Thursday, November 20, 2008

As Good As Your Heros Without Copying Them

Who wouldn't like to produce an image every bit as good as something one of your heroes made, without simply reproducing it? It's a bit like the "How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall" anecdote. But is there a way to make an image of this quality without simply waiting for it to happen naturally and over time?

I think that if you have the competence to get focus right and produce sharp images and know how to make prints with rich tonality then it should not be that difficult to make an image as good as one you admire. Now, it might not have that little extra magic ingredient that takes an image from admirable to wonderful as I wrote about in my book, but most of us would settle for admirable images on any given day.

So how would you go about making an image as admirable as the one you admire?

Consider the following attributes of the image you admire:

Subject matter - well, you can certainly copy the subject matter since no subject is new, although perhaps you can find an analagous subject which you could treat in a similar way.

I'm at the office and have no access to my files, and perhaps I shouldn't use one of my images as an example, but here goes anyway:

My "ship's bow" images, both the black and white and colour one are often admired so how would you go about making another image as good (hey, I struggle with that too, guys and gals)? The towering ship is about power and threat and force - perhaps you could photograph a locomotive or truck, a building or a machine with similar attributes. Hell, you could even find a person who represents those feelings and photograph them in a similar way.

These two images of mine have particularly strong, simple, bold design - well you might have to do some searching to find a subject that fits the first criteria and now matches these requirements. I didn't say you could pull it off on a 15 minute coffee break.

SO if you found a powerful imposing, threatening, looming machine in which you could photograph it in a bold simple design - you'd be well on your way to producing an image as good as mine.

If you further could do so with a limited colour palette or interesting tonalities in black and white you'd really be cruising. Add some shadows of interest and you have a winner.

Now, wasn't that simple? At least in theory? Assuming you could find such a subject?

I actually don't think it would be all that hard to get most of the elements solved. It might be the local garbage truck or maybe the air conditioner on top of your apartment, or maybe a local weight lifter carefully lit. The looming object might even be six inches high and you just made it look like it's looming. Of course most of us just see the container ship and sigh for a lack of opportunity to shoot the same thing. Maybe the container ship isn't in fact the important part of the image that we want to copy.

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