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Thursday, November 3, 2011

FART for Fantastic Photos

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I take my best pictures when I FART first.

FARTing helps us remember to make a strong, meaningful photo instead of just snapping away and winding up with a lot of boring, thoughtless snapshots.

FART is a mnemonic for a creative process.

F: Feel

A good photo starts when you get the feeling to take a picture. You're walking around, and come across something that seems worthy of a photo.

Bad photographers just take a picture at this point.

Maybe they get something, but often they don't, because they haven't identified what it is exactly that caught their eye. These images expect the viewer to figure it out, and guess what: viewers won't bother. They just move on to the next shot.

It's never a subject, like "a Ferrari." What catches our mind's eye and leads to a great photo is always something more abstract. What attracts us to Ferraris as photo subjects is their bold, solid, primary colors and their brilliantly pure styling.

A: Ask

Once you've got a hankering to stop and take a picture, stop and ask yourself exactly what it is that made you stop.

Is it a bold color? Is it a crazy juxtaposition? Is it the wild light? What is it, exactly, that made you want to take a picture?

Is it the brilliant Italian design, lines, motion and proportion of the Ferrari? If so, what exactly about the design caught your eye?

R: Refine

Now that you have hopefully gotten some sort of clue as to what it is that attracted your eye, the hard part is to refine the image to emphasize whatever it is.

If we can emphasize whatever it was that stopped us, the photo will be far more likely to stop others and make them say WOW!

In other words, if we liked something, was it because it had a weird texture? If so, be sure to show that texture as boldly as you can.

If you like the color of something, don't be a wimp: fill the whole frame with it.

If there is an interesting relationship between two things, be sure to do everything you can to make sure that that is what takes over the photo.

Get rid of everything that isn't directly related to whatever it is that made you want to take the photo.

Compose as strongly as you can. Eliminate everything that isn't directly related to the point of the photograph.

In the case of a Ferrari, if you don't FART before snapping, you're likely to make another boring photo of the whole car from eye level.

If you FART first, you'll ask yourself what is it about the Ferrari that catches your eye, and when you can Answer that, maybe wind up with a close-up of those big round Hella tail lights, or maybe realize that it was the redhead driving it, and instead, head out to lunch with her and save the photo shoot for later.

It's never about the obvious subject. It's always something more basic and subconscious that draws us to want to make a picture of something.

You always can refine more and more, and as you do, your photos become stronger. If it was the redhead that caught your eye, what exactly about her caught your eye? If it was her hair, what exactly about her hair grabbed you?

The better you can Answer and keep Refining this, the more your photos will grab people, be they you, your friends and family, contest judges or photo and art buyers.

T: Take

This is the easy part. Take the picture.

Be sure the exposure and color (WB) are OK, and you're done.


If you forget to FART first, as most people do, your photos will usually be boring.

FART first, and you'll make better pictures.

Forgetting to Ask yourself "why am I taking this picture" is the leading cause getting our pictures back, and having to ask ourselves "what was I thinking?"

Because we forget to ask ourselves before we take a photo, all we get are boring snapshots, regardless of how fancy our camera or how involved our techniques.

Ask yourself first, do your best to Refine and simplify your image, and when you Take it, you should never have to ask yourself later "what was I thinking?" You'll get much better images because you were thinking.


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