As a Marine, I had a great appreciation for attention to detail. Sergeant Sanborn could walk in front of his platoon, survey his Marines, and any discrepancy in their uniforms would pop out at me. I knew perfect, and anything less than that, even in the slightest detail, was unacceptable. You would think that this skill never fades, but it does. That usually isn't much of a problem, until you freeze a moment in time. Once you turn that 1/250th of a second of live action into a permanent frozen image, you now have forever to pay attention to every detail in the image, and if you weren't looking closely before, you may be able to spend forever looking at a pile of mistakes.
I'm not a fashion photographer, mainly because I have the sense of style that earned straight white men their reputation. I have a subscription to GQ, but I don't really read it, and I especially don't resemble the models when it comes to clothing or grooming styles (or abs, I know.). But, I do love the aesthetic of fashion photography and would love to be proficient in reproducing the style. Beautiful women in beautiful clothing with beautiful and dramatic lighting. I also haven't spent a lot of time shooting models. I like taking regular people and making them look amazing. So when one or more of my friends want's to play dress up, I'm quick to grab the camera and do an impromptu fashion shoot.
Take the photo above of April and Anna. I love photographing these two. They have a great love of being in front of the camera, so when we were hanging out at the beach earlier this year with a bunch of friends for April's birthday, it didn't take long for them to start playing dress up. Next thing you know we're out on the wet wooden patio with an amazing dramatic sky in the background. Add a single light bounced into a silver umbrella off camera, add some sexiness in the posing, and next thing you know I've taken what is one of my favorite pictures. Then spend forever wondering why I didn't bother to notice April's house slippers. You could argue that the imperfection of wearing footwear that contrasts with the outfit gives the photo character, and yeah, it kind of does. But me, I wonder why I didn't notice it before we started shooting, and I think how much better the photo would have been if the girls were in heels.
A few days ago I was sitting around lamenting that since deciding to be a creative person full time I had slacked on being creative. Time to go back to the well. A few texts and a phone call back and forth with April, and she and Anna were in full on creative stylist mode. I was there with lights and camera, this time beating the attention to detail drum in a way that Sergeant Sanborn would have been proud of. When Anna asked April about footwear, April's lack of concern got me into what must have been an annoying speech about attention to detail, and how bad that one picture needed heels, and about how all I could see in the picture of Jake in his new suit was how it looked like he heroically saved a whole platoon by "jumping on a wrinkle grenade", and how I swore to never let this happen again. I'm confident that it sounded like a Charlie Brown adult, just much more annoying.
I guess I'm looking to end the practice of taking pictures that are almost great. I've taken a ton of almost great photos. My favorite picture of my dad is one I took of him a few years ago while on his boat. It is a great picture in a lot of ways. Not without technical errors. His eyes are cast in deep shadow beneath the bill of his hat and behind his dark glasses, but I can forgive that flaw as the dark shadows give a sense of drama. What I can't forgive is that I didn't move just a bit to the left or right to get the man overboard pole to not look like it was growing out of the back of his head. A classic mistake. I spend a lot of time now looking at what is behind my subject, and the photo of my dad is what drove that lesson home.
I feel a little odd spending all this time talking about all of my misses. The whole reason I write this blog is to talk about my photography in the hopes of generating business. I would love to sit here and write about how I've never taken a bad photo (LIES!), or about all of the things I've learned from doing things perfectly. The truth is different. My favorite photo I've ever taken is the black and white photo of the Portland Skyline that is currently the 1st image on my homepage. I can't see any mistakes in it. I'm not saying it couldn't be a better picture, just that in my opinion nothing jumps out with that pic as being wrong. I really haven't learned a thing about photography from that picture. I've learned way more from my mistakes than my successes will ever teach me.
So now, the details are all given consideration before and during a shoot. The reason April wasn't worried about footwear is that the shoot wasn't about shoes. But we planned for the just in case of the shoes being in the picture, and when they were we were ready. This opened up an opportunity to take a picture where the shoes ended up being the interesting element that made the picture.
Now that I've spent all this time talking about making mistakes, I want to talk myself up a bit. I like the pictures I'm making today. If you like the pictures I'm making today, just wait until you see the pictures I'll be making a year from now, or a year from that. Even though I'm on a tear to learn from all my past mistakes, I'm sure there are new mistakes that I still haven't made yet, and think of the awesome things I'll learn from them!