I have never been very good at photography. Red-eyes, heads cut off, blurry, the intended target somewhere on the left edge of the photo are just a few examples of what my pictures have looked like. This deficiency dates back to my internship (1987) when Carol Baetzel asked me to take pictures to accompany a newsletter story I was working on. Good thing I was only an intern or that might have been the end of my public relations career.
Fast forward and lo and behold, public relations practitioners are still being asked to take pictures and I’m still trying to figure out how to take something that is publishable.
During this year’s Counselors Academy conference in Austin, I attended a three-hour workshop called Creative Braise, conducted by professional photographer (and friend) Paul Bowers. The workshop was intended to give us word-people a crash-course in taking pictures that can accompany all of those words. Yes, it seems simple to just yank a picture off of Google images, but chances are, you are stealing someone else’s creative work (see Steph’s recent blog post on just that subject).
We had four different assignments, 10 minutes each to shoot 10 different photos, using nothing but our smart phones.
Assignment One – the camera could be no further than 6 inches from the ground. Paul gave us a wooden stick of about that length to make sure we stuck to the rules. All my pictures were shooting down, after all, the assignment said 6 inches from the ground. But he didn’t say we had to shoot the ground, what if we turned the camera around and shot up instead?
Assignment Two – I liked this assignment because my “left edge” issue was actually a good thing. Consider a photo frame as three equal parts. One part subject, two parts negative space. And that doesn’t mean the center part has to have the subject matter.
Assignment Three – this one dealt with lighting. Natural lighting and manufactured (flash) lighting. He divided the group in half and off we went to shoot 10 photos in 10 minutes using one or the other. I had never really given much thought to lighting other than knowing the subjects should always look into the sun (or lighting). Lighting can create some interesting challenges for a photographer but when you take it into account, you come up with some pretty dynamic photos.
Assignment Four – Foreground vs. background. Are you trying to shoot what is close to you or that which is farther away? Focus or slightly out-of-focus? Sometimes the more interesting part of the photo is not really what you were planning on.
I loved this session, not only because it wasn’t your typical classroom-style workshop, but it challenged me to think differently about the creative process. And I learned that I’m still not that great of a photographer, but now I have a couple good excuses to explain why, after all “I am being creative.”