Amateur Status Does Not Diminish One’s Responsibility. Dang.

The nicest shot of the day, proving once again that when the going gets tough, the weak reach for an 85 f/1.4 and hope the lens will save them.

I cannot remember which of the masters she was quoting when Nancy Lehrer addressed the Ojai Photography Club, but the words have been haunting me: “The photographer is responsible for the entire frame.” Uh-oh.

I stepped way outside of my comfort zone this morning, to photograph a friend’s belly as she nears her baby’s delivery date. I went in with a casual attitude about documentation and ended up struggling to make photographs in post. Weak composition, busy backgrounds, misplaced lights – you name it, I did it wrong during capture today.  I blame the fact that I’ve not been practicing, but excuses don’t get Holly the photos she wanted, now do they?  There are a couple of acceptable snapshots, but I can see deal-breakers in every one.

I would have liked this better than the image above, but do you see the weird rectangle of light above her hand? I bet you cannot see anything else now. I know I can’t. These are the details I should notice and correct on scene, because they are too difficult to fix in post.

Know any saloon owners looking for a picture to put over the bar? I know that I don’t know how to pose people, but I forgot to tell Holly.

Fortunately, Holly’s thousand-watt smile now goes to eleven. Saved by beauty again.



There are six serious problems in this photo, but it’s the elbow that jabs me in the ribs. I once knew an art director who said she would slap me if I ever let an elbow appear in one of our brochures. I sort of get it now, because even a beautiful woman’s elbow looks kinda weird.

I struggle with wide-angle lenses, not least because they require an attention to background detail I’ve not developed. Here I rely on vignette and toning to direct attention. I shouldn’t have to.


Why did I tilt the picture like this? Because otherwise it looked like a lamp and a picture in the background were growing out of his head and back. So why not keep it straight and crop it tight? Because it looked strangely static and posed.

Every time I photograph something for the first time, I console myself that I have learned from the experience and will make much better photos next time. But I think this attitude actually hinders me. I need to get my head in the game as if I have one chance and one chance only to get the photos right. And I can start by remembering this mantra in the field: I am responsible for the entire frame.


Filed under Composition, Lighting, Portraiture, Post Processing, Professional vs. Amateur

2 responses to “Amateur Status Does Not Diminish One’s Responsibility. Dang.

  1. Myrna Cambianica

    my favorite is the last one … well, except for the vase which distracts … this one really shows a moment and connection ala timothy … and we all know the story! the sepia on couch is my second choice

    agreed on the others … will you do another shoot?

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