An Excerpt from the Shutter Sisters Blog by Co-Author Jen Lemen
What happens when you choose once and for all to put what matters to you in the viewfinder, regardless of who approves or understands?
What happens when you claim your craft, your art, your expertise, and stop asking anyone more established or proficient or experienced to say it's good enough?
What happens when you throw away the rule book and all the measuring sticks and just say what you were afraid to say all along?
I am a photographer. Here is my work. Learn from it. Let it speak to you.
In many ways, this is what publishing Expressive Photography has meant to Tracey and the rest of us here at Shutter Sisters. Most of us learned the technical aspects of photography primarily by way of experimentation and trial and error, leaning on our creative instincts to guide image-making. While the technical aspects of photography can be researched, learned, and mastered, the art of uncovering and embracing the vision that is unique to you and letting it guide your lens is a far more challenging task. Some of us didn't know this was a passion until we looked through the lens at our ordinary lives and realized we were bearing witness to honest beauty and real magic.
Like many of you, our education in photography came over years, hand and hand with our own personal development. While we were learning about aperture, composition, and shutter speed, we were also mastering the art of how to see, how to really see what's worth honoring in an everyday life.
Not everyone will appreciate our particular contribution to the photography conversation at large. A quick scan of certain reviews and the Shutter Sisters inbox reveals that Expressive Photography has actually riled some members of the old guard--an outdated and small contingent of the fading old boys club that has dominated the professional photography scene for so long.
But times are changing. At this particular moment in history, it's no longer enough to have the longest lens or the most sophisticated mastery of your technical skills. What matters is your ability to infuse your work with heart and soul--whether you're standing on the fields of Rwanda watching two young girls wait for a miracle or whether the miracle is already standing in your own backyard.
This is why we wrote Expressive Photography. We believe in what you see, and we know that this book will inspire and help you show everything your soul already knows about what matters the very most.
Amazon Exclusive: Six Steps to More Expressive Photography by Tracey Clark, Founder of Shutter Sisters [Click on Images to Enlarge]
What exactly makes a picture worth a thousand words? How is it that a single image can tell an entire story of the subject in the frame? What draws us in to images and not only piques but holds our interest? Although the reasons can sometimes be intangible, there are a number of things to consider as you attempt to use your camera to seek out and distill the kind of pictures you’ll want to frame.
How you approach your subject, whether it be a person, place, still-life, etc. will most certainly influence how you capture it in a photo. There is always a connection that is made between you and what you are shooting. Pay attention to that. Why are you compelled to click the shutter? When you aim to shoot a picturesque landscape, bring your own wanderlust. When it’s a portrait you’re after, you bring yourself in a different way as you meet your subject and connect on a deeper level. Really look at your subject and honor it with the picture you take. In shooting this picturesque landscape, co-author Jen Lemen approached it with love and longing. Albeit many miles from her home, this field is where a piece of her heart will always remain. We can feel that connection in this image.
Photography, like life, is all in the way you look at it. Consider what you see when you are looking at your subject and chances are you will be able to use that as your inspiration to help you creatively frame your shot. To move beyond snapshots you must be willing to change your photographic point of view from the basic point-and-shoot approach to something more deliberate. Perspective shifts can be so simple (shoot from above, get down low, etc.) so it’s merely just a matter of remembering to use a unique perspective to capture more interesting, expressive shots. Quite often, the more unexpected your perspective, the more compelling your image. Sarah-Ji chose to not only give us a window into her daughter’s world, she framed this moment in such a way as to reveal the magic and wonder of childhood itself just by her unique perspective.
Composing a good shot is basically a matter of how you choose to frame the elements of your image. Although good composition is intuitive when observed (you usually know a good shot when you see one) shooting it takes more of a conscious decision. Be mindful of where in the frame you place your subject, where you choose to focus, and what you choose to include in the big picture. Consider your view finder as a canvas and be discerning about the elements you include in your masterpiece. Contemplate balancing components such as lights and darks or positive and negative space. Try using texture, line, and/or shape to help you express the feeling you want to convey in your photo. The compositional choice that Kate Inglis made in framing this shot makes an ordinary plate of greens a thing of beauty. The dark and light divided by the curved line of the bowl which leads your eye to the texture and color of the food and brings visual balance to the entire frame.
Without light, there would be no photography so it makes sense that learning how to quite literally see the light will help you to better use natural light to create better images. Light can seem illusive but the more you study it with your eye and observe it’s nuances, the more effortlessly you’ll be able to do the same through your lens. When shooting portraits, for example, you can easily tell when the light is illuminating your subject in a complimentary way by just looking at your subject's face and avoiding harsh shadows and dark circles, for example. Take the time to rotate or move your subjects until the light flatters their faces and lights up their eyes with catch lights.
As we document the world around us in pictures, we are telling stories, and like in any good story, rich details are a must. Don’t overlook the things that other people might not notice. Begin to hone your eye to see more than just the big picture. Consider a lock of hair, a flower petal, or the mere gesture of your subject can all effectively tell more of a story than any obvious image ever could. Challenge yourself to capture the details of a moment that only you can reveal! These little tidbits of life, not only delight and inspire, they make for some of the most intriguing and enchanting images. The braids, tiny bows, and posture captured in this image of my twelve-year-old are exactly the details needed to effectively tell the story of that quintessential moment where childhood and adolescence collide.
Digital tools for improving and enhancing digital images vary in complexity and price. You don’t need expensive or elaborate implements to edit your pictures. Some of the most effective post-processing techniques are the most simple tweaks that almost every program or software offers. A little boost in contrast or increased color saturation can make a rather flat image pop! Post processing isn’t a way of creating a great photograph, it’s a technique that can be used to intensify a mood or vibe of a shot which can make for a more inspired photograph than perhaps the original was. Changing a color image to a black-and-white is one way photographers can dramatically alter the original image and transform it into something entirely different and often more evocative. It all comes down to the artistic discretion of the photographer. Stephanie C. Roberts’s choice to process her image to black-and-white gives it a timeless and true documentary feel. Removing the color keeps the focus on the engagement of the boys here and not the environment.
Enjoy what you’re doing, value your work, honor your journey, and celebrate your creative spirit! And always, shoot from the heart.
--Tracey Clark, Founder of Shutter Sisters