Why and How Mastering Technique to Create Art Photos
The creation of artistic photographs requires a perfect mastery of the technical environment. Over time, technique will become secondary because creativity will become the priority for a photographer. Nevertheless, it is always essential to build solid foundations when constructing an artistic photograph.
What is Technique in Artistic Photography?
In art photography, the word “technique” is a general term that concerns both the shooting equipment and accessories, as well as the methods used to calculate exposure, field depth, and the management of a sharp and crisp photo. The technique also includes methods of developing, printing, and framing artistic photos.
Learning to master technique in art photography requires many years of personal learning experiences. Many of these trials may be crowned with the tiara of success, however there are also many frustrating failures.
I am fortunate to have mastered three very different photographic themes: landscape photography, wildlife photography, and underwater photography. It has taken years for me to acquire this level of dexterity as professional photographers, and I continue to learn regularly by participating in two workshops per year. For me, it is crucial to never cease broadening my horizons in the field of artistic photography.
Although each of the photographic themes has its specificities, it is obvious that there remains one essential technique that is woven throughout my work.
An artistic photographer is obliged to limit his field of action to certain genres so as not to get lost in the maze of technique. Indeed, learning and development consume time and energy in great quantities.
An artistic photographer must never forget that the most essential element for him is his creative ability to recognize photographic works that stand out for uniqueness and quality. This technique is a toolbox when constructing new works as well.
The Technical Elements Common in Every Photographic Theme
Regardless of the photographic theme envisaged, the following technical elements are common. A photographer must:
- Know which equipment is best suited for his or her personal needs: cameras, lenses, etc. Some may prefer light devices because of their mobility. Some may prefer fixed focal lengths; and others may prefer the ability to zoom in and out of ranges. Everything is a matter of personal choice. There is no perfect solution.
- Know how to perfectly and properly use the equipment in the field. Trying to learn how to operate equipment as you are on the field is too late and will cause a major setback. This technical learning must occur before the real shots on the field take place.
- Know how to perfectly measure and navigate the parameters of a specific exposure, and the specific effects upon each photo when the settings are adjusted. For example, it is essential to know how to accurately calculate a zone of sharpness, or the distance of a hyperfocal plane, or fully understanding the limits of noise in certain shooting situations.
- Know the differences between what the human eyes see and what a camera captures through the lens. A 24x36 format camera does not look at all like a 16x24 (APS-C) camera, which is entirely different from a 6x6 medium format.
- Know how to photograph in JPEG, TIFF, DNG, or RAW, and know the differences between the four recording formats. For example, the JPEG does not allow for a photographer to adjust the white balance development, while a RAW format does. This is just one example among many.
- Know how to evaluate an exposure during shots. Digital cameras have many tools for controlling exposure and when shooting frames. These tools are indispensable and can help to avoid big mistakes.
- Know all the techniques of development on computer perfectly. Development software are very numerous and require vast amounts of time to master. No software is perfect. Each has its own unique specificities. As with materials, a photographer must determine which ones are best suited for his practices. In this mastery, I also integrate the interpolation to create photos in large format.
- Know all the different techniques to print photos. For me, a photographic work only exists from the moment it is printed on paper. Each photo genre has its own quality of paper, its own inks. For example, a color photograph does not require the same prerequisites as a black and white photo.
- Know how to properly frame a photographic work with the choice of a frame and a mat.
The Specific Technical Elements for Each Photographic Theme
It would take too long to develop the different technical elements needed to tackle a certain photographic theme. For example, my knowledge of the different underwater housings and underwater flashes is necessary for underwater photography. In wildlife photography, a good tripod is needed as well as an excellent gimbal head. The list of technical elements to be used in every scenario is honestly too long to be mentioned here.
When an artistic photographer chooses one theme to express himself in, he must focus on listing the specific gear for his activity. He must then study each element to determine if it is adapted for his needs. If this analysis is not properly conducted, he will waste both money and energy because in this new field, problems will arise at the expense of his creativity. It is better to spend time at the beginning, solely focusing on shooting in the field, and discerning whether it is an appropriate theme.
A photographer who wishes to create photos of art must perfectly comprehend and master each technical element that is inherent in the photographic field he has chosen. With this vast amount of acquired knowledge, he will then save time when shooting on the field. He will be able to express his creativity to convey his messages and emotions through his photographs, without being inhibited by technical barriers as a result of a weak grasp of concept. I am aware that this is a time-consuming, energy-consuming activity that is not always worthy of interest. Nevertheless, it is truly an indispensable step in the process of constructing art photographs.
Be humble, patient, constant, persevering, and persistent because the road to excellence is long.