Most posts on DearSusan aim to teach the reader something the photographer knows, and the reader not. Like how a piece of gear performs, or how a part of our planet looks. But not this one. This is why it has fewer pictures than usual, as I am not about to show, but to search.
I don’t know what your style is. How could I, I don’t know who you are. But the purpose of this piece, the first instalment in a series, has 2 aims. One, to convince you that knowing what your style is will help your photography. Both in terms of keeper rate, and in terms of satisfaction from your efforts. Second, it will help you position yourself among the various choices that a photographer makes, deliberately or not. But one thing this series is not about, is telling you what to do, what is right, and “how to do it like the pros in 5 minutes”.
So, what with the title? Are you a creator, a grabber, a fondler or a storyteller? Or a combination of the above? Answering that question has relevant implications on your shooting style, your subjects, and your gear. The rest don’t matter…:-) Actually, in consultation with the ever-learned Pascal, we came to the conclusion that grabbers and fondlers are on either side of an axis, sort of an “either, or”. Creators and storytellers are also on either side of an axis. Let’s describe what we mean.
To get a first insight, let’s begin with 3 contributors to DearSusan and one other shooter known to them. If I had to classify Pascal, he is more of a creator. He likes his pictures to show his creative input. They are individual, and are meant to be. When I am with him, or know the place he has shot, I am often surprised at this ability to create a shot out of nothing and nowhere. His ability begins with his eye. Seeing not only what exists, but what he can do with it. And because he is an accomplished photographer, he is fully aware of this. So he doesn’t waste time effort and money on what does not fit his style, or matter to him. Except when thrown a perverse challenge, of course, but that is another story, to come later.
Paul on the other hand, is a typical take-no-prisoners-make-no-apologies grabber. The grabber’s shot is an appropriation of a moment, a situation, a look. Certain tribes used to believe that a photography captured their souls, which were thus taken from them. That is, in a figurative way, what Paul does. Paul, also an accomplished photographer, is also quite deliberate about this. Read his posts about the storm, or why he bought a Fuji camera, and the grabber can be heard loud and clear.
The classic fondler is my friend Boris, whose pictures you can see here. His avvowed goal is to show everything there is about scenes that inspire him. But, in order to show everything, he needs to try everything. Which is why Boris is as slow as Paul is fast. Paul will fire off shots, sometimes even one-handed. Boris hardly ever shoots without a tripod, and usually spends between 30mn and 45mn shooting each spot to death. And often coming back for more, in case he gets better weather, or light, or whatever.
Now, if you’ ll give me leave to speak about myself, to me. I am clearly not out to “show everything” a la Boris. I am not out to “grab people’s souls”, as Paul does so well. And I am quite incapable of creating something out of nothing like Pascal. What I strive to do is to show enough to stimulate the imagination, and let it complete my work. If I had to reduce that to one word, I am a storyteller. Funny, it was my father’s nickname in his days as a boy-scout.
This classification in 4 groups doesn’t mean that you can’t show more than one tendency. So, if you visualise the two lines separating grabbers from fondlers and creators from storytellers as crossing at a 90° angle, you see 4 quadrants, like this:
Let me show some examples. Here you see Paul on Pont des Arts, expert grabber that he is:
Then here is my shot, on a different day, telling a totally different story. Paul highlights, “who is there and what is happening”, while I show “who might be there, and what could happen”
Here is Pascal, shooting a fountain on the way up to the Sainte Baume. What is this fluid flowing? Some magical source of strength or health?
And my shot of the same. It is water, of course. But for whom?
So, which is your quadrant?
But, you could say, how does this matter, and why? Can’t my style change with my mood, my equipment, the subjects and opportunities at hand? Sure it can. Though Boris is not a grabber, it doesn’t mean that, given the right opportunity, he would just cross his arms and say: this is not my style!
So where does this all lead? Well, int he first place, knowing “what works for us” translates into “what we should shoot”. Then knowing “what we know how to shoot” should equate with the previous, or we will end up frustrated…
But of course, it also means something in terms of gear. The grabber is not about to pull the camera out of the bag, and/or change lenses before (s)he can “take the shot”. Equipment must be compact, always at the ready. The fondler has no need for that. His shots are deliberate, maybe even planned in advance. But he is a resolution and dynamic range hog, for whom there is no such thing as “enough”, and sometimes resorts to tilt-shift lenses to correct his images.
The creator can sometimes (but not always, of course) use the weaknesses of his (her) gear to advantage. Hence the use of such lenses as pinhole lenses, fish-eyes, Lensbabies etc…
So when it gets, for example, to the forthcoming 50Mp+ cameras that should be released soon, who should consider buying one? Paul probably doesn’t give a hoot about ever more pixels. Pascal will be painfully hanstrung between that and the multi-shot Olympus. I will very defintely lust for one, as will Boris, unless he can’t get a Nauticam housing for his 2 (a proper fondler, he has no Plan B. Merely 2 Plan As. Compromises are not part of his vocabulary).
I think you get the idea. Now the forum is yours. Tell are who you are. If you know, that is. Otherwise, find out, and enjoy the benefits!
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