Intentional or Incidental?

One principle I constantly reiterate is that artistic work should be intentional rather than incidental. You’re creating something you intended to make rather than relying on chance or coincidence to produce something interesting. Anyone can take a picture, and it’s not that hard to click a thousand pictures somewhat haphazardly and get something creatively viable. This would epitomize incidental (occurring by chance) photography. So many factors are given to you already in the world of photography. Add something to the scene rather than simply taking pictures of things that are already interesting. You could take a picture of someone else’s art and it would look nice because the art looks nice. In a painting you build your art from the ground up and color, texture, tone, style, composition, and even subject matter itself is your choice. In photography, you’re often trying to make something visually interesting out of what’s presented, and taking the easy photo is hardly a justifiable ‘art’ form.

See the photo in your head before taking it. Have a creative idea and try to realize it through your camera. What do you want the relative size of objects near and distant to be to each other? How does the subject interact with the light? What is your subject? Do you have a mood, story, or expression to convey in your photo? Where is the literal and figurative focus of the shot? Think about these things before taking the photo and make them conscious decisions. Exercise the tools unique to your art form to create something worth looking at.

Everyone takes credit for their happy accidents in photography. Much artistic expression can benefit from the spontaneity of experimentation, and photography is definitely not excepted. But when something works in a photo you take, analyze it. Figure out what went right so you increase the number of intentionally good shots and apply your ‘happy accident’ consistently rather than serendipitously. Pay attention to what works, write it down, and repeat it. I think you get it, and you’ve probably heard it before: “make” rather than “take” good photos. Every photographer, especially those spawned in the digital age, throws a few hundred hail Maries every shoot and hopes for luck. It’s part of the process in the digital age. But envisioning a photo and knowing what creative and technical tools enable the creation of that photo will help you become and intentional rather than incidental photographer.

See the brilliant juxtaposition of light vs dark and the duality of humanity represented in this image?
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