Open Photography Forums  
HOME FORUMS NEWS FAQ SEARCH

Go Back   Open Photography Forums > OPF Welcome Hall > Still Photo: Approaching Fine Photography

Still Photo: Approaching Fine Photography Photography as a visual artform open to any serious picture, where classical photography is the mode of our expression. Open to all! Not curated. For works intended for clients and galleries submit to GALLERY ONE.

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old September 26th, 2009, 05:47 PM
Michael G. Spille Michael G. Spille is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 35
Default Refining Photography: Advice needed!

I've been involved with photography since 1982,and although I still consider myself an amateur,I do take this hobby very seriously,and spend 90% of my spare time in attempts in trying to be creative .
Lately however,I've been in a real stagnant stage, and my efforts in producing some descent images have been worthless .
I've decided to start all over again,and try to concentrate in taking a class,or doing some reading on "Seeing".

Recently I was on Paul Capinigro's website and one book he recommends,is "The Way of the Wanderer" by David Yeadon.
Can anyone recommend a series or individual book,that might help me accomplish a more dedicated way of approaching my photography.
Here's a link to some of my images:
http://mike397x.zenfolio.com/

Any help would be most appreciated.

Thanks
Mike
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old September 26th, 2009, 11:13 PM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 1,300
Default

Hello Michael,
There are plenty of "inspirational" books and workshops for sale. Many, perhaps most, are pure air. But one of the best works I can recommend is Brooks Jensen's "Letting Go of the Camera".

Beyond this may I recommend taking a different perspective on photography. Browsing through your online photos suggests that you've followed a very typical amateur/enthusiast path with your camera. That is, you largely take photos of where you are. You concentrate on being technically "accurate" with your camera and your camera-play leads your "creative" thinking.

After 27 years it's time to dump that approach if you want to reach new satisfactions and achieve more than just pretty pictures.

The book I referenced above will give you plenty of ideas along those lines. Here are a few snippits of my own suggestions.

1. Stop buying new cameras and lenses (assuming you already have serviceable gear).

2. Stay away from amateur photo forums (yes, even OPF) at least until you find a new groove. Amateur photo forums are dead zones for creativity.

3. Take a non-photography art class, such as drawing and painting. You have a nice eye but it's in need of refinement. Forcing yourself to spend hours trying to create works from blank space is guaranteed to benefit your photographic eye, even if you suck at drawing and painting. Expose yourself to the art world --not the photo world-- through museums, galleries, books. Learn the language of art (yes, it has its own language).

4. Don't pick up the camera again until you find a reason to use it. That is, identify a personal project for which you can use the camera. I don't mean taking pictures of your vacation or even necessarily trying to document anything. Start out with bite-sized (weekend-sized) little projects. Don't confine yourself to imaging that's "technically" accurate. To hell with the "expose to the right" dogma and all the rest of that limiting drivel. Remember, the camera is not the star of the show; it's just the instrument you're using at the moment. Maybe you'll use a potato peeler for your next project.

And so on. Fundamentally, I'm suggesting that you try taking an art-oriented approach to imaging rather than the usual camera/instrument-oriented approach that 99.9% of amateur photographers exclusively follow.

Good luck and have fun.
__________________
- Ken Tanaka -
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old September 26th, 2009, 11:51 PM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 34,393
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael G. Spille View Post
I've been involved with photography since 1982,and although I still consider myself an amateur,I do take this hobby very seriously,and spend 90% of my spare time in attempts in trying to be creative .
Lately however,I've been in a real stagnant stage, and my efforts in producing some decent images have been worthless .
Hi Michael,

You are plain wrong! I have spent considerable time studying your pictures from a number of series and found like, the rest of us, you do have some mediocre shots. So what. You still have some very fine images. The secret is selecting your best and then working on them further. for example, there's an interesting dead tree on its side, _IMG_4468. It might be worked on further in Photoshop either in color or in B&W. There's a picture, here, with a cut off tree to the lower left and other bulkier trees cut off too the left, revealing sky. very startling to find this odd presentation and it could be intriguing and work much more effectively if the clouds that are displayed were perfectly rendered. However, the sky seems to be just what the shot delivered.

Other shots are simply wonderful and worthy of being made into great prints such as this perfectly amazing cat,this, , this,,this, this or this. However, one does want to unite groups with a theme if one can. Still, you have such a large collection, it would be relatively easy to make a commendable gallery with just the top 30%.

This, for example is a great motif to capture, but perhaps one needs a ladder to get the all the pattern of the fence and the tree and maybe use a wider angle lens too. This is an example of a worthy project, but not ready to be put to the top of your favorites and shown.

I would have displayed the examples picked, but I can't find the urls for linking them as they must end in .jpg.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael G. Spille View Post
I've decided to start all over again,and try to concentrate in taking a class,or doing some reading on "Seeing".
Michael,

You have no problem seeing. You do have some difficulty not choosing to show pictures that are just memories of a wonderful place. Don't buy a book. Are you in a big city? Visit museums. See how a collection is constructed, united by some common essence of the photographer's choice. One advantage of OPF is that people will give you feedback that is often much better than "Wonderful!" and the like, although we do sometimes work in shorthand too.

Photographs have to be made. They are not, IMHO, generally what just comes out of the camera, unless you shoot products, weddings etc and the lab does the rest. You are no different from the rest of us. We all get disappointed by the trash we make and we chide ourselves.

I print a bunch out in B&W, make copies, get a red wax pencil and draw on each copy what I might have done or should do in PS and then go back and try to get it right or else shoot it again.

Ask, "Is this picture able to stand on it's own as something that grabs me to get into it?" If not what's missing. Is too much included or is this not wide enough, the light wrong or I was in the wrong position or maybe the tonalities are not developed as needed.

Unless you do this with your own work, your pictures cannot improve. Certainly, reading some book wont help you much without working on your own ideas first.

So maybe, post the pictures I pointed out and let's see what other photographers think. Wait till the guys tell me I've got it all wrong!

Asher
__________________
Follow us on Twitter at @opfweb

Our purpose is getting to an impressive photograph. So we encourage browsing and then feedback. Consider a link to your galleries annotated, C&C welcomed. Images posted within OPF are assumed to be for Comment & Critique, unless otherwise designated.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old September 27th, 2009, 05:18 AM
Rachel Foster Rachel Foster is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Michigan, USA
Posts: 3,574
Default

Great advice here. I, too, have been feeling stale and stagnant.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old September 27th, 2009, 09:55 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 34,393
Default

Ken,

Your advice is always worth paying attention to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
Hello Michael,
There are plenty of "inspirational" books and workshops for sale. Many, perhaps most, are pure air. But one of the best works I can recommend is Brooks Jensen's "Letting Go of the Camera".
This is a great start and a Lenswork subscription is one that should follow. Brooks is not only an accomplished photographer, but understands the route to excellence and clarity.

Asher
__________________
Follow us on Twitter at @opfweb

Our purpose is getting to an impressive photograph. So we encourage browsing and then feedback. Consider a link to your galleries annotated, C&C welcomed. Images posted within OPF are assumed to be for Comment & Critique, unless otherwise designated.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old September 27th, 2009, 11:49 AM
Asher Kelman Asher Kelman is offline
OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 34,393
Default Idea, Stalk, Imagine, position, frame, sketch, repeat. Reframe, snap, start work.

Michael,

Ken's advice is great for everyone. He addresses my own main concerns succinctly. First let's divide photography into some very rough buckets.
  1. Memories: Snapshots of friends and scenes in your life, valuable just for that. Don't photoshop them; give out some jpgs and be done with it!

  2. Undirected street/nature: For most of us, the best we can do is find a few interesting shots to inspire us with more planned work. This is an excellent way of exploring ideas for framing, but not a shortcut to making pictures with life of their own. Use as a reward or diversion in between focussed projects. Ration this activity right now or it might become black hole to get lost in. It's no substitute for still life and sketching ideas with a pencil or charcoal on paper.

  3. For an end use: Weddings, Product etc: Don't unless that's how you want to earn a living! Don't do "favors" for a friend. It's a mistake I've made that sucks up your precious time for self-training. Let a pro earn his bread! If you really want to do this, then get an apprenticeship with a pro.

  4. For Art's Sake: Requires self-training by working with material things to teach your brain what constitutes a piece of something that one can consider.

    So what is that "something"? It's either an expression your idea that demands to get into physical form and or an image that works like a machine, switching on the imagination of the viewer. So, our challenge to ourselves is this. Can we build "something" to share with others that delivers a treasured experience, with endless possibilities?

    For us, as photographers, the apparent technical ease of recording a camera's view, (unlike the technical skill needed in drawing), becomes too easily a replacement for our own vision. The camera has no idea of human experience. We want a delivered image* representing matters related to human senses. So, we're trying to embed into the two dimensional frame, an image that seduces or excites the brain. We want to invite the observer to a gymnasium of feelings, experience, ideas, imperatives, significance, insight and/or consequences. The experience must be the "something" that moves the frames of reference we travel with.

    O.K., let's imagine we now have one possible global idea of what art might be. For sure, we know how to hold the camera and set the buttons. We can all make pretty postcard pictures. What now? How do we get on the right path for us individually? Conserve time and focus. Now we need to simplify our lives and work with a clean slate and as Ken points out: sketch on a blank sheet of paper. That's what the frame of the camera must fuse to become in our minds.
Goals and time Table: A picture that has life beyond a job or memento is not likely to come by happenstance, expensive gear, more pixels or thousands of shots. It requires focus, discipline and self-training. Most of all it demands that you have goals and a timetable or things will simply be put off and it will just be a "hope" and unfulfilled dream. That's what occurs with most of us.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka
Stop buying new cameras and lenses (assuming you already have serviceable gear).
Keep the gear simple and unchanged for a year: Any camera, from digicam up that can shoot from 28mm to 50mm, even, one fixed focal length is all that's generally needed and 3 MP. More competent cameras, for sure, allow more details for some scenes and low light, but for now, this is unimportant for art fundamentally. Instead, walking around your subject with a cardboard cutout of the framing and exploring what would make your subject compelling and give the richest experience, is a better investment.

To do this "building of a picture", Ken's 3rd point is a pre-requisite. Imagine for each picture, you have a need to create an image which is coming from inside you to fill a blank frame. Expression needs to be combined with what there is to see.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka
Take a non-photography art class, such as drawing and painting. You have a nice eye but it's in need of refinement. Forcing yourself to spend hours trying to create works from blank space is guaranteed to benefit your photographic eye, even if you suck at drawing and painting. Expose yourself to the art world --not the photo world-- through museums, galleries, books. Learn the language of art (yes, it has its own language).
Still life and figures are a good start since the subjects will be well arranged and you will get guidance and then you can compare what you all do with works in a gallery or on Brooks' Lenswork magazine, with fine photography from so many artists.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka
2. Stay away from amateur photo forums (yes, even OPF) at least until you find a new groove. Amateur photo forums are dead zones for creativity.
I'd put it differently. Come here for comradeship and moral support. You will get a reasonable array of feedback. However, to use it, you need to develop your own goals, destination and compass. For that, the drawing/sketching classes are a must. Use the ideas from the class, with one lens and one subject for photography, continued as a project to work on for weeks. Use one to support the her. Refrain from other photography. Show selected pictures to the instructor for feedback on composition and what you are trying to achieve. Share your snaps here for fun and selected images for feedback, but don't be a sponge for everyone else's ideas. You have to defend your own vision but still be open to folks' reaction but not be knocked off your own path.

I hope this is helpful,

Asher

Addendum: * I talk of the "delivered picture". If it has not been worked to make the print that meets your compelling idea's needs and you haven't actually printed it, it's unfinished, just a possibility, vaporware! That's what Ken advises, so succinctly below.
__________________
Follow us on Twitter at @opfweb

Our purpose is getting to an impressive photograph. So we encourage browsing and then feedback. Consider a link to your galleries annotated, C&C welcomed. Images posted within OPF are assumed to be for Comment & Critique, unless otherwise designated.

Last edited by Asher Kelman; September 27th, 2009 at 01:54 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old September 27th, 2009, 01:33 PM
Ken Tanaka Ken Tanaka is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 1,300
Default

Yikes! Asher has laid a lot of grout!

Two addenda.
1. My recommendation to avoid photo forums derives largely from the empty distractions they present. Yes, it's a Monday and you're avoiding work on your day job. But instead of going to a photo forum to follow the latest pointless camera product debate, grab a pencil and paper and sketch. Yes, you can get support and encouragement at a thoughtful place such as OPF. But, again, I highly recommend that you eliminate distractions until you find that new groove.

2. One other important suggestion I offer to boost your creative juices: print much, much more of your work. To bastardize an old lyric, "It don't make me think if ain't made of ink." 72 dpi Web images are chewing gum. Prints are real things. Your work will not become meaningfully real to you or anyone else until it's incarnated into a physical object. Prints are also most likely to be the only form of your work that will survive you.
__________________
- Ken Tanaka -
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old September 27th, 2009, 03:44 PM
Winston Mitchell Winston Mitchell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Boise, Idaho
Posts: 448
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ken Tanaka View Post
Prints are also most likely to be the only form of your work that will survive you.
That's a sobering thought.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old September 27th, 2009, 05:39 PM
Michael G. Spille Michael G. Spille is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 35
Default Still photo.approaching Fine Photography

And I was afraid ,my post wouldn't get answered...ha-ha boy, did you guys prove me wrong!!!
Ken, Asher,

I just want to say a sincere "Thank You!" for the detailed replies and the insight as to what might help me at this stage of my image making.
I think you have given me a lot to think about & I will start to exercise some of the guidelines you suggest.

Ken,

Might I say that yes,I am guilty of buying some of the newer camera and lenses, but lately I've been only using the 50mm lens on a canon 5D,all things being equal though, I do crave good equipment,so, ...guilty as charged..
I live in NYC,and I am within walking distance of the Metropolitan Museum of Art....have I been there lately, no!!, but i will correct that.

Asher,

I'm not sure why you were not able to post some of the images you looked at in my Zenfolio images..possibly user error on my part,but thank you very much for taking the time to look.I really appreciate your input
I would like you, and others to see this image#4468, and give me some honest opinions/suggestions, as to how i might improve it,as it is one of my favorites...I must have printed it a dozen times on various papers,and when I look at the prints..there is something missing.




Any further advice will be greatly appreciated

Mike
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old September 28th, 2009, 05:29 AM
Michael Fontana Michael Fontana is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: Switzerland
Posts: 1,557
Default

90% of my spare time in attempts in trying to be creative .

Michael

maybe you should just take a break - and stop taking photos for a while, doing something different, like listening to good music - noting with pictures.

And only take a cam in your hand, when you feel, that you can tell something different.
__________________
http://www.proimago.net
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old September 28th, 2009, 02:31 PM
Michael G. Spille Michael G. Spille is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 35
Default

Michael,
Thanks for your reply.
Actually ,That's just what I'm going to do,I haven't picked up the camera in a week or two,and luckily ,my daughter has given me permission to use her Ipod.
Now all i have to do,is figure out how to download some of my old Mozart CD's

After re-reading Ken's & Ashers posts ,I think I'll be spendond more of my free time at the MET{Metropolitan Museum of Art},which is right up the block from my apartment in NY

Thanks Again
Mike
Reply With Quote
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump

Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
The hypocrisy of "Fine Art Photography"! Will Thompson Photography as Art 107 April 23rd, 2013 07:06 AM
Video Card Advice Needed Alvaro Lopez Windows on PC 5 April 16th, 2009 10:22 PM
Product photography studio equipment advice Andrei Zdetovetchi Studio, Portrait, Still Life, Lighting Equipment and Technique 11 January 21st, 2009 12:12 PM
A bit of advice needed! Josh Blackwood Wedding and Event 5 August 15th, 2008 05:46 PM
Monitor Advice Needed dseelig Macintosh 2 June 28th, 2006 01:10 PM


All times are GMT -7. The time now is 07:45 PM.


Posting images or text grants license to OPF, yet of such remain with its creator. Still, all assembled discussion 2006-2017 Asher Kelman (all rights reserved) Posts with new theme or unusual image might be moved/copied to a new thread!