THINK!…About Making Images

by William Lulow

I published an article the other day about the new iPhone 7 that has  two lenses in order to render some depth to the photographs taken with it, and it started me thinking more about the “whys” of this idea rather than the “hows!”

Camera phones and point-and-shoot cameras have a purpose in the world of photography. They make it easy to take an average picture of someone or something and render it easy to view and/or post on the internet! They were never designed as professional “tools” or a means to achieve professional grade results when taking photographs! (Although, when used by a “pro” they certainly could yield professional results)!

They say that every tool within an industry has its own use or place. No doubt, camera phone makers will try to come up with solutions to the problems of how these cameras could be used in more professional situations, and, someone may, one day come up with a way to simply blink one’s eyes to obtain an image. But, I suspect that they won’t find a way to replace the high end digital camera any time real soon! Could it happen someday? Possibly. But for the forseeable future,  if you want to make really top grade images, learn how to use a camera properly.

If they can invent a device that calculates exposure, focuses and automates just about everything else, what’s left for the serious photographer? Well, the answer to this question is: TO THINK ABOUT THE KINDS OF IMAGES YOU WANT TO MAKE!

They may be able to make the process foolproof, but if you are a fool, you still won’t come up with winning images. You will still need to THINK about your images! And, it’s really the thought process that differentiates the true image makers from everyone else. Most successful photographs begin with a thought – something the photographer wants to convey to the viewer via the medium of pictures.

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This image was made for a magazine cover. The thought was to show the woman in a kind of “urban” environment. We didn’t have the time to travel to New York City, so we picked a spot that could pass for a cityscape. (Note the garbage on the street and the stone pillar that she is leaning on!) The picture was lit with a single speedlight and the ambient daylight. The pile of garbage was rendered in soft focus because a telephoto lens was used at a fairly wide aperture! I use this as an example because most photographs made to sell something or someone involve thinking about the image carefully. Many times, photographers work from an art director’s sketch or concept. Once you’ve thought about how to make a particular image, the process of actually doing it becomes rather straightforward. People used to ask the famous movie director Alfred Hitchcock if he watched his own movies. His reply: No, I’ve already seen them both in my head and while I was shooting them!

It is a similar process whenever you think carefully about an image you want to make. If you’ve thought about it and then transferred those thoughts and ideas to the image making process itself, you know what to do to make the image in your head become a reality as a finished photograph! Automation of the photographic process will never take the place of a well thought out image!