Trying to be a better photographer
I’m Pete Carr. I'm a photographer and this isn't a photography newsletter. This is a form of "Rubber Duck Debugging". Writing helps me process thoughts and work through problems. So I write to my computer about issues relating to mental health and being autistic. I then share it with you fine folk. There's nice photos too. 🖖
This week's photos are from a few hours in Split, Croatia. We took the ferry from Ancona, Italy to get there. Split is lovely and I was even able to have a local IPA beer there.
Trying to be a better photographer
I've been a full time professional photographer for 11 years now. I was part time before that for 5 years and an amateur for about 2 years before that. All in all I've been into photography for 18 years. The journey has taken me from selective colour flower macro photographer to world renowned HDR photographer to the Portrait of Britain 2018 shortlist. Stylisitically it's been a bit of a rollercoaster. I guess you could call it growth. Listen to Fatboy Slim's work over the years and you can tell it's him but it has matured and perhaps mellowed over the years as he has aged. Have I mellowed too? shrug
(My photography journey in 3 photos. We all had to start somewhere. Don't un-follow. Please?)
Maybe I am mellowing but what I'm not doing is relaxing. I hoped that with all this free time during lockdown I would figure a few things out and relax. I wanted to come out of this pandemic with a clarity of vision. Unfortunately it turns out that free time is bad for me. My mind wanders and wanders and wanders and 2 big mac's please and wanders and a fish called wander wondered why I was wandering lonely as a cloud and wanders. Instead of getting stuff done I've had no constraints. My work has no bounds. It is boundless. There is no reason to stop tweaking. The result is I've actually done far less than I hoped. Now I know that just getting through the day without crying is something we should all be ok with. No shame. No judgement. Do what you need to to make it to tomorrow. It's ok. Annoyingly tomorrow comes and I'm still trying to answer this decade old question about how best to process a photo.
I wrote about this last month. Sorry to bring it back up again but the fudging thought is still fudging fudgey! I can't get away from it. It's always there. I've barely picked up my camera in recent weeks because I know it will create more decisions I can't make. All I want to do is see something. Take a photo. Be happy with it. Publish it somewhere. That's it. Is it too much to ask?
I follow a variety of photographers on Instagram and they all have a different take on how to edit photographs. But they all seem to have consistency. They seem to be able to produce work that looks like their work. They seem to be able to function! At least they "seem" to be. Maybe they're just like me? They found a way to work and have stuck to it for fear of breaking it. Maybe my autistic/ADHD brain is too chaotic a place to settle down and be ok with a set style?
I tried giving control over to Lightroom. It has an automatic processing feature. We didn't agree on things. Part of me feels like I should go with the presets built into my cameras. Who am I to say I know how to process a photo better than the people at Leica who have been at this for over half a century. So I tried this and for a while it was good. I loved seeing the photo on the display and being happy. After a while I started fiddling witht the images again. I just know I can get more out of the file than what they can. So I try and I never finish a photo. If I was a sculpturer I'd be constantly running out of marble because of all the little tweaks I was making. That would be a good clear sign something was wrong and I needed to change. However I work digitally and there is no end. There is however endless undos, presets, adjusments, tweaks, changes and preposterous ponderings on photographs.
Client work, thanks to deadlines, is fine. That I can do. No problem. But I just can't finish my own photographs. I could use film instead but I'm not made of money. It would certainly be nice though. Take photographs. Send off film. Finished photos are returned and cannot be edited. I like that. It's just £20/roll for 36 photographs. Nope. Not made of money.
So what's the plan here Pete? Continue to take photographs and have them pile up in Lightroom never being seen and never being finished? Outsource the processing to someone else who won't get them how I like them because I'm a massive dick who can't be pleased? Maybe I should try the in-built presets again and really try to stick to them? The problem is that when I load the photos into Lightroom they reset back to 0. I am forced to edit them. I can never get them just the way I saw them on the back of the camera display. What I want is that moment I saw and the joy I felt as an image format. Photo.joy. I could use the JPG format on my camera with a RAW file as backup... maybe. But that requires twice as much storage and my brain knows the RAW file is there waiting for the endless tweaking.
I'd switch to painting but the endless tweaks would result in a 3D painting due to all the paint I applied. How does anyone do it? You can understand why so many photographers ask the question "What film did you use?" at photography talks. What they're really asking is "How did you do it? How are you happy? Portra 400? Is that how I become happy? MAKE ME HAPPY!" Maybe there's a podcast in there? I enjoy Grant Scott's podcast where he asks photographers "What does photography mean to me?". Maybe I should start emailing people and asking them "Hey. Are you happy? How'd you do that?" I would be interested to know the answers. It could be quite comforting.
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“Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous.” Christopher Pike, Captain USS Discovery.
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I'm streaming photography in various forms on Twitch.tv/petecarr. Stream schedule is Tues/Wed/Fri at 7:30PM GMT and Monday at 2PM GMT. Photography focused but accessible. Friday is a look at art events I've photographed. You can also ask me about autism and there's cat cam too.