Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Your photography gets better when you synthesize

Teaching in Lisbon, Portugal. [photo by Jeff Raymond]
Synthesizing is the combining of two things for something completely new. I have discovered through the years some things that by combining things in teaching is making my photography better.


I have discovered that as I came to understand Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey as a framework for telling stories, I could not only analyze a project and make it better I am also able to apply this storyline to my own life and make changes.

Studying the concept of the storyline helped me to then do a better job throughout the storytelling process. I was able to do a better job for pre-planning and in the midst of the shooting of the story adjust more quickly and improve the storytelling due to understanding of the power of the myth of The Hero's Journey.

Steve Johnson did a great job a few years ago talking about how synthesis takes place in ideas.


I really have enjoyed teaching a lot more than I thought I ever would. I was terrified at first, but over time learned to thrive.

Teaching students in the Storytelling workshop in Lisbon, Portugal. [photo by Jeff Raymond]
I have shared in many of my past blog posts about how teaching is the highest form of the learning process.

Combining photography, video, audio and writing I have been able to tell stories more effectively than when I was just doing photography.

When I started to teach I was perfecting my storytelling skills. I was having to connect the subject with the audience. Often that audience is just one person. I would have to understand enough about the audience to know how to choose the right metaphors to engage them and to teach different complex concepts.

[photo by Jeff Raymond]
One thing I noticed is that when I showed the audience something the understanding increased over just talking about it. I was synthesizing [combining] the visual and the spoken word to create a more meaningful and understandable presentation.

I have had many "Aha moments" where what many might consider a failure was a calibrating moment. You try a metaphor and realize this did not work with that audience. You may use it later, but then you must come up with another way to connect with the audience the subject you are trying to teach.

When pros take photos their first pictures they make in a studio, for example, is to check the exposure, white balance and often checking a composition. They then look at the photo and analyze it. Does it need to be lighter or darker? Is it too green or magenta? Do I need to do a custom white balance to fix it?

Teaching storytelling has me teaching a variety of subjects. Here are some of the topics I am teaching for example:
  • Software like Adobe Lightroom, PhotoShop, Adobe Premier or Final Cut
  • Lighting— Hot shoe flashes, studio strobes, radio remotes, flash metering, custom white balance, high speed sync, slow speed sync
  • Camera — ƒ-stops, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, EV, White Balance, composition, lens choices
  • Subjects — Sports, Fashion, Portraiture, Science, Features, Photo Stories, Environmental Portraits, 360º Panoramics, Landscape
  • Audio — microphones, setting levels, natural sound, voice over
  • Video/motion — formats, audio, story boarding, scripts
There are more topics, but you can see when I start to teach multimedia storytelling I am synthesizing all of this into the class. You cannot teach a subject effectively if you do not know it inside and out. The reason is once the student starts to ask questions on thing you haven't thought about you must be able process the question and pull upon all this information to help formulate a response.

When you are able to answer the students questions and help everyone learn you get invited to teach more and more. You then get exposed to more and more questions which often may have you saying let me get back to you on that question. I then might find myself with a camera and working on a solution to the student's question.

You see when you teach you will synthesize the material and through the process of combining the content you create new content. You will start to CREATE new IDEAS. These new creations are what will make your portfolio stronger and help you get more work.

Since I don't always have a class to teach I use the blog as a way to help me continue to synthesize content and improve my skills. This is how you build a better portfolio—combining ideas.

How are you getting better?