Above: Image, Gina Milicia. Women in Red. South Africa 5D MK 4
“When people look at my pictures, I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read a line of a poem twice.” – Robert Frank
I love this quote by Robert Frank. It sums up the way I feel about photography. I want people to care about my images. I want them to feel something when they look at them.
What’s the point of creating art that nobody cares about? Often we are so hung up with technique and megapixels and postproduction that we forget the real reason art exists in the first place.
Great art is visual storytelling, and great storytelling evokes a reaction. I feel something when I look at an image.
I can still remember the first time I saw the work of Rodin, Van Gogh, Mapplethorpe, Fan Ho, or Herb Ritts.
I’ve read books where I fell in love with the characters and still think about them 20 years later.
The type of work that I care about has nothing to do with technique, megapixel size or lens choice.
A great image forces me to see differently, is honest, raw and authentic, it can be beautiful and ugly at the same time, flawed or flawless, complicated or straightforward. These images stop me in my tracks and I can remember where I was when I first saw them.
Here are some ways to create more memorable images
1. If you don’t care about your subjects why should anyone else?
When I first started learning photography, I was shooting lots of cliche fashion shots because that’s what I thought I was supposed to kill. I never understood fashion (still don’t) and so my images always had this disconnect.
I felt so much more comfortable shooting portraits and was able to develop my own unique style.
Shoot subjects that you are genuinely interested in or passionate about.
2. Perfectionism kills authenticity
It’s so easy to get caught up in the perfect tonal range, oversharp image but striving for perfection can kill authenticity in the same way an overproduced soundtrack can sound clinical.
An image that feels like it was captured in a split second is more precious than one that has been overproduced. The lighting style, composition and postproduction technique you use will all influence the feel or authenticity of your images.
3. Get closer
I’ve always loved shooting with long lenses because of the narrower frame, but long lenses can create a disconnect with the subject. Shooting on a shorter focal lens puts the viewer in the moment.
4. Capture authentic moments
If I’m setting up an image, I like to look for the authentic moments between frames. I’ll direct the talent to do something and then keep shooting to capture the real moments that happen when the model has switched off. Dropped their “photo face” or doesn’t realise I’m still shooting.
What techniques do you use to capture authentic images and what images have stopped you in your tracks? I’d love to hear about them.