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The Right Tempo A blog by Felipe M. G. Ceotto

Those of you who know me a bit better know that I like photography and that I have no fear in calling myself an amateur photographer. Perhaps I should restrain myself from using the word “photographer” associated with me, but I can’t help it, not because of the quality of my photos (sometimes doubtful, but hey, sometimes I manage to get decent ones, like the ones I’m adding to this article just for showing off purposes :D) but because I would love to actually be a photographer, so I try.

When I’m out and about on a holiday, though, I sometimes get lots of complaints (mostly from my wife :D) because I don’t take photos with people in them a lot, and also that there aren’t a lot of photos of me. I do try sometimes to take photos of the people that are on holiday with me, but when I am in a different place looking at the different things there are, I am a lot more prone to try to capture that place then who was there with me (or, for that matter, myself). Also, I am usually the one behind the camera and that makes it pretty hard (but not impossible) to take photos of myself. So, I guess my reasons to photograph are probably different than that of most people.

I was reading an article on creative photography and it got me thinking about all that and the reasons behind people photographing whatever it is they photograph, and I think I can justify the fact that I don’t take a lot of “family photos” or photos with known people in them if I talk about these reasons. So here I am. :)

Photographs can be taken to document things, to represent something (say, when you’re trying to sell something on eBay), to preserve memories, to flatter or indulge someone’s vanity, to embarrass someone, purely to make money (like photos of a gossip magazine… I doubt someone actually enjoys taking them), to tell a story or to try to prove something to someone (by documenting it through photography… I guess that’s the same as “to document things” :P). But, as Harold Davis said in one of his articles, I’m willing to bet that many of your best photos do none of these things. I know, simply from experience, trial and error, and literally thousands of photos, that most of mine don’t. Thinking about it, that is probably the reason why I almost don’t take posed photos with the people that are travelling with me or family photos and things like that. And when I do, they serve as a trip to memory lane but they are never my best photos. Not even my best photos of people! Those sometimes are posed, sometimes not, but they are taken not as family photos but thinking about subject, objective, and maybe the vanity of the subject.

It is also a lot easier for me to take photos without people in it. As a photographer, to create great images of people that are posing for you, you need to give them good instructions and they need to follow them. I am not good at making people feel comfortable, have the patience, and still follow what I would like them to do, like certain photographers are. Damn, I’ll never be a fashion photographer! :D I try to work on it though, when I have a chance, but what ends up happening when I am travelling is that I want to take the best possible photos and, as always when on a holiday, there is limited time, so I end up sticking to my comfort zone most of the time (that is, _no people_).

I take photographs because I enjoy doing it, for that simple fact alone. I enjoy taking photos, even if I wouldn’t look at them later. Of course I do look at them, and treat them, and select, and use them everywhere I can, but still, what I enjoy the most is to actually take a photo. And I believe my best photos were taken because I saw something beautiful that I would like to share with other people, or something unusual that other people wouldn’t see, or perhaps to call attention to a detail that would otherwise go without importance.

Another good point is the relevance of a person in a photo. A person as a subject usually means the background is not the subject itself or it is something that helps compose the photo, but the main subject, the “thing” you are trying to show and to call attention to, is the person. When I am taking photos, although I am totally an amateur, I am thinking about photos that will appeal to other people, to the general public, and not only to my family and friends, which means that there is a limit to what a model subject (i.e. my wife) can bring to holiday photos such as landscapes and other features, which then limits how many photos I want to take with people in them. :) In that sense, photos of unknown people sometimes are better because you’re actually using that unknown person as a subject due to whatever they are doing that is unique. Perhaps spontaneous photos of whoever is travelling with me would work, but they are usually paying attention to what I am doing so that is a hard one. My wife is going to kill me when she reads this. :D

Anyway, I end up with a lot of photos without anyone in them but I still think they are really good photos. Nowadays when I am on a holiday I try to take “my” photos, with no people in them, and then a couple of photos at the same places with people in them. That pleases everybody, but it takes more time. :) That’s ok, I suppose… One other thing that has worked quite well for me in the past was to take two cameras with me, my SLR and a normal point-and-shoot camera, and determine that “family photos” and similar ones will be taken with the point-and-shoot, and the “other” photos will be taken with my SLR. What ends up happening is that whoever is on holiday with me will take over the point-and-shoot at some point because I won’t be using it much, and take the family photos for me. That is the best arrangement ever! Hehehehe. Finally, I decided that the last photo I would add to this article would be a nice photo with a person in it (my wife – who else did you expect?! :D) that is still a really nice photo and that would definitely  be within my “selected” collection.

Just one thing to finish: I would appreciate other people’s opinions to this matter, so please leave your comments or email me!

Posted on Wednesday, August 19, 2009 3:22 PM Photography | Back to top


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