Taking Creative Control

I believe that taking control over the creative process as well as the technology is very helpful when learning to create better photographs. It’s ironic… once you’ve got everything under control, you can really let loose creatively. The results can be profound.

If you think about the work as its own entity and evaluate it as objectively as possible you will learn from your previous work and your future work will be better for it. Learn to separate yourself from the photograph. Learn more from mistakes than successes.

One way to do this: Do a critique of your image. Take a couple of minutes and write about a photograph. Describe it, as if you were telling someone on the phone about it. Include as much technical information as possible. Describe the photographics. Describe the feelings the photograph conveys to you. Describe what you like and what you don’t like about the image.

For example, here’s a sample description of a photograph:
5 windows with white frames on the side of a blue wooden-sided building
In the closest widow is a reflection of a distant shore with buildings and palm trees

Overall well-balanced, center of interest is well-positioned
Strong converging lines
Picture space divided equally into 3 large triangles
Smaller triangles and trapezoids/distorted squares throughout
Low key image, overall low contrast
One small bright area of high contrast
Soothing blue tones

Nice, calm mood… but geometric boxes like this can create sense of being closed-in, claustrophobia etc.
The long vertical rectangles at frame right and left create a stable, almost “locked in” kind of feeling
The scene in the reflection creates an oasis, a glimmer of hope… the “light at the end of the tunnel”. This comes across as the main subject and theme of the photograph.

Suggestions for improvement:
– Desaturate blues just a bit
– Warm up and add saturation to the reflection scene
– Burn corners of frame slightly
– In the second window, top left, the shape that’s now tan, change to blue and darken that corner overall
– Remove contrails from reflected sky
– Consider retouching to add clouds into the sky (if you don’t consider that “cheating” 😉

While learning if you come away from a shooting session with several photographs that you are pleased with, it was a job well done (unless you’re working for a client!). Having more is, of course, more satisfying but don’t expect every capture to be a winner. Making pictures is an evolving process of learning.