The Craft of Photography

Like so many of you out there, I began at an early age playing with a camera and taking photographs of just about everything that was in front of me. In the film days, we had to curb our appetite to release the shutter due to the cost of every frame that was taken. IF I took as many duplicate photos of an image, as many of us do in this digital age, I would have been bankrupt many, many years ago. In those wonderful days of developer, stop bath and fixers, we had to wait for the magic to become reality in the form of a photograph. Today, we get an instant feedback looking at the image on the back of the screen of our digital camera. In those “golden days” of film, a portrait session would consist of 15-24 portraits. You would send the 1 or 2 rolls of film to your lab and in about a week you would have your client come in for a preview session and sell them portraits. Today, I hear of at least 10 times that many images taken and then there are hours at the computer editing all of those images…many of them duplicated many times. I am all for bracketing an image but 8, 10 or 25 images of the same pose? I have to ask myself why so many? Why are we working so hard for less money? When giving my classes, some of the common complaints that I hear is they are spending so much time behind the computer and editing that they aren’t doing what they really love to do…and that is to take wonderful photographs; photographs that bring joy and pleasure you yourself and others that view the images. So, why are we having these issues today? I would like to share a few thoughts based on my experience of 25 years and judging various print competitions throughout the US.

Overall, I believe we are not taking the time to learn about our equipment or the craft of photography. We simply purchase this wonderful tool, put it in automatic mode and start snapping pictures and not taking the time to understand what we are photographing or composing or observing the light on the subject. This, I believe, is the biggest issue. There are many more, but I would like to share just a few things from my class that I have observed.

When I have an opportunity to judge, there are 12 elements that are used in evaluating what is considered a merit print according to Professional Photographers of America (PPA). One of these is Impact. Impact is the first thing that compels the viewer to respond in some way, whether it is a strong emotional feeling of sadness, anger, peacefulness, joy and happiness…and the list of emotions go on. But how strong is this impact? There are several elements within this one thing called IMPACT. One could be the contrast of color or the strength of a specific color used in the image. What about the lighting? Is it a bold, dramatic light or is it a soft quality of light. Does the direction of light create a strong feeling of texture or drama? How is the image composed within the frame of the image? Are there strong leading lines or framing devices within the composition to take the viewer to the place you, as the maker, want them to go? Is there a lot of clutter in the background that distracts or takes away from the main subject? Is the photograph comfortable or pleasing? Is symmetrically balanced or is it off balanced, creating a tension? All of these things contribute to the IMPACT of an image. Other things to consider in composing an image for impact would be: are you close enough to the subject? Are there several distracting items in the image that takes away from your main subject? And, of course, is the photograph properly exposed. Improper exposure can cause the image to be void of any detail in the highlights or cause a blocking up, or loss of detail in the shadows. Both of these situations can contribute to a loss of impact to your image.

The use of power points to compose your photograph is an excellent way to help you create impact to your image. So what are power points? If you will imagine a grid over your image which would look much like a tic tac toe board, you would have intersecting lines. At each point where the lines intersect creates a power point. There are 4 power points on this grid. Generally, not always, you would have the main point of interest fall within one or more of the power points. This can help you balance your image to give a greater impact. Another great way to compose your image for greater impact is to do what I call a custom crop. We, so many times, think in terms of what is called an aspect ratio, such as an 8×10, 5×7, 4×6, etc. Sometimes these aspect ratios force us to leave things in an image that is distracting. There are other ways you can deal with that but I have always taken the attitude of this: If it adds to or enhances the image, leave it in. If it doesn’t add to the image or enhance it, remove it or cut it out. A non aspect custom crop can do just that. It can cut out or crop out unwanted things in your image. Yes, sometimes you may have to resort to cloning or dodging and burning but that’s another day.

There is one other thing I would like to mention for you to consider. A good friend of mine, who is also a fellow judge, told me that there are two types of IMPACT. There is a FLEETING IMPACT and a LASTING IMPACT. The FLEETING IMPACT is an image that is ordinary. It may be composed well and it is generally a nice image. But the power or the strength of the impact leaves the viewer wishing there was more to the image or some of the distracting things left in the image would have been dealt with. In short it is just a picture taken that makes you go…nice picture…Next image please… The LASTING IMPACT image, however, is one that is very strong in composition. There are no distracting elements lingering in the frame of the image…it’s “clean”. It generally has a very strong storytelling element and all the things that were discussed, lighting, composition, balance, no distracting things in the photograph, such as trash or trees growing out of the head of the subject…everything comes together to make the image one that causes the viewer to stop, take note of the beauty and well-composed image. It will leave the viewer asking more questions, such as, where was this taken, or who were the people in the image. It may even move the viewer to tears or to cry…or to laugh or simply wanting to be more of a part of that image. If the image causes these sorts of affects on a viewer, then most likely it is an image of LASTING IMPACT.

I would like to close this article with a few selected images from some of my portfolios and discuss various points that were mentioned in this article. I hope this gives you greater direction and clarity for your future works.

Paul Wingler

Converging Arts by Master Photographic Craftsman Paul Wingler
“Where art and technology meet”
Award Winning Portrait and Fine Art Converging Artist Paul Wingler is a native of Indiana. After graduating from Cascade High School in Hendricks County IN, Paul toured with the U.S. Marine Corps Band from 1973-1977. Paul then moved to North Carolina to take some basic photography classes at the Durham Arts Council in Durham, NC, he pursued his studies at the New York Institute of Photography where he earned a certificate of graduation. Since then he has studied with various photographic artist at the East Coast School in North Carolina. He also completed a five year study with Master Photographer and ASP Fellow Jay Stock as well as other noted photographers.
After his studies with these noted photographers, Paul’s quest began to merge the fine arts and story- telling style of work. His passion for creating fine art and telling stories through his imagery didn’t stop when the digital age came into play, but rather was another journey to merge the old with the new and still maintain his style of work. As Mr. Wingler continued to define his art, he found it more as a converging art through his use of substrates, old masters concepts and digital technologies, It began to shape a new style, a new era of his art. Paul continues to create “traditional” style portraits for families, as well as continue his own unique style of art.
Recent Awards:
2014 World Cup competition
PPA image Excellence Award-2013 Platinum Photographer of the year
2013 Accepted Jurored Images to the PSA China General Collection
Fuji Masterpiece, Polaroid Prestige and ASP Elite Awards, SEPPA Award

Recent Exhibits:
2013, National Museum of Identity in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
2012, Interamerican Development Bank, Washington D.C. on behalf of the Embassy of Honduras, the collection will be exhibited in every Honduran Consulate in the U S, as well as at the United Nations.
2012, Embassy of Honduras
2012 Consulate of Honduras in Atlanta, GA
2012 Exhibit at the University of Auburn, AL
2012 Exhibition at the SICA Conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras
2012 World Hunger Summit in Catacamas, Honduras
Today Paul continues to teach, lecture and judge throughout the United States and South and Central America. Through these venues many other opportunities have come about from the basic principal of educating and encouraging the craft. His art can be seen at various galleries throughout the United States.

Figure 001 Meditations of a Tawakha

In Figure 001 (seen above), Meditations of a Tawakha we see a beautiful quality of light skimming across the face from the left. Because of the direction of light, we are able to see a beautifully lit mask of the face, the details of the wrinkles in her face and detail and texture of the headpiece and dress that she is wearing. The proper exposure nicely saturates the colors throughout this image. We can also note that the subject is not in the center but is composed in an asymmetrical way, giving a pleasing feel to the photograph.

Figure 002 Flowers in Pink

I had mentioned that many times, when people photograph flowers and other botanicals, too much information is included in the photograph, such as, lots of leaves, stems, in focus backgrounds that takes the viewer away from what the maker wants them to see. In Figure 002 (seen above), we have some flowers that, compositionally, they are composed in a triangle. Also, a shallow depth of field (fStop) was selected to allow the background to go out of focus. This allows the main subject to stand out and the background is such that it gives a painterly effect, as well as, gives some nice colors to break up the background without being distracting. Compare this to Figure 003 (seen below) of the Cactus Rose. This would be a typical shot that many beginners would do. Not get in close, not the greatest exposure, taken at the wrong time of day and a lot of distracting background information. There is nothing there that really takes you were the maker would prefer the viewer to land. Is it the front flower or the bee in the flower? With a lack of lighting control the viewer’s eye is taken all over the image with no strong point of impact.

Figure 003 Cactus Rose with Bee

The Grieving One, Figure 004 (seen below), is a powerful story telling image of a young woman stricken with grief. The strong diagonal composition and the face in a strong power point helps the viewer immediately go to the crying woman’s expression. Also, the depth of field selected allows enough information in the background of supporting “players” adds a little more drama to the story. All the elements in this composition allow the subject to stand out to be the strongest part of the image. Lastly, turning this image into a black and white gives this photograph a timeless, vintage feel with intense impact.

Figure 004 THE GRIEVING ONE

 

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