

Cooking On Photography Trip

Pans steam and two people cooking A photograph of two of my photographer friends cooking up a feast on a creative weekend away. I've been using this image and others to test Imagenomic's Realgrain. It's a photoshop plug-in which simulates film and darkroom effects on digital files. I'll post an article on with my thoughts on it soon.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Portraits Of Strangers - 3

Candid Portrait of Stranger - Image © David Toyne

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.

- Matt Hardy

When I took B's picture she said to me "I take a terrible picture". I told her obviously that was impossible she must have only met terrible photographers.

Portraits Of Strangers - 2

candid portrait photograph of stranger - Image © David Toyne

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.

- Ansel Adams

Another candid portrait photograph of a friendly stranger as I photographed people at random this week in Liverpool. I felt the quote fits as my presence has obviously influenced the shot quite strongly.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Portraits Of Strangers

Kindly Strangers - Image © 2007 David Toyne

Usually I think if there is something imperfect in a photograph it makes the picture more real. Photographs that are slick, smooth, and perfect seem less honest to me.

- John Loengard, "Pictures under discussion" by John Loengard,
ISBN: 0817455396

I'm with John Loengard´s sentiments in this quote. Sometimes it's the quirks and flaws make the image for me. The above is one of my random street portraits taken this week in a Pub in Liverpool, UK. I think it fits in with the definition of flaws adding to the image.

Candid Photography Advice

Kindly Old Gentleman - Images © 2007 David Toyne

I have collected some of my thoughts on how to go about candidly photographing total strangers. More importantly my thoughts on how to make it home intact and without a black eye and a broken camera.

The fist piece of advice is about how you act. People are like mirrors of your own behaviour. So when you photograph in public if you are cagey and sneaky people will be guarded and suspicious in their dealings with you.

If you lack confidence they will distrust your motives. If you don't know why you are there and what you're doing then you will probably encounter hostility and more suspicion. It's sad but that's the world we are in now.

So I advise being honest, chatty and open if challenged by anyone. You have nothing to hide remember. Watch for peoples responses and act to reassure them if needs be. Sometimes having a business card saying you are a photographer or a small selection of your work with you is a great way to relax a person who challenges you.

Next thing is how to approach people? Do you take a picture and then ask or do you ask then hope that the moment will not be lost? This depends on if you are interested in the moment or the individual in your photograph.

When it's the individual you are interested in asking permission is often the best way to proceed. If you are open, honest and clear why you want to take a picture then usually they will say yes. Often in fact people seem quite flattered at being asked. However if they do refuse then be polite and withdraw. Never take a picture of them after they have refused. You know how you'd feel about that and also it's just plain rude.

In the first shot sequence in this article I was interested in the man´s wonderful face and slight inebriation not the scene that he was in. Due to this I asked him to take his picture and he readily agreed. We chatted for a while and as he relaxed I took my pictures. He was laughing at me by the third shot as it was only then he realised I was taking his picture. He'd forgotten me until that point.
Dog face - Image © 2004-2007 David Toyne

In the second shot it's the moment that is of interest. So asking would have ruined the shot. The shot depended on the eye contact with the dog but no eye contact with the people. It also required people and dog's heads in a diagonal line as they are in the shot. Asking would have disturbed all the elements critical to making this picture work. As such I didn't ask I just shot the image. Ethically I feel good about that as the shot is positive and in no way casts the subjects in a negative light.

Last but by no means least don't waste time fiddling with your camera settings. In candid and street photography you have very little time. You must be ready camera in hand to shoot a picture in an instant. Blink and you can and do miss it! In a normal day exposures change very slowly with slow changes in ambient light. I recommend setting the camera on manual, set shutter speed and aperture for the current conditions and then tweak it when conditions change significantly (or every 30 minutes or so). That way you're focused on composition and your surroundings not the technicalities of photography. You'll also have a camera ready to be used at all times. Worst case is your exposure is off by plus or minus 1/2 a stop which is easily corrected in the darkroom or lightroom later.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Conclusion - Seven Deadly Sins Of Photography

going to photography hell

The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking.
- Brooks Atkinson, 1951, "Once Around the Sun"

My series of photography sins is at an end. I hope you have enjoyed them. I've put links to them all here so it's easy to bookmark should you want to do so. The time has come now to stop being negative and get down of my soap box. There will soon follow a more positive series covering the seven corresponding virtues of photography.

Envy - The belief that that the camera makes the image not the person. Compounded by the delusion that better cameras make you a better photographer.
Gluttony - The foolish belief that if some equipment is good then more is better. The technical obsessive without a creative soul.
Greed - Photographers with the delusion that they must impede other photographers. They resenting the success of other creative people and see them as a threat.
Lust - The desire to mimic another photographer or artist that is so strong it destroys your own creative personality.
Pride - The mistaken belief that you know best and are the best photographer in the universe. When in reality your report card might read "Must try harder".
Sloth - The belief your failure to set the world on fire with your images is due to factors other than you making no effort whatsoever.
Wrath - Creative impatience and self delusion taken out on other people in a negative, intolerant angry way.

Wrath - Seven Deadly Sins Of Photography

Self Portrait of Author - Image © David Toyne

Wrath is disproportionate and uncontrolled feelings of hatred, frustration and anger. These feelings manifest as a denial of the truth, both to others and to ourselves. Our anger is often our first reaction to the problems of others. Impatience with the faults of others is often related to this.

The seventh and final deadly sin of photography has two distinct aspects, both of which will negatively impact your photography.

The first effect is in your dealings with people as subjects for photography. Imagine for a second being photographed by a frustrated angry photographer. Any little thing that's wrong is a major issue and it's all your fault! Would you like to be part of this experience? Would you relax and be yourself? Can you give your all to a photographer like this? Finally, in all honesty do you feel the best image of you could be made in this circumstance? I suspect you know the answer to this already. The tension and stress it would create between the belligerent photographer yourself would begin to show.

With any picture featuring people as subjects the relationship between the models and the photographer is critical. Tension and negativity show in the end result. It's because of this that a wrathful photographer renders themselves unsuitable and ineffectual when photographing people. Whole swathes of photography become denied to them. This will of course only increase their frustration and they will probably blame everyone else as usual. So the first lesson is Don't be that angry photographer. Kind words and patience go a long way. People who show the virtue of kindness are usually the best people photographers as people enjoy being around them.

The second trait is more subtle but can be very insidious when the wrathful photographer uses it. Sadly they use it freely on less experienced photographers or on their subjects. This trait is the destructive criticism of others. They very fond of delivering wholely negative critique in order to vent their anger. They don't like to receive any advice of critisism themselves. Even very reasonable and helpful remarks will be met with a vitriolic response. They certainly won't listen if any advice is given (See the sin of Pride). Criticism is their crutch. It makes them feel better and absolves them of responsibility for their shortcomings.

You need to watch very carefully for unfounded critisism. More so if you're starting out in photography. At the start a series negative and unfounded critiques from these wrathful people can severely erode your creative confidence and dampen your enthusiasm. Worse still you might get stuck in the thankless rut of trying to appease these pompous idiots. The trick is to spot the wrathful critic early on. This is suprisingly easy as a wrathful critic offers only negative thoughts or an insult in the guise of opinion. No advice will be forthcoming nor any indication of where you got things right or how to improve your work. Tact will not be in evidence at any time, under any circumstance. What they say will only hurt and not be designed to help it will make you feel confused and upset without justification. Any questioning of their negative attitude will meet yet more hostility. If you get sucked in then before you know it you're in their world being angry and frustrated right back at them. Moral of the story? Just walk away. It feels better removes their power and proves you the better individual.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Greed - Seven Deadly Sins Of Photography

Behind The Walls - Image © David Toyne

This is about more than being acquisitive and demanding. It's about NOT letting others get the credit or praise for their part. It is NEVER giving without having expectations of the other person. Greed wants to get its 'pound of flesh' or a bit more...

Artistic creativity is a strange business but in photography it gets even stranger. I think this may be due to insecurity about whether it's an art or a technology? Maybe it's due to this worry that it was in photography where I first encountered creative greed. And let me say that to me the sin of greed is most offensive to me. I shall elaborate...

The reason I started writing these articles was to help people. Plain and simple. I just wanted to occasionally shed some light or make something click for people that are where I was once. This is due to my early experiences in photography where I found help difficult to come by. You see I first discovered the phenomenon of creative greed as I started out. As I had been around artists all my young life and never come across this phenomenon it was something of a rude awakening.

I'd had a camera for only a week when I stumbled across a professional photographer. As I was really struggling I asked them for help with a very basic problem. It required about 15 seconds of their valuable time. Instead of an answer I got a very public mocking. I was left feeling a little red faced, non the wiser and very patronised. I'd had my first encounter with a greedy photographer.

In contrast in the many years since this negative experience I have asked many other photographers many questions. Usually I have received a warm reception, obtained great advice and encouragement and in some cases formed lasting friendships. It was only later with experience and hindsight I realised the difference between these two schools of creativity.

Photographers who suffer the malaise of creative greed have the fear that they must keep all information and skill for themselves. That some how if they help anyone they may have a success that is rightly theirs. They actually resent your interest in photography and your success is a threat to them. These people are actually not that great creatively. Their greed and selfishness only masks a deeper insecurity and often a poor ability.

Mistakenly these lost souls think they can create in a vacuum. They think by holding people back they move forwards. They do this by taking from everyone and give nothing back. Sadly for these creative vampires it's their loss. They fail to see that one of the great things about being creative is when you put a couple of creative people together in a room and they are both generous with each other then the results are fabulous and the time spent benefits all concerned. Where as if you remain afflicted with creative greed you end up walking a lonely road with very little to inspire you. You stagnate and your work reflects this.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

What Is Street Photography Anyway?

Television Lies Graffitti - Image © Johnny Mobasher

You'll often hear talk about the mysteries of street photography. Its much rarer to hear any solid discussion about what it actually is. Now there will be much nonsense spouted about the cultural sophistication required to understand it. It can also be the most cliquey and puritanical branch of photography. This should all be ignored, it's very easy to be fed a load of sophisticate nonsense by effete snobs who want to exclude you from what they see as 'their party'. I advise that you just filter out these pompous nay sayers and explore this rewarding branch of photography for yourself.

The above rant over it was most refreshing to find Johnny Mobasher's website. It covers the ancient art of street photography by letting the pictures do the talking. There are dozens of galleries of street photography and also some interesting thoughts on the subject. If you want an idea where to get started and an understanding of why street photography can be so innovative and liberating this is a great site to study.

In addition to the above site Johnny also has a blog which has on occasion made me die laughing.

Son Of A Shameless Plug

Use of lead in lines

Venerable photographer and writer Paul Indigo has once again hit the spot with an interesting article. It's a sequel to an article I previously mentioned as such I'm drawing attention to it. Once again it has a nice focus on the importance of non-technical aspects of designing and creating strong images.

The first essay was about designing images that work. The follow up is about more advanced composition and how to plan advanced design concepts into an image.

I include the image on the left as it illustrates the use of lead lines as described in Paul's second article. This concept was first introduced to me by professional photographer Magda Indigo some years ago.