Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Our Biggest Problems

I want to make my next book as useful as possible and I have been thinking about what are the biggest non technical problems that face photographers.

So far I have come up with the following which I have struggled with over the years and for which I would have been glad of some help.

1) what to photograph

2) how to go about looking for something suitable

3) working the scene

4) what to do to images in the way of editing to go beyond simply fixing them

I intend this book to be the practical companion to the first book through the use of examples, contact sheets, problem solving and specific examples of editing beyond fixing.

What do you think are your biggest issues either that you currently have or that you struggled with to get where you are and could have used some help.

You have a chance to guide the design and value of this upcoming book.




Anonymous said...

Hi George,

I have read your first book and like it very much. Thanks for this!

What is difficult for me? When I look through the viewfinder or looking at the scene, I have mostly difficulties to imagine how the final result/image will look like or should look like.

Of course this is hard to learn and hard to describe. Maybe you can give some hints and/or tell about your experiences and lessons learned in this area.

Best regards


Anonymous said...

Hi George,

My biggest challenge is what to do with the photographs after creating them. I have hundreds, perhaps thousands that I like well enough to want to see often.

Are folios the answer? Partially. I create folios but they are closed until I'm free to sit and look through them.

I also have a 46" LCD display that I can use for slideshows. It works nicely for those times when I want to sit and watch a slideshow, but it is annoying if left on as background imagery.

But I love framed prints hanging on the wall because an image viewed accidentally brings so much pleasure. I don't decide to look through images, the image simply appears magically when I glance up and I realize that I'm actually looking at and enjoying my own work. To maximize this experience, I rotate hanging prints every few months. I've also standardized on inexpensive usually simple black wood frames in common sizes (18x24, 11x14) and mat colors (off white or black) that can be displayed in many locations. Finally, I cut my own mats and mount the photographs to allow for non-standard crops and to keep costs low enough that pictures can stay framed when not displayed. A lot more can be said about the display of images for serious photographers. For example, what are effective arrangements? What do others do? What are the effective sizes for different display methods (folios vs wall vs desk top)? What is the best way to display hundreds of images to maximize enjoyment?

A good image deserves more than a 5 second view on a computer screen.


Anonymous said...


I vote for time management. There are so many things to do:
- scouting new locations
- trying new techniques
- creating prints and/or AV-shows
- digital darkroom
- filing and keywording
and of course: taking new pictures and having full-day a job and a social life.

Any hints to fit the pieces together and find a healthy proportion between the various photographic tasks would be greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...


Looking forward to your second book as I enjoyed your first immensely; in fact I just started re-reading it.

I think the four items you list are common to many photographers. Working the scene is certainly my biggest challenge. I still find myself falling into the category of “snapper” far too often – one view point, one image, done and on to the next. Needless to say these aren’t usually my favorite pieces.

There is a lot to be said for storytelling. I’d perhaps like you to touch on this – how can I make my images more effective in telling a story. I believe this is closely related to invoking emotions with our images. How do I make people feel what I felt when I captured and image; how do I distill down the emotion of a crisp morning with snow all around and the slight warmth of sunrise reflecting off the hills?

Any discussion on editing an image to bring it more in line with our vision is to be appreciated. I never tire of seeing a RAW image translated into a finished photograph. This has been one of the most important things in helping me translate what I’m seeing in the world to what I’m feeling; in learning how the camera sees versus what I see.

Finally I appreciated your ability to “allow” me to take images I wanted to make – regardless of what other people are looking for. I think we often get wrapped up in friendly competition on forums and posting boards and we stop taking the images that are fun and look for images that will be popular with the majority. Your book helped make photography fun again – any more of that is fine by me.


George Barr said...

Great, thanks all, keep 'em coming, the more ideas the better the book.


Unknown said...

Enjoyed your first book almost as much as my daily fix of your blog! Thank you.

I often end up disappointed because I didn't use a tripod, didn't take the time to work the scene more, or went ahead and took pictures in ordinary light and expected extra-ordinary results.

I guess it's the same way as getting to Carnegie Hall? (practice...)

Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and working so hard on this blog.


Markus Spring said...

My major concern is 'learning to see' and also to translate to the graphic language for example to b&w.

I find myself constantly in the position that some shots later on turn out to have potential, but I do only rarely see this when I shoot.

Not sure however if this can be taught from a book, its probably more likely that here the 10000h rule applies.

Anyhow I have read your first book with great interest and will just now start re-reading it. Thanks for this. So I look forward for your new book.

Thorsten Vieth said...

Hi George,

first off, thanks for your first book! Stumbled upon it in a book store in Kuala Lumpur and read through it in two sittings. Very inspirational stuff.

in terms of my expectations for a next book, I am with Aleksei. Shooting digital so far, it seems that even if I am in the middle of a great scene, by mind starts to accelerate all the time and I have to tendency to shoot a lot (!), but not necessarily the best. Actually, this is one of the reasons I just got a used medium format film camera. It is way more tedious to use, but it forces me to slow down, plus image quality actually is fantastic.

So, in your next book I'd like to see a combination of "working the scene" and "tweaking the best shots" in order to get the most out of a scene and the good frames. If you could then also through in a few thoughts on taking the final product a step further and create great prints, even better.

Thanks again for the first book, already looking forward to the second.

Regards, Thorsten Vieth

Anonymous said...

Hi George
I would love to see something on how to MAKE a scene, as opposed to working a scene. On page 3 of your first book, in your caption to the photo Pipe Benders, you say you find arranging objects a lot more challenging than simply finding a good composition. D'accord!Perhaps you could explore this more and provide some of your wonderful suggestions and ideas.
Can't wait for your new book.

Anonymous said...

I will buy this book.


Anonymous said...


One issue that I think we all have is what Ansel called previsualization, which for the uninitiated is simply looking at a scene, and visualizing what the resulting print should look like. This has special significance for those of us who are primarily b/w photographers as filters, both glass and digital, affect tonal relationships.

This is what you may have meant with #4, but I just thought I'd toss it out there as it happens to be something with which I struggle.

Ingemar Edfalk said...

I don´t really understand this. If you don´t know what to photograph and all that, why do you make pictures at all?
I think that to most photographers and artists the big problem is reverse. How to sort out the best picture ideas to spend our limited time on.

Ingemar Edfalk