Photo Coleslaw

Photographic Crutches or The Evils Lurking in Your Back Pocket…

with 4 comments

The last post explored developing a photographic style – this one is about identifying photographic crutches.  On the surface the two may actually be difficult to differentiate between.   Both are identifiable as a thread of consistency within a portfolio.  The key difference is that photographic style originates from a place of originality and photographic crutches come from an over-reliance on a technical tool.

Every photographer has technical tricks in their back pocket.  A certain way of lighting a subject, posing a model or composing a frame that is comfortable and works.  Sort of like your throwing on your favorite movie and easing back to watch the expectedly entertaining.   You know Cary Grant is going to be solid and he never disappoints.  When a trick starts to turn crutch is when it hampers an original and new photograph from being made.

The first step is to become aware of crutches.  This requires becoming in tune with your own work on a deeper level.   Going beyond judging them on a “good” versus “bad” level and reaching an objective level of evaluating the “whys” and “why nots” of their success.

Because we’re all friends here, I’m going to share my latest crutch.  I identified it by making a Lightroom Smart Collection isolating all of my pictures keyworded “portrait” having at least 2 stars, and shot within the last 6 months.  Lightroom conveniently gathered all of my recently made portraits into a collection for me, from there it’s just a matter of really examining the images.

portraits at 1.4 aperture

I adore shooting people up close with a 1.4 aperture.  Keeping their eyes close, sharp and telling.   Letting the rest of the face fall softly out of focus.  Except I found a multitude of shots in the past months all using this same technique.  And while I like all of the portraits in this blog, I wonder, how many times did I not explore a fresh and original image in exchange for a picture that was familiar and safe?   Just like the favorite movie that gets replayed one to many times and loses it verve, wide open and oh-so-close is taking a hiatus from my back pocket.


Written by Spelman

10/05/2009 at 10:19 pm

4 Responses

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  1. Your wonderful shot in The Sun drew me to your website, where I’ve further enjoyed your work. The juxtaposition of your “Developing Your Photographic Style” with the blog that immediately followed it, “Photographic Crutches or The Evils…” made me smile. I know you’re talking about tools in the latter, but it’s also about not repeating. To some extent, is developing a style about repeating? I tend to think of one’s style as the element that rises through everything else and is best seen over time; I suspect it’s more unconscious than studied.
    You don’t appear to be in any danger of over-repetition. I find your work here inherently creative and look forward to dropping by for more. Thanks.

    Tim Keller

    11/24/2009 at 8:50 pm

  2. Tim,

    Thanks for your comments…. It’s a funny thing, finding a sense of style is all about tuning into a personal point of view. Putting your own voice to the world around you. In theory it should be easy – but its what separates the photographers I am interested in, from all the rest.

    It’s what keeps photography always interesting to me – a constant evolution in the work that is hopefully a reflection of my own growth and view of the world.


    11/27/2009 at 11:41 am

  3. I suspect that confidence is a large part of the style equation. Immersion — which you have in spades — is another.

    I like your second paragraph (It’s what keeps…the world), suggesting art/photography as an exchange between artist and world, each influencing — and interpreting — the other.

    Tim Keller

    12/06/2009 at 8:21 am

  4. Your blog is so informative … ..I just bookmarked you….keep up the good work!!!!

    Hey, I found your blog in a new directory of blogs. I dont know how your blog came up, must have been a typo, anyway cool blog, I bookmarked you. 🙂


    02/01/2010 at 4:08 pm

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