Reflections are something you often don’t want in photography. If you’re shooting through a window, for example, you might attach a polarizing filter to your lens to reduce the glare and reflections of the world behind you (see Chapter 2 in Foundations of Photography: Specialized Lenses).
At other times, though, reflections can add a striking element to a photo. And that’s the subject of this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, wherein Ben Long reflects on the value of reflections.
Freedom can be overwhelming. When you’re free to photograph anything you want, whenever you want, it’s easy to end up not photographing much of anything at all. Psychologists use terms like choice overload to describe the paralysis that can accompany a world of unlimited options.
In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long offers one solution to the overload: Give yourself a year-long assignment. Choose a time interval: daily, weekly, monthly. Choose a scope: your city, your street, your chair. And choose a subject: an object, a color, an emotion, an event.
It’s the classic movie depiction of writer’s block: a frustrated writer sits at a typewriter, occasionally tearing a page out, crumpling it, and throwing it into an overflowing wastebasket. Every writer has been there—and now and then, every photographer experiences its equivalent. You go out with your camera and just can’t seem to shoot anything that feels fresh or original. Your inner photo editor reminds you that you shot a similar photo last year. Or saw a similar shot in a book. Or on a website. It’s enough to make you want to crumple a sheet of photo paper and throw it in a wastebasket.
In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long shares your pain and suggests a remedy: spend an afternoon shooting without a memory card in your camera. Go through the mechanics of photography—compose, adjust metering, zoom, or change lenses—but without using any digital film to record the results.
Crazy? Maybe. But it’s an exercise worth trying. As Ben points out, it’s easy to overthink your photography—to obsess so much on the need to Make Great Art that you affect your ability to see photographically.
In this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, Ben Long explores the fact that the photographic tools you use ultimately change the way you see. This is an important point to recognize as you get new gear—and subsequently struggle to get the best results out of it. The name of this week’s installment, “Let a lens reshape you,” is inspired by philosopher Marshall McLuhan, who wrote, “We shape our tools and our tools shape us.” What does that mean? It means that the tools we create—whether for painting, making music, or taking pictures—change us by expanding our abilities to paint, make music, or take photographs.