I've had the pleasure of seeing my photography work show up in national ad campaigns, television network websites, magazines, and more. It's always exciting to see your work published somewhere and, most recently, I was awarded a five-page layout in a famous German photography magazine. The publication, Pictures Magazine, likes to showcase creative photographic work from photographers around the world and they not only asked if they could publish some of my work, but if I could write an article for the magazine as well! They told me that the magazine generally targets new professional photographers as well as amateurs wanting to expand upon their photographic knowledge and creativity so they asked me if I could write about how to think like a creative photographer thinks. Since most of my readers of this blog probably do not speak German, I wanted to reprint the article here, in English. I hope you enjoy it!
Pictures Magazine, February 2012 Cover – Cover Photo by Glyn Dewis
Shot from atop the Marina Sands Hotel - Singapore
I’ve been a professional photographer in Las Vegas for over a decade but I took to photography at a very young age. My father, an amateur photographer himself, was my inspiration as a child and I always had a fascination with cameras and taking pictures. Through the 80’s and 90’s I experimented with a wide variety of film cameras and I became a recognizable customer at my local photo processing store. While there was always a certain mystique in shooting to film…never really knowing what your photos would look like until after they were developed, my creativity went to new heights the first time I ever held a digital SLR camera. I’m a believer that every person has a creative skill in at least one thing. For some, it’s music and for others it might be drawing. While I cannot play a note of music nor sketch even a basic stick-figure that would resemble anything living or dead, my creative outlet is a camera and in digital photography, my creativity has limits only by my imagination.
Model Amanda Powell
When I graduated shooting headshots and events, I wanted to start pushing the limits of what I could make my camera do. I used to draw inspiration from creative movie directors such as Steven Spielberg, Luc Besson, and Stanley Kubrick. I would watch their films and was fascinated by their use of angles, of color, of their incredible attention to detail. I would often watch their movies over and over again and take snapshots in my mind of some of their scenes and think how I could recreate that look on a limited budget and without hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment at my disposal. It didn’t take long before I started looking at the world around me in a different way. Everywhere I went, I started looking at the world around me as one giant palette of still images in motion. It’s a habit that I still possess to this day.
Models Jessenia Fernandez and "Painless" Wayne
A few weeks ago I was doing an in-studio shoot and a young, amateur photographer was looking through my portfolio. He was asking me questions about what lens I used for a certain shot or how I did a particular retouching effect in Photoshop when he asked something that really caught my attention. He pointed to a photo and asked, “How did you do this?”, referring to the photo of Jessenia being tattooed by Painless Wayne. I started explaining, “I used two large silver reflectors with a Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 lens…” when he interrupted me: “No, no…How did you ever get the IDEA to shoot this?” A huge grin appeared on my face, as those are the questions I really love to talk about! So that said, I’ll pass along to you a few of the suggestions I did to him about how to start getting those creative juices flowing in your photographic mind:
TOP: Models: Madelon Cullen (Robin), Mariah McBride (Batgirl), Jes Castor (Cat Woman), Robert Runkle (Joker), Sarah Jane Woodall (Poison Ivy), Lisa J. (Harley Quinn). BELOW: Model: Kitty LaRose, Makeup: Tai Shane
Know the limitations of your equipment. If you aren’t currently shooting with the latest and greatest camera body or the fastest lenses, have no fear. There will always be time to graduate to better equipment, but for now, work to have an intimate relationship with your camera and divert your attention instead to the creative aspects of photography first. I often laugh when I overhear customers in camera or electronic stores say, “I can’t understand why they put all these features into cameras that nobody uses”. I can assure you, if it’s a feature in my camera, I’m going to use it but more importantly, I’m going to know exactly what it does. The more knowledgeable you are as to what your equipment is capable of, or even NOT capable of, the more tools you have at your disposal to get a different type of result.
Reverse engineer your shoot concept. When I’m doing any type of shoot, I always picture in my mind what I want the end result to actually look like. I’m not just talking about in the camera either; I’m talking about the finished product after retouching and adding Photoshop effects. Have a very clear strategy of what you want your photo to look like long before you ever pick up the camera. They say that a picture says a thousand words but as the photographer, you get to choose what those thousand words say. Before your shoot, ask yourself what you want the viewer to take away from viewing your photo. What emotion do you want to convey? What message do you want to send? What story do you want to tell?
Model: Starie Jourdan
Don’t be afraid to be a perfectionist. So often I’ll see a photo of a beautiful model shot against an interesting backdrop with the sun setting behind her only to see cars in traffic in the distance or a piece of rubbish on the beach that is distracting to the overall beauty of the photo. Before you shoot, walk the scene and make sure everything looks “just right”. Don’t settle on having something distracting in the background if you can’t remove it easily in Photoshop later. If you have an unattractive setting for some reason, move to a new one or change your angle. Don’t rush your shots just because you have a model standing there. It will be worth having patience to have a better photo at the end. Sometimes it’s useful to think as a painter or sculptor rather than a photographer. Pay attention to texture and color. Understand that sometimes the most interesting things in a photo may not be obvious when you are first setting up your shot.
Don’t rush your shot and don’t be afraid to experiment a little. Take the same shot at different exposures, different depths of field, maybe do the photo as an HDR also. Shoot a wide variety of different compositions too. The beauty behind digital photography is that it’s not only cheap to shoot, but also what you see on a computer monitor back at your home or studio may look different than on the tiny screen on the back of your camera so you should never find yourself having regrets later for not getting a certain shot when you had the opportunity to do so.
Many photographers never are able to imagine the world past their own eye level and that’s tragic. Remember, we live in a 3-dimensional world so don’t be afraid to hold your camera over your head or get on your knees to get an interesting shot. You’ll often surprise yourself at the result. On every shoot you do, push your limits or skills farther than the shoot before it. Never be afraid to try something new!
Never stop reading, learning, or educating yourself. The fact that you are reading Pictures Magazine is an excellent sign that you want to improve your artistry as a photographer but remember to actually experiment with what you are learning too. Some say that knowledge is power but I disagree…taking action is power, so don’t be afraid to pick up your camera once in a while and shoot something you’ve never shot before or shoot in a way that you haven’t thought of in the past. Creativity leads to more creativity so the most important lesson, above all else, is have fun shooting!