Of snowflakes and snowstorms.

I think that browsing through as many photographs on daily basis as I do, has made me extremely impatient and prejudiced towards certain subjects and styles in photography.  At this point, I do not think I will ever take a picture of another dandelion for as long as I live.  I am very hostile towards dandelions right now.  I think next time I see a dandelion I will yell at it and tell it exactly what I think of it.

But seriously now, does looking through other photographer’s works stifle our own creativity?  I mean I could take a heck of a picture of a dandelion and be proud of it and set it as wallpaper on my phone and show it to people.  Only to find that there are about three billion similar photos already surfing the web and I’m really not that original.

I find that a lot of times when I work with other artists they always request for me to send them photos of the concept that I am thinking about.  At first I was confused.  How can I send someone photos if I haven’t taken them yet?  Then it was explained to me that I have to send photos that were taken by other photographers that are similar to what I want to shoot.  So I got to work looking for my concept photos.  After I was done I didn’t want to do the concept any more.

A snowflake is only unique and original when it is melting on the palm of your hand.  But when you look outside during a snowstorm, they are pretty much all the same, and you couldn’t care less what they look like individually, all you know is that you want the storm to stop.

I think that there is a narrow line between being inspired and mimicking a style.  After you see an amazing photograph in a certain style you yearn to reproduce it.  But you are never the only one.  And so, in comes a whirlwind of photographs in the same style of the same concept.  Yes, you have taken an amazing photograph.  But the creativity value of it is cheapened when you see other works that are very much like it.

Take the slow shutter speed on water style.  First time I saw it I was blown away by the beauty of such a photograph.  The water looked smoky; the sunset burned in the background and the details of sand and rocks was unparalleled.  But now I have seen hundreds of photographers use it.  And some photographers use this style exclusively.  Yes, it is very pretty.  But it is also boring and I think it’s time to stop.

A letter to Instagram.

Dear Instagram,

I love you.  You fulfill my narcissistic fantasies and give people like me a chance to be famous for ten seconds.  You have made photography accessible to everyone and not just the people with knowledge of Photoshop and in possession of really nice cameras.  It is so simple now to just walk and snap photos as you go.  Sure, an occasional accident and misstep may occur but it’s not your fault.

Thanks to you, Instagram, I can now see every single possible angle of the Eifel Tower and the Empire State Building.  I can now meet every would-be model or comedian.  You have opened a floodgate where every person in the world with a camera phone or a tablet can upload their work to the World Wide Web and get random people to see and comment on it.  Prior to you, one would need a website and a whole lot of advertising to achieve this, but not with you.

Oh Instagram, you are my love and my vice.  My hands feel empty without my phone; my nerves tense up if I don’t refresh the feed for over an hour; I get moody if one of my pictures doesn’t get a sufficient amount of hearts; and I must stop at every puddle I see to attempt to capture the reflection in all its glory.  How else, if not for us Instagrammers, would puddles, dandelions, trees, taxi cabs, rain drops, pebbles and skyscrapers get their time in the spotlight?

We need you Instagram!  You give people jobs!  Thanks to you, some people can now own companies selling Followers to people who feel cheated and unpopular, regardless of the quality of their content.   Others tend to post pictures of their products instead of paying for ads in newspapers or magazines.  So not only do you give people jobs, you also save businesses money.  Thank you Instagram!  You are awesome!

Sincerely,

Your follower: @SergeSanin

A very special thanks.

I find it interesting that almost at every photo shoot that I do, I get the same question:  “How does your wife react to you doing this?”  At first I found the question a bit odd.  What is it that I am doing that should incur the wrath of my wife?  I didn’t understand and so I have asked my wife if she minded.  And with a bright smile on her face she told me that she did not mind.  Quite the opposite, she supported and encouraged me.  And me being me, I didn’t give it much thought thereafter.

It took me quite a bit to understand that taking pictures of models might arouse hints of jealousy in some people.  And why shouldn’t it?  The time that you could be spending with your significant other is now being spent on photographing beautiful people who are acting seductive and sexy for your camera.  But it goes beyond just photographing models.  Every time we pick up the camera we take from our loved ones and give to our passion.

To have a someone who supports you and who understands that photography is art and not adultery and despite themselves, help you, push forward while they stay behind waiting for your return.  And I think it falls to us, artists, to understand that we are not the easiest people to deal with.  We are needy and sensitive creatures.  We need love, support, healthy criticism and social media likes.  We want to be recognized for our work and to be desired by people who we never met.  We want to see our names written in tiny letters on a building size advertisement.  And while we crave all of the above we sometimes may forget the one person who is there for us, who understands us and who will step over their own fears, doubts and insecurities without a moment’s pause if it meant for us to continue doing what we love to do.

Thank you Anna, I love you.

B&W or Color?

Breaking away from black and white was probably one of my first and biggest challenges.  I can take a picture of the garbage on my desk and as long as the exposure and contrast were right, it looked like a cool photograph.  In fact, I actually did that and it looked pretty cool.  Black and white photography is very forgiving in that sense.  All you have to watch out for is your blacks and your whites.

So the question comes in, when do you want to shoot in color or when in black and white?  And at the same time, if black and white is so forgiving, why not just stay with the classic instead of attempting your luck with color?

To me, the reason to break away from the monochrome was simply a matter of a personal challenge.  I knew that my color photography was awful and I needed to learn it if I ever wanted to be a well-rounded photographer.  What I find amusing is that once you shoot color, you rarely can leave it as is.  A regular shot in color always seems a bit bland and a bit amateurish.  However once you brighten the colors, deepen the contrast, blur here, dodge there, increase the saturation, and do an overlay of another color, your picture can look quite amazing.  Yes, it is a bit more involved then that but you get the idea.

Color photography is a lot of work; however I do believe that it is worth it.  Color draws the eye of the viewer.  In black and white, you achieve this effect by using your contrast and negative space.  With color photography you pretty much highlight everything that is important.  If I had to pick the uses for black and white photography and color, I would have to say that black and white is more artistic whereas color is more commercial; not exclusively of course.

Now there are some photographers who would mix black and white with color.  So for instance have red lipstick in an otherwise black and white photograph.  I am one of those snobs who just happen to think that style as tacky and unattractive.  To me it has the same effect as a book publisher releasing a book and highlighting all the important parts for you.  Don’t do that.

In conclusion, always consider what you are trying to say with your photograph and adjust the medium to fit the idea.  If find yourself stuck in one medium, it is probably time to attempt the other.  The more versatile you are, the more knowledge you possess, the better artist you become.

As always please post your thoughts, opinions and experiences.