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Why and How to Develop a Photographic Consciousness – Part 1

Your passion is terrestrial or underwater photography. For you, photography is perhaps a hobby, a way to relax to escape the stress of your daily activities.

You may have reached the limits of your creativity. Now your technical or creative level is such that you feel the need to go further.

But you cannot define what you need. One of the tracks you have not explored yet is the development of your photographic consciousness.

In this article, I give you some tips to help you better define it. This will allow you to go much further in your artistic creativity.

The magic of conceptual photography. A photo from the 'Illusions' art prints collection.
The magic of conceptual photography. A photo from the 'Illusions' art prints collection.

Photography Can Become a Real-Life Project

Nature photography, like many photographic domains, can be considered as a real project of life.

It can give meaning, a real direction to your existence.

That's what happened to me many years ago before I became a professional photographer.

I worked for twelve years as a computer engineer. I worked as a design and development engineer, project manager and then project leader to manage an IT department. But the question of purpose has always been asked. Why create applications that I knew they would only last a few years before disappearing with the emergence of a new technology. At each technological transition, everything had to be restarted: the analysis, development and production started again. Where was the purpose of all these cycles aside from correctly earning my life? I do not regret anything because I learned a lot about organization and methodology. But I was racing against the clock all the time.

I practiced photography during my free time. During these hours spent in the field, I found peace, rest and serenity to think, question myself.

Naturally, I decided to connect my professional activity and my passion for photography. My goal was to create something that would stay in time. Create something that I will not have to question every two or three years.

I envisioned the future in the very long term with the possibility of leaving a trace or a brick in this huge building that is humanity.

I had a real-life project.

The Photographic Time

I started working for magazines or photo stock agencies. Quickly, I fell back in the trap of my previous professional activity: produce more and more quickly, adapt to the demand and the evolution of the market.

After five years of intense work and despite very good income, I decided not to continue. I turned to artistic photography.

Today, when I log in to my Instagram account or my Facebook account, I see that 95% of the photographs were done with mobile phones.

I have the impression that photographs are made, published and consumed as products in fast food. Nothing is thought to last. Nothing is done to enrich humanity. Most of the photographs posted are not made to bring this famous little brick to humanity.

I feel like reliving my years as a computer engineer or when working for magazines or stocks.

All photos are taken in a hurry to be the first to show or to be seen. It is a real race for posting on social networks.

Why do not all these people realize that it's time for them to rethink how they photograph? Why do they not give them photographic time?

This expression photographic time means for me to think about real photo projects, real creations. I mention here the time to take to think to publish a book, to create an exhibition or to present the photographs on a site.

Photographic Time is One of the Keys to Create Interesting Photos

Have you ever tried to blend into a landscape, to be one with it just before taking the picture? That is what I try to do with every shot even when I photograph terrestrial or underwater animals.

When you are on the field to photograph, I recommend you forget the technique a few moments to try to be in fusion with all the natural elements that surround you.

This perception goes through the look on the light, the photographic elements and the atmosphere that surrounds you.

It is a bit like a meditation technique. It's this way of understanding photography that allows me to create nature photos. If you apply it to yourself, you will quickly realize that you will create interesting photos.

The photographic time is thinking before, during and after taking a photo.

Considering the World Through Photography

I think practicing artistic photography is a way of looking on my life, seeing the world as it really is.

Artistic photography is an art. The photographer always gives his own interpretation of the world he is photographing. But I realized with time that it is much more than that.

Artistic photography is an extraordinary way to transcend everyday life.

Everyone needs to find solutions to everyday problems. Everyone has to compromise. We all have to check our accounts, manage collaborators, respond to customers. Working days can be stressful.

The artistic photography of nature allowed me to take a step back on my professional activities and my existential questioning. When I'm in the field as part of a photo project, I'm at peace, serene, quiet. I take the height.

I become aware of myself and the world around me. During all years, I developed a photographic consciousness.

But what is the photographic consciousness?

A Definition of Photographic Consciousness

To Continue Next Friday. Do not forget to come back.

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Why and How to Read, Appreciate a Nature Photograph

You certainly look at hundreds of photographs daily. Whether for your personal projects, professional or in the articles you link, your attention is constantly captured by images.

But do you really read a photograph? Do you know how to appreciate certain photographic creations?

In this article, I propose a method of photographic reading to better decrypt the content of photos.

This method will help you to develop your creativity and improve your artistic process.

Black and white landscape photograph of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, United States.
Black and white landscape photograph of Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, United States.

Trois articles essentiels avant de continuer la lecture

In order for you to fully understand the reading grid of a nature photograph, I recommend you reread the article explaining why and how to analyze a photograph and the article about the method to judge a photograph.

These two articles are essential because they give you all the keys to well dissect the contents of an image. The ideal before addressing the rest of this article would be to re-read the article " why and how story telling makes an interesting image".

The Story of this Series of Articles

The four articles including the one you are reading is a progression.

You may be wondering why I wrote them by revealing personal techniques that I use in my professional photographic activities.

The idea of writing them came to me after the last workshops of nature photography that I organized. Many trainees regularly come to participate in the courses. Their level had become so high that I devoted a whole progression to the photographic consciousness.

I realized that very few of them had developed a true creative photographic consciousness. They had all become excellent technicians. They were all able to create photos for international competitions, exhibitions or publications for prestigious magazines.

But most of them remained blocked when I asked them to analyze other photos or to understand a photographic approach.

The blockage was even more obvious when they had to read a picture.

I thought it would be interesting to share my point of view with a larger number of people to exchange and have feedback on my methods.

These are all the reasons that led me to write this series of four articles.

Definition of the Words "Read" and "Appreciate"

Before revealing the method to read and appreciate a photograph, I think it is interesting to define the words "to read" and "to appreciate" to better place them then in the photographic context.

By definition, to read is to follow the eyes of graphic signs by identifying a writing.

One of the definitions of to appreciate is:

"to appreciate " is to judge the intellectual, moral, artistic value of something. It is also to estimate something.

Application to Photography

If I refer to the definition of reading, I can say that a photograph can be read. Artistic photography has its own photographic language. It is therefore perfectly legitimate to talk about reading a photograph.

Likewise, the verb to appreciate can be perfectly used in a photographic context because you can judge a photograph and give an appreciation.

Why Read a Photograph is Important to You

If you learn to read and appreciate the photographs of other photographers, you will gradually develop a real photographic consciousness.

It will allow you to build and to improve your artistic approach.

I remind you that the definition of a true personal artistic approach is the founding act of your photographic creativity. It is the foundation of your photographic activity whether for leisure or professional.

Knowing how to read a photograph in an objective, systematic and consistent way will help you to create different but above all interesting photographs.

This is certainly what you want to do by choosing artistic photography as a means of expression.

The consequence of a good photographic reading is the development of an extraordinary quality for you who are a photographer: to appreciate the creations of other photographers. In addition, you will be able to more easily locate you compared to the others. You will define your place.

How to Read a Photograph

My method for reading a nature photograph is always in three distinct steps:

  • Define the field of photography to which it belongs..
  • Analyze the content.
  • Judge and evaluate.

Step 1: Define the Photographic Domain

For this first step, you must be able to clearly say whether it is an illustrative, artistic or conceptual photograph.

Is it intended to promote a product or brand? Is the photo a translation of an emotion felt by the photographer who took it? Does it convey a message, an idea? Is this photo intended to shock, to question, to create a questioning of the viewer? Is it an aesthetic picture? Was it created to testify, to show a scene of life? Is it just a detail of a scene?

This step number one must allow you to define the purpose of the photograph.

Step 2: The Analysis of the Photo

During this second step, you must analyze all the photographic elements.

You simply make an inventory. I advise you to analyze the composition, the framing, the positive space and the negative space.

Try to study the construction desired by the photographer. Look for the elements of reading reinforcement. Try to understand why and how all the elements have been put in place.

During this step, you try to understand the technical reasons for creating the image. You must remain objective. You look at how the depth of field was managed, if the bokeh technique was used, what speed was chosen, etc.

If it's an animal, what does it do? What is his attitude? Where does he look?

If the scene represents a landscape, do you recognize the place? What do you see in the foreground? What are the details that you see in a second time?

Step 3: Judging and Evaluating

During this third step, you must try to clear the general atmosphere of the photo you are watching.

It is at this precise moment that I recommend you to read the title and the legend which accompanies the photograph. You will be able to discover its context. The proposed text will guide the understanding of the image.

Do you have to understand what photography wants to show? How do you react? What emotions and feelings do you feel?

The idea behind this third step is that you carry a value judgment. You have to make sense of the picture.

This step is subjective. It appeals to your ethical, moral values, your experience and your experience.

You do not make a criticism. You just have to formalize what you feel and what inspires you the picture you are looking at.

It is you who speak. Be honest, straightforward and direct.

Some Photos are not Readable

If you apply this method of photographic reading in a systematic way, you will quickly realize that many photographs are not readable.

Do not imagine that the method is ineffective or inadequate. Do not believe that you do not have all the keys to read them well.

It is just that the photographers who propose them have taken photos but have not created them. They just took snapshots.

As I wrote in this article, there are many reasons why people take pictures.

If you cannot read photos, it's because they were not taken in order to make them interesting. Do not waste time looking at them.

Spend your energy reading and enjoying photos that are worth it. Life is too short to waste time. It is this principle that I adopt in all that I do.

Finally

Reading and enjoying photos allows you to progress in photographic art by further developing your photographic awareness.

I proposed to you a reading guide in three steps. It is simple to remember and very effective.

If it does not satisfy you, do not hesitate to define yours. I recommend you always apply a systematic and consistent method to have the best results possible.

Knowing how to read and appreciate photos is a real lever for creating even more interesting and very different photos.

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How to Judge a Photo and Why

In the article entitled "Why and how to analyze a photograph", you will learn about both my method and my reading grid, which enables the photographer to systematically and objectively analyze a nature photograph.

In this article, I propose a method that allows the photographer to easily and systematically judge a nature photograph.

Although both of these methods have been applied to nature photographs, they can certainly be used in other photographic fields.

Black and white photograph of a landscape of Antelope Island in the state of Utah in the United States.
Black and white photograph of a landscape of Antelope Island in the state of Utah in the United States.

The Definition of "Judging"

I strongly believe that it is very important to define “judging” in specific terms, since it is at the center of these methods.

To judge is to form an opinion of something or someone.

In judging, you assess the person, object, animal, etc. that is the subject of your gaze.

Application to Photography

In the context of photography, judging consists of providing your opinion on photos. You communicate your appreciation of photos made by others. You form a value judgment, thus enforcing the idea that the action of judging is subjective.

Why Is Judging a Photograph Important?

Learning to judge other photographs is an essential act for you as a photographer. It allows you to better judge your own photographic creations, because your eye is attuned to precision and effectiveness due to your experience.

Knowing how to judge a photo will allow you to better understand how your photographs appear to others, and what makes them unique.

Photographic judgment is as essential and natural as breathing.

Why Do Many Photographers Find It Difficult to Judge?

During my nature photography workshops and lectures, I have realized that many photographers are afraid to judge others’ photographs.

  • The first reason for this inclination to neutrality is that the photographer may not feel that they personally the legitimacy to do so. They may feel that they do not have the skills, importance, or level of fame to judge another’s work. But where does this feeling of insignificant worth come from? Is it because we believe that we create less important photos? I do not believe that these feelings contain truth.

    A well-known photographer is first and foremost a photographer who knows how to sell his work. He knows how to propel himself towards success. His creations may or may not be interesting. Regardless, he still knows how to attract loyal followers through his work. When these followers share his work with their connections in the media, a buzz will erupt around the photographer, and he will experience success. However, this would not occur if other people had originally judged the photo and deemed it insignificant. Everything would have been different.

  • The second reason that some photographers feel the need to judge is that, like you and I, they find it hard to recognize what really constitutes us.

    We too experience weaknesses, anxieties, fears, and cowardice. Nevertheless, we refuse to consider these things as part of ourselves.

    We focus on other positive qualities, refusing to recognize our defects as limitations that define us.

    Photographers who negatively criticize their own performance project their attributions onto those around them, creating an environment of falsity. They attribute their failures to others, instead of admitting that they themselves are actually to blame. I think this second reason is fundamental and essential.

    It is always easier to judge others than oneself. Years ago, I also went through this stage. It is not easy to overcome. But with introspective work and self-questioning, it is not as hard as you might think.

Judging a Photograph Allows You to Better Know Yourself

Judging the photographs of other photographers will allow you to better understand your vision, your style and your photographic approach.

Judging the photographs of others is prepares you to judge your own photos. In truth, you can explain your creations better than any other person could.

For example, if you think a photograph is built with too many photographic elements and you cannot read it, it certainly means that you are attracted to minimalist photos.

Proper judgment is simply an identity mechanism.

Judging the Photographs of Others is a Beneficial Act

I think that every photographer usually judges the photographic approach of others. We have certainly done so.

While some may hesitate to share their opinion, others will not.

Photographers belonging to the second category are afraid to displease anyone. They fear being disliked or misunderstood. They are especially afraid of being judged harshly. In general, they want to avoid a conflict.

But I think these photographers make a very serious mistake. They begin to believe every judgment that passes by. They attach social value to themselves and their work based off of others’ beliefs. They fall into the value judgment. This is the worst thing about judging photographs, that it could potentially limit your opportunity for growth.

Criticism Is the Consequence of Judgment

To criticize a photograph is to engage in an examination to identify its qualities and defects.

Criticism is therefore a consequence of any judgment you make.

By examining the qualities and defects of a photograph, you can help the creator of the photo correct problems. When you naturally provide a solution for his future photo, you are demonstrating constructive criticism that is positively focused on a goal.

But above all, you refine your look on your own creations.

To Judge Correctly, You Must Always Use a Grid with Rules

To judge a photograph well and to avoid cookie-cut judgments, you must define rules with specific criteria that you will apply each time. This is absolutely essential.br>
In this article, I talked about using positive and negative spaces to judge. In this other article, I explained how to define a good photo.br>
Photo contest juries each have their own rules. As I mentioned in this article, it is better to fully understand these rules before participating.br>
Personally, I use the following guidelines to judge a photograph:

  • Impact
  • Light
  • Story
  • Technical quality
  • Creativity
  • Composition
  • Interests
  • Use of colors
  • Style
  • Presentation

This grid is easy to implement and remember.

If you wish, you can define your own grid with your own criteria. It's an interesting exercise.

Judging and Understanding Other Photographers Makes You

With time and experience, I have realized that in learning to judge other photographers' photos, we can be less obstinate and more forgiving. This allowed me to open new creative doors and go further in my artistic process by refining it. I think it will be the same for you. Judging will allow you to explore new ways of inspiration. Of course, it is an endless quest. It can limit your mind and your imagination. Regardless, it is an absolutely necessary step as I wrote in this article.

Finally

By learning to judge the photographs of others, you will perform an essential act. You will develop your artistic creativity.

If you want to create interesting and different photos, do not hesitate to make objective and consistent judgments with your personal analysis chart.

But do not forget that judging cannot be improvised. It takes time. You will see spectacular results on your future photos from this process.

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Why and How to Analyze a Photograph of Nature – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.

The Third Step: The Contextualization of The Photograph

This contextualization of a photograph can be likened in a certain way to storytelling. In this article, I explained the importance of storytelling to enhance the impact of a photo.
This third step should allow you to state in the manner of a story what you know about the context of the creation of the photograph or series.
This step requires you to be interested in the external elements of the photograph.

For example, you must:

  • Know the artistic and technical context of photography.
  • The environmental context in which the photo was made.
  • Know the personal history of the photographer. It will allow you to better understand the motivations of his artistic acts.

All these elements allow you to better contextualize photography. This will allow you to better remember the work. You have probably already realized that an anecdote is always a real plus to remember a photographic work.

Contextualization requires general photographic culture as I wrote in this article. I agree that photographic culture does not particularly help to appreciate a photographic work. But here we are in the analysis phase. I think that owning photographic culture is a real plus because it will allow you to see details and better understand the artistic approach of the author.

Knowing the history of a photograph also allows you to judge the difficulty of its creation. This will help you judge a photo better.

The Fourth Step: The Interpretation

The photographic interpretation is to give meaning to an image. You are still not in a judgment or criticism but analysis stage. You must not give comments but just say what you feel.

In this phase of interpretation, you only bring in your own feelings. You must not try to understand what the author of the photograph wanted to do. You stay in your mind.

You must interpret according to the narrative elements that I described in the third step.

During the interpretation phase, you will try:

  • To determine the different functions of the photograph you are looking at.
  • To define the symbolism that you see there.
  • To explain why this photograph speaks to you.

This essential step is a form of introspection. You do an analysis of yourself in relation to the photograph you are looking at. You try to understand the motivations that drive you to analyze this picture. Looking for a sense in the assembly of elements.

Make your emotions, your feelings, your experiences speak to put words on what you see.
In this step, you can also make comparisons with other photographs or series of the same kind.
The interpretation is totally subjective because it totally depends on you.
If you ask another person to give you their feelings, the result will certainly be very different. You can then confront your ideas to enrich you.

An Example of Analysis of a Photograph

Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.
Photograph in Black and White of Poles planted in a Pond. Conceptual Photograph.

Step 1: Visual Description

This photograph represents wooden stakes planted in the ground. Some of the stakes are interconnected by barbed wire. The reflection of the stakes suggest that the photo was made on the surface of the water.

The name of this photograph is "Forgotten I". It is part of a collection called "Forgotten". It was created by Amar Guillen. The title corresponds to what the picture shows: stakes forgotten for a long time. They are abandoned.

This is clearly a conceptual creative approach.

Step 2: Technical Analysis

This photo does not leave indifferent. She asks a lot of questions. Where was it done? Why are these pickets abandoned? Why are they in the water? What happened? Has a village been engulfed? The number of questions prove that it is a photo that has impact.

The stakes are aligned in a diagonal rising from right to left. It's a positive note. We can still have hope. What happened may not be dramatic.

The horizontal framing accentuates the space and gives depth to the photo.

The choice of black and white and a negative space in high key further accentuates the effect of loneliness and abandonment.

The masses are managed in a harmonious way. The photo is bright, easy to read and decrypt.

The reflection of the stakes on the water is a strong attribute.

Step 3: The Contextualization of The Photograph

This photograph was made on a pond. Several carriages were mounted around this pond because deer come to bathe during periods of high heat. It was while looking at them through a window of the lookout that the idea came to me to evoke solitude, oblivion and abandonment. I wanted to build a strong symbolic image with a total dematerialization of the environment. I wished that the stakes seem to float in the air. It is thanks to the reflected image that we can understand that they are in the water. I really like the photographic suggestion. Everyone can travel and imagine a story that belongs only to him.

Step 4: Interpretation

I will not give my interpretation of this photograph because I have already done in the previous paragraph. It's up to you to say how you feel by looking at it.

If you wish, you can write a comment at the bottom of the page to say in a few words your feelings.

Finally

Analyzing a photograph or a series of photos is not a judgment or criticism phase. This is a phase that is upstream.

This method of analysis takes place in four stages: the first two are visual and allow to define the elements that you see. The third requires photographic culture. The fourth appeals to you: it is introspective.

Try to apply this method of photographic analysis and you will notice a noticeable improvement of your photographic vision.

Your creativity will improve because you will have points of reference to develop it.

The photographic analysis is one of the key elements to master to allow you even more interesting photos.

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Why and How to Analyze a Photograph of Nature – Part 1

Every day, you will certainly look for your photographic inspiration by looking at websites or by turning the pages of photography books.

You analyze and judge the photographs you see. You are trying to determine why you like certain pictures and not others.

But do you have a methodology with systematic evaluation criteria that allow you to do the same analysis every time? I propose a method of photographic analysis that has been proven for years that I use it.

Photograph in black and white of Upper Antelop Canyon in Arizona.
Photograph in black and white of Upper Antelop Canyon in Arizona.

The Meaning of the Expression Photographic Analysis

The word analysis has several definitions. The one I will keep for this blog post is:

An analysis is an intellectual operation of decomposition of an all-in element and their connection.

Analyzing an artistic photograph will consist of studying the various elements that compose it to detect the emotional sense, the message transmitted or to identify the aesthetic qualities.

Analyzing a Photograph Does Not Mean Judging It

Analyzing a photograph is an objective action on your part. Judging a photograph is a subjective action.

You can judge a photograph in parallel or after its analysis. For my part, during my workshops dedicated to nature photography, I always analyze the photographs that are proposed to me by the trainees and only after, I give my judgment.

To propose a judgment of a photograph without having provided a coherent, systematic analysis never brings anything. It is neither constructive for you, nor for the photographer who create the photo. It is totally counterproductive. The relevant judgment of a photographer is fed by objective elements of a correct analysis.

In this article, I listed some criteria for judging an artistic photograph of nature.

During all these years during which I built my ACAPN method to animate photo courses, I used this photographic analytical method.

Correctly analyzing a photograph is an essential act for a nature photographer who wants to create artistic photos.

Why You Need to Know How to Properly Analyze a Photograph

If you take the time to develop a method of analyzing the photographs you are looking at, you will develop personal qualities that will greatly help you in your photographic activity.

Being able to correctly analyze a nature photograph will help you to:

  • Better identify your own artistic tastes.
  • Define, improve or enrich your artistic approach.
  • Define precise criteria to better identify and limit your creativity. You will not disperse in the meanders of creativity.
  • Understand why you like certain photographs or series.

By knowing how to analyze a photograph in a systematic way, you will better determine your sources of inspiration. You will save time when you do research for your photo projects.

As a professional nature photographer, having created a good methodology has saved me a lot of creative time. When I search for a client project or for personal photos, I always look at what has been done on the subject. I do not want to do it again. The methodology that I apply allows me to write a scenario with clear and precise ideas. They will help me create interesting photos that will stand out.

My method of analyzing a photograph is based on four successive steps.

The Four Main Stages of the Analysis of a Photograph

When you find yourself in front of a photograph or a series, here is what I advise you to do:

  • Visually describe the different elements you see. It is an objective step.
  • Perform a technical analysis of what you see.
  • Contextualize the photograph or series in a narrative way with all the elements of which you are aware. It is an objective step.
  • Interpret the photograph or series based on how you feel. It's a subjective step. Be careful because I am not talking about judgment or criticism. It is just your feeling.

The First Step: Visually Describe What You See

This first step should allow you to answer this simple question " What do I see? ».

You have to be able to tell if it's a landscape photograph, if it's a terrestrial or underwater photo, if it represents an animal. You must be able to describe in a few simple words what you see.

Remember that photography is a visual art discipline.

For example, when you look at a photograph printed on paper, take a little distance by stepping back a bit. I recommend placing you at a distance of three times the length of the diagonal. This very empirical method works very well. You will be able to better distinguish all the elements that make up the photograph.

The first vision of a photo must always be global. Do not try during this first phase to look at the details by sticking your nose on the work.

Describe mentally all the different elements that you distinguish. Try to define the different relationships that exist between each of them.

Once you have answered the question "What do I see?”, you should be interested in the following points:

  • What is the name of the photographer?
  • What is the title of the photograph?
  • What is the title of the series?
  • What is the relationship between the title and what you are watching?
  • What is the nature of photography: illustrative, artistic, conceptual?

This first step is a visual inventory of what you see. It is always done mentally. It is objective.

The Second Step: Technical Analysis

This second step will allow you to dissect the different components of the photograph. It requires a certain photographic skill and some technical knowledge because you will have to name specific points of a photo. Without this technical knowledge, you will lose yourself in useless details. Photography is based on solid founding foundations established over decades. All photographers agree on these terms.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of components:

  • The impact.

    It is certainly the most important component for me. This is the famous "Wow" effect. The impact is given by the shock you feel immediately after the first look. This is the visual effect of a photograph. This is the essential component for an interesting photograph.
  • The foreground.
  • The background.
  • The negative space.
  • The centers of interest.
  • The elements of reading reinforcement.
  • The attributes.
  • The light.
  • The colors.
  • The management of the masses.
  • Harmony and balance of forms.
  • The framing.
  • The composition.
  • The format.
  • The sharpness.
  • The contrast.
  • Modeling management.
  • Creativity.
  • Etc.

All these components are part of a list of my own. You have to add your own criteria. But do not forget to stay simple and concise.

A technical analysis is always done mentally. It is objective.

If you apply a complex system, you will forget some components that can be very important.

The Third Step: The Contextualization of The Photograph

To Read the Next Part of the Article, Click Here.
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Personal Data

What is personal data?

What are the data we collect?

What is the purpose of these data?

How are your personal data kept and for how long?

What rights do you have on your personal data?

What is Personal Data?

Personal data is data that identifies a natural person directly or indirectly. Personal data is grouped into two categories: non-sensitive and sensitive personal data.

Non-sensitive personal data may be a person's name, date of birth, phone number, IP address, etc. Sensitive personal data refers to information that can discriminate against a person, such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, political opinion, health, etc.

What Are the Data We Collect?

As part of its professional activity, Guillen Photo collects the following data:

  • Identity and contact details: Surname, first name, phone number, email address. These are non-sensitive personal data. This information is provided only through a form voluntarily completed by the user. We do not collect this information without the knowledge of people who visit our website.

What is The Purpose of These Data?

As part of its activities and in compliance with the law, Guillen Photo collects personal data:

  • for commercial purposes, such as prospecting and the creation of new offers and services;
  • To provide the services for which you have hired us, such as organizing photo courses or selling art prints.
  • To meet our legal obligations, including accounting;
  • In our interests to improve services and customer satisfaction.

How Are Your Personal Data Kept and For How Long?

The personal data of Guillen Photo customers are kept securely and are only accessible by our team, in order to keep the confidentiality of the information collected. We keep the personal data for the regulated period, from the closing of the customer account or the achievement of the purpose.

What Rights Do You Have on Your Personal Data?

You have the option to ask Guillen Photo the right to verify the personal data we hold about you, the right to rectify incorrect information, as well as the right to erase personal data about you. You also have the right to information, opposition, portability, limitation and to request a copy of the information that our company holds about you.

To exercise your rights over your personal data, you can contact us via the contact form at your disposal from the main menu.

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Why and How Storytelling Can Transform a Nature Photograph – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Photograph of a sailing stone in Death Valley. Two days were needed to create it.
Photograph of a sailing stone in Death Valley. Two days were needed to create it.

An Example of Photographic Storytelling

Photograph of a young Ibex in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia at 5000 meters altitude (15,000 feet).
Photograph of a young Ibex in the Simien Mountains in Ethiopia at 5000 meters altitude (15,000 feet).

I was present in the highlands of Simien in northern Ethiopia. I had been dreaming for years of photographing wildlife and landscapes in that part of the world, and finally I had my chance.

For the first trip, I went with my two best friends, Philip and Andrew. They had agreed to share this extraordinary journey because they were also fond of new experiences and extraordinary photographs.

We started our journey at an altitude of 2000 meters (6,000 feet). We climbed little by little until we reached 5000 meters (15,000 feet). We were looking for Ibex, which are endemic to that region of the world. They were very rare and difficult to find. We had to walk on the slopes of the mountains to find them.

The slightest step or climb made us be out of breath. We had to carry our camera equipped with a 500mm and our tripod. We decided that every 200 meters (600 feet) of walking, we would take a break. Oxygen is limited, and we would gasp for breath if we traveled 10,000 meters. We are exhausted by these small efforts.

Suddenly, down below, at the bend of a trail, we saw the Holy Grail of photography. A family of Ibex: two adults and a young one. It was so unexpected, and the surrounding decors were superb, as well as the soft morning light.

We only had to go down 50 meters (150 feet) to meet them. It was our first meeting, and we took our time for fear of frightening them. Although they had spotted us, they peacefully continued to graze and didn’t move. After some consideration, we decided to remain at a distance of 30 meters (90 feet) from the group, since there was no way to approach closer without startling them.

Suddenly, the young ibex decides to venture from his parents a few feet away, to a spot that was the perfect dreamy backdrop. Fortunately, we were prepared, and our cameras were already installed on the tripods. We captured some shots, not thinking that they would be exceptional. We triggered to show the beautiful creatures that we had spotted them. For the next twenty minutes, the little one played hide and seek with us, by nodding off, waking up, and teasing us. It got on our nerves. Meanwhile, the adults are grazing, but not in a beautiful attitude.

What the heck! We have Ibex in front of us. They accept us in their circle of security, but the attitudes displayed are not desirable. We began to feel cold because a light icy breeze flowed through our clothes.

Suddenly, the young Ibex, looks up and gives us a look and a smile that we will remember all our lives. The position of the head on the body is perfect. He charmed us with his playful smile, as if he understood that we were beginning to despair and wanted to give us a special photographic opportunity as a gift.

Thus, we created the photo we wanted.

A Beautiful Story Never Uses Technique as the Subject

I often meet photographers who talk to me about their photographs regarding the technique used.

They tell me about focal length, aperture, depth of field, sensitivity, converters, or noise reduction. I listen patiently and attentively because I am also passionate about technique. However, I never talk about technique except in my photography courses where it is important to understand how to effectively create successful photographs.

Listening to these photographers who are focused on technique, I try to place myself in the head of those who only use a mobile phone to take pictures. I tell myself that the person will be bored for many minutes if they politely resist.

You have to know that a good photo story is never about the technique. A good photo story must always encourage the audience to dream and wander in their imagination.

For example, you can explain the origins and purpose of a photo project. You can expand upon why it is so important to you and what sparked your desire to create the photos. You can detail the events that occurred on the field before and after the trigger is pressed. If you unexpectedly met an animal, give concrete examples of the situation. If you have experienced extraordinary emotions in a given light, describe them in detail.

When you tell a story, never forget to mention detailed facts so that the viewer can put himself in your place. If he cannot imagine the scene itself, how can he put himself in your shoes? How can he remember anything that you are telling him if there is no impact, no connection?

A good story is always carried deeper to an emotional level.

Humor is also an added bonus for the audience.

A Beautiful Story Is Always Short

If you decide to tell a story about a photo or a series of photographs, be brief.

Never lose sight of the fact that photography is a visual art.

The story must only enhance the impact of your photography. You are not defending an oral text but a photographic work.

Your story should not exceed one minute. Beyond this time, you will lose your audience.

A Beautiful Story Is a Lived Story

When telling a photographic story, I advise you to report only facts that you have actually experienced on the field.

If you start embellishing the truth and adding details that did not happen, you will lose yourself in your story. Moreover, if you retell your story, your story will have different versions, which will be confusing.

If you lie, even if you believe yourself to be an inventor who enhances stories, your reputation will be tarnished. Never forget that it takes years to build a good reputation. Becoming an authority in a field requires years of labor. Losing a reputation only takes a few days.

I advise you to always adopt a frank and honest attitude.

A Good Story Must Be Prepared

In my career as a professional photographer, I am always a picky perfectionist. I conscientiously prepare my photo projects, workshops, and conferences. I strive to limit the field of chance where a disaster could occur. I know that whatever I do, I will never reach perfection. Perfection is impossible to attain, and there will always be hazards and unforeseen events. Nevertheless, some disasters can be prevented. When I go to galleries or meet collectors, I prepare the stories I am going to share. I write them and repeat them in front of a camera. Then I review the footage and measure the duration of the story. I can also check myself to make sure that I am not moving away from my subject. I must never forget that I must present and defend a photograph with my story. I know that in front of my audience, I will have to adapt my story. Indeed, each audience is different. I retain the general structure and honesty of the event, but I may improvise by adopting a different tone or specifying some facts more than others. I also have to improvise because the questions asked by the viewers will force you to change the angle of attack in your story. Nevertheless, your improvisation must remain credible. The quality and honesty of your story will not change if you prepare your story beforehand.

Knowing How to Precisely Stop Is a Major Asset

In one of the previous paragraphs, you read that a story must be short, as you do not want to annoy an audience.

This is not all. If you present a series of photographs and each requires a story, you must know to stop at the right time. Too many stories can kill your photographic approach. You or the audience may become bored. People may shy away from your photos.

Stay simple and concise to provoke the little spark that will make the viewers wander in their imagination. Once this spark has been triggered, stop. Do not go further. You have achieved your goal by enhancing the impact of your photographs.

If You Do Not Have a Beautiful Story to Tell

When I asked them to tell me the story of the photos, they were unable to talk about them. Often, I found that they had something to say but that their natural timidity prevented them from speaking. You cannot imagine how many times this has happened to me. It is absolutely incredible that so many photographers have struggled with not being able to tell their story.

If you have this problem of not being able to confidently defend a creation, practice in front of your mirror or in front of a camera. It is not easy if you are shy, but with practice, you will obtain results.

Never forget that an interesting photo always has a beautiful story to tell. What a pity it is to reserve that story for you alone.

Never forget that you create beautiful nature photos to share your vision of the world!

Finally

Nature photography is not just about camera mastery and technique.

Telling a beautiful story will always reinforce the impact of your photos or series.

My experience has taught me much in the last ten years. Never neglect the oral aspect of explaining a photo to an audience. It is a great way to convince others and share your passion for nature photography.

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Why and How Storytelling Can Transform A Nature Photograph – Part 1

You may believe that creating interesting photographs of nature depends on how the general photo project is defined, or your photographic identity, or your personal mastery of a camera.

I think that these elements are necessary, but insufficient. Interesting photographs that leave an impact on the viewer always have a beautiful story that supports and enhances the image.

We refer to this as “storytelling”.

This photograph of a 2-day old gelada required a week-long trip to the Simien Highlands in Ethiopia.
This photograph of a 2-day old gelada required a week-long trip to the Simien Highlands in Ethiopia.

The Definition of a Story

For this article about artistic photography, I will use a specific definition of the word “story”.

A story allows one individual to share personal events that were experienced while creating the photograph or series. It is an anecdote to entertain your audience.

This is not the whole definition though. In this article, the word “story” has a broader scope.

The Definition of Storytelling

To tell the story of a photo or a series, I advise you to use the technique of storytelling. This is what I do regularly in my professional activity.

Storytelling is literally telling a story for the purpose of communicating experiences. This terminology is often used in marketing for advertising purposes, as it appeals and personally connects with the audience.

The storytelling technique should normally capture attention and arouse emotion in the viewer.

In marketing, storytelling is used to promote a brand or product by creating an argument that “I personally appreciated this brand or product, here is why, and thus you also should appreciate this brand or product.” In this example, storytelling is used to convince the viewer through shared experiences. In our case of nature photographs however, storytelling asks the viewer questions about a theme or experience, using the photographs instead of the brand or product to share a point.

In photography, storytelling uses real experiences that happened to you in the field. Storytelling reinforces the impact of your photographs and illuminates your photographic vision to the viewer.

“A Good Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words” Is Not Always True

You have certainly heard this quote that says, "A good picture is worth a thousand words".

Since the birth of photography and for several decades after, this quote was perfectly justified because the photographs were not retouched very much. However, this saying cannot possibly apply to modern photography. With the advent of digital technologies, this phrase has lost the truth of its meaning. Many photographs are retouched, transformed, or even digitally created from scratch with montages that are impossible to detect with the naked human eye.

This practice has become common in recent years. The main reason for this “fake photography” is that it is necessary to constantly create new photographs to please the general public. We must always advance in the direction of the general public.

Many celebrities and pop culture influencers were inspired by the techniques of commercial photography. While photography has become a way to sell products, it is also a way to attract followers to social media, magazine articles, newspapers, websites, and blogs. Everyone has something to sell, whether the purpose for doing so involves profit or fame.

The rule that prevails today is to closely adhere to viewer’s expectations in order to attract and retain a large audience. We must please everyone when trying to sell attractive products or gain the most "likes" possible. It is a narrow and difficult path to traverse in the world of photography.

Today, most published photos have been retouched to tell stories that appeal to an audience which has not taken the time to appreciate the aesthetics of a beautiful image or experience the emotions that are conveyed.

Are these pictures interesting?

In our opinion, the answer is no. With these fake photographs, the creator did not want to show emotions or transmit subliminal messages. He has merely chosen to side with an audience’s opinions in order to please them and attract the maximum number of people to the products or brands represented in the images.

I believe that before one claims that a photograph of nature is truly interesting, it is necessary to understand the context in which it was created and carried out.

This is what we call the story of a photo.

For me, it has become an important judgment criterion for the impact of the photo on our viewers.

Interesting Photos Have a Hidden Story

When you talk with your friends or other photographers about photographs that you enjoy, you are always able to tell the story of why you appreciate the particular photographs.

This story usually explains both the conditions in which the photo was created and the way in which it was taken.

Do a quick analysis and you'll see that even for the so-called shock pictures that are worth a thousand words, you will appreciate their associated stories.

Through experience, we have learned that the artistic photos we sold best had a story that we explained to our clients.

A Story Reinforces Impact

When someone appreciates one of your photos, the first criterion of their evaluation or analysis involves the initial impact it had upon them. The viewer is hooked because he feels a special connection at the sight of your photo. This is what I call the "Wow" effect. This impact is indefinable, non-quantifiable, and not explicable. It is a personal feeling; each person feels a different impact.

Your photographic technique, regardless of its expert quality, will have no effect on this initial impact.

If you know how to tell a beautiful story about a photograph or a series, you will reinforce this impact. The story will allow the viewer to gain a deeper connection with the image each time he sees it. He will never forget the image once he has that personal connection.

When presented with a story, your photograph will exist not only on paper but also in the mind of every person who appreciated it. This creates a group of individuals with a shared experience of viewing the image.

The story enables you to create an interesting nature photograph.

A Beautiful Story Affirms Differences

You may have realized that creating interesting nature photographs is challenging.

The number of photographers has greatly increased in recent decades. Creativity remains one of the best ways to affirm your differences and yet stand apart from the crowd.

Telling a beautiful story is also an effective tool of distinguishing yourself from others because each story is different.

When you propose a series of photographs for an exhibition, gallery, festival or photo contest, the choice of your story will influence the impact of your image upon the audience.

Dreams: The Heart of a Story

Do not think that stories are only for kids. Every person has a dream, regardless of age.

It is important to take a break from the hubbub of life and wander into your imagination.

To understand why we need to dream, just think back to your childhood or teenage years. It really wasn’t as long ago as you may think.

When you were young, you certainly did not have to worry about your daily life. Your parents took care of it for you. You were fed, clothed, and sheltered. Most likely, your only concerns at the time were to make good grades at school and spend time with friends.

However, you enjoyed stories, whether they were presented in movies or books, or told by a friend.

Today, you are an adult. Your concerns are most likely centered on your professional activities, your family, and your home. Moreover, you feel concerned by the countless problems of the world due to the media feeding you negative information daily. Even if you cannot do anything about a difficult situation or problem presented through the media, your mind still dwells upon it, weighing your spirit down.

Fortunately, a temporary way to escape this secular noise is to experience stories, which will help you to escape your daily life and dream.

Everyone around you has exactly the same needs, even if we fulfill those needs differently. In our society, we have the same concerns, which is why when you tell a story through your photographs, the audience will be captivated. If your photo helps your viewer to dream, its qualitative value will increase because it is more interesting.

Telling a story is a form of illumination. It causes the photo to gain significance.

An Example of Photographic Storytelling

To Read the Next Part of the Article, Click Here.
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Why and How Mastering Masses in Nature Photography

When you create a nature photograph, you must be very attentive to the balance of the masses or you will have a bad photo.

This concept of mass is very important and even essential because it improves and facilitates the reading of your photographs.

This photograph of a red deer stag during the bugle is balanced in masses. No area is swinging in one direction or the other.
This photograph of a red deer stag during the bugle is balanced in masses. No area is swinging in one direction or the other.

Definition of the Photographic Mass

A mass is not measured in kilograms or in pounds alone. In nature photography, the mass is an essential element to master to create balanced photos that will attract the eye of the viewer to the point of interest.

There is no unit like for the physical mass a unit to measure a photographic mass. It is more a feeling in the visual aspect of a photograph.
In a nature photograph, the large photographic elements weigh more heavily photographically than smaller ones.

Dark photographic elements weigh more than clear photographic elements.

The Effects of Mass in a Composition

During our nature photography workshops, we often use the analogy with a Roman scale to analyze if a photograph is well balanced with the masses.

For example, if we see a dark mass in the left part of a photo and there is none in the right part, we say that the photo is unbalanced. The photo seems to lean to the left. Aesthetically, it is not beautiful because the eye of the viewer will automatically go to this mass and his eyes will go down as if he was attracted by gravity. He will not look at the points of interest immediately. The ideal with this analogy of the Roman balance is to have two masses that counterbalance in a photo.

Of course, as usual, there are exceptions to this general rule that we apply. A small photographic element will not necessarily cause a mass imbalance.

The arrangement of photographic elements in a composition is important as we have explained in this article.

Let suppose that the center of the scene corresponds to a pressure point. If a photographic element with a heavy mass is located to the left of the pressure point and if a lightweight element is located on the right, it seems like an imbalance: it is an optical effect.

Role of Positive and Negative Space in Mass Management

In a photograph, the masses have a close relationship with negative and positive spaces. They do not just serve to judge an image as we have described in this article, but they have an essential balance role.

In a photograph the positive space is the space where photographic elements exist with forms.

Negative space as we have described in this article, is the empty space around these forms. Just to remind you, the negative space is the space that surrounds the point of interest of a photograph.

For example, in the picture of a silhouette of an animal, the negative space is the background.

Negative space has an essential function in a photograph: it ensures balance. It allows the eyes of the viewer to relax.

Negative space can be a neutral or contrasting background. It allows you to direct your gaze towards the main point of interest.

The proper placement of shapes in relation to the negative space around them is essential to facilitate the reading of a photograph. This is how we ensure a good balance of the masses.

The absence of content, so of forms, and consequently of mass, does not mean the absence of interest. On the contrary. The negative space can give a completely different view if it is well chosen.

This is for this reason that you must choose the photographic point of view for a scene of nature. This choice ensures a good balance of the masses. The remoteness of the centers of interest makes it possible to assign them a smaller mass.

Quelques exemples de photos avec des déséquilibres de masse

This photograph of a swan taking-off shows a mass imbalance with the dark area at the top.
This photograph of a swan taking-off shows a mass imbalance with the dark area at the top.
This photograph of a Little Egret presents several mass imbalances.
This photograph of a Little Egret presents several mass imbalances.

Some Rules

The strongest interests in a scene always have more mass than others.

Regular shapes have more weight than irregular shapes.

In the western world, the elements on the right side of an asymmetric photograph have more weight than similarly sized elements on the left.

In a photograph, you must be careful how to direct the gaze of living beings. For example, an animal moving in a direction, but its gaze is directed in the opposite direction can cause an imbalance of the masses. You always must monitor the movements of certain shapes in a scene.

Finally

Mastering the masses in the composition of a photograph is essential to ensure a good balance of the whole scene. In artistic photography, this is a fundamental concept.

Mismanagement of the masses can lead to complete disinterest by a viewer because his eyes will not go to the essential points of interests.

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Why and How Finalizing the Creation of Artistic Photographs – Part 2

Click Here to Read the Part I of the Article.
Landscape in black and white of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Landscape in black and white of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Do Not Hesitate to Frame Your Works

The third phase for the preparation of a photo exhibition concerns the choice of the frames. A frame is not needed to showcase a work. For an exhibition at a festival that usually lasts only a few days, it is not useful because framing represents a high cost. In addition, an exhibition during a festival generates little or no sales. Most visitors come for a walk. They are not here to buy. There is no need to spend money because the return on investment is almost zero for most exhibitors.

However, for an exhibition in a gallery, framing correctly is essential. The frame is like the case when offering a jewel. It is going to highlight the artwork. It will give it a lot of value.
I attach great importance to the framing of my photographic artworks. A badly chosen frame is a work that will not interest anyone. It will not sell.

Choosing a beautiful frame requires a lot of experience. It must consider the tones of the photograph. If you exhibit a series, all photos must have the same tones. Indeed, all frames will be identical. Better to ensure great consistency.

If you do not have skills in this area, it is better to contact a professional framer. He will advise you and help you choose the best frames. For example, the more lightweight a frame, the more expensive it is. Today, wooden frames are very expensive, but they are elegant. Most photographers choose resin frames. They have less character than a wooden frame, but they are much cheaper.

Prefer Large Format

The finalization can be realized either by an exhibition with prints on paper, by a book or by a slide show.

The paper is certainly for me the best support for photographs. It will last in time.

For your prints do not hesitate to think big with a size of at least 24 by 36 inches (60 by 90 centimeters). The viewers will be forced to look at the distance because the bigger a work is in size, the more you need to step back to appreciate it.

A printed work with a small size forces the viewer to get very close. In this case, he will observe the details and forget to look at the work as a whole.

A Book: A Possible Option to Finalize the Writing of a Series

The creation of a book is a very interesting solution for producing a material work from photographs. Today many online services offer to make a book with photo paper quality. Do not hesitate to put a high price for a beautiful book.

A low price is the guarantee of a layout and a minimal color management. A high price on the contrary, guarantees a good management of the colors and the lights, a beautiful binding and a more personalized work.

The ideal is to test several services to find the one that suits you best. If you are lucky to have a laboratory near you, take the opportunity to meet the technicians because you can better explain what you expect from your book. In general, a book of 24 photos is worth a hundred dollars (a hundred euros) for a quality work.

The first step in creating a book is determining the format: square, rectangular, ratio between height and length. It is crucial because the format is the case of the photos of the book.

The second step is the choice of the layout. In general, online publishing services offer proprietary software for creating the book. The advantage is that they are simple to use. The disadvantage is the book created cannot be exported to be printed with a competing service. For my part, I use specialized software that allows me to generate valid PDF files for any publisher.

The third step is choosing the title and fonts that will be used for the text. This is critical because a well-chosen font will attract many readers for easy and enjoyable reading.

Finally, it will be the choice of the cover. A good cover will immediately attract a potential reader. It must be carefully chosen.

Competition: A Possible Choice to Finalize the Writing of a Series

The photo contest is another alternative for you to finalize the writing of a photo or of a photo series.

Here, I only consider competitions that require a print on paper and the presentation of a finalized work.

Contests with digitally formatted works may be interesting but they do not reflect the end of a work. For me, a photo only exists if it is printed.

I described in this article, the interest for a photographer to participate in competitions. It is more a way to evaluate your skills from other photographers than to really convey a message or express emotions.

Before entering a contest, you must always read the rules to properly meet the selection criteria.

Then, you must make sure of the use of the proposed photograph. Competitions have become over time a way for many communities to create a stock at a lower cost.

Often you must give the right to use your photos for an unlimited period. The photos are then used for advertising. In return, the competitions offer a first price that is limited to a pubic exhibition. As much to say it, it is very profitable for the organizers but not especially for the photographer.

The competition can allow you to show your vision of the world and share your messages with a large number of people. But be sure you reach the right one. Check if the public is going to appreciate your artworks at its value.

I think that more and more competitions flatter the ego of the participating photographers without really bringing this magical touch procured the writing and the photographic language.

Finally

The finalization of a photographic project is a necessity for you. This is the culmination of a long process that began with the definition of your photographic consciousness, an artistic approach, then a real project.

Realize a photo project with either an exhibition or a book is a great source of satisfaction that will motivate you to continue.

Even though we are artists, we need recognition and motivation to keep moving forward.

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