What is a photographic process?

A short summary of my own photographic process
'Leaf detail #4'

The longer I practice photography, the more I understand the importance of an effective photographic process. By this I don't just mean a repeatable procedure to follow in the field. I also mean a process that extends before, during and after a photographic event.

My own process has five distinct steps.

1. Inspiration. The dictionary definition of inspiration is particularly illuminating here. '1. The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative'. 2. A sudden brilliant or timely idea.' (Source Oxford). The second definition is of course the most commonly understood meaning of inspiration but I have found that it is working on and thinking about the first definition that has had the biggest impact on my photographic quality and productivity in the field. Mental preparation in terms of what subjects or themes I might explore (and why) when out in the field transformed my photography from a fairly haphazard and random process to one with a much greater sense of purpose.

2. Visualisation. This is the step of constructing a specific image of a subject or theme incorporating all the choices of composition, lighting, weather conditions, exposure, focus and depth of field and timing that come together to make a strong picture. This is often a process of iteration involving several trial solutions to the problem (either through the use of imagination or by analysing a trial picture outside of the field).

3. Realisation. This is the step of turning a visualised image (i.e. an imagined picture) into a well captured and well developed picture. It starts in the field and extends well into the darkroom or these days the 'Lightroom'. It includes preparing an image for print. It is also about the skill of being in the right place at the right time to press the shutter at the right moment.

4. Collation. This is the step of organising a related set of pictures into a coherent series or sequence with a clear storyline. Ideally the result should be that the cumulative impact of the portfolio is greater than the sum of its parts. The process of collating images identifies gaps or further sources of inspiration that in turn stimulate new visualisations.

5. Presentation. This is the step of displaying one's art to an audiance, for example through peer review, exhibitions, books, portfolios, calendars, greatings cards, websites or mobile apps.

Of course this is an iterative process not a static, linear process which means that I do not slavishly go through each step everytime I press a shutter. However the more time I invest in advance thinking about all these steps before I press the shutter (especially the why and the what I am going to do with the picture) the more rewarding I find my photography becomes.

Over the comming period I will write several short articles covering various aspects of the photographic process.