I was just about to forget about the world of online photo forums when this group began to form as Bobby’s brainchild. Bobby and I are both “seasoned veterans” of this milieu; however, I wanted to flee what I considered a “hornet’s nest” of discontent, egoism and narrow-mindedness, crazy politics, especially in the area of portraiture. Bobby, however, was looking forward to a better vision of what a photography forum should be; a place of education, camaraderie and love of craft to be shared by enthusiasts and professionals. This is why I felt honored to be invited to be part of this group.
The name of the site fascinated me! Why? I have been a working pro for many years; I have also been a teacher, trainer and an instructor- that’s easy for me- no big challenge- I think I am good at it and all I have to do is prepare or follow a curriculum, deliver the information and perhaps inspire folks to do well and get with the program. Being a MENTOR is an entirely, different, diverse and more responsible role to assume- something I aspire to. It means, to me, striking a balance between your “student’s” inborn talents and artistry and installing in them the technical excellence they will need to master their craft and is some cases to help break them in to the business aspects of the profession.
There are many beginning photographers with an artistic flare or “touch” who feel that technical excellence, rules, protocols and set methodologies are not necessary and some of the even tend to resent such concepts- they are mistaken! The basic principles are the foundation of creativity- the rules are your tools! Once the basics are mastered, they pave a faster and easier road from the imagery in your mind’s eye to the tangible imagery on a sheet of photographic paper. The rules are then yours to keep, break, alter, improvise upon and create your own style. You will posses the gift of “creativity on demand” which requires certain starting points or frames of reference. In difficult circumstances, pressured working conditions or in situations that require problem solving and troubleshooting; you will always come out with a job under your belt- especially in critical professional work where deadlines are strict, money is changing hand, and failure is not an option.
The teaching/learning process can be very complex because not everyone teaches and learns in the same way. Sometimes I feel somewhat handicapped as a teacher because I have never had formal training in pedagogy- the art and science of teaching. My experience, however, has taught me that most folks who want to learn NEED and want definitive answers to their questions; therefore there is a need for certain “nuts and bolts” procedures, skill sets, methods, rules and guidelines for people to use on their way to mastering their craft. I can’t just tell people to ignore technique and follow their instincts and issues will take care of themselves. Doing that would lead to people endlessly floundering in a sea of trial and error with very little progress and good old plain KNOW HOW!
The “hornet’s nest” that I alluded to earlier, in many forums, was usually headquartered in the area of critiquing- too bad- almost tragic! One of the most effective learning and teaching tools lies in the critiquing process. It’s good that in this forum, members have the option of opting in or out of critiquing activities, however, I do recommend participating in giving and asking for critiques because it is stimulating, beneficial and even lots of fun if handled with the right attitude. My own personal theory is that when one begins to fall in love with every image they produce; that’s when stagnation begins to set in!
Our small group here is very fortunate to already have experienced portrait photographers of various specialties, styles and schools of thought. This is an invaluable asset to any teaching and learning community. Seriously counterproductive issues occur when there is a “my way or the highway” attitude on the loose in a forum. It is a superior learning environment when people are exposed to a wider range of styles and methods and can form their own opinions. Too many folks will tend to pigeonhole various styles as old school, dated, cutting edge and other extremes without really appreciating the true value of theses styles and the learning opportunities that can be derived from studying them.
Perhaps too many beginning photographers want to run before the can walk and become too involved in special effects, advanced techniques and complicated equipment concepts before they have their basics down pat. Many inexperienced photographers become preoccupied with large investments in equipment and continually upgrade their gear thinking that it will improve their work- all to no avail and things can become highly frustrating! Fine portraiture can be created with any decent DSLR and normal to medium telephoto zoom lens and a few serviceable lights.
My vision for the portrait forum includes a series of tutorials for those who need to bone up on their basics and a number of articles for the advanced workers. Please check in frequently to the tutorials section to look for those portrait lessons and post here in the Portrait section of the Critics Corner for critiques and analysis and of your portraits. If you have any questions about portraiture, you can post them as well.
I look forward to everyone’s contributions, questions and critiques. You suggestions are also very important to me so please post them or send me a PM. I prefer that questions be posted publicly if possible for the benefit of other members who are reading on and may find your questions or suggesting interesting and wish to chime in- you will also receive more help this way.
This is gonna be great !
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