When you talk about the best of the best, people always have their own opinions. However, when it comes to discussing the greatest artist of all time, you would be hard-pressed to overlook the great Michelangelo. This pioneer of the Italian Renaissance created some of the most well-known pieces in the history of art. What is often overlooked are his words.
One particular quote that has always inspired me is this:
“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark.”
Take a second to let that soak in. Think about how it relates to photography.
As digital snapshots continue to flood the visual marketplace, our standards slowly start to dip. What was once an unacceptable photograph is now a “fun, candid pic” or maybe even considered “photojournalistic”. As a portrait artist, you have to aim higher. The “nice” image cannot be acceptable anymore.
One of the places that this really applies is in photographic competitions. As a juror and competitor myself, I’m quite familiar with both sides of the print competition world. I’ve seen what kinds of images do well and which ones do poorly. Heck, I’ve given 3 hour lectures on the topic. It comes down to this… the people who shoot for super high scores tend to score higher than people who shoot for moderate scores. The problem is forcing ourselves to shoot for the stars. Why is that? What are we afraid of?
Fear of failure ruins more projects than failure itself. It takes some practice, but you can train your brain to reach higher. Try something really different and exciting. Maybe it will work, maybe it will fail. During portrait sessions, I’ll often try some sort of pose or lighting that I’ve never used before. I’ll joke to the subject that if they don’t see these images, they will know it didn’t work. Sometimes it just doesn’t work – but more times than not, it leads to one of the best images from the session.
Next time you pull the camera out of the bag to create an image, think about your goal. Is there anything you can do via lighting, cropping, composing, etc that will make the image better? If so- do it! Don’t think you can go back in Photoshop later and fix it. Get it right in the camera. Photoshop as a repair tool is not nearly as fun and powerful as Photoshop as an enhancement tool.
So think like Michelangelo and work on bringing your image making to the next level. If you haven’t been by my YouTube Channel lately, I hope you will pay me a visit. There are quite a few tutorials on various photography and Photoshop topics – all 100% free of charge. Happy Shooting!