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mids1999
03-06-2012, 06:37 PM
Hello,

I have been taking a b&w film class, and was taking,mostly still life photos.
I was instructed today to stop taking "safe" photos

What does that mean? I missed the opportunity to ask the instructor.

I was hoping someone here could define that statement for me and give some suggestions.

ROL
03-06-2012, 06:49 PM
Ask the instructor! I haven't seen your work.

Still life only? Then, natural lighting, landscape, documentary street, night time, etc.

Dan Henderson
03-06-2012, 06:55 PM
As ROL said, it is difficult to know what the instructor meant by "safe" without seeing your work. If someone told me that, I would assume that they were encouraging me to stretch my boundaries and photograph things that were less comfortable. For example, I am quite comfortable photographing things like derelict buildings and vehicles. Adding a live model to those scenes would make them less "safe" to me; they would cause me to stretch my boundaries. But you really should ask your instructor what he/she specifically meant.

cramej
03-06-2012, 07:02 PM
I know exactly what he means. I constantly have to tell myself to venture out and try new things, take risks, etc. in my daily life as well as photography. (here I go applying real life to photography and not the other way around...) My wife and I recently wondered why our lives felt like they were going nowhere. We stood back, evaluated and figured out that we were too comfortable with our current situation. If we wanted things to change, we had to change. There's a much longer story that I could tell, but I won't go into it.

Anyway, you are probably very comfortable shooting still lifes. You know what you are doing and you can do it well. Sometimes venturing out into the world and trying something new can give you a new perspective on what you do best. For you, this could mean trying some really-out-there still life subjects or maybe 'still life in motion' as in shooting a still life of something that is actually in motion or 'life...still' and go out and include people and daily life activities in your compositions. I've found that in my own photography and graphic design, my work lacks that creative edge when I end up using a 'formula' for the way I do things.

Wow, I just talked myself through this, too, and gave myself some good ideas. Maybe I need to write more.

tkamiya
03-06-2012, 07:35 PM
I would interpret this as "stop following rules and stop doing things you know it works."

All those rules, like rules of the third, not put horizon in the middle, etc, etc, etc, if you follow them every time, you get good photographs each time. But none of them will be great photographs. None of them will be uniquely yours. Many of them will be like many others that has been done - well, many times!

If you've always done certain things - like certain subjects, certain view points, certain -whatever-, consider changing. Do something else. Do something that might or might not work. Discover something new. I think your images have become too deja-vu.

Either that or your instructor wants you to stick your head out of your sunroof while driving at 100mph and take photographs. :p:p:p

clayne
03-06-2012, 08:39 PM
No offense, but they might be trying to subtly tell you that while still life photography is perfectly valid, there's a chance your photographs come off as boring.

Moopheus
03-06-2012, 08:46 PM
Either that or your instructor wants you to stick your head out of your sunroof while driving at 100mph and take photographs. :p:p:p

However, it's generally a good idea to draw the line at photos that might put you on an FBI watch list. Admittedly, these days that could be almost anything, but still.

Worker 11811
03-06-2012, 09:32 PM
I know exactly what he means. I constantly have to tell myself to venture out and try new things, take risks, etc. in my daily life as well as photography. (here I go applying real life to photography and not the other way around...) My wife and I recently wondered why our lives felt like they were going nowhere. We stood back, evaluated and figured out that we were too comfortable with our current situation. If we wanted things to change, we had to change. There's a much longer story that I could tell, but I won't go into it.

Anyway, you are probably very comfortable shooting still lifes. You know what you are doing and you can do it well. Sometimes venturing out into the world and trying something new can give you a new perspective on what you do best. For you, this could mean trying some really-out-there still life subjects or maybe 'still life in motion' as in shooting a still life of something that is actually in motion or 'life...still' and go out and include people and daily life activities in your compositions. I've found that in my own photography and graphic design, my work lacks that creative edge when I end up using a 'formula' for the way I do things.

Wow, I just talked myself through this, too, and gave myself some good ideas. Maybe I need to write more.

I agree. He might think you're in a rut. You've found a formula that works and you've gone as far as you can with it.

He's probably thinking, "Okay, these pictures are nice but what else does he have?"

I was taking a class about 20 years ago. One day, I walked by an old, abandoned factory building with broken windows. Got a picture of that.
A while later, I was walking down the street and saw a broken beer bottle. Shot that.
Another block over, there was a car with the headlight smashed out. Shot another one.
By the time I got home, I shot up my two rolls. I went in to the lab, developed, proofed and printed them.
The prof. liked them and, after that, I got on a roll.
The next week, after that, I brought my assignment to class and the prof. said, "What's with all the broken sh*t?" He made me go out and do it all over again.

The lesson I learned and, what I think the prof. is telling you is, "Don't be a 'one trick pony.'" ;)

jnanian
03-06-2012, 10:10 PM
"safe"

safe (sf)
adj. saf·er, saf·est
1. Secure from danger, harm, or evil.
2. Free from danger or injury; unhurt: safe and sound.
3. Free from risk; sure: a safe bet.
4. Affording protection: a safe place.
5. Baseball Having reached a base without being put out, as a batter or base runner.
n.
1. A metal container usually having a lock, used for storing valuables.
2. A repository for protecting stored items, especially a cooled compartment for perishable foods: a cheese safe.
3. Slang A condom.

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/safe


your instructor is probably referring to definition #3

photograph and ( art in general )
is about taking risks.
i am guessing your still lives are pretty nice

but you could probably do something out of the ordinary,
juxtaposition, or point of view or anything else ...

or as other people have suggested .. it is all about "comfort zone "
maybe your instructor wants you to photograph a situation where you have to interact
with the subjects .... architecture, portraits ...

good luck !
john

John Austin
03-06-2012, 10:58 PM
There are two answers to this question - Firstly, make images that are edgy and push your awareness of your subject and treatment, meaning learn to see more deeply

To me, and here I speak personally, I find the best and strongest images come from an engagement with the subject, that subject can be anything that you can deeply engage with - In the case of people the engagement must be mutual, otherwise your portraits become dead

The other answer is the attitude of Rob't Cappa, the Magnum founder and who famously claimed "If your photos are not good enough you are not close enough" - He was a pioneer who was killed by a land mine in Indochina - Seek his work, it was part of the foundation of Magnum's reputation

Bill Burk
03-06-2012, 11:15 PM
Well, I don't think your instructor wanted you to follow Robert Capa's example literally. "Hmm, I might get my head shot off maybe I'll leave the Rolleflex in the landing craft"

Jnanian provides an excellent example of photographs that do not play it safe. I would do well to follow your instructor's advice. Though I am truly ashamed of the photos I took in high school photography, they never would have fortold my ongoing interest.

So even if you don't follow your instructor's advice, even if your photos from this class remain safe. It doesn't mean you won't have a future...

nsurit
03-07-2012, 12:06 AM
Well there are a few places that I've waundered around in that would definately not be considered safe, however my guess is that isn't what he was talking about.

My bet goes with, if you are absolutely comfortable or certain with how your image is going to turn out because you've essentially taken the same image a hundred times, then you are playing it safe. There are many ways to test the boundries. I'd say to pick one that might be of interest and that is going to require you to learn something new. If all your photos have been still lifes of oranges, switching to apples isn't going be it. Try an unfamilair process, camera format, subject matter, compostition, etc. Have it be something that challenges you.

ic-racer
03-07-2012, 06:46 AM
A 'safe' photograph is one that you think someone else will like.

You need to make photographs you like.

MattKing
03-07-2012, 10:25 AM
Don't stop taking "safe" photos, unless you want to.

Start taking "un-safe" photos as well.

And I agree - ask the instructor to clarify what the instructor meant by that. The ensuing discussion might lead to the most important lesson of all.

benjiboy
03-07-2012, 12:46 PM
I think your instructor wants you to desist from shooting still life picture of large secure metal lockable boxes :D.

silveror0
03-07-2012, 01:50 PM
Lots of speculation here - some possibly accurate - as to what the instructor meant. An instructor's job is to COMMUNICATE to a student, avoiding ambiguous terms. The student, if he/she is serious in wanting to learn, should ask for clarification if instruction lacks clarity. In this instance, there is the possibility that the instructor's "style" was simply to test the seriousness of a student showing talent, in anticipation that the student would want to delve more deeply to understand. So, to me, I think a serious student would somehow (whatever it takes) contact the instructor for clarification, even requesting face-to-face discussion if that's possible. A good instructor would at least provide (in class) his phone number and/or his email address for students' use if needed.

mark
03-07-2012, 02:38 PM
Take in a still life of dog excrement and title it Worthless Vague Instructor Comment.

Your instructor has given you nothing to work towards. Make an appointment during office hours and ask him to fully explain his comment.

keithwms
03-07-2012, 02:47 PM
Ah, I am pretty sure that the instructor means to take more creative risks. If you don't know what that means then this will be a great assignment! I have heard writing instructors make similar admonitions.

It is too easy ... and "safe"... to take the kinds of photographs that you know will be accepted by most of the people who see it. One of the common ways that photographers fall into that rut is outright mimicry of shots that they know will be accepted. Another way is to conform to compositional "rules" such as:

-rule of thirds
-the more sharp detail the better
-unwanted distractions should be dissolved into blur
-shots should be level i.e. vertical lines should be perfectly vertical
-don't over or under-expose
etc.

Just try to take some shots that nobody has ever seen before. Make your instructor say WTF?!

mids1999
03-07-2012, 05:44 PM
Thanks for all of the feedback.

I have made another attempt to contact the instructor.
In reply to this email, the instructor stated to start taking pictures of things that "talk to me in some way".
This has me even more confounded, as that is what I thought I had been doing all along.

I do not think they mean for me to break the rules of composition, as they have been pushing the students to follow those rules all semester.

dehk
03-07-2012, 06:01 PM
Maybe we should see some of your works ?

Maybe your teacher meant, stop taking photos only by following all his rules (technical), but also a photo that speaks to you, have emotion, or meaning etc..