finding pictures or making pictures?

Larry Colen lrc at
Wed Feb 2 04:03:29 EST 2011

On Jan 31, 2011, at 1:44 PM, Larry Colen wrote:

> While waiting for my backdrop to dry at the laundromat, I had fifteen minutes to kill, so I went for a short photo walk. On my way back, I realized that the fast majority of my photography is mostly "finding photos" rather than "making photos" where I set out with a particular idea planned out.
> I'm curious how often the people on this list work from even a rough plan, versus just going out and seeing what they find.

The replies to this question were interesting, and enlightening.  My father used to say that if buildings were built the way programs were written, the first termite that came along would destroy civilization.  Judging by this list, photographers make programmers look like the very paragon of forethought. I wonder how many other artists start out their works with so little planning. Do painters think "I just got this tube of really pretty green, I think I'll paint a forest"? 

I suspect that the answers to this question are very different among professional photographers. Especially since several people said that they went into professional projects with a lot more pre-planning than they do photos that they do for fun.  Is the thrill of the hunt, and the joy of discovery that much more fun than the whole process of conceptualization, planning and implementation? Or is it just a lot less work? Or easier to do when you have a few free minutes?

It's also interesting to me because in so many other of my pursuits, my ideas and inspirations for projects are orders of magnitude more prolific than my time to actually implement them.  Yet, with a camera, I can go for a walk, see something that inspires me, and in a few moments compose and take a photo. Though in those few moments between inspiration and press of the shutter, I guess I do go through the process of visualization, planning and implementation, and with digital the process of successive approximation taking as many shots as necessary until I get the one that I want. I suspect that it would do my photographic skill a world of good to practice visualizing, planning and setting up photos before I even grab my camera, rather than my usual process of just going out in hopes of finding something worth photographing.  

I will definitely have to think more about the difference between making photos and taking photos.

Larry Colen lrc at sent from i4est

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