advice to an art student – part 2

An art student ask for some advice about how I make my style of art. This a continuation of what I wrote back to her.

Once you have taken the time to slow down, relax, and try to really see the scene in front of it, you are ready to try to create your image.

First, remember that you don’t need expensive equipment to do amazing work. You can create art with an everyday point-and-shoot camera, or your phone’s built-in camera. Use whatever you have.

Once you pick your camera, choose one favorite lens, and stick with it. Use only that for a day, a week, a month, and really get to learn how it sees the world. Photography is a partnership — your eyes and the camera’s lens work together to create the image. Many times photographers constantly switch cameras and lenses, trying to find the “right” tool to force a scene into their preconceived notion of how it should look. Instead, try to see things the way they actually are. The fewer options you give yourself, the less time you spend planning and strategizing, and the more time you spend experiencing the scene in front of you. For over ten years, my primary lens has been a beat up 105mm macro lens that I bought secondhand. The more I use it, the more familiar it becomes, the closer the “partnership”, and the better I work with it.

Many photographers treat their equipment with respect bordering on reverence — don’t, they are just tools made to be used and abused. Don’t get finicky about the technology. It’s not about high resolution or low noise — its about making an image that speaks to you. So let a photo get gritty with noise, blow out your highlights, muddy up your shadows, let the lens get dusty. Work with it, experiment, and push your tools past how you are “supposed” to use them, and see what they are really capable of.

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