Continuing Education

The Story You Want to Tell: Steve Kidd on the Art of Photography

Continuing Education instructor Steve Kidd has been exploring the art of photography from a Imageyoung age, learning much how to make beautiful pictures from his grandfather. “He was an amateur photographer and had won a contest with one of his photographs,” says Kidd. “I remember the photograph vividly. Later, I was given a Kodak Brownie camera and began to experiment with that. Photography has been in and out of my life as far back as I can remember, but it was really the advent of digital photography, and learning how to manipulate my images with software, that I began down the path of more professional pursuits.”

Kidd says inspiration for his work, particularly that encompassing landscapes and natural subjects, is found in any number of sources. He’s very flexible when it comes to compositions and has found an ease with framing imagery in advance of a shoot or capturing it spontaneously. “Ansel Adams, whose photographs are inspirational to me, said that ‘Chance favors the prepared mind.’ To me that means you can conceptualize a photograph, but you can’t count on things like weather, so make a plan, but be ready to adapt to ever changing conditions. You never know what Mother Earth is going to give you!”

Though there are a handful of hard and fast rules to creating a good photographic composition, Kidd says developing a strong creative eye is the result of a certain amount of trial and error.  “Most folks learn a few of ‘the rules’ of photography: The Rule of Thirds, don’t shoot into the sun, etc. It’s great to understand those things, but then break all the rules too,”Image says Kidd.  “It’s how you learn. I think it takes making a lot of bad photographs before you start making good ones. So while I certainly have taken my fair share of bad ones, the good ones now come more instinctually.”

At the same time, Kidd doesn’t believe there is a wrong way to approach photography. “I’m not sure you can make mistakes, other than copying someone else’s work, but I guess the big thing I would say is keep at it. You can get discouraged that your photographs aren’t as good as others you might see, but keep working at it. It takes quite a while to develop a personal style, so don’t force it. Pictures should tell a story without the use of words. You shouldn’t have to explain a photograph, so always think about the story you’re trying to tell.”

If making a beautiful and provocative image is the photographer’s primary goal, having that work publicly recognized is definitely a close second. For Kidd, this was one of his greatest accomplishments as an artist, first on the cover of a digital photography magazine, and then a small feature in the printed version. “I’ve also had some awards given to me in local art shows. Getting a People’s Choice award at the Shoreline Arts Festival meant a lot.”

For most artists, time and inspiration are valuable commodities and though there are few projects Kidd says he has yet to initiate, there are several still on deck.  “There haven’t been Imagetoo many projects I haven’t explored, but there’s a couple I need to complete,” he says. “I have a project that I’ve started working on which is just pictures of doors. Doors are very symbolic and can be photogenic in their own way.”

As with his photography, Kidd is also adept at identifying doorways for his students, particularly when it comes to the exploration of digital photography. “I like empowering people to take a photograph they’ve taken and apply their own vision to the finished image,” he says. “Some people (non-photographers usually) seem to think that by editing your photo with software, you’re somehow cheating. I disagree wholeheartedly. In fact, Ansel Adams manipulated his images a lot in the dark room. He would expose the negative in the field, and then bring the image back to the darkroom to process it, then create the print, thinking about the image from start to finish. Why should we treat the electronic version differently?”

In taking his courses, Kidd hopes his students will learn to become adept at seeing through the camera’s eye, but see creative possibilities as well. “Often times the image you see on the back of your camera, or even the first time you put it up on screen, just doesn’t do it justice. Knowing what’s possible, and then manipulating the image to the way you want to see it, is what I hope they’ll be able to walk away with.”

Learn more about Steve Kidd’s photography classes, Lightroom for Photographers and Flash Photography. Students who take these classes are eligible to submit work to the CE Student Art Show.