I was watching an interview this week with one of the most influential photographers on the planet, Joe McNally. He was talking about how there are so many “technically perfect” images out there, but they all lack something. Let’s face it, with the birth of digital photography, the number of photographers out there has exploded. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make you pause for a moment.
What makes a great image? To me, it is a “real” image. I’ll admit that I love all the technical aspects of cameras and lenses. I am a gear addict and I have the credit card bills to prove it. However, I don’t aspire to be the photographer that posts hundreds of photos online of just very nice perfectly exposed images of (enter subject) ______________ .
To me, you lose sight of the real purpose of the camera when you actually have hundreds of images you like! I only have a handful of images that really stand out in my mind. Images that I look at from time to time and feel like “Yea, I nailed it.” It does not even have to be exposed great. But, it has to speak to me. To you. To someone.
So, what is a great image? A couple of clients recently told me that they enjoyed my work because it captured the essence of them. That was such a huge compliment because to me, that is photography. The camera is just a tool. When I look through the lens at someone, I am not really thinking about exposure. Sure, I have to properly expose the image. But, I want to take my photos to the next level. I want you to look at one of my images and “know” that person, family, etc. Their quirks. Their mood. The good. Heck, even the bad. It’s real.
The first known photograph was around 1826. Was it a posed image? No, it was two guys on a roof in France. (snooze) But, it was real. It documented something. A moment.
I try to document someone each time I pick up the camera. Are they funny? Are they boring? Do they hate being photographed? Do they hate me? I don’t know. But, I want to find out. I don’t really pose people because I feel like you lose something when you do that. Sometimes I’ll just stand there staring through the lens at two very uncomfortable people for like 3 min. Awkwardness will always give way to something real. You just have to be patient and ready to press that button. But, it will always happen.
Here is a moment. I did nothing but hide behind a tree. I waited for a few minutes. Staring. (stalking – LOL) After forgetting about me and what the heck I was doing, this couple just started being, well, them. This photo will not win any awards, but it was one of their favorite pictures. That’s all that matters to me.
I guess I am a documentary photographer. But, what does that really mean? Any time we pick up a camera, aren’t we doing it with the sole purpose to document something? A moment in time. A good moment. A bad moment. A happy photo. A sad photo.
Sometimes you just catch a moment like this. LOL They were fun…
My favorite photographs say something, without words. They let you in. I love people. I love being let into these little worlds for an hour. Sometimes 8-10 hours. To see people for who they are.
I get what Joe McNally was saying and it makes sense. Sometimes I feel like as photographers, we are competing with each other to make the best image using the best recipe of photoshop actions in order to achieve some mystical looking image. However, that image, no matter how perfectly exposed or processed, is just a pretty picture.