When it comes to creating great images, how much of it is blind, dumb, luck?

For the longest of times it has bothered me that a major element of photography is chance. The more you move past simply recording a scene and towards making a statement about something the more it becomes apparent that things need to be just so for an image to work. The more you learn, the more demanding and exacting you become in critiquing your work and the more timing becomes imperative and the smallest detail can ruin a shot.

Credit to OneBigPhoto

Credit to OneBigPhoto

I earn a living from wedding photography. This is a job I love but it is fraught with compromise. I often feel like my role of the day is to try and bridge the gap between what I want to achieve and what circumstance has set out for me.

For example the biggest restriction I face is time. On a wedding day there are so many demands on the bride and groom and so many other people with their own agendas (heaven forbid you should make the couple late for the wedding breakfast…) that it can be a real battle to even get 10 minuets with them. This is simply not enough to do them justice so instead you fall back on your ‘old faithful’ poses and don’t make any images with real merit.

The next biggest challenge can be the weather. More than once I have been at a stunning venue and not been able to get outside because of the pouring rain and howling wind. Equally (although far less often in the UK!) you can have days that are so bright that it is impossible to take a bride outside because her dress will just blow in in the harsh, contrasty light. There is little more frustrating than knowing you have a great venue but being unable to use it. It is like having your favourite toy placed just out of reach as a child,

Still, just occasionally, you get the ‘perfect storm’ where things just come right. A great venue, great light and a great couple who are happy to invest their time in their pictures. Those are the days I live for as a wedding photographer.

Sometimes I look at other photographer’s work and wonder quite how long they had to wait to get that shot just right? I particularly enjoy work that pre dates Photoshop. Now, I am no Luddite, but there is something purer about the work from that era. You know that it was achieved not through excessive manipulation but through time, skill and patience. For example take one of my favourite pictures by Ansell Adamas:

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California (c.1937)

Clearing Winter Storm, Yosemite National Park, California (c.1937)

He used to walk the Yosemite National Park while carrying his heavy gear for days on end without making an image because conditions were not just so. However when he did he finally choose to create a negative his patience, knowledge and experience would help him produce something remarkable.

I suppose that is the point really, sure every image is based partially on luck but to steal an old phrase “The more you practice, the luckier you get”

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One thought on “When it comes to creating great images, how much of it is blind, dumb, luck?

  1. I’ve started that progression myself, from just shooting everything as is, to seeing the potential of the scene and waiting for it to come together. Unlike you, this is just a hobby for me but one I am finding satisfies my creative side quite well.

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