Variety – The Spice of Photography

20 Jun

If you own a business, especially one that sells a product, it is in the best interest of the company to keep variation down to a minimum. By having the employees perform their job the same way every time not only helps control inventory and eliminate waste, but it also ensures quality by doing away with that individual thing we humans like to add to work.

To illustrate, let’s take a look at a hamburger joint. There is a procedure to cooking a hamburger, with set times to ensure the meat is neither over-cooked nor under-cooked. There is an order in which cooks places condiments on the sandwich to ensure that the cook forgets nothing and the sandwiches consistently taste the same. For placing condiments, the company provides tools that ensure the continuous application of the set amount, every single time. By following this discipline a business ensures that a hamburger purchased in Chicago tastes the same as any other chain store in the United States.

While this practice is great for building sandwiches and cars, it isn’t so good in making great photographs. If one approaches the subject the same way every time soon, all the pictures start looking the same. And while that one approach worked great for one picture, that very essence of “quality”, or what made that picture so wonderful, usually cannot be continuously duplicated as if it were a manufacturing line.

Also, failing to create variety will produce stagnation within the photographer/artist. If we stop thinking about our subjects and our approach the vitality drains from the artistic vision. Think about Olan Mills, a very successful portrait chain, or even Wall Mart. The photographer places the subjects on the X’s, pulls down the back drop and pushes the button. This process continues day in and day out. And while the photographs taken may have a good quality about them, they all look the same.

Variation also produces unexpected results. The picture posted here is my favorite from the series taken while on a trip to the St. Louis Zoo. The lighting was low, making hand-holding the camera risky because of potential camera shake. I framed the picture, dialed in the settings and then simply lowered the camera, let it hang tight from the straps against my torso and I snapped the pictures. I could not see what the camera was taking and I wound up with some interesting results. Many of the photos were obviously bad but yet this particular picture worked out. In fact, it worked out in a way that I could not have done if I tried. I never, would have thought of framing it thus.

So, what is my point? If you have a camera in hand and are taking pictures, try something different and be pleasantly surprised. If your photos all look the same, there is a reason. Break up the monotony and do something different. Variety is the spice of photography.

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Posted by on June 20, 2010 in Photography Advice


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