Monday, January 26, 2009

My Style

Starting this photo blog has been excellent as it has caused me to reflect on my own practice as a photographer and think about why I do the things that I do. As a school administrator working with teachers, I use a similar process. If I can ask questions that cause a teacher to think and reflect on their practice, they will usually make changes to their practice and get better at what they do.

Over the past few days I've been thinking about my style as a photographer. I've already shared about some of my early work and the influence of my dad, but in retrospect, my oldest brother was also a significant force in my early thinking about photography and capturing the world around me. Older brothers are not always gentle in their feedback and I have clear memories of my brother viewing my prints and sorting them into two piles; acceptable and not. His primary criticism of my work was that the viewer's eye was not drawn to the subject of the photo (see the photo of a wasp's nest above ). Being a good teacher he followed up this constructive criticism by working with me to take better images that have a clear subject (see the "special effects" photo of my brother flying like Superman...notice how your eye is drawn right to the subject, and never mind that it is out of focus!). These lessons began to pay dividends as I began to work at subject placement and ensuring that the subject was clearly identifiable (as is evident in these two photos: on the right are my paternal grandparents in their back yard surrounded by flowers, and below is the farm house of my maternal grandparents ). I'm so thankful that I found my photo album with these images from my childhood, and to my brother for his constructive criticism, tutoring, and support.

One year ago I began to submit my work to iStock photo which is a micro-stock photo agency that acquires images from photographers, sells them at reasonable prices, and pays the contributing photographer a small amount per download. I have no illusions of getting wealthy by submitting to iStock, but it has been incredibly useful as a learning and motivational tool. When I started taking digital photos, I began to wonder what I was going to do with all of the photos that were beginning to clog up my hard drive and I was a little concerned that I would lose interest and my new camera gear would begin to gather dust along with my fly-fishing equipment.
The challenge of first, getting accepted as an iStock contributor, second, getting photos accepted into the iStock collection, and third, actually selling some photos, kept me learning and motivated. Shooting for stock has also shaped my style as a photographer. When I am shooting for stock I try to ensure that the subject is "tack sharp" that it is visually interesting and that the exposure is perfect. Often when I am shooting I hear my brother's voice saying, "What is the subject?".

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