Photo Notes A place to talk about making images.

September 3, 2009

Making and Taking

Filed under: Looking at Photographs,Photography Communication — John Siskin @ 12:02 pm

Charlie C.Years ago I heard that photography is the most popular hobby in the world. I suppose that is still true. What that means is that a whole lot of people take a whole lot of pictures. The key word in the last sentence is take. Most people using cameras see something that interests them, point and shoot. The photographs made this way enable the taker to bring back memories of the moment that are vivid and meaningful. The images become a diary of the takers experience. This is an incredibly important use for photography. Still there are difficulties with these images: most importantly they are personal. They rarely communicate effectively to anyone but the shooter. So you’ve taken a photograph of your child at the beach, when you see it you remember the vivid blue of the water the hot sand and the sounds of the day. When I see it I see an overexposed mess.

What is it that makes someone a photographer, rather than a picture taker? First a photographer makes pictures

Strong side light creates a good feeling of shape

Strong side light creates a good feeling of shape

rather than takes them. One of the most important skills for making a photograph is pre-visualization. Basically the process of seeing the scene and then seeing the way the photograph should look. Then you make the photograph using the tools that will enable you to make the photograph you visualized. Ansel Adams discussed this process of pre-visualization extensively, primarily referencing tools of exposure and development. There are other important tools, some of them unavailable to Adams. The tools I use most in making a shot are lighting, exposure and position. After the shot I do more work with exposure and use filtration, contrast and saturation. The key is that I think about all these tools, and sometimes a few more, as I am making the pictures. It is also important to have the tools that enable me to make the picture I see. So I almost always have lights, often battery powered 200 watt-second strobes, more powerful than proprietary strobes. I think that lights is the most powerful tools in my kit, my control of lighting enables me to make photographs others can’t. Lights are important, not just in the studio, but at most locations also. I teach lighting because I want to enable others to make better pictures. I hope you’ll consider taking one of my classes, to learn about making pictures.

An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio

Business to Business: Commercial Photography

Please check out the rest of my site ( to see more photographs I’ve made and for more information.

Thanks, John

Here the strobe opens up the face, back light would otherwise make the face dark.

Here the strobe opens up the face, back light would otherwise make the face dark.

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