As a photographer, one question that I find myself asking more and more these days is “How far can I go down this road?”. I’ve found myself letting that one question guide my decisions and mental processes more and more here lately, and I think it’s been the single best thing for my photography since I bought a couple of pocketwizards.
Let me explain.
When you’re starting out as a photographer, you know what you like (photographs), and you’ve seen examples that you really like, but you don’t have the skills or technical understanding to create those pictures for yourself. So you start studying. You start learning how to control light, and how to set things up in a predictable, repeatable manner so that your pictures look like the photographs you’ve seen and liked in the past.
And that’s great, and a very important step to becoming a photographer.
However, after you’ve become technically proficient, and have an understanding of lighting and composition and camera technique…. then what? Just keep making the same pictures over and over again, subconsciously copying the photographers who inspired you along the way?
At this point, you’re good enough that your work fits the idea of what a pro photographer does. Now you have to make it stand out.
And my question that I keep coming back to is “How far can I go down this road”.
So you start out with something that you like in your photography…. say you really want to get some color in there. So you gel your lights. Decent results, interesting feel…. you like what you see. Now you ask yourself “How much further can I go here?”…. So you add more gels. You boost the color in post. You set up zones of color, splash complimentary colors against each other and see how that looks. You take notes on your project, every night you write out what you should’ve thought of while you were working. You imagine new ways of using gelled lights to try tomorrow. You see how far you can go in Photoshop, what if you put a gel on a mirror and use that as a reflector? What if you tape a gel over part of your lens and shoot through it? If I’m using continuous light mixed with flash can I blur out some of the colors and leave others sharp? How much further can I go down this road?
And maybe after all of that you realize that this road isn’t that interesting after all. maybe next month colored light won’t be your thing anymore, and you’ll want crisp flat black and white images. Maybe next month you’ll start down that road, and see just how crispy and just how flat you can make your images. How far can you go down that road?
Here’s some pictures from the road I’m on right now. I can’t wait to find out how far it goes.