Have you ever been given a camera during a function because you are the ‘expert’? And did that make you toil for the following few hours because you wanted to make each and every frame “ a piece of art”?
Have you seen a camera club member go ballistic after the monthly contest because the judge commented about the background of his picture of a bird on a street sign? “ That was where the bloody bird sat mate…!”
Have you seen members of ‘expert’ photo forums talking mockingly about spectators of a soccer match trying to capture action with a point and shoot?
In my opinion we all are somewhat confused about the types of photography we do in various instances… so let’s get stuck in!
For most practical purposes all the images we make can be categorized into four distinct categories.
- Snap Shot – Quickly Capturing a Memory
- Product Shot/Commercial Photography
- Photo Journalistic Images
- Fine Art Photograph
1. Snap Shot – Quickly Capturing a Memory
Pictures of your kids running around, bunch of friends wearing party hats and holding wine glasses or someone cutting a birthday cake…! Any quick grab shot of a fleeing moment that we cherish and therefore want to capture as an image falls into this category!
We all know that don’t we?
2. Product Shot/Commercial Photography
These are images produced to describe a product, a sample, a specimen or an idea in a picture format. Most of the images in Advertising, Forensic photography; commercial, personal or family portraits and Stock Photography fall into this category.
3. Photo Journalistic Image
This is a fleeting moment captured by a photographer to tell a story to the others. The difference between this type of photography and the type a dad or a mum does to capture a family moment is in the objective of taking the picture: a PJ type image is always made to tell a story to the masses – the ideology behind making the picture is far reaching and extroverted compared to the other types.
While artistry is always a bonus in this type of photography, the most important aspect is capturing the essence of the story or the moment with a decent technique. Positive visual appeal or beauty is usually not considered to be a requirement for this type of imagery.
4. Fine Art Photograph
These are the images made for the sake of art! While these could come from any of the above categories, they go few steps further and are able to stand on their own in front of a complete stranger and make an emotional connection without having a written story or an explanation to back them up!
These are the type of images that have to have right compositional elements, great lighting and universally appealing content in them on top of technical solidness.
Now let’s connect the questions I asked at the top with my explanations above and try to make ourselves less confused, and may be formulate a question or two to ask before grabbing the camera and to keep our thinking clear.
When somebody gives you a camera at family function because you are the ‘expert’,… just remember you are in a completely uncontrollable situation in which you have to press the shutter irrespective of lighting and composition. Tell the host your images are only going to be as good as his own point and shoot shots because you are not in an environment where you cannot control.
If you are somebody who knows how to make a large light sources by bouncing a flash off a wall or ceiling, or to use the aperture creatively to make your pictures better, by all means do that.
But don’t fret yourself trying to make the wining image of the next international photography awards.
If you are a beginner who bought a decent SLR to capture your children growing up, don’t miss your child’s first steps by trying to create art – set your camera in program mode aim at the action and just capture your precious moment – you can always make art later.
If you really like one of your images for whatever the reason, ask yourself why you like it, and why you took the picture. A snap shot does not become an artistic masterpiece simply because you happen to like the smile of the person in the photograph!
Take the example of the camera club member who got really mad about the judge’s comments – His image of a bird on a street sign was probably the first sharp bird picture he had ever taken and the man was clearly elated by his own accomplishment. The slightly out of focus eye of the bird or the red tour bus and cars in the background never bothered him!
Don’t get me wrong! There was absolutely nothing wrong about taking that picture, it was absolutely okay to be happy about getting his first sharp picture with a long lens, but assuming it to be a fine art image was bit a mistake. The biggest mistake though, was in refusing to see the technical and artistic flaws when they were pointed out to him!!
If you are an advanced shooter who understands ins and outs of the craft, try not to mock the masses that try to capture a bit of sporting action from the stands with their point and shoots. – They are just trying to capture a memory to remind themselves that they were there during that event – the fact that they do not understand how their tiny cameras work does not make them morons – laughing at them though, might make you one!!
So whenever you grab your camera ask yourself the purpose of making the picture you are going to make.
If the purpose is to capture a memory or a precious family moment – just do that! Do not miss it by trying to make technically or artistically superior pictures.
If you are a professional trying to make a commercial shot or to tell a story, make the product shot or tell the story first! Get the simple dead fish shot first ! Show what you are hired to do! Grab the money shot! Don’t miss a couple exchanging rings or having the first kiss trying to pull off a cool new lighting trick – don’t even get tempted – we have seen more than enough disasters!
Finally if you are trying to make a Fine Art Image, learn the science behind the craft, study and embrace the art, look at the works of great artists and others in your field, think before you press that shutter and make art! Show us what you made and keep on evolving – we all will be eternally grateful for your gift!