When you look at this photo, what do you see as the subject? Is it the car, the couple, the man or the woman? I shot this at a group event where we got a bunch of classic cars, motorcycles and models together in a garage. Sometimes that’s the only way to make it worthwhile for folks who aren’t shooting on an assignment. The nice part is that everyone gets something.
Before I took this shot, I had to decide what story I was telling. The environment, the couple, the hotrod, or something else? To me, this is the story of the man behind the wheel. He has the car, the girl, and a cocky attitude. It’s not about anything else. This is his world, even though he only shows on a small part of the photo.
Everything else follows that decision. I chose my lighting based upon him as the subject. His arm leaning out the window of the hotrod leads your eye right to his face. His eyes are the sharpest thing in the photo. His gaze is right through the lens. It’s all about him in this story. He belongs in that car, in that garage, with that girl.
OK, so now think back to my question about the subject. What if you didn’t see the same subject as I did? That’s OK. Art is subjective. You can take away anything you want from a photo like this.
The reason it was important for me to select a subject and a story to tell is because it set everything else in motion for me. It governed how I composed the photo, where I set my focus point and how I directed the lighting. Even if you don’t see the same subject that I had in mind, you wouldn’t see this photo without that internal process.
Different photographers can approach the same scene and come away with drastically different photos. Sometimes you’d almost swear you weren’t even in the same place. That’s due to the internal story and how you approach your subject. By bringing that story to the forefront of your mind before you shoot, you can start directing the elements to support the story and start making the photos you want.