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This chapter is from the book

We’re Not the Only Ones Involved

Each photographer goes through stages while becoming technically proficient with her gear, and more often than not, this facet of shooting overtakes the meaning created in the images we produce. I’m sure you can think of at least a handful of images that you are extremely happy with based on how you achieved them rather than what they are saying to a wider audience.

Just as we can express our own vision through images, we are also telling the story of who or what we are photographing, and the camera and our technical ability can sometimes get in the way of good storytelling. We’ll always stumble over some of the technical details of making images, but the more we concentrate on creating story, the less stumbling we do along the way.

Creating visual stories is a two-way street, a relationship between the photographer and the subject. The subject may be static or live, but either way, the minute we publish an image in a magazine, newspaper, or image-sharing Web site, we’re saying something about both actors. My villainous image of Jeff Haley says that I’m a photographer who knows how to use artificial light in a field context, but it doesn’t exactly do his story justice. The image chosen for the story, however, fit his personality and role in the overall narrative while conveying my own photographic style.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not saying that the technical achievements are not important. Working on this aspect of your photography is infinitely valuable. I do believe, though, that our work as visual storytellers is most effective when the technical does not get in the way of the unfolding narrative. Sometimes, the technical aspects of images help advance the direction of the story, but that requires awareness. This is something I’ll discuss in more detail in the following chapters.

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Field of Dreams. Sometimes your own family members help build your storytelling portfolio. Baseball is an important part of Dillon’s life on the rural ranch where his family lives. Cottondale, Texas.

Canon 1D Mk III, 195mm, 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 100

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My youngest cousin, Addison, on her first birthday. Even if your heart’s desire is to photograph extreme sports whilst hanging out of a helicopter window during a thunderstorm, don’t shirk your role as the family photographer and visual storyteller.

Canon 5D Mk II, 50mm, 1/250 sec, f/1.4, ISO 100

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