It’s been many years! If you are reading these words, there is a strong chance you have been following this blog for a while. Maybe some of you have been on this journey with me from the beginning, from my early travel and landscape photography. Others probably joined later when I posted my street photography work. I am grateful to have you all. In an era when the written word competes with 30-second viral videos, the former is on a losing streak from the start. Having said that, I deeply value the written word and its intellectual capacity. I accept fate.
Regardless of when you joined me on this journey you have probably noticed that it has been awfully quiet here in recent months. This lack of keyboard clicks doesn’t mean I‘ve been sitting on my laurels. Quite the opposite!
My friends often ask me why I don’t photograph as much as I used to. The answer is not simple which is perhaps why I have been avoiding writing the blog.
After months of pondering, the nature of my photographic life has changed quite dramatically. I am no longer a photographer per se. My photographer’s hat has expanded in a few noticeable directions – all unexpected but welcomed.
It started with my work on the Medium Format Magazine. The role of publisher and key curator was challenging and extremely demanding, but it allowed me to experience the photographic world from a different perspective. Then, the ELEMENTS Magazine came about through my close collaboration with Steven Friedman, accelerating the transition from photographer to curator, publisher, and writer. It has been crazy, good crazy few years.
A few days ago, as I was enjoying my morning coffee, I realized the transformative and prolific experience I’ve gained in the last few years. From a focus solely on personal photography, I became involved in the photographic industry at large. This meant conversing with the greatest photographers working today to chatting and exchanging ideas with some of the smartest people in the industry. I recall some amazing conversations, striking facts and many untold truths. Then it hit me hard. This whole journey should be written down. Why not share all these experiences and ideas which mingle in my head? Why not start a conversation about photography without fake frames imposed on us by current fashions? After all, this is a personal blog, and it should be viewed as such.
Regardless of whether you are a landscape or street photographer or just a lover of art and photography in general I hope you will remain on this journey with me. I am going to cover a much broader range of subjects and topics. Photography, publishing, relationships or the business of photography are all important topics, some of them strangely underrepresented in the current of photographic thought.
So, in the next few months I will share my images and the images of photographers I greatly admire. I may share a thought or two about current events, controversies of the day or forgotten keynotes. I will write about my journey from landscape photographer to travel and street and all the way back. I will describe some experiences of building a business and trying to stay afloat in an increasingly challenging and difficult industry. There are literally hundreds of ideas in my notebook – hopefully time will be gentle on me so I can ponder them here.
One day these accounts will form a much larger body of work and maybe even a book. The key command is START!
P.S. I would appreciate if you say hi in the comment section if you are reading this blog.
I have been thinking about you, my dear photographic friends. You have stayed with me over the years reading this blog and supporting me in my endeavours and I am so grateful for your interest.
It has been a while so I thought I would give you an update on my photographic activities. There is no question we are all excited about the possibility of travel. In fact, some of my friends have already booked incredible trips for late this year and 2022. I suspect it is going to be a very busy photographic season.
In terms of being busy, that’s an understatement. I have spent the last few months planning, preparing and launching a brand-new magazine dealing with landscape photography and called ELEMENTS. I am thrilled to report that the first issue of ELEMENTS is now available for download at www.elementsphotomag.com
Steven Friedman, a dear friend and co-editor of the magazine, has been shaping the DNA of ELEMENTS. You may ask: Why another magazine? That’s a great question. In the last few years, we have seen an acceleration in the use of post-processing software to alter and create photographs – especially landscape imagery. We are not against such tools but we thought there is a place for those who appreciate a more traditional approach. Steven explained it in this way:
“At the heart of the magazine is our commitment to curate this publication to give you every opportunity to feel you are standing alongside the photographer in the field as they see, craft, and produce their imagery. Our goal in this magazine is to take you on a journey with the photographer so you experience the effort, dedication and passion they apply to their work.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s not about fixing your photograph back in the studio. This is not only related to landscape photography. I used a similar approach in my street work over the years.
Another reason we started ELEMENTS was to expand the idea of landscape photography. There is so much underappreciated work out there, not necessarily screaming with colours and golden light, but which offers a willing participant a deep visual experience. It’s the sort of imagery that doesn’t scream but once you give it a chance it will linger and engage you on much deeper level.
That brings me to another point. If there is one change that came from the lockdowns and the pandemic, is that we all found a way to appreciate the smaller things in life. For me, it was greater contact with nature. I am very lucky because we are surrounded by stunning nature here in British Columbia and the time I have spent outside helped me to deal with the challenges of the last few years. You may not know that I started as a landscape photographer and then moved to travel and eventually street photography. Now my interest in travel and landscape is growing once again. It is not that I don’t like street anymore – I don’t think in those terms. For me photography is one huge world of seeing. In fact, I have been experimenting with ideas to break down barriers between what I call overly guarded genre borders.
Along with my passion for driving, I enjoy taking my street photography ideas and applying them to seeing and reconstructing landscape, once again. I may well be completing a full circle. As mentioned in my recent posts, I have been inspired by the works of Jan Tove, Ned Pratt and recently Sandra Herber, whose work you will find in the upcoming issues of the ELEMENTS Magazine.
Strangely enough, what I’ve enjoyed even more than photography in recent months is the challenge of curation and working on editorials and design. I find it very satisfying to work with the best photographers in the world – exchanging ideas and working on articles, interviews and ideas. Each time I know I have to go beyond my comfort zone and be exposed to wonderful talent way beyond my seeing capabilities. It helps me to grow as a photographer.
Last, I would like to ask you to spread the news about the ELEMENTS Magazine. Please share the www.elementsphotomag.com link with your photographic friends and invite them to our new FB group.
In the meantime, once I finish writing this, we are going to work on an extended interview with Bruce Barnbaum, an iconic photographer whose book, “The Art of Photography” I consider to be the bible of photographic thought, regardless of genre. Stay well, my friends, and I will report back soon.
Over the course of my photographic career, my visual interests have evolved from landscape to travel and from travel to street and creative photography. It has been a voyage of seeing, visual experimentation and self-discovery. In the last year, I noticed that this metamorphosis has accelerated and started me on a new visual journey.
As someone who loves road trips, I started to apply my creative street photography ideas to more rural and isolated places. In the same way as I observed and extracted unexpected elements from busy street scenes, I started to extract elements from less busy rural vistas. As I began this new visual journey, I came across a photographer whom I admire for his subtle yet sophisticated seeing and ability to arrange remote rural scenes into an elegant and cohesive whole.
Today I would like to introduce you to a photographer who, along with Ned Pratt (more about Ned soon), is making a major impact on my new visual discoveries. I would like to showcase the work of Jan Töve. Jan is a Swedish photographer whose photography is “based on landscape in a wider sense, in which the environment and society are commented on or included in one way or another.” His images are “personal interpretations and views of reality” to use a direct quotation from his website.
I view his work as visual prose which may not shout with colour or action but upon careful examination uncovers an exciting new world. The genius of Jan’s photographs involves everyday objects which are usually dismissed as commonplace. Jan’s eye picks out “what others left behind” and turns it into a masterpiece of seeing.
Many of you write to me that you live in remote areas and your street photography opportunities are rare if any. Jan Töve’s work demonstrates that you can discover visual beauty in scenes and places that are often dismissed. Notice the careful arrangement of elements often overlooked or considered banal. A line on the street, a stack of tires or a pile of wood are things we may easily dismiss, but Jan turns these “forgotten scenes” into a visual masterpiece. Each image conjures a visual language which strikes me with such elegance, grace and mystery that it turns the ordinary into quiet grandeur waiting to be discovered.
I urge you to check out two books by Jan Töve: “Silent Landscape” and “Faraway Nearby.” They have quickly become some of my favourite photographic books. They are beautifully printed on high-quality paper and the tonality of Jan’s photographs is something I strive for myself.
Let me leave you with the photographs. Slow down, get comfortable and savour each image. I assure you that you will learn a lot.
Jan Töve will be writing for the ELEMENTS Magazine – a brand new digital publication dedicated to elegant and sophisticated landscape photography. You can find more information at www.elementsphotomag.com
After months of preparation and planning I would like to invite you to join us on this new adventure in landscape photography. We have just begun the sign-up process for the ELEMENTS Magazine and are releasing a limited number of FOUNDING MEMBER SUBSCRIPTIONS with a special, one-time introductory price of $US79 per year ($6.58 per issue). Once the subscriptions have been taken, we will return to our regular price of US$99 per year.
In addition to this one-time special offer, you will receive updates about our design process, a sneak-peek into upcoming articles and features, and much more.
Starting March 1, 2021, you will receive the first issue of ELEMENTS, the digital magazine dedicated to elegant landscape photography, containing insightful editorials and set in fluid, clean design. ELEMENTS is carefully curated by the same team that brings you the Medium Format Magazine.
In the first issues you will find some truly amazing names in landscape photography such as Hans Strand, Bruce Barnbaum, Christopher Burkett, Christian Fletcher, Erin Babnik, William Neill, to name just a few.
Our team’s objective is to convey an experience allowing you to stand alongside a photographer in the field as they see and craft the image. This learning experience is at the core of ELEMENTS Magazine and we cordially invite you to join us on this adventure.
Today, as this challenging year comes to an end, please allow me to share some personal thoughts and offer some hope of a better 2021.
Few of you know that seventeen years ago, about this time of year, I spent six months fighting for my life. Against the doctors’ prognosis, I somehow survived, and my lovely wife Kasia rolled me in a wheelchair out of hospital.
The experience helped me to sort out my priorities and I made a decision that changed my life and led me to a much better place, where I am today. Despite constant dialysis and other medical challenges, I decided to indulge myself in building something new, working hard through the situation I found myself in. As long as I could think and control the pain, I knew I had to occupy my mind with achievable and workable ideas. Three years later I received a kidney transplant and life began again. That’s how olafphoto was born and all the ideas associated with it.
Jumping a few years ahead, a similar mindset kicked in when the COVID-19 changed our daily routine. I immediately saw this crisis as an opportunity to build and create. Most days for the last eleven months I have been working on my publishing vision and the Medium Format Magazine in particular. There was no Netflix or wasting time on politics. I have always believed that if you want to change something you start with yourself. You study hard, you work hard, you build something and help many other people along the way. So, every day I prepared a list of tasks, large and small, which would lead me to my weekly or monthly goals. Whether it was working on an issue of the magazine, writing emails or discussing ideas for the next article, my list was full and ready to be acted upon. Every day I met (mostly e-met) photographers, artists and, most importantly, builders, from Nick Brandt who works on massive projects to a 10-year-old who is writing his first books and publishing them!
Everyone faced challenges, many great photographers had to cancel their projects, trips or even their book releases but few of them stopped working. From reviewing their archival images, writing books or planning the next great project, it was a year of building and growing. Hearing people’s stories motived me to do even more.
In fact, it has been one of the most productive and amazing years in my life. Given the circumstances, I couldn’t be more thankful and appreciative. I’ve already mentioned the photographers I’ve had the privilege to work with. Whether it was Michael Kenna sending me his own photo playing a guitar, my conversations with Roman Loranc about life and photography, a great interview recording session with Edward Burtynsky or a highly moving exchange with Jimmy Nelson (coming soon) – these moments were precious and inspiring.
I wouldn’t be able to do it without you and the many amazing people in my life. I have to mention my beloved wife, Kasia, who has worked with me every day. Her sense of design and beauty, her advice and, most importantly, support means the world to me. Without her nothing would be possible. I love you, Kasia!
Among the many friends made this year I have to mention Steven Friedman, who took on the challenging role of chief strategist for the Medium Format Magazine and co-editor of the ELEMENTS Magazine (more about this later). His knowledge of the world of photography, incredible sense of elegance and class and priceless advice on a daily basis made our daily conversations a highlight of the day. I am thrilled we will be co-editing our new project – the ELEMENTS Magazine.
I also have to mention Tomasz of Fujilove and Frames. Our friendship spans many years and our conversations and exchanges are always motivating and so refreshing. It is great to be among people who act and implement their ideas in real life. Tomasz is one of the hardest working people I know and I have great respect for his dedication.
As someone who obsesses about design and language, it was another amazing year of working closely with Sally Jennings, our English editor. It is much more than just about language. Sally has become my therapist, social commentator, advisor and most importantly a great friend. And of course, she is always standing on guard to spot better solutions in the spoken and written word whether written by me or any of our contributors. It is such a joy working with you, Sally (yes, I still struggle with “the” and “a”).
I have to extend my thanks to Mac Sokulski and Tim Schaufele for being patient with my crazy and ever-changing designs for our websites and online tools. It has been so cool to work with you and learn about technology.
And of course, you, my photographic friends. Throughout this year and despite your personal challenges you found a way to visit this blog, support my endeavours and projects and even leave me a note or comment sometimes. I want you to know that I take great pleasure in our chats. I know that some of you remember my early days in photography or have attended one of my workshops. Then you accompanied me through the years and you are still here. Wow! This is where I find my inspiration and zest for creating and building. Thank you again.
Lastly, I want to look into 2021. I know it is going to be an amazing year. We have planted the seeds through hard work and many ideas in 2020 with the Medium Format Magazine and now the brand-new ELEMENTS Magazine is being born. This sister magazine will make its debut on March 1, 2021 and I am very excited to see it develop.
The ELEMENTS Magazine closes an important visual cycle for me. Many of you know me from my street photography but I actually started as a landscape photographer. Today I enjoy shooting some landscape work but not always in a traditional sense. So, the latest project means I am returning to my roots. Of course, personally I will be shooting street, portrait, landscape, travel and everything in between. Blurring lines between genres has always been my visual inclination and I don’t expect it to change but this change is something I enjoy.
In 2021, I will be working with an incredible group of people on the Medium Format and ELEMENTS magazines. As the publishing world gives me slightly more personal and artistic freedom, I decided I would make the blog even more personal. On this new journey, I am going to share with you everything I learn and experience through my work. I will also share my personal visual experiments and imagery. I hope you find it interesting.
I am looking forward to 2021, which no doubt will bring new challenges, but I strongly believe that with your support and dedication to the craft of photography, it is going to be a year in which we can create and build.
Once again, thank you for being with me. I wish you a wonderful, restful and peaceful holiday and a healthy, prosperous New Year!
Let me leave you with some of my favourite images taken in 2020.
There have been many announcements on this blog lately and I promise I will soon return to my usual photographic ramblings. In the meantime, I would like to share one more piece of news.
Steven Friedman, as co-editor, and I are launching a brand-new photography magazine called ELEMENTS. This new monthly magazine is dedicated to elegant landscape photography, insightful editorials and clean design, of course carefully curated like the Medium Format Magazine with one difference – it is not related to any technical format. You will find exclusive interviews, editorials and pieces from the best landscape photographers in the world. You can get more information on our landing page www.elementsphotomag.com
While the word “landscape” implies a typical beautiful vista, our magazine will go well beyond that. The best way would be to see it yourself. I will share more information with you shortly.
In the meantime, I would like to ask for your help:
Please share the news with friends who are interested in landscape photography. Ask them to visit https://www.elementsphotomag.com and sign up for future updates.
Share the link to our page on your social media and with online photography groups.
Follow us on Instagram @elementsphotomag and make sure to use the #elementsphotomag hashtag so we can repost your work (brand new account, just went live
This blog and my private writings here are mostly focused on seeing, composition, inspiration and ideas, which aim at crafting stronger imagery and finding the path to more meaningful and fulfilling photography. Of course, from time to time I write about gear, which plays a role in our photographic journey, whether we admit it or not.
Over the course of the last ten years, I have received numerous inquiries about gear. I have always tried my best to advise and share everything I know to make sure you buy the gear you really need, no more, no less. I have always been reluctant to share any direct links because I don’t like to send people to places I don’t know personally.
I maintain a similar policy with regard to the Medium Format Magazine, which I have had the privilege to run for the last few years. However, as you can imagine, I have received more and more inquiries in recent years, especially in terms of medium format, tripods, lenses and even Leica gear.
I want to let you know that the Medium Format Magazine just announced an exclusive partnership with Capture Integration – the most respected distributor of medium and large format gear in the world who specializes in and supports companies such as Fujifilm, Phase One, Hasselblad, Leica, ALPA, Cambo and Arca Swiss. It is our first partnership and is one-of-a-kind. As you know I haven’t rushed into any partnerships before because I wanted to make sure I support people who could genuinely help others to make the right gear choices, solve complex technical issues and develop long-lasting relationships.
So, I am telling you this because I know most of us change or upgrade their gear sooner or later. Each referral helps tremendously and supports this blog, the Medium Format Magazine and GetDPI.com photography forum. I know Dave (and his team), who runs Capture Integration and find their knowledge unmatched in the industry. Most importantly, they won’t pressure you into anything. Even if you face some difficult technical issues, I know they will do their best to help. Even if you have your own provider, do give them a try. They carry all the latest Fujifilm and Hasselblad gear.
There is one more thing. COVID has made it very difficult for independent dealers and family-run businesses. In contrast, giants like Amazon are doing better than ever. That’s why it is important to support family businesses and people who live and breathe photography on a daily basis. Even if you just want to consult, make sure to contact Dave or Steve and tell them I sent you. If you like, you can always contact me privately and I will connect you directly.
Let’s support each other during this difficult time. Stay well.
Below please find some images from my latest visual explorations. All images taken with the Hasselblad 907X 50c and the XCD 45p lens. Enjoy!
I am working on a comprehensive review of the Hasselblad 907X 50c camera but I thought I would share with you my first, rather random, thoughts after shooting with this new system for the last five days.
The moment you take the camera out of the box, you know you are dealing with something different. It’s very small for medium format and its cube-like shape fits perfectly into your hand. It is a truly beautiful camera. The materials are of the highest quality. Every edge, button and surface makes me think of a collectible item rather than a typical photographic tool. Even the battery door is beautifully made with a quality H letter engraved on it. The way the door opens and closes is just genius, especially compared to the clumsy cheap battery doors in so many cameras nowadays. I have to say that from the industrial design perspective it is currently the most beautiful camera on the market. Many of you may not care about that but it matters to me.
The first lens I attached was the XCD 45p – a small but capable glass. This combo means the system is so small and light you can hold it comfortably in one hand. Then, there are the operations. The shutter button is located on the right bottom corner of the lens and it feels right on target when you hold the camera. In fact, you can operate the camera with one hand if you want to.
The operations are stripped to the bare minimum. The shutter button is wrapped in a scrolling wheel, which allows you to change the aperture. The LCD screen has five solid buttons along the lower edge of LCD – that’s all you have and all you need. The Hasselblad menu system is one of the most elegant, simple and photography-oriented on the market. It is the bare minimum for what you need for photography and I really enjoy it. Despite the emphasis on design, I could find everything I needed in the menu without looking at a manual. A simple thing such as formatting the card requires two steps without needing the menu. I wish other camera manufacturers would stop the frenzy of adding functions and buttons to their cameras. The spartan approach here is very refreshing.
For those who would like to add more functionality, the additional grip (beautifully matched to the camera) provides all the answers and more. My favourite is the focus point selector positioned on the upper part of the grip, which works beautifully. Interestingly enough even with the grip the camera feels light and playful. At the beginning I thought the separation of the grip from the camera by a metal attachment would feel strange but it’s quite the opposite. It feels so refreshing, reassuring and comfortable to hold (your hand can wrap around it, unlike the built-in grips).
How does it work in the field? I really enjoyed it. I noticed that I used the camera differently depending on whether I wanted to have the grip attached or not. It is so tempting to put on a small lens like the XCD 45p and play with the camera, using it in a straightforward and photographic-centred way. On the other hand, the grip adds functionality and allows you to shoot in a more traditional way.
One of the biggest surprises was the battery life. I was expecting to go through batteries very quickly but just two were enough for the entire day of shooting in the field.
In terms of the imagery, it has the same sensor as the X1D 50c II so the image quality is equally impressive and more than adequate for most people. For those who need more resolution and detail, Fujifilm GFX 100 or the Phase One system will take you there.
One of the revelations of this system is its compatibility and possible expansion, including all the range of lenses. I will write more about it in the upcoming review.
Yes, I am working on a comprehensive piece about this new system in which I will share more detailed information with you. I have to say I’m glad Hasselblad tapped into its rich heritage and came up with this product, which allowed them to differentiate themselves from the competition. They managed to create a camera that goes beyond being a dry photographic tool and taps into nostalgia, the fun factor and a feeling of photographic elation (actually not that easy to evoke). I like this new form so much that I will consider investing in the system myself.
Below please find a few images taken with the 907X 50c and the XCD 90, 45P and 35-75 lenses. Many more to come.
And don’t forget to check out the October issue of the Medium Format Magazine which includes an extensive interview with Michael Kenna.
In my last article “Photography is Curation” I made a case for curating your work. I had many deep conversations with many photographers about this very subject. One of the most fascinating exchanges I had was with my good friend, Ibarionex Perello. Ibarionex, with whom I had an opportunity to lead a photographic workshop, wrote about this subject in the July 2019 edition of the Medium Format Magazine. Today, I would like to share with you Ibarionex’ article and his stunning imagery. Enjoy!
You can’t discern how talented a photographer is by looking at a single photograph. The image could be the result of skill, but it might just be luck. Only by evaluating a selection of work can you make an honest assessment of a photographer.
However, that selection of images should not be a random selection of what the photographer thinks is their better photographs. Such collections often consist of hits and misses and others that fall somewhere in-between.
When a photographer asks me to critique their images and they want me to look at hundreds of their photographs, I know it will be little other than a fishing expedition. They hope I can make sense of what they’ve created, affirm their talent and make recommendations on how they can build on that.
I completely understand that desire as I have experienced such feelings myself but among the many things I’ve learned, any feedback that I receive is just an opinion. Some of it may benefit me, while some of it may not. The feedback, opinions and recommendations I receive from people will often be contradictory, leaving me more confused than when I started. Reliance on someone else’s point of view has never served as a stepping stone to take my photography to the next level.
Quantity Doesn’t Translate Into Quality
I learned that the making of photographs alone never made me a better photographer. I could take tens of thousands of photographs, but quantity alone doesn’t guarantee improvement. I could increase my familiarity with my camera and improve my technique, but that doesn’t mean better quality. I could read countless books and view hours of video that would increase my knowledge of the craft. None of this naturally segues into understanding how to apply that information to my creative practice.
That kind of thinking eventually led me to moments of disappointment and frustration. I looked at my work and compared it to that of the people I admired and only saw the disparity between their photographs and mine. Although I believed I understood the photographic process as well as they did and used equipment much like theirs, I couldn’t understand why my body of work didn’t measure up to theirs. I too-easily assumed that it was an issue of natural talent and that I was lacking.
Becoming an Editor
But it wasn’t that I lacked talent. The real reason I struggled was that I missed an essential skill—I didn’t understand how to be my own editor. And by editor, I don’t mean my skills in Photoshop, but rather my ability to cull my images. Editing is the ability not only to choose which images are better than others but to organize them into a body of work that demonstrates vision and a clear point of view.
Despite the reliance of photography on technical knowledge, equipment, and a repeated methodology, the ultimate driver is the mind. Our subconscious gives us the means to recognize the potential of a subject or scene for a photograph. It is where that spark of inspiration is born that boosts our heart rate as we raise the camera to take a photograph.
The challenge lies in making sense of what the subconscious was up to when it prompted the photograph and that understanding comes through the process of editing.
Despite the wealth of educational material on photography, there is very little to be found on the process of editing one’s own work. The lack of a clear and methodical approach makes the editing seem like something out of the Wild West: anything goes. From the lacklustre results I have seen in the portfolios I have reviewed, it’s a challenge faced by most photographers.
Becoming a good editor is an acquired skill so here are a few suggestions that may help you to become your own best editor.
Create collections of the category of photography that you practice, e.g., landscape, portrait, close-up, street photography, etc. If you favour only one type of photography, create sub-categories. If you enjoy landscapes, the sub-categories could be water, sky, close-ups, sunsets, etc.
When reviewing your images from a recent shoot, rate your better images with a pick flag, a star or a colour rating. It doesn’t matter which, as long as you remain consistent. Put your highest-rated images in the appropriate category or subcategory.
Limit the number of images in each collection to approximately 25. When you reach this number of images, you can begin making comparisons.
Contrast and Comparison
Look through the 25 images and choose one image that you believe is the stand-out, the best of the best. If you struggle with making this decision, simply choose the image that best represents what you are aspiring to create as a photographer. Assign this image a higher rating such as a single star. This is your benchmark image.
Next, compare this image to the other 24 and make a judgment call. If the next image as good as your benchmark, it stays. If it doesn’t, remove it from the collection. If you have multiple versions of a scene or subject, narrow down your choice to just one. Continue this until you have eliminated 10 images from that collection.
This can be hard to do, especially if you are emotionally attached to your photographs, but it’s a necessary part of the editing process. You have to learn to make those hard choices. Remember that the choices are not permanent. This doesn’t delete the images from your hard drive. It’s just a necessary part of the editing process.
As you continue to produce more work and again fill out your collection to 25, repeat this process to see which new images find a home in the collection and which need to be eliminated.
The Survey mode in Adobe Lightroom Classic CC provides the perfect tool for doing this easily and efficiently.
Getting Your Core 8
As you practice this process throughout the year, you will begin to discern which images you favour and why. You will teach yourself how to recognize the visual elements you gravitate to, your strengths in composition and even themes and ideas. That clarity will help you edit your images at the end of the year to your Core 8 photographs.
The Core 8 are the photographs in each category that best represent what you’ve accomplished as a photographer that year. It is the means by which you not only make a judgment call on the quality of the individual images but how they came together as a body of work.
It is the same practice that you applied previously but instead of narrowing down the images to 12, you are choosing a final eight. Again, choose a benchmark image, which will likely have changed from earlier in the year. You then contrast and compare until you have culled the images to a final eight.
This can be the most difficult part of the entire process as you are hopefully looking at some exceptional photographs. But this time, you are looking at the photographs as a body of work. One of your favourite images might be beautiful and striking, but does not fit or flow with the other images that you’ve selected. That doesn’t mean this image won’t find a home somewhere. It just means that in terms of your Core 8 it isn’t appropriate.
When you are done with each collection, you will have a representative body of your very best images in each category or subcategory for the year. If you have created four categories or sub-categories, you will have compiled a selection of 32 images, an ideal size for a portfolio or web gallery.
The most difficult thing when going through this process is to detach emotionally from your work. Sometimes, you become so invested with the story behind the images or what you went through to capture it, that you lose your objectivity. The story may be great and the challenge commendable, but the image and the collection can’t be about that. The work has to stand on its own.
After practicing this approach repeatedly over time, you will find that such detachment comes more easily. And as you see that your body of work is stronger and more consistent, you will trust not only in your ability as a photographer but also as an editor.
Ibarionex Perello is a photographer, writer, and educator. He is also the host of The Candid Frame photography podcast which he has been producing since 2006. He has authored half a dozen books on the subject of photography including his latest, Making Photo- graphs: Developing a Personal Visual Workflow. Find out more about him and his work by visiting www.thecandidframe.com
In the last year, I’ve worked on photography from a slightly different angle than before. Most of my life I have crafted and curated my own images. In the last two years I have had the chance to work with an incredible team at the Medium Format Magazine, which exposes me to a different way of looking at photography. I was not only curating my own photography, but I was curating ideas and imagery for the magazine. This process reinforced my views about the importance of curation and pushed it to the forefront of my photographic thought.
I am well aware that in today’s over-sanitized world of photography, writing about this topic may not be the smartest choice but those of you who have followed me for a while know that I write “as it is” regardless of social moods or trends. A few posts ago I touched on the topic of curation and its importance. In short, I loosely defined the process of curation as “the impartial selection and revaluation of a photographer’s own work for the purpose of presenting one image or a series of images.”
After having in-depth conversations and working with the best photographers in the world, I came to the conclusion that one trace, one common feature among them all is this: they are all great curators! In other words, they have gained the visual proficiency and emotional maturity to curate their own work honestly, thoughtfully and ruthlessly. If the last word sounds strange and rough – it is and I chose it deliberately.
Why do most people have such a problem with curating their work? There are many reasons, some external and some internal. There is no question that among the most prominent factors is the industry itself, especially in recent years. With the explosion of YouTube channels, blogs and social media, credentials to share, inspire and teach have been reduced to owning a camera and a megaphone – the louder the better. It is especially true on YouTube, which has created an entire generation of YouTube stars who cannot shoot but quickly turned into internet gurus. I will pass up giving examples, but it is not difficult to prove my point – just look at the imagery (if there is any) of some of the most popular youtubers. The formula is always the same:
Inspire – or in other words, use clichés and in-the-moment slogans for people to LIKE and SUBSCRIBE.
Teach – or in other words, repeat beaten-to-death dogmas and teaching points so it feels good, it is easy and under no circumstances forces the viewer to do any hard work.
Fit into the current social narrative or, even better, create a controversy which has nothing to do with crafting great imagery.
In short, the objective is to make everyone feel warm and cozy. As you may suspect, the process of curation becomes the first casualty of this nonsense. The situation is even more dire in the photographic groups. The slightest suggestion of any sort of curation is met with the mob-like response sprinkled with the usual slogans such as “How dare you judge my work” and “In art everything goes.” In the meantime, great photographers throughout history have built the case by shooting great imagery but, most importantly, by carefully choosing which images are printed and shared with the public. Furthermore, they stood by their work and defended it successfully against the army of vicious critics (and it is a good thing they did!).
Fine, Olaf, but how do I start? It always starts with you and me. In my early days as a photographer I thought I was a good photographer. I liked my work but in reality, my imagery was poorly crafted and simply boring. It wasn’t until I met my mentor who, in rather direct language, pointed out the mediocrity of my work. What’s even worse is that I was shooting too much and sharing too much. I fell into the common trap of “I like it so it must be great” fallacy.
I quickly realized that the fact I took a photo and liked it, meant nothing! Quite the opposite. Step by step I became critical of my work, asking uncomfortable questions. The more uncomfortable they were, the more I realized how poor my craft was. I was living in a fantasy land propelled by the LIKE fantasy of the FB.
When questioned by some of my mentors, I started working on curating my work, which I found even more difficult than shooting the imagery itself. A thousand question marks appeared in my head. This is where the internal process of detaching myself from my photography began. I looked at every image with new eyes, questioning its visual validity, composition and even purpose.
One of the first outcomes of this process was the realization that when I reviewed some imagery I couldn’t answer the very simple question: “Olaf, why did you take this photo?” It became clear that almost every image which came with the answer “I don’t know” was poorly done and was a prime candidate for deletion. The habit of “because I can” or “just in case” quickly disappeared, which was huge progress already. In practical terms, when I was out shooting, I would not press the shutter button if I couldn’t find a reason to capture the image.
Then, I developed a process during which I would review my work right after shooting it. In this process, any doubt about an image equated with the delete action; no second guessing or finding excuses to keep it. The more I practiced this procedure, the more I liked it. After each session I was left with less and less imagery – this by itself was a huge step forward in my curation process.
In time, reviewing my work has become as important as shooting. Interestingly, each function complemented the other and fed on the other in unexpected ways. I noticed that my curation process directly affected the way I shot. I started curating scenes and frames BEFORE I took them. At one point I would spend three or four hours daily going through my imagery and deleting most of it.
Here are some of the criteria I applied:
Is this a cliché? Have I seen this idea many times before? If so, is this image technically or artistically one of the best I have seen or it is just like most of them? When in doubt – delete!
Is it possible to shoot this particular visual idea better? What would I change? Would better light help? Should I think more about composition?
One question which I always ask when looking at an image is: Was there a way to minimize the number of elements in the frame? And in 99% of cases my honest answer was YES. THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY TO MAKE AN IMAGE SIMPLER!
How does this image represent my visual brand? Am I excelling or staying at the same level?
Is the image elegant? Why did I include the subject in its entirety? What if I could show just part of it?
Does this image stand on its own? What if I share it in a sequence? If so, what would the order be in order to maintain visual balance and scrolling continuity?
Then I play the devil’s advocate. I started finding weaknesses in my image. Why didn’t you place your subject more to the left? How about this pocket of light in the corner? Is it distracting? Does it add anything to the image? Why colour? Why black and white? I questioned even my best images. Only images which I could defend from my own attacks had the chance of remaining in my catalogue.
The entire process, once done honestly and regularly, develops a certain sense of design and taste. The best comparison with the idea of visual taste is with wine. I rarely drink wine but on occasion I do have a sip. Of course, I could tell you which wine I liked or I disliked BUT that doesn’t mean it is a good or bad wine. I have no reference, experience or expertise. Only someone who had studied the wine industry and tasted a huge variety of wines around the world could develop proficiency and expertise. That person would be able to distinguish good from bad wine and, most importantly, articulate why. The same with photography.