Do you ever struggle to find a vision when trying to capture creative photography shots? We know all about that. In this blog, our expert photographer Cathy Kuhlman is helping to inspire you to embrace your process and realize that there is no “right” way to create photographic art. The most important component to your photography, whether it be a career or hobby, is your passion for it and enjoying the creative process.
Do you ever wonder what you want to create or, more importantly, how you want to make it? This happens to me, sometimes. Mmmm….most of the time, if I'm honest. I might start out wanting to shoot flowers that have just begun the process of blooming, so I grab my Nikon and pick a lens, and off I go. (More on which lens later.)
I know the light in the various parts of my yard is prettier at certain times of the day than at others, so those are the areas I head to first. I also know specific windows in my house give me the beautiful light that pretty images are born from. For me finding the light is the first thing I need to do.
Lensbaby Sweet 35 + Anamorphic Raindrop Wand | ISO | 500 | 1/1600 | Nikon D750
I'm getting a bit ahead of myself. Let me jump back up a bit. I have a good friend, whom I've gone shooting with many times. I always used to envy her process. She sees her images before she shoots. She'll pick up her camera, look at her subject, walk around, and think about her settings. She'll compose her shot in her head and then on camera. It's a significant, thoughtful process.
Lensbaby Velvet 56 | ISO | 800 | 1/320 | Nikon D750
Meanwhile, I've already jumped in and started clicking away. I adjust as I go if I do not like something. It's how I've always worked. Then I read somewhere that you should have a vision before you shoot, and I began to feel as though I was missing something. That something was wrong with me. Why didn't I have a vision like my friend or this writer/photographer whose advice I was taking for a fact?
I tried to change my workflow and attempted to do things my friends' way and the way I read I should be creating my images, but that process frustrated me and discouraged me from picking up my camera. I finally decided it's not for me. Here's the thing, if my way works for me, why change it? My art is my art. It's not my friend's art or the author's art who said I should have a vision.
If their way works for them, great!
I hope they keep at it! I need to be true to myself and do it in a way that keeps me engaged. You should be true to yourself, as well! If someone else's ideas are not working for you, then stop. Don't do it. You'll only frustrate yourself further.
So, what happens when I don't know what I want to shoot or how to shoot a subject? This is, actually, most of the time for me. I have never been one of those people to "see" my shot before I take it. I don't stress over my compositions. I find something and start shooting. Those first few images are rarely keepers, but they are part of the process. They're my warm-up images. My safe shots, if you will. Then I start exploring my subjects from different angles and locations.
I move all around my subject, or if the subject is movable, I'll move into prettier light or create a different composition. I don't chimp or review for you non-photographers after each picture, but I do after every few to see if I'm on the right track. To see if what I'm feeling, at this point, is coming across in my images.
"Just jumping in there is what inspires me. Not every frame will be a keeper, but the possibilities of what could keep me motivated and energized."
Some days I might get that WOW image in 10-12 frames, but on some days, it simply takes longer, and maybe it doesn't come at all.
When I first started out in photography, someone once told me that a good photographer might get one good image for every 100 frames they shot. My first thought was, "I'm glad I'm shooting digital, or I might not be able to afford this hobby!" I didn't let this suggestion influence my workflow or my desire.
I continued with what works best for me.
The act of picking up my camera is what inspires me. Finding the pocket of pretty light. Composing in camera... Pushing limits of light. Trying new techniques. New lenses. Just jumping in there is what inspires me. Not every frame will be a keeper, butthe possibilities of what couldkeep me motivated and energized. I love the surprise of an image I wasn't expecting and didn't plan for.
Ask yourself what inspires you.
Think not what you have to shoot,but about what your heart hopes you'll shoot. What do you want to try? The answer most surely will point you in the right direction. Then pick up your camera and go shoot. It doesn't matter if you're successful every time. The more you shoot, the better your chance of coming up with a keeper. If you don't try, you've got nothing.
Lately, my love of photography and desire for creativity in my work has to lead me to Lensbaby. I love the surprises I mentioned earlier. It feels like magic sometimes! I have a few Lensbaby lenses and love the effect I get on camera with my work. I love being able to push the limits of focus. My images feel more alive—more thought-provoking. The simple "everything in focus" image no longer inspires me the way it used to. I'm glad I learned all the principles of photography in the beginning, but I'm even happier that I'm learning how to break those rules. Soft focus is okay! Minimal focus can be awesome. Blur in all the right places is a good thing!
Choosing which lens is probably the most challenging choice I have to make, and it's not that hard. Finding time to use them all is my biggest challenge! There are qualities about all of the lenses I own that I like.
Some lenses lend themselves to macro a bit easier than others do. Macro is my first love of photography, but it's not my only love. I tend to go through cycles. The Velvet 56 was the first Lensbaby I fell in love with. Once I found my voice with that lens, I went back to my Composer Pro and Double glass optic and then tried other optics…the Edge 80, the Sweet 35. I wanted to play with different focal lengths. I even found a few older, discontinued optics online that piqued my interest, and I continue to play with them from time to time. There really isn't a wrong choice for me, and the variety keeps me from being bored using the same lens all the time!
Lensbaby Velvet 56 | ISO | 1600 | 1/125 | Nikon D750
One of the newer products is the Lensbaby Omni Creative Filter System. It's a series of films, gels, and crystals that you use in front of your lens to add color, light flare, and other creative effects to your images. One of the things I truly love about using the Omni is you almost can't preconceive an idea. I probably can't recreate an image, exactly. The possibilities seem endless. I never know what my final image will look like until I see it in my viewfinder. This, my friends, is why it works for me. It allows me to explore the possibilities. Will I like them all? Nope.
But that's okay. I'll try a different wand, or gel, or a different lens. I'll pick them up, and you guessed, it "go play," most times without expectation! That WOW image will come. It might just take a little time!
Having a vision doesn't work for me. Unlike many others, it stifles my creativity. It's not part of my journey, and I'm okay with that! If you find yourself wondering why you don't see your images before you shoot them, don't worry. You're not alone. If it's not part of your journey, then be okay with it! Find what works for you. What creates that spark. What keeps you from being bored.
What makes you want to pick up your camera in the first place. And play! What have you got to lose?
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Cathy is a self taught nature photographer, from suburban Philadelphia, who loves having a camera in her hands! Her love of photography started as a child and then blossomed again when she was raising her children. It doesn't matter if her subject is the tiny detail of a beautiful flower, wildlife in her backyard, or a dramatic sunset landscape, she just loves being able to record the beauty of nature and life. Cathy is both a Click Pro and a Lensbaby Ambassador.Website Instagram Facebook