The Photographer's Mind

I have been reading one of Michael Freeman's beautifully written books, The Photographer's Mind. Indeed that book is highly recommended for learning photographers who wish to see their world more creatively, and with broader sense of perspective when it comes to composition consideration and more interesting overall presentation of photographs. I find myself learning many useful tips as well as agreeing to most of the arguments put forth. Certainly it was refreshing to venture into something a lot more than just my simple and sometimes too direct approach to photography. Surely, there is a lot more to just attacking the subjects straight on, there are many other considerations that are often necessarily to create a much more compelling and impact-ful photograph. 

All images in this entry were taken about a week ago (during the long weekend), with Olympus DSLR E-520 and 14-42mm Kit lens.

High Sun
One of an important things to do, especially when you are presenting your photographs in a series, is to create an opening, or establishing shot. This is important to create the sense of location and time, allowing your viewers to be there and connect your photography subjects better. Looking at the image above, one can easily tell that the time of shoot was noon (sun was high) and it was taking place in an urban setting (tall buildings). Of course, the elements that I wanted to include in this image were strong contrast between shadow and light. And I did mention more than once that I like that star-burst effect, right?

Differing Visions
One of my main weaknesses when it comes to composition, or shall I say my own usual style, is being too simple. I like shooting with just one subject and one background. Sometimes, I would just ignore the background and find something completely plain and simple and if I failed to do so, I would go for blurred shallow depth of field, using the beautiful bokeh to amplify the image in the foreground. This works, but the outcome of most of my street images have that stereo-typical too simple, straight to the point look. The challenge sometimes, is to really look into the background, and work with the different components that can be pieced together to form a larger more interesting puzzle. Michael Freeman calls this "layers of subject". You may have one or more than one subject, or have similar subjects displayed in different layers. Such as the photograph above. What I saw in the image was variance of human vision. There was a blind man sitting down, next to him a boy, presumably with perfect vision, the boy's father that has flawed vision (spectacles) and the woman walking away to the right of the frame with subglasses on (darkened, possibly polarized vision). 

Balloon for Children
One of the main problems we all faced, is that any photographs, or ideas that we have, they were already thought out before by someone else somewhere in the world, and perhaps the same photograph has been taken, but with different time and setting. Nonetheless, that should not be the reason to stop shooting, just because originality is in question. I acknowledge in this world it is very difficult to stand out and be ourselves, when almost everything has been done before. That itself poses a great challenge, what are you willing to do to make your images different, and unique from the crowd? The image above of a man selling balloons would have looked too ordinary, but I noticed that the wind was blowing. I then slowed down the shutter speed and captured the motion. The motion blur created the visual appeal in this photograph, yet the man's face was clearly sharp and in focus. 

Bushy Legs
One of the techniques that caught my attention the most from The Photographer's Mind was the composition using "broken frame". In this method, you do not have to show your subject in a whole, and you may choose to cut off certain parts, or only display that particular portion of your main subject, allowing the viewer's mind to play around and fill in the blanks. The exclusion of some parts of the subject surely added some mystery and curiosity, which can work very well in some situations. On ordinary days I would go to the other side of the bush and shoot the man in whole, but I decided differently, and only had the manly legs protruding out of the bush.  

Plastic Family
I think there is still a lot I need to work on especially including part of the environment surrounding the subject into the frame. It is a lot easier to just isolate the subject, and neglect the background, but having multiple subjects to work with, arranging them into a frame is a lot more complicated. There is always the question of how much to include, where is the cut-off point, will the other subjects draw the attention away from the main subject, do they work hand in hand together, supporting the main  idea, or are those supplementing subjects merely distractions? Those decisions are not easily made, especially when you need to act quickly on the street. 

Cloths maketh the man
The point of having more things included in the frame rather than just the main subject is to allow the eye of the viewer to linger a little bit, and wander around the photograph, exploring the other things that help create the overall visual story. For example in this image, the hanging cloths of a vendor/stall suggests what the man was doing there, rather than having to guess the purpose of the man being there. The moveable steel frame hangers as well as the overhead light bulbs suggest that the stall is mobile, and can be setup easily. What attracted me to this photograph was the interesting patterns on the many shirts, and also how the man is almost lost or hidden by the many cloths. 

Alright this photograph is completely random and has nothing to do with anything I wanted to say, but I just wanted to show the girls because I think they are pretty and I love shooting pretty girls too. What? This is my blog and I can decide to go off topic whenever I want, and no one can say anything about that. Heh !! If you have not known me yet I can be rather random sometimes. 

Why do we read books? I think partly it is to find motivation and inspiration to continue shooting, and also the "push" to see things more creatively, and produce better images. Often we can fall into the trap of staying "stagnant" because we have become comfortable of what we are always doing, and become hesitant to change. Books can usually challenge our current thoughts and opinion on photography in general, and provide us some insight on what the "successful" photographers think about, how they approach photography and how they work. Not necessarily we have to copy or imitate their style and ideas, but knowing can be a very powerful weapon. It is up to ourselves to discover our own path, what photography style and techniques to adopt, and make our images unique. 

Have any of you read the Michael Freeman's The Photographer's Mind? Or do you have any other good books to recommend? Do share !!


  1. I miss my E-520....nice sharing bro...

    1. Thanks Jai !!!
      Wei bila nak pergi shooting?????

  2. wow the blurry balloons and the man with the mannequin family are fantastic!

    1. Thanks Mr !! Those are my favourites too.

  3. Hello Robin,
    Thank you for sharing those interesting photography thoughts. About those 'push', last weekend I really need those 'push'. There was an inner desire to shoot but my mind and guts just disappeared. Yet I push on and get some good shots and make new friends in the process. Your ideas here surely give me an extra push when I roam Singapore street next weekend.
    May you have a peaceful evening.
    John Ragai

    1. John,
      The Michael Freeman's book is a highly recommended book. It is not strictly for street but generally on creative ways of seeing. Do give it a consideration.

    2. Robin,
      I have just read some of the others reviews on this book on the net and it's 'THE One book that I have to get hold of. Though it's another long reading but it's worth in order to improve my photography. Thank you for sharing this worth buying book.
      Tonight I will be doing my night shutter therapy for the first time in KL street. Maybe around Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang area. Another long walk for me from 6.00pm to 8.30pm. My wife is having her Ladies Night out.
      May you have a great day.
      John Ragai

    3. John,
      You will find the book very comprehensive, yet straight to the point without being long-winded. It is very well structured, I did not find it long at all.
      Surely it will be beneficial to many of us.

  4. Very good photos as always Robin! I have "The Photographer's Eye" from Michael Freeman, and also can't recommend him high enough. I think Freeman belongs to every photographer's bookshelf.

  5. Robin, Robin...

    each time you post something.. my wallet hurts ;0)