The Gentle Sex and Photogaphy

This time round, I wanted to share with you some personal thoughts. Last year, both top Malta Institute of Professional Photography’s competitions, namely the Photographer of the Year and the International Online Competition, were won by the gentler sex. Furthermore, four of the Institute’s members gaining Qualifications, (from a total of six panels), were also women! Was this a coincidence? I do not really think so and in fact I have long been feeling the growth and opportunity that women photographers have gained partly through Digital photography.

Fifteen years back, I distinctly remember the extremely low number of females who would apply to learn photography during my courses – they would invariably be outnumbered ten to one by the males! Yet, now the boot seems to have shifted to the other foot. Take the clear example of my MCAST Higher National Diploma Photography first year Class which consists of seven girls and one boy! Even the MIPP membership seems to be steadily increasing its female membership. So what are the reasons of this evident increase in women photography practitioners in what was, previously, rather a male dominated profession?


I feel that the main factor behind this is the facility that digital technology has undoubtedly given us. The barriers have surely been lowered. Through my previous experience, most females have seemingly shied away from technical aspects so, for most of them, it was rather daunting to get to grips with complicated equipment, f-stops and tricky photographic techniques. It is not because they are not capable of surmounting these obstacles but I feel that their temperament prefers concentrating on other things. Have you ever really met a girl who is a ‘techie’ or fixated with photographic equipment and technology? One in a million, whilst on the other hand, many males are actually into photography because they are gadget freaks and love technique.

Although I do not think that this is scientifically proven, this does seem to be a distinct trend between the two sexes. Thus, and again this is only my view coming from years of practical experience, when digital (and the camera monitor) nudged out conventional photography, females now do not really need any more to concentrate so much on technique but have plunged fully into the art of photography and creativity. Again, one can now feel another distinct trend – female photographers seem to be steaming ahead into the forefront when it comes to conceptual photography and many times, seem to be leaving males lagging behind.
I do feel that both sexes can learn from each other. How fantastic would it be that photographers who are obsessed with technique would start adding context and message in their photographs and how ideal would it be if those employing context and message could supplement their work with the right technique and quality? I feel that this is another benefit, albeit not very recognized, that Digital photography has granted us. It has got everyone in ‘on the act’ and this undoubtedly gives photographic art a much wider breadth and dimension.


So males beware – we all need to further improve our game if we are to provide an adequate challenge to the fairer sex!

© Kevin Casha

PHOTOGRAPHY TUITION – a new jungle?

Way back in 1992, when I originally started doing my courses in photography, I never realised how these same courses would evolve into what today I consider as my main job and passion. Although some courses and tuition were already being done by the only, at that time, organized photography group on the island, it was really unheard of for a person to teach photography in Malta as a freelancer!

How dare someone teach the profession and enable others to become better photographers! How dare someone deprive already working photographers of their livelihood by helping the ‘competition?’ What audacity for someone to facilitate the path of other ‘wannabe’ photographers towards building a business or a career in photography?? As if anyone who is in any profession has any God given right to stop anyone else from taking the same route that he or she, as a beginner, had first undertaken! Do you know of anyone who was born a photographer right away in his cot! Had all these short sighted detractors forgotten their humble beginnings?

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Yes, all these accusations were leveled at me when I took the plunge and started teaching. Today, most of my critics are belatedly trying to do what I did years ago: yes – teach. I have always advocated that learning is important and I have eternally been in favour of a free market. Anyone who is capable and passionate enough has all my full support. Yet, currently, I cannot but cringe at the way that matters are shaping up. It really seems that everyone now is trying to teach photography and, although there are various persons capable of doing this in the right manner, there are a host of others who are just jumping in without any skills or background. Recent years have thrown up a spate of complaints from persons who are in some way being ‘duped’ into paying for photography tuition and then finding out that they are really learning very little or, worse still, getting the wrong information or guidance. There are even cases where courses where just terminated midway through their schedule without the students being refunded! Yes, unfortunately it is becoming a jungle and there is little one can do but attempt to educate the students BEFORE they go out and book courses blindly.

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

Photography_Courses_Malta_Fast_Track

The answer boils down to common sense and, first and foremost, one needs to realize that a skilled photographer does not always make a good tutor. A good tutor needs to be organized, needs to know how to deliver and share his knowledge, and needs to keep abreast and on top of his game. Taking good pictures and being a professional in one’s work is necessary but a good teacher needs many other skills. With social groups and online marketing, it has become quite easy for anyone to create a course and diffuse it around the internet and attract students. Again, there is nothing wrong with that, it is a free country, but be aware, particularly of those who have no visible track record of teaching. A student can really pass through a nightmare experience. If you needed a doctor, would you go to anyone who advertises on social media? Would you blindly ask for a service from any company which pays for an advert in yellow pages or would you ask for referrals and recommendations? Do an exercise and look up photographers on Malta’s yellow pages – some of the claims that some advertisers publicize make you laugh (or cry, for that matter!) This is not just in photography, but in all other professions or service industries – it’s a sign of our times.
So how does one go about selecting the right course or the right tutor? In Malta it is rather easy. Just ask for recommendations, ask someone who has already been to the tutor that you are considering. There is no better advert than recommendation and word of mouth, particularly on a small island like ours, where everyone knows everyone else. Go for courses which are well structured and clearly map out what you are going to be taught and how it is going to be done. Look for professionalism in every detail.

So the next time that you are seriously thinking of going into learning photography, do yourself a favour, and research your tutor well. It will avoid you unsavoury experiences and a waste of time and money.

© Kevin Casha

The Eye and the Mind

When photographing and posing people, there are three main variables that need to be taken into consideration: The light, the subject and the photographer.

To some photographers, this is not so obvious, particularly at the beginning. Have we perhaps stopped seeing with our eyes and seeing only what advertising and commercials subtly directs, and wants us, to see?

I meet so many hopefuls wishing they have this or that camera and this or that lens, thinking that high end equipment will make them great photographers. Alas it is not the case. Granted, top notch kit will make your life easier, and yes, for some genres of photography, like macro, sports, underwater, one does need particular equipment and gear. Yet, when one studies the history of photography, as well as great photographers, there is usually one thing in common which binds the majority of them – and that is that they all based their photography not on their equipment, but on their mind and vision.

In this day and age, with everybody rushing around, not unlike headless chickens, trying to keep up with everything, some of us are missing the forest for the trees. Is it not time to take stock and try and organize ourselves? Is it not time to think of our priorities and work towards them? Is it not time to perhaps review our progress to date and try and analyze how to improve our work and lifestyle?

Coming back to photography, and the three main variables, it is time for those taking up photography seriously to try and grasp and better understand the effects of light. One thing we have to acknowledge is that light is actually invisible. What the photographer sees is the effect of light on his subject. What the photographer tries to do is capture that light in the most suitable way that fits the subject.

We must really look at the light on our subjects and then adjust maybe our subject or our own position, to fit and mold to the light we have. Many “photographers” are not even looking at the way light is affecting their subject, at the transition between highlights and shadows. Look at your subjects and decide what is the main focus of your image and work towards lighting that part of the photograph and leaving the rest of the image in more subdued lighting (quite like a spot lit effect).  A lot of images are today spoilt with over lighting, particularly people pictures.

Look at what the great masters did in painting and you will see the way they “lit” up their subjects by knowing the direction and quality of light. Study the work of Rembrandt, Rubens, Caravaggio, Michelangelo. What better tutors could one wish for!!? The more we hear today that photographers are portraying themselves as “artists”, the more, alas, it seems they are not behaving like artists!

Technology has made it so easy to churn out an “image” that most are just not thinking and our brains and eyes have become sluggish and untrained.

We must study the history of art, we must be aware of the evolution of photography, we must keep in touch with the breakneck pace of photography’s technology, we need to know the rules before we attempt to break them, we need to network and view other photographers’ work, we need to introduce concepts and meaning in our imagery, we need to learn how to best direct and manage our subjects, we need to learn the classical before attempting the abstract, we need to keep our minds open and receptive to all forms of art. The list is endless. . .

Technology has given Photography to the masses and the masses have taken it on in a huge manner. It is now up to the masses to use their new found creative tool to the best of its ability and not to abuse and reduce it to mere gimmickry.

Let us all strive to learn more and more on this wonderful art.

Increasing our passion for photography is bound to increase the level and purpose of our images. The way forward is to never think you have arrived but to keep learning and discovering.

Learn, Evolve and Network!

 

Tuition and Learning.Two ever-present buzzwords in today’s lifestyle. The irony of it all is that in the sphere of photography, with all the teaching and learning opportunities there are, most of those jumping on the popular photography bandwagon are sadly drastically cutting corners where one cannot cut corners – in technique!

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