Why Creating Interesting Photos is so Difficult
Every day, tens of millions of photographs are created throughout the world. All social strata, that is, the diversity of culture, is affected by this photographic phenomenon which is an unprecedented wave. For example, selfies, which used to be called self-portraits, have become a real wonder to society: everyone can stage themselves at any moment in life.
Yet the number of interesting photos is very limited. As professional photographer, I spend a lot of time each day on my computer or in exhibitions to seek inspiration from other photographers. It has become a time-consuming task since the number of photos is gigantic, yet few are truly inspiring.
The main reason is that photographers continue to use old patterns day after day, thus limiting fresh ideas. The subject of the photo may have changed, but the perspective and techniques have not.
The Famous « Decisive Moment »
When I learned photography with a film camera, I continued to hear the same refrain: Only the shooting counts. Everything happens on the stage. You have to know when to choose the right moment to press the trigger of the camera.
This is the famous "decisive moment" mentioned by photographer Henri Cartier Bresson in the preface to his album "Images à la sauvette" published in 1952. This concept defines the exact moment when the photographer presses the trigger and captures an image. That exact moment will capture a single image which might never happen again in the same way. Each photograph is completely unique.
To grasp these decisive moments, Henri Cartier Bresson had defined a strategy of approach on the field: the discovery of the decisive moment. It is divided into four points:
Searching: Meeting, strolling, wandering in the streets, in the countryside; there will always be an unusual situation that will occur.
Looking:Those who make photos undoubtedly have an advantage of perspective: the practice of photography allows to develop a precious sense of observing. Do we see as others do? Although a situation may go unnoticed by an ordinary individual, that same situation may captivate a photographer.
Waiting:Sometimes it is intuition that suggests that something will happen. This is a presentiment which often creates superb images.
Luck: Does it have a say or not? It is rather the photographer who provokes it.
Henri Cartier Bresson summarized his method with the following phrase:
"I walked all day, my mind strained, searching in the streets to take pictures as blatant misdemeanors. Above all, I wanted to capture in a single image the essence of a scene that was emerging."
In Digital Photography: "the decisive moment is no longer enough"
The emergence of digital cameras has allowed a great democratization of photography. At the beginning of this digital age, photographers used compact cameras and SLRs. In recent years, smart phones and tablets have supplanted traditional cameras and have made it possible for many people, even if they have no skill in photographic techniques, to make interesting shots.
Simplifying the use of digital cameras has made people think that they are able to make good pictures just by pressing the shutter button.
Often photographers think they create unique pictures, simply by applying the concept of "the decisive moment". However, not everyone is named Henri Cartier Bresson, and his description of searching, looking, waiting, and provoking chance actually hides vastly deeper concepts which contain a true photographic vision.
Today, millions of photos are posted every day on social networks or on websites. Few are really interesting and those that are, are often similar.
Why? Because many current photographers still have in mind the words of Cartier Bresson. Few of them wonder what the creation of an interesting photograph is.
The "few seconds stolen to eternity" by Robert Doisneau
Another phrase has always guided me when I learned photography using a film camera. It was said by the French photographer Robert Doisneau who said:
« to have chipped only a few seconds to the eternity. And the eternity, for a photographer is made only of hundredths of a second. »
This phrase has always moved me deeply. It took me years to realize that in the decisive moment, it was no longer enough to create interesting digital photos. The world has evolved greatly, and it took me a lot of time to understand it.
This the reason why I have developed my working method based on 5 strong points.
The Five Main Steps of Creating Interesting Photos
As professional photographers, I defined five essential steps in the process of creating a photo:
- Definition of a real photographic project. This essential step allows the photographer to wonder why he is going to make photos. It will give a meaning to his work. Today, many photographers simply make technically correct photos without trying to create series or collections. The definition of a project is a complex intellectual approach because many parameters will define the scenario: the choice of field, the species to be photographed (in the case of a wildlife project), the choice of lights, etc. It is a famous story board which will define the photographer’s tale through imaginary concepts.
- Shooting. This step shows the development of the photographer's personal and artistic vision. Not only does it require a knowledge of technical skills in the use of the camera, but it also demands a selective approach to framing and composing. The photographer must shoot his photos with a technical vision in mind. It is in this stage that the concept of Cartier Bresson’s "decisive moment" occurs.
- Editing. This step consists of selecting photos which will be used for the realization of the photographic project. With the rise of the digital age, the number of photos explodes exponentially. Yet the choice of the number of shots is limited. One many use twenty photos for an exhibition, ten photos for a book, or one hundred photos for a video slide show. This phase of selecting which photographs to use is often overlooked by many photographers. Unfortunately, the result is the creation of a series of photographs without a vision, without a story in mind.
- Post processing. Even in the age of film camera and especially when I used black and white, I spent a lot of time in the famous dark room. The effects I could create were relatively small. Nowadays, with the software available on my computer, post-processing has become absolutely necessary to create original photographic works whether for color or black and white. This step requires a lot of skills and an extensive background of knowledge.
- Production of the photographic work. This final stage is the one which will finalize the project. It can be an exhibition with prints, creation of a book, or a video/slideshow. When the photographer’s magnificent story is laid out before the eyes of its viewer, the work will be judged at that precise moment.
For me, as professional photographer, these five essential steps are part of my daily work. Thinking and introspection is the price of producing interesting photographs for my clients.
Although I have arrived in the digital age, many photographers still think in the mindset of a photographer who uses film camera, thus remaining solely anchored to the “decisive moment” of Cartier Bresson or “the second stolen to the eternity” of Doisneau. This is a big mistake. The photographer of the digital age should expand his or her horizons and not be afraid to let go of old patterns. The photographer of today should embrace new techniques and methods, for it is through a new perspective that interesting photos are created.
I have spent years understanding and changing my methods of artistic work. It takes a lot of time and labor to make interesting creations. But how many photographers are really willing to pay the price?
Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.