In 2016 I was hired by a local news paper writer to do a photoshoot for a Christmas Decor article in the Winnipeg Free Press. I was teaching photography at Red River College at that time and I decide to bring along two of my students Haley Pischke and Alex Izatt to gain some experience in real world projects. It turned into a long evening, much was learned including meeting tight deadlines, but we had some fun doing the project together.
The home was a century old home in the River Heights area and it was beautiful. The decorations were designed and performed by a local interior design merchant who created a very tasteful classic decor with lots of live botanicals. I recall some amazing aromas as we moved from room to room.
The students received some valuable experience and although the due credits did not appear on the published article they did receive all my fees for their work. My only regret was I wish they had their first published article with their names on it.
As a professional photographer I was so happy to share this experience with my students. I always think back to the days I started out and to have someone share their time early on would have been invaluable to my growth.
One of the details we discussed prior to the day of the shoot was to plan, visualize and coordinate what our shooting style would be and what it might look like. Being beginners I spoke about perspective and to come up with some unique looks based on that. We shot from on top of the tables, to high on a ladder, to reflections in a mirror. I showed them that the simplest of equipment can go a long way. We used a remote triggered speed light with a white plastic milk bottle diffuser and it performed admirably. This diffused flash filled enough of the darker areas but allowed the room lighting or candles to show their character.
It was a great experience, the writer was delighted with the results and the printed article looked amazing.
I think it’s a bit misleading to make a claim which vignette is best but let me explain.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” Gramma Kerr
On my Facebook page I thought it would be interesting to share one image with a variety of vignette treatments to see what people think. The responses and assessments that were shared was terrific and a couple of things became clear to me that I will delve into here.
Let us just look back on what was asked for people to asses. Below are the 4 images I shared complete with the descriptors as to the intent of each style of vignette. I was looking to see if with the understanding of the intent and its application to this image would sway people’s opinion.
The image I used was taken on a Rodney Braun, Utah Tour, Aug 2018. You may recognize Elizabeth Webster the owner of Beyond Boundaries Academy she is a stunning model who knows how to project a feeling in her posses.
The four different styles shown here are a small sampling of what can be created with the infinite numbers of software programs available. These were created simply in LR.
So what is the best vignette style here is totally in the eye of the beholder. If you rate it by popularity #4 was by far the most popular. I anticipated that so in my minds eye it was my control image. What popularity has taught me over the years is simple. If you’re going to sell images you almost always need to follow the popular vote, don’t buck the trend. If you are perusing a fine art portfolio image, trust your heart and eye.
If your images talk to you and say it needs a soft dreamy context to help fulfil the desired result then its total your choice. This also may include a host of other possibilities like colours or textures.
The opportunities are boundless but be careful not to over step the need for a skilled assessment of your intent and how best you can enhance your image.
The choice is always yours don’t be swayed by others believe in your own instincts, it is the only way you can become artistically liberated.
“How long are you willing to wait before you dig deep into what’s creatively fulfilling ?”
As a photographer you need to study to instinctively understand, comprehend and execute the techniques of photography. But, the pictorial artists needs to evolve these rules, to be able to release themselves of the limiting confines of ridged techniques in order to be creatively free but with a sound foundation.
This sense of freedom to perform at an artistically free level is resting within most of us. It will only come forward if we truly want it. As human beings we habitually place limits on that freedom and restrain ourselves creatively falling back to what is safe for us and acceptable by our peers.
How then are we going to overcome a lifetime of limitations to suddenly become a wiser, stronger, more confident and ultimately a free thinking artists? Well, it’s not going to be sudden or easy. It’s going to be an evolutionary process that evolves through patience, learning, focus, determination and an understanding want of that liberation.
As you start this journey you may feel like you’re backing up, worrying if it is going to be acceptable, but accepting who you are, working through the learning curve you will find a persona or inner you coming together. For me this is when the hardware and software actually mean less and a tropic cascade of image evolution becomes your reality. You will find you are driven and genuinely motivated to fulfill this style that reflects you, one that is comfortable, intuitive but understood. You must trust it when it happens, let it flow through you and learn to get other peoples impressions out of the way so it can shine clearly.
Moving forward on your vision, your development of capture and processing techniques will become much stronger and more clear, actually feeling simple. With a strong mind set, you will no longer fear technical limitations and the ever changing treadmill of software regiments. Your experiences and knowledge will confirm your ability to perform at levels that will set you apart and free.
Given that reality, it’s now within your ability to minimize the effect of limitations and to allow yourself to evolve. Doing so, you must work on developing your own mind-set and psyche to perform. But, most importantly, you must develop and recognize what is your vision and define it within your given style. Believing in your own techniques releases the confidence to move past previous limitations, to continue explore any new found potentials.
Lastly dwelling on nagging critiques will fade away and be forgotten. What were once challenging obstacles will soon become a natural sustainable pace. Fears of acceptance will be replaced by an excited anticipation of exhibiting your latest exploration regardless of any consequence. Impending projects will no longer be a source of dread, but, become opportunities to rewrite your personal creative exploits.
Feel the joy and learn to fly. Only then will you have the true freedom to create.
Taking great photographs used to be based on how sharp the capture was with good composition and light. Today, with literally millions of images taken every day, that’s just not good enough. You need to dig much deeper.
Today you need your images to be more compelling, you want your audience to be there with you, feeling the moment, drawing them into your vision. In today’s world of photography this is just the first step in creating good photographic art.
The artist must understand the complex world of post production. How to create a look that can define who they are and establish it as a brand for them selves. A formidable task maybe but if your dedicated to your art its a life time journey worth exploring.
In addition the photographic artist needs to have an understanding of who he or she is and who their desired audience is. He or she needs to study exactly how they will either fit into that profile or better still how they can create a new genera that is distinctly their own. This is likely the most difficult task and it doesn’t happen with out a lot of commitment to their work. Most will never get this far and that’s OK as long as you enjoy the art of photography.
“How long are you willing to wait before you dig deeply into what’s creatively fulfilling for you?”
After spending more than a decade processing and evolving images in Lightroom its time to share these skills in a more comprehensive program. The many awards and honours bestowed upon my images and the over whelming support of the many club invitations for my talks has inspired me to open my door and share my inner thoughts and techniques on a more personal one on one level.
The “Image Mentoring Group” has been a concept under development for the past 3+ years. I’ve thought long and hard about how this would look and function but most importantly how each artists would thrive under my support and tutelage. The past years of informal private tutoring and mentoring revealed my existing circle of artists could achieve and exceeding their goals, with some achieving provincial, national and even international recognition.
Recently recognized by my colleagues and the photographic community for my dedication to the development of the photographic arts in Manitoba was a great honour. I’ve been collaborating with an amazing group of photographers development and teaching a new photographic program at Red River College. I was thrilled by this opportunity of a clean slate, open mind and to be on the ground level of exploring and developing a leading edge photographic curriculum for the collage.
These recent developments became the catalyst to complete the image mentoring concept and announce that January 2016 is the right time to launch “The Image Mentoring Group”.
The Image Mentoring Group
This is your invitation to join the first “Image Mentoring Group – Level 1 or 2”
The studio is all set and ready to go, the resources have been refined so the stage set for both creative and technical demonstrations that will help you take your work to the next level. This is not only about gaining a greater understanding about Lightroom, its more about learning how within LR you can developed a stronger creative process. Its about strengthening your vision so you can produce more dynamic images. Its about exploring innovations which will generate more ideas. This workshop is designed to help you conceptualize, visualize and execute more creatively with clarity and effectiveness.
These concepts will be developed through utilizing your own personal body of work with the goal of enhancing your own unique personal style.
To hone your image development skills within the Lightroom environment.
To develop a greater understanding of your images and how you can bring them to life as interpreted by you within Lightroom.
The images used are exclusively from your own portfolios and will be developed by you with my guidance.
Upon completion you will have a greater confidence of creative composition and in your own abilities within Lightroom.
You will gain a better understand of your own images and how best to process them effectively creating your own unique style.
In Level 2 once the files are completed you will learn to proof and print your image on a large format 44″ printer. The completed print is yours to take home and enjoy.
Each attendee will have 1 year hot line for any further questions once the course is completed. In addition you will receive a monthly newsletter on new developments, tips and tricks and other cool information.
Session #1 is now open for booking. I’m looking for groups of 3-4 who will meet once a week for 2.5 hours over 5-6 consecutive weeks, this is first come is first served. If you have friends and want to form your own group on a specific day and time that’s more than welcome.
Each group session group creates a “circle”. On the first circle meeting a through group discussion will determine the over all direction of the Lightroom curriculum. Each sessions scheduled has a 30-40 min curriculum study on LR and associated programs with the balance of 2 hours spent on individual person development.
The studio has undergone renovations and there are four work stations ready to go. The environment has a comfortable creative feel with inspiring images to help motivate you. All the network and print equipment is top professional standards.
Prerequisites Level 1 – 2:
This is step one on learning Lightroom and composition. No previous knowledge of LR is needed but an understand of you computer and OS is required. PC and Mac are both covered. Wifi enabled is required.
This is an intermediate level. A basic knowledge in Lightroom, from LR4 forward is needed. A good understanding of your computer is required we don’t want to spend time on technical issues its all about learning the artistic craft of photography. Wifi enabled is required.
For professional and semi professional photographers looking to streamline their workflows and to create dynamic images within a solo file, file batch, collection or series. How to quickly asses image development requirements. Tether shooting for studio and commercial drone studies by mid summer 2016.
Starting dates are as follows:
Level 1 Beginner Studies in image composition and Lightroom development techniques.
Starting Sat. Jan 9, 2016 and five consecutive Saturdays ending Feb. 6, 2016. Times 9:30 sharp to 12:00 noon, door opens at 9:00
Level 2 Intermediate studies and mentoring of your images and thorough customization of Lightroom studies relative to your work.
Starting Sun, Jan. 10, 2016 and six consecutive Sundays ending Feb.14, 2016 Times 9:30 sharp to 12:00 noon, door opens at 9:00
Starting January private sessions booked at the convenience of the photographer.
At the current time there are only 2 Mac work stations in my studio so having your own laptop is an asset.
Level 1 $300 for 5 weeks Includes all LR & Circle documentation.
Level 2 $375 for 6 weeks includes all LR & Circle documents and printing materials.
Level 3 fee determined by the needs of the photographer based on $200 per hour.
The courses are now full. Once completed I will set up a date for the next session likely end of April or beginning of May. If you want to book ahead send me a note via email and you’ll receive the advance notification.
Fees are due on entry and the first four confirm your position in the program.
This was a talk presented to the Manitoba Camera Club, February 3, 2015 and The Winnipeg South Photo Club, March 18, 2015.
Tonight we are about to embark on a journey to try and gain a deeper understanding of photography. We are going to delve into the mysteries of capturing emotions and feelings in two dimensional digital images. Can a photograph depict and evoke feelings that are deeper than say a raw journalistic capture of a shooting, accident or riot. We know how those make us feel. My hope is we’ll have some understand of these subtle dynamics by evenings end and how you can apply it to your images.
One of the gallery experiences I enjoyed over the past 5 years allowed me to interact with photographers both local and from around the world. These conversations allowed for the sharing of ideas and concepts, combined with my continued work and studies in processing images, I began to formulate a theory on the understanding of how emotions can be comprehended and applied. Within this presentation I will try to explain some of these intricacies which I have applied to my work.
So sit back and enjoy this journey to your inner emotions.
The Human Condition
This is the first in a series of articles that will be posted on my bog Joe Kerr Photography under the subject titled “Creative Photography”.
I would like you to close your eyes and listen to these sound bits and see if you can visualize the scenes you are about to hear. So relax and open your minds eye.
Here are a couple of questions to help open your minds eye:
Did your visions easily flow from one sound bit to the other ?
Do you have a favorite ?
Were your thoughts in B&W or Colour ?
How did each sound bit make you feel ?
Great images all begin at the capture, so here are some critical issues and influences when going out to capture amazing images: Remember this is about the human condition and gaining an understanding of capturing emotion in images.
Lets start from the very beginning.
How did your day start out ? Are you looking forward to your shoot ? Do you have a plan on what your shooting ? Is weather or sunlight a factor in you deciding to shoot today ?
Is today an optimum day to capture that subject ?
These and many more questions all influence how well your shoot will go but ultimately how you will feel about it. It is my opinion that how you feel is the most important key to capturing great emotional images.
Putting yourself in a mindful space that is relative to what you are shooting is inherently difficult. This is one of the most important and influential characteristics of great photography and that is to actually feel your potential images before you even hit the shutter.
Here is a situation that may help you understand this. Do you remember the most amazing sunrise opportunity you’ve ever had and how you felt when it presented itself. Can you also remember another morning that was equally beautiful but for some reason it just didn’t pan out. You see the differences in your images but do you remember how each of those days started out and how you felt.
This is not a contemporary thought process lets take a step back in history for a minute and learn from two masters.
Ansel Adams immersed himself in his environments and became so in-tuned he even named trees and rocks in around his cabin near Yosemite. He followed and created trails that became his home under the sky, yet, he understood that nature only allowed him a moment of opportunity, they weren’t his, but his photographs were, and he could share them. He became much more philosophical about what he was feeling while capturing images and constantly wrote in his journals his thoughts. He clearly understood how his images could and would effect his viewers and how his emotions would influence each capture. Because the print was what everyone would see, Ansel spent enormous amounts of time perfecting his prints in the darkroom so that they were perfect portrayals of what was in his minds eye not just a capture of a scene. He wrote about having a vision of his print before capturing them, and though these images were very personal to him, as a viewer you can see and feel that.
In a completely different photographic genre there’s Yousuf Karsh. He was another artists that lived through his photography. As a portrait photographer he didn’t have the lighting sophistication that we enjoy today. Still, he enjoyed shooting on location, the most challenging portraits of the time. His innate sense and feel of natural light combined with his in camera skills he created images that are astonishing even today. With those simple techniques he created outstanding portraits that brought his subjects to life. Yet, I think most importantly, he took time to study and understand his subject first. He then visualized and executed sitting techniques that both relaxed them and yet brought out their personalities knowing something of who they were. Upon studying his work you can actually feel their personalities come out of the prints. His compassion to execute what was in his minds eye made him a world renowned photographer during that era and even today?
I referenced these two artists because most of you know of them, and, they are masters whom we can relate to through their images but also as human beings. Although uniquely different they shared an inner bond of an innate sense of a divine intervention that helped to create their art. I certainly don’t profess to be in the same league of either of these famous photographers, yet, I do understand what they were trying to convey in their memoirs. Theirs and other similar concepts have been my inspiration for years and I will try to convey to you tonight what that means. No this is not a religious intervention but it is a deeper understanding of what made them tick and create amazing images.
On that note let me express to you what I’ve learned and have adopted as my usual or unusual process in capturing.
How I shoot varies greatly. example: If I’m with a group or with another person I rarely do what I truly like to because the dynamics will not allow. If the moment feels right though, I may disappear from the group to find my own space knowing that time will allow me to explore what is being presented to me.
Here is what I like to do as a solo shooter and I think the difference will be self explanatory. During solo shoots I take a lot of time, I’m not a run and gun type of photographer. Again, I’m going to talk about the human process behind the camera.
Nature or Scenic Shooting:
I chose this genre of photography because its one that most of you can relate to. Here is a list of things I do in preparation to taking that first shot.
Clearly pack all that is need for that day, the night before. One bag and a tripod.
Pack snacks for me and the creatures.
Look up some creative websites that inspire you.
Leave early with plenty of time to spare so your not feeling rushed.
Listen to music or other inspiration audio bits en-route.
Once I arrive I will find a trail off the beaten track, people are everywhere these days and personally I don’t want a shot that everyone else has.
Arrive and chill. Stop, look and listen. This is how I begin the process of interacting.
Until I’m feeling what I’m about to interact with I will not begin, take deep breaths and relax and survey my surroundings.
I like to feel a sense of perspective of who I am in this environment and how I could be perceived by those who live in this environment.
Feel the time of day, maybe its the warmth of the sun as it begins to lighten the morning skies, get a feeling of the trees wakening as the winds begin to blow, listen as the birds begin to sing and as life begins to stir in the forest.
Listening I can hear and feel life all around me and by being still, for sometime now, the forest will begin to reveal itself.
Over time you will learn the rhythm of nature and understand how it will react to the foreign sounds you create, remember you are the intruder.
Remaining quiet and still is exhilarating to me, I can be here for hours and not think anything of it.
Always be aware of the light, watch its glow illuminate the trees and the meadows, be aware of where it is and isn’t, light is the key to all great shots.
When nature presents itself go slowly, take time to try to understand the creatures in their habitat, see how they react to sounds around it, watch and learn every move, ears, eyes, neck and over-all body language.
Watch every detail, the direction it appears to be going, is there better light coming up, can you time the optimum reaction to the camera, take it in and feel it, until it becomes a part of you.
I can get so involved that I can feel their heart beating and I’ll watch their breathing, a relaxed sigh, a sudden and alert gasp and hold.
Patients and more patients think before you hit the shutter, timing is everything. No paparazzi shooting here.
Given the optimum opportunity I’ll take my shot, stop, silence, then shoot again if possible.
Depending on the creature the timing is different. Deer, first shot, is a waist, its the second and third that count.
Watch in wonder and learn. Can you learn, feel and understand how they are feeling? I think I can. When the creature is relaxed and calm, is that the shot you want, or, maybe its when they are alert with attentive ears perked. What ever the looking your waiting for, watch and learn and anticipate.
Now when I say “Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like.” can you begin to understand ?
With everyone’s lives full of hustle and bustle I’m sure some of you are thinking this is mambo jumbo by now. As I was preparing my talk I was thinking the same thing maybe I should just do a standard show and tell. Well that’s not me, so lets move on to the next step.
Now let me show you how this continues to relate and what it looks like in the end. I apologize that I don’t have a 14 step action set to sell you that will create amazing results for your images, its not that simple and nor should it be, this is creative art.
Lets start with your studio. Have you created a special place to create your art. Is your studio a place you enjoy going to and does it provide inspiration for you, or have you even thought about creating a special environment. Does music play a roll in your life and studio ? All this plays a part in how you feel about your photography. I’ve had the privilege of visiting numerous studio’s and the cream of the crop do have a special place to create their work so its fact, not fiction.
Let me walk you through a couple of my photographic opportunities and how I perceived and processed them. My processing actually begins when I’m capturing the image in the field. My mind is already thinking about how these will likely be processed, I’m also not close minded but this is my starting point.
Each photographic concept has a different starting point in the camera settings. Each subject has its own unique feel and needs to be processed that way. There are no single one action fool proof buttons here, this is art and needs that individualistic attention to detail. Here on the blog I’ve attached links to each set of images and the details in capture and processing follow the link to learn more. Each set was a study on its own.
As you work through your processing procedures and begin experiencing the joy of creating a wonderful image, you will find a persona emerge, were the hardware and software actually mean less, it becomes more important to know how the image feels. You will begin to find a style that reflects an inner you, one that is comfortable, intuitive but is understood. You must trust it when it happens, let it flow through you and learn to get out of the way, don’t clutter it with techno mumbo jumbo let it shine clearly.
So where do your inspirations come from. I think its very important to find outside stimulants that help to fertilize your imagination and keep your creative neurons flashing.
Here are some places I go to find what I need to keep me creative: Cirque du Soleil – the artistic sets but more so the costumes that amaze me Theatre Productions – take a blank stage and transport me to another place and time is crazy how its created with forms and lighting. Movies Productions – special effects and CG environments astound me Attend art shows – art today is an unlimited canvas, explore everything you can Inspirational websites – In the digital realms of the web the world is your oyster Quotes – I look for quotes that inspire me. Google an image topic – This is simply magic at your finger tips at any moment Join and share in different communities. – The more the merrier, share and you will be rewarded 10 fold
There is no wright or wrong places to find inspiration, its what makes most sense to you and what inspires you to create your art.
Keys to Remember
Your eyes need to learn to listen before they look. Patients pays off. Don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot how it feels. Be mindful of the event and while shooting be aware of how you might work it in post production. Create a studio space that is both inviting and inspirational to you.
Be yourself !
What I’ve just expressed to you is my own personal formula on what I’ve learned over the years. To some it will appear goofy, some may like a part of it and others may find this inspirational. For those that found it amazing there are some doctors just outside the room in white jackets that want to talk to you, please have your medical cards ready.
Thank you for your time.
Links to Reference Materials
Alan Ross Photography Here is a link to a blog by Alan Ross who was one of Ansel Adams lab assistant. He reveals some amazing insights into Ansel Adam’s daily routines and how he perceived his art. Its a very interesting read.