Monday, December 16, 2013

Taking photos mindlessly will result in an image that is worthless

Dr Linda Henkel, conducted a study at Fairfield University in Connecticut where they led a group of students around a museum and asked them to either photograph or try to remember certain works of art and historical exhibits.  She said: "People so often whip out their cameras almost mindlessly."

What many writers are taking away from this is "photographs STOPS our brains remembering what happened." Just Google "photography doesn't help you remember" and you will see the articles all quoting research.

I think the research got it right and even Dr. Henkel clarified her comments, but what do writers want you to hear? I think they are tired of hearing "a photograph is worth 1,000 words."

Photos that are worth the category of a 1,000 word story are not where the photographer just pulls out their camera and snaps a quick photo.  I think if we look at how Norman Rockwell used photography to come up with a great illustrations. Rockwell would have many different photos for him to pull from to create his masterpiece.

When a photo is going to not just help you remember, but tell a story to those who were not there with the photographers then the perspective the photographer chooses and the moment can help capture a story.

Too many people just pull out their phones today and because it is with them they are even more careless than when they had to think to remember to bring a camera. Since it is with them all the time and they are not having to buy film and pay for each shot--they cheapen the moment by mindlessly just clicking the photo.

“Research has suggested that the sheer volume and lack of organization of digital photos for personal memories discourages many people from accessing and reminiscing about them,” said Dr. Henkel.

Photographs that tell stories require the photographer to think before pressing the shutter release. What should they be thinking about to have photos that will later tell the story?
  1. Why am I taking this photo?
  2. What is the story?
  3. What do I want those who see the photo to do after they see it?
  4. How do I feel about this story?
  5. What can I do to help convey my emotions about the story in the photograph?
  6. What must be "Within The Frame" of the photograph?
  7. What will be left out of the frame of the photograph?
  8. Where do I want everyone to look first?
  9. How can I compose this photo so that the secondary is secondary, but still relevant.
In the photo above of the gift of a viola to a young man you can see the lady, who is his mother, looking on and conveying pleasure. The son is thrilled not just for himself, but for his mother.

The story is that this single mother works several jobs to put food on the table and roof over her family. They do not really have the money for her son to be playing a viola, but the viola may just be his ticket to college and a career.

I wanted to capture this moment of telling the story of why this gift was such a big deal. I don't think you will think I just pulled out my phone and took this photo. You can tell it is more than a memory jogger. Because I thought about it not only will I remember the moment--my photo will help others who were not there to know the story.