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A Strong Design Foundation Can Outlast Time and Media
By: Tom Roarty
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Every profession has a foundation, and photography is no different. Although there are different styles, techniques, and equipment, the basics — lighting and composition — are universal traits whether you are using film or digital. As with any media, you can learn to use new technology, but it is the foundation of the basics that will define your success. I was reminded of just how much one's fundamental skill set can help aid someone who has been away from a specific design discipline this past week when I was asked to photograph a live event, something I have not done in almost four years.
It was one of those last-minute things; a friend from out of town was writing a story and needed a photographer to accompany him. After hearing about the event, which was a concert, it sounded like a great gig, but I did not expect to be asked to help. Years ago, taking live concert photography was part of my job, but that is one of those positions I kind of fell into. We needed a photographer, I had a camera, the pictures came out way better than they thought, and we were off and running. Being in the photo pit with other professional photographers for show after show, I learned all I could and loved the challenge each new event provided.
It was through photographing the events for my company that I learned more about its design preferences, such as composition and color choices. These are elements that we had discussed countless times while developing other design solutions, but the visualization that photos provided helped to bridge the gap between what they were trying to say and what they actually meant. As my skills had gotten stronger, so had my understanding, and all aspects of my work had become a lot easier.
Although I did love that aspect of my position, new jobs, new bosses, and new technologies to learn did not leave all that much time to keep up with old passions, so the idea of getting a chance to shoot a concert again was both exciting and a little trying on the nerves. Not because I did not know how to shoot the event; it was more that I wanted to be as good at it as I was when I left it. In times like this the best thing that you can do is prepare the best you can and shoot in excess in hopes of catching that perfect image.
The night went well, and although I still wish some of the shots I took had come out better, for a three-year layoff from the media, I am happy with the results. Photography is like any aspect of creativity, comprised of one part skill, one part knowledge, and one part luck. There are parts of the process you can control, but so many other aspects that you cannot. It is at that point that the creative spirit kicks in and you start to push your limits in hopes of catching just the right image to convey your story. Like any other aspect of creativity, from campaign development to web design, it is when you start to push your limits that your best work surfaces, proving once again that a good design foundation can transcend all medias.

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