I am not angry nor am I frustrated, but I am fascinated by the many decisions people make when it comes to photography and videography. Oftentimes, I joke around, finding humor in the most serious of moments. But I am a very passionate person who believes in my feelings and puts feeling into my beliefs. Thus, I can find issues of substance to be considered even in the lightest of moments. I guess that’s why over the years many have referred to me as an artist. It’s not just how the artist wields the brush; it’s also about how he sees the world!
The first step to seeing is to take notice of, to consider, and then to question. I’m always asking questions — that’s just part of who I am. And, in my book, it’s a big part of being a photographer.
Some readers wonder how it is that a wedding photographer writes about issues other than weddings and photography. I have written about politics, human nature, driving, and of course about squirrels — one of my favorite topics!
There’s no such thing as objectivity. Everything is biased based on perspective.
Every photojournalist starts out by choosing a perspective, and that is, in fact, making some decision. That decision, for example, will lead him or her to show more of this or less of that and even to show this from that side. Those are important decisions that go a major way in determining the photos he or she gets to make. The art of asking questions is so very important because one cannot make the right decision without first asking oneself the right questions. Those answers lead to the story that is told from that perspective and the photos are made utilizing techniques decided on by the photographer’s answers to even more questions.
Traditions shape our perspectives as they have shaped history, and we continue to be influenced by both history and tradition, whether we realize it or not. I cannot help but be mindful of history and tradition as I photograph a wedding day’s large and small moments. Everything means something and the more consideration one brings to what is about to occur, the better likelihood that the resultant imagery will be meaningful as well.
Because I am not there to photograph what is happening but what is about to happen, my thought process is vital to what I notice, and what I am then able to anticipate will be happening in the seconds to come. There’s got to be a definite correlation between the artist’s ability to see and the instinct to question what is being seen, which leads to a consideration of how people approach things and how they arrive at the big and small decisions they must make.
A photographer must constantly make many split-second decisions. Those decisions guide him or her not only to whom, what, and from where photos are made but also how they are made. Those include technical considerations and camera settings. It is the thought process that comes first and in no small way leads to everything else.
I must ask: how could a person who fails to take an interest in the bigger picture in real life suddenly start taking an interest and turn on the decision-making process just to do a job? My question is even more appropriate when you consider that the job involves producing something whose value and appreciation is all based on the smartest, wisest, and most sensitive members of society. Our clients have been successful enough and also care enough to desire and invest in what for many people is considered purely a luxury — namely, meaningful wedding and simcha photography, not just snapshots!
Before wishing to make interesting photographs, the photographer has to be interesting enough to see what many might not see, and to anticipate what later would mean most.
I’ve been told by photographers that they think I would discuss f-stops and shutter speeds. But why? If you are a photographer, then those are the fundamentals you must know to the point of automatic internalization. And if you’re not, then how could it be of any value, meaning, or interest to you?
In my decades as a photographer I have learned that most professional photographers do not understand the vital mathematical relationship that exists between f-stops. So it is of little point then to move on to shutter speeds. Certainly, if they took an interest, they would know, and there is no point in my discussing it. But how both the photographer and the public think about one’s being a photographer, doing photography, and getting photography is everything! So that is what I write about.
Recent comments from two different photographers remind me of my fascination with human nature, including the nature of photographers. Those comments involved the desire to try a new flash — one for a portrait session, the other a bat mitzvah.
One photographer realized before having to leave for the event that her new flash required different hardware to attach to a light stand and asked for help. For the portrait session, the photographer was bouncing his plan off me to try the new flash. While two very different situations, to me, both photographers missed some critical concepts. Firstly, one must not think of the gear but of the light that the gear produces. Light has a quality, an intensity, a spread, a color, and a duration. For either photographer to be successful with their new toy, it would have to be used with purpose. That would require deftly maneuvering the light into a position that would illuminate their subjects for that particular shot’s required angle, which involves height, tilt, and turn, and at the right beam spread and strength and then transitioning from one shot to the next, and once again obtaining the desired light for that new shot, with maximum ease and speed. This must all be accomplished while not being a distraction to the subject or to their interaction with the subject.
You need not have understood what you just read to realize that two issues are at stake here. What is important is not the gear itself but what that gear will create—light. If a photographer using any gear can understand and feel the light, then knowing where and how to position it will be second nature on an ever- changing basis. Otherwise, any gear will only result in unflattering, needless, and randomly destructive light patterns. Being able to operate the gear quickly involves not only practice, but a design planned specifically to facilitate such ease of operation.
There are countless ways of attaching, mounting, and connecting gear. Only with serious consideration of all the ways it will be needed can the photographer expect to have tools at the ready and have them be readily useful. Just as photographers are taught to pre-visualize how an image will look based on the lights, lens, and camera settings in play, photographers must mentally play out the variety of ways new gear might need to be rapidly mobilized on a shoot. Only then can a useful setup be built from the many components available to buy or custom-build. Anyone expecting to use gear right out of the box is probably not someone used to thinking outside the box. And that is something to think about!
Rabenko Photography & Video Arts is located at 1053 Broadway in Woodmere. To learn more, contact Gary@Rabenko.com, 1-888-RABENKO, 888-722-3656, or visit Rabenko.com.