On Wednesday 29 September David Keep ARPS MPAGB FBPE EFIAP Zoomed into Leighton Buzzard Photographic Club to deliver his presentation “A Project Based Approach to Photography”. This talk was highly recommended by one of our members. David is an amateur photographer based in Chesterfield and is a member of Rolls Royce Photographic Society in Derby. His photographic interests include underwater, nature, dance, and sports. Although David began his photographic journey only seven years ago (!), when his daughter lent him a camera, he is already renowned in his field with an impressive collection of gold medals in prestigious competitions. David’s personal view is that photography is an art form, rather than a record keeping activity. And he draws a distinction between a photographer – who captures and reproduces the scene almost exactly as it occurred, with a minimum of post processing – and an image maker – who uses the camera to capture raw digital data which is then manipulated in post processing to match their artistic intention.

More of David’s work can be seen at https://www.davidkeepphotography.co.uk/

In addition to his images, there are also links to his video tutorials on his YouTube channel

And David can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

So, David sees himself as an “image maker” rather than a photographer and the photograph is just the starting point for creating an image.  He tries to create images that evoke emotion and tell a story.  And “in relation to my photographic style (but not life) I’m not a great respecter of reality”.

To achieve what he wants, David uses a process of “reverse engineering” (well, he does have an engineering background).  And, through his talk, he showed us how to use this project-based approach to create a workflow for driving our creative processes and producing images with “Impact” – the Wow factor.

Essentially, the necessary steps are – “Visualise” the intended final image, “Plan” how to get the photograph, “Shoot” the photograph, and then “Process” the photograph to produce the final image.

David did emphasise that this was just his approach.  There are plenty of others.  But this is how he creates images.  And the point of this approach is to follow a logical, repeatable workflow to produce a greater number of images of the type he is looking for, with less reliance on repetition and luck.

The idea is to identify subject areas that could yield the type of images you want and then build that into a project.  For him, although he recognises it might be different for others, the objective of the project is (usually) to produce images with impact.

David identifies his subject areas, or genres, from all sorts of sources – inspiration from other successful images and photographers, works of art, films, music, press coverage, Pinterest, Google images, 500px.

When it comes to post processing, David as an extremely keen entrant of competitions, generally wants to process for “impact”.  He wants that instant impact when a judge first sees an image, and has only a few seconds to make a judgment, that will lead to a high competition score.

To achieve that, it is essential to emphasise everything that reinforces the story and minimise (or remove) everything that weakens the story.  “Crop, crop, CROP!”  And backgrounds should compliment the subject and not compete with it.  “The brightest or sharpest part of the image should be where I want you to look.”  He also suggested choosing titles that help tell the story.  “Titles are super important.  I often pick them before I start processing.”

Having explained what the project based approach was, David then talked us through three of his own projects.  These descriptions went from the start of each project through to the production of a finished image.  (After several years, though, all three project appear to be continuing.)

David explained why he picked the genre, how he got the “in” to get the photographs, the development of the shoot, and the post processing of a chosen photograph.  (In the post processing, he concentrated on the “why” rather than the “how”.)

  • “The Contact Sport Project” – a project created to produce competition images.  It covers boxing, kickboxing, and MMA.
  • “The Dance Project” – a personal project driven by his love of music and dance.  The objective is to present dance in a painterly, dreamlike manner.
  • “The Athletic Project” – a project two years in the making to yield high impact shots.

David is totally passionate about his photography.  His presentation was an articulate proposal for taking full control of your artistic processes and creating the images you want.  And it was extensively illustrated with his own marvellous images and the compelling stories of some of his many projects.  As David is an eloquent and persuasive speaker with great material, this was an excellent instructive evening for all of us.