Tuesday, March 17, 2009

If A Picture Paints A Thousand Words...

then what in the hell is my photography trying to say?

I spent some time this weekend watching Zack Arias give online critique of portfolios of aspiring photographers. I learned a lot from watching these, even though I have no desire or intent to ever "go professional". But two things he said stuck with me.

First, passion and talent are two separate things. All the passion in the world doesn't make a talented artist. He gave a painful (ha ha) auditory example by "sharing his passion for singing". I think talent is pretty much innate. I don't think my level of talent can decline but it can be cultivated through practice and through skill enhancement. Passion for a hobby or art on the other hand is fluid, it ebbs and flows. I have the passion right now for photography. The question is whether I have the potential talent to take me to the level of photographer that I want to be.

That leads to the second question and the point of this post. What is my voice? What am I trying to do through my photography?

In his reviews, Zack noted once or twice when a photographer's work was "all over the place" instead of trying to find their niche. Granted, he was reviewing mostly professionals relative to their professional work and I have only been really shooting for less than a year, but those two questions are still important for me. I'm not questioning the validity of what I'm doing, this isn't some existential bull----. For the sake of focusing my growth, I'm trying to target what it is that I am actually trying to accomplish through photography. So here are a few random thoughts on that.

Amateur vs professional
I want to be a great amateur photographer. I have no desire to be paid for what I end up doing with photography. This has nothing to do with some self righteous "won't sell out my art" kind of thing. It's a personal preference. I find that when I get paid to do something, I stop loving it and it becomes a job, a chore, drudgery. I learned that from catering a few events. I started photography as a hobby to get away from the stress, not add to it. I think it's great that some people can do it and enjoy it.

Technical Proficiency
Interestingly enough, I'm finding that regardless of wanting to be amateur or pro, if you want to be great, you have to get better at the same things from the technical standpoint. Exposure. Lighting. Composition. etc. etc. etc. As an amateur, I just get to skip out on all the talk about work flow and marketing.

I want to be great. So I am taking classes in UT's Personal Development course. Classes are signing up now ( see course offerings)and if you are in the greater Knoxville area, I highly recommend you sign up at least for the Fundamentals of Photography I course or a similar course near you. The first 8 week course has really made me better but I have a long way to go. If you can't find a local course, Zack's Onelight DVD course looks very promising.

It doesn't end there. I am watching the work AND work methods of people who are better than me. Find a mentor, join local meeting groups, etc.

So what do I want to do with my photography? Two things.

First - I want to capture memories for my family and friends with amazingly well taken photographs that are good enough to be in a magazine. I want them to saw "Wow! That's a GREAT shot" and not even know why it is so fantastic. I'll just smile and remember appreciate the technical aspects that went into it.

Second - I want to create art with my camera. I want to take once in a lifetime shots.....over and over and over again. Whether it be nature, architecture, or edgy artistry, I want to shoot frame worthy photographs that make people stop, look, and think.

[On edit: For the record...that was only 684 words so I guess one picture would have been overkill:) ]


  1. You are so funny!
    I always laugh...
    I found this link which is interesting and thought you might want to see it.
    Of course I put it my photo blog BUT I have two since I clicked twice. I got ahold of tech support to help me with the extra one..here the link to look
    I like your two reasons for your interst.
    I have pretty much the same..

  2. Chris,

    Fabulous post. I very much appreciate the link to Zack Arias. I havn't watched them yet but am very interested in checking them out.

    I would like to offer you a site...http://www.tmelive.com/ It is run by Craig Tanner who is fabulous. You do have to register to get any of the content but it is free and I have never recieved any spam from him. He has a daily critique of an image and the more appropriate content is "The Myth of Talent." There are two postcasts dedicated to this. I highly suggest you checking it out.

    What is your voice?
    I am working on defining my voice. That is a good one to ponder.

    What am I trying to do with my photography?
    Another good one. For the moment, I feel it is helping me see the world in a different way.

    -Colby McLemore

  3. wow that was fast I fixed the link.
    Check it out..TJ

  4. Seems to me that you've already found what you want to say with your photography. :)

  5. Wonderful post! I also like what Colby above said about photography helping to see the world in a different way. I feel that. I find beauty in simple things that I would not have even noticed before picking up a camera. I really enjoy that aspect!

  6. Thank you for the article of interest. You are doing a good deed by mentoring the blogoshpere's aspiring photographers in this way!!