Sunday, August 09, 2015

Before Shooting Outside the Box...

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More than a few photographers proudly say they shoot "outside the box." I often wonder if they first made sure they even have an identifiable box before attempting to shoot outside of it. That is, did they spend any time figuring out the confines of *the* box or their box before (supposedly) shooting outside of it or claiming they've done so?

Shooting outside the box is a supremely vague statement. After all, there are boxes and there are boxes, metaphorically and physically speaking. Plus, if you say you're shooting outside the box, are you talking about some overall photography box or your own personal box? I hope it comes as no surprise that those two boxes are not one and the same, metaphorical dimensions wise.

The Overall Photography Box:  First off, I'm not sure such a thing exists -- my gut tells me it does not -- but, assuming it does, it's gotta be one, big, motherfracking box!  After all, photography has been around a long time. During that long time, many millions of people have tried their hands at being photographers of one sort (or at one level) or another. Each of those photographers had their own personal box so, if you consider how many boxes that represents and you could somehow consolidate them (and the gazillions of photos it represents) into one, big, overall box,  it would make a spectacularly huge, spacious, encompassing-an-incredible-amount-of-photography, box!

Your Personal Photography Box:  This is the box that truly matters. It's also the box nearly every photographer is referring to (whether they know it or not) when they say (or think) they're shooting outside the box. Whether it's a relatively small box or quite a large box doesn't matter much. It's their box and their box is what matters, whether they're shooting inside or outside of it, when they refer to the box.

How do you assess the metaphorical dimensions of your box? You know, in more practical and understandable terms than simply referring to it as such? (i.e., a poorly-defined, ambiguous or nebulous box?) That requires taking stock of your photography, your level of skill and experience, your creative abilities, and perhaps even the available tools you have to shoot pictures with in or out of your box. (Shooting outside of some boxes occasionally requires specialized tools. Shooting underwater photography would be way outside of my box, including having the appropriate photographic tools in my photographic tool box to do so.)

Your photography box is like a raw index including, but probably not limited to, your skill and know-how,  your level of experience, your ability to effectively engage in creative processes (internally), what you normally or mostly shoot, and more.

I've shot a ton of pretty girls in various stages of dress and undress. That's my box, for the most part. And I know my way around the inside of my box quite well. My glam-and-tease shooting box is more than familiar to me. I know it's dimensions well, even its little nooks and crannies. But if I start shooting, for instance, landscape photography -- something many, many, many other photographers do and do extremely well -- I'd be shooting outside my box. Wait. What? Landscape photography? That doesn't sound like shooting outside the box. Well, it is and it isn't. It certainly doesn't represent shooting outside photography's overall box but it definitely means I'd be shooting outside my personal box.

All the above and more is why I'm rather amused when I see or hear someone going on about their photography being "outside the box." Guess what? It isn't. I don't even have to view it to know it isn't. Such a person's photography might be less-seen -- and that can be a terrific thing -- but less-seen doesn't necessarily equate to being outside photography's universal box. It only means it's outside many photographer's boxes; but certainly not all or every photographer's box who's ever snapped a photo since Day One of photography.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade, I mean anyone's boxes, but c'mon! Let's get real. No one is truly shooting outside *the* box. No one. Claiming you are doing so is simply a smug, arrogant, high-handed, pretentious, Donald Trump-like way of describing your photographic accomplishments and shooting styles.

The image at the top is sort of semi-outside my personal box.  It's within my box in terms of the subject being a female model. But it's outside my box in many other ways, not just in terms of wardrobe, setting, pose, expression, and general emotional content, but also from a more technical perspective. I don't often, for instance, use a 50mm normal lens when shooting models. I definitely don't utilize an effects type of filter in front of my lenses too often, in this case a Tiffen Pro-Mist filter to give the image a soft, hazy, slightly-glowing-highlights and somewhat ethereal look and feel.

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