The Only thing that matters in a photo

The past 18 months have been a rough ride creatively for me. I have trouble thinking of an idea, I enjoy discussing photos in galleries and editorials. But the big thing I am missing is evoking an emotional response in my photos. Let me explain.

This is Popcorn (or Pops). I love him, that much is a given. And as much as I can respond to Pop’s face, his eye and his position, I don’t love this photo. That is one thing most photographers struggle with; the cannot separate the subject (Pops in this case) from the photo (a moment the photographer, me, in this case).

I will love every frame I photograph of Pops so already there is a bias there, and if there is bias then I cannot be objective, and if I cannot be objective then it is impossible to grow as a photographer.

In my cat example, if I love every “photo” of Pops then how do I know I have improved? How can I measure my capacity to be better, to push my boundaries and grow?

For almost two decades I’ve known about filling the frame, rule of thirds and committed engagement with the subject. But an amateur knows this, what can a photographer with my experience (not talent) do to push the edges and not be stagnant.

Now let me show you Photo two.

I love this photo. When I took it was concentrating on Pop’s face; I was not focussed on the curvature of the chair underneath him. Nor did I realize the bounce light from the chair was reflecting on Pop’s face.

I knew the light source was going to be good because I deliberately place Pops right by the window on a grey afternoon. But I did not account for the exposure of that afternoon.

The diffused, overcast clouds were bright so the Canon 6D was able to manage the dynamic range brilliantly.

I had set the white balance incorrectly to auto which meant the photo gave me a blue tone. Normally I correct white balance in Lightroom, but I wanted to leave it this time as it seems just right.

But all that doesn’t matter if all that doesn’t fit into place. In the

I have just spout all sorts of technicalities, but I missed the most important thing that matters, and that is the story.

I believe a photographer should evoke emotions in the frame. I am not talking about the subject being “adorable” or “lovely”. I am talking feeling the light coming through the lens and hitting your eyeballs. I am talking about decisive AND accidental composition. I am talking about the story and the narrative that the photo (NOT the subject) can tell.

If you can tell the story of that photo without referring to the subject then, my dear Togs, you have taken a powerful step in the only thing that matters.