When I moved to Florida, I needed to find something to get me behind the camera regularly, so I took up concert photography. With lots of advice and help from Alan Hess (whose new book you should order), I made the leap into the world of high ISOs, slow shutter speeds, long nights, and tight spaces between rowdy crowds and sweaty rock bands. And I loved it!
Shooting concerts has helped me learn more about how I see, and to develop my vision. Through shooting regularly, I’ve been able to find my style, and to hone in on the type of lighting scenarios I enjoy having in front of my lenses the most. I’ve learned where to position the camera in relation to the light to get certain effects, like lens flare, in shots. It’s taught me how to tweak settings in post production to get the most impact out of the images. It’s opened my eyes to complementing and contrasting colors. To the impact of showing a full range of coverage, from close-up detail shots to wide coverage The list goes on.
Fast forward a couple years to today. I still love concert photography, and plan on continuing to do it. But this year I’m going making an effort to transition more into portrait photography. That doesn’t mean I won’t be bringing part of my concert photography with me, however.
Through honing my vision, I hope to bring a unique take on portraiture. By translating certain aspects from the stage to the studio, I plan on exploring new possibilities (to me anyway) in portrait photography. Thanks to all the lessons learned above, I have ideas sloshing around loosely in my head that I’m noodling on, trying to figure out how that translation is going to look when it arrives in the studio.
Can I make studio strobes mimic the effects of stage lighting?
Can I make a large empty warehouse look like a dance club?
Will anyone notice the large brick wall I’ve built where the cyc used to be? ;-)
Like learning any new craft, it’s going to take a little while to find my footing. While I’ve had the honor of working with a couple of the greats in McNally and Kelby, I haven’t had much experience directing subjects from behind the camera on my own. There’s a HUGE difference between being told where to put a light and making the decision of where to put it, much less pulling certain expressions, or more importantly, emotions from a subject. Through years of experience, these guys know how to connect with their subjects, make them feel comfortable, even confident, in front of the lens.
And that’s something that doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s something I’ll have to work on. Which means setting up shoots and having subjects waiting on me to direct them to figure it out. Like I said, I’ve been watching Joe, Scott, and others for years. But there’s a big difference between the water boy and the quarterback… And there are only so many tricks you can pick up from other people before you have to find a way to make them your own.
Which is why it’s important to stay behind the camera, working to make the ideas in your head reality. Even if you don’t get it right on the first try, keep working on it until what’s on the screen matches your mind’s eye. It’s a process, and not something you can learn from a book or video. Those are great for learning the technicalities of photography, but not always for finding your vision.
Vision can’t be taught. It has to be discovered.
And once you’ve discovered your vision, keep feeding it with new work so it can continue to grow and find new possibilities to explore.
So, here’s to a new year, new possibilities, and new goals that will keep pushing us all to grow creatively!