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A creative blog on The Whole 9

The Photography Blog is written by members of The Whole 9 Creative Photography Circle. For a short “bio” on today’s contributor, scroll down to the bottom of the blog. Enjoy! – Mike Hayward, editor

Simple Principles for Great Photographs

by Mike Hayward, Editor, The Whole 9 Photography Blog
It leaves me holding my breath… Two blogs in the same week.  Sometimes I don’t know what I’m thinking.

  • Well, yes, I do.  Reading through my weekly influx of photography newsletters (IR-Newslleter,  Strobist,  PhotoInduced,  Simon Plant’s ProPhotoInsights,  Photoshelter, Jim Caper’s Lensculture,  Darren Rowse’s Digital Photograph School’s New Photography Tips,  Photoradar) gets me to thinking – thinking about styles, techniques, and talent that I can only aspire to.
Someone will say, “Well, yeah, Mike…  But you can do more than aspire.  You can study them and then get out there and try to duplicate that world of photographic techniques, all those styles, and talent! Dammit, Mike! Get out there!”  To which I reply, “Well, yeah… I will.  Right after I finish sorting through all my photo newsletters and reading the ones that really look interesting (which is pretty much all of them).”
Just as a tease, one of my recent newsletters led to a web site that introduced me to a new world of image manipulation that (to me) is both exciting and almost beyond belief.  I’m going to give the techniques a go within the next few days and will report back here on this blog on what I discovered (show-ad-tell).  IF it’s what I think it is,  it might just blow your mind.  The working title for the Blog is “Shoot like Degas… Or  Klimt… or Picasso!”
Me…  I’m thinking I’ll be going for Klimt.
Coming soon, look for it.
But I digress.  Let’s talk about the simple things…  like the principles of capturing great images.  Being the astute and knowledgeable photographers I know we all are, I’m sure you’ve thought about this precept once or twice before.  What do you need, what do you have to do to get Great images? (There, I’ve capitalized the word with a capital ‘G‘.)
I invite you to contribute your thoughts with the following caveats:
1.  Keep it simple – try to say something fundamental and made of iron at the same time.
2. Okay, you have something to say other than offering one simple, fundamental principle you think makes an image Great.  You have something to say.  Who am I to deny you?  Go ahead, rant or ramble.
3.  Sure, you’ve got more to contribute than just one simple-but-Great suggestion to offer.  I expect this.  Please make subsequent suggestions as separate comments.
What I hope to do is put all these tips and ideas (attributed!) into one Photography Blog and post it in the days to come.
As always, I appreciate your thoughts and contributions.  Thank you.
Image credits, top to bottom:

Lunch atop a skyscraper. Charles C. Ebetts

Tiananmen Square,  Stuart Franklin/Magnum (Franklin has confessed that he was angry with this guy standing in front of the line of tanks… He said the guy totally messed up the shot he was after.)

Winston Churchill (taken immediately after the photographer had unceremoniously yanked Churchill’s cigar from his mouth), Yousuf Karsh

Albert Einstein, Arthur Sasse, c.Bettman/Corbis

Ali-Liston Fight, (“Rumble in the jungle?”), Neil Leifer

Afghan Woman,  Kevin McCurry, National Geographic

  1. Well a couple simple observations, partially based on the images you posted: You don’t need photoshop. You don’t necessarily need a great camera. You do need to have your eyes open, be willing to explore and take risks and most importantly, recognize the ‘decisive moment’ when it appears and be ready to capture it.

  2. Simple observation #6- If you’re going to photograph people at close range, it helps if they trust you.

  3. Love the humor, Mike…and great to see you here twice in one week. I don’t know what you’re thinking, but I’m thinking that you Rock!

  4. I turned around and there it was, the great shot. Dangerousideas is absolutely spot on. Capturing “the moment” is simple in concept but difficult in execution. The ability of recognition and technicalities of photography must be in perfect harmony for a fraction of a second.

  5. More often then not as both Dangerousideas and Cameron have mentioned it becomes about the “decisive moment.”

    Open to any opportunity that may present itself and yes it does help to be friendly.

  6. Speaking of “decisive moments” every time I think of those moments on the subject of photography Jim Brandenberg always comes to mind. You see, Brandenburg was a contract photographer for National Geographic that for years was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his own work and how editorial photography works in general. He felt that he was wasting so much time, effort, and film trying to snap the perfect shot that he was losing the eye for finding single shot subjectivity. That, rather than trying to take one nice photo of a flower, he would take two or three rolls of film of the same flower and just pick the best shot out of the rolls. So he gave himself a challenge. 90 days in the forest around his cabin between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice where he only allowed himself to take three rolls of film and one camera which allowed him one picture a day. One picture a day for 90 days, to see if anything usable would come out of it. Well, all 90 photographs ended up being fantastic, published, and became his book Chased By The Light. Since then he’s dedicated himself to taking fewer but better pictures by letting the choices he makes be made first by the subject matter, and then leaving the rest up to his trust in his equipment and his trigger finger. Now that is decisive.

  7. An interesting and highly readable post, grool. Thanks.

  8. @grool- I like the idea of fewer and better and, contrary to many photographers I know, actually practice it. But that’s due to more than a philosophical stance; it’s due to my film background. One of the negative results of digital photography and its capacity to shoot 1000s of images on a single card, has been to make many photographers a lot lazier and much more indiscriminate. Being a film photographer forces you to be selective. Film is expensive and bulky. Developing and printing is time consuming and costly. Changing a roll every 36 shots, a pain. Makes you think carefully before pulling the trigger. One positive thing I can say for digital in this regard, however, is that it allows for a lot more experimentation. There’s something to be said for not having to be stingy just because of cost and storage limitations.

  9. Working primarily in event photography, I have learned that my best “shot” will be my second or third shot. In event photography, you can (1) plan a shot, (2) grab a shot, or (3) wait for the shot. Regardless of which category you find yourself tripping the shutter, the action is typically moving through a time-space continuum in which things are constantly changing – often in ways the photographer cannot predict. While natural lighting meant everything to the success of his images, Ansel Adams didn’t climb the hills of Yosemite, frame the image, expose the plate, and then go home.

    Principle: The best image you’re going to get is the next image you take.

  10. There’s no question that when you’re in a fast moving situation, you have to shoot first and worry about perfect framing, exposure, etc. later. You do the best you can but the most important thing is to not miss the shot. Being in the best position is helpful (requires advance ning, even if you only have 5 minutes, and understanding the photographic pros and cons of the different positions available). Being in the right position can often make the difference between getting a great shot, an acceptable shot or no shot. Having the best equipment for the job is also a great advantage; the right camera(s), tripod, lenses, flashes, motor-drives (digital burst rates) and so on. But the most important thing is to have great reflexes, total control of your camera without having to think about it and the ability to quickly adapt to whatever happens. Being able to see like a lizard; scoping the environment with one eye while tracking and framing your subject through the lens with the other is also a plus!

  11. I wasn’t going to bring this up, but since you did, I have to say I am
    “The Lord of The Ning.” Not many people know this. Yet.

  12. Ha, ha, ha… lol (“planning’ was wut it wuz, and a pox upon no edit uttons). But I like it, I like it a lot, and with that Brownie in hand and phut-bulb at ready, you are indeed, “The Lord of the Nings”!

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