Previously at day #19 I wrote about the major waypoint in photographic development where one ceases to imitate others and starts creating photography from his own point of view. Today I want raise up another important waypoint in photographic development and it is the step when you start to manipulate the scenes you are photographing.
For beginners it is typical that they search for nice looking photographic scenes and 'snap' away when they find one – typical sceneries being sunsets, flowers, landscapes etc. One can of course make interesting pictures this way, but as a method this approach is pretty limited and doesn't provide much ground for photographic development. But as soon as you start to plan your pictures and try get the circumstances as good as possible for a great picture you take a huge step in your photography. There are of course endless ways to manipulate and enhance your scenes and there is no right or wrong here. For example, a landscape photographer might start to plan his photography according with the sun movements and weather. A portrait photographer might start to make collaboration with makeup artists for better subjects. An outdoor photographer might plan trips to certain high profile places for better portfolio. Etc. The point is that when you start to manipulate your scenes you don't just 'take' pictures, you start to 'make' them.
I began to manipulate scenes when I bought a broken 'cheap ass' Yongnuo led light. Once you learn to manipulate the light, whether it's led lights, flashes, modifiers or natural light, it opens up huge amount of different possibilities and will take your photography to a new level. Personally for me, that small led light opened ways to produce creative photography. It was simple enough to use, because (unlike flash) it transmits continuous light which I could move freely while evaluating results at the same time. Rather paradoxically it enabled me to introduce a certain darkness into my photography because I could kill all other light sources. Inspired by obscure dream like feelings I started to create these silent scenes that addressed something within me. I learned to love a chiaroscuro type of lighting where all the light sources are within the scene itself and no additional light comes from the outside. Only later on I learned the actual term for it and the fact that this type of aesthetics was largely invented by Caravaggio (see some examples here). In my photographic vision the chiaroscuro meant dramatic and contemporary look which would hide obscure and subconscious feelings within its darkness. In short, these type of pictures addressed my 'photographic eye' and they became part of my identity as a photographer.
This is of course a nice story, but the real point that I want to make here is that all of this was possible with just one light. Technically very simple, but it enabled me to start manipulating scenes and get into that creative flow where one successful picture would often produce ideas for the next one. If I hadn't bought that led light, it could have happened that I would never have taken that crucial step where my photography changed from 'take' to 'make'. For me it meant photographic development and it has given me a lot of inspiration and joy. Needless to say that it was easily the best 70 bucks I've spent on photography, even if the lid of the battery case was broken when I received that 'cheap ass' light.