I’d like to say a “thank you” to those who said nice things about my Instagram photos from my trip to New Zealand, especially those that I took of Juli.
I’ve been taking these Instagram photos for a while now, and I have a few online friends who know me more about me from Instagram than my blog. I would never have expected this plot twist!
Instagram has given me the opportunity to connect with new people and to see the world in new ways. I now even look at trees.
Yesterday, my friend Miss Britt asked me if I could give her any iphonography tips, which prompted me to write this —
I do wish a few of my photography friends weren’t so snotty about Instagram, fearful of the dirty Instagram mob with their scary hipster filters. But in some ways, they deserve to be wary — “real” photography is hard work. I’m comfortable with my status as an amateur. That doesn’t mean I can’t share with you some things I learned; I see my limitations as a lowly iphone Instagram photographer as my greatest tool.
First of all, I can’t teach you anything about F-stops or lighting techniques. I’m not completely ignorant about these things. I did attend USC film school, but at the time, during graduate school, the technical aspects of movie-making were less interesting to me than the “story” of a movie — the script. Even today, I hate movies over-stuffed with special effects or 3D. I like compelling stories about life.
My main photography tip is — “look for the story.” I know it sounds like a cliche, but is what I do. Don’t get too hung up on the technical. Yes, there is some artistry involved. I use filters and think about composition, but the best photos have a story. Sometimes the viewer will get the story. Other times, the story only makes sense to you. It doesn’t matter. The story will create the energy. I always look for the story.
Editing the photo, especially the cropping, is essential because it is part of storytelling. I see it like editing a manuscript. It is common to only discover the story during cropping! I might take a photo of a beautiful woman walking down the street, and then, during editing, notice the homeless guy sitting on the street near her. Forget the hot woman, and go for the STORY. Cropping to me is a second chance at finding the story.
EXPERIMENT: Go right now and take three quick photos of your child. Or your husband. Or even your couch. Now look at the three shots. They will seem almost identical, but I bet one of the shots tells the story better than the others. This is why professionals take a hundred shots of the same subject. They pick out the photo which tells the best story. I’ll admit that for every “beautiful” photo of Juli that I put on Instagram, there were four others that sucked, or caught her eating a sandwich with the mustard dripping on her shirt.
Story trumps all. An umbrella could be blocking half of the woman’s face and the photo blurry, but if it has a better story than the same photo done perfectly, I would pick the inferior photo technically.
When you take your photos, don’t think of it as a photo. Think of what you are doing as storytelling.
How to find — and capture that story — is more complex, and I’m not ready to discuss that yet. We’ve all seen an Instagram photo of a hamburger on a plate, and we make fun of it as a waste of space. And then we see another person’s photo — a hamburger on a plate — that makes us stop in our tracks. We ask ourselves, “Where is she eating this hamburger? Who is she with right now? Are they having sex later?” The photo tells the story.