Making images as opposed to taking them.

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by Boid, Jul 29, 2012.

  1. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    Right now I'm at a point where I can predict the outcome of my images. It's very liberating to finally be able to shoot the image in my head, as opposed to what the camera chooses to see.

    It took me a lot longer than I expected it to.


    Come. Play.
    x8Oiq.


    Selling bubbles
    VFhLb.


    Right now
    JdYTR.


    Lets head out.
    qCysO.


    Concrete
    zOsr0.
     
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  2. pictogramax

    pictogramax SC Top Veteran

    979
    Aug 18, 2011
    Belgrade, Serbia
    By your title I thought of something a bit different. I understand what you are talking about but consider it still to be "taking" images, although deliberately, thoughtfully and with more skill, idea and vision. Which makes a world of difference, true, and is a natural way to grow into photography with deepening both the skill and the personal meaning.

    What is then "making" images? As opposed to taking the picture of something you stumbled upon or found "as-is", I consider it to be when you arrange the elements yourself to produce the image in accordance of your pre-conceived vision. Something like this:
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxjaguar/4314347865/" title="ANGEL FUR by Milan Jovanovic /pictogramax, on Flickr">https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2786/4314347865_0092c3603b_z.jpg?zz=1" width="640" height="640" alt="ANGEL FUR"></a>
    Can you guess what it is? I'll show you the making of later:)

    In line with my "definition", the street-photography would be "taking", for example, while fashion or table top would fall into "making". Not that one is better than other, just the foundation is a bit different. With all the mixes inbetween, of course:)
     
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  3. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    I meant 'making' a picture in a very basic sense of the term. I meant it as, when one looks at a scene, forms a notion of the final image in one's mind and then presses the shutter, towards achieving a specific result. I probably mean "make" as a deliberate act of creation vs "take" as a more unstudied instinctive reaction to the picture taking process.

    Neither is wrong or right. But I often look at images nowadays, with this distinction in mind. "Did he/she make the picture, or did he/she take it?"

    I understand your definition of controlling the scene itself as "making" the picture. But that's not what I meant.

    A classic example of "making" the picture in all possible ways would be Jeff Wall's "A Sudden Gust of Wind" where he set up the entire scene including hiring actors and the end result is a collage taken from different shots, etc
    ('A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)', Jeff Wall | Tate). This is not what I meant though.

    An example to me of "making" a picture is Elliot Erwitt's picture of the pope, where he deliberately overexposes Pope John Paul II's face to convey a message/story
    (Seen here in this article - Rushing the Sainthood of Pope John Paul II - Newsweek and The Daily Beast)

    A great example of "taking" an image, which is nonetheless very powerful and creates a strong narrative would be Garry Winogrand's picture in the zoo of the couple with the chimpanzees
    (Seen here - sixth image, What’s Important in Street Photography: Style, Technique, Or Something Else?)

    Your picture looks like the closeup of a sea urchin with back-lighting. Can't quite figure it out.
     
  4. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    This is a semantic distinction that Don Springer (Streetshooter) used to make a lot of. I sort of get it, but I think it remains something of a semantic distinction and not worth worrying about too much. To me, we always have to be responsible to MAKE whatever image we produce. We choose the composition we choose the crop, the exposure, the processing, the level of contrast, the brightness of the colors, etc, etc, etc. But photography is obviously the most observational of art forms, so while we're ultimately responsible for the images we produce, we had to observe something else being or happening first and then we have to get whatever that is into the camera. So there's ALWAYS an element of TAKE or CAPTURE also. It (whether IT is a person, a spec of dust, a flower, a landscape scene, and architectural element, a dog, whatever the subject is) is in front of us and without IT there's no photograph, so we must TAKE it as part of the process of MAKING it.

    A lot of my images I've totally pre-visualized and formed before I ever snap the shutter. Others, I might have only gotten the faintest whiff of when I trip the shutter and the rest of the image comes together in the crop and the processing. Sometimes the strongest part of the discovery process is in looking through all of the images from a shoot, seeing something and thinking, "where did THAT come from"? Other times, I know the second I TAKE it what I'll be able to MAKE it into. Its not like painting or sculpture where you can make something up from whole cloth, from a starting point of ONLY your imagination and some raw materials. With photography, you must have something in front of you to TAKE as an integral part of MAKING the image. And figuring out what and how to take it is a huge part of the process...

    -Ray
     
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  5. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    I can understand how this is not a very important distinction to an accomplished photographer, but just having realized it for myself, as an amateur shooter, I see it having a large impact on the way I take pictures. Making good pictures is not yet a habit for me. It's certainly not 'muscle memory' as it might be with photographers who have been shooting for years and years. I have been making pictures, with any sense of control, only over the last year or so. Still learning the ropes.
     
  6. Landshark

    Landshark PhotoDog

    Jul 15, 2010
    SoCal
    Bob
    I am more with Ray on this one and probably even further into thinking we are just playing semantics. At the end of the day all that matters is the final image, how one gets there really does not matter. I have always seen myself as more of a spontaneous shooter than one who plans out their images, even with work. I also believe that being a photographer is more about seeing and observing and less about cameras and equipment. I see images all the time with and without a camera.
     
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  7. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 12, 2010
    bart
    I think if I were to join the semantics game I'd be more on Ray's side too, but whether we call it taking or making images, anticipationary photography, turning awareness into pictures, or whatever other label we can think of, I like your results Boid! :smile:
     
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  8. pictogramax

    pictogramax SC Top Veteran

    979
    Aug 18, 2011
    Belgrade, Serbia
    I started with photography late, as an already accomplished illustrator with years of professional work behind me. What I found difficult in the beginning was not the learning about relations of aperture and shutter speed, ISO and focal lengths, but to adapt my system of image making to new medium.

    When making a drawing or painting, you start with a blank space and put in the elements - figure, background, light and contrast - until you reach your anticipated vision. Basically, "making" pictures is ADDING. The biggest challenge, apart from acquiring the needed skills, is knowing when to stop.

    Initially I was frustrated with my photographs for being so cluttered; it took me a while to learn and control the elements of composition through framing, cropping and utilizing DOF. You are always presented with a bigger stage in which you "hunt" your image. I find that "taking" pictures is in fact SUBSTRACTING. The biggest challenge seems to be leaving out all that is not complimentary and necessary for the final image.

    So there is a somewhat concrete difference between the two, not just semantics, at least to me. But surely, one can argue that substracting the elements from the street view to create a meaningful streetshot is also "making" of an image... and it would be completely correct, of course. So it might be just semantics after all:)

    I feel I sidetracked your initial intent, Boid, and I'm sorry for it. I liked your examples and feel the "growth" you are talking about.

    I would profit of the occasion to ask Ray about one of his images I like so much:

    Reprocessed | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    Were you just incredibly lucky to be at the right place at just the right time (and equally skilled to get a perfect timing)? Or was it "made", with help from wife/daughter/cousin/friend?
    Not that the answer matters, it's a great photo regardless of the way it was made - I'm just curious of a story behind this great juxtaposition.
     
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  9. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    I was having a parallel conversation about "making" vs "taking" with a friend on facebook (she teaches film studies), and she put the argument into perspective for me. Here's what she had to say -

    "i'm a big fan of capturing moments but i also think as you become a better photographer, you begin to plan your photos and stage them. the good ones do it in a subtle manner and can incorporate aspects of "take" into their making. cinematographers do this all the time, even those who story board each shot, & it's always amazing to me how great practically each shot in a good movie is."

    She also doesn't like using capitals.
     
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  10. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    If one knew nothing about you and they looked at the pictures on your flickr page, one could easily surmise that you have a strong foundation in Graphic Design. I can also see a careful and studied effort in "making" the images, and I like them very much. Don't worry about derailing the topic, every discussion is an opportunity to learn something new. What was that image you posted?
     
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  11. pictogramax

    pictogramax SC Top Veteran

    979
    Aug 18, 2011
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Ah, just a bunch of toothpicks:
    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxjaguar/4330154812/" title="2010 01 30 - ANGEL FUR - THE MAKING OF - 02 by Milan Jovanovic /pictogramax, on Flickr">[​IMG]
     
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  12. Lightmancer

    Lightmancer Super Moderator

    Aug 13, 2011
    Sunny Frimley
    Bill Palmer
    I'm partial to a bit of "found abstract":

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightmancer/5786288690/" title="Chelsea Flower Show 9 by Lightmancer, on Flickr">"981" height="756" alt="Chelsea Flower Show 9"></a>

    And to some deliberate experimentation:

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lightmancer/4163672737/" title="Trial 1 by Lightmancer, on Flickr">"748" height="1024" alt="Trial 1"></a>

    So - the first image was taken, the second was made.

    I think it is more about intent than semantics.
     
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  13. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I don't remember who I quoted recently in some other discussion specific to street photography, but the quote was something to the effect of 'EVERY good street shot requires tremendous luck - the skill is putting yourself in the position and knowing your equipment well enough to be there when the luck happens'. After playing at this for a solid couple of years now, I couldn't agree more. I took/made (your choice) that shot when I felt I was just starting to get a handle on the techniques I still use now. I'd just gotten an LX5, had started using zone focus, and was doing a lot of shooting from the hip/belly/waist, framing on instinct. I'm much better at this now than I was then, so I miss a LOT fewer shots - back then I missed a lot. I just didn't happen to miss that one.

    I was shooting the way I often do - walking leisurely down the street, constantly scanning the groups of people and faces I was walking toward, just trying to spot a "moment" developing, or one already happening that looked like it might last a few seconds longer, constantly moving and scanning and reacting. This gal was one of several young women walking around with balloons harnessed to them advertising the Aeropostal store in Times Square. As I was walking toward her, she was hamming it up for some of the people around me (she was promoting, after all) and as I turned the camera toward her, I guess she spotted it and turned toward me just as I snapped the shutter. The posters in the background? I was vaguely aware of them but if you thought I had ANYTHING to do with lining her up with the Mama Mia poster with the woman in essentially the same pose, you'd be VERY VERY wrong. I didn't notice all of it until I saw the photo on the screen a few minutes later. So, a LOT of luck, but it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been looking very intently for people and groups of people and things to shoot. I don't think street shooting happens because you're just walking down the street minding your own business and then you see something and think, "Oh, cool, I think I'll take a photo of that" - maybe occasionally, but not often. I think it happens because your on the street, maybe walking, and you're very intently minding everyone's business BUT your own, just looking for some interesting moment or juxtaposition or just an interesting looking enough person. And you try to spot and anticipate and shoot and you, or at least I, will miss far more opportunities than I'll hit. And once you miss, you can't go back and try again - when you miss it, its gone and you just have to move on and look for the next opportunity.

    Make? Take? I don't know - your call... I'd lean more towards TAKE, the only thing i MADE was the opportunity.

    BTW, the next time I was in New York City, about a year later, I was shooting in Times Square again one night and made a conscious effort to recreate something like that shot. The best I came up with was this:

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/20889767@N05/6330662876/" title="PB051898 by ramboorider1, on Flickr">"640" height="640" alt="PB051898"></a>

    That one was definitely MADE. And its a lot less successful. Its OK, but it lacks the spontaneity and energy of the first one.

    So, that's the story behind that shot. And its really the same story behind almost any of my shots that work at all. That's how I shoot. I put myself in position to get lucky by working hard at it when I'm out there - its a pretty involved and tiring endeavor that I can only do for a few hours at a time. And I still only get lucky a small percentage of the time, but the more time I spend working at it, the more often it happens.

    -Ray
     
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  14. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    My concept of taking versus making is that taking an image occurs when the photographer has no deliberate influence on the elements within a scene. Making is when you ask someone to stand there, pose like that, or physically re-arrange objects for the sake of photographing them. I think that I get what Rajiv is referring to even if the words don't quite fit with my definition on making vs taking. Maybe the old term "pre-visualisation" is what we're really talking about here; knowing what you want and using only the placement and operation of the camera to achieve it.

    P.S. I love the Come. Play. and Concrete shots.
     
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  15. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    Ray, that was a fascinating read! Thanks.

     
  16. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
     
  17. pictogramax

    pictogramax SC Top Veteran

    979
    Aug 18, 2011
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Thanks a lot for the detailed answer, Ray!

    Maybe we should introduce another category - along TAKEN and MADE, we might add GIVEN:) I've experienced the same, particularly during our May Prompts Challenge, when I was on a constant look-out, minding everyone's business as you've put it. If we are open enough and aware enough, with a bit of skill and sufficient determination to try and try again to make it happen, some images are given to us. To be there at the perfect time and get the exact mirrored match of the Mamma Mia poster, all with the same squinted eyes, wide smile, matching haircut and even lighting on the face and neck... that's hell of a luck:)

    I consider these images as a gifts given to us; if we persevere enough in our trying, some incredible and completely unexpected things can happen:

    <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/maxjaguar/7155103394/" title="1 0 P. M. by Milan Jovanovic /pictogramax, on Flickr">"676" height="1000" alt="1 0 P. M."></a>

    No intention to widen the semantics even more; I'm just enjoying this thread and all the various opinions and points of view.

    Thanks for the fractal link, Boid, it is indeed fascinating.
     
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  18. Boid

    Boid SC All-Pro

    Dec 15, 2011
    Bangalore, India
    Rajiv
    Nic, I guess "pre-visualization" might be the answer to my dilemma, but it doesn't completely sum up what I'm trying to express. Albeit very badly. Ray gets the quandary but has moved beyond it, to a stage in his workflow where it does not even matter. It's probably too ingrained in him, to be much of a distinction. It's obvious from looking at his images that he doesn't need to "think" as much about the workings of the camera while he takes the pictures.

    I'm at the stage where I hold up my finger and say "Waittaminnit, just hang on for a second there willya? Don't move while I figure out the DOF and check to see if I have the ND filter off".

    There is an entirely documentary aspect to taking pictures, where the story and details are paramount, verses wanting to convey a mood or a nuance. Both employ in equal parts the photographer's intent at the beginning of the process, as opposed to making happy accidents. Maybe this conflict in my head is about art vs design, and that's what I'm trying to sort out through this post. I'm not sure yet.
     
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  19. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    Luke
    There exists a fine line between thoughtful use of the camera with being sure you fully understand that everything you do affects the final outcome and overthinking the process to the point of paralysis. I have been caught once or twice into being almost literally paralyzed trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do (granted this was several months back, but I still feel like it could happen again) and not knowing which way to turn the dials.
     
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  20. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia SC Veteran

    242
    Nov 10, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I appreciate OP's original sentiment, I don't think it's too complicated. It's not about whether to pre-visualize or not, taking vs. making, etc. The more you shoot the more you anticipate what 2-dimensional representations (with finite framing) of a 3-dimensional world are going to look like, along with factors such as aperture, shutter speed, etc. So that's the case however your shooting style, methods, or intent. It seems simple in principle, but is not a natural skill and so for example pro photographers will often take test Polaroids during a shoot just to make sure everything basically looks as they imagined or planned.

    Some of my keepers I sort of knew what I had when I took the shot, but to be honest with many of my keepers I had no anticipation of the final image, or what I would end up liking about it. Now happy accidents are always good, but the more you develop the eye I would say the more keepers of both kinds you will end up with.

    PS- I like the 'Selling Bubbles' photo a lot! I think it's a good example of a scene that might have been rather ordinary, but came out great in the photo.
     
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