Hard Man

For some time now I’ve been interested expanding my photography to include more creative post processing. The idea that a photograph must only be what is captured by the camera is a ridiculous notion. Perhaps it made sense in the days of analog photography because serious post processing in a darkroom required a level of skill that few casual hobbyists could manage. With digital photography there are many more opportunities for creativity after the shutter clicks. Software tools are not necessarily easy to learn but the cost is low compared to chemical darkroom equipment and information is abundant. As far as I’m concerned it makes sense to use the creative potential available.

To that end I am starting a new project doing altered or augmented images. By augmenting images I mean using digital tools to interpret aspects of a photograph that are not well expressed in the raw image. It is a purely subjective and personal vision. It is not a full time project, just something to add to my existing schedule. I always like to have a variety of work going on.

This image is good example. It was shot within hours of the subject being released from jail. My personal knowledge of the circumstances of the photo shoot informs my processing. I see a spare toughness in his face. He has overcome adversity, possibly of his own making and that should to be part of the portrait. To make this feeling visible I composited concrete and steel textures over his face while keeping the intense clarity in his eyes.

The digital manipulations in this photograph are rather minor. The creative expression is not. The finished work conveys an impression of the subject that I saw in front of my camera. To me it seems more accurate than the raw image.

Realizing A Dream

Photography projects that require money are difficult to get off the ground unless you can do self funding. For that reason many projects that could potentially find an audience never see the light of day. I’m speaking primarily of photography and video but that also holds for other products as well. Books and films that are ambitious usually require backing in order to achieve success. Finding backers is always difficult.

There are ways to minimize overhead such as working on projects as time and money allow. Unfortunately life obligations frequently make finishing things difficult. Still photographers accomplish excellent work in spite of the odds. There are many examples of people traveling the world on a shoestring to realize a vision. They provide great inspiration for those of us with ideas but no money.

Crowd funding may provide a means to sponsor small to medium sized photo ventures. It is easy to find dozens of photography projects on crowd funding websites. Some of are doing well raising money and some not. With the minimum requirements of a worthy idea and plan, a funding proposal can be floated on these sites. It is a possible solution to help realize a dream.

Crowd funding has helped many great ideas become commercial products. It has also helped promote a few scams. There is a reason why professional capitalists are careful with money when it comes to ideas. That said, crowd funding is becoming better organized by the day. It may be worth considering for an ambitious photography project.

Learning to see

When I got my first camera I snapped pictures of everything in front of me. I was surprised to discover the camera captured a different view of the world than my eyes. It was interesting to see what the camera saw. There was no real consideration of subject matter and not much attention paid to framing. Just point and shoot. Of course my pictures were uninteresting to say the least. Most of them were blurred or angled with the subject half out of the frame if it was there at all. They were just random images of nothing in particular.

That prompted me to start buying photography books. After reading several (dozen) I discovered that they all gave the same rudimentary advice accompanied by beautiful images made by the author. I don’t want to sound cynical but most of the books were about showcasing pretty pictures not helping the reader. The lesson I took from self help photography books is that people are desperate to get their images into print and are willing to sacrifice your money to do so.

My next stop was online to the photography forums. It turns out these places are also populated by people who are desperate to get their images in front of an audience. That was a step forward because I was desperate to do the same thing. Good or bad someone should admire my hard work. It turned out the forums were far more useful in learning photography than self help books. The reason is that they contain a high percentage of bad photography. It was easier for me to analyze bad images made by someone else rather than my own. Over time that made me a better self editor and my images improved. I also met plenty of nice people and made a few friends. Overall contributing to online forums has been an great experience.

Now having shot twenty thousand images more or less in the past few years I’m still learning to see. My goal is to be more selective about what I capture with my camera. I shoot slower and try to visualize a finished image before pressing the shutter. I’ve also spent time learning other essential skills such as image post processing and printing. There is still much to learn and enjoy along the way to becoming a competent photographer.