Abandon Style. Pursue Vision.


Vision-Driven Photography


Lesson Info

Abandon Style. Pursue Vision.

Before we go any further I think I think we're going to do is I was remiss in not introducing our at home at here studio live audience so we're gonna go around introduce everyone so that you know who is here on your behalf and uh and then we'll get right back into talking about vision some of the obstacles teo to expressing and discovering our vision and that sort of thing so uh several mike everyone's miked you need the blue mike let's let's just go go this way since you have the mike really glad I get to go first by the way perfect my name's nathan I'm from los angeles and, uh fill in the rest yourself thanks. Nathan ah I'm tosser dawson I live in atlanta, georgia but I'm actually from seattle so I claimed seattle is home and that's it that's all if you like a vision for this comment my vision for this comment well, I mean I shoot teen girls that's what I love tto photograph in that's why I'm here so I think that sounds tio all right hi, I'm natalie and I'm from well, I live in salem...

, oregon and I'm from l a and I'll be going back there so I still call that home don't hate on it anybody but um and yeah that's that's me my name is chris and I'm from seattle I'm about five miles away from where we're at right now is where I live, and I am a softer engineer and I really love photography, and l verbitsky was, well, um, I'm carrie and I love about ten minutes from here, so I am from seattle, and I'm mostly drawn to portraiture, photography, excited to be here. All right, well, now we know, um, so I wantto kind of go into a bit of a discussion about there's, some good questions on twitter, by the way, some really good questions about, you know, is vision all we need and of course, visions not all we need provisions a starting point. I also wanted to say before we go any further, this is not and we were talking about this earlier, but this is not the way to do photography. I'm not suggesting that the way that I think and feel about photography is is it it's it's all way to do photography and I think it's ah, good way. But there are other ways there are people that photograph intuitively without ever expressing or story ever, you know, exploring their own vision and looking at it through this kind of paradigm. Um so I just kind of want that to be clear because I know they're going to be people to say why I just don't work that way and I totally get it everyone works differently and that's the beauty of the creative process I think if everyone worked the same way I would have lost interest a long time ago so take honestly take the stuff out of this workshop that you feel applies to you and if you disagree with it then that's probably a good sign that you know that you're thinking through it and they were going to be everyone looks at these things a different way the words that I used me I mean different things to you and so you know feel free to push back twitter's there for you if you wantto engage in the dialogue a little bit more we're not gonna have ah smackdown it's the visions mac down we're not going to do that but we were certainly happy to dialogue and if there's something that we've said that you kind of feel like I don't really get that then by all means push back a little and we'll see if we can address that um I want to talk a little bit about the difference between macrovision and micro vision first I'm making the assumption that absolutely everyone has vision there's no one that doesn't have vision it's like saying you know does everyone have an opinion pretty much everyone has an opinion about something because we're all individuals for the most part all of us walk through the day thinking and feeling and reacting to the world around us so we have thoughts about what is beautiful we have thoughts about what is right and just and we certain things make us angry if anything has ever made you happy or angry or sad you have opinion you have a vision about this world and again that may not be something that you see in your mind it's just your personal position on the world it's your own feelings about things it's you know, if I walked into your house you would all have a home that was decorated differently you would have different art on the wall because you see things differently you appreciate some things more than others so if you are a unique person than absolutely you have a vision the question is not whether you have vision the question is are you conscious of your vision and are you conscious of it enough that you can parlay it into something that can be expressed through your camera? So we talk I talk about vision in macro it's kind of your world view vision and the more conscious you are off what do I find beautiful? What do I find infuriating what makes me angry? What what kind of things am I drawn to all of that kind of the package that is you, the more conscious you are of that I think the more able you will be to put that into your own photography so at a certain point yes, we all have vision the question is more like are we all willing to kind of stared our belly buttons long enough to be aware of what that vision even is? So? Yes, everyone has vision, this is not something that is just for the profoundly artistic remember creativity is not exclusive to the world of art, there are creative engineers or creative mathematicians we all can be creative expression is not something that is unique to the world of the arts. There are mathematicians that do their thing as a form of expression, there are people who are would never consider themselves artists but communicate well one to another, so neither vision or expression are unique to the arts. This is not like it's, not only in our domain and I think sometimes people think, well, I'm not a really highly creative, artistic kind of person, I think it's hard wired into all of us. So again, if you're frustrated about this, if it doesn't come easily to you that she isn't generally a sign that you're not artistic it's not a sign that you don't have vision it's just a sign that you're frustrated and as we talked about that's a good thing the frustration is natural don't let it convince you that you can't do this stuff now yes some people are more I think innately talented but even then I would put my money on the photographer who's really hardworking and pushes through the frustration than the one who just relies on the talent I mean there are some people you just look at their work and go oh my gosh this person is so stinking talented I want to throw my camera way well chances are they've been doing it for a long time not everyone summer my friend ellie who's in norway is a phenomenal photographer she's been doing it for like two years and I just you are just makes me angry she's really good at what she does she's very talented her talent will get better the more she works at it just like any of us will begin with a little bit of talent we move forward and in the same way we all have a vision it's a question of how willing are we to do dig a little deeper to discover that vision and then figure out a way for it to express itself? This is our this's hard painters don't just go into the studio and go I have a vision and they've whipped something up and they put it on at sea or you know whatever good painters, good artists wrestle with their vision, they wrestle it to the ground and just because you have to wrestle with it doesn't mean you don't have one. So instead of saying well, I don't really have a vision. What I would encourage you to do is just take it as sort of de facto you do have a vision, it's just hard to figure out it's hard. I've been doing this twenty five years, and I only started doing this professionally as a working photographer about six years ago because it wasn't until then I figured out the stories I wanted to tell I knew the gear, I was getting better at my craft, but I didn't know what my vision wass I had one, and when I went back back and looked at my work, I saw common threads and I didn't have that vision I just didn't know I had I was totally clueless, so it takes some work, it takes them figuring out and it's the same thing with a poet it's the same thing with a songwriter you gotta dig deep, you have to have some awareness of your inner life and that's where some people I think it kind of turned off because they got into photography because they just want to play with these cool, shiny toys and they are cool and they are shiny but if you want to create work that looks a certain way and expresses something you could have something to express so that's our starting point yes, you do have vision now the question is how do we figure it out? So we got that macrovision and then the micro vision is the smaller stuff and I think one informs the other if you are drawn to really if you're drawn to so serene settings if you're drawn to hope if you have a particular sense of humor like for example I did I did a block post recently about elliott erwitt are you familiar with elliot hurwitz's work he's he does black and white photography in my opinion he kind of out cartier bresson's car chamber so I mean he's his ability to capture a moment incredibly beautifully but he has a sense of humor if you look at it almost all of his work some of them are a little more intimate than others. Some of them are a little more, you know, decisive than others. But through most of his work as a body you can tell this guy has a fantastic sense of humor because he is drawn to these photographs thes moments that are just there's juxtapositions and there's contrast that are just really funny when you look at them, you kind of get like he has one and it's it's a typical life drawing class, you know where you'd have people drawing a nude at the front, except that all the people that are drawing our nude and there's, you know, a fully clothed person there, and I don't know the story behind it, I assume he set it up it's funny, it is a very it's a funny photograph he's got lots of that that's part of his vision that's part of his macrovision he's, a man with a sense of humor, and he looks through the lens of his humor, and he sees the world in a certain way, and so that affects the bigger vision, who he is effects, how he expresses himself in these individual frames. Not every photograph he takes is going to be funny because he's not on ly a funny person, elliott erwitt probably is, you know, like us, a very complex person, and there will be images he shot one of ah photographer robert frank and and robert frank's wife in a kitchen in italy, and they're they're kissing and it's a profoundly intimate moment it's a beautiful photograph and it's not funny at all. You just because you are a funny person doesn't mean everything that you say that comes out of your mouth is funny and it's same way ah funny photographer doesn't not everything he shoots is going to be funny because he probably also wants to point to a world that he sees that's deeply intimate or that in some ways that's mean comedies always got a bit of a dark side, so he's probably going to point to some things that make you think and that are a little bit troubling at times, so the reason I encourage you to consider this is because your bigger worldview will affect how you photograph, um, these smaller scenes, and it should to some degree give you one of those constraints. We talked earlier, chris, about constraints and about having on ly, you know, taking your iphone out and taking photographs with it, I think we need to create our own constraints are vision creates a constraint in the sense that you don't have to be every photographer in the world. If you look at ansel adams work and you go, oh, technically that's really nice and it's good work, but I have no interest in landscapes don't shoot landscapes, your your view of the world, the things that interest you, the things about what you're passionate and, you know, lately there's this mantra going around, you know, shoot what to love absolutely shoot what you love, shoot what you're curious about xiu what you're interested in, you don't have to shoot everything when you become aware of both your macrovision and well when you become aware of your bigger vision, you're macrovision that will inform how and what you photograph because suddenly you realize you know, I saw these great pictures of a dog and they were shot in hdr and they were really cool and I want to go shoot pictures of dogs and hdr but then you realize not only do I really not like hdr ah, but I don't actually care for dogs probably good sign that you're not gonna be interested in shooting this but you ask yourself what did I see in that photograph that maybe you think I should shoot that because maybe there's something that I can then you know, I go back into my resource in my my macrovision ago what am I interested in? What do I love shooting and that's? One of the reasons I encourage people to study is broadly as I can look at landscape photographers if you see something you like don't go I don't like landscapes where you like photographs so and movies you like movies you like songs what the songs you like, what movies you like? Why do you like them there's something you're drawn to it you know, if you if I look at go home and look at your bookshelf I gotta you're home what's on your bookshelf what's on your dvd rack what's in your in your on your ipod those air hints about what your vision is you see the world in a certain away the things you choose to listen to our generally things you choose to listen to because they reinforce the way you see the world if you're dark and moody, you're probably going to listen to all kinds of nihilistic thrash death metal you know I mean I may be wrong maybe you'll listen to you know leanne womack or something but chances are and maybe that's what's making you darkened moody and depressed but chances are the stuff that you input in your life is reflective of your vision at large and very few of us are one way on the inside and on the way you know I mean you just if you're really happy person you're not listeningto nihilistic music it just it's it's disconnected so I would say follow that follow that stream we'll talk about that a minute is an exercise let me ask you a question and again to the international audience what do you think stands in your way of not maybe expressing your vision but also discovering your vision? We think challenges to this whole vision driven thing would be for me I'm really, really interested in people and I love looking at portrait photographs, but the thought of approaching people and interacting with them to get that photograph is really intimidating really? Yeah. Okay, a lot of people sure takes true with me scares the heck outta me takes a year absolutely um okay in a in a broader sense, what do you think stands kind of in the way of your vision? What air sort of some of the challenges that that you think even if it's not you, what do you think the challenge is to discovering and expressing your vision would be I think this is something that you mentioned earlier also so maybe it's not quite a challenge, but I've viewed it as one is that I tend to think in kind of words or phrases I guess you could say so I'm not a when I think about stuff I I don't think about it visually, so I'm not picturing it in my mind so I've always said, well, okay, how can I have a strong vision if I'm not actually envisioning something that's right in front of me? But I mean, as you said, you you do it different ways with writing things down or just kind of spending time in that moment to figure out what it is that attracts you to it or, you know, brings out those emotions so that is kind of a way to fix it and I guess that's sort of like oh, you know, I should have thought of that that the same time it's something that you can really easily have in front of you and say, I'm not really sure how I would come up with something cause I'm not I am not seeing it, I think that's I think that's huge, actually, I think it's really big, I think a lot of people assume that until they have this picture in their mind and we do all this talk about visualization and that works for some people, some people can really truly visualized picture I don't think I visualized an image in my life, I work very collaboratively with the camera, I have to look through not only the viewfinder, but the particular lens with the filters on I'm getting a little better, it kind of imagined what it might look like, but it's, just not my process and why in the I mean, the world of art is always kind of a little bit about anarchy, but in photography, we've always been like, it's got to be the rule of thirds and it's gotta be it's gotta, and we're just we're addicted to rules like crazy, and even every time we try that, jettison them, some so called purists jumps in and goes, but you can't you must you, you know, and it's I mean it's, the so called purists that there are I mean, they're not the ones that are going to write photographic history just like the painting purists, you know, I'm sure there were people when picasso came out and did his own thing, people went, you can't do this, it's an outrage, you know, and he's like, I don't care doing my thing because that's, what I want to do, and I don't think just like, I think a lot of writers don't think in words, when I sit in, right, I don't actually know what I'm going to say before I start writing, and so it translates into my photographic process, I have no idea what I'm going to shoot until I actually start working through the process and, you know, the equivalent is me, cameron out, and and I actually there's a lot for me, a lot of parallels between my process and writing in my process and and shooting, but none of it happens as a visual in my mind. So yeah, in that sense, you know, maybe using the word intention is a better ah wave doing it. And if you think in words like, if you can say to yourself, who I want to do movie, then sit down and write and go, what do I want a photograph to look like? You know, and even you could write a story would be a great creative exercise to write a short story, one paragraph you know, the woman stood in a dark alley with and start actually describing it, and I think you would find even though you can't conjure an image in your head as you write it down, you will begin to get a photograph, you know, in your mind and they go, oh, okay, so now how do I make that work? And we'll talk a little bit about that, too, because that's kind of about the expression side of things, but I think that's a really important obstacle that you know, we do need to get over is the idea that vision has to come to us in a certain no way, I don't think it does at all. Um, and it was there anyone out there on twitter, twitter, land um what stands in the way a lot of people are saying, um, family time um really time is how how to prioritize focusing on not just photography, but that what is my vision part of it? Um, a lot of people have asked about, you know, a lot of talk about travel photography, someone mondi in the chat room saying are saying they live in a visually really interesting place can't afford to travel and I know from personal experience like when you get off the plane in kathmandu everything's interesting absolutely and you can take a picture of just anything in it it's amazing too, but if you if you don't have that, how do you get vision from, you know, living in akron, ohio or something where you just yeah, that's a good question, although, you know, you kind of wonder why people even want to be photographers if they don't have something that they want to take photographs of um, I mean, for me, it's very much the case that when I'm at home in vancouver, I I have to really push myself to get out and shoot if and I usually don't, but if I'm going to, I get there because I have to really push myself, but there are things that are beautiful about vancouver that I would love to photograph it's just a question it for me, there are things that stand in my way when I'm at home in vancouver, I'm writing most the time and I'm working on my block and I'm you I go out on a shoot once in a while, but my clients aren't local, my interests aren't local um so there there is a certain point at which you kind of go well, if the thing you're not interested in isn't there than either move or find that thing that because really when I go to for example to katmandu it's not kathmandu specifically that I'm interested in it's the difference and culture it's the textures it's it's the lack of you know there's no starbucks on every corner there's a lot of differences it's those differences and there is no reason why if you're living in now akron, ohio I can't speak to that but a lot of people will say, well, you know I live in new york or where there are people dying to go to new york to photograph it as a travel photographer there's no reason why you can't go down to soho and shoot early go with four in the morning or whatever but challenge yourself if you can't photograph something really amazing in kathmandu figure out what what would you be photographing in katmandu is that culture is the portrait you can find it I think the thing is the low hanging fruit is much lower in katmandu you walk off the plane and it's there and it's just you go to new york especially if you live in new york especially if it's your neighborhood in new york and it becomes much harder it's harder to approach people on the street it's harder to see things with new eyes the challenges are much greater but if you love textures, there's textures and kathmandu there's textures in akron, ohio if you love gritty industrial stuff, that kind of thing exists everywhere if you like shootings you know colors or graphic images or moments those things all exist everywhere it's a question of again that's your constraint and if you're if you truly love photography and you and you love it for certain reasons figure out what those reasons are if it's just that you love playing with the camera than you your problem's solve because you don't actually have to go take photographs you can just sit on your couch and play with your camera but if you want to go tell stories then it's hard it is just hard and I've written this on the block and I've written in books and I will never this is like one of those sermons I will never back down on photography is hard and we expect it's going to be easy while every other artists in every other discipline is like shedding drops of blood sweating you know writers there's this expression that writing is easy you just have to pull up to a keyboard and open a vein you know it's everyone wants to have written a book no one wants to have to write writing for a lot of people is really tough it's a beautiful challenge they enjoy it but it's hard and it's been and photographers expect that they're going to walk out onto the field take the camera out pointed at something and have something amazing it's hard and the best photographs out there many of them were taken through a lot of years and a lot of challenges and many, many, many horrible bad photographs getting to that point so it's challenging this is not easy stuff, but who wants easy photographs? You want people to look at something beautiful and go tell me the story behind that you know and e mean, not that I'm working hard doesn't guarantee you a good picture. I mean, if you climb up to top of mount everest, you can still take a crappy photograph even though it took you forever to get there and it nearly killed you so it's not the journey that gets you there it's going to guarantee it, but I guess what I'm saying is that everyone feels that way I feel that way, but if I'm honest about it it's that I'm lazy because what I'm saying in my questions I want something just to jump in front of me in vancouver it's not going to because I'm so used to it even if it's amazing I'm not going to see on god always happens you know that's that that's the crazy guy on the corner well, you could do ah whole documentary about the crazy guy and have incredible things to shoot there's incredible architecture to shoot there's moments it's life photography is about life there's always moments so I would say yes I mean I resonate with that question I always ask myself it but the real answer if I'm honest I'm lazy and because if there's life everywhere life is always happening go out and shoot it and if if all you're interested in is in in photographing stuff on the streets of katmandu then find a way to get to katmandu but I would suggest that after you've been in katmandu for a little while it's gonna become harder and eventually you're going to be living in katmandu and you're going to be asking the same question you know I live in katmandu and everything's kind of boring and how is that possible it's because you've become familiar and you're not pushing yourself and you just get lazy just go out I'm seeing a question that just said you know could you recommend a creative exercise and in this regard the best thing I can say is honestly stop being so lazy and I'm saying it to myself because I I I wake up in the morning and I look out man the lights beautiful oh look at that if only I my gosh it's early I'm going back to bed it's just lazy if you really want to create something force yourself out of bed and go do it and that's you know that's the story it's a sermon but the reality is um you know, songwriters don't just go ho I had no idea, you know? And then they go to the piano and you know, an hour later they come out with a great song, you know, they hash it through, they get up there write every day and it's just it's just hard takes work, so yeah, it just takes work. I mean, am I wrong? Did you find that? I mean, and I think that's what's frustrating is beginners and I include myself is a beginner everyday I'm sort of hashing this through we still have this expectation that someone out there the ones that really creating the good stuff, they find it so easy and we look at a picture by, you know, again were in art wolfe studio and I'm looking at our wolf's stuff on the walls and you just make these assumptions oh, my gosh like that look out and you in the back of your head, you'd never admit this, but in the back here had you thinking he must have just seen it and taking the picture and that's how it came out, you don't think about how much work it took and and he's probably out going they're going man, this is hard, this is before the morning I got up at four in the morning and and it's, just hard and you know, and if we come to grips, if we give ourselves permission for it to be hard that's, when it stops being so at least soak self torturing oh it's meant to be hard, huh? Okay, I've given my self permission to be frustrated toe work a little harder because that's that's, why we don't get out, we just assume that it's going to come easily so I can sleep in. No, you can't. If you want to shot, that can only happen at, you know, eight o'clock at night in venice. You have to be in venice at eight o'clock at night, and that was taken the drizzling rain and everyone else was in getting coffee. You're having dinner and I was out getting soaking wet because the picture couldn't have been taken at any other time through any other conditions. You just have to be there and the end of the day, the only one you know, that could make excuses for us is ourselves and the pretty lame excuses most of the time.

Class Description

Join David duChemin, author of the best-selling Within The Frame, as he teaches you how to use your camera and the digitial darkroom to find and express your vision as a photographer.


Maros Matousek

I have just finished this great class and ended up with a notebook full of notes. I highly recommend this class to all who would like to take not only technically perfect photographs but more importantly who want to express their vision and create something that moves others. I read many books by David and still enjoyed and got a better understanding throughout this course.

Melvin Williams

This course may seem to drone on at times but I firmly believe that repetition or other restatement helps learning. I highly recommend David's course, his ebooks and his CraftAndVision.com site. He gets to the important stuff about photography. He focuses on the conceptually tough stuff like vision, finding your own, and less on the "geek" technical stuff that, while necessary, is only a tool to accomplishing your vision, what you want to say in your photograph.

Phillip Ziegler

David is always worth listening to. The course might have been shorter given there was a lot of repetition and conversation that wasn't terribly interesting or valuable. But when it was good it was amazing. I learned a lot and it was worth the time and money spent.