This is the first post of a series that I want to do. It's all about no longer being a photographer and being a person who takes pictures. To me, a photographer is consumed with idea of taking a perfect photograph and it ends up hurting them. A person who takes pictures hasn't lost sight of the bigger picture and realizes there's a whole world to experience on the other side of that tiny viewfinder.
The mentality of the modern photographer seems to be : start with a camera paired with a kit zoom lens, drool over images on Flickr, buy prime lenses and create amazing pictures. This is bad and here's why.
Fast prime lenses that let you blur blur blur until you can't recognize the background hurts you as a photographer. It takes a horrible image and makes it look visually pleasing, this is undeniable. I'll admit I've done this in the past. There have been countless times that I've taken photos and the person I was photographing told me this background behind me looks horrible, but I said don't worry you won't see anything in the photo. I think I was partly lazy to find a better place and partly handicapped because I knew what the lens could do.
But as I started looking around for inspiration here's what I noticed. Photographs that really just take you back and wow you have backgrounds that make the image. Chris Ozer is one example. Tim Kemple and Chris Burkard are a few others. The background is as important as the subject because it sets up the image. If photographs were books, the background is the first chapter; a necessary section to make the story make sense.
So why not just stop down your prime lens and avoid shooting wide open?
Currently I'm on this pursuit of photos that feel real by capturing these intimate moment that last only a split second. The only way I'll be able to achieve this is find a way to get the camera to disappear and put myself into the moment as well. Every time you look down at your LCD to see if your exposure is right or changing your lens, you're killing the moment and the flow of everything comes to a halt. This is where prime lenses become a crutch. A prime lens can limit you by making you walk back and forth, or force you to switch lenses to get the perspective you desire. By shooting a standard zoom like a 24-70mm length, you're knocking down one technical wall. This takes you from being "the person setting their camera to get the shot" to "the person interacting with his subject", or at least one step closer to being so.
Of course there is a time and place for prime lenses and pretty blurry backgrounds. My argument applies to people who take lifestyle images, or images of their dog trying to catch a taco, donut, meatball, and burger (if you have no idea what I'm talking about you need to search Facebook or Youtube for this immediately, no need to thank me). Regardless of there being a time and place for primes, don't let them limit your creativity but making every image blurry and "pretty". Everyone has a camera these days and can blur the background out, it's no longer what makes an image stand out. In the current era of photography, quality and content is king. Use that creative half of your brain and create images that stand on their own without and tricks and the print you hold in your hand feels that much sweeter. Lifestyle photography is all about telling the whole story and to do that you need the whole entire picture. Of course this doesn't apply solely to lifestyle photography, so don't brush this off. Strive to be better and slowly and surely you will.
See, even Courtney doesn't like blurry backgrounds all the time. The face tells it all.