The Art of Deliberateness

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What makes a good photographers image just ‘work’? How does do photographers draw your eyes into a scene and get you lost in the subject? How do some photographers get away with doing really out there artsy stuff like cutting peoples heads off in images? These are all great questions and it really comes down to one thing: Deliberateness.

My favourite quote transcends photography into every facet of life and it goes a little something like this; “One photograph out of focus is a mistake, ten photographs out of focus is an experiment and one hundred photographs out of focus is a style”. That really speaks to me because essentially t’s saying there is never such thing as being ‘wrong’ as long as you commit. On nearly every workshop I run we have the same conversation about the idea that everyones perspective is right as long as you make it clear to the audience that your choices were deliberate. It’s what separates happy snaps from photographs and photographs from masterpieces. Often you hear people say that some photographers ‘can’t take a bad shot’ and it gives me the impression that they think that top photographers just ‘get it’ the first time when they walk into a scene and point a camera. The reality is that consciously or subconsciously every detail of what they are capturing is actually thought through and accounted for, even if it happens in a split second. So today I want to give you an insight into the three easiest ways for you to implement deliberateness into your own photography.

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What’s happening with the angles and perspectives?
This is a favourite of mine because often when shooting people stand ‘in the middle of the pier’ or ‘directly under a bridge’ or ‘right in the middle of the path’ but they are in fact standing 6-12 inches off the exact middle. It might not sound like much but with some subjects it what turns a potentially amazing photograph back into a happy snap. Have you ever wondered why the world has an obsession with super models? It’s not just their rake-thin bodies but the flawless symmetry in their faces; the human eye loves symmetry. That’s not to say you always need to be front and centre in a shot, but if you’re going to move from the centre point, make sure it’s a deliberate movement not just an ‘accidentally off centre’.

A touch to the left of centre

Dead centre

A touch to the right of centre

What’s in the frame?
Every time I press my shutter button and that little image appears on the back of my screen I do a really quick analysis. ‘Why did I take the shot?’ ‘What am I trying to convey?’ ‘Did I convey the message?’. Sounds a bit wanky but at the end of the day it keeps my images deliberate; they are thought through. If a subject is somewhat cut-off it’s because I’m trying to draw the eye to a particular area or make the viewer ask a certain question, it’s never just happy coincidence. If I look back and the photo and kind of think it works it’s time to reframe it and try something else, if it worked you will know straight away.

What’s happening with the colour and contrast?
We can’t always get out and about to shoot in the best conditions, in-fact usually the most dramatic conditions come with a down side. Seascapes on a winters day for instance reward you with beautiful dramatic skies but with cloud cover often comes with a lack of colour outside of sunrise and sunset. Again we can apply deliberate thought, this time to our colour. To me, if something looks grey and cold with only hints of colour I would rather shoot it in black and white because ultimately a little bit of colour opens up the questions of ‘was is a bad day?’ ‘was is really cold?’ ‘what time was it?’ when I actually want people to be focusing in on my subject. Deliberately choosing black and white over distracting colours is a great way to take control of what views see in your images.

These are just three examples of deliberate thinking and they are techniques aren’t hard to follow but they will make huge differences to your images. As a photographer and not a happy snapper you should be constantly asking yourself the ‘what & why?’ and then ‘am I achieving it?’ questions whilst you shoot. In the image below the process looks something like this: “What do I want my viewer to see?” “The man’s expression and then their eye should wander to the factory behind him to see the manager standing over him” “Why?” “It paints the picture of hard work, his expression first says he’s somewhat broken inside and then your eyes wander to the background and see the hard conditions exaggerated by his shirt” “Am I expressing this?” “Yes, the light draws my eye to his face first and then to the darker background geometry with the manager breaking the dark silhouettes”. These three quick questions will make you stop, re-adjust your angles, colour and framing and take a better photo to tell the story.

Wanting to learn more about how to change the way you see and capture the world? Jump onto one of my workshops and learn to turn any situation into art.

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