Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The World Through A Lens

Seeing life through a viewfinder, as usual.
It's the end of a photography day, and I'm sitting with my laptop on my knees with the intention of sketching out how I eke a living from this particular endeavor. Tomorrow I have a video shoot scheduled; two for Friday.

Photography is always something I've enjoyed, although somehow I felt like it was a cheat as an art form. You just point the camera and snap - light and chemicals do the rest. That view gives very little credit to the critical role played by the consciousness that framed this particular slice of reality and found some sort of unity in it. Aesthetics is one of those airy, vaporous concepts that, like Quantum Mechanics, defies all efforts to pin it down.

Most of what I photograph is Real Estate, particularly residential. Could be anything from a city penthouse to a suburban McMansion - I've done them all. Today was a commercial property and a row house in west Philly whose residents didn't let the fact that a photographer was coming over stop them from throwing garbage and old clothes on the floor. The real estate agent seemed visibly embarassed.

Center City Urban Deluxe
It's actually a pleasure to shoot a nice property. Often - particularly in higher-end apartment and condo complexes - the model will have been quite fashionably staged, and shooting it can seem like shooting a magazine spread. My prefered method is to get a shot from each corner of the room. I use a 10 mm lens: extremely wide angle, but stopping just short of fisheye perspective.

This way, you not only get the widest view of the space, but you see everything at an angle, cutting sharply across the frame. These strong diagonals give undeniable energy to a frame, and are particularly useful devices for leading the eye from one region to another, from foreground to  background, of a composition.

Balance is another aesthetic principle I try to keep in mind. I imagine the frame divided into quadrants, and the task is to form some kind of symmetry between the opposite, diagonal quadrants. Say, for example, the lower right-hand corner of a shot is of a beach. Leaving the upper right-hand corner blamk sky would seem unbalanced.  How about putting some striking clouds there? Or a flock of birds? Or some structure in the foreground, like a boardwalk? Before long, you begin visualizing scenes not only as the scenes themselves, but as diagrammatic collections of shapes that must be held in balance with each other.

This is the easiest of the things I do to make a living, but also the least lucrative. Face it - it's just as easy for the agent to take shots of the property themselves. You have to convince them that you bring added value to the process taht's worth spending money on. Equipment helps - having a lens your average hobbyist wouldn't, for example. Or, of course, having a drone, which is becoming de rigeur for real estate photographers who want to stay competitive.

It's a tough, uncertain way to scratch out a living sometimes, but I am forming a goal to make it all seem worth it. Stay tuned.

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