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why we a suck at photography (technically speaking)

This post is one that has been sitting in my head for quite some time now. Months actually. I’ve long had this itch to somehow put to words just what it is that we are trying to accomplish with our work as photographers-to sort of write about what we hope for every time we get behind the lens.

And now I think I’ve found a few words that help.

Just this past week one of my ‘I really want to be that guy’ photographers that I follow, Chase Jarvis, had a post on his blog that was written by one of his studio staff (Scott). The post discusses from Scott’s perspective the industry of stock photography and how there has long been (and will probably continue to be) an expectation that for any image to enter the market it has to hit this mark of perfect aesthetics. Perfect transitions between color tones, spot on white balance, flawless sharpening, etc.(If you have a few minutes, definitely go read the post-its quite phenomenal).

But what originally drew me to the work that Chase and his crew puts out, is the simple raw power and story telling that they are able to convey through their imagery. His work in the commercial industry is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen. The first thing I think of when I see Chase’s work isn’t the technical perfection attributed to flawless post processing, but the dramatic story and emotion that is evoked inside of my own heart and head.

So jumping back to why we suck at photography….

We were never trained at photography. Quite honestly, I’ve never really been trained at any creative endeavor I’ve pursued. What originally drew us into becoming photographers was the opportunity (and adventure) of somehow capturing the world in all it’s raw, beautiful, powerful, humorous, and even tender ways. And we could have thought of no better way than through the monumental moments and days of two people joining lives.

We will never be ‘Master’ photographers. (yes- you can actually jump through enough hoops for the title). Not that pursuing your passion and skill is at all a bad thing-some of my other ‘I really want to be that guy (or gal)’ photographers are ‘Masters’ level photographers. But I’m quite certain I would never quite fit the mold.

I’m that guy that gets teary eyed at my clients weddings, or as I flip through a family shoot for the first time and find an image that just absolutely speaks to the story of being human-of being a kid. Or upon seeing the smiles between a couple as they say goodbye to their wedding guests and take off for the honeymoon. Those are moments and reasons behind why we do this job.

I’m a total sap. Go on. Insert funny girly joke here. I can wait.:)

Even as I try and put words to all this mumbo jumbo… I can’t help but use images to convey.

(random thought… does it help to put captions/thoughts before or after the images? let’s go with after.)

This is my favorite image that I grabbed this year. There is something about seeing a smile that big-that beautifully reckless, innocent and unabashed-that reminds me of the joy of being human. And there I go getting all teary eyed again. Get it together, Ben.

Technically speaking-this image has much to be critiqued. In full disclosure it’s not well proportioned, the focus point is actually on her shirt, distracting background elements and color correcting that isn’t exaclty flattering.

But I can feel that image. I am reminded of the feeling of being a kid. Without worry of what people think of me and the ability to simply laugh, play, run… and love.

This image just takes me straight to a conversation in my mind….

Mom: Did our kids just really just jump into a fountain?
Dad: Yep….. that was awesome.
Mom: My family is really that crazy…..
Dad: I can’t wait to put the kids to bed later.

Whoa…. let’s keep this one PG. My apologies.:)And even though there are fingers in mouths and eyes not even close to looking the camera-the kids have this guilty innocence, while the parents share a smirky joyful smile that speaks of the love that means the world… Priceless.

This is an image that Whitney consistently goes back to as one of her favorites. It’s that “we are getting married in two weeks and my life can no longer be without you” kind of kiss. It’s suuuper noisy, blown out, with some extremely average and overdone post processing. Yet it draws up that feeling I had just days before my own wedding. I know that feeling.

Again… I’m drawn to that smile. The one that says “I’m marrying you in exactly an hour-and our lives will never be the same. And it couldn’t feel any more right.”

Yet the image is crazy blown out, losing what many people would consider so many important details of the bride.

I’d pick capturing stories, life and love any day. And it’s not even that we aren’t constantly pursuing becoming better at what we do-for the better photographer one is, the far easier it is to be ready to capture that priceless moment-and we are constantly pushing ourselves to become the best we can be.

It’s a blend somewhere between aesthetic perfection and raw, powerful imagery that we hope to land in. Always ready to let life dictate what comes through lens.

So here’s to capturing life, love, hilarity, tenderness and those ‘holy crap I just got to experience that‘ moments. Thanks to many of you who have invited us into those very moments. We are blessed because of it-because of you.

Cheers friends.

  • February 10, 2009 - 4:36 pm

    aaron harms - that was so girly. you’re such a sap. jk bro. good work!

    i love that one of payton! oh, and the other three that follow the one of payton.

  • February 10, 2009 - 8:20 pm

    Lyndzee of EP - I’ll tell you why you ROCK at photography,,,,, cuz you do!! SUCK on that!!!!

  • February 10, 2009 - 9:35 pm

    Cio - I truly believe that you and Whitney have what every photographer, like myself, want; that raw talent.
    The ability to capture that expression, at juuuuuust the right moment. To me you ARE ‘Master’ photographers.
    You guys go against the norm with your art. From Different (Amazing) angles, to over/under exposures that work SO well.
    (Hey, now I’m the one getting sappy!) I raise my glass to your toast (the last two sentences in this blog), Here’s to capturing Life.

  • February 10, 2009 - 9:39 pm

    ben (i run this here blog) harms - You better believe I just raised a glass to that.

  • February 11, 2009 - 2:15 am

    meredith - Technical sucks. It’s because you aren’t “technical” that you two shoot such great, fresh stuff.

  • February 11, 2009 - 4:25 am

    Michelle - I agree with Meredith. True “masters” sometimes know too much. They think too hard and focus on unimportant things. Whereas, you guys shoot a picture because of the moment. You don’t wait for your focus to be perfect or the angle to be perfect, etc. You capture reality instead of something fake and posed. I tip my hat to you because I would love to be able to take pics like you.

  • February 11, 2009 - 9:16 pm

    Kimberly - I think you are “masters” of naturalism. I love the moments that you capture. I die when I look at the kiss photo. Remarkable!

  • February 16, 2009 - 10:21 pm

    MOM - Wow Ben, not only are you and Whitney creative and masterful in the pictures that you take but I love to read your thoughts in writing. I still want to read your book some day. From a proud Mom!

  • February 24, 2009 - 1:38 am

    ryan flynn - all i’ve got to say is, AMEN!

  • March 22, 2009 - 2:17 pm

    julesjan - Totally awesome post. Love how to put all of that together in your head and then got it down in words. Especially think your “holy crap” statement wraps it up perfectly. I’d say you guys are doing a pretty great job at not being Masters…
    BTW… came upon your blog thru a client of yours.

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