Friday, November 21, 2014

Beyond Mundane

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I was reading an article about portfolio websites today while eating lunch. The article was published in a well-known photography magazine. Yeah. I'm old school. I still read magazines and periodicals of the non-cyber kind. I even read the occasional book, i.e., a printed-on-paper book.

Mostly, I read magazines about photography or I read one of two other, non-photography rags: Archaeology and Smithsonian. Occasionally, I'll read Vanity Fair but not too regularly. Also, like today, I mostly read magazines while eating lunch alone at a restaurant. Today's lunch alone was sushi. Yum! Sushi! Who needs lunch company when you have a good magazine and sushi? Not me.

The magazine article I read provided helpful tips on creating visually notable portfolio websites. It also included some words on how to get your website mentioned or showcased in the magazine's future articles on photographer websites. Some of the generic tips about websites included suggestions like not using black backgrounds because white lettering on black backgrounds is hard to read. You know, like the design of this blog page of mine with its black background and white letters.

I don't personally have an online portfolio but I'm often thinking I should have one if for no other reason than my photographer's ego.  Anyway, to get to the point of this update, the two things the rag article's writer mentioned regarding getting one's online portfolio showcased in the printed magazine are: 1) A great design and 2) Photos that aren't mundane.  (With extra-special emphasis on #2.)

Just so we're all on the same page with this mundane stuff, let me define the word for you, not that I think you don't know what it means. In the context of portfolio websites, I take the word 'mundane' to mean: Lacking interest or excitement; dull; common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative photographs.

Many of us who are photographers earning all, much, or even small parts of our incomes routinely shoot mundane photos. Mundane photos are most working photographers' bread-n-butter. Mundane photos represent the lion's share of their work. Mine, yours, most shooters' work. How's that, you ask? Because most clients, be they commercial glamour clients or wedding and event customers and beyond want, whether they know it or not -- and they usually don't know it's what they want -- mundane photos.

Don't get me wrong, those clients and customers who want mundane photos want terrific mundane photos! Stand-out mundane photos! But in terms of most other aspects of the photos, they want what everyone else wants, only better, that is, better in terms of quality and all that stuff. You see, what most of them don't want are photos unlike those that other photographers provide except in terms of quality. And by quality, I'm not simply talking about good exposure and in focus. They want, for the most part, images that are exceptionally well composed and lit with good emotional content. Hence, they want really good mundane photos. All that's why I sometimes go out and shoot photos for myself. 

When I shoot photos for myself -- I usually refer to doing so as shooting photos "just for fun" -- I try to shoot photos that aren't mundane. Leastwise, photos that are less mundane. Photos that are unlike those I normally shoot for pay. Images that are less-seen and somewhat uncommon. (Even if the genre I'm shooting is, basically, common.) Why? Because I want my personal work to be super expressive and super-expressive isn't as common as many photographers think it might be or claim their photos happen to be.  You see, I want to shoot stuff that's, well, that's different. If I go out and shoot landscapes as an example, I want to shoot them in less-seen ways utilizing less-seen techniques and from less-seen perspectives. It's not about what I might point my camera at -- let's say, for the sake of my example, a pristine lake with majestic mountains in the background -- but it will be about where I point my camera from, where I place it, how I angle it, what filters I might use, how I shoot it, and what I might include along with whatever it is, in the bigger picture sort of way, I'm pointing my camera at... if any of that makes sense.

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Here's a pic on the right I shot not long ago just for fun and just for me. It and others I snapped that day may not be ready for prime time in some gallery. It  might not be one I'll choose to include in some future, online, portfolio I may or may not create. And it might not appeal to too many people's discriminating tastes. Whatever. But whatever it is or is not, it expresses something I wanted to express and it's not mundane. Leastwise in my opinion.

Hopefully, in the not too distant future, I'll have a pretty good stockpile of non-mundane images I can choose from to put together an online portfolio; one that has a good design and includes more than a few images that aren't, for the most part, mundane. I might even go for broke and not make the portfolio's background black with white lettering. 

Course, every photo I use likely won't be non-mundane. And then there's the notion that one shooter's super-expressive photo is another shooter's "ho hum" pic. But I'm hoping more than a few of the pics I'm going to shoot will be of the beyond the mundane variety, especially any pic I might use for my portfolio's splash page image plus the first one or two in each individual category or gallery -- within my overall portfolio -- I might create. 

The pretty girl at the top is Alexa. It's not my usual pretty-girl-on-a-seamless that so many of my clients have me shooting. Ergo, it's a bit less mundane than much of my work, owing largely to the environment she's selling her allure in. I lit Alexa with three lights: A 5' Photoflex Octo for my main, set just a bit to my right with the center of the modifier just above the model's eye-level. I also used a medium strip box, camera left from behind, plus a small rectangular soft box boomed overhead from behind Alexa and just slightly camera right. ISO 100, f/5.6, 125th, manual mode on my 5D1 with a Tamron 28-75 at 60mm.


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