In my “What Should I Write About” poll, Neil Creek asked me what my weakest area of photography is and how I plan to improve it. That's a pretty deep question, and it really made me think about my photos and what I'm trying to convey.
Picking out your own strong points may be a difficult task, but picking out your own weak points is near impossible. I would expect people to fall into one of two camps on this: too self critical, or not critical enough. I'm actually having a hard time narrowing my weak spots down to one, so I'll break this discussion into two parts: technical and artistic.
This one is actually easy for me to identify because every time I encounter it I dread having to deal with it. I'm talking about the dreaded off camera artificial lighting (flashes, strobes, studio lights, etc). I'm very much a natural light photographer, but I encounter situations that could benefit from a better understanding of lighting techniques and equipment.
Part of what's holding me back is the fact that off camera lighting requires equipment. Buying that equipment requires knowledge and understanding of how it works and what it can do. Using that equipment requires an even deeper understanding of how it works and how to control it.
HOW I PLAN TO IMPROVE
First of all, I need some equipment. Right now I have one slave flash, but I'd like to get something that offers a little more control and flexibility. I'd like to have a one or two light setup that can be taken out in the field if needed. I like the idea of things like soft boxes, umbrellas, reflectors, etc, but I'm not sure which ones would be most useful in a wider array of applications. I'm open to taking suggestions from those of you who know more about this stuff than I do.
While I save up some money for that equipment (which means I'll have to stop buying new film cameras), I suppose I could brush up on my Strobist education. I've also been following Jim Talkington and his lighting videos lately, which are actually getting me more interested in the concept of off-camera lighting.
Once I've done my research and acquired my equipment, it's just a matter of practice practice practice.
This one is a little harder to define for me. I think the biggest thing I'd like to improve upon is my ability to capture and convey the emotion of a scene. Do you ever come across those photos that strike you emotionally? You know, the stuff that really hits you, makes you ponder life, stirs your emotions, and conveys a message.
In looking back at my own work, I can see little bits and pieces of this sort of thing, but not on a consistent basis and not at full force. Many times, I attribute these types of shots to dumb luck. Often times, while viewing a particular scene, I can feel a certain emotion due to my surroundings. I have a mental vision of how I'd like to capture that scene, but I often fall short of telling the whole story the way I saw it with my eyes. Am I making any sense here?
HOW I PLAN TO IMPROVE
I think this sort of thing is something that comes with lots of time and even more practice. I've been heavy into photography for a relatively short time when compared to the old masters. I'm sure that their ability to convey emotion was something that had to develop over time. So I guess I'll just keep shooting and see what happens.
One other thing I've noticed is that my photos of people seem to have a stronger emotional connection than those without. Not that it's impossible to create a striking image without the presence of people, but I think we naturally have a stronger connection to people shots. Including people in my photos (whether it's portraits, candids, or street photography) is something I've been trying to do more of lately. I'm at a stage where I'm getting comfortable with candids and street photography, but I'd like to progress to a point of getting a little more intimate with the subjects and making a connection with the camera.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
What is your weakest aspect of photography? Is it something technical? Or is it something more artistic? And what do you plan to do to improve yourself in this area? Please do share your thoughts on this one — I'm sure many of us have the same weaknesses and aspirations as photographers.