October 9, 2018

An Idealized Photography Style

When I explored the idealized vs authentic ditonomy previously, I was mainly thinking of photo editing, but the same principles apply to photo taking as well. An authentic style is one where the photographer plays the role of unobtrusive observer, capturing everything as it happens without interacting or influencing it. An idealized approach may interact with a scene to capture the feeling or emotion. It could be as simple as shoving background clutter out of frame, or as complicated as manufacturing a moment that mimics reality.

My preference, most definitely, fall on the idealized side of the scale.

Dana’s favorite past time is playing peek-a-boo. She’s quite apt at manipulating the blanket by herself and does it often, whether it’s the muslin swaddle blanket on the changing table, wash cloth in the bath, burp cloth on the play mat. Trouble is, it’s extremely difficult to capture in a photo since the blanket is either covering her, or off to the side. If I wanted to have a still photo keepsake to frame, I’d have to get creative.

The key thing I wanted to convey from my photo was the love she has for the game. I wanted big baby smiles and the blanket all in one shot. So rather than play peek-a-boo with the blanket between us, I put one edge behind her. Sometimes I’d drop my end in front of her, so she’d be my little blanket ghost and sometimes I’d drop it behind me so we’d both be under it. It was like a game of peek-a-boo and parachute all rolled into one. The little lady loved it!

Now that I had the smiles I wanted, I needed a way to capture them. With the camera in my right hand, I only had the left hand free to hold the blanket. However, if I held the blanket single handedly it would drape down in front of me, often blocking the shot entirely. Enter the clothes hanger. I used masking take to tape the edge of the blanket to an inverted clothes hanger. Now, when I raised the handle of the clothes hanger the blanket raised too. The hanger gave me a good 10 inches of taught blanket that wouldn’t drape in frame. (Well it sometimes still did during the course of playing, but didn’t block the frame completely… most of the time.)

It was a rather ridiculous site – me holding a clothes hanger taped to a blanket in one hand, camera in the other – but it worked and captured the feel of playing peek-a-boo all while making it a fun new game for Dana. When I say I take a idealized approach over an authentic approach this is what I mean – a highly orchestrated photo set up to mimic real life. The purest put there may not agree, but I have no regrets.

Posted in Photography


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