We recently had a fun night out for tapas with friends at Sanctuaria in The Grove neighborhood. A few days later, I found myself, completely by coincidence, doing an editorial shoot at the same place. It was a great assignment, because the bar manager being featured is Matt Seiter, a down-to-earth guy who makes the most incredible cocktails. And by incredible I don’t mean some wild concoction (although they are that) but incredible in the sense that the flavors he puts into his cocktails all complement each other well and it’s as if those ingredients were made for each other. Matt wrote a book, which we now have on our shelf, called Sanctuaria: The Dive Bar of Cocktail Bars. It’s full of imaginative drink recipes. But I can guarantee you, we won’t often use these recipes, because half the fun is in being at Sanctuaria, sitting around a table with friends, and eating the tapas they have to accompany their drinks. Here’s a look at the article. Click on it to check out the entire March issue of The Tasting Panel Magazine.
Remember the blog carousel I participate in? It’s been awhile since I shot anything for it, so you may not. But it’s great for keeping the creative juices flowing, so I’m jumping back in. This month, we’re exploring the use of spot color in photography. Not the typical b&w photo where an element of the photo is colored in photoshop… If you know me, or if you ever requested that I use that gimmick on your photos, you probably know that I’m not a fan. Don’t get me wrong…I do use photoshop to enhance images. But I try to stay away from using techniques in a way that draw attention to the technique itself rather than to the image and to your beautiful faces.
The spot color we’re exploring this month is natural spot color. Where color occurs in unexpected places, creating an interesting composition. An image that appears to be almost monochrome naturally, except for an element in the photo that reminds you that this is a world of color. Winter is an especially great time to find opportunities to photograph natural spot color. The grey dormancy of everything that was once green, the white snow, and foggy or snowy skies. Everywhere you look, it’s as though you’re living in black and white. Sometimes the bolt of color comes from something man-made set against nature; other times it’s nature itself that takes a color paintbrush to the scene. Next time you’re outside, see if you can spot some for yourself. Below are some examples I spotted recently. After viewing them, take a peek at how some very talented friends of mine chose to explore spot color, by making the rounds on the blog carousel. Next up is the talented Seattle and Bellevue Family Photographer, Holli Dunn.
A splash of yellow to show you the way. I like that color not only creates the leading lines in this shot, but also emphasizes texture in an otherwise monochrome scene…
During a snowstorm, when all is quiet in both sight and sound, the bright red branches of a Japanese maple won’t be silenced the way the sugar maple is in the background. Only small spots on the branches have gone dull with the season…
What’s more inviting than a brightly colored door?
After taking time off during 2012, I’m back with new passion for my work, an easier-to-navigate website on its way, and a new lineup of offerings for 2013. My commitment, however, to putting beautiful artwork on your walls is unchanged. I look forward to creating something special for you and your family… in St. Louis, DC, Scottsdale, or elsewhere. Bookings are running about 4 weeks out at the moment, and will run longer as the year progresses. Even some summer and fall appointment times are already taken. Plan ahead, and use the contact form above to book your session.
It’s time for the blog carousel again! If you like to read about photography, this is the month to follow along. Each of us has written an article about a different aspect of photography. Earlier this month, Professional Photographer Magazine published an article of mine, It’s Only Natural. This article gave me the opportunity to talk about how technical competence and individual style can co-exist. And much of the work we do for clients should generally include both. But does it always need to for an image to have value or be considered art?
I don’t think so. Photography is an art, and by definition, that allows for freedom from rigid rules and formulas. I think it’s entirely possible for a technically good image to also be extremely artistic, and I believe that it’s possible for a technically poor image to be extremely artistic too. So can you call anything art then, even when it’s just plain bad? Well, someone might try. ;) I recently viewed the results of a photo contest where all of the best, most stunning images, both technically and artistically, we’re passed over and the winning images, chosen by a panel I expected more from, chose as winners the most mediocre amateurish snapshots with kitschy effects added with a heavy hand and definite lack of skill. Images that I would never consider art. But then I’ve seen some iPhone photos using the same effects and they were works of art. So where do we draw the line?
I don’t think a hard line can be drawn. No matter where I would place that line, there would always be an image that belongs on the bad side by definition, yet strikes a chord with me and ends up on the good side. This ambiguity is so hard to accept, because we have this tendency to want to put everything in nice little boxes. This should be done this way, that should be done that way. Baby portraits should be done this way, maternity portraits should be done that way. There are baby photographers out there who are virtually brand new to this craft but are out there teaching newer newbies, and they tell them these insane rules like you should never see a fold or ripple in a baby blanket; that evidence of such should all be smoothed out in photoshop to make it disappear. Is that what truly makes a photography have value? Of course not. That’s how one photographer likes to do her work. It’s her style. As much as those newer newbies believe her, that is not a legitimate standard in photography by any means.
There ARE things in my life I like in nice little boxes. Art just isn’t one of them. Don’t get me wrong…I’ve encountered many new photographers, who don’t want to take the time to really learn the the fundamentals, put out some seriously questionable work and defend their lack of skill as art. And it drives me crazy when they do it. And it especially drives me crazy to see work like that recognized by a panel of credentialed judges. Instead of recognizing outstanding photography that others can aspire to, they only encourage the creation of more mediocre photography.
But photography has so much more potential as an art form than it does as a mere skill, so we can’t let that kind of thing bother us to the point that we don’t step out and let our vision and our hearts be what rule our work. When I view a photograph in a museum or gallery, I’m moved by pieces that speak to me on an emotional level. Not by seeing technical perfection. Learning how to shoot with “perfect exposure”, “the rule of thirds”, or “tack-sharp focus” shouldn’t be a means to an end. We learn those skills because they allow us to create great images…but the images shouldn’t be ABOUT those skills. It’s often the images that make me forget any consideration of technical skills, that are the ones I’m drawn to and would spend money on.
How do we bring that into our own work? Well, I’m a firm believer that we learn the fundamentals first. Just like a painter will learn all the different ways to use a paintbrush, and then choose whatever methods works best for what they want to achieve, a photographer learns the fundamentals, and then has the skills to create whatever they can imagine. The reason I think this is important for any creative person in any artistic field is that you can have great artistic vision and frustrate yourself to the point of burnout if you don’t have the skills to carry out that vision. But once you do have them, your creative options are endless.
When creating photographs, or viewing them. Think in a new way. Sharpness and blur are not good and bad; they are two possibilities. Not every photo has to have white and black and every shade of grey in between. Color doesn’t always have to be true to life. It’s a matter of what is right for each individual image. I can’t say that every client will understand work that doesn’t fit in a popular, mainstream view of what’s considered good photography, but some will.
Next up on the carousel is Grand Rapids maternity, newborn and womens photographer, writing about taking great photographs of your own children. Because your photographer can’t be there every day! :)
This month has gone by so fast, I haven’t had a chance to thank Professional Photographer Magazine for publishing my article about making professional images with natural light. It ran in the April issue, along with a few of my natural light images:
I appreciate the interest this article has generated, but I’ve had to stop taking new consulting clients for the time being. Please check back in the fall if you’re interested in learning more about using natural light in professional photography. The article can be read here: ppmag.com or you can use that same link to subscribe to the magazine.