I delight in versatility and live for
the challenges my clients bring me.
“Yes, it’s a picture of a tree. But what else is it a picture of?” Minor White
I make a considerable part of my living from taking pictures that are designed to sell things. So why am I quoting a fine-art photographer and educator who might consider me a bit of a sell-out? Because I don’t think the line between art and commercial illustration is that clear and bright. I’m trying to move people and I would argue that the artist is trying to manipulate emotions in many similar ways. The outcome may be different but we both use similar tools and techniques.
The word photography comes from two Greek words that together mean “drawing with light.” This is perhaps the single most important thing to know about photography. It is with light — not cameras, computers, chemicals, models, assistants — that we make pictures. Knowing how to use the light that’s there, improve on it, or create great light from scratch is the key to making pictures that move people.
I started looking at the web in the summer of 1995 and built my first web site within the first weekend. I quickly took to HTML (hypertext markup language) and found I liked its logic, structure, and even the many kludges we had to use to make it work reasonably well back then. I’ve continued to like it, even as I learned the right way to do it.
HTML is the basic language of the web. If you’re curious, just pull down your browser’s “View” menu to “Page Source” or “View Page Source.” All that gibberish is what I do all the time. Over the years, I’ve learned all the stuff that goes along with HTML:
- Photoshop: builds the images. If HTML is the structure of the web, Photoshop provides its skin, texture and life.
- CSS: cascading style sheets allow for efficient design of typography, color, and layout. One good style document can affect all the pages in a site, keep their look consistent, and allow for quick and easy changes to a site’s appearance.
- Flash: animation and interactivity. Flash is great but easy to overuse. I use it carefully and discreetly. (But more and more lately, I avoid it, especially since iPhones and iPads refuse to use it at all.)
- PHP: a scripting language that allows the server to do some work and interact with a database
- WordPress: a blogging and content-management system that allows clients to maintain their own sites.
- Search-engine optimization: I don’t do full-fledged SEO (that’s for experts), but I know the basics to get a site to place well in its appropriate search-engine terms. And I can do a bit of coaching to help you do your own.
I mostly leave print design to specialists but I’ve done plenty and continue to do a bit.