Long before I started making photos with a "real" camera, I had ideas about what it is that makes a great photo. With technical knowledge, skills and practice, just what it is has become clearer.
I read a fantastic article in Petapixel a couple weeks ago about how alike and how different cameras are from human sight.
In reality (and this is very obvious) human vision is video, not photography. Even when staring at a photograph, the brain is taking multiple ‘snapshots’ as it moves the center of focus over the picture, stacking and assembling them into the final image we perceive. Look at a photograph for a few minutes and you’ll realize that subconsciously your eye has drifted over the picture, getting an overview of the image, focusing in on details here and there and, after a few seconds, realizing some things about it that weren’t obvious at first glance.
When I was using an iPhone as my primary (only) camera, I was pretty liberal with the effects processing. At the time, I couldn't say pecisely why I sometimes preferred a little extra saturation, or a roll back on the highlights, a bit of extra contrast. I was just trying to have the photo represent my memory of the scene.
Over this past year, I've been using my Sony camera to memorialize more of these moments. I have found this camera more capable of capturing the raw image, but I was thinking that because of the higher quality, these images would rarely need processing.
I was wrong.
While I'm so much happier with the quality, the sharpness, and the detail in these images, they need attention too. It is pretty rare that I post or save anything in my "finished" file without at least a couple small curve or exposure adjustments. In fact, I'm far more religious about my workflow now than I ever was before.
Why is that?
I didn't value how my images make people feel until recently. How weird is that? I've always valued the ways images make me feel, but couldn't see the connection. Now that I'm aware, it has really changed the way that I compose and edit.
In a previous life I was a performing songwriter, recorded an album and played-out regularly. The idea that I was writing for the perceptions of others was always present, or at least never far from mind. There are times when I wrote things that were primarily cathartic, but I've always viewed music and now photos as a form of communication.
Because of this, I'm far less willing to let an image out into the wild without making sure that it's exactly what I'm trying to say or share.
I've written this year about intentionality and I feel that this fits right into that groove. I encourage you to think about your art and work and make sure that whatever you put out there is exactly what you are trying to say.