When you look at pictures what do you see? Photographs should be more than superficial glossy pictures. They should evoke a reaction. Some of the best photographs tell a story and make you believe in a world that exists beyond the frame. If the picture warrants further observation, try looking slightly deeper in to the image and see what the photographer is trying to say via the content of the photograph – some clues to this may be given by the use of symbols in the image.
Importance of expression within photography
Many years ago, in London’s Tate Gallery, I was admiring a painting of Mary Queen of Scots. It was not until a gallery guide explained to me what the phoenix, the dog and the countless other things on the canvas meant, other than being there to purely fill the space, that I began to assess my whole outlook on paintings and photographs. Even now I aim to use this element of expression within my shots.
There are two factors that are important once you have started in photography, The first is the individual artist’s or photographers style, which I believe is a natural in-built expression that matures with the acquisition of knowledge in photography techniques – therefore giving the individual a style. The second, is a set of rules and guidelines.
Why do capture photographs?
I always like to have a good reason to take a photograph and, for me, it is critical that the finished print achieves what I set out to state. People will either adore or despise your images; it does not matter really as long as you like them.
Photographs need to be more than basic pictures that record and in my images I try to convey a strong emotive sense – such as beauty, mood and depth.
The great painters knew, and know, how to stimulate and many of my pictures are influenced by other photographers and painters. My pictures have been inspired by photographers such as Bob Carlos-Clarke, Steven Wader, Horst and painters such as Shalken, Bruegal and the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. I do not mind admitting this, as everyone is influenced during their life in some way by someone. To be original must be one of the most difficult tasks to accomplish – but while influences are acceptable, direct imitations are not.
Think about the message you want to portray
The best advice I can offer to someone beginning in photography, or to someone who is struggling to advance, is to stop and think about what it is that they really want to say with their photographs and set out to achieve that aim.
Before going in to the studio I always have a general idea of what I want to accomplish. I know that I probably will not get the picture exactly right on the first shot, but at least I have a starting point.
It is a good idea to keep a scrap book of sketches, photographs, paintings and pictures as these can be a useful reference source from which you can formulate your own ideas.
When shooting an image it will often take a large number of shots to achieve the picture you desire. It is well worth keeping record of these as a reminder of how near, yet how far, you can be from what you consider to be the correct image. Whatever your choice for the final image, it may not always be the right one unless it has that particular ‘X-factor’. Only you can tell.