Making A Photo

As bad as it sounds, photography is just to accessible today: anyone can buy a nice prosumer or even a professional camera, turn the dial to auto, and spray and pray. With little to no thought about what they are taking a picture of they can put the photo into Adobe Lightroom, put a “moody edit” on it, and BANG everyone thinks they are a great photographer.

Can any kook with a camera just say they are a photographer? Or is there is distinguishing difference to the camera toting amateur and the eagle eyed professional? This is a philosophical question I’ve been asking myself over the past few years. What really sets the the fake photography apart from the real photographers?

To answer this question I turned to longtime friend and photographer, Jack Starkebaum.

Photographer Jack Starkebaum (Photo: Jack Murphy)

When I asked, “What sets an amateur photographer apart from a professional photographer?”

Starkebaum said, “Real photographers don’t take photos, they make photos.”

The answer was so simple, yet it made so much sense. A true photographer isn’t simply taking photos of what is around him. He is using every aspect of his surroundings and every setting in his camera to create the image that he wants. A real photographer can capture a moment in a way that will inspire and educate the viewer.

“A photo only captures one moment in time, and that moment is a story. What a photographer chooses to put in the frame or chooses to leave out of the frame creates that story.”

Starkebaum attempts to apply the tenants of making a photo every time he picks up his camera. This has allowed him to become published in calendars, sell prints, and also to become the assistant photo editor at the Collegian. Even with all this success, he still doesn't consider himself a professional.

How Starkebaum makes a photo:

  1. “First I think about what makes the subject interesting. Is it the wide landscape or the small details?”
  2. “Then I visual the composition. I think about the light conditions, how harsh the light is, the shadows, my focal length, framing, and depth of field.”
  3. “After that I take the photo.”
  4. “If I’m in a situation where I have time to look at the back of the camera, I look at the photo and possibly re-frame it. If I’m in a situation where I can do that, I just do the best I can to get the photo perfect the first time.”
  5. “When I get home, I upload the files to my computer and put them into lightroom. I don’t like to edit them super hard, I like to highlight some of the things in the photo that stood out to me while I was there.”

“There are more people doing photography now than ever before. I think its a great thing and a bad thing. Instagram is great, its allowed everyone to share there photos and tell their own stories. Its caused problems for professional photographers, because now people think they can go out and and get the same results as professionals.”

Next time you pick up your camera remember to think about what is around you, don’t just spray and prey. Think about your subject, visualize your composition, and take the photo. Because anybody can take a photo, but not everyone can make a photo.

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