Your Body of Work Is Your Vision Statement


Vision-Driven Photography


Lesson Info

Your Body of Work Is Your Vision Statement

We've been talking a lot about kind of three theoretical stuff about finding your vision, expressing your vision. One of the questions that I got asked online that I thought was really good is what about commercial photography, where, you know, deviating is not considered a, you know, a desirable thing, and I would suggest there's a couple of ways I could answer that. But the idealist and me would say that your clients, generally they should have hired you because of your vision, not because of your ability to press a button, and if you've marketed yourself as they as thie have camera, will travel, camera monkey. Then you should expect your clients tell you exactly what they want and how they want it. And you should be content, which is doing what they tell you. If, however, they have come to you to partner with you because they like your vision, they like your body of work. They like the way that your vision is expressed through a consistent style, and they trust that. Then I would su...

ggest that. Most of those clients are actually coming to you for that vision, not despite it, and so they want you to partner with them and bring them along and say and it's a collaboration, because obviously they have a vision to whether it's for their brand, for the product, for their there, if it's an organization, they've got a particular mandate, you partner with them, so you take their vision and you say, okay, you hired me for a reason you liked my vision, how can we combine the two? Because they've got a vision for how the organisation is, is is out there in the world, but they've hired you to express that, and to have your own vision for how that is expressed. So I would suggest again, that's, the idealist enemy there's, probably so some spectrum of compromise between those two extremes, but I think the more as a commercial photographer that you market yourself as someone with a vision, a distinct style in a cz distinct way of expressing that distinct vision. If clients hire you under those terms, they want that, and they're paying more for it. If they want just, you know, a camera monkey, then go on craigslist and get someone for a hundred bucks an hour, so just strictly from a commercial perspective, if you've created the expectation that you'll do whatever they say because you shoot three hundred different styles and they come to you and go, can you replicate this and you know yeah, sure, no problem then you're forever going to be doing exactly what your clients tell and your visions irrelevant but if you've marketed yourself is someone that does this because they have a vision and a unique way of expressing that and style that your client's khun trust they believe you can replicate it and they've hired you for a reason. So go with your vision and don't be afraid to collaborate so again, not everyone here is doing commercial work, but at some point you're going to be asked by someone to collaborate and express their vision in a way you know their vision through your eyes so there's kind of two visions they're playing and then it's a question of how go to your people skills and how able are you to come up with compromises and work with a team and and all of that sort of thing? But I think the question behind the question is, is it important? I think absolutely it's important your vision still matters otherwise you're just a technician you're not an artist, you're not you're just they're hiring you for your ability to operate a camera and anyone can learn how to operate a camera maybe not well, but enough that they're worth honor bucks an hour on craigslist you want to distinguish yourself vision is absolutely important and that's why I'm talking about this stuff I did envision mongers because I really believe we need to be selling our vision not our ability to operate a camera because that's what sets you apart anyone can learn after point eight and two hundred fiftieth of a second anyone could put a two hundred millimeter lens on the camera learning to use it in a way that actually expresses something unique is a very different matter altogether so that's a commodity in the marketplace it's worth something you know is being uh someone who has a unique brand and is able to replicate that anyway, I was one of the questions I wanted to address I want to get into some of the exercises that we can do that explore this isn't just going it's not gonna help you nail down your vision because your vision isn't something you can just nail down someone asked me do you have a vision statement for your work and I kind of chuckle every time it's a good question but I still chuckle because my work is my vision state if I could put my vision in tow words I wouldn't need to be taking these photographs the reason I make photographs is because they express my vision better than my words ever could now I happen to be I mean, I enjoy writing I think I'm good at it and so there are things that I will put into writing that my photographs can express but things I take photographs so if I could do it in writing I would I want to take photographs so no I d answer is I don't have a vision statement my work is my vision statement and I think too often artists feel like they have to put some kind of vision statement on there it makes me think like is your work so obscure that no one can grasp it like really I mean I should be able to look at your body of work and get what you're trying to accomplish now a vision statement may help I just don't see it is useful cem okay to the creative exercises the first thing I want to talk about his reverse engineering this whole thing so if you're trying to get a handle on this whole idea of vision you're trying to figure out okay, you know, what does that look like? I would suggest starting with someone else because less personal you're less you're more able to be kind of objective about it and I would say take your favorite photographer and reverse engineer look at the body of work just like I did with elliott erwitt earlier on and talking about his sense of humor and how I thought his vision was expressed through his work his vision includes humor and includes a really passion for the moment his italy stuff is unbelievable his compositions air really clean there's great juxtapositions and I think I can unpack that to the point where I go back to the beginning go this is what I think I believe about elliott erwitt and what he's trying to say now it's very presumptuous and this exercise is just purely about that but take your favorite artist ansel adams gil and roll elliott erwitt so you know whoever it is joyce tennison someone like joyce tennison actually is a very good example she is beautiful work primarily around the human for the female form gorgeous stuff it's it's done in split kind of dual tone stuff it's is really earthy and I guarantee you if you were if you were introspective at all and you know how to read a photograph at all you can look at some of these bodies of work of established photographers and with a pen and paper in one hand right down what is this person about? Like right start with the aesthetics her work is earthy, her work is graphic, her work is feminine her work is you know it concentrates on the female form and write everything that's not through pretty no one's going to see this right everything you can think of about the aesthetics of this work and then turn the page and then write what is this work saying? What is she trying to say with this work? Um, is she focusing on beauty? Is she focusing on whatever it is if it's ansel adams or galen roll galen role was heavily involved in the sierra club and in conservancy? And there was there was issues and environmentalism and you can see it in his work is concerned for the natural world is very evident. So you look at this stuff and say what conjecture hypothetical you're you're you're not writing, you know, this is not journalism, you're just making it up in your head, but assuming his work actually says something about him, what is he saying? What is important to him? What matters? What does he like? Well, I've never seen a single black and white image out of this photographer, okay? He likes color he likes, you know? And then you look at the images of his portrait's they're always smiling, they're always laughing, they're always hopeful he likes hope he likes laughter. He write these things down and you get begin to get a sense through the body of their work, how they're expressing their vision, and the reason I suggest you start with another photographer is, as I said, when you look at your own work well one you already think you know yourself and that's a big that's a big block already because we all think we know ourselves really well and we all also like to think of ourselves more highly you know and in certain ways than we actually are but if you take someone else with whom you have you know I mean there's no risk involved in just unpacking ansel adams work and saying this is what I think about it and you don't have to show anyone I think you take a couple of photographers like that and you begin to understand after you've unpacked it the relationship between the aesthetics of their work and what has become known as their style and the vision that that is behind it now again you're speculating but I would suggest that you probably on track if all of us did that exercise together around the world with elliot hurwitz stuff I guarantee there would be a core of things we commonly at least the majority of us came up with because there's only so many ways to interpret these these things you know most people would not look at her with stuff and say oh he had a very you know he didn't enjoy life at all he was very dark and depressed well how do you get that because this stuff is all got this sense of humor in it or you know galen roll stuff you know, eh? It's clearly points to a certain stream in their life, and I think once you do that with someone else, you're more able to do it with your own work and that's another exercise that that I would suggest is, um, following the stream in your own work. So then what you do again, you're not you're not sitting down going what is my vision and really trying to get dark and introspective you're just looking at your own stuff go back and pick one hundred of your favorite photographs over the last and pick stuff that's current not the stuff you shot twenty years ago because we all change and our vision changes what your vision was twenty years ago may not be at all what your vision is now there may be commonalities, but I think if you take stuff if if you've been shooting for five years, look at the stuff in the last half of that we're this stuff in the last couple of years take a hundred photographs and sit down and look at them all say, what are the commonalities in these photographs? They may be very different. You may have airshows with airplanes you may have, you know, animals and travel shots and portrait's of kittens and, you know, you unicorns and rainbows and whatever you've got this diversity look at all of them and unless you're wildly schizophrenic or have some kind of fractured multiple personality thing going on, there is likely going to be commonalities in your work because it came from one person I mean, we're all complex, there will be texture, there will be some different elements that all way, it won't all be just be boomed, but I'm pretty sure after you look at a hundred images or two hundred or every images you've taken over the last two years, you'll find commonalities, and I think if you look through my work, you'll find commonalities. I like certain kinds of compositions. I like certain kinds of optics I like there. There are things that my work it just has become. Ah style it's an evolving style because my vision is evolving, my technique is evolving, but still, if you look at my work and you say, I really like that person's work, what do you like about? Well, it's, bright and cheerful, or it's it's graphic or is I mean find ways to describe it? Do the same for your own work. Look through it, don't forget whether you like it or dissatisfied or doesn't express everything you want to it never will anyway look at it and go what is common? Oh my gosh there's a lot of children and here I mean even when I'm shooting air shows there's children you know, I I end up photographing the children in the audience and and I end up, you know, and everything seems to have three quarters of my work has children in it that's a good sign that you want to be photographing children that you're drawn to something about children, whether and then you look at the other ones you go she's seen my animal pictures are little animals like they're kittens and puppies and stuff you know, clearly I've got this thing about innocence and youth and and so you look at the thread and it may not be a theme it maybe just ah color treatment everything you shot is in black and white that's a good sign that that's kind of you know, a channel that you naturally air flowing in maybe your stuff has more to do with moments like you look through it all and even though it covers a diversity of apparent subjects, the moment is actually your subject you have photographed one hundred times these incredible moments and go ok that's that's actually what I seem it'll resonate with you if you would identify and go I seem to like moments you actually you probably go oh yeah I really do and you know you look the music you listen to in the movies and you realize there's, a lot of common threads in my life, it shouldn't come as a surprise to you. You should be relatively self examining on a day to day basis that you released when you recognize it. There's a ring of truth to it if you look at and go, I don't like kids. Why have I shot so many children? You probably need to go to therapy, right? Because of you photographed hundreds and hundreds of children and you just load children never want to have them. There is probably some kind of weird disconnect going on. This should not come as a surprise to you, but I think the follow the stream exercise is really helpful. You first, you do it with someone else because it's a little less personal there's a little less risk, but then you do it with your own work. Follow the stream, see where you where you get to, um, the third thing I want to suggest is that you study the forms. Once you look at some of this stuff and you see the commonalities and you see she's, everything I've shot in the last three years is landscapes or cultural travel kind of stuff, then my suggestion is study the forms like, really, truly find out who the not just the best and the most acknowledged and the oldest, but find out everyone who was shooting, travel and landscape and find out how they're expressing it because not everyone shoots happy, cheerful galen roll landscapes it might be michael kenna shooting black and white in hokkaido or I mean there's there's an incredible diversity of people shooting landscapes discover that see who is shooting what and see how they're expressing their unique vision and see how they're using the landscape forms because they're everyone's there people doing it all kinds of different ways the more you study, the more top opens the opportunities and again that creativity is about taking one influence from here one influence from here and, you know, colliding them together and seeing how they mess as you look at them again, this is not about copying it's, not about, you know, stealing, although there's this common theory that you know, all artists, some level or thief something we're all stealing from common sources everything's derivative. But I think if you look at this stuff you might take a look at, you know, someone like michael, can you stuff and go, oh my gosh, this is I'm never considered doing landscape like this it may all it might do is give you the permission to try something new and that's what I wanted to I want I don't want to do landscapes. I've stumbled on this accidentally, I want to do portrait, but I want to do it in this ethereal, black and white in a way that maybe you've never seen it done before and just one influence every discipline will teach you something about another discipline, so I suggest studies broadly as you can, but most importantly, study the forms in the areas that you really interested in. It may not even be the areas you want to shoot, but the ones you really interested in look at them, study them, ask yourself, why does it look like that? Like actually unpack the look of an image? What makes that image? We'll do some exercises like that later on, but what makes that image and why am I drawn to it? And then how can I apply that? How can I apply that incredible depth of field or that total lack of depth of field? Or, you know, the wide angle lens that doesn't look like a wide angle lens and it's used in a different way? The mohr creativity is about inputs, right? So, like I said, there's this and there's this and you climb together, but imagine if you have one hundred. Things that you can choose from the more those incubate together and the more they kind of stew them or able you are I mean if you could only take it if you have to pieces and go it's kind of obvious you put them together and you know and the ways who put it together might vary but what if he had a hundred pieces then the results are much more are much less likely they're a little more unpredictably like you take till shift from over here and and no one's ever used tilt shift in portraiture before why not just because everyone says a tilt shift is an architectural ends or because the one thirty five is a portrait lens forget about what they're meant to do what do they do what do they make the photograph look like and then apply it so those are three of the the exercise that I suggest you try as you begin to express your vision and the other thing and this is not so much an exercise as much as it is kind of ah principal at some point you have to make choices kenny rogers knows he is not bunnell right? And bono knows he's not bon jovi and bon jovi knows he's not I know sharon lonesome bram or something I don't know you know what kids entertainer they know what they do and they've made choices there's a lot of stuff out there you could shoot everything you want with every piece of gear, and until you die, and if all you ever want to do is just play and then that's fine, but if you really want to, if this vision thing is, is something that you're resonating with and you want to, you want to kind of express yourself, then at certain point when that point is, I'm not sure, but a certain point, you have to make a decision, what you have to decide, like I'm going to do these kinds, I'm not saying one thing, but you got to make choices because you're never going to get really good at one thing, if you do everything, and I know they're photographers there, there point of pride is that, you know, they they're generalists and that's what they do, but I would I would suggest that while they may be, you know, okay, at a lot of things on mind blowing number of things, they're not truly exceptional at one or two disciplines, and I think the if you are truly good at one or two or becoming truly good at one or two things that's, when you get really able to express your vision right, and to take it back to writing again, if if you're just if you just dabble if you write a little of this shawn around a little of this genre, those genres air means of communicating certain things and if you just dabble a little bit you will never be truly powerful as a communicator teo really say something you'll just be really diverse if you want to be truly good and truly able to express your vision then figure out where those streams flow, figure out what your natural inclination is, figure out what uh, the commonalities in your past work our and begin to see that you know this is the channel could be multiple channels could be a couple could be a combination of some very unlikely channels. I'm not trying to be prescriptive, but I am saying at a certain point you need to make choices even when you're writing a novel, you make choices about what your character's too. Otherwise the novel goes on and on and on and it never ends and never says anything you've got to make decisions same thing with a song the same thing with a sentence that comes out of your mouth, you got to say something, so figure out what that is and generally I think for photographers we need to decide these air, the kind of avenues I'm going to pursue and that kind of artistic schizophrenia I think prevents us from just settling and getting good and understanding the forms. And this way. I suggest you study the forms. The more you understand landscape, the better you will become a tte landscapes. And ultimately, you may buy some wild twist of events. Become a really great environmental portraiture guy because you love portraiture. But everything you learned about landscape will apply. You just you gotta learn the forms. The more you learn it, the more powerfully abel you will be, too, because his communication it's like how many verbs air in your dictionary? How many noun? How well do you use them? You have a little tiny dictionary, little a little thin thesaurus. You will only be able to express yourself in so many words. Uh, and in so many words can only say so many things. But if you really want to express yourself, if you want to be nuanced, if you want that I have certain layers to what you're saying, you need to study the form and you need to make choices. That's, my that's, my sermon on making choices and my poorly chosen kenny rogers analogy. Um, we're going to do let's. See, we got a few more minutes. Let's, sum let's do this, um I have a few more things that I wanted to talk about hamish actually tie those in tomorrow let's take sometime we get a little bit of time to do q and a so let's do that instead let's talk about about q and a so first, let me ask if if the last couple of things the exercises that I've talked about, you know, if you have questions about those and then we'll ask that the twitter sphere cycle yes, I was going to say if people are asking if you could kind of review what those three yeah, okay, sure, absolutely, uh that's a that's a good question so the first one the first one is to reverse engineer it, so take a photographer that you respect or admire heck, take a photographer, you don't even like it really doesn't matter pick someone who's got a a discernible body of work and the reason I suggest the big names is because they're well known because they have a discernible body of work it's, it's, it's easily kind of package you can go online to find ansel adams and see you know his classic work very easily and unpack it and ask yourself based on the aesthetics of his image is based on what he has chosen the shoot and how he's chosen to shoot it what do I think I believe about ansel adams vision what was he trying to say in some way again doesn't have to be some you know big ethereal thing just what was important to him what did he want to express what did he enjoy what make it up you're just conjecturing but I think you probably on track if you put a pen to paper and just make a list of the things and again it may not be a maybe joyce tennis and it may be maybe me it could be anyone doesn't mean it but take someone is not you and then the second thing to do is really it's the same kind of exercise it's about your own work so you take your own work you look a two years worth of work pick one hundred images pick you know whatever but look at a piece of your work that's representative of everything is shot in the last little while whether the last of the wiles two months or a year or three years and look at it and say based on this where the streams because this is an exercise in helping you discover your own vision because you already know it it's already coming out in some way it's just coming out kind of rather random if you want to learn tio be able to express it be a little more intentional about it then this is a method of looking at it going ok where are the commonalities where is the stream already leading there's no point pushing against the stream you're already going somewhere figure out where that is at least if you know where it's going you can kind of you know pick up pick a paddle and start rolling with the current so that's the second exercise and then the third one is um was the third one even ah I have three the third one was about choices oh, story was about studying the forms on just taking some photographers the ones that you particularly resonate with or discovering new ones but in areas that you want to explore and look at their work and ask yourself about the aesthetics of the actual work ask yourself why does this image look the way it does why did he what is he trying to say so it's it's kind of a combination of both the first two were just trying to push yourself a little further prior to explore ways in which other perform artists have expressed themselves and then you know it's I think that exercise is good because it just helps us see what's out there and gives us again it populates that you know that sort of big shelf from which we draw our creative um stuff what's the word um so that was the that was the recap um any questions you thinking of this kind of stuff when you're out shooting you know are you thinking about that kind of stuff when you're out shooting the, uh, you know, I'm going for that earthy tone or is it? Uh well, I I mean, again, my my process is really messy, so yes, sometimes I am sometimes I'm going out with a very deliberate purpose and other times it's very image by image, and sometimes I'm just walking around, I think when you become kind of a little more aware of your vision, it doesn't always have to be this, you know, this really artsy fartsy navel gazing thing I think you can, you can go out and you can shoot, and you're familiar enough with what you love, what you like to shoot, that when your eye gets drawn to it, you don't have to be asking yourself all kinds of question now, when your eye does get drawn to it, you start working in a little bit, especially when it's frustrating and you're not getting it on the first try, then I think you begin to access that go, what am I trying to really say, especially that's, then becomes vision in micro? What am I saying about this scene? You know? And so if I'm taking a photograph of, uh, of this particular street scene, is there one thing on that street scene on particularly drawn to because maybe that wide angle isn't appropriate. Maybe I need to get right in what's the story on trying tell you begin to ask yourself these zeroing in like, is this person part of the scene? No crop him out, but what about this and against sometimes that's? Very intuitive again, I've been doing it for twenty five years, so the longer you do this stuff intentionally, the mohr intuitive it becomes, it didn't begin to be intuitive. I didn't just kind of wake up one day, and I could shoot this stuff intuitively when, you know, I like a piano, right? I mean, you learn by doing your your chords or whatever, and you learn to become very good at eventually you played by year, and you, khun, you can improvise and you could do jazz and whatever so that's kind of the point I'm at, but even still there are times when I'm so frustrated, I'm really intentional and very mindful about it when it seems like it's something that the zach talked about in the last one, about knowing your gear so well that you don't have to think about that moving on into some of the more high level stuff, but like the books, for instance, this safari, when I just saw that one had it's a fantastic stuff in it. So like that when compared to the venice one that you had, like, what was going through your head differently between those two obviously hugely different environments. Totally different vibe. I mean, so can you recap for those I mean, because it's kind of behind the scenes that that was what was on your mind when you're shooting on the savannah compared to well, I mean, it really depends. I mean, just different situations. And so I mean, for example, the venice monograph that I was I intentionally I mean, I set out I knew what I was feeling at the time. I mean, I was there, I was lonely, and I wanted to do something on a more personal level. That actually was very expressive of this emotion. Because it's, very rare that I do something like that. So I went in going, ok, I feel lonely. I'm perceiving this city in a particular way. How can I? Because, there's a lot of different ways to see venice. You could see it this way. You could see this way, you see, it is a tourist. You could see it for all the kit. So that's there you could see it is this classic ancient place with architecture, I mean I just chose to see it in one per express it in one particular way, so I just pursued that channel I went ok, what would be what would be lonely, what would be done? And I do pursuit images that were isolating that were usually blue in some some tone, so I should shot at certain times a day I was in luck and that always reading when I was there, so that was sad and depressing all on its own and you know, it just where's my concerns and my vision for being out on the on the african savannah, we're just a completely different thing. I was learning new gear, I was trying a completely new thing. I was tryingto I I mostly photograph people, and suddenly I'm photographing leopards and elephants, and my big challenge was how to y because a photograph of a leopard isn't just a good photograph just because it's a leopard and a really, really close up picture of leopard isn't a good picture of a leopard it's just a really close up picture it's still something you know any more than just me zooming in on your face tosser would make it a great photograph just because it's really, really close well unless it's got emotion unless it captures a moment unless there's lighting I mean these layers that we create a good photograph so I was I was learning a new really a new form and it turns out I wasn't it turns out it was the same thing it's shooting photographing leopards is the same as photographing people in many ways it's just that you can't get close to him you can't give him directions and you're behind a really big piece of glass and stuck in a truck then the constraints were what I had to work but a good photograph still a good photograph it still has to have decent light or a moment or you know good composition or combination of all of those or you know so I don't know if that answer your question but it's different things going through your mind and you're just really asking yourself what am I seeing like what what is my emotion? What am I reacting too and again I didn't have clients on this in terms of you must shoot a leopard in a tree at this you know I was purely reactionary and so I wanted images that not only photographed a leopard but with the way I saw the leopard and that involves some against some kind of collaboration between you know what I see and experience and what my camera's willing to do in my situation most well the one the picture that's on the cover of the monograph the question was do I remember what was going through my head and what I was thinking at the time was something like oh my gosh it's a leopard look at that it's a leopard hey look like burke leopard um but yeah, I mean that's your initial reaction but then you start when you get the first three hundred frames and t the leopard then you realize you're not going anywhere then you start okay? I've got a lot of close pictures of leopard now I want to get something that actually says something and then it's a question okay what's my framing like and and you know what is that long line of his tail do tow lead me in and and I should be shooting this kind of the hills in the background we're at at faa were too distracting so I need to open it up and shoot a little softer and and you know the which way's the leopard gazing and do I want him gazing straight into the edge of the frame or do I want to pull back a little? So you're thinking in terms of no matter what, I'm going to get a photograph of a leopard it's a question of am I going to get a photograph of a leopard that is aesthetically pleasing? Is it balanced? Is it you know doesn't have the same feeling of peace or serenity I mean here's this big, beautiful, powerful animal and he's just hanging out I wanted you know, I wanted to look like that, but again, it was just it wasn't some big picture of, you know, the battle between good and evil was just a picture of a leopard. I just wanted to be beautiful in the same way that my experience of it was beautiful, so you work through that process until you get something, look at it and go because I'm already conscious of what I see in my mind what I feel, and then you look at the picture and that's the one that that's, the one that does it and you know, it takes you two hundred frames to get there, but when you see when you when you see it, you recognize and go that's it, I got it and and usually that's, where I start my adit is toward the end of a particular siri's because I know that the first, like seventy five percent, there will often be good ones in there, but they're a little more accidental there on my way to getting to the one that usually because I usually stop fairly soon after I've caught got the one I mean, I get a couple safety shots, and then I'll make sure I framed that a couple different ways, but once I've really got it and I've worked it. Because I usually get it at the end of working it once I've got it, I don't usually keep going, you know, not not that far, sometimes. Anyway, we'll cross, do you have an opinion on, um, the actual tools they used to create an image, like you mentioned there's basically three images, the one you imagine, then actually capturing that and then refining it a lot of this things that you can control in camera, you can control justus well, maybe even have more time doing in post processing to some degree, I prefer to do everything I can in the camera, but again, ethical considerations of journalism aside because I don't do journalism, and most of what I do is just, you know what? I consider fine art photography or commercial photography? Um, there are certain things that you can do in post that you just you truly you couldn't do with a camera, I mean, just humanly, it just wouldn't be possible. Um, but generally I try to do I mean, even if I am very reluctant even to crop my images after I shot him, because I'm just very picky about my crop. Um, but that's, because I started in film, and you're very, you know, you don't ukrop in camera and that's just the way you do it so I'm much more use to cropping in camera and just try to get everything right, but I have no I mean, if you look at vision and voice at some point, you'll see the raw file that comes out of a digital camera is I mean it's a lax contrast and his junkie it's a great blank canvas to start from, but it requires a lot more work in the digital darkroom to really finesse it. Um but you know, there's things like using the phil slider in light room, I'd rather use the phil slider, then put a flash on my camera because I control it a little bit better and I can't im I suck it flash I don't want to use flat, I don't carry it with me, I want to fiddle with it like you said, you know, you want to know your camera and your technology so well, it gets out of the way. I'm not at that point with flash, so the minute I pull a stroll about in my bag, my, the way I work changes and my results change, I get a little less confident I don't move is quickly or and that changes my relationship with the subject and everything changes the minute you introduce one new thing into the creative process everything down the line changes so it's the best tool for the for the job and I have no hesitation um in using post production if I need to but again, you know if I have to move something vincent for sochi calls it preemptive photo shop you know, if there's a piece of trash on the ground move the piece of trash you know why spend this time in photo shop but again if you forgot nor he didn't notice it you know what? Move it again ethical considerations so photojournalism aside, I do fine art and I don't care if people say, does it really look like that? Because I want my question is to feel like that and, you know, no one looks at it, no one listens to a song and go, did it really happen that way? You know, really truly did you lose your dog and your truck? You know, I mean or whatever, you know that no one does that and for some reason we've bought into this bizarre, objective myth of photography um anyway, let's take a couple questions from from the internets and then ah, then shut her down for the day, so I just want to say it's really cool to hear someone who's been taking photos for twenty five years to say they don't like using flash oh it's a firing easy and again everyone's got their way of doing things and there are things because of my reluctance to use flat there are things that are not possible for me to shoot in in a certain way and they were photographers they're so talented I look at their work my friend mitchell can ask a bitch shoots a lot of travel stuff as I do, but he has no hesitation bringing flash with small soft box and gels and he creates work you would never know used a flash and as a result he creates work that doesn't look like my work it's beautiful stuff now that my stuff not beautiful, his very different I love it I'm just not gonna haul that kind of stuff around he's also very good at it he could set it up and use it in a way that doesn't get in the way of his work flow. I use it and it totally gets in the way, so you use what you know what you like and if I really liked it enough, I would learn it, but I don't you know I just want to carry a camera and make pretty pictures very she's not so bad, so david, I have a question from harry marks in germany he'd like to know how obsessed argue with image quality being one hundred percent so vision over the quality of the image and how do clients feel about that if you're shooting for client I think it's a long conversation I mean defining what image quality is that I think you know you get pixel peepers into the conversation that will, you know, analyze things down to the to the pixel um I'm not really you know, I I don't push the extremes of my eyes so but I guess that's I mean I have no problem going I mean, I should have my stuff at eight hundred and the problem is you go into a dark mosque or a temple you shoot it eight hundred you come out and you see something shiny like a look clickety click and half the day goes by and selling why was shooting on eight hundred uh I get distracted, you know I'm not I'm not perfect and so is the result but my camera's at eight hundred the noises so and if you get your exposure right you know but if if a photographs communicates a strong powerful emotion that trump's whether it's some digital noise and you know the newest version of light room three in just right in the program the noise reduction is great and but s o for me I mean it's important in the sense that as a photographer working for clients and, you know I saw some stock photography the stock house is there requirements for your images air getting you know they're getting tougher every year your clients want stuff that blows up bigger and has less noise and so that is where gear matters and I could the fact that I could go to a client and they say well, you know what kind of gear to use I can reassure them that I'm using pro gear that's dust resistant that's not probably going blow up on the field and that's it's up to the job you know it's great optics is low light sensors all this kind of stuff the clients that kind of thing matters to them but just from creating a piece of art but I want to put on my wall I don't know I guess the answer is it doesn't really bother me that much I can see it if it distracts me I can see the noise and it's crappy that it bothers me so I guess is a redefinition equality if I don't like it it sucks I don't want anyone else to look at it so I've been it but life's too short, isn't it really I mean rather have an image that people just go oh my gosh that's amazing and like the image so much that they never look and go along there's some digital noise if they were if they what they see the first thing they see is the noise than the image isn't worth taking really? Yeah, maybe one more question one more time you mentioned earlier when you were in venice that you felt lonely like that and someone did ask the question, how has emotional pain influence your work? I'm not sure that's the positive way to end no, I think it's I think it's a great way I think as humans, we're very complicated, you know? Laughter and tears were pretty close and, you know, I I came into this career and when I first started, I was doing primarily humanitarian photography and some pretty rough places, and I had just left two twelve year career is a stand up comedian, so I went straight from comedy to tragedy, and they're not a lot of my assignment work that I do that I don't at some point end up, you know, lying in my hotel room, you know, crying for the things that I've seen, I mean, if some scenes some really, really difficult things that aren't easy to answer, you're working with organizations that are there to help, and yet these complicated these issues are so complex and so complicated, you can't help, but just I have an emotional response to them, and so I think, um, but I'm a generally hopeful person, so I think even if you look at at the stuff that I've shot, that is purely documentary there's not a lot of it it's still pretty hopeful I mean I don't concentrate on the distended bellies and flies around the eyes because that's a story that needs to be told I'm just not that photographer I'm the photographer that because even when I see those, I generally come out seeing the hope not always sometimes you need to redefine hope sometimes there just is not apparent in that situation but you the images that I take that I'm drawn to our more hopeful and so it affects me profoundly I mean, I want to be true to the emotional experiences that I'm having, so if I if I go somewhere and I'm feeling serene, I will inevitably end up taking images that have that I hope that have that serenity in them if I'm feeling disjointed and conflicted, I'll probably end up taking photographs that carry some of that, but uh usually I end up still telling hopeful kind of stories um but I don't know, I mean, I guess if you look through my body of work, maybe you'd see think you no exceptions to that I mean, we're pretty complicated people that's the thing I think to simplify everything like you must have a vision, it must be clearly defined and you must express it in this one way that's not what we're after here we're not after rules were after some principles that can help us and not to be prescriptive it all just to give us handles that weaken sort of figure out some of this vision stuff so that when it comes to putting the camera to our face we already kind of know where we're heading with this what we want to see and if we know what we want to see and what we want to say then we know what the right verbs and noun czar which which we want to say it and that might be a wide angle lens it might be a telephoto it may be a set of filters and maybe something we just simply have to do in postproduction but all of those choices are driven not by can I do it if I can do it it must be done if aiken spend twenty minutes in photo shop by must do everything possible it's not driven by that it's driven by what you want to say and if you could do that without ever going in a photo shop do it if you have to go in a photo shop and change the white balance or you have to then do that too but the important thing is not what can you do and what is your gear? The important thing is what do you want to say and then pick the most elegant, economical way of getting there and with as much integrity, you know, because everyone's got an ethic that informs there are some people don't want to shoot this way they don't want to shoot that way they don't want to do post production that's fine do it your way just don't tell anyone else what do you think so anyway hope hope this has been helpful, I hope and we're going to keep talking about this. This is not we're not going to move into a new topic tomorrow we're going same topic we're just going to talk a little bit more about how you take this stuff, how you express it and remember to its this is meant to be frustrating it's meant to be messy we're not tidying this up in a neat little package and saying, you know, you have now learned how to discover and express your vision what I hope you've you've got comfortable with is wrestling with it and saying, how can I really explore that? Because if your frustrations as mine have often been are the two that I mentioned the beginning, my photographs don't look the way I want them to and they don't say the things that I want um if you begin to explain glory your vision and it begin to explore the tools that correspond to exploring your vision, how you express that, I think those two questions begin to answer themselves you suddenly have the tools to make your images look the way you want to, because you're more aware of the aesthetics, and you're aware of how aesthetics actually communicate. And so then you're saying, with the look of the image, you're saying the things you want to so it's all part and parcel and again, not to tidy it up, because it can be very complicated. It can be very messy, can be very frustrating. But it's meant to its art and it's, meant to have more questions than answers. It's meant to be difficult, and and if you want something that's, convenient and easy, and I'll take up, stamp collecting or something it's much more convenient and easy, they come in little tiny packages.

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 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.