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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

To make more interesting photos be a more interested photographer.

I was flicking through Rolling Stone magazine today. Like many photographers one of my other great passions is music. I have a pretty eclectic mix of stuff in my iPod and my two young sons walk around singing everything from the Village People to Bollywood to Japanese pop songs!

Anyway the latest edition of the Australian magazine has an interview with the newly re-formed Crowded House. When I was a kid growing up in Melbourne in the 80's I lived for this incredibly talented trio. I used to see the guys regularly around town, particularly the bass player Nick Seymour who used to roller blade near where I used to go windsurfing every weekend.

Anyway it got me thinking about their music and how I could remember and sing (admittedly rather terribly) the lyrics to many of their songs nearly 30 years later. I'm sure we all have songs like that we can relate to. Of course there are the ditties with lyrics like "oo mow ma mow papa oo mow ma mow' that you remember (Surfing Bird for those of you who don't!), but for the most part you remember lyrics because they say something meaningful, something that resonates with you.

And for me this is one of the vital ingredients for a memorable photograph as well. You have to say something memorable beyond this is a nice moment in time. I think to really create images that resonate with people the subject has to resonate with the photographer first and foremost. You have to be interested in what it is you're photographing. To have an opinion about it. Feelings, emotions. Something to convey to the viewer.

And to be able to do that you have to be interested in more than just photography. I know quite a few photographers, both professional and keen amateurs, who are merely interested in creating images. They love the cameras, the technology, the post-processing techniques and plug-ins. But they aren't necessarily enamoured with their subjects. So when they talk about their pictures they tell you about the making of it in terms of the equipment, the lighting position, the f-stop and shutter speed.

I want to hear about the subject. Who was the person? Why are they wearing that amazing costume? What is that building and what is it's history? And that's what I want people to think about when they see my pictures. Of course having a great composition, nice light and a great subject are the objects of any photographer but to move to the next level you need to have that interest factor. That something that moves you so that you can then use your skills to create an image to move other people.

And how do you do this? Be interested. Be passionate. Don't just love photography for photography's sake. Revel in the amazing things in this world and really explore them so that you know what you want to say about them. There's a whole big wide world outside of photography books, blogs and instructional videos. Go and explore it - your photography will thank you for it.


Aerokev said...

Well said Paul. I have in my mind roughly what settings I use, but I never seem to put that first, more an afterthought once I have the image done. It's about feelings for me not so much sprouting a textbook.

Paul Dymond said...

Hi Kev,

I think the technical side has to work in tandem with the artistic side - and that's probably the appeal of photography to a lot of people. The aim is to be so intuitive with the technical side of things that you instinctively have a pretty good idea of what lens, what aperture and what shutter speed you need to create a pleasing picture.