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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Studio Essentials

Model: Hailee Forde
I have often wondered if photography is truly teachable. In other words, can one photographer teach another how to take photographs? I suppose the answers "yes" and "no" are both true. Certainly there are techniques, guidelines and sciences that one should learn. But right and wrong is a matter of perspective and opinion where an artform is involved. Art is such a personal thing that its very difficult to say that one approach is wrong and another is correct. It is for these reasons that I no longer accept invitations to judge competitions at camera clubs. Rarely anyway. I believe that such a process only reinforces one photographer's idea of creativity over an other's and I wonder if anyone has that right.
Another workshop was integrated into our repertoire over the weekend. Our 'Studio Essentials' Workshop was designed to teach our customers exactly that - studio essentials - the starting point for their own journey in that arena. We were graced by the company of Taisen Blackwolf, Hailee Ford and Kelly Kooper as our models as well as many of the CPW crew who came along to assist with the running of the whole show. It was a sea of Team CPW shirts...and it was a beautiful thing.
I get to see quite a bit of work from photographers at all levels. Much of it I aspire toward, hoping that I achieve that level of technical and/or creative brilliance myself one day. But I also believe that too many photographers jump into studio lighting and studio photography too quickly. The evidence is seen in the fact that so many of the 'studio essentials' are missing. What are these, you ask? Highlight vs Shadow. Contrast control. Background separation. Light positioning. Specular vs diffused, or the combinations of both....and much more. Naturally it takes much study and hard work to become a master of any or all of these. I am not a master, but I have been on the road much longer than many.
The workshop was designed to highlight and examine the principles of lighting, whether it be portrait or product. Once they are established and understood, a photographer of average experience and intelligence can take that ball and run with it, using his or her own imagination, creativity and aquired tool set to build on that and create their own style. Naturally you can't teach everything in one class. For that matter, I think it would take a lifetime to teach everything possible in the studio, the same as it takes a lifetime to work through the almost endless variations of light, ratio, positioning, composition and posing. A seven hour workshop can only teach some principles and hope that those who attend see the infinite possibilities that lie before them in their own time. Admittedly, that is the best any workshop can hope for. Now its up to each of those who attended to take what they have learned and make it theirs.That is the best I can hope for.

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The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

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