Photographer and Photofocus author Brian Matiash has written a truly useful book The Visual Palette.
Brian asks us if our photographs are remarkable in any way at all. He also asks if our work actually says something. These are two very challenging questions on the surface. They are really important ones as well. Considering these two queries will lead us to a deeper understanding of our own work. With understanding comes better work–better photographs. It is more and more difficult for us as photographers to differentiate our work from the AWACs (Amateurs With A Camera) who rely on automation along with a quick glance at the camera’s monitor to confirm their brilliance as image makers. Thinking is as important as technique. That’s where The Visual Palette shines.
Defining your photographic style
This is the subtitle of The Visual Palette. It is also what most of photographers, myself included, struggle with no matter how long we have been working at the craft. Brian’s goal is to show how to see differently and work differently behind the camera, in front of the computer and on displaying and branding our photographs.
Twelve chapters in three sections
The table of contents of a book is really its outline. Brian has story boarded his book in an approachable way for the reader. The basics of the photography begin in Part I Composition. This third of the book focuses on Brian’s concerns with technique. Uniquely, he opens up his own journey through the myriad of photographic rules, pitfalls, personal experiences–good and not so good, too. Rather than telling us what we should do, he guides us through what he has done while offering gems from his own adventures. Sub chapter titles like The Task of Seeing, A Case for Rubbernecks and Ballheads and My Legendary and Infinitesimally Short Attention Span are endearing, wonderfully readable and best of all, relate-able.
Part II Post-Processing and Stylization works through the “Rightings of Wrongs” in digital post production. These chapters explore what to do after the camera work is complete. Again, the sub chapter titles are engaging. The Tragedy of the Sloppy Photo, Photography’s Cosmetics Department, Seeing with Your Creative Eye and Your Bag o’ Tricks provide a look into where Brian is headed. This is fun. It’s also important.
Part III Sharing Your Work and Your Brand covers exactly that; how to show your work with as a cohesive body. Brian continues to share his experiences and his strongly held beliefs, yes, his passion for his work and by extension, ours as well. He states clearly in the introduction to this section To Thine Own Self Be True. Here he states, again in his honest, self effacing way, “The only bad photo is the one that isn’t shared.” He goes on to say about this section, “…focuses so heavily on what sharing your work can look like and what it can do for you… I believe so strongly in the effectiveness of building your brand and sharing your work in order to reinforce it.”
The Creative Journey
My take is that the third section is the most valuable. Here Brian makes the point that photographic style doesn’t end with presets and the healing brush. He leads us into the scary world of “What is art and how can we make it?” He understands the journey and selflessly shares his stumbles and successes along it. He is inclusive in his writing, inviting us to join in with him on his voyage of discovery of photography, of expression and of self.
Throughout The Visual Palette, Brian shares his journey. He wraps up each chapter with very useful takeaways. This is an invaluable book that’s a good read even when we are challenged with questions about our photographs’ remarkable-ness or their voice. The Visual Palette is published by Rock Nook.