How Your Perceptions Influence Your Photography

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Vic and Marie Photography

A couple of years ago, Canon Australia did an experiment.

They brought in six photographers to do a portrait session with a man.

The twist was that though each photographer photographed the same man, the man gave each photographer a different story about who he was.

The resulting images very obviously reflected each photographer's perception of the man, revealing just how important the way we see the world (and our portrait subjects) can be.

If you've never seen the video, check it out below. It's pretty compelling!

But thinking about Canon Australia's little experiment got me wondering how our perceptions and creativity come into play when creating our own kind of portraits.

By that, I mean, what happens when we apply our own worldview to something well-known? How would we interpret something like fairy tales, literature or nursery rhymes?

The easy answer is this - we all create our unique photos based upon how we see the world.

In fact, that's what makes photography so great - we can find inspiration from something as common as a fairy tale, and yet a group of photographers with that same theme will come up with vastly different photographs that represent that theme.

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Paulina Martinez

Our friends at Sew Trendy Accessories actually put this theory to the test recently when they brought in 12 photographers to participate in a three-day retreat full of stylized, theme-based sessions for children's portraiture, non-maternity portraiture, and maternity portraiture.

I wanted to share a little about this event and offer some photos and analysis to show how perception is so influential in photography.

Interpreting Fairy Tales and Classic Time Periods

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Belly Beautiful by Karen Marie

As I noted above, 12 photographers from around the country descended on the Salt Lake City area earlier this year to participate in a three-day themed retreat sponsored by Sew Trendy.

The first day was spent creating photos that revolved around the theme of old fairytales.

Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, Hansel and Gretel, and Briar Rose were the themes of the day, with a secondary theme of "Renaissance" for maternity photography.

When thinking about how one might interpret Hansel and Gretel, for example, one might create a dark, mystery-filled scene to represent the evil witch living in the forest.

On the other hand, one might portray the fairy tale as was done in the image above - choosing to focus on youth and innocence.

Note that the supporting elements - the rock wall, the forested background, and the wardrobe help create a scene that's reminiscent of the story but do so without being overbearing. 

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Abby Mathison

When thinking about how to portray the Renaissance, there are all sorts of avenues to take.

For example, in the image above, the iron and stone elements of the wall and steps lend to a Renaissance-style theme, as does the flowing, deeply saturated gown that the model is wearing.

To top it off, the floral crown is reminiscent of the style of the period.

As was the case with the Hansel and Gretel image, we again see how this photographer used specific touches in the image to portray their unique perception of the theme.

Interpreting Children's Literature

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Belly Beautiful by Karen Marie

The second day of the Sew Trendy retreat revolved around the theme of children's literature.

The photographers were given classic tales to reconstruct - Pride and Prejudice, Anne of Green Gables, Little House on the Prairie, and Charlotte's Web. 

When you think of Charlotte's Web, what do you think of? The little girl Fern? Her beloved piglet Wilbur? Or do you think of Charlotte?

For Karen of Belly Beautiful Photography, Charlotte's web is all about Fern and Wilbur enjoying a sunny afternoon out in the field.

But for you or I, perhaps the representation of this classic novel revolves around another character or theme in the book.

There's no right or wrong answer!

Portraying Formality

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Belly Beautiful by Karen Marie

When you hear the word "formal," I'm sure a million different things come to mind.

And those million different things might be totally different from one person to the next.

In the image above, for example, formal means a bright setting, lots of texture in the shot, a highly detailed, flowing gown, and an engaging pose.

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Belly Beautiful by Karen Marie

But in this image, formality takes on a much different look.

The setting is perhaps more formal than the previous image because of the symmetry provided by the bridge in the background. But the gown is less detailed, with a form-fitting body that flows outward into the train below. 

Again, the manner in which these two portraits were composed shows that given a certain topic or theme, two photographers can arrive at two very different, yet very beautiful versions of the same concept.

Interpreting Nursery Rhymes

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Freebird Studios

When you think about the nursery rhymes your parents read to you or the ones you read to your own children, the chances are that you have specific memories from stories like Little Boy Blue, Mary Mary Quite Contrary, Little Bo Peep, and Jack and Jill.

And the memories you have about those types of stories will influence how you portray them as a theme for portraiture.

In looking at the image above, we see some familiar elements from Little Bo Peep.

The pose is one of the first things that catch the eye, with the girl looking off in the distance in wonderment, much as Little Bo Peep might have done in the nursery rhyme when looking for her sheep.

The wardrobe choice is spot-on, too, with something that simple yet elegant.

But again, this representation of this nursery rhyme is all up to perception.

How Would You Perceive "Wild Things?"

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Paulina Martinez

The final day of the Sew Trendy Retreat revolved around "Wild Things."

If I were to ask you to think of the wild things in popular fairy tales, what comes to mind?

Is it the romance between Robin Hood and Maid Marian? Is it the evil witches that pervade so many tales? Or is it the thought of Little Red Riding Hood wandering her way alone through the forest?

Again, the depiction of such things is all based on our individual perception.

For example, in the image above, pairing Little Red Riding Hood with a fox makes for a rather wild shot, which is something I'd probably never have thought to do!

But notice how the image is bright and airy, contrary to what much of the pretext of the story is about.

That brings me to a crucial point...

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Amber Fite

Just because you might perceive things differently than someone else doesn't mean that your images aren't every bit as valid as the next person's.

In fact, like I noted earlier, our personal opinions, experiences, points of view, and even our biases help us create images that are more unique, exciting, and personal.

And in the end, that's what photography is all about - finding our individual voices and using them to create art.

So, the next time you're ready to take a portrait, think about what makes your perspective unique, and use that to make images that are all your own!

About Sew Trendy

This is a company that photographers absolutely need to be in touch with. Their gowns, crowns, and other high-quality accessories (like those shown in the images above) are just what you need for maternity photos, photos of newborns, and mommy and me sessions. These accessories not only make your clients look and feel great, but they also add a depth of detail and interest to your photos that elevate the images to an entirely other level. What started out with just a few people manufacturing these eye-catching items is a growing business that provides accessories to photographers worldwide. Help your clients look and feel their best by partnering with Sew Trendy Accessories.

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