I was reminded today as I edited photos from an engagement session Josh and I team shot last night of how detail oriented great photography needs to be. To make exceptional photos, every detail must be attended to. This is more an art than a technical skill. To make matters worse, consciously focusing on the details too much will kill the flow of a session, preventing you from getting great photos of your subject as surely as any lack of technical skill or vision.
Last night we had all the elements of a great photo shoot present. We had a great couple in a great location with great weather. We also had the necessary gear and the skills to use it. Like having all of the ingredients for a great meal, this is no guarantee of success. There are many details that must be attended too to turn great ingredients into tasty food.
Consider the shot above (A) versus the shot below (B). Shot A is the “finished” product and B was one of the first snaps during the set. As I chimped the first couple of images during the set to check my lighting, I realized that the pose in shot B, while good at a high level was broken badly. One detail ruined it… Do you see it?
It’s pretty obvious when you see the two photos side by side. The placement of Keith’s hand in B is the difference between a mediocre shot at best and a great shot in A. No amount of post processing (well, short of drawing his hand in a better position) would “fix” shot B. That is the only real difference between the two images.
I’d like to say I’ve always noticed details like this during shoots, but I haven’t. They traditionally result in much banging of head into desk during the editing process. As I shoot more, recognizing flaws in the details become more and more automatic. That is a hopeful thing for newer photographers that may be struggling to produce great images.
What is needed is time and practice as well as looking at your images critically after the fact. Don’t congratulate yourself for making an image, no matter how good you think it is. Tear it apart. Grab it in your teeth and shake it like a terrier shaking a rat. See the flaws first (and there are bad things in every image, these included). The more you do that and the the more mercilessly, the more automatic it will become. It will start to happen during the shoot instead of after.
Seek critiques of your photos from others too. Don’t ask your friends or your mom. Facebook comments and likes are not a critique. What is needed is brutal honesty, not words hedged to build you up or tear you down. In person photo competitions are great for this and a local photo club is the best bet for those. When conducted correctly, the judge presents a critique of each image in the competition. The result is that you get a critique of not only your image, but of everyone elses. You may hate to hear someone point out the flaws in your image, but learning to see them is probably the most important skill a photographer can have.
As the cliché’ goes, the Devil is in the details.
Interested in a critique of one of your images? Post it to the AzulOx Workshops facebook page and Josh or I will post a critique for you.
He is a self taught experiential learner who is addicted to the possibilities that new (to him) gear open up. He loves to share the things he has worked out. Andrew started with a passion for landscape and night photography and quickly branched out to work in just about every form of photography. He is an ex-software developer with extensive experience in the IT realm.