Canal Street. Mid City, New Orleans.
There’s nothing like a little blue hour, wet streets and warm glowing lights in the background to make a place look enticing. If I was really working for — oh, let’s say — the tourism board, I’d clean up the foreground. There’s lots of trash there. One way to do it would be to just pick it up. But, that takes a lot of time and light is fleeting. Or, I could have retouched the image and spotted that stuff out. Much quicker and rain wouldn’t fall on my head.
But, that wasn’t my purpose. I was there to document the rebirth of the city. That new hospital, remember? I wasn’t trying to make this street look good, or bad. Yeah. Sure. I want my pictures to stand out. But, to a point. At least for this project. Eventually, I will offer a lot of the pictures from this project to one of my agencies. Then… no trash, no copyright notifications. Maybe not even the VW Beetle. Oh yeah, none of those power lines in the top right. Yes. I like to make power lines part of the picture since they are so ubiquitous. When they work. In this picture, they really don’t work. They need to come from some place and go to another place. They don’t.
Which brings me to… A lot of the work I see all over the internet.
Because we aren’t paying for film and processing, taking a lot of pictures has become the norm. We just push the button. We don’t think. We probably take way too many pictures. Then, we share them all over the place. I’m not exactly sure why. Most of those pictures that are sloppy at best. Many are under or over exposed. Many aren’t even in focus. I’m convinced that some photographers do not understand their cameras. They just point. And, shoot. That also means I doubt they are noticing the little things. The power lines. The foreground details.
I once asked a photographer who was having an image exposure problem what his histogram data told him. He was working with a high-level Nikon prosumer camera body. Something like a D7000. He replied that his camera didn’t have a histogram. Huh? Until you drop down to the most basic of compact cameras every camera has a histogram. I don’t use that data often. But, it’s there when I need it. Especially, when I’m having a problem.
That’s just one example. I could go on. But, that’s not the point.
The point is really to learn about what you are doing. Practice it. Practice it some more. Practice so much and for so long that all the stuff you do to make a picture becomes so ingrained that you don’t even think about it when you do it. It’s part of you.
Gear too. Learn about what it can do. What it can’t do. How to work around what it can’t do.
Study your work. Study great work that came before you. Compare it. Contrast it. Learn from it. If your pictures hold up well, then show them. Post them. Invite comments. If it doesn’t hold up, well…
Be ruthless with your own work. That’s really what it takes.