Photographer Virginia Greuloch of The Good Life Photography believes that every photographer needs to shut out the noise and just be herself when she picks up the camera. While many photographers who teach focus on forming connecting with clients, Virginia extends the concept of connection in photography and encourages photographers to dig deep to connect with their own images.
According to Virginia, these are five ways photographers can learn to create images with heart:
Know Why You Shoot
Knowing why you create art is the bedrock for creating work that’s unmistakably yours. When you search for the meaning in what you create, you begin to notice what matters to you most in life - both inside and outside of photography. What do you care about? What drives you to pick up your camera? What do you value? What does photography give you a direct line to that you can’t access any other way? For Virginia, photography was a way for her to finally be able to let down the mask of perfection that she carried with her for so long and allowed her to see her life, as it was, and all the loud, chaotic, messy, beautiful ways that she fit into it. Through the viewfinder Virginia can see what matters in the midst of all the noise and she can see who she is and where she belongs. The “Big Why” exercise is simple in theory, but takes time to really dig as deep as you need to go. Start with asking yourself, “Why do I take pictures?” and answer. Then ask again. And again and again and again until you find the root of it all. Do you take photos because you’re afraid to be forgotten? Do you take them to escape? To dream? To live out your wildest fantasies that could never come true in real life? When the answer comes to you, even if it takes months or years to discover, you’ll know it when you find it.
Identify Your Values
Once you know why you do what you do, finding out what you value in life can lead you to finding your voice. The values exercise that Virginia's students go through asks questions about when they were most proud of themselves, when they let themselves down, what they’d take with them in a fire outside of photos, goals for the future, and many other intimate questions about who they are at their core. Once you can figure out what you value most in life, you can start to hone in on identifying and capturing those feelings and details in your photography. When you know that you value freedom, for instance, you can start to convey that through your work by incorporating movement, landscape, or bright light. It allows you to start to shoot for a feeling. And it allows you to start connecting with members of an audience who value those same things you do.
What are you paying attention to?
Plain and simple - what stops you in your tracks? What do you linger on? Is it light falling on mundane, everyday objects? The way a tree moves in the breeze? The tenderness between a father and his children? What are the details you can pull out of those things that make you pause that you can bring to your work? I think the best way to find out what you’re really paying attention to is to shoot a Day In The Life project where you carry your camera everywhere you go for an entire day and photograph anything and everything that moves you, without worrying about whether or not anyone else is going to like it. You might have 40 good photos out of 500, but no matter what, you’ll see what you notice. When you shoot for yourself as the only audience and give yourself permission to photograph whatever you’d like, you can really see what matters to you at your core when you’re free from all constraints.
Focus On The Details
Once you know what you’re paying attention to and what you value, you’ll be able to pull out details in a frame that come from your own unique perspective. This is where you really start to create the work that is unmistakably yours because it is shot with such intention. It’s created to draw the attention to what it is that matters to you and you alone. Its your own point-of-view. Your own voice. Your own legacy. All of who you are and what matters to you leads you to see things that no one else would even think to pay attention to — all because your story and what’s inside you led you to where you are in that moment with your finger on the shutter.
Make Your Map
Your photos are your legacy. They are a map of who you are, where you’ve been, and what mattered to you most in life. Virginia likes to imagine her photos from the perspective of her great-great-grandchildren, or someone in the future that she will never be able to meet. What will her work say to them about who she was and what she believed in? If Virginia shoots from her heart and shoots what matters to her, it is her hope that who she was will be so clear that it will be like the viewers of her photos are having a conversation with her. The map matters because it shows people that we were here, that what we saw was important to us even if it was wholly unremarkable, and ultimately, that we matter, too.
Connect With Your Work
When you create work that comes straight from your heart and from what you value most in life, you can connect with it in a way that you've never been able to before. You'll be able to see yourself through it and embrace what you create, with all the imperfections that come along with it. Connecting with your work is all about giving yourself permission to say that your voice matters in the world. And Virginia promises that it does.
Learn more about Virginia’s approach to connection in photography in her class Connected: Images with Heart. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Contributor has no interest in anyone or anything mentioned.