MAKING A PHOTOGRAPH is a bit like making a cake. Sometimes it works perfectly. And sometimes it's a complete disaster. Either due to a lack of concentration or ingredients (my main error), your lovingly made cake may end up dry, flat or tasteless. But get everything right and it's a thing of beauty. It may be light and airy or rich and fudgy. Fruity, spicy or plain. The variations are endless.
One of my sisters', next one down out of a count of four, makes the most wonderful celebration cakes. She has a number of tried and tested recipes for the sponges which she adapts according to size, customer request and possible allergy problem. She then creates the most beautiful decorations from a basic fondant icing.
I have no idea how she does this. I have attempted making birthday cakes for my kids with frankly appalling results. The fondant cracks, I can't make even the simplest of shapes and my patience for it is approximately zero. Sweetly, they don't complain (or laugh) and I have since learnt that for me, and them, simple is best. All I need and want to do is make a half decent cake that tastes good and doesn't look like a mess on a plate.
For many people making a half decent photograph is more than enough. It's possible to learn the basic rules and adapt them to whatever camera you're using, be it film or digital, large format or small. The internet is littered with tips, rules and guidelines that cover the technical basics many times over. With some practice and commitment, you too can make photographs that serve whatever purpose you need them to. And yet for others (I being one of these), you may want to express something more. Whether through your Instagram feed, in the pages of a homemade book or hanging on a gallery wall. You have ambition, an intention, a need to communicate something of your experience in this world. From this point, you discover there are further things to learn when considering a more questioning line of inquiry.
With the help of Stephen Shore's primer, The Nature of Photographs, I hope to broaden these basic rules of photography that you may have learned so far. I will assume an understanding of the main technical ingredients; aperture, shutter speed, ISO and depth of field. That you have got to grips with some compositional guidelines, the rule of thirds, move in closer, take two steps back, get your horizontal lines straight. And that you know when to shoot into the sun, or away from the sun, or when to use fill-in flash.
In this series of posts called Making Photographs, I plan to introduce and discuss six key areas: the frame, time, focus, light, vision, subject. I may add to this list or not. It will depend on how I feel. These are the things I tend to think about when making and editing my photographs. What will be notable is that these are my own thoughts influenced, inevitably, by my background in contemporary art photography. Don't be put off by that. I plan to make these articles accessible. A jumping off point, perhaps, for discussion. None of what I say is absolute. It's simply my opinion that will hopefully be of some help to someone.