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Photography Lesson 1: Why Take Pictures?…
Photography is in a way, a strange pastime. For me it is a fascination. I have never quite been able to understand, let alone articulate, just why I am driven to want to take pictures? That specific action of pressing a button to capture an image….what is there to enjoy about that?
I wonder whether the source of one’s interest in photography is a product of one’s environment, i.e. your upbringing / history and the life experiences you’ve had? But, even if you have come across other people taking part in photography or otherwise fiddling with cameras along the way, what is it that actually makes you ‘catch the bug’ and do it yourself…?
It is somewhat, maybe, definitely, possibly a binary activity in terms of it’s popularity with people, in that you either really enjoy it or you just don’t bother.
Notwithstanding the billions of smartphone snappers that fall somewhere in between those two camps (there’s definitely a conspicuous contradiction right there!)…I guess they fall much more within the ‘enjoy it’ camp, even though many may not consciously consider themselves fans of photography. If you’re a smartphone snapper, you probably will never ask yourself ‘why take pictures?’….like trillions of other people every day, you just do it without over-analyzing it, then post it online…but you enjoy it all the same….indeed, you only need to have a glance at any of the social media platforms to see the humorous moments captured on smartphones.
If your interest in photography is at an early stage, maybe you’re at the stage of considering splashing out a bit of money on your first proper camera, or even if you have thoughts of developing your interest further to take up photography part or full time, I would suggest you challenge yourself: Why take pictures?
If you are indeed looking to make a camera purchase, have a look at one of my other blog posts: The Great Debate: Canon or Nikon?…
Freezing A Moment In Time
One of countless aspects of photography I enjoy is the notion, indeed the reality of capturing a moment, and freezing it forever in history (or at least until your hard drive fails).
I think this is particularly so with – portraits in terms of personal, family and social history. It is definitely also the case with street photography….I love looking intently at old black and white images of street scenes that show pre and early post automotive days for example. You can only guess at the lives of the people that lived in these images. It’s like a portal back in time to see what the architecture was like, what the clothing was like, what shops and business were around back then, and even a snapshot of the very culture of people.
Learn To See
Take a look at this image. First of all, I cannot credit the photographer as it is not known who captured the image. This is a shame, but it adds to the many mysteries of such pictures.
Apparently captured in the 1930’s it is a street photography image illustrating everyday life in a Liverpool street. It was captured in Water Street, in the city, looking North-East at the junction with Drury Street. What strikes me straight away, is the various modes of transport on show. You can see pedestrians, a horse drawn carriage, public electric trams (that we seem to think are modern today?), an early automotive car, and of course dominating the foreground is a young boy pushing a hand cart, staring captivatingly straight at the camera….Who is he?… What became of him?… What was he thinking?
But look closer, look at the cobbled street, the tram lines, the fine grand architecture, the signage on the buildings and trams. Now look closer still, look at the dress of the individual people going about their business. You can see that some people are dressed in suits, overcoats, some wearing flat caps, some bowler hats, and some top hats, but no-one is without a hat? Does this photograph possibly even give us an insight into social classes?… What a shot!…To the mystery photographer – Thank you.
Setting aside any technical analysis of this image like composition & vantage point, camera mounting, focus, lighting, shade & ISO, DR, exposure duration, depth of field etc (I’ll save that lot for another blog post, another day)… these are just a few of my thoughts on looking at only the subject matter in one single image. Can you imagine how vast your thinking can be about the wider subject of photography in general, and the potential interest to be found in countless images and all the technical aspects of the art?….it’s pretty vast.
Learning to see, is a significant part of becoming a good photographer…think about how I have looked at this image, it is something you should practice, not just with images already taken, but the ones you are about to capture. Ultimately, you may even be considering becoming a professional photographer?… If you are, or if you think that is the direction of travel in which you are headed in the longer term, have a look at my blog post; ‘So, You Want To Be A Pro Photographer?…’
For a little more about ‘learning to see’, have a look at my post, click the button above.
I guess I am beginning to articulate just one aspect of what I love about photography, and why we take pictures. I like to think that maybe, just one of my images will be viewed in a similar way in the future, by someone who appreciates the image and can be inspired by it, be it a street scene or a family portrait.
I firmly believe that professional portraits make great additions to any family album or portfolio of pictures. Family snaps are great, but the occasional pro portrait framed and displayed can be appreciated for years, for future generations, forever? (…and then doesn’t matter if your hard drive fails). The best way to enjoy portraits is to have them printed, mounted and framed for display in the home or office. However, in this superfast digital disposable age, we tend to look at images on screens for a millisecond, then move on.
So, ‘why take pictures?’…maybe if you continually ask yourself this, you’re in the ‘don’t bother’ camp. ‘What is there to like about pressing a button to capture an image?’….if you need to ask, your’e never going to understand it. If you do enjoy photography, even if like me, you can’t fully make sense of why, then get out and practice it… You never know when you might capture that one really special image.
Have a think about what I’ve said in this article,and how it applies to you. Think about why you take pictures?… What is you enjoy about it?… What stage are you at with your photography?…What do you see, think, and feel when you properly review images?…How are you in terms of learning to see, like a camera sees?
That’s it for ‘Photography Lesson 1: Why Take Pictures?’ …Have a look at ‘Photography Lesson 2: Practice’.
Please note: My ‘Photography Lessons’ blog posts, are designed to ease you through the journey of learning photography, focusing on the things that matter up front. This means I’m steering clear of delving too deeply or too soon into technical aspects of photography, which can often switch people off. If you want to learn more of the technical specifics of photography along with gaining practical experience, then consider having a bit of practical one-to-one photography tuition with us. I will introduce more techy stuff later as the lessons cover more advanced topics, but in the early lessons I am aiming to offer some different thinking and maintain focus on the pure visual aspects of photography…? Anyway, the internet is awash with all kinds of technical photography advice (of varying levels of quality)…so if that’s what you want, just search it out.
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