Understanding the difference between recording an image and creating one.
Basically there are two ways in which you can make an image using photography. For this reason photographers tend to be divided into two categories - those who record images and those who create them.
When you ‘record’ an image, you take it from an observer’s perspective. You have little interaction with the subject and so are relying of a random series of events to fall into place. Often, there is a high degree of realism involved with a high emphasis on being in the right place at the right time. You may encounter moments where for example your subject is well positioned in a street scene or the lighting is particularly striking due to a random reflection, however if you miss that moment you have lost the shot. Photographers such as journalists, street photographers, wedding and event photographers fall into this category.
When you ‘create’ or produce an image like a portrait or a fashion catalog in a studio, you have far greater control of the elements, whether it be lighting, wardrobe or background. You can craft the image to the point where you choose the time of day, weather conditions and the actual pose of the subject. This is particularly so in the case of studio photography. While you have all this control, your greatest challenge in such a contrived situation is to create realism (depending of course on the assignment). This is particually evident in portrait photography, where even the simple act of getting your subject to smile or look relaxed can be your greatest challenge.
Another important factor for photographers who create images is the ability to direct their subject. Having the ability to guide a subject and bring out a particular emotion without the image looking staged and awkward is a seperate skill in itself. If I were to simply say to someone ‘smile’, what we generally get is a conditioned response where the mouth reacts but the eyes look flat. Skilled direction involves guiding the subject to the point where they deliver real emotions. Experienced photographers have their own set of techniques for this (a topic which I will save for a later blog). Photographers in this category include editorial, adverting, fashion and corporate photographers.