October 4, 2011

Keeping It Simple

If you’ve read many of my blog entries, you know that I believe in keeping things simple.  And I’m not just talking about the image, but my thinking, my workflow, my printing and everything else.  It’s a philosophy that serves several purposes; first it allows me to stay focused on what really matters.  Second, it minimizes distractions such as setting up and tinkering with hardware and software.  Third, it makes things easier to diagnose and fix when they do go wrong.  And fourth, it helps keep my mind clear of unnecessary clutter.

Many people feel that they cannot produce good images with just the basics, and I disagree.  From my experience the basics can produce incredibly beautiful images that most people would envy.  I would also suggest that the incremental improvement that these “extras” provide, is so small compared to the time/money spent that they are a poor investment.  Your time would be far better spent on finding your vision than setting up programs and plug-ins, or to learn to see better rather than trying to learn to use special inks for your printer.

I’m not saying that there aren’t some “things” that will improve the quality of your work, but by far the largest improvement any of us could achieve would be to improve ourselves rather than our equipment.  I tell people that if there is a place for some of these things, it’s after the basics have been mastered.

I have been a technophile most of my life and there were times when my equipment and processes were more important to me than the work I created.  I always had the latest equipment and all of the newest gadgets.  It was an expensive vanity and it kept me from doing what I really needed to do, and that was to find my own vision. And perhaps that’s part of the reason we do it, it’s easier to buy new equipment then it is to develop our creativity.

I feel passionately about the concept of simplicity and so I approached The Center for Fine Art Photography to see if I could teach this philosophy in a workshop.  They agreed and so starting on Wednesday October 19th, I’ll be teaching a workshop entitled “Keeping it Simple.”  They keep the enrollment small at the Center and so it will be an intimate workshop.

This seminar will be focusing ultimately on the image, but will also be covering vision, shooting, workflow, printing, framing, marketing and other topics.  You can learn more about the workshop at the Center’s website: http://c4fap.org/workshops/2011Simple/


P.S.  In the spirit of full disclosure; I have served on the board for The Center for Fine Art Photography, I am friends with the director Hamidah Glasgow and I donate my time to teach these workshops.

11 thoughts on “Keeping It Simple

  1. Nice plagiarism job, here. The “skin” on this blog is a WordPress theme by Michael Tyson. I have been using the same design my own blog for the past 5 years. Stumbled upon this today and was really, really amazed to see a professional photographer, with all the stuff up there about not ripping off other people’s work, using a design and not…. giving credit.

  2. Wow, you come on pretty strong there Mr. Frog!

    I had a company set up my blog for me and haven’t a clue about skins, Michael Tyson or how one would go about giving credit for a skin looking like someone else’s skin.

    However, I suspect most of my readers also have blogs and perhaps this could be a teaching moment for all of us. Could you please elaborate about these issues?



  3. I came here to comment on the post, but first…

    Mr. Frog, are you joking? I hope you are… The “Skin” is a WordPress Theme, available on WordPress to anyone, and used by many, without the need to give a credit. Just like the one I use, or the 180 or so other themes available. You might want to back off of the caffeine a little:-)

    Cole, your post really hit home for me. I, too have struggled with the “equipment creep” syndrome, and I’ve seen it in other disciplines, too. It is particularly difficult for photographers, given the technology we have at our disposal! Congratulations for creating the workshop, and my commendation to you for donating your time to do so.
    Harold Ross

  4. I’ve got a quote for Froggy:Before a man speaks it is always safe to assume that he is a fool. After he speaks, it is seldom necessary to assume it.
    H. L. Mencken Good post Cole.

  5. The “more is better” syndrome is pervasive in our culture. Gotta have the newest to be “happy”; eg 3-D TV (really!?). Many of the photography mags are full of newest equipment — every new gizmo is guaranteed to make you a better photographer. Remember that old saying: “It’s not the size of the equipment…”
    Thanks, Cole, for reinforcing the basics.

  6. Hi, Cole,

    I appreciate your emphasis on simplicity. Photography is a vast field. It is so easy to be sidetracked by new equipment and software offerings and the excellent work of other photographers. Slowly, slowly finding my vision . . .
    Any chance your workshop could go online?
    Thanks for this post.

  7. Simplicity means to become aware of what is central, crucial, what is the core and what is not. Simplicity kind of means to become silent, so the really important elements can speak up and the often so loud things that just distract can go away. Simplicity is like the space between notes in a song, like the space between two panels of a piece of sequential art. It is there, where the things really happen, for it is there where my mind gets involved. What a excellent shot this here is: its rhythm starts with a bang and gets more modest and silent … and suddenly the calmness can speak to me.


  8. I wish I had met you sooner than I did Cole as you have really opened my eyes on how to keep things “simple”. As a new photographer just over a year ago, I too made the silly mistakes of purchasing “things” that I believed would help me become a better photographer. I fell for all those cool videos from various companies illustrating how magnificent photos would become using their products. I forgot about trying the simple techniques first. I went straight for the cool things I thought would help me create better photos.

    I am not against plug ins and other tools as I use them sometimes. Knowing what I know today thanks to great photographers like you who took the time to teach and give me advice, I would do things so differently.

    Is it not human nature to over think everything and choose the most complicated route instead of keeping it simple?

    I’m lucky enough to own some of your art so I can see first hand that “simplicity” is often best…

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