Introducing the magic of blackboxing, a simple device to help you take better photographs. It was first introduced to me a few years ago by Geoff Clarke, my old tutor from college. This device is not available in the shops, instead I offer it to you for free. I’ve been an avid user of it for about 2 1/2 years now, and have come to rely on it quite a bit.
The Blackbox Method:
Take 1 shot from every shoot you do, produce a polished, finished retouched, ready to show the world version, and then place in a folder on your hard drive – or a box (preferably black, else the name’s not very appropriate) if it’s prints. Now leave the folder (or box) alone for a while, and only look at it every couple of months.
A few pointers about Blackboxing.
1. The shot you pick must be the one that cries out to you “pick me”, not necessarily the one that was the subject’s favourite, or the one that made the cover. This exercise is intended to be an insight into how your creative process is progressing, and hence it needs to be personal.
2. Don’t keep looking in the box every 5 minutes – only looking once in a while gives you the essential perspective to spot trends, and it’s these trends that you’re looking for.
3. Include EVERY shoot you do – even jobs you’re ashamed of, or tests that failed miserably. The point is not to showcase your best work but to illuminate everything, warts and all.
What it does:
By showing your favourite pieces from every single thing you shoot it will rapidly become clear to you how often you’re hitting your own targets. This can be quite hard to do when you’re a busy photographer, with your nose firmly pressed to the grindstone. The overview that the blackbox provides allows you to spot the trends mentioned above, and once you’ve found these trends you can start to act on them. Reinforcing success where appropriate, or cutting back on less fulfilling work. It’s also very easy to use your blackbox to do some number crunching. I have also found it acts as a confidence crutch during periods that could best be described as “crappy”, as it helps to remind you that actually, you can do this job, and you can turn out good work. So go forth, and start sticking things in boxes.