Monday, February 3, 2014

Learn to Hit the Delete Key--Seniors & Their Photographs

We have all heard the saying quality over quantity but seniors are most remiss in this trait when it comes to photography. Not only do they take tons of pictures when one or two would do, but they hold onto all of them. The digital age has only made this worse because now we don't even have to pay for film or development plus we need to reach no further than our phones for documenting everything.

I took my senior neighbor Rebecca under my wing for this and gave her some lessons in applying an artistic eye to her photography.  She has a vegan food blog and needed to improve her food photos.  I have been an artist for many decades and have developed a very good eye for editing (hitting the delete key nowadays).

One thing she wanted to photograph was a raw beet taken from her organic garden (to lure people into eating vegan). The problem with this is that raw beets are not bright red on the outside.  The skin over the beet head is a less pure color plus the beet is all crinkled.


"You've got to do something to that beet to make it more interesting," I told her. We debated this for a few moments and then I said, "I know, let's break it."

Her vegan sensibilities were outraged.  "You're going to violate that beet?" she demanded.

Uh........yeah. 


So I took it outside, put it onto a concrete table, took out my big knife and started hacking at it.  It made a much more interesting subject. A few minutes later I looked outside.  Rebecca was back out there and now hacking at a beet herself.

The moral of the story is that we need to think about what we are going to photograph first not just start taking pictures without doing any thinking.  This is an art form.  Is anyone going to want to look at your photos?  Not if you don't make them interesting and different they're not.

Also, get closer to your subject matter.  If you have to stand way back to photograph your subject, you are putting too much into the picture. The closer you get, the better your picture will be.

And let's deal with the look. We all developed a pose for photos that is a smile or grin that we have practiced and refined for decades.  We pull it out every time we need to be photographed. This pose was invented by the advertising industry to sell products. This pose tells us nothing artistically. It is a way people conceal themselves, not reveal themselves.  Your photograph has caught nothing but artifice if all of your photos of people show nothing but the look.  Do not ask people to smile in your photos. In fact, either tell them the reverse, or even better, photograph them when they aren't even aware you are taking a picture.

And, finally, there is nothing, repeat nothing, worse than posting hundreds if not thousands of your photos of your trip for your friends and family to view. A friend asked me to post pictures of a trip taken to Ireland.  There were hundreds of them.  I tried to talk this person out of it but to no avail.  So I loaded them and watched picture after picture fly by me that looked like everyone else's vacation photos. Here is my rule on vacation photos: post only your ten best pictures and hold onto the rest for your own personal memories. Photographers for National Geographic are lucky to get ten really good photos on a professional assignment. Your odds as an amateur are considerably worse. And no one wants to see a picture of you standing in front of some monument, like the Eiffel Tower, as one of those ten. If you can take a picture like the one on the left of the Eiffel Tower, post it forthwith.  If yours is like the one on the right, don't even bother.

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