Simplify your Photography, It Helped Me Remember Why I Love What I Do
Recently I was lucky enough to have a day off, something that doesn’t happen too often. I woke up that morning feeling a little burnt out from the daily non-stop marathon that is living and working as a freelancer in New York City. I dragged myself out into the kitchen, made myself some bacon and eggs and sat down to eat. Over breakfast, I realized I hadn’t made a picture for myself in almost a full year. It seemed crazy to me that as a professional in the photo industry, I couldn’t even find one day to go out and photograph something that wasn’t for a client.
I thought about what I could do to kickstart my creative flow, loosen up and try something different, and most importantly make a new picture. One that I wanted to make. I thought about how complicated a photo shoot can get between photographers, their clients, models, assistants, digital techs, lighting, sets, video, sound, and somehow wrangling each of these things so they all work smoothly together. I needed a vacation. I realized I had to go somewhere with a slower lifestyle that was nice and relaxing. Now, my number one goal was to keep what ever I was about to photograph very simple: including only my camera, myself and a subject. I grabbed my shoot pad, drew up a lighting diagram, and wrote out an equipment list:
At this point, all I had to do was prep, test, and shoot!
I called B&H and picked up a few things that I needed like ScrimJims, Flat Black Fabric, and some extra A-Clamps. That’s my prepping, done. Next I had to test what I thought up and make sure it worked the way I imagined. I had decided to go to Massachusetts, I have friends and family there. So, on my way out of the city, I picked up the equipment and headed north. When I got there I thought “what better test subject than Nana?” So I headed to her place and built my set. It took me about 10 minutes to set up, that’s my keeping-it-simple goal achieved. I threw up two stands and clamps, attached the ScrimJims with flat black fabric to the clamps so they hung vertically. I used A-Clamps to attach one ScrimJim to the top to make a ceiling, and one at the back for the background. I folded the right and left side of the fabric in to leave an opening of about eight inches on either side, that created the edge light. Basically, I made a 42 inch cube that one could walk into and stand for a portrait.
Once I had a chance to edit and analyze what I liked and didn’t like about these pictures of my Nana, I could figure out what I wanted to change or fix. I liked the light on her face, though I thought it could be a bit harder, same with the rim light. I loved the effect on her glasses, and the shape of the negative fill on the sides of her face. One thing I wasn’t entirely thrilled with though, was the depth of field. I knew I’d be able to get a much more shallow depth of field with a medium format system than I could with my Nikon because of the sensor size. I called up a fellow photographer friend and it just so happened he had an extra Hasselblad that he was willing to let me borrow for the day!
I had a camera that would give me the depth of field I was looking for, I had a location arranged in a local city, and I had my “cube”. All I had left to do was wait for a sunny day so I could get the harde light that I was looking for, and shoot.
Here’s what I got:
Aina & Irene
Stephen & Kaitlin
Patrick & Kate
Dan & Danielle
Olivia & Audrey
Jesse & Eli
Will & Kasai
As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was feeling burned out and uninspired. After finishing this project, I feel like my creative mind has been revived, and I am ready to dive head-first back into the industry. I think what is important for people to take away from my experience and this post is how simple it is for anyone to just take a step back and self-assess. See what they’re doing in life, whether or not their content or happy, think about why they’re doing what they are. Especially for artists, I think it’s critical to come to a realization and make time to step away and practice your art, for you. Because lets be honest, most of us didn’t decide to become artists for the money, we did it because we love it and we feel compelled to do it. When we don’t have a chance to feed our souls with what we love, our art and work becomes monotonous and unfulfilling and no one wants that.