HandCrafting a Fine Art Photograph

Making a great fine art photograph is a lot easier if you have a pretty good idea where you’re headed before you start. That means invoking the dreaded word “vision”. How do you tap into that? Where do you even begin?

To answer this, I’m going to have to get a little “out there” on you for a moment. We live in a world where everything is labeled and defined, where “understanding” anything means breaking it down into its various pieces and processes. We all already know that the creative process is the exact opposite of that. So, here’s an exercise for you:

Rather than trying to present what something “is” in your photos, present it in terms of “what it’s like”. Think in terms of analogy and metaphor. What you’ll end up with is a photo about an idea instead of a photo about a thing, and that’s powerful! Here’s how: You’re getting ready to photograph The Washington Monument.

What does it remind you of?
What is it about that monument on that day that attracts you?

Maybe you’ll think “this reminds me of reaching up to touch the heavens.” Make your photo about that. Maybe the seascape after a storm reminds you of power and fury. Shoot that instead of sand and water and the rule of thirds. Maybe the canyon you’re shooting reminds you of the mythical underworld. Great! Grab onto all the associations that come with that idea and shoot that.

This is what I call “Imaginal Thinking” and it frees you from the constraints of making the same photograph made by everyone else. Try it and see what you come up with!

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Jim Welninski
Jim Welninski is a teaching artist and fine art photographer living and working in Chicago. He emphasizes vision and imagination over style and technique and has won many international awards for his work. He also teaches photography in the classroom at Chicago Photography Classes. Many of his students are award-winning photographer themselves.

Jim has a background in professional media production and has worked as an animator, video editor, sound mixer, and dialog editor. He is also a mediocre amateur musician. He lives just outside Chicago with his cat, Maddy, who allows him to live with her.

Find out more about him and his work at http://www.f64.co/Jim
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