September 23, 2011 On Being Deliberate

For my first post, I thought I’d share with you the philosophy behind my photography, and how it developed over the past 2+ years. It’s how I try to think when I’m behind the camera, and while I can’t say I’m always as good at this as I’d like to be, I think that the more time I spend on photography, the more I follow these two (seemingly) simple words: Be Deliberate. It’s easy to say now, but it was a long road getting to this point, and even today I still find myself forgetting how important it is.

I’m ashamed to say that back when I got my first DSLR (a Canon 50D), I thought that a fancy camera made better pictures. Or, more accurately, I thought having a better camera made you a better photographer. Of course, I learned soon enough that it couldn’t be further from the truth, in fact, it is often the opposite. What I found is that while the image quality – the color, the depth of field, the clarity – was better, the finished product wasn’t. In fact, the greater resolution magnified the flaws in my work, and not truly understanding how to use all the features the camera possessed caused me to miss more than a few images. While I knew what aperture and shutter speed meant, I didn’t how to use this newfound control to create better images. I wasn’t thinking like a photographer, yet, I was thinking like a picture taker. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, but I expect more of myself, and I got this fancy new camera to take better pictures.

That’s when I realized that I couldn’t start taking great pictures until I understood the basics, from where each feature and setting is controlled within the camera to how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO interact to control different aspects of light and influence the final image. I also learned different photographic theories, techniques, and rules – and that it’s ok to break all the rules because photography is an art as well as a discipline. By far the greatest learning experience has been painstakingly culling my own images down to a select few I am truly proud of, and then sharing them with people willing to offer honest criticism. This perspective has been invaluable in developing my own photographic eye, and helping grow my abilities as a photographer.

When I was first learning the in’s and out’s of photography, I took as many pictures as I could, very few of which ended up being anything worth keeping. It was only after I learned enough about my equipment and how each element comes together to produce an image that I was able to start growing as a photographer. Without these things standing between me and the scene, I was able to create great pictures and capture outstanding moments that I would have otherwise missed. I was still taking too many pictures, but significantly more were worth keeping. The realization that I was spending more time combing through bad images than sharing and enjoying the good ones is what really led to my decision to focus on being deliberate.

In my mind, to be deliberate is to see the shot before it unfolds, and to ask yourself “is this picture worth capturing, and if so, why?,” all before pressing the shutter. It certainly isn’t easy, but it has led to me taking far fewer pictures each time I go out with my camera, and I’ve found that I have infinitely more images that I’m proud of when I get home.

At the end of the day, for me, the difference between a “lucky snapshot” and a true photograph is the intent of the individual holding the camera. So, I try to be deliberate, so every image I share is one that I created, rather than something I happened to snap, rescued from the pile of rejects. That’s what I strive for, and hopefully, those are the images I’ll be sharing with you.

One Response to “On Being Deliberate”

  1. Debbie Ellis says:

    I admire your growth, I sort of see your role as a storyteller–condensing a moment down to the barest of essentials, artfully delivered. I believe keeping this point of view in mind would create more powerful and lasting images because they are captured with the heart and not the head.

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