What really is the photographers job?

Several comments over the past year got me thinking about photography, and more so what is the job of a photographer. Also are we, as photographers, doing that job today? 

I am not talking about getting in-focus, properly exposed images. This is the basics for anyone that call themselves a photographer. 

The REAL Photographers Job

What I am talking about is something a lot deeper and something that great photographers do regularly. What is this magic?

It is to portray emotion in images they / we take. Whether it is a picture of a wedding, newborn, graduation, nature or wildlife.

I was hanging a print on the wall at the studio the other day. A picture of some Elk in Waterton when a client came in and made a comment. They said that it gave them a warm feeling. The colors of the trees, the angle of the sun. What I captured made it look like the picture was taken on a warm fall day.

Elk, Waterton, Photographers Job,
A warm fall day in Waterton OR not!

Funny thing was that it was a cold, damp, windy day. It was a day that NOBODY would want to buy a picture of to hang on their walls.

A few days after the first comment another person made the same comment on that picture and another picture.

The second one is of a waterfall that had me soaked to the skin on a cool summer day. 

Realizing what the job really is

That is when I realized that it doesn’t matter the situation that we are shooting in (hot, cold, wind, rain). It doesn’t matter the type of subject or the location. The thing that really matters is the feeling that the image leaves with the viewer when they see it. That is the real photographers job.

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The calm

Rule are only rules

We can quote all we want about the rule of thirds, shooting in RAW, camera types, lens types and sizes. While they all have an effect on the image they really have very little to do with the viewers overall feelings. 

I was looking back on some old photos that I really admire from before I became a photographer. One thing that I noticed looking at them this time is that they show a place, a time and instill a feeling.

It could be a picture of the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton many years ago. The print is amazing, showing the colors and the scenery. Makes me want to head out today to visit.

You feel what the photographer wants you to feel. That is the important part of taking pictures. 

I was also looking at some wedding photos taken by another photographer many years ago. They are pictures that I love and they make me feel warm and happy and some even make me laugh. They drag me into a place and time that may not of even existed in real life but it does in the photos.

I don’t know who was complaining about the bugs, the heat, the time it was taking to do the pictures. But I can feel the love, the excitement, the hope and the joy of the day.

It has been lost, the real photographers job

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The chill

I think that this is a part of photography that is being lost today by so many photographers.

We can take so many pictures with our digital cameras, cell phones, tablets, etc.. But we are not putting any thought into the pictures themselves.

The pictures that we are getting do not have any emotion to them. 

We shoot a rock on the shore of a frozen lake and it is boring. We do not even feel the cold.

A beautiful sunset or sunrise doesn’t bring any feelings as it is not cropped properly or color corrected. 

Lack of emotion

Part of this I believe is how the image is edited. We need to know what and how much to edit a photo (Photoshop does not have to be a bad word if done correctly). But just as much it is taking the time to figure out what makes a scene exciting. How to capture it before pushing the shutter button. 

Shooting 500 horrible pictures can be blown away by one amazing picture. One picture that the photographer took his or her time to get right. Something that I mention time and time again when I am judging photography contests.

A Challenge!

So a challenge to all photographers. Get back to more of the way pictures were taken in the past. Take a few extra seconds, minutes or even hours to find out what makes a scene. Figure out how to add some emotion.

Then work on capturing that in pictures.  This may require us to miss some shots while finding others. It may also require us to come back to a location when the light is right. Then once the picture is taken do it justice in the editing.  Build upon a picture to add a feeling to it!

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