While helping others become better photographers, a teacher is often expected to be able to clearly define and answer a photographers deepest and most profound question, the question that is to photographers what metaphysics is to philosophers, the question of “what makes a picture a great picture?” and while this might be possible to narrow down there simply is no absolute correct answer to give. There are only guidelines and recommendations.
One persons beautifully manicured moustache is another’s hideously grotesque facial debris. So while the technically correct image is something that can be taught and practiced, a technically correct picture is not necessarily a great picture. Conversely, a great picture may very well be technically weak.
A picture, after all, says a thousand words. The object of a picture is to tell a story, present a point of view or convey a message as simply and beautifully as possible.
The typically clichéd screensaver sunrise or sunset photo, the innocent girl sitting on a antique luggage next to a rail track. often these images are beautifully photographed, technically correct and pleasing to behold, yet at the same time are completely meaningless and boring. Void of any emotional reaction. this is because we’ve all seen thousands of sunset photos and the girl should have caught the damn train a long time ago! You see these photographs are meaningless to us because they are not part of our personal experience and environment.
On the other hand take the same subject matter, personalise it and suddenly the beauty of the image is exponentially multiplied, even if photographed with less skill. If the sunset was the view you personally experienced on honeymoon or if the little girl in on the luggage was your daughter, then suddenly the image is immensely valuable to you. And maybe only to you. And thats perfectly ok.
So when learning the skills of photography, it becomes very important to first establish what it is you hope to achieve from this new skill set. Are you looking to take better family portraits, capture your kids in action on the sports field, create pretty images to personalise the art on your walls at home or do you want to make it a career? because shooting for yourself is fun and rewarding and images you create have deep meaning and unseen beauty. Shooting for a client can often be a very different experience.
Whatever your goal, your style is something you need to develop and nurture. its a very personal preference and not even the best photographers in the world get to decide what you like in an image, what images you hang on your wall. It all starts when you decide to create something meaningful to you.
winter is a great time to get out early and shoot earthy colours, icicles and crisp fresh foliage, use the low light to experiment with slow shutter speeds and motion blur, and never ever worry about what others think of your interpretation of a scene.