I often get emails from readers asking how to take photos like such and such artist, or how does ABC photographer get his subjects to be just in the right place etc.
Well, to answer the 2nd question first…there is no quick route to getting your subject(s) to be in the right place, right at the time when you press the shutter, period. If you could ask Cartier-Bresson, I’m sure he would say the same. You just have to BE there at the right time, the right place, the right moment. And the only way I know and use to get that, is to position myself in any likely spot where I know for certain that something will happen…not immediately, not in a few minutes, maybe not even in an hour or more…but happen it will, and when it does, I’m there to press the shutter!
And of course, it also means taking many shots…if you’re lucky, you’ll get one, maybe two good ones out of the bunch. No short cut.
Second, we all want to mimic the great photographers and artists, nothing wrong with that. But in my mind, isn’t being an artist, because that’s what we photographers all are, the art of being individual? If I go to Yosemite and take several shots like Ansel Adams used to take, then what makes me different to him? Surely, as an artist, I want to create something unique that nobody else has created. I don’t want people to look at my work and say..”Hey, you know what? That looks exactly like those shots of Ansel Adams I looked at the other day…”. Unless of course, you really do want to take shots that look exactly like his….to that I’d say fine…each to his/her own..at least it gets people using the photographic medium.
My main point of this article is that whatever shots we take, they must….absolutely must, must , must tell a story. Many a time I’ve been to galleries and stood behind people looking at some photographs, and you hear them saying to each other that what is the photographer trying to say here, what point is his photo making…?
As an easy example, take a look at the photo below that I cut out of a newspaper…it’s a typical beach scene, with people walking around, kicking sand, or whatever we all do at the beach!
But look carefully and if you have an artist’s mind, you will see each and every person in that shot telling a story….sure, the whole photo tells a story, but so do the little parts of it that make up the whole.
To illustrate that, I chopped that shot up into its little segments, and put the whole lot together in a different order, into my journal, shown below…it’s kinda difficult to show what I mean, but as I was cutting and pasting the bits of the original photo into my journal, each bit, to me, was a story in its own way….the woman picking up something in the sand, the horse rider, some people far away in the distance etc.
And even pasted together in an entirely different order, the individual pieces each still seem to tell a story….do you see that?
That’s what I mean….I always try to make sure there are elements in my shots that tell stories, either individually or together.