Nick Carver Photography Blog

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Photography Quotes: Gregory Crewdson

I read a lot of books about photography and I watch just about every documentary I can find about photography. These books and documentaries are rarely about the technical aspects of photography but more about the philosophical, emotional, and intangible facets of the art form. I really enjoy those lesser-discussed aspects of it. In the course of my studies, I often come across great photography quotes that I note down for my own encouragement and guidance. And rather than keep these gems all to myself, I thought I'd start sharing these photography quotes with my blog readers and give my 2 cents behind it - why I like the quote, how it can help improve your photography, etc. So here is the first in a new series of blog articles simply titled "Photography Quotes." Enjoy!

Photography Quotes: Gregory Crewdson
Photo by Gregory Crewdson

There is a phenomenal documentary called Brief Encounters that follows visionary photographer Gregory Crewdson as he creates photos in his "Beneath the Roses" series (here's the book of images). This photo series is truly groundbreaking with budgets and production values that rival many Hollywood movies. Just head on over to Google and search "gregory crewdson beneath the roses" to see what I mean. His photos are much more than pretty shots of nature. They tell a story better than any photos I've ever seen, they incite a deep emotional response, and they hold the viewer's interest like a tractor beam. The documentary Brief Encounters shows how some of these photos were made. It's a great film for the average person and an even better one for photographers. To see the work that goes into his photos is truly humbling. It was available on Netflix streaming last I checked, so go check it out!

In the documentary, Mr. Crewdson casually crafted one of the best photography quotes I've ever heard. It goes as follows:

"The process of making pictures is so deeply connected to failure. You have an expectation, you have a dream of what your picture is going to be, and then something always necessarily goes wrong. When things go wrong in the right way, it adds a certain unexpected mystery to the picture and transforms your original expectation of things. But often things go wrong in the wrong way, and then you just have to understand that there are going to be pictures that you make that just don't work in the end. The risks exist on many different levels, but you have to put all that aside because if you're not going to make the picture, no one else will."

- Gregory Crewdson, Brief Encounters

It seems everyone wants to eliminate failure in their photography. It's all about getting better, getting more control, getting the perfect picture every time. But as Gregory Crewdson pointed out here, something always necessarily goes wrong. Sometimes it goes wrong in the right way, but many times it goes wrong in the wrong way. If you're anything like me, you may drive yourself nuts trying to prevent anything from going wrong, because if the photo doesn't turn out exactly as you hoped, it can be really discouraging.

This is one of my favorite photography quotes because when I look at the work of a photographer like Gregory Crewdson, it's easy for me to think, "Oh well that guy is on a completely different level than me. He's got it figured out. He knows how to make important images." And then I find myself not taking certain photos I want to take because I don't think I can execute them correctly or I don't think anyone else will like the shot or I don't think my artistic vision is good enough - there are a thousand risks a photographer must take when creating a photo and putting it out for the world to see, the biggest risk being the risk of criticism and invalidation. But what I love about Gregory Crewdson's quote is that it reminds me to put those risks aside and just make the photo anyway. Things may go wrong and the picture won't work. Then again, things may go "wrong" and the picture turns out better than I ever hoped. But whatever the case, I can't let an aversion to risk stop the creative process. Because if I don't make the photo, no one else will.

Featured Testimonial: Beginner Photography Class in Orange County

I recently completed a session of my Understanding Exposure for Beginners class, which is a 2-week beginner photography course in Orange County, CA. It was a great group of students that were a real pleasure to work with. One of the students was kind enough to send me this glowing review of the class:

I came across Nick Carver while searching the internet for “photography lessons.” I received a beautiful Nikon 3200 DSLR for Christmas last year and had (I am ashamed to say) been using it like a regular point and shoot camera. I purchased a manual more comprehensive than the one the camera came with that delved deeply into the camera’s functions, but even after reading it carefully I still felt like all the symbols on my camera were as foreign as hieroglyphs. I also bought two books that explored composition and vision in photography, but all the vision in the world is useless if you don’t know how to utilize the tools needed to get you there. Nick’s two week class “Understanding Exposure for Beginners” covered the integral first step to understanding photography that all these books did not: the physics. Sounds complicated? It’s really not, at least not the way Nick explains it.

Simply put, he teaches you how your camera engages light, and how this interplay results in different photographs. The pacing of the course is just right. Nick seems to makes an effort to stay attuned to the needs of the class and is happy to help individuals with questions, whether they are about what kind of exposure might be apt for a certain setting or where to find the ISO button on your camera. The goal is not rote memorization but comprehension. I’m not going to say I left the class feeling like a good photographer, that takes time and practice, but I do feel like I can now find my way there.

- Charmaine V.

If you're a beginner photographer who's struggling to grasp exposure, shutter speed, aperture, or ISO and you're in the Orange County area, don't miss out on the next session of this highly-rated class. The next session starts soon! Details can be found here. And if you're not in the Orange County area, reap the benefits of this class through my Introduction to DSLR Photography online course here


The Best Way to Learn the Photography Basics

The Best Way to Learn Photography BasicsLearning the photography basics can seem like a daunting task for beginners. Shutter speeds, apertures, ISO settings, white balance, and all the rest of that photography jargon can really make your head spin. These photography basics are important for any photographer to learn regardless of their style or niche. When taught correctly, these topics are very learnable by even the greenest students.

There are endless free resources online to learn this material, but unfortunately, there is no way to verify their validity. As a novice it's essentially impossible to determine if the information taught in, say, a YouTube video or a free blog post is actually correct. As a professional photography teacher, I can tell you honestly that it's astonishing how prevalent false information is online and how many "teachers" are unknowingly spreading blatantly incorrect material. Just because the guy in the YouTube video sounds like he knows what he's talking about doesn't mean he actually does.

The Pitfalls of Unstructured Study

Take it from someone who has worked with over a thousand photography students of all skill levels: Attempting to learn the photography basics through piece-meal videos and articles is slow, inefficient, and counter-productive. Often times the result is an over-emphasis placed on insignificant topics (like ISO noise) and a complete disregard of the most important stuff. The student will also inevitably run into a lot of conflicting information, and with no stable resource to reconcile it, the student will just be left confused and frustrated. This method of learning photography results in unnecessary confusion and a much higher probability of failure. My toughest students are the ones who do the most independent online study through unverified resources. They tend to place too much emphasis on trivial topics that the internet has blown way out of proportion like megapixel counts, lens choice, full-frame vs digital crop cameras, and high ISO noise. While, at the same time, the really important topics of exposure, manual metering, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, and exposure compensation are taught inefficiently and riddled with errors.

But here's the biggest problem with independent, unstructured learning: things are learned out of order. There is no lesson plan or curriculum on YouTube. You learn this thing over here, then that thing over there... it's all out of order. Learning these important photography basics out of order can be worse than not learning them at all. If you're studying advanced topics before the basics are well-understood, you are far more likely to give up because it seems too daunting and too confusing. It's really not too confusing, it's just that you're trying to learn it out of order. The photography basics are learned best through a structured lesson plan that keeps things in the proper order for maximum efficiency and understanding.

Learn Photography Basics From a Reputable Source

Look, I know that it's impossible for this to not sound like one big sales pitch. After all, I am trying to convince you to let me teach you the photography basics. But let's not even talk about my courses for a second. I'm begging you to learn this information from someone reputable - even if it's not me! Learn photography at a local community college or from a reputable online course provider or from a book by Ansel Adams. Learn photography from someone with experience and credentials. Learn it from a professional teacher. Someone who teaches for a living has a vested interest in teaching things well and correctly - that's how we get more clients. The guy who posted a YouTube video for free doesn't really care if the information is taught poorly or incorrectly - he's got a day job and he's doing this for free.

Professional teachers like me charge a fee to teach photography because it takes a lot of work and experience to teach these things well. I've invested over 5 years of my life to teaching photography full-time. I know how to teach it poorly and I know how to teach it well. So even if it's not with me, learn the photography basics the right way. And if you do like my teaching style, please check out my Introduction to DSLR Photography online course covering all the photography basics here or any of my other online photography courses here. Download a free preview of any of my courses using those links. Let me prove to you that I can explain this photography stuff better than you've ever heard before. And be sure to check out the testimonials from previous students here.