Saturday, January 29, 2011

Take The Best Negative You Can

When you take photographs with a film camera, you take a negative image.  When you print a photograph, you use that negative to make a positive print on photo paper.  When you work in the darkroom, you learn that there is a lot that goes into the process of making a photograph.  In fact, there are so many factors involved that, if you are not using an automated machine, it is impossible to make two prints from the same negative be exactly the same.

The nice thing is that it allows you to make a lot of choices.  You can change the sharpness, the contrast, you can modify sections of it to become lighter or darker.  Although it is all from the same image, you can make a series of photographs that look quite different from each other.

Having talked with film photographers, I have heard said, "my goal is to take the best negative I can."  The idea is that, if you start with the highest quality image, it will take the least amount of work to create high quality prints.  More importantly, it will also give you the most leeway to modify without lowering the quality of the image.

Writing works the same way.  Stories come from ideas.  Ideas come from observation.  If you are very well-aware of a subject and become well-researched on it, you will be able to make the highest quality story.  You will also be able to make your story go in any direction you want without degrading its quality.

When you are out in the world, pay attention.  A lot goes on in our periphery.  Give them more than a cursory glance and see what you glean from it.  How much better does your writing get when you're working with the best negative you can get?

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