Photo essay : Capture reality or create your own


All externally lit; No ambient

There’s been some articles written recently whether a camera really captures “reality” as it actually appears, or just a rendition. A rendition based on what film you are using (color vs B&W) or what digital sensor your camera has (which captures light colour slightly different from camera to camera), or what the photographer saw/perceived. This got me thinking about my recent use flash photography in clubs and live concerts to capture my own version of reality.

For me, I prefer to create.  A perfect example is the club photography I do. The environment is very dimly lit, with sporadic flashes of colored light (from the club lights) or strong single color lights with lots of fog for ambiance. What the eye sees, or rather what the brain interprets from the optic nerve is very different then what the camera sensor captures. Our brain filters out a lot of the unimportant visual information and what we pay attention to when we look at someone (whom may be dancing for example) is likely their face, their movement, and we likely also pay attention to how that visual information makes us feel.


Externally lit; little ambient

The camera sensor/film has no such filters. It captures light. Even thought the camera lens may have the same field of view as your vision, photographs taken of the same thing you were currently looking at more often then not do not evoke the same emotional response as you had being there. The challenge lies in the difference between how out brain interprets what the visual cortex is sending it, and how a camera records the same image/light.

The camera records reality with all its imperfections. It doesn’t distinguish or filter anything out. The image formed in the brain is influenced by how you feel, if you had a bad day, how much you love the music, how much alcohol you had… there are many factors. It’s the experience you remember, not just the images. Camera captures just images. This is neither good or bad.


No external light; All ambient

What all this means is that what may be remembered as exciting and memorable, may be very dull when the same dark, and unevenly lit photographs are taken of the same thing.

So this brings up the question of whether to capture reality as it is, or be creative/artistic and create something that isn’t seen by anyone else except the camera/photo. For me the answer is a resounding “create”. I want to show whatever I photograph in “the best light”, and this means bringing the light(s) with me and creating my own reality to whatever extent I feel looks good (to me). A mix of fill light to bring out details in the subject and create a dramatic light on the subject along with ambient light in the background to bring in some feeling/mood to the image I think works best.

What do you prefer?

This entry was posted in Technique.

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