Step by step instructions are a good method to complete a task but in a creative field it can be a trap. The Danger of step by step is three fold.
- It takes away the experimentation
- It keeps you from understanding the full process
Experimentation is an important part of photographic creative activity as it leads to new discoveries and better understanding of the complete process. Experimentation leads to mistakes which lead to new ideas in the creative mind. This does not mean it will change the project but may lead to new projects or be incorporated into the current project. In photography complacency can be a problem. Sometimes photographers a content with what an action does and only consider the result. If the photographer actually performed the steps and modified them to fit his image the results could be more tailored to his own creative intent. The complacent photographer will end up with images that look like others and will not standout when it comes to creativity. Following step by step instructions is a knowledge trap. It keeps you from understanding the full process. Just blindly following steps you do not develop any new knowledge but with a little experimentation knowledge will be gained. By example back in the film days there was step by step for developing film but every photographer willing to experiment would learn that great results could be had by over or under development when coupled with over and underexposure. Today we have HDR. You can go to the web of buy a book and follow each step by step but the results usually lead to images that have certain look that is very recognizable as HDR. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range or in other words an image that exceeds the capabilities of the camera. In the film days if the dynamic range exceeded our film we would overexpose and underdeveloped and the image would look normal. Today if we want to digitally create a normal looking image we need to look to different techniques involving multiple exposures or processes. HDR works also and with a lot of experimentation you may be able to create a natural looking image that does not have the HDR look.
Comfort zone is a happy place but getting outside of that zone has the result of expanding the zone. We all benefit by pushing our boundaries and expanding our comfort zone. I issue challenges to myself all the time. The image at the top of this blog was a experiment where I was testing very high ISO noise reduction and long exposure photography combined with some light painting. There are multiple failures in this image from which I have acquired a lot of knowledge. I will not go through all of the failures but the biggest takeaway is that I need to take 2 images one of the light painting and one of the stars in register with the light painted image. I am not satisfied with the ISO and exposure time but because I did this image I know where to go for the next.
Next time you want to go beyond your boundaries experiment before you go to the book or the web and you will be rewarded with a better understanding of what you are trying to do. Creativity is defined a bringing something truly unique into being. Following a step by step robs you by taking away part of the creative process. Concentrate on why and how the process works and you will be far better off. I sometimes blog about a process and even give you a step by step but I hope you will experiment and make the process your own. Don’t forget to subscribe so you wont miss the next blog. Until next time “Keep on Shooting”