The Photographer's Process
The third of three videos about the creative process of making photographs, this is a specific conversation about the making of one of my own photographs. I made this video because I think photographer's can benefit from a more honest conversation about how we do what we do. With so much attention going to the gear we use, it's crucial we look at the making of images from a larger perspective: one that accounts for all the moving pieces and the specific roles of every part of the process.
I also made this video as the first of many in a series called The Photographer's Process, which is part of a larger, ongoing training resource called Making the Image that will be released on May 07 at MakingTheImageCourse.com. It's my hope that ongoing discussions like this can give the kind of context needed in which to discuss the elements of our craft that are so often just taught in pieces - things like the choice of settings, or composition, editing, and post-production.
I hope this video and the others I made for you have been valuable.
- If you didn't see the first video, Trust the Process? you can see it here.
- The second video, 3 Things You Need to Know About the Process, can be seen here.
If you’ve got a moment and are willing to do me a favour, would you leave a comment and let me know one thing: what would you like to see in videos like this?
The new course is an ongoing thing and gives me one thing I’ve never had before: time to react to your feedback and address your questions as the course goes along. Which makes your feedback more important than ever. I’d love to hear your thoughts and give you a chance to help me make the best course I’ve made yet, in my ongoing effort to help you make the best photographs of your life.
For the Love of the Photograph,
Perfectly Explained, very useful for beginners. Sometimes, one has to try shooting the same scene at different times of the day since the direction, intensity, and tone of the sunlight is different at different times. It takes lots of practice and patience to capture the perfect frame from any place.
I just love the way you think and communicate about the photography process. I feel like I make a lot of sketch images, but I can actually make MORE! I’ve worked hard at getting the confidence to work the scene like you showed in this video. I can live in a nature scene longer than I can when people are involved. I begin to feel self-conscious when I photograph a person for a lengthy period of time. Any tips?
You are so easy to listen to. So clear in the conveying of your thoughts and concepts. This video demonstrates these qualities perfectly, as do all of your books, so thanks again.
There have been comments about the importance of intentionality and questions about how that looks in the process. What I have learned, and love, about the world we photograph is that it cannot be tamed, controlled or contained as much as we would love to and as much as we try. I think you hit on this inevitability of tension between intentionality and the irresistible and uncontrollable flow of the world around us when you said “I’m a big fan of intentionality, but accidents happen.”
For me the photographic process is as much about accepting that I might have to “react to possibilities” that I have little or no control over, and that I may not have even anticipated, as it is about applying my craft with intentionality.
If you have taught me anything it is that intentionality through craft and vision are critical to the process, and so is the spirit of openness to the limitless possibility of all that we cannot control. I feel your insights navigate this tension (which can often cause anxiety with photographers) perfectly, and I thank you. Thanks to your mentoring I am less neurotic about the process and am more than happy to take any unexpected gift the world sees fit to grant me.
I hope you are having a beautiful day.
Thanks so much for this, Peter. A little less neurotic in our process should be the goal for us all! 🙂 Part of what I love about photography is the chance to engage with the unexpected, have my eyes open to it, and see it as a gift not a burden.
Hi David, thank you so much for showing what is behind a great shot, I would say for showing the “dark side of the moon” ! The take home message I grasp: Keep on watching, keep on being connected to what hapens, and indeed keep on shooting through the camera, until it comes. About post editing, I frequently read it is usefull (or necessary) to leave the images for a while before starting post editing, to “leave” the emotion linked to the photograph and see it more impartially (…if possible). You did not mentione this point. What would be your opinion on that ? I’m eager to see your next video. Thank you again.
Hi Stephane – This is certainly something I will be teaching in Making the Image, but yes, I think you’re right. Having distance between when you photograph and when you edit can be very valuable. I don’t think we see it impartially, just differently through a different filter.
Loved it! Thank you David. This last video really pulled it all together for me. Being relatively new at taking photographs instead of snapshots, I’ve been feeling kind of fragmented with my photography. Looking forward to the new course.
Fantastic, Diane. It’s exactly that fragmentation I’m hoping to help solve. 🙂
I cannot open the file for the new course, the preview !
Hi Richard – Right now there are some strange local issues with people unable to open the registration page. Seems all localized to the U.K. – any chance you’re there? We’re working on it! Sorry for the frustration.
I am in Germany
I was looking the whole day for your announcement …. Hope it will work soon !
Hi, David. I appreciate you sharing with us the process you go through to achieve a “final” (for now…) image. Thank you!
I never thought of using the aspect ratio to accentuate something like “horizontality” (is that even a word?), but I certainly will keep that in mind.
I too keep all my images (this goes back to negatives and slides), because you never know what potential is hidden there if and when you go back to them. Having said that, I think there are some images there of Benjamin on the shore that have some potential.
Been a fan of yours for years – keep up the good work!
(Great to hear you say “zed” instead of “zee” in a previous video – from a fellow Canuck!)
Thanks, Dennis. I don’t think I could say Zee if I tried. 🙂 You’re right, there are some images of Benjamin on the shore with potential but none of them “do it for me.” I’ve tried. But that’s a symptom of the way I edit, too – I’m not looking for all the images that might have potential but for the ones that jump out and me and are more of a “hell, yes!” than the others.
And yes, horizontality is a word. And if it’s not, we just declared it so. Please feel free to use it whenever you like. 🙂
Thank you David for this video and all your other videos, posts and books which go beyond technique and teach the importance of process. To keep going and taking photographs as a way and not only as an end result.
Working the scene as you showed in the last video is so important in some areas but how is that translated to genres like street photography where by definition (at least how I think I understand ) that is not possible?
Thanks, Daniel. I think this is absolutely translatable to street photography. I use sketches all the time in my work. Yes, you’re right, the scenes move fast sometimes and there are times the process needs to look different, but the ability to stay in a place and work the scene, even if the characters are different, is still incredibly helpful. If you look at the MakingTheImageCourse.com you’ll see another video in the Photographer’s Process series. It’s actually the first lesson in the new course, and it’s a great example of one possible use of this in a street context.
Hi David, and thanks for sharing your videos! Before some years I was a great fun of you, I still have the originals of “Within the Frame” and “VisionMongers” in my Library … but the impact of your contributions faded out with time … Life/Technology/Habits are changing rapidly …
about your Videos … I am thinking about what Victor Fleming told about editing and filmmaking:
“Good editing makes the director look good, great editing makes the film look like it wasn’t directed at all.” Something is missing …
David, thank you again for the wonderful insight into your process. It’s so heartwarming and encouraging to see the sketch images that you make and the “junk” as you call it. I have so much “junk” that it’s sometimes makes me feel like a failure…. but know I know these are just sketches to a better image. I love the way you explain things. Keep the videos and courses coming. I’m still working through the three that I’ve bought so far. A slow process for me. Looking forward to more.
Thank you, Dorothy. Take you’re time. We too are a work in process. 🙂
Hi David, thanks for the series, helpful. My assumption is that you were able to talk with your friend, as he was comfortable with the time you spent with him, a couple of hundred images is substantial. Am currently in Hanoi, and while not a stranger to street photography, wondering if you can explore a bit how to establish that trust when language is a barrier. I am comfortable approaching people – smiling – and holding my camera up to indicate my intention. But three to six shots seems to be a limit – before overstaying a welcome. At least I found with off camera flash – my first adventure with it last night I was able to isolate my subject, only using TTL till I gain more confidence. Currently reading your book, Within the Frame (how I came across your website) and noted that you printed a photo for a subject in a mosque. This appeals to me as a means of thank you, appreciation etc, but also more a token perhaps that the interchange is something significant – not just the moment of the photograph – but the interchange between two people – that is the moment of photography I enjoy. Wondering if you can comment on the printer that you use – whether the smaller prints say of the Fuji printer are sufficient? Max
Hi Max – When language is a barrier you have 3 options. Learn the language, hire a fixer, or put it all on your face – the kindness, the curiosity, the patience. And then use as many hand gestures as you need to. You can see when people are willing to let you in and when they aren’t. Use that. Scary? You bet. But also so rewarding. But the key is confidence. Fake it if you have to! As for the printer – yes, I love the Instax. Much better than the old Polaroid ZINK I used to use. Sure, the images are small, but it’s better than nothing. Or bring 4×6 prints back if/when you return.
It’s always enlightening to hear the backstory and process of how images are created. Thanks for sharing this and all others that you have and do and will. Gems. Coal into diamonds. Have been sketching for a long time but didn’t have a name for it. Coupled with open intentionality, there’s no telling where things can go. Thanks!
Yes! Coal into diamonds. Great way of looking at it. We all want things so quickly that we can sabotage the very process we need to get where we want to go. Glad you found these helpful, Jamie!
Thank you David for sharing this… I really feel inspired by the idea of slowing down and embracing the process and then seeing where this takes me. Its like you’re inviting us on a creative journey that we can’t fail at as long as we just keep going. Really good stuff and thanks again!
I would like to know more about the experience of this kind of shot. By this, I mean, how prepared were you to wade into the water? Were you so compelled by following Benjamin that you just went for it, shoes, gear, cell phone in pocket? Was there ever a moment that you hesitated?
I had a recent experience of, um, trespassing into a large abandoned school with 2 other photographers on a rainy day. We got separated when perhaps I got a little too into the zone or they got bored and went to sit in the warm/dry car. After all, it was raining inside all 4 floors of the crumbling building. My shots look like I was freaked out and in a hurry, which I was. My heart was pounding and I kept imagining that the floor/ceiling would collapse, or the police would come, or I’d encounter a junkie. (It was exhilarating, btw.) How did you stay calm in the Benjamin shoot, once you were practically dipping your camera in waist-deep water? Or were you not calm and you just powered through it, risking your gear, etc.?
For me these things are a mixed bag of emotions, Jo, but I do tend to kind of get into work mode and just do my thing. I worry about the camera, etc, but only so much as it keeps me toeing that fine line between being prudent and taking risks. If I stop taking risks, I won’t get the shots and the photographs are usually more important to me than the camera. Still, if you fall over, try to hold that camera really high!!! 🙂 But that relative calm comes after years of getting more comfortable in these situations, not overnight, and I can tell you that if I’m really truly freaked out, I’m probably not in the mental space I need to be in to make my best work.
As for wading in the water, I just whipped my pants off, put my sandals back on, and headed in. Only afterwards was I told Lake Turkana has the largest concentration of fresh water crocodiles in the world. Yeah, my fixer stayed on the shore laughing about that. Funny guy.
David, a second comment about The Photographer’s Process videos – While many of us (myself definitely included) may not be able to join you often in person, these videos make me feel like I’m right next to you as you are working…listening to you as you share what you are seeing and feeling…Can’t wait to walk alongside of you again on the next video…thank you for these!
You just made my day, Sheila, this is exactly what I want others to experience. Thank you!
I re-watched the videos in another of your courses, The Traveling Lens, just before going on vacation last month (Morocco, highly recommended). You talked about sketch images there and I kept that in mind as I traveled.
I looked through the full take from 2 weeks of travel and saw several series of images, from about 6 to a high of 20 and can see a progression from “meh” to “better” with the occasional “oh My”.
The concept of sketch images really works. I’m looking forward to exploring this in more depth.
Fantastic, Steve! Here’s to more of the “Oh my!” 🙂
It has been such a relief to watch your videos David!
I’ve led to believe for some reason the more ‘experienced’ you get in Photography the less photos you need to take. (something I fail at miserably) But the way you have explained photography as a process, incorporating lots of sketches, experimentation with light, composition and lots of shots makes so much sense!
If I think about it great art work has never been made in an instant of one shot.
It’s really a never ending Process of our creativity, filled with stuff ups, moments of joy and not walking away to soon! I’ve seen photographers walk away at sunset then miss all the magic that happens after they have left.
The most magical thing for me in ‘Trust The Process’ is I don’t feel I’m ‘not good enough’ at all.
If I think of it as my creative journey to enjoy and make as many ‘sketches’ as I like, is a liberating feeling!
Looking forward to see what is in your course.
After watching your video ‘The Photographers Process’ I would like to see an example of ‘Making the most of a bad situation’. For example you have arrived at a destination to capture a great shot, but the light or other elements are not what you were hoping for. Thank you so much David!
Great feedback, Fay, thank you! I love that you find this liberating! That is what I want more than anything: for people to feel the freedom to risk, to struggle, to fail, and still love every minute of it on the way to making something they also love.
David, I watched this video with mounting senses of relief and liberation, and I want to thank you for that. Two reasons for this: 1. I feel so much better now about the fact that I can visit a place and not have the faintest clue what kind of image(s) I will end up making and valuing. 2. I’d heard the odd reference before to you making sketches, but not the context here. I had assumed you meant pencil and paper sketches, and I had dismissed that as someone who never got beyond matchstick men at school! Now I see this idea of ‘sketch *images*’ it clicks! I do something a little like that, but nowhere near as intensively as you.
Right on, Dave. Relief and liberation. Yes! This part of the process has been exactly that for me, with the result that I enjoy the process more, and when it all comes together, I enjoy the photographs themselves more. Thank you for chiming in!
So wonderful to see/hear your process in getting to your final image. Thank you!
Question: I’m fairly new to shooting, maybe 18 months of working at it, and I make lots & lots of “sketches”. I usually start out reviewing them in camera, and start deleting there, so that I just have fewer to manage in Lightroom. So, I might shoot 700 & try to get down to 200 before I download the RAW images. The thing that I’ve started to wonder about is if I’m missing some of the learning opportunity by not keeping some of the “fails” & really studying them in comparison to the keepers to understand what I did differently. For example, I shoot a lot of horses/cowboys & I’ll move around, changing my position relative to light & subject, and this can make such a huge difference between very dynamic shot & a very flat/dull shot…
Feedback: What do I take from this video? 1. Profound encouragement to trust the process & to keep going, 2. support for my sense that staying present & attuned to what I feel with the subject is key, 3. getting to look over your shoulder & hear your thinking, (example: the low POV to be at eye level w/ subject) 4. especially, you pointing out & really emphasizing the horizontal lines that made this image so dynamic, I felt the impact, but wouldn’t have been able to name that. Finally, I feel like you woke me up & made me my heart beat a little fast & want to get outside with my camera again.
One thing that I’m thinking about is the relationship between two triangles: the exposure triangle (ISO, aperture, shutter speed) & the real world triangle of subject, light source, photographer. And getting all of that aligned to make the composition at just the moment when there’s the gesture/connection that lights you up… Would love more examples of how you work your way through the possibilities.
Good point Kathy about the fails…I’m guilty of that as well…tho I do import everything, take a look in LR and then delete heavily, never studying the fails for what went wrong….will stop doing that now.
This is great feedback, Kathy, thank you. And here’s to your beating heart! Go make something you love! But first, stop deleting in-camera. It will lead to card corruption issues and lost images. Never delete in-camera. Cameras are for making photographs, not editing them. Promise you’ll stop that or I’ll hold my breath and pout in the corner until you do. Even worse than the possibility of screwing up your memory cards is what you just identified – yes, you are missing learning opportunities. But you’re also missing an important part of editing and that’s the chance to let the images sit for a while, and for you to gain some distance between the expectations you had when shooting and the quality of the images themselves. I do 3 edits. One after I shoot, one weeks or a month later, and one about a year or two later. And everytime I find new images, because i’ve grown, i’ve learned, my tastes have changed. If I delete my “crap” or my “sketch images” either in camera or Lightroom, I lose that opportunity. Make sense?
I loved the fact that you were changing your point of view and discovering the possibilities that were present in front of you. I usually don’t look at the scene in front of me from all the angles to see all that the scene holds for me. I then end up with images that don’t really give me what I was hoping for when I started or while I was shooting. So when I process the images I don’t see anything that look worthwhile to me.
Think about it as exploration, Fred. If we think we need to “get the shot” we tend to play it safe. If you accept that you often have to really explore, and question your assumptions about what that shot looks like, then you’ll discover new angles and moments, different compositions, and different ways of seeing. You’re on the right track!
I have worked on your concept of sketch images, but knowing you make hundreds of images sort of gives me permission to keep going until I get it right. I’ll often stop too soon thinking that there isn’t a shot to be had. Often there isn’t a shot, but maybe, just maybe, if I kept pursuing it, it might just materialise if I keep sketching.
When you edit and have a couple of hundred images, do you go through them and winnow them down, and keep winnowing until there is only 1 left, or do you go through and just know that this is the one?
Editing is more difficult than shooting
Hey Terry. I’m a “hell yes” or “no” kind of guy. I go through and look for the one or two frames in a shoot that really work for me. If I don’t get excited about an image, I don’t expect others to. (To me there’s no value in having a pile of images that are mediocre. If your approach works, great, but it would be backwards to me.) So my editing is pretty quick. I often start at the last image in a scene, and go backwards, picking those few that really grab me. Then I cull out the weakest of those. I also go back and do a couple more edits as time goes by because I find the more time I put between me and the event of shooting, the better my editing eye.
Thank you for emphasizing the importance of the sketch photos. I did a large shoot of a heron once. The best shots were not at the beginning or the end, but more in the middle. Just like what you said.
I like your workflow. It is purpose driven.
As to using the aspect ratio to create the strong horizon, wow! I never thought of that before. I really do think it created a stronger image.
If anything, I’d like to see more about how aspect ratios affect the final processing of the shot.
Keep up the good work!
How much time will be spent in LightRoom? I’m not really interested in software processes. Thanks.
Hi Carol – This is not going to be a course in Lightroom, and I’d bet that the conversations about post-processing will still be very helpful as they’re more about issues of composition, visual mass, and what makes an image work. True, there will be some talk about refining an image in the digital darkroom, but not focusing on that.
This was so helpful David to see your series of photos and hear you talk about your thinking and process. I’ve been exploring the concept of mindfulness and your philosophy and practice that you demonstrated and will have in this course seems to right in alignment with that. I look forward to seeing and hearing about the details of your course.
What you talked about in your “The Photographers Process ” video is similar to an article I just read in the latest newsletter from Naturescapes.net. The article talked about digging deeper to find those creative juices in the roads that are more traveled. The author quoted a professional photographer who said “The difference between a professional and an amateur is often the professional will shoot more bad pictures. We spend a lot of time working a situation, and if something’s good or has potential we may come back day after day, week after week to make it right. To tune our creative vision into something that really works.” These days life does not prepare us for waiting much more than half an hour at the most to watch for something to photograph. That I feel is our biggest hurdle. Thanks for encouraging us to continue to have patience.
Oh man, I can’t wait to have more patience. 🙂 You’re spot on. Photography uses light and time as two of our raw materials and patience is about gathering more time.
I have been shooting for over 40 years and was a teacher of words: communications, logic and literature. For me one of the “secrets” of a good image is language. Identifying a focal point, a mood, a relationship or juxtaposiition establish my basic goal for the image. I mean actually naming what I am after in the image. Of course, that can take more time than we have in rapidly changing scenes and I have come to realize that I often do this unconsciously and very rapidly. And the labels change as I become more deeply immersed in the scene.
I could go on at great length with examples from a variety of photographic genres. Rather, I will simply say that in many cases it was an emotion that urged us to pick up our camera. Naming those emotions can go a long way to turning the scene magical.
Yes, Steve! You nailed it. I often say I can’t really pre-visualize but I can identify what I want it to feel like and that’s often more what it means to have vision and intent than really having a sense of what the final image will LOOK like. Thanks for that.
Thanks for making me feel better about my process, which is: shoot as many as I can in the time I have.
I’ve been with some photographers who propose getting everything “perfect” on the first shot. But, I don’t know what perfect will look like, and every scene has different lighting, different subjects, even in the same place or event I’m changing ISOs, lenses, or speed.
Perfect is an unrealistic goal, and it’s important we embrace that and aim instead for better things. Creative. Authentic. Honest. Connections. Mood. God, almost anything other than perfect. We stop when we think we’ve hit perfect and never get beyond ourselves. Keep doing it your way, Trinda!
I am almost in tears after watching this 3rd video. Sooo encouraging that I am overwhelmed. Thanks!
I don’t consider it a good day until I’ve reduced at least one person to tears, Jett. 🙂 But more than that my goal is to encourage and liberate while I instruct. It’s one thing to teach someone to do a thing, another to inspire and help give them the freedom to do it. I’m glad you feel I helped with that. 🙂
I could hug you for showing – with words and pictures- that this magic that we call photography takes time. Time to ask why. Time to sketch …. ohh I get that and need to be left alone to do it… time to follow the action, time to wade back in and shoot some more and time to review, respond and refine … and get rid of those dust spots! Thank you David.
No hug should be refused. Bring it on, Anne! 🙂
I’m getting a sense this new course may be different from your prior three courses, a more holistic approach maybe? In any case, I’m likely to be in as listening to different viewpoints is part of my own process.
My question would be: any discussion/exemples of landscape photography?
You nailed it, Marc! Wholistic is one of two words I’ve been using as I’ve created this. The other is “integrated” – I think it’s a needed perspective and way of learning and almost no one seems to be doing it. As for your suggestion: yes! I aim to do landscape and portraits and street and travel, even wildlife.
Thank you so much for this threesome of videos….
I am working alot right now but looking forward to retirement soon..less than a year I think 🙂
Your courses and videos are inspirational and remind me that with some new found time on my hands I will have so much fun learning and exploring and enjoying photography!
Thank you, Sue! And you’re very welcome! Congratulations on your impending retirement, that’s something to look forward to!
Early videos/readings that I saw (not yours) talked about “chimping” and “working the scene”. Chimping was definitely a ‘bad thing’. From your discussions I’ve come to the conclusion that pre-visualization was another side of the chimping-is-bad concept. But chimping is how I get feedback on whether I was successful in doing what I was trying for — did I miss an edge and something is in/out of the image, did I orient the camera right, do I have the darkness/brightness set right. So extra chimping is a good thing and helps me get to where I might be going and helps me improve the quality of the next shot. I should say I’m usually shooting landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes, not people so much. Working-the-scene wasn’t so clear whether that was a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’ in my early readings, but it sure sounds like a disparaging description. You’re clearly coming in on the side of work-it, and keep working it, and then work it some more! And once we have the set of photographs, we’re working them in lightroom.
I continue to be impressed with how much effort a top photographer puts into a single image. I like to go on hikes; my version of ‘working the image’ is working the setting, wandering along a trail and seeing what comes up next.
It sounds like in your next course you’re going to have to take in not just single images from your students, but whole sets of images, and discuss the sketch images, the process of setting up, the process of grabbing that one shot that you work on more extensively.
Hey Robert – I think there’s good chimping and bad chimping. I usually call the good chimping “getting feedback from your images” and the bad is just, well, chimping. One is helpful, and often necessary. The other is a compensation for not (yet) knowing your craft well enough to trust the process. My big concern, no matter what it’s called is that I remain in the moment, and that when necessary, I get the feedback I need from the sketch images. What I’ve learned over the years is I can often get that feedback as I photograph – I see the frame through the viewfinder and work it, and don’t have to check in on the images themselves as much. Younger photographers might not be there yet. That’s fine. My concern is that chimping can distract, taking us out of the moment. If you can get feedback and stay in the moment, that’s the balance that I think is desireable.
Right now I have no plans to take in whole sets of images from students, but to invite submissions of single images and the visual language / composition / creativity and craft issues that those images present. I will only discuss the full process, sketches and all, when it’s my image, because that’s the only context i have a full understanding of.
Again, thank you for making these three videos and sharing a very different side of / approach to photography, when compared with much of what I have seen on Youtube and elsewhere. After watching the first two videos in this series, I was very interested in what you would show/explain in this video; that you would be getting into the nuts and bolts of “the process” with a real-life example. And you did.
You asked us to comment on what we would like to see in videos like this, and I will, but first a comment. I understand it was a dynamic scene, so you wanted and needed to keep shooting. But as I watched this particular video, I felt somewhat uncomfortable because it wasn’t always clear to me where (or how, and sometimes even if) the line was drawn between being intentional and just firing off shots.
Ok, so what would I like to see in videos like this? In this one, I would have liked to have heard even more about what the “intentionality” aspects were (ie. what motivated you, what decision(s) you were implementing) in any given set of, say, five or seven adjacent shots in the set. You definitely touched on some broad strokes and ideas as you moved through the shoot (POV, elements that were catching your attention, and how you were thinking about using the light) but more along these lines, more granularity about the creative process, would be helpful. (Having said that, of course there is a limit to how long a video like this can be and still hold people’s attention, so I recognize it’s a balancing act).
Second, and related to the first request, I would like to see your process for less a dynamic scene like, say, a landscape-sunset. In such a scene, the “unknown/unpredictable” aspects are likely to be fewer so you may not need to be shooting as constantly to not miss “the moment”. With fewer shots in the set, that might help you dig more into the intentionality/decisions behind more of the frames, in more detail.
For me, the whole concept of “the process” that you have developed in these videos is absolutely intriguing, but it’s also very new. So more detail about what goes into it, how you’re engaging in it, how I can engage in it, would be great.
Again, thank you for this different window on photography. I appreciate it greatly. (And sorry for being so long-winded. I hope this is helpful).
Hi Lee – Thanks so much for this feedback. OK, so cards on the table, this short series of videos is meant to be helpful, as a teaser / taste of what’s to come for the new course I’m about to launch. I wanted these videos to be valuable whether or not someone enrolled. But it is just a teaser so it was a tough call for me to choose an image that had a little of everything. The plan is to do many more of these and to cover as many different scenarios – from landscape to wildlife to portraits as well as street and travel genres. So your point is both well taken and helpful.
As you point out, there’s only so much I can teach well in a 20-minute video without it getting too diluted, so some episodes will do exactly as you’ve suggested: talking through more of the specific and intention decisions, why did I change the lens, the POV, the settings, etc. Most will not be a photograph made in water when I was just struggling not to fall over! 🙂 As I’ve done this I’ve also realized I need to do a better job of editing down the images I show, so I can speak more in-depth about those fewer frames. They’re already getting much tighter.
Thanks for the feedback! Much appreciated!
Thank you for being so different. Your Videos are telling me, what i am longing to hear. I Need to become more Aware of me, instead of the gear i am using, or should use.
Thank you David and keep going
I have enjoyed all of your tutorials and the books with the inspiration and encouragement they give: these videos on through the process as well. Questions and thoughts that occurred to me viewing this video are:
(1) Shouldn’t say 1 stop exposure compensation increase be used to render detail in faces of dark-skinned people (the need to overexpose due to camera meter underexposing..)? Yes I see the way you developed thinking during the process to change to creating a silhouette image.. but at the beginning as you said you did not know that … I guess I would automatically have increased exposure compensation at the start of taking the images., thinking to capture face detail, but that can’t have been a concern to you? I would have liked to see some detail in the face in your final image shown – but I guess that is just me!
(2) From your tutorials I started taking sketch images routinely and found doing that very helpful. However it seems to me that from this video sketch images aren’t just helpful to develop an idea in making an image. (Seeing a sketch image here as the precursor for coming back at a later date/time to intentionally make an image from the idea developed in the sketches. ) They are in themselves the raw stuff to post process to the image you envisage. How do you see sketch images relate to idea development (where these images are binned) and intentional making of an image ( where the ‘sketch images’ are creatively taking images to realize the idea developed from the sketch images)? Sorry too long involved sentences.
(3) I prefer to do creative cropping in post production. Which means tending not to allow the default aspect ration 3:2 control me using it as a final frame for an image. You know making a 16:9 aspect ratio image as you have done presupposes that you have enough extraneous detail to cut out of the original default aspect ratio image. How does a default aspect ratio affect your taking sketch images?
Wow, Norry, way to dive right in! Let me grab another cup of coffee…
Okay. Here we go:
1. Yes, adding exposure would have given me more detail in the face, but at the risk of losing mood. No, I didn’t know it would end up being a pure silhouette, but in high dynamic scenes like this I almost always default to preserving mood and colour from a lower exposure than the usual default to preserve shadow detail. It’s a matter of preference to me.
2. I think sketch images, as a concept can be used in several ways. They can be used to develop ideas, or for proof of concept, and that can occur over hours, days, or even years. But they can also be used in the sense that you don’t always know which moment will be the strongest, and the acknowledgement that the edit and the processing are important parts of the process of creating an image and in that sense, yes, they become raw materials as well. I found this question hard to understand so feel free to try again if I haven’t answered it.
3. I generally don’t crop much in post-production. But as I allow post-production to show me some options, sometimes it happens that I’ve got a frame that is stronger as a 16:9 or other crop. But I find that every aspect ratio requires specific choices in composition and I’d rather compose for that aspect ration than hope it works in post. In this case it worked better as a 16:9 but 9 times out of 10 I’d rather make that choice in the camera, if it allows, and compose for that aspect ratio. I got lucky with this one. My Fuji, which I use most of the time now, allows me to set different aspect ratios in-camera which is a big help.
Thank you David for this short video series. It’s the first time that I got really a feeling how much work is needed for a single foto.I never asumed that even the pros are taking this many pictures. So what I learned now, is I’m definitely shooting not enough pictures. I thought to take 10 or so pictures from a scene would do, and there must be a “good” one in it. I have to admit, I was totally wrong. I’m looking forward to your course, Thanks again.
Thank you, Thomas! Sometimes we luck out and nail it with those first 10 pictures. But often, especially when trying something new, which is where my own best work usually comes from, we need much more time and raw materials. We need more failures, more refinement. For me there’s an incredible amount of freedom in that! Looking forward to you joining us for Making the Image! Thanks for your trust in me.
You are correct, most instructors believe that it is the technical aspects that you need to master in order to make great photos. They seem to forget that that alone will not make great photos, It is the emotional feeling of the photo as one views it that makes a great photo. You are the first instructor that tries to influence your students into challenging themselves into spending the necessary time experimenting, feeling, gaining knowledge from imperfection, trusting their own instincts, in order to improve their photography and gain a chance of making that special photography. Very exciting approach, Thank You.
Thanks, Stan. To be fair, I think many photographers who teach others know much more about photography than about teaching and it results in a bit of a lop-sided approach. They mean well. But they also have a very limited task: help students make a better photograph. Of course I want that too, but I think the best way to achieve this for the long term, is to help others become better photographers – to think more like a photographer, to take risks and find their own unique way of making images rather than just copying. I’m thrilled you noticed that and that it resonates with you. Thank you.
Wow! This class looks really interesting and helpful. Two questions:
1.-I will be traveling until early June. Will this prevent me from engaging the class with everyone else?
2.-Will the class have a unique online community in FB?
Hey Leslie – You’d be in great hands if you didn’t dip in until June. This is a long-term thing, and the lessons, once posted, don’t go away. Yes, the class with have a unique FB community in FB, but I need to qualify that by saying “sort of” – I anticipate this course will be the biggest value to the core of my community, many of whom are already in The Vision-Driven, my existing mentoring community, which is where this group will also connect. Long term, I see The Vision-Driven being more heavily used by those in this new program. It’ll be where we can talk about the images and ideas. I wasn’t going to do this but if you’re interested in just poking your head under the hood – you can see the details at MakingTheImageCourse.com
Thank you so very much for walking us through your process. I don’t like editing, so I try to keep it to minimum. I started using the clarity function, and I love it.
Your new course looks/sounds fabulous. It maybe something I need right now.
You’re welcome, Iris!
Thanks for these three videos David. I’ve heard you talk about sketches before, but not really appreciated how they can help to explore a scene or an idea. I’ve generally looked at a scene or subject, thought about it, taken a couple of images and then moved on. I’m going to try making lots more sketch images and spending much more time exploring the scene through the camera lens. This third video, showing how you make this process work for you really brings it home. Thanks for making us think.
I often forget what a powerful difference plus in the final version of any image. I tend to go with the scenes original colorbalance. Changing the warmth in your image made all the difference-thanks for the reminder!
You’re welcome! Of course you can do this in-camera, too, but the addition of a little mood, when its a better expression of the subject, is always a good tool to keep in your back pocket. Thanks for chiming in, Clayton!
Excellent lesson and presentation David. For me, a really good take home message was to “keep shooting”, especially when working with a stranger.
Thanks, Patrick. That’s a solid take-away, for sure. As long as that shooting is mindful and you’re approaching it intentionally rather than just mashing your finger on the shutter, it should help you get where you want to go.
Great video David and much usable in it.
One question though. During the flow of photos you took, I noticed that settings are fluctuating (speed and aperture). Can you elaborate if you change them manually (what and why) or did you trsut the automatic exposure control ?
Many thanks in advance. Expecting your next videos,
Jacques Vanhorick (Belgium)
Hi Jacques – These days I mostly photograph in Manual mode, but back then it was probably aperture priority, with heavy use of EV Compensation and some tweaks to aperture along the way. With mirrorless systems I can see my histogram right in the viewfinder and my Fujis have more analog-style controls so I’m much more comfortable with taking all the control back, but yes, for years I used AV mode and trusted the camera to do what it does, but keeping an eye on the histogram and using EV Compensation when needed! Hope that helps!
You were right, this third video was exactly what I was hoping to see! Will the new course include more of this sort of demonstration?
A few questions about the process you just went thru – what was the end use for this photo, for a project, a one-off for your portfolio, or…?
Also, what do you do with all the other frames you call “junk”? Do you delete them at some point, or do you keep evvvverything?
Thanks again for your always timely and helpful advice!
Right on, Lori! I knew you’d enjoy that. Yes, the new course will have at least one of these videos a month. There will be others too, and they’ll be similar but will use photographs from those taking the course, instead, and I’ll walk through a similar conversation about what makes the image work, where the strengths are, where the weaknesses or missed opportunities are, and anything else that comes up about creativity, craft, or composition.
That particular image was part of a collaborative project with The Boma Project, a Kenyan NGO. It was used for awareness and fund raising. And it also went into my own portfolio.
Right now I keep almost everything. For years. At some point, if I’m really motivated I do what by then is usually a 4th edit, and I’ll be more aggressive about culling out the duplicates and the unsalvagable, but honestly, hard drive space is cheaper and cheaper all the time and my time to do that kind of clean up just gets more and more precious. So I don’t delete often.
Glad I could help!
Thanks for explaining and sharing your process. I’m glad that that will be a big part of the new “curses”. It is very helpful to me to hear you thinking out loud.
I guess we’ll have to wait until the next mail to understand all the practical details like frequency and price and so on.
This was an especially helpful approach to showing the process. I call it “working the subject,” but not sure you would agree with that phrase. I like that you show the whole session and your thoughts while you photographed Benjamin, and how you adjusted and moved about to try new angles and light. Showing all the “out takes” of a session is very instructional to those of us who see a final image and don’t have the context of how you got there.
Bill, i think “working the subject” is exactly right. I call it “making sketch images” but they’re two different ways of saying the same thing: explore, risk, be intentional, and work it until there’s nothing left! Of course it’s never quite that simple, within that process is a lot of craft and psychology, but the perseverance and exploration is so critical. Thanks for chiming in!
Loved, loved, loved this! I never have really thought of this whole image making as a process…just thought others saw things quicker and better than I did. Can’t wait for next week 🙂
Right? I can’t tell you how many photographers believe that they’re the one delinquent who can’t get it in one shot, when my experience is exactly the opposite. You’re on the right track, Sheila!