Great photography is about simplicity. The primary trick is learning to see what you, the artist, are observing, and to understand how a camera interprets light in ways that can alter the subject as you perceive it. Just capturing what is in one's field of view is not necessarily capturing what one perceives from a subject. It is about observation. A great photographer takes in a moment, they take in the emotions, actions and eloquence of the subject. A good artistic portrayal captures how we perceive those moments in much the same way any person remembers a powerful moment in their own lives. A photographer gives a photo the kind of elements and life, through whatever creative means work, that makes us perceive them on film in a way we would have perceived them in person. It’s these simple elements that makes good photography great art.
“At its most beautiful, photography invites us to discover, to ponder, to create, to invent or provoke”
However, like any art form, photography has its difficulties. Trying to capture qualities in a purely visual way is often difficult because what we perceive or feel, or even seem to see, about something is not always what we actually see. In architectural photography, there can be all kinds of terribly distracting things a photographer never even noticed at the time they took the picture. If there are geometric lines such as the lines of the edges of walls and ceilings in the background of a picture, taken at any other angle but the squarest of angles or at some geometrically interesting angle to those edges, the room will look distorted and badly built. None of the edges will look correctly vertical or horizontal. The same is true in portrait photography. A beautiful face outside in the noonday sun actually has terrible shadows in the eyes and socket area because of the protrusion of people's brows. But we do not notice that when talking to someone. So, if a person’s eyes appear beautiful, it is not just because of the way they look, or the way they would look to us if we painted or photographed them accurately. A photographer who takes a close-up head and shoulders picture, with a normal 50mm lens of an adult, you will get just enough distortion in the proportions between the nose, eyes, and ears that the portrait will usually be unsatisfactory though it may not be apparent why or what exactly is wrong. Yet, while looking through the camera's viewer the face will probably have seemed normally proportioned to the photographer.
Part of the trick in photography is to portray a subject the way it does or can instead of the way it would look. A photographer must learn to capture the essence and perception rather than a strict physical appearance. They have to discover or decide what the essence or the perception is first; and that is not always easy. In portrait photography, one of the things that makes someone attractive sometimes is their personality, not just their physical looks; so in order to capture their beauty a photographer has to somehow capture their personality. If a photographer doesn’t and the subject does not have much beauty in their looks, the portrait will be just a very unflattering and unattractive picture. Being a good photographer isn’t just about capturing a perspective through angle, height or focus. It is also about connecting with a subject. Good art, good drama, good photography, is about having the skill to capture an impact or an essence.
That’s because like any great art, photography is a form of expression and a tool that can show the world for what it is, what it isn’t and what we imagine it could be. At its most beautiful, photography invites us to discover, to ponder, to create, to invent or provoke. It is a tool that can challenge our preconceptions. It can force us to see ourselves and our society with new eyes— with a new lens. Photography can enchant us by exhibiting the beauty of nature. It can also show us the simple humanity of us all. A great photographer doesn’t just capture pictures they help illuminate the worlds around us.