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Are Your Pictures REALLY worth 1000 Words?

By on Apr 1, 2017 in Photography, Theory Thursday | 0 comments

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Recently, I overheard a conversation where a photographer stated that many photos are “never worth a 1000 words” or something to that effect. At first, I believed he was right and then my coffee kicked in and I started to think straight. I realized that if your photos are not worth a 1000 words then you are doing it wrong! 

Tell a F*cking Story!

The whole point of this is to get you to realize that your photos should tell a story. Be it a fantastic journey or a horrible event, they should speak to your audience. Even eye-bleeding HDR photos may tell a fantasy or sci-fi story, if done correctly. Same thing with thing with instagram photographers. Their photos reflect or tell a story that resonates with with their fans. So why does it seem so hard? Well, sometimes we are just taking the easy way out and hoping to simply record a scene and put the pieces together in post after.

Your story doesn’t have to be an epic one but it should say something. If you are just snapping away and hoping that whatever you are pointing your camera at comes out sharp then you are doing it wrong. The reason being that you are just taking snapshots. Even if you are at a fashionable event or in front of an epic landscape, there is still a story to tell. It is your job as a photographer to find it. Don’t simply snap off shots and hope that when you get back into lightroom that something will magically work.

Step back and think about why you are there and what you want your audience to see. When I was shooting for the Seamarq Hotel, I really wanted to show the design of the hotel. I didn’t just want to show the typical hotel website shots, I wanted to show how every aspect of the hotel was intricately designed. From the furniture in the lobby right down to the smell. Seriously, the hotel smells amazing and that is something that they made sure of.

Joe McNally’s Tips

This is a great video and really shows how Joe got to where he is in the photography world. I encourage you to watch the above video and really get an essence for what Chase and Joe are talking about. This is one of the best pieces of advice that a photographer can give. I will explore each of his tips below.

Research

With any travel piece or food shot, you have to know about your subject. Simply saying “yeah this place is awesome” leaves me thinking “OK… why?” Especially if your image has some artistic touches. The big thing here is that you should know who or what you are shooting.  It doesn’t matter if it is a wedding or a temple in the middle of a mountainside in Korea. Take some time and do some research.

When I was shooting around the Seamarq Hotel, it was great learning about the hotel from Chris Kim who is the Director of Sales and Marketing. He gave me insight into how the building was constructed and who designed it (Richard Meier). Not to mention he took the time to explain each of the individual pieces that made up this beautiful hotel. Knowing this information allowed me to make some compositional choices for my photographs. Focussing on certain elements which is highlighted in the second tip.

Distill

Focus in on the most important elements. Often we try to record what our eyes see but forget how complex our brains are. We are unconsciously placing importance on certain objects that may not transfer into the still frame. Basically by shooting the whole scene with everything in it seems like a good idea. You want to show where you are and your friends and the hotel and the ocean and the city etc. All of these things may be significant to you and your brain will pick them out. The thing is that a complete stranger won’t pick up on those mental notes as they are not you. Thus, you have to simplify the image and show them what is important. Making one particular thing stand out generally makes a more powerful image. The trick is to combine the the research and find out what really makes this space unique.

Busyness is the Enemy of Clarity ~ Joe McNally

Execution

This is the one thing that I see time and time again. I see photographers claiming to be the best thing since Ansel Adams and then I look at their work and their image is out of focus or they messed up the depth of field or whatever. If you are shooting runway models or events make sure you get the people’s faces in focus. If you are shooting landscapes, make sure you get the horizon straight. If you are shooting in low-light condition make sure that you are on a tripod!

Not to mention that Joe points out that all of the numbers and the settings all relate back to the story that you are trying to tell. It is about using your camera to create that 1000 word story. Research about what is important, distill the image to focus on the most important detail and then use your camera to bring out those details.


All the images here were taken in and around the Seamarq Hotel. This beautiful hotel is located in Gangneung, South Korea which is one of the locations of the 2018 Winter Olympics. For more information about rooms and rates check out their site at www.seamarqhotel.com

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