My friend Joelle got hooked on photography after she started taking pictures of things she wanted to paint. She is actually a formally trained painter, and we became fast friends when we discovered our shared passion for photography. We have gone out shooting together a number of times, and we have taught each other a lot over the past year.
Each time we go out, I teach her a little about camera controls and she teaches me how to look at the scenery in a more creative way. Amazingly, our images often look similar, even though the thought processes behind them are completely different. I recently sat down with Joelle and asked her to explain her process. Not only did I learn a whole new approach to photography; I also learned about how to create a work of art.
What makes you pick up your camera?
I pick up my camera when I’m out and I see something I want to paint. I love how I can capture an image that I want to look at forever. I look for things that bring out my emotions. I think about how the scene makes me feel. I imagine seeing the image on a wall or in an art gallery before I push the shutter.
Tell me about your approach to composition.
I work to get the composition right the first time. I don’t shoot to crop later. When I compose a shot, I see the finished product in the viewfinder. Most of my paintings are vertical, so most of my compositions tend to be vertical.
What camera settings and lenses do you use?
I admit, camera controls are the last thing on my mind. I can work with them if I have to, but I don’t worry about them because it takes away from the creativity and the essence of what I want to capture. I can shoot more quickly if I don’t have to stop and worry if my camera is set to the right exposure. Aperture is probably the setting I play with the most. I love the ability to blur out or soften backgrounds. I also have a lot of fun with my macro lens. If I have to think about the technology too much, I lose focus of the composition. It takes away from my creative process and it’s not as much fun!
What editing software do you use? How much editing do you do?
I rarely edit, but when I do I use iPhoto. I know it’s basic, but it has everything I need. I love playing with the colors to see what I can do to make the image more artistic. The comment I hear the most from my photographer friends is, “That would make a great painting!”
What do you enjoy more: photography or painting?
I enjoy photography, but I always come back to the canvas. The final outcome of a painting can be whatever you want it to be. You are never stuck with an unwanted car or garbage can in the background of a painting. You can change the light and play with the colors. If you don’t like it, you can change it. A painting also doesn’t have to be perfectly sharp and in focus to be considered a great work of art. Painting is my first love, it’s where I lose myself.
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After having this conversation with Joelle, my eyes have been opened. I now look at scenery as art and as something that will make it off my computer and into a frame. I look more closely at what I am composing before I push the shutter. Is it worth shooting? How would it look in print? How would it look on a wall, in a living room, in an art gallery?
These are all questions that I now think about whenever I go out to shoot, questions that will ultimately make me a better photographer.
I will never look at anything the same way again.