Friday, April 24, 2020

Snapshot Shooter or Image Creator

Are You a Snapshot Shooter or a Photo Image Creator?

Whichever you are, if your photos are pleasing to you, that's what matters most!  
(Unless, of course, your photography is a business and you want to sell your photos.  Then what pleases the client matters most!)

Here's what I would consider before answering the above question, using flower photography as my example, since that's what I'm mostly shooting right now.  If I were a Snapshot Shooter and saw a brightly colored Claret Cup cactus in full bloom that attracted my attention, I would probably pull out my camera or phone, bend over the plant, snap a shot, then upload it to my Instagram account.

Snapshot Shooters are especially suited for photo genres such as photo journalism, street photography and animal or sports photography, as well as other situations where quick thinking and fast action are necessary to capture a fleeting moment in time, when the action is more important than having the ideal composition, lighting or camera settings!  When Snapshot Shooters 'see' a potential photo opportunity, they take the shot without hesitation.

On the other hand, if I considered myself a Photo Image Creator and saw that same cactus, I would take some time to study it, think about how I could make that cactus look beautiful and interesting, and maybe a bit more unique from all the other Claret Cup cactus photos I'm seeing right now.  I would want something different than a straight downward shot that would show part of the boring rocks and dirt surrounding the plant, or a macro like I've done so many times in the past.

I do consider myself a Photo Image Creator, for the most part.  I'll try to describe how I ended up with this image.  This cactus caught my eye, but it was sitting right by the road at the entrance of a subdivision, in an unattractive location.   When something in nature attracts my attention, I always ask myself, "Is there a picture here worth taking and creating" and try to visualize  a composition before picking up my camera.  As I walked around this cactus I noticed a clump of yellow flowers with green foliage a few yards away across the pavement.  Seeing cactus blooms along with bright green foliage in a photograph is not as common as seeing cactus in a natural desert setting, so I thought this might make an interesting background.  I visualized positioning my camera low and shooting horizontally to capture a side view of the blooms in the foreground against the green background with pops of yellow flowers, while hiding the road that was in between the two.  I could adjust my camera settings to blur the background so only the foreground blooms were in focus, or I could choose settings that would allow everything to be in focus.  That decision is a personal preference and there is no right or wrong answer.  (I tend to lean toward 'busy' compositions with interesting, softly blurred backgrounds.)

Then I had to consider the lighting, which was not good, as the late afternoon sun was very intense, creating deep shadows underneath and on one side of the plant.  I found an angle to point my camera partially toward the sun that lit up the tops of the flowers with no shadows, creating beautiful back lighting that made the colors pop, while hiding the dark shadows below.  (In addition, I could intensify the colors and reduce sun glare and hot spots by using a polarizing filter on my lens.)

I knew that by moving my camera just slightly in various directions, being careful to keep the sun just outside the frame, I might find a position where I could see a stream of sun flare, sun rays and/or beautiful bokeh that is created when the sun hits the lens in a certain way.  (Technical explanations are for another discussion.)  Including sun flare, sun bursts, bokeh, or other sunlight effects in a composition is a personal preference.  Some like it, some don't.  I love it!
The beauty of digital photography is there is instant feedback as to whether you have taken the image you have in your mind or in your 'mind's eye', but even so, things often look different when viewed at full resolution on a big computer screen.  So to have the best chance of ending up with an image I will like, I always bracket three different exposures, which my camera does automatically, as well as showing me whether or not I have parts that are 'blown out' or too dark for detail.  I also take numerous shots experimenting with different camera settings and compositions.

Back home on the computer I choose my favorite shot, then decide whether to edit a little or a lot.  I can crop and lightly tweak color, exposure, etc., or I can let my creativity run wild and end up with the floral fantasy I see in my 'mind's eye'.

Even though it is a joy to take a beautiful photo of a beautiful subject, set in perfect lighting, (when this happens), I often find it more challenging and rewarding to be outdoors taking photos while other photographers are waiting for better lighting or weather conditions, or to look for compositions others may miss, or to show the beauty of less flashy subjects in nature, or to capture and present a common subject in a unique or interesting way.

All of this sounds like a lot of effort for one simple picture.  But with my first few thousand flower shots behind me, I can now spot a possible composition within a scene pretty quickly.  For me, the fun and challenge of photography is combining what my eyes see, with how my camera reproduces what I see, with what my mind reproduces on the computer screen, and to ultimately end up with an image that is interesting, artistic and pleasing to me! It's a wonderful bonus if others enjoy it too!