Written by Amy McCarthy of Amy Orange Juice
Everyone who sells on Folksy is snapping away all the time, trying to get a really good photo of their work, so most of us realise that having that eye for the perfect shot really is a skill! But with camera’s being so accessible (pretty much everyone’s phone has one) it’s an excellent craft to have a go at, as some of the very talented photographers here on Folksy were happy to inform us!
Right, so what do you need to get started and how do you go about it?
The simple answer to this is you need a camera; any old camera, a state of the art digital or an old manual from a car boot sale for a couple of quid. Shirleyandme says, “I would recommend just taking photos on any camera that you have, even if it’s a camera phone. Don’t get hung up on megapixels, just point and shoot! ” Most of the photographers on here use digital cameras, Photoshop and other computer packages to transform their original image into something more artistic or less realistic.
Zestimages told me all about the techniques they use to get the desired result, “The images start out with a photo taken on a digital camera. Once on the computer, I go right into Photoshop and start the process of transforming the image into what is more a series of vector shapes… this varies depending on what I feel is right for each individual image, but it can be between 30 minutes and 3 hours work. Lastly, the original colours from the photo are adjusted or replaced to create the final effect”
The darkroom was always a mysterious element of the photographic process and some of the photographers find that this is all part of the ‘art’ and the developing /printing as well as the shooting are all part of the creative process, Ross Photography explained, “I print all my own work myself. For me this ensures I have complete control over everything that is produced. I have quite a hefty professional printer that can print up to A2 – but I also produce excellent saleable work using a little A4 printer. People should get their hands dirty and try things out.. it is more rewarding – and its also truly handmade by you if you do print it yourself.”
There is no doubt that the world of photography has changed incredibly since I did my degree in the 1990’s, when digital cameras were the stuff of dreams, now they are literally everywhere. There is still hope for the technologically challenged though, and Shirleyandme takes a more old school approach, “I have a passion for film photography and the majority of my work is produced the old fashioned way using film in vintage or toy cameras. I love the feeling of bringing an old camera back to life or modifying its mechanics to suit my mood or surroundings”
So if you have a digital camera, access to a photo editing package and printer then you can shoot, manipulate and print your own work. However, if you are still using a manual camera you will need a dark room, the correct chemicals and developing equipment to process your manual films, which is considerably more involved. Or as an alternative to all of this, take them to the local photography shop and they will do it for you, on a manual or digital camera. Oh, and then there is the choice of paper to print on – there is a massive range of textures and thicknesses or if you are planning to print onto cards or bags you need the materials to do that too. These are all readily available in photography shops and websites.
Considering you can take a photo of literally anything, where do our talented snappers get their inspiration from?
Beargraphics shoots amazing surf and sea shots and he told me, “A lot of things inspire me… the summer, the ocean, surfing, music, words, friends. I am always inspired by looking around and seeing other peoples work, whether it be in books or on flickr… I’m inspired by nostalgia. For me, the emotion I experience from analogue photography is much greater than I get from most digital photography. Maybe you could compare it to listening to an album on vinyl or mp3!”
Of the crafts I have covered so far, this bunch are way more inspired by each other than the other crafters. Photography tutors, Andy Warhol, National Geographic, Redbubble.com, the USA based F64 Group, Edward Weston and Imogen Cunningham all came up as inspirations.
However, the internal emotional world of the artist is as strong a theme in this genre as in the more painterly visual arts and Shirleyandme explained, “I work intuitively from the world around me, finding my inspiration in the sights and sounds I see in my daily life. I am particularly interested in the notions of past, present and future and how the camera can evoke these feelings and hold them in time.”
OK, so we have the kit and some ideas for a photoshoot, but it can’t be that easy, can it? I asked the photographers to explain to me the rewards and challenges of photography
ZestImages who uses modern, digital techniques explained, “The most rewarding thing is seeing the image in a frame, on a wall. Things often look great on a screen, but it’s not the same as a physical copy of the image and it’s rewarding (and relieving) to see it really working in a frame. Sometimes, I spend a lot of time on an image only to realise that it’s not working, or I’ve taken the direction I was going in too far. It’s challenging to scrap all that work and start again, because I worry I won’t do any better the second time, but it’s great to overcome it and end up with a worthwhile result”.
Beargraphics collects a wide range of vintage manual cameras and is passionate about the old photography techniques, so his challenges and rewards are different, “The most challenging, and rewarding aspect of my craft is relying on the unpredictability of my vintage and plastic analogue ‘lomo’ cameras. You never really know what you’re going to get, or even whether your photos are going to turn out. It’s always exciting going to the camera shop to pick up your prints, sometimes they’re amazing, sometimes it’s a disaster! If my photos make people smile, that’s enough for me. Lately the craze for retro and analogue photography has become huge, now there are iPhone apps that automatically give your photos a retro look, or Photoshop tutorials that teach you how to ‘fake it’ – it’s a challenge to keep ahead of this whilst not ‘cheating’ – I always try to keep my post-processing to a minimum”.
The technical side of things came up for several of the photographers I asked and the complexities of these were summed up well by Emelephotography, “I’m self-taught and shy away from the technical “maths” side of things but If I want to improve I have to learn it…” On top of this, most of the photographers described themselves as amateurs who create images in their spare time and finding the time to shoot and improve was a real sticking point for several of them.
So where and how did the Folksy photographers learn their craft?
They are all self taught and came to photography from very different routes. Some came from art backgrounds and the leap has not been that great, Beargraphics is a graphic designer and Shirleyandme, “..graduated from a Fine Art Degree, yet moved towards photography shortly afterwards. I went on to train as a teacher but gave up my full-time job 3 years ago to return to being creative full-time..”
Others like Emelephotography, just fell into it, ” I’m a self-taught photographer, having bought my first digital camera in 2004 purely for taking product photos of my cards and gifts. At some point along the way I fell away from crafting and into photography! I didn’t know I was going to become a photographer and make money selling my photos but… I did and I am!”
Rossphotography, “I was initially self taught, but then enrolled at an evening class at the Site Gallery in Sheffield (where I met my wife!). In that evening class I learnt about dark room developing and composition and continue to learn and evolve through continued workshops and reading.”. Zestimages prefers the more haphazard trial and error approach to learning!
It’s such an accessible art form that all the photographers had the same message to impart about where to learn, just pick up a camera and have a go and if you enjoy it. Find a local college course or privately run workshop, both of which are widely available around the country.
A word of warning: some photographers are very committed to manual photography and using a traditional dark room to develop their photos; whereas, others have fully embraced the digital age. Both have very strong views on the matter! So unless you want to get into a lengthy argument best not to bring up whether Photoshop is good for the art of photography or not in the pub after your evening class!
Thank you very much Folksy photographers for taking the time to chat to me and please go and look at their wonderful photos. Anyone can take a photo, but I think you will agree, the talent of these guys is truly in seeing when, where and how to get that perfect shot…which is not nearly as easy as it sounds!
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