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I love Digital Photography School, because I love learning. I love understanding. I love pushing through the doubt and insecurity inherent to lack of understanding, to a place of KNOWLEDGE, confidence and the competence that comes from the marriage of the two. It’s a thrilling process for me. That said, some of my very favorite images, some of my images that speak to me on the deepest personal level, have thrown out all the rules. Often, these images have ignored hard and fast rules of composition, lighting and even focus. They’ve thrown caution (and perhaps even propriety) to the wind. They are born not of my technical knowledge, but of my heart. They are born of a true, genuine connection with my subject, and they are grounded in authentic and (what I hope is) captivating storytelling, rather than precise technical know how.
When I talk about creating images of REAL, LASTING impact, I want to make it perfectly clear that, for the sake of the particular argument I am making, there are NO barriers to entry whatsoever. You don’t need the latest and greatest gear, you don’t need the most in-depth technical understanding, you don’t need the most attractive subjects. You just need to connect, deeply and authentically to the story you’re trying to tell. You need to let go of what you’ve been told a proper image SHOULD look like, how it SHOULD be composed, how it SHOULD be lit, how it SHOULD be processed, and just work from your very own heart. Ultimately, while YES, YES, YES, I absolutely do believe that knowledge is good and vastly desirable, it can also be limiting. It can dam up our creativity. It can thwart our inherent confidence and impede our overall competence.
I recognize that there are a million, zillion ways to create an image of impact. Some of them will be measured on a highly technical scale. But what I’m trying to teach you today, is to LET GO. Tune back in to the beauty and wonder that got you started with photography in the first place. Tune back in to that desire to connect, to capture, to remember. Turn the competing volume of need for perfection and pressure to do things RIGHT doooooowwwwwwwn. And just shoot.
For the sheer joy of it, just get out there, and shoot.
Here are just a few of my very most recent “favorite images of impact.” Not a one is perfectly sound from a technical standpoint, but each and every one speaks to my heart in a profound way. THAT, the ability an image has to move me to my core, is my personal definition of an image of IMPACT.
Soft focus + under exposed + by my artistic measure,
a completely brilliant capture of what it should feel like to be a child.
(Same description goes for the first image in this post.)
Again, soft focus. And again, this image captures for me EXACTLY what it should feel like to be a child.
Poor exposure + poorly lit face + very flat and arguably boring composition.
But this image is my son, and by that I mean, THIS IS MY SON.
Curled up, against the great big world. I can FEEL him when I see this image.
The same is true of the next:
Again, composition? Subject looking down? Definitely “interesting” artistic choices,
however again, this is my son, completely captivated . . . by an ant hill.
There was no convincing him to look anywhere else. This is image is a true story—
a real depiction of who he is, completely swept away by nature, simplicity, detail.
I love the story this image tells. It’s a story that I hope I never forget.
So, the next time you see an image and think, “Oh! Look at that expression! Too bad I botched the ___________ (exposure, focus, composition, etc).” Look again.
If I had to choose between a technically spotty image that tells a true story and captures true emotion, and a technically sound image that is emotionally flat, I can tell you without hesitation, that I will choose the thechnically spotty image any day of the week. ANY.DAY.OF.THE.WEEK. So this is me, giving you permission to LET GO. Keep learning, stretching and growing, YES, always! AND let go. Remember why you’re doing all of this in the first place. Chances are, you’re trying to tell a story. The best stories come from the heart. Don’t let your brain get in the way.
Happy shooting. xo! N