Inspiring Emotion – Technical or Talent?

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Every bit of the knowledge that I have about photography and post-processing is self-taught. I learned by reading, by watching, by doing, by trying, by failing, and by trying again. I’ve often wondered about how much my photography might be improved if I pursued a formal education in the subject. Would my photography actually be better, or would I just learn what I need to know faster than I would if I continued on the self-taught route?

How much is innate talent, and how much is knowledge and education? Surely it’s a combination of both. How do you explain art? How do you define ability? Can the emotion that is created when viewing a photograph be defined in technical terms? It’s these kinds of ponderances that keep me up at night!

I do absolutely know that I learn more by teaching and explaining to others. In order to explain a technique, or a “rule”, or a method, I am required to have at least a working understanding of it. This is one of the (many) reasons why I’m grateful to be writing for Beyond Megapixels – it has provided me with the opportunity to learn and grow as a photographer, myself.

It is a challenge to meld the technical and artistic aspects of photography. For instance, there is a technical reason “why” this photograph is visually appealing:

Sure, we can talk about balance and color and the rule of thirds; the aperture and shutter speed; the possible post-processing techniques used to achieve this shot. But mostly I just like to sit and gaze at it, and let the emotion that it inspires in me to blossom. When I look at this photograph, I don’t see “rules”, I feel peaceful, and a little homesick.

That, in the end, is what I hope to achieve with my photography. I want to inspire emotion, not analysis. Circling back to the original intent of this article, can one learn to inspire, and to draw forth feelings and reactions with their pictures? Or is it a talent that you either possess, or don’t possess?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. For those of you with formal education in photography, how did learning the technical aspects of “why” and “how” help to better create emotion in your photography? For those of you who are self-taught, such as myself, are you concerned that there is some “secret” that you’re not aware of, that’s keeping you from achieving the “next level” in your photography?

Let’s get the discussion started! Leave your thoughts in the comments and let’s all help one another toward a better understanding of this passion that we share.

Photo Credit: “Flashback” by Richard O on Flickr Creative Commons.

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  • Charles Perez

    First, that's a great photo; for me it evokes peacefulness and calm and a touch of nostalgia for the camping trips I took when I was younger.

    There may be a “technique” to invoke emotions in others, but I've found that if a picture makes me feel something, it's very likely to make someone else as well. Maybe not the same emotion – we all get to the same spot by different paths – but certainly some emotional content is universal. And I've always thought that if you work too hard you destroy any emotion in it for yourself and that comes through as well.