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Archive 2013 · Asking WHY, not HOW
  
 
Chris Fawkes
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p.4 #1 · p.4 #1 · Asking WHY, not HOW


The why should be directly correlated to the how. Theory informs practice.

But that can apply to lack of knowledge as well. Why people do certain things is not based upon what they know but what they don't.

So depending on where one is at in their journey depends on what that individual needs to focus on. For many they still need to learn how. The why will come in good time.



May 11, 2013 at 06:03 AM
tonyhart
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p.4 #2 · p.4 #2 · Asking WHY, not HOW


I think the point Tony is making is pretty clear to me now, but I'm not sure I agree with the assumptions.

Tony is suggesting that if someone asks how to do a shot and are then told, they are then capable of achieving that same shot. I couldn't disagree more. Aside from the MOST basic concepts, when information is relayed in this way all the photographer gains, at best, is a theoretical understanding. At worst not even that, a crib sheet with some settings, the import of which is not grasped.

The thing is, even in those situations where theory is adequately conveyed the aspirational photographer still doesn't know how to execute the shot/look/effect consistently in a variety of changing environments. To truly learn something, they then have to take a theoretical understanding and repeatedly execute it until they've learnt the caveats, exceptions, sixth-senses and intuitions which are all brought to bear when an experienced photographer applies the same theory.

To this end I'd say that the open conveying of theory doesn't undermine the learning process at all. The student must still practice practice practice. They will still fail and they will still learn stuff along the way as they experiment with the application of theory. Those two together, experienced application and theory results, in my view, in technique.

To my mind, this is how all good learning is done. A theory is acquired, either via independent research, provision by a teacher/mentor/guide or in some cases a hypothesis is inferred by already available understanding. This is then put into practice and the results compared to that which was aimed for. This process is then repeated and refinements made.

My gf is a teacher and it's a large part of how she teaches her kids to write literature essays. She gives them a lot of the theory. This doesn't mean they know how to write great essays, but it gives them a starting point from which to practice. It's the same way I've learnt techniques like the "Hoffer Rainshot". At first I didn't know how to do it. Then I learnt that it involved a flash behind the subjects. That didn't mean I could achieve the same effect however because I hadn't put it into practice. I didn't know what type of flash, whether it was modified, how far back, what power etc etc.

What I'm saying is simply this:

The dissemination of theory is not the same as telling someone 'how'. 'How' can't actually be taught because theory must be applied and practiced. Only then do you know 'how'.

Yoda out

P.S. 'Why' is interesting too!

P.P.S Apologies for typos. iPhone!



May 11, 2013 at 09:48 AM
canerino
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p.4 #3 · p.4 #3 · Asking WHY, not HOW


In my very humble opinion, the 'how question' is at the heart of one of the biggest problems I see in the wedding photography 'industry'. Photographers simply do not know where they are going with their photography.

Many start with the motivation of money (makes sense, right?). But this often leads photographers on a chase because if they dont start making 'cool' images then they cant pay their rent. "Let me see what photographer X is doing because they are obviously making a bunch of money!" the struggling photographer says. What comes next is the 'how question'. Perhaps the how question stems from something much more simple like 'man, that photographer has 75,000 facebook followers and his images get 1000 likes...if I can get 1000 likes, I can be successful!'

With forums like this it makes it very easy for someone to post a 'how question'. We have a community here. We share. We even have friendships.

There is nothing wrong with a 'how question', but the problem becomes when that's the end of the questioning from the asking photographer because it results in a bunch of hacks running around perpetrating originality.

People dont ask the 'why' because they have no clue where they are going with their photography. Let's be honest here, original thinkers are the vast minority in the industry.
Why dont people ask why? Because its harder and some are probably incapable of doing so on their own.

As a poster on this forum, I dont mind answering the 'how questions' for a few reasons. One, this is a community. I've been helped countless times by countless people over the years. Two, the 'how' is the easy part. 'How' is a lower order thinking question that leads to understanding. The manner in which that person applies, analyzes, and creates with this new found information is on them. Three, I have no problem telling people the 'how' to my photography because there isnt much 'how' to it! I think my photography already has a lot of 'why' in it (or at least I hope it does)....thats why its mine.


Edited on May 11, 2013 at 01:54 PM · View previous versions



May 11, 2013 at 01:05 PM
Tony Hoffer
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p.4 #4 · p.4 #4 · Asking WHY, not HOW


canerino wrote:
I have no problem telling people the 'how' to my photography because there isnt much 'how' to it! I think my photography already has a lot of 'why' in it (or at least I hope it does)....thats why its mine.


This is a good point and I think it applies to the work of many documentary-heavy photographers. I think the best portrait photographers also incorporate the 'why' a lot more than the 'how'. That's at least what we try to do, which is why the 'how' questions just seem so empty to me.



May 11, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Chris Fawkes
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p.4 #5 · p.4 #5 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Isn't that assuming the person asking the question does not have their own why when they ask.

How does one make the shadow transition softer or harsher on the subject is a how question. The photographer asking may already know why they want to achieve one extreme or the other but not know how.



May 11, 2013 at 02:04 PM
canerino
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p.4 #6 · p.4 #6 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Chris Fawkes wrote:
Isn't that assuming the person asking the question does not have their own why when they ask.

How does one make the shadow transition softer or harsher on the subject is a how question. The photographer asking may already know why they want to achieve one extreme or the other but not know how.



that's a good point, chris. i guess i would just expect someone who has the why figured out already wouldnt need to ask the how as he'd figure it out on his own.



May 11, 2013 at 02:08 PM
Chris Fawkes
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p.4 #7 · p.4 #7 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Turning to your peers is a short cut to figuring things out as well and one of the things we appreciate about this industry.

And my point would be true in some cases not in others.



May 11, 2013 at 02:27 PM
friscoron
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p.4 #8 · p.4 #8 · Asking WHY, not HOW



I struggle with the How vs. Why debate going on here. My issue is that I started with photography in the mid-80s and worked as an editor/reporter/writer/photographer for a lot of newspapers between 1985-97. We were taught to shoot things straight, no artistic nothing, no creative nothing, no photoshopping nothing (creatively). You got it right in the camera, you shot the truth of what was happening, and that was it. Maybe a little dodging and burning, that was it.

Yet I'm a creative, artistic soul -- and when I see really cool shots, I think, "Wow! I wanna do that!" The series of foreground blurs that Inku posted on that other "How" series was inspiring -- and to think of what he was using to create those blurs, amazing! I can't wait for my next wedding next Friday and Saturday to have a little fun with that. Why? Cuz it's cool, artistic, creative.

And here's the deal. I think all of us are proud of the work we create, and for the most part when people want to know how we created a shot, we want to share our knowledge with them. If you're me, it doesn't happen very often so it's like someone asking for my autograph. If you're Hoffer, it happens a lot. So there's no comparison between a hack like me and a Hoffer. For a moment in time, once or twice a year, I get to feel like a photography rock star. But the real rock stars deal with it on a daily basis. But this issue isn't about rock star status, the essential part is how one really goes about learning his/her craft of photography. The problem is that some of us need to get hit in the head a lot harder than others to open our minds in how a shot was achieved. Once we have a sense of it, it opens our minds to all sorts of new possibilities. So while Inku gave away his secret of how on his foreground blurs, at least in my case, his disclosure actually set my mind off and running, racing, seeing things I haven't seen before -- or in ways I haven't seen them before. And to me, that's the beauty of sharing the How. But I think different people will do different things with that knowledge of How. Some will mindlessly try to replicate the shot without adding their own imagination, or their own Why. And that's where things go wrong.



May 11, 2013 at 02:28 PM
TRReichman
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p.4 #9 · p.4 #9 · Asking WHY, not HOW


When I started out I wanted to learn from some of the old guys who clearly had been around the block and forgot more than I was ever likely to know. They wouldn't give you the time of day unless you had proven you were willing to put the effort in and learn and much as you could the hard way. If you asked a question that you should have been able to figure out on your own that set you back a few more months in time before they were going to work with you. They wanted to know whether or not you were going to drop out or persevere before investing time in you. They were teaching us that we had the answers if we were stubborn enough to work for them.

I guess I'm with Tony in as much as the stuff that many people are asking "how" to do was the stuff we had to already have figured out and mastered before ever taking a job or even joining the community.

- trr



May 11, 2013 at 03:11 PM
Mark_L
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p.4 #10 · p.4 #10 · Asking WHY, not HOW


TRReichman wrote:
When I started out I wanted to learn from some of the old guys who clearly had been around the block and forgot more than I was ever likely to know. They wouldn't give you the time of day unless you had proven you were willing to put the effort in and learn and much as you could the hard way. If you asked a question that you should have been able to figure out on your own that set you back a few more months in time before they were going to work with you. They wanted to know
...Show more

Yeah, no one who has worked hard likes people wanting to be spoon fed.



May 11, 2013 at 03:53 PM
 

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dhp_sf
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p.4 #11 · p.4 #11 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Personally, I really feel a sense of accomplishment figuring something out on my own and have rarely asked a "how" question. There was one photographer's work who I really appreciate that won a Fearless award for what to me looked like an amazing photo. I was like, that had to be done with reflections or yada yada and tried so hard to figure it out.

Then one day, the photographer posted a "how to" of the photo in question...turns out it was a double exposure and that totally took the magic out of it for me. Not sure what the point of this was. Other than sometimes learning "how" something is done totally takes the magic and authenticity out of a shot.



May 11, 2013 at 05:28 PM
VickiB
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p.4 #12 · p.4 #12 · Asking WHY, not HOW


I read with interest Tony's initial post, which not only makes a great deal of sense, but also shows him to be a true master of both the art and the craft of photography. I have read only a few of the responses because I quickly became impatient with the whiners who simply want to buy expensive camera gear and have someone else tell them how to do all the "creative" shots. Hmmmm . . .

Perhaps another way of looking at the HOW and WHY alternative would be WHAT IF? That is, WHAT would happen IF I did X or Y or Z? Just as Tony said he tried and failed--many times--with friends and neighbors when he was learning off-camera flash, only by trial and error can anyone learn how to express his or her own creative vision. I have always wondered why so many people ask those HOW questions on this forum. Personally, what I love about being behind the viewfinder is the expressing what I see--not copying the techniques or the results of anyone else. I fact, I have chosen a specific niche that has few models to follow, so I am basically on my own; I take pictures of cemetery angels.



May 11, 2013 at 06:09 PM
DannyBostwick
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p.4 #13 · p.4 #13 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Tony Hoffer wrote:
I think there's a lot of merit in just plain old hustling.


^This.





May 11, 2013 at 06:27 PM
julieawhitlock
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p.4 #14 · p.4 #14 · Asking WHY, not HOW


It's there greater satisfaction in figuring it out yourself than just having an answer handed to you?


May 12, 2013 at 02:30 AM
WalnutPond
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p.4 #15 · p.4 #15 · Asking WHY, not HOW


It wasn't that long ago you were asking how, Mr. high and mighty.....



May 12, 2013 at 02:32 AM
selece
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p.4 #16 · p.4 #16 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Lighting is not that complex for most wedding shoots.

Most of the time you aren't dealing with 14 lights on set like for a commercial shoot. You aren't dealing with a client who demands exact colour matching for their product. You aren't dealing with a situation where you can build the lighting piece by piece for a few hours to get the exact look you and your client want.

Most lighting you're going to apply on a wedding day is pretty simple from a technical standpoint.

1. Figure out the direction, size, and intensity of your main in comparison to your background.
2. If you need a fill, decide on your ratio.
3. If you want a kicker, place and decide on ratio.
4. If you're using a background light, set with respect to step #1.

Done.

The problem solving comes into play when you have distracting elements, things you can't affect or move in the set, or a gear limitation that may cause one of the above issues. That's really when it gets interesting and the awesome are separated from the merely good.

Really, the skill in lighting as a wedding photographer mainly comes in the problem solving with a limited set of tools and limited time to work with in challenging situations where you may not have full control over the full scene.

IMO, how you improve best is by working to previsualize your desired photo quickly, and then working towards that goal by breaking it down into main, fill, kicker, and background using the tools you have on hand. If you can't imagine an awesome photo, it really doesn't matter what gear or technical skill you have because you're going to create something ho-hum and boring.

You know you want to create an awesome photo - but can you really SEE it in your mind? Can you break it down into parts and describe every part of it? Can you come up with this and see the possibilities on short order when you arrive on scene?

The technical aspect of lighting is not hard to learn if you break it down.
Learning to see compositions and learning to be brave and creative is much harder.



May 12, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Chris Fawkes
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p.4 #17 · p.4 #17 · Asking WHY, not HOW


I would never suggest to someone wanting to shoot weddings to go and just work it out for themselves. That would be a sure way to screw up a few weddings.

There is a point where photographers need to be shown by others.

There is also a time for photographers to work things out for themselves.

I would not equate asking with needing to be spoon fed either. One of the basics of life is people who ask for more stuff get more stuff. Even with info provided those who ask will still need to go and work it out in practice.

But if we think there is no value in asking how why are we here. Do we shut down those with questions and go suggest they work it out and that they will be stronger for it? Ok that does happen sometimes but not usually.

Are those who learn ocf from watching One Light being spoon fed? or those attending seminars? Did anyone here look at the numbers on the lens and thing to themselves that they would refer to them as f stops or did they need someone else to share that information and it's correlation to other working of the camera.

I am for people working things out for themselves but don't begrudge anyone for asking and if we are honest we have all done both along the way.

So in regards to questioning I think that the why is up to artistic interpretation so my why may be different to yours. If I ask how hopefully I have my own why in mind.

I did get asked to get out of a photography studio back in 83 when I went in asking for help. I do get the mentality but I know that photographer got to where he was by standing on the shoulders of others. I moved forward when opportunity came along for me to do the same and initially I had to learn how.

I guess the why came along when I did not have to think so hard about how.

Which is probably about recall. Being able to summon what you know intuitively before we get to be fluent with why.




May 12, 2013 at 01:40 PM
zalmyb
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p.4 #18 · p.4 #18 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Great points Tony (and others, I actually read through it all.), whenever I see what i consider to be a great photograph, I don't think the "how" ever entered my mind, and usually the fact that it may be a complicated "how" doesn't express itself through the photograph. Technique, gear, etc. should always be an expression of the "why", but it's much easier to just learn "cool" techniques and to use "cool" gear and be better than average but never approaching great. I do it all the time, and am always arguing with myself about it(especially in regards to gear).



May 12, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Aremac 01
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p.4 #19 · p.4 #19 · Asking WHY, not HOW


Many photographers don't mind sharing their 'how' as long as it's in a paid workshop.


May 12, 2013 at 10:35 PM
mineymole
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p.4 #20 · p.4 #20 · Asking WHY, not HOW


When I started out, I came to this forum and others and I definitely asked how. How do I do this? How do I do that?

I feel very fortunate that there were those on the forum who were willing to share with me HOW to do things without making me feel like a jerk for asking.

Honestly, if you don't enjoy answering people's questions on how something is done, don't answer it. Seems pretty simple to me. There are those out there that simply enjoy showing how something is done. The ones that are really good start some fantastic workshops (Cliff Mautner comes to mind). Those teachers share how and many share their why.

I found that in learning the how, I would arrive often, on my own, at questioning why. And, I have no problem admitting that this often happens AFTER I learn how something is done.



May 12, 2013 at 10:46 PM
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