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Point of You

There's more to creating a photograph than just its subject matter. The choices you make as photographer regarding how and from where to shoot each image are crucial.

What is the point of your point of view? This isn't an arbitrary or academic question. A photograph of any given subject can look dramatically different based on how you go about shooting it. Choices made regarding exposure and focal length only begin to scratch the surface of what goes into creating an image.

Here's an example. It rains often during winter where I live. That seems to make the mushrooms that pop up here and there happier than most of us human residents. Photographing mushrooms on the forest floor can involve countless choices. The first decision you have to make is to photograph them at all rather than to step on them or walk on by without stopping. But if you do stop to shoot them, doing them justice can require an investment of time. Shooting from standing eye-level will yield images of small mushroom caps poking through the soil that look entirely different than if you got down to their level and shot them up close. And once you do start crawling around on the ground, options really begin to open up. The direction of the light, the background, framing and other variables can be adjusted in countless ways.

Exactly which choices you make on any given occasion are up to you. Granted, some choices will almost certainly be influenced by the time of day, terrain, which lenses you own and have with you, and numerous other practical considerations, but how you react to each of these is still your choice. You can shoot into the sun to create a backlit image. You can shoot with the sun to let it bathe your subject in warm light. You can shoot from the side to use the light to show texture and relief. If the subject area is small enough, you can use a portable diffuser to shade most of the natural light and augment what remains with a flash. There are countless possible decisions, and each one can have countless possible answers.

Make each choice count. Make your images reflective of your choices. Your images should reflect your point of view.

Some of you reading this may be realizing at this point that you've never really considered just what your point of view is. It's an entirely realistic question that should occupy you ask you strive to move from image consumer to image creator. Reality doesn't just passively present itself to us via the window of our cameras. We can and should be thinking about how we use our cameras to approach that reality, and how we want to present it in our work.

Even experienced photographers should be using this as a way of going even deeper with their creative process. The learning about our own selves and our own point of view should be a never ending process of creative discovery.

Consider each of the choices that have to go into creating any given image. Either you are making them, or they are happening by default. Why did you set your tripod where you did? Why at that height? Are you working with the lens that just happened to be on your camera from your last subject, or is this really what you want to use for this subject? In other words, did you determine your choice of lens based on the image you are trying to capture, or will the kind of image your will capture be largely influenced by the lens already mounted on your camera? And then there's the aperture, shutter speed, focus, and so on. When you shoot, do you have an image in mind, something you want to convey about or using that particular subject?

Just what is your point of view?

Date posted: December 17, 2017


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