For a number of years I have worked as a waitress. One of our ‘teachings’ as servers was to “be order makers, not order takers.” What this means is that arriving at your table and being satisfied with the basic, “What can I get for you today?” doesn’t cut it. Order makers are the people that make suggestions about an order, ask questions, and take special care. Order makes build bigger checks, develop better customer relationships, and ultimately, earn better tips. In other words, they get better results.
Among other things, this concept applies to photography, too.
Scrolling down the WordPress Reader, I came across the post “You Don’t Take a Photograph, You Make It“, recently published on Through Open Lens, a vibrant photography blog I have been following since first joining WordPress. Coincidentally that was one year ago today. I had a light bulb moment and connected the two ideas together – it makes sense to me.
The best photographers take the time to look at a shot, adjust lighting and other factors, and take special care to get it just right. Photographers are photo makers, not photo takers.
I make many decisions when taking photos, whether I am taking pictures to remember a family function, or photographing an event. Digital camera’s make this job much easier, but there are still differences to be aware of and account for in each scenario.
All photographers have to work with the scene before them, making suggestions about how to best capture it to be remembered later. Photographs tell a story, and paint the scene. If you’re inside it can be dark, or have strange light. If you’re outside it can be too bright. Is the subject moving? What is the best angle to capture the subject from? Maybe there are multiple angles or vantages.
Whenever you use your camera, you are thinking of these things. It can be a long process, resulting in you being left behind while your friends walk ahead. I don’t mind because I am taking the time to get it just right; to obtain the image I have in my mind’s eye.
Different equipment can also help to better achieve a desired end result, such as tripods, various lenses, filters, and flashes. Photo makers ask themselves what equipment and conditions are required to best capture the subject at hand.
Ask Questions = what is the subject? What are conditions? What is goal? Who is audience?
Make Suggestions = take the subject and work with it. Make edits, suggestions, choose a new angle or a new time of day.
Take Special Care = more than just point and shoot. Choose multiple angles. Think outside the box. Use the right equipment.
A Couple of Examples
I really like this photo of a yellow Plumeria flower, captured in Bali. I didn’t just stumble on this flower perched up on the architecture – I put it there. The result was everything I had hoped for, given the colors, the light and the capabilities of the camera I had on hand (camera phone). It’s not much, but it turned out great with my intervention. I find many photos of flowers in general turn out this way. But it’s because flowers mean taking the time to get in close, look from multiple angles, and take all of the shots. Besides, flowers are naturally good subjects, and easy to manipulate. Close up shots in general are good examples of a constructed photograph.
The photos I have included below of dogs in motion are definitely examples of photo making as well. By taking advantage of the natural patterns of the course, it becomes easier to capture the dogs at the right moment as they sail over a jump. Here, I pick and choose my angles very carefully. Because the dogs are moving so quickly, shutter speeds need to be high. Many still turn out blurry, so I take many shots to ensure I get a few great ones. These photos were taken on a bright sunny day, so my shutter speed was cranked anyways, with a low ISO. Some of these photos have also been cropped to cut out background distractions and focus on the subjects – the dogs. Check out more examples of dog photography here.
What are some of your best or favorite constructed photographs? Shared photos will be posted on the blog.