The “How Did You Do That?” Question

Fear photographed © Benjamin Kanarek

The “How Did You Do That?” Question

I am often asked the question, “How Did You Do That?” I could very simply answer the question which I often do and the results that person gets isn’t what he/she was expecting. If I talk about post production, yes the actions on the image will be as I recommended, but when asked about the results of a shoot, I more often than not get a disappointing, “it doesn’t look like yours…!”

Now, I will not go in to a lengthly diatribe about what is required to put a shoot together, as I have covered that topic ad-infinitum in several of my articles. What I am trying to explain here will be quite difficult, but I will attempt to do so here.

Imagine a huge globe and that globe is the culmination of all of the information you have accumulated over the many years of experience you have acquired in your craft. You might wish to call it a brain, but for my purposes, let’s call it a huge floating globe. All of the information is stored in that globe and inter connected and accessible at any moment in time. The speed at which the information is accessed is astounding. So much so, that you are often not aware of the process for how you collected all of the elements to get to the final output or finished product.

The more elements within the globe the more complex the output possibilities become. Let us call these elements in the globe “epiphany events”. Epiphany Events are those events that occurred during a learning process that had a paradigm shifting effect on how you viewed your reality. These types of events will create a completely new subset of elements to draw from for future products creations, photos, music, dance, sports etc…

You are probably wondering where am I going with all of this. Well just hang in there for a while and I may just get to the point.

The more elements in your globe the more possible permutations and the more permutations the more potential elements that can be placed in to your globe for future use.

Now, what happens during the act of creation when some element that has not yet been added to your globe is presented to you? You get what most of us would call disorientation. The time it takes to integrate this element could be from a nano second to the complete rejection of that element, or worse yet the ignoring of it all together. It is often under those circumstances that some of the greatest creations occur and the epiphany happens. I like to call them, creative accidents.

When I am on a creative roll, I cannot recall all of the elements that are in action during the process until I take a break and stop to think about it for a moment.  Don’t know if any of you have ever thought about what is going on in your head during a photo shoot. The more elements in your globe the more complex the computations. You can never really be missing elements in your globe. You may have less or more, but there is no such thing as missing elements. Just less elements to choose from and what ever you create will be a direct reflection of the elements you had available to create what you did.

What I have retrospectively recalled in thinking about my own process, is that I am dealing with literally thousands of considerations during the act of creating an image that come to light so quickly that if I were to stop during the process and think about it, I would stall to a HALT.

It is never just the technique and it is never just the creation during the process. It is everything from thinking about the last time you cleaned your ears to is there enough fill light to I must try to stop being so self deprecating to I need to increase the speed  of the Fan to get the hair moving a bit more.

Your random thoughts will effect which elements you access as well and those thoughts are often what trigger the brilliant idea. The reason so many of you out there are not getting what you want has a lot less to do with technique than allowing yourself to be open to the possibilities of allowing elements in to your globe that may give you the freedom to fly. I know that sounds corny. But being creative is SO much more than the camera you use or all of that other stuff. I could show you what I did technically for a shoot and more often than not the results will not be satisfactory to you. Why?  Because the elements  I had to draw from are not as yet part of your Global Repository. Just to prove my point here. The other day I posted an image of a man on a park bench. Now, rather than presenting it horizontally, I presented it vertically, as it gave the impression of him being crucified. I would say that over 80% of the viewers could not handle looking at the image without crooking their heads to see it in a horizontal position. Now those that rejected it did not allow the “Element” to enter their globe. They will never see in another perspective until they let disorienting elements in to their globe. Those that did, have added a new element and thus a new perspective for how to view “Reality”.

The old “How did you do that?” question never really suffices. It can introduce new elements in to your globe, but they will NEVER be exactly like the formula of another persons Global Experience.

I would sum it up putting it this way. The greater the vocabulary the richer the experience…

Now…”How did I do that?”

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…
  • thank you. I constantly get annoyed by models, clients, friends + family to use a “Real Camera” to shoot pictures 🙂 I love shooting with snappies & fone cameras – esp fone cameras cause due to their limited controls, I focus more on the fotography than the nitty gritties of the machine.

    closest thing to your brilliant article (as usual they all are 😉 is the movie Kung fu Panda & the “secret ingredient” – which is you. It is the secret ingredient which gets the shot. No, not the fancy schmancy big beasts with manual focus or any other blah that pseudo intellectual snobs wish to promote. ha ha.

  • Stephen, I know what you are saying. Words are often inappropriate in situations like these. It is best to just smile and hold up the camera… 🙂

  • Stephen Tyler

    If one has never used film, they probably would have a hard time understanding this. Not saying that digital is bad, but so many think that the “magic” comes from the camera, and do not realize that the creativity must begin in your own head – or globe, as you put it. I shoot now with 2 Nikon DSLRs, and what I call a Canon pocket shooter (powershot) for those occasions when the D300 with a mounted 300mm lens doesn’t work inside a jeepney in Manila (I can barely fit inside one of these myself. If you’ve ever seen pictures of them, you know what I mean). I dare say I can capture some great shots with either the DSLR or the pocket shooter, and no one has yet been able to tell the difference. The point is, you have to “see it” in your own head before you take the shot, and when someone asks me “how did you do that?”, I often simply hold up the camera – they usually never get it.