Most of us like our photographs, or we’d stop taking them. Yet often we will see someone else’s picture and stare in awe. “How did the photographer do that?” we may wonder. Often, the leap between that person’s work and our own seems vast.
Physician and photographer George Barr has posted a series of online essays that may help answer that question. “Taking Your Photography to the Next Level” provides details about a host of factors that combine to create impact–or lack of it–in an image.
In Part One, Barr explains what he means by levels. To him, your level depends on the quality of your images and not on your equipment. He provides standards for levels based on two sets of criteria: technical and aesthetic. Just reading his descriptions may improve your pictures, because his points help you distinguish between a ho-hum image and a great one.
In Part Two, Barr discusses how to really assess where you are. He also goes into detail explaining how to gather helpful feedback both from people you know and from people you don’t know. Included are the names and brief descriptions of several websites that offer critiques,
Barr discusses how to use what you hear, and he also offers a list of questions that you can ask yourself when you look at your own work or that of other photographer. Many are deceptively simple yet still important. For example, “What was I trying to say?” Like a short story, a good picture makes a point, and if you cannot determine the point, how can a viewer?
Finally, Part Three covers different ways you can improve your level, whatever it is. One point Barr stresses is that you should look for scenes that have an emotional impact on you. “First you find the interest,” he writes, “then you find the picture, not the other way round.”
The author illustrates all three parts with his own images, but this essay is not self-promotional. It is a thoughtful discussion about the very nature of photography. Most people will learn from it.