THIS IS NOW PUBLISHED AS NEWS ARTICLE here [link] but i can't edit news, so this is a better version
Sorry, I already sent all the notifications to the artists before I decided to make it into an article, but if you don't mind, please go there to see it and leave your comments and faves.
This lovely artist link has inspired me to write this journal because her dilemma has been mine too, and I didnt want to spam her comments with a huge essay, but also, I wanted to walk myself through this topic, so here it goes:
Most of us find ourselves stuck in our photography for one reason or another. Lack of time, because we have other jobs, our families may hold us back (hehe, no offence we love you but artistically, you are a burden ) and some of us may be held back by illness. Also, we can only fully concentrate on one form of art at the time so if you are writing a book, or painting, you wont be able to fully immerse yourself in your photography. But the knee-jerk response to deal with this is almost always "I need a new camera!"
None of the above actually suggests that the equipment is the problem. If you have the equivalent of a Nikon d70, or Canon 450d, you really, honestly, most definitely do not need a new camera (unless the one you have is broken).
The most important thing is the feeling a photographer gets, when they become frustrated with their own glass ceiling and feel the need and the readiness to break through it, but are yet unable to figure out how. Most likely they already have art they admire, and an idea what they can achieve, but it is not happening because they are not yet thinking or doing anything differently.
In this stage, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to take the focus off getting the new camera. It is a common mistake to make, but I think that what most of us have is more than enough to even win a National Geo award with (I have certainly seen it done many times before).
But what we, the ones who feel stuck, are lacking is the consistent leap into developing full artistic concepts.
We have perfected our basics - composition, lighting, post-processing, action shots, simple potraiture etc. but the story behind them now needs to be told propperly, like in a pioece of creative writing almost.
For example, it is all nice a fine to geta lovely equine shot, but it is even better to take it at a particular time of the day, when mist is around, when horses are relaxed and frolicking, kicking up some dew in the air so we can catch lens flare and the atmosphere. Further, we can play with tones and tone mapping, to increase dynamic range which all works beautifully in animal photography to set our art apart from largely documentary work.
I have seen this approach work really well in my macro work recently. There is a huge difference between shooting a glitter droplet and going that one step further, setting up a snowflake filter and backgrounds such to make the shot that looks like snow is falling under water, creating an aquatic storm of wonderfulness.
Or indeed to make the droplet look like a glass mouse climbing up the flower petal
Or to capture a butterfly
and have it mirrored as bokeh in the background, juxtaposing the free flight and a small container, the large of our beings being free, but the small essence remaining imprisoned by... Well, you can make up the rest of the story, but certainly, it is there, in the picture. Not just a droplet but a whole story that transcends a macro picture, just like stories transcend the portraits, landscapes or action shots that tell them.
One of the common points of stuckness is what i call a single point of interest in our portrait work.
Yes, the girl is looking nice, she is dancing on the beach or holding an umbrella, or posing but that's where the story ends. But the story needs to have many more levels to it.
Like in these pictures, there is a story:
Is she in love with a bad boy, or just head a steamy summer affair which came to an end?
Has she just graduated or achieved something significant in her life?
The picture of a girl drinking a cup of tea, if you pay further attention to her attire, hair and makeup, the surroundings, composition, colours and extras, will become a still from a movie, but the beauty is, each observer will tell a different plot and an ending, and this is where a simple prop, like a suitcase in the background, may suggest all sorts of things.
Have a look at this pic
Overall, to me, this picture conjurs up a story from the questions I immediately start asking when I look at it - is she is leaving home because of a little belly showing? This will suggest a fight with her parents, an irresoponsible boyfriend, the oldfashioned furniture may place her in some middle-american farm house and indicate that she is frightened and heavy hearted but making a decision to take that bus to a bigger city. The dress, the neatness, can suggest she is capable, almost obsessive and thus she will be driven and a good worker so probably she will succeed in looking after herself and a baby even in most unfavourable circumstances. The viewer will get all this from a simple shot of a girl with a belly, sitting on the edge of the bed, with expressive gaze and a packed suitcase in the background. No words needed, not even the title is necessery.
The key in such shots is a story, there has to be one, and setups are usually elaborate, thought out for days, planned, even drawn first.
Also, to complete the artistic concept, there has to be mirroring of ideas, colours and shapes.
Have a look at this picture, which is very simple in fact (lol, i just realised it's another by the same artist, I swear it was entirely accidental, but she does do very good, rounded shots)
What makes this a full fashion portrait is a careful choice of lighting which is mirrored in her airy, white hair, and an eyepatch that compliments the black collar. Make up is perfect all the way from suitably red lips and minimal eye make up to the whiteness further confirmed in her porcelain skin. This also potentiates the vulnerability in this rogue creature, and her expression is very good as far as into-the-camera gazes go. She is ruthless but the life made her so, her beauty forever marked by a loss of an eye, like a scar, it changes her, sets her apart from the others and completes the impression of a pirate - and we have a very effective artistic concept which is used to showcase the edgy black accessories.
But any one of those things, if not carefully dosed and perfectly matched, would ruin this picture.
Stories can be told from simplest of setups, but no longer is it enough to find an interesting subject and press the trigger, what we want, in order to grow as artists, is to be able to also create something out of nothing, to plan and develop our own concepts in a controlled manner, on our own terms. This will raise our standards and all of a sudden a lot of our work will not seem satisfactory. Also, it may dramatically reduce the quantity of shots we will take or upload, which may cause anxiety in terms of losing faves and watchers, but the truth is, if we are really talented, we will be looking at milions of views on dA and a successful artistic career.
There are a few artists in here that have achieved this, one of my favourites is this guy
they are just a few of my favourites but I strongly recommend his gallery as it is a wonderful study of good, better and the best, which is a journey he took without fixating on dA popularity, rather, he took a plunge and did his own thing for a while and then brought us back the most amazing visions of the world. This allowed his photos to become much richer in content, and took his art to a completely new level.
I have written possibly the longest journal in the history of dA, so I might as well carry on, because I have more to say (in case you doubted that possibility)
Ok, we all get hung up on manipulations and indeed a lot of deviants and art communnity gets completely up in arms about this, obsessing over little level adjustment" slight cloning, "minimal cropping" and other such nonsense. I have indeed been guilty of this many times too.
The first thing you will see (if you know what to look for) when you look at truly popular, world famous art, is that it is all very heavily edited. For example, if a shot in it's exif claims to have been taken by 4 mpx camera, but the print is being sold at 30 x 30 inches, it is pretty obvious that something major had to happen to make that possible. Or when everything is in focus, from the foreground which is barely centimetres away, to distant horizon, clouds, waves etc. All this is physically impossible to achieve without post-processing, but because it's done in an expert way, it totally does not attract undue attention, and liberal editing in such cases makes it look really amazing rather than like cheating. Luxury without vulgarity has always been the key in high quality art, something Coco chanel picked up on in her famous quote about fashion.
Literally ALL currently famous photographers see Photoshop as their friend. Many a landscape is shamelessly doctored in PS, images are combined from several photographs to engineer an amazing, hyperreal pictures that take our breath away but it is too beautiful for anyone to immediately point their finger at it and try to dismiss it. Its the same with amazing portraiture or studio shots. The words little and post-processing are simply incompatible in high art today. Even in a lot of street-shots, just because they are black and white is absolutely no indication that they didnt have the hell photoshopped out of them. Still the point remains if it is done in order to satisfy the artistic concept, which in itself is awesome, and it was done skillfully, it is ridiculous to get hung up and start pointing fingers, trying to demean it. Because photography and painting have been combined since forever to produce superb works of art, just think about it.
But you need to be a real deal, because Photoshop is a PRIVILEGE and not a RIGHT (much like Lycra and Spandex ).
The days of HCB are long gone, nobody really uses only those techniques anymore, but nothing that we do today will ever take away from his awesome works. Its the funny thing with art - you can go to a cave in France and see hundred thousand year old cave drawing of a horse, done with nothing more than still difficult to coordinate hands and a red chalk, and gasp in amazement at the perfect curves of this amazing art. And never forget it. So excellent art will always be excellent, but it will be so because at the time of it's creation it was new, original and it pushed the envelope.
To go back to the camera issue, rather than getting a new, better, more expensive one, you may actually need a more simple point and shoot camera to take with you wherever you go (because, let's face it, it's a real drag to schlep a huge Nikon or Cannon around in your purse), and whenever you get inspired, you take the shot, go home and figure out what story it inspired you to tell. Once you decide, then you go back with your full equipment, maybe a model as well, at the right time of day and shoot it properly. Indeed, the really great landscape photographers stalk their locations to choose the right time of the day or night to shoot that precise shot they want. Have a look at these awesome desert shots, they are a perfect example of such planning [link] and [link]
As far as the lenses go, the only ones that I find useful beyond my cheapest and most favourite Nikkor 50mm 1.8 is my Nikkor 17 - 55mm 2.8 and a good macro lens, both for close portaiture, excellent bokeh and all things small and wonderful (I use Tamron 90 mm which is the most affordable and indeed a great piece of glass). I could also use a wide angle lens (at least 12 - 24mm) but these are notoriously expensive so I don't have one yet. Telephoto is good to have (I have Nikkor 70 - 300mm VR) but I haven't used it in 3 years, which just tells you that unless you are into wildlife photography, that should not be a priority on your wish list.
So, take the inventory of the lenses you have, and also which lighting options are avilable to you. It may be better to invest in some umbrellas, softboxes, another flash (you need at least two), stands and a tripod, then a new piece of glass. If you havent already, have a look at this blog [link] Strobist teaches you that the only thing you really need to take most awesome pictures anywhere you go, is one flash, a camera and perhaps an umbrella with a stand, all very cheap and the tutorials and exercises he has there are fantastic.
The truth is, we CAN create amazing art without the new camera, new name, new gallery, new website or a new way to promote ourselves. Rather, deciding to take the plunge and taking charge of our art, forgetting about the audience, silly ego considerations, and abandoning the materialistic way of thinking, will be our greatest asset, in addition to whatever equipment we already have, and more importantly, our talent, ability, determination and daring. But it will take a complete paradigm shift and a different approach to make this leap and grow.
Here are some excellent links to articles relevant to this topic:
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`anmari has been spreading her infectious positivity throughout our community for over 6 years. Throughout this time Ana has been at the core of all things devious, passionately developing an eclectic gallery, helping organise devmeets, participating in chat events and also recently completed dedicating her time as a Community Volunteer. We are absolutely delighted to bestow the Deviousness Award for May 2013 to `anmari, congratulations! Read More