You don’t need to pay a fortune for the latest photographic gizmo to create great images.
I’ve had the absolute pleasure of 45 years as a professional photographer creating fashion and advertising images for global brands and advertising agencies. However, this overview is not to show how experienced and knowledgeable I am about photography although time has taught me a huge amount. It is about the passion of creativity that was with me at the start and still burns bright within me and that capturing amazing images isn’t dependent on the cost of your photographic gear or the latest high-tech software.
In my humble opinion the key to taking great images is simple.
- Learn to previsualise your Creative Idea
- Understand the Camera fundamentals of shutter speed, aperture & ISO
- The importance of Lens Selection and the characteristics of each lens
- Fall in love with light and how it falls on the subject
- Compose like an artist
Understanding these few aspects will open creative possibilities that you will never exhaust. I’m still exploring and discovering!
When I step away from my client commissioned Advertising Photography & Fashion Photography I want to use my time to take a spark of inspiration and apply my creativity to capturing an image of which I’m proud. A pure creative process.
I call this process Creative Idea to Creative Image. #CI2CI
Often this is simply a dancer and me exploring creative ideas and shapes for the pure joy of seeing the end image. There’s no budget allocated, no set building necessary, no council permissions for locations, no brand guidelines, and no deadlines.
At its simplest all I need is the light through a window, a working camera, a chosen lens and a wall as a backdrop.
Oh, and as a challenge, I took this shot with my 5 year old iPhone and available light coming through the glass door of the studio entrance 4 metres away bounced back with a gold reflector.
Between them they have captured well over a million images. I trusted them to do their job in every situation and they did. I didn’t buy the latest camera on the market every year or update on a whim. These cameras lasted about a decade each! Serviced and cleaned regularly they captured exactly what the client asked of me as a professional photographer.
There is some variation between the days of film and our digital photography age in what the camera controls, however, at its simplest, the camera only needed to do a couple of things well.
Much harder in the old days with the Mamiya RZ67 with interchangeable film & polaroid magazines constantly being swapped!
The camera let me control the most important three basic functions – shutter speed, aperture and ISO. By changing combinations of those 3 functions, I could completely change the look and feel of the images I created.
These images were taken minutes apart with the talent standing in the same position. Of course, two lenses were used.
By understanding the following characteristics of each lens.
- Angle of View
- Perspective Distortion
- Lens Compression
- Depth of Field
I can reach for the right lens to achieve my Creative Idea every single time.
Whether it be the sunlight falling in an open field, the refracted light coming off windows in an urban environment, the soft ambient light that washes through a window or studio lighting with the choice of different light shapers all light follows rules. I apply these three rules every time that I photograph.
- Rule 1
Light rays travel in a straight path
- Rule 2
The larger the light source, in relation to the subject, the softer or broader the light.
- Rule 3
The subject receives less light as the light source moves further away.
As George Eastman, a founding father of photography, is quoted as saying:
‘Embrace light, Admire it, Love it. But above all. Know light!
I have shot major campaigns with the talent lit with nothing more than back lit sunshine and a white reflector board to back fill their faces and, as long as I understand light, I can then change even that simple lighting for an infinite amount of moods.
My definition of Design in photography is to identify the graphic elements and colours that are present in an image.
Composition in photography is to take those elements and colours and place them in a balanced and persuasive manner to best tell your visual story. Composition has general rules that lead the viewers eye to a specific point within the image. A secondary benefit of Composition is that a balanced image is more subconsciously appealing.
Examples of Composition that should be applied in the Digital Photography creative process:
- The Rule of Thirds
- Symmetrical & Asymmetric Balance
- Internal frames
- Diagonals & perspective
‘Go beyond the fundamentals and shoot like an artist.’
After that final save you sit back and look at that Creative Image that is the culmination of all the ingredients in our photographic recipe. It is a wonderful feeling.
We now have all the understanding we need to experience the excitement of creating that perfect image.
Don’t misunderstand me, cameras, lenses, and lighting by the major manufacturers just get better and better. I diligently learn all the new functions and see when and if I need to apply them. When necessary, I’ll hire something that’s not in my equipment kit to fulfil either the brief or the Creative Idea.
However, never underestimate what you can achieve with the simplest combination, but the greatest understanding, of the Creative Idea to Creative Image process.
As I said, I’ve been creating images passionately for 45 years now. I can review an exciting, rewarding portfolio of beautiful images and know, incredibly, I have only just scratched the surface and the creation of new images stretch indefinitely into the future.
Welcome to the never-ending creative adventure!