Hi. My name is Elliot Madriss and I teach a successful class at the continuing education facility as part of the University of New Mexico called “Stop Taking Crappy Pictures!”. This class was created as a direct result of my reaction to the very poor quality of images being posted on the Internet and on many professional sites – in my opinion, collectively we are losing our ability to take great photographs. With the advent of incredible cell phone technologies as well as the great sensors that now populate most DSLRs, taking snapshots has been made much easier. However as always, photographs (which are great works of art) are still difficult to take. But don’t blame yourselves, its in your DNA not to see photographically!
The Dilemma – Our Failed Biology
Our eyes were not designed for photography. Our 50-55mm eyes, great as they are, were designed to find food and prevent us from being eaten by saber tooth cats. Try this little exercise. Go to a location with lots and lots of people – it could be a parade, the Rio Olympics, a party – my ideal location would be Times Square at 6:00 PM on a Friday night. Once there, safely close your eyes for 10 seconds and then reopen them. What do you see? – what our ancestors saw – absolute Pandemonium! Lots of people with no photographic acuity whatsoever – its takes the trained photographic eye to separate out the confusion, find the details and create a real photo.
The Fix Is In
So what does a person to do after spending thousands of dollars on equipment only to produce crappy pictures? A favorite quote of mine that I use in my class penned by Henri Cartier-Bresson states, “Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst”. How true and he would know. The quote that I have created for my class is, “The camera is the least important part of photography”. Blasphemous – how can this be? Doesn’t the camera take the picture? No – YOU take the picture – actually your mind does with its accumulation of millions of photographs previously viewed, hundreds of pages of manuals read, classes taken, dozens of books studied and more than enough cameras used to last a few lifetimes!
I have invented a photographic game called “Where’s the Photo”. Its kind of like the game “Where’s Waldo”, where the player had to identify a person within the confines of massive confusion and among the extremely crowded scene. So wherever you are, your mission Jim (again without a camera), is to discover the photo within the confines of environment madness. Look for texture (the interesting flooring of a restaurant for example), color and saturation, the pretty waitress serving you some delicious sushi etc. This little game will exercise you mind’s eye and develop your visual acuity so that when you are at your dream location, your pictures will be great.
Above all else, be gentle with yourself. Unless you are a genius or a savant, photography can be difficult. Bear this in mind when you are editing your images: every photographer whose has every lived has struggled with taking great pictures – yes even the greats. However, passion is the engine and energy that will propel you to greatness. Shoot what you love and shoot often. Like a Buddhist monk, become one with your camera – learn everything about it so that it just becomes an extension of your mind in the field wherever you shoot. I encourage you to make a ton of mistakes but learn from them. Now go out, have fun and take some great photographs!!
The images found in this article are from the trip I recently took on a 7300 mile journey across America and back.
This guest post was submitted by Elliot Madriss. You can check out more of his work by visiting his online gallery.