My Thoughts on Photography

While my computer is down I thought I should take some time to share my thoughts on photography with you. I have tried to break them down into digestible subjects to make this post easier to follow and understand.

Photography Should be Fun!

The most important thing I believe about photography is that it should be fun. I love going out and taking pictures, trying new things, and playing around with all the possibilities in post production. If the way you take photos and edit them is no longer fun, you may need to step back and rediscover the fun of photography for yourself. How do you do this?

  • Try something new – shoot directly into the sun, shoot at night, make everything slightly out of focus, shoot an abstract, convert to black and white, go crazy with post-process effects – do something, anything you have not done before and have fun with it. It does not matter if you think the result is horrible – as long as you are having fun in the process.
  • Return to your roots. What is it that got you excited about photography in the first place? Go back to that.
  • Keep it simple. Are you burnt out on always thinking about attaining the perfect focus and exposure? Shoot in a more automatic mode that where you can just focus purely on your subject and composition. You end up with some unexpected results that may surprise you.
  • Don’t be an elitist! This just makes you and everyone around you unhappy – which takes me into my next thought…

Elitists Have it All Wrong – They Forget That Photography is an Artistic Expression

Overall I have found the photographic community to be very kind, supportive, and helpful. But there is always the elitist out there. This is the person who looks down on any photography that doesn’t come in line with their way of thinking.

You will hear them rant about how apps like Instagram or Camera+ take the art out photography. They think that too much post-processing is wrong and that the artfulness comes from doing as much as possible in-camera.

I believe that photography is an artistic expression. It doesn’t make a difference how you arrived at the end result, if it is inspiring, it deserves credit for being so. The tools of photography are just that- tools. It does not matter if your shot is captured on an iPhone or an uber-expensive, large format film camera – great photos can be created from both. I have seen photos on Instagram that I consider much better than some taken on an expensive DSLR with little post-processing. The tools never create a great photo, the person behind the camera does.

I think that most people who are strongly against apps and software that make it easier to create unique or stylized photos are on some level insecure about their own photographic process or ability. Just because someone uses a filter in an app to give their photo a specific look does not magically make it a good photo but it also doesn’t make it a bad one. (Though I’m not saying its not important to capture the best possible image in-camera, and it is definitely important to learn how your equipment works).

Other people believe that a photo should be a realistic depiction of reality. (If that is what you are trying to achieve with your photography that is wonderful). But it is not an inherent objective or responsibility of photos to be realistic. In this regard I have no problem with photographers manipulating photos to bring them inline with their intended vision. I personally use things like ‘content aware fill’ in Photoshop to remove things I find distracting or just plain ugly. While I don’t think I would ever replace one sky with another for my photos, I do believe there is real artistic talent in the people that do so. Of course if they are trying to pass something manipulated as how it really was – well that’s not cool, just be comfortable and open about your process.

This doesn’t not mean that I like everything, I have very strong opinions about the styles and types of photography I like and do not like. But just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it is any less artistic than what I do – that is the beauty of art. There are 7 billion people on earth, so there is no way everyone is going to have similar tastes. This diversity is what helps us to become more creative and inventive.

Sharing – It’s Your Friend

There are many different opinions about copyrights and protecting your images. I can really understand the various points of view but have firmly landed on one for myself.

For my photography I think that an open approach serves me best. I have chosen a creative commons license. This allows for people to use my work in non-commercial ways as long as they give credit to me. So if you were to use my photos for your desktop background or in a personal blog post, please go ahead – just give me credit.

At the same time this allows me to license my work out to anyone who would like to purchase my photos for commercial purposes. To print one of my photos for your wall or use in a magazine you would need to contact me to purchase rights to the photo. Policing strict copyrights is nearly impossible and takes too much energy.

I believe that photos are meant to be seen, and the best way to been seen is through sharing. The more that people share my photos the better. This set up allows people to share my work while protecting my rights at the same time.

As you can tell I also do not put watermarks on my photos. I want you to be able to experience them in their best possible format – for me that is unobstructed. Typically for me watermarks are also distracting. A watermark would seem to go against my sharing beliefs and so I just don’t include them. If someone finds one of my photos they can examine the meta-data to find ways to contact me if they wish.

But aren’t you worried about someone stealing your work? Well no, not really. I think the people that would pay for it, are going to pay for it. The people that would steal it wouldn’t pay for it anyways. Yes, not watermarking it makes it less work to steal and use as their own, but with programs like Photoshop it is not that hard to remove them anyways. And again I think in most cases people that steal would never pay for it anyways.

While I think this is a good approach for my photography that is of the more landscape/city-scape nature, I think it may not be the most appropriate for portrait photos. Emily is really starting to get into portraits and I do not think we will license them under the creative commons. In this case it seems to not just be an issue of the photographer’s rights, but also the privacy and rights of the client. It could make some people uncomfortable to have pictures of them available freely for others to share and use in the same as landscapes. These photos will have all rights reserved and be uploaded at a much lower resolution. Of course keeping all the rights reserved doesn’t ensure this won’t happen, it at least provides avenues of protection if needed.

Photographers Are Great People

There are many professional photographers that I follow on various sites and networks. Here are some of them and links to their profiles on Google+ if you are interested.

  • Trey Ratcliff – a great travel photographer +TreyRatcliff
  • Colby Brown – a travel photographer from Colorado who is also passionate about those less fortunate than him +ColbyBrown
  • Rick Sammon – a great photographer, he seems to do it all +RickSammon
  • Tom Anderson – yes Tom… your first friend on MySpace has become an amazing photographer during his retirement +myspacetom
  • Scott Kelby – another photographer who shoots everything +ScottKelby

The thing I love about these guys is they are passionate about photography and it is infectious. They are extremely willing to help people learn and develop their own photographic styles. They never come across to me as condescending or above those who want to learn from them. Most of all they are excited about what others are doing in photography. They do not see ‘new-comers’ as threats to their own business and do not shy away from teaching others their techniques. They are open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.

They are people who I strive to be like – always encouraging and supportive of other’s photography, open to new ideas, always learning and sharing my own love of photography.

This entry was posted by Justin Gazlay.

4 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Photography

  1. Pingback: A Photographer’s Heart « God's Showpiece Photography

  2. Pingback: A Photographer’s Heart « God's Showpiece Photography

  3. Pingback: RXC photography interview « thebitemagazine

  4. Pingback: The Digital Photography Book: The Step-by-step Secrets for How to Make Your Photos Look Like the Pros’!: 1: Scott Kelby: Books | Michael John Burgess

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