Thursday, June 14, 2012
You Need Both Yin & Yang Eggs in Your "Learning Photography" Basket
What I mean by the "soft" and "hard" sides of photography is fairly simple: If it deals with the aesthetics of photography, the psychology driving it, production and post-production from a non-technical or less-technical perspective, interacting with subjects, clients, or others, the attitudes, behaviors, and demeanor photographers engage in, the creative aspects of photography, etc., I see that stuff as the "soft" side. If it deals with gear, tech, how-to tips, and those sorts of things, it's the "hard" side, the side I'm generally less interested in writing about. That's not to say I don't ever write about the "hard" side. I do. But I write about that stuff less often.
Another way to look at this "hard" versus "soft" notion is like this: Photography is both art and science. One is photography's yin, the other is its yang. They are both equally important! If the science and technical aspects of photography are it's yin, I prefer writing about its yang. Yep. That's right. I'm more a yang guy than a yin dude. Leastwise, when it comes to writing about photography.
There's more than enough people covering photography's "hard" side beat, you know, the yin of photography. If you follow a fair number of people on Twitter, other social media, or those who write and share about photography on blogs and the many websites dedicated to photography, you know the great majority of them Tweet, blog, and post about the "hard" side, especially gear, lighting, Photoshop and Lightroom, and all the rest of the techy, hard, yin stuff. As a blogger and an e-book author, I decided quite some time ago that another cyber-voice isn't needed to regularly share about that stuff. How many more photographers do we need, as an example, blogging or publishing about small flash photography? I think folks like David "Strobist" Hobby, Joe McNally, Syl Arena, and plenty of others have that subject covered from head to toe. I certainly don't need to add my voice to theirs. Besides, they cover the subject so well my voice would be barely heard if heard at all.
Conversely, there's way fewer people often writing about the soft, yang-ish side of photography. I count myself as one of them. I've never been one to follow the pack anyway. My e-book, Zen and the Art of Portrait Photography, is entirely about the yang side of this thing we do. Famed photographer and painter, Man Ray, once observed: "There will always be those who look only at technique, who ask 'how,' while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why?' Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information." Yep. Me too, Mr. Ray. I'm curious by nature and most always prefer inspiration (or ways to become inspired) to hard information. To illustrate the point, there aren't even any pictures between my Zen portrait photography e-book's virtual covers. (Illustrating without illustrations: Now there's a novel concept!) While my e-books, Guerrilla Glamour and Guerrilla Headshots do include ample pictures, along with chapters dealing with gear and how-to elements of their respective subjects, i.e., the information stuff, there's plenty of words in them covering the soft, yang side.
As I already mentioned, both the yin and yang of photography are equally important. As a photographer, it's pretty hard to pursue photography without some knowledge of both, including how they interact and are interdependent on each other; leastwise, if you hope to snap some decent pics... which begs the question: Why do so many photographers, that is, those who educate other photographers, seem so preoccupied with only half of what's important in photography? You know, the yin side of it. I'm sure all the gear and software manufacturers really love those guys but, photography-wise, they're only telling half the story. Also, it seems to me many photographers, those who are seeking to learn, are also lop-sided in terms of what they deem important versus less important. Does anyone think Canon's or Nikon's latest announcement about their latest camera bodies are going to make any difference whatsoever to a photographer's skill at shooting pictures? For many, it seems, the yin almost always trumps the yang. Here's some 411 for those people: It doesn't. Period. I believe photographers who grab most of their learning eggs from the yin basket are limiting their growth and development. Seriously limiting it. But maybe that's just me?
The pretty girl in the polka-dot bikini at the top is Madison. (Click to enlarge.) She's darn easy on the eyes, no?