The 2019 Fine art Summit: Lightroom To Print

The 2019 Fine art Summit: Lightroom To Print

Learn how to post-process your nature and landscape images for fine art printing in the beautiful setting of Death Valley, California.

The Summit is a three-day class taught by Alain Briot, Jeff Schewe and Natalie Briot in the private and comfortable Oasis Conference Room inside The Inn at Death Valley.

The Summit covers:

• Lightroom Develop Module from start to finish, including the use of Graduated filters, Radial Filters and local Adjustment Brushes and finally sizing and sharpening for print.

• Photoshop for layering, selective color, warping, reformatting and all the other things you cannot do in Lightroom.

Printing: the Summit is a comprehensive course in preparing your photographs for printing. Everyone will be making 13×19 prints during the Summit using a dedicated Epson Printer, ink and paper. Ink and paper are provided free as part of your summit registration.

• Free raffle: at the end of the Summit we raffle the Printer we use during the Summit so one lucky participant will take it back with them for free!  We will also raffle a number of other gifts including paper, ink, books and many surprise gifts so that everyone has a chance to win during the raffle.

Field photography: sunrise and sunset shoots are planned everyday. Plus we have a day of photography planned during the Summit so that you can explore remote areas of Death Valley.

The Summit is a fantastic opportunity to learn fine art printing with two experts in the field and take your photography to the next level !

• Lodging: we have blocks of rooms reserved at the hotel close to the conference room and close to the locations during the field workshop.

The Vision Field Workshop

The 3 day Vision Field Workshop starts right after the Summit.  We take you to the Eastern Sierra where you will explore and photograph the Alabama Hills, Manzanar, the mountains and Aspens near Bishop and Mono Lake.

These are world class locations made famous by Ansel Adams, Galen Rowell and many other fine art photographers. Become part of the photographic history of Death Valley and the Eastern Sierra by joining us and creating your own fine art photographs of this incredible area!

Click here to read the detailed Death Valley Summit description 

We will photograph this location during the Summit.
Click here to register

My Philosophy

My Philosophy

My Philosophy

1 – Introduction
This essay focuses on my approach to fine art photography. In order to explain how I do what I do I thought it was important to describe my philosophy in regards to art and photography.  As such this essay describes the aspects of art and landscape photography that are essential to my work and therefore particularly important to me.

2 – Gear
I like great gear but I am aware that improving gear means getting better gear, not creating better art. Quite simply better gear equals better resolution, sharpness, dynamic range, stability, functions and other technical qualities. Better gear does not equal better art or more interesting photographs. Better knowledge of art and photography equals better art and more interesting photographs.

My artistic skills are not defined by my gear any more than a painter’s skills are defined by the brushes, the paint or the canvas that he uses. Interestingly enough, unlike photographers painters don’t sit around talking about the quality of their gear, be it paint, brushes, canvas, easels or other. Neither is there a DxO Mark equivalent for the various dynamic range combination of paint, brushes and canvas. In fact there is no such thing as paint dynamic range, paint clipping or out of gamut color palette. Painters simply do not have to worry about color balance or any of the other technical concerns that many photographers seem obsessed with. Rather, they are concerned with expressing their vision and their emotional response to the subject, something they arrive at rather quickly not being bothered by the countless technical considerations that photographers concern themselves with.

Neither does there seem to be a hierarchy among painters based on the gear they use, at least not the way photographers approach the relationship between gear and skill level or even self worth. To return to DxO mark, this time from a photographer’s point of view, for most of us visiting this site is a humbling experience because we seek to find how high we are on the sensor-rating scale, from rock bottom to top of the line. However, what seems lost on most photographers is that this evaluation is based not on their skill level but on their ownership of a specific camera. While on the one hand having a low rating camera can generate low self esteem, having the top-ranked camera can generates insecurity for no one knows for sure how long it will be until a bigger, better and unfortunately often more expensive camera will supersede the current ‘champ.’ For those in between the highest and the lowest ranked camera, the level of self esteem drops proportionally to the relative ranking of one’s camera. This is often accompanied with the feeling that we are has-beens if our camera is anything past a year or two old, or 5 to 6 cameras below the top ranked model of the day, if that much.

3 – Field photography
Creating images in the field is where everything starts. There is simply no substitute for being inspired by nature itself. While there can be inspiration before field work, regarding where to go, what to do, how to approach the subject and so on, it is when I witness the beauty of nature in all its grandeur and glory that my heart and soul become filled with the desire to create a work of art.

I like to take a lot of captures when I work in the field. I don’t subscribe to the idea that a photograph has to be captured with a single frame. I find no glory in getting the shot in a single exposure. For me this a film based concept that is no longer relevant today. This concept was based on the fact that film and processing were expensive and that we could only carry a limited quantity of film. This was particularly true with large format, say 4×5 and larger, but it was also true with smaller formats. With digital capture there is no cost after the first $20,000 (adjust to fit your budget), and I have no limit as to how much storage I can carry because even if I fill all the storage cards I can carry I can always download them to a computer and start again. Therefore, limiting how much I shoot means bypassing one of the most advantageous aspects of digital photography which is that the number of captures I can make is unlimited and that capturing images carries no real cost due to the ridiculously low price of storage devices. It is therefore to my advantage to put the numbers on my side and to return home with as much data as I can, knowing that the cost of returning to the location is what is expensive, both in terms of travel expenses and in terms of time.

Collage-1-FS-layersLes Sentinelles Eternelles
One of my most recent images as of the writing of this essay.
The creation of this image follows the approach outlined in this essay.

I also do not make a call in the field in regards to what are my best captures. I can do that at my leisure in my studio when I return home. The purpose of field work is to gather data, of the finest quality I can and in as large a quantity as I feel. From this data the final images will emerge and no one needs to know how many images led to the final ones unless I decide to share this information.

In the field I also shoot wide and later crop as needed because high resolution cameras free me from having to figure out the perfect crop in the field. The difference in resolution is unnoticeable because the lack of image data is insignificant. However the final cropping is far more accurate than I could ever do it on location.

I also like to shoot both horizontal and verticals, try different compositions of the same scene, and intentionally capture wider views than I intend to use. Approximately 50 % of my work is composed of collages done not for the purpose of increasing pixel density but instead to increase field of view beyond what my widest lenses can capture. I also like the look of collaged images better than the look of wide angle photographs, even if they show the same field of view.

Once back in the studio I look at the different images I captured and progressively narrow the number of keepers based on technical and aesthetic considerations. I make a pre-selection in Lightroom then a second and narrower selection in Photoshop. I make the third selection after the images have been optimized to the technical layers stage, and the fourth selection after the image has been optimized all the way to the artistic layers stage (see below). The fifth and final selection is made after all the images have been optimized to their final state, and after I have had time to study them and reflect upon them.

4 – Image processing
It is in the studio that the second part of my work takes place. Inspired by my emotional response to the scenes I photographed, I enhance and manipulate my photographs at my heart’s content to express what I truly saw and felt. In Lightroom and Photoshop I do what I like to call ‘unspeakable things’ to my photographs and if you ask me, yes sir, I manipulate my work and I am proud of it. In fact, let me add that it feels great, carries not risk of heart disease, and some even say that it enhances life longevity through stress reduction induced by the liberation of all concerns for what others might think.

I don’t see anything that can be done with digital processing as being inappropriate when creating art. If I was doing forensic or documentation photography I certainly would rule many things as inappropriate. However, art is the domain of imagination and personal expression and digital processing opens the doors to possibilities that film photography never offered. This to me is a dream come true and I embrace all the possibilities that the medium offers. Nothing is out of bounds, taboo, illegal, or whatever term you may want to use to tell me that I should not do it.

In other words I do not limit myself to darkroom processes enhanced by digital imaging. Rather than restrict myself to dodging, burning, density, color adjustments and cropping, all done with more control and perfect repeatability from print to print that I could ever have in the darkroom, I use all the functions available in Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance and optimize my photographs and make them conform to my vision. I warp, collage, HDR, reformat, clone, stretch and otherwise manipulate my images at will. Instead of feeling guilty about doing this I embrace the possibilities offered by digital photography and I welcome whatever functions will become available next. These functions make life easier for me by alleviating many of the unnecessarily tough aspects of film photography and by bringing possibilities I could only dream of before.

5 – Fine art printing
The outcome of all this work is a fine art print. Not an image on screen, regardless of impressive the quality of today’s monitors might be, but a fine art print on paper (or other substrate), because paper requires no technology to be seen. I don’t need electricity, I don’t have to plug-in hard drives, connect USB cards to monitors, download and update software, or worry about forward and backward compatibility. I also don’t have to wonder if my descendants will be able to make sense of my file structure, or if later software and hardware will be able to read my files, or if someone will be kind enough to continue updating my entire computer storage and display system to guarantee access to my work ‘forever’. While they may not last ‘forever,’ my prints are accessible to all, requiring only eyes and the desire to look at them to be seen.

6 – Print quality
Print quality is of the upmost importance to me. Fine art landscape photography it a low drama medium. While I may depict a dramatic sunset, rainbow or storm, not much happens in the way of action, unlike in reportage, street, or sports photography for example. Therefore, while in reportage photography the content creates the interest and print quality is secondary, in fine art landscape photography the print quality is just as important as the content. In fact, it is often more important than the content. This is because natural locations being accessible to all, the same locations are photographed by many photographers. In this situation the difference between a good photograph and a stunning one of the same location is often the difference in print quality. In a head to head contest it is the print quality that separates a good photograph from an outstanding one.

I spare no efforts in creating the finest prints I can create. In doing so it is the processing of the image that matters most because it is during processing that print quality takes place, or not, as the case might be. While printer, ink, paper, printer profile and system calibration are important, they are variables that can be controlled through technique and experience. They can also be purchased with anyone with the necessary funds. In many ways printers are default devices. What varies is the image file.

File preparation therefore is just as much an art form as a technical exercise. In fact, once the technique has been learned to the point of becoming second nature, it is all art. So much so that my image optimization workflow is separated in two primary parts: technical and artistic. I work in Lightroom and Photoshop, doing basic file preparation in Lightroom then continuing the optimization in Photoshop using adjustment layers. I start by creating a set of technical layers whose goal is to create the technical foundation of the image. If I was doing documentation I could stop there because at that stage the image is perfect in regards to being a documentary record of the scene. However, it has no artistic qualities besides the composition of the image in the field, the choice of subject and light, and the decisions I made regarding lens and angle of view. It is the second set of layers, the artistic layers, that give the image the artistic qualities I seek to share with my audience. This second set of artistic layers include all sort of manipulations, from color changes to contrast adjustment, to cloning, to transformation of the image geometry using warp, distort or other transform functions, to reformatting of the image, for example making a vertical image an horizontal through stretching either the entire image or part of it, and more. As I said earlier on I enjoy doing ‘unspeakable’ things to my images and this is where this part of the process takes place.

While the set of technical layers usually takes me only minutes to complete, the set of artistic layers takes me much longer, anywhere from several hours to several weeks or months. Of course I do not remain chained to my desk for weeks on end, but it does takes me that long to work on the image on and off as inspiration strikes, trying to find the correct combination of colors and contrast needed to make a specific image work.

_DSF4588-FS-Flat-900 - copieCloud Filled Dawn

7 – Instruction
Teaching is important to me because I want to pass the torch so to speak and share my knowledge and my passion for fine art photography with other like-minded artists and photographers. To this end I teach a small number of workshops per year. I keep the number small because by limiting the number of workshops I can focus on the needs of my students 100% instead of being pulled in every directions by an overwhelmingly busy schedule. In practice I teach only six workshops per year on average, interspaced with one on one work with dedicated students who want to go beyond what can be learned in a group setting. My workshops are small, consisting of 12 students in my regular field workshops and 6 in my little known workshops series. I offer one on one mentoring because when studying fine art there comes a time when specific challenges can only be met one on one. Creating a personal style for example, or expressing a personal vision throughout a body of work, or working on a focused project, or again putting together a successful marketing plan are aspects of fine art that require a one on one environment.

I separate my courses in three categories: field work, studio work and marketing instruction. While there is no substitute for field work, as I explained in section one above, studio and marketing courses are offered both as live events and as Mastery Workshops on DVD/USB. I offer these two options to meet the needs of students who like to study in person and by themselves. While there is a value in studying in person, there is also a value in studying by yourself with a master tutorial that you can carry everywhere, refer to at will, and study at your leisure instead of having to learn and remember everything in 2 days. My mastery tutorials also saves time and travel expenses, and they remove the risk of not remembering essential information because note-taking failed you.

Collage-2-FS-Flat-900 - copieAfternoon in Canyon de Chelly

8 – Art
Art is my goal. In working towards this goal I am fully aware of the distinction between fine art photography and commercial photography. Doing commercial photography means being hired by a client on the basis that I can successfully create the photographs that this client wants. I am paid if I fulfill this contract. Fine art photography means creating images that please me, images that express my vision of the world in my personal style. People buy my work if they like my style and can relate to my vision of the world.

I also know that art is a matter of personal taste. What people like depends on people’s taste. Plus, when it comes to art opinions are polarized. Therefore, creating art means that some will love my work while others will dislike it. As such I am not surprised to have both fans and foes. In fact I consider this normal. The fact that I do means that I am creating art and not just documenting the world.

9 – Exhibiting
Showing my work starts with finding an audience who likes my work. While there is a difference between fine art and commercial photography, as I explained above, I still have to somehow manage to communicate successfully with my audience.

There are limits however to how far one can communicate successfully when it comes to exhibiting art. I learned a long time ago not to try to convince the inconvincible. Too many photographers waste valuable time trying to change the mind of people who don’t like their work. This is futile. My time is better spent looking for an audience who likes me and my work and helping this audience like my work even more.

It took me a long time to understand this but doing so saved me a lot of time and worries and helped me live a happier and longer life. Today I seek an audience who likes me and my work and I refuse to waste my time on those who don’t like what I do. I never lose sight of the fact that my goal is to create images that allow me to successfully share my vision and my emotional response to the subject with people who share my vision of the world, not with those who despise it.

10 – Conclusion
My goal is to to create images that expresses and share beauty. In doing so I am often amazed at how many people have misconceived ideas about art. Certainly I understand that art is not a mainstream concept. We live in a technically oriented society in which art and art instruction have taken a backseat. However this is not a reason for art to be dismissed altogether. We need it as much as we need technology. As Picasso said, art washes away the dust of everyday life, and we certainly have a lot of dust to wash away, wherever this dust may come from.

In thinking about this I consider several things in no particular order. First, art does not have to be perfect. As Dali put it: do not seek perfection for you will never reach it. Art is different from engineering in that respect because it does not need to be functional. Art only needs to look good. It does not have to perform a mechanical function, or any function for that matter, except aesthetic. Art does not have to work the way a machine works for example. If you design a machine and it does not work, you are fired at best and sued at worse. With art, if you create an unsatisfying work of art there is no penalty. At worse no one likes it. You won’t get fired over it and you won’t go to jail or be sued for having failed to express your vision successfully. I find this aspect of art freeing, refreshing and stress reducing and it is one of the reasons why art is an activity I enjoy.

I am always surprised by people who find that in order to be ‘good’ art must be hard to create. For me the quality of a work of art is not measured by how long it took to create it any more than good food it defined by how long it took to cook it. Good is good, that’s all. I pay attention to how much beauty, enjoyment and insights the work brings to me, not to how long it took to make it. For me a sketch by Picasso that took only a minute to complete is just as valuable and enjoyable as a painting by Picasso that took weeks or months to complete.

I am equally surprised by people who want to impose their view of what is ‘good’ art onto me. Surprised because I made the decisions that led to the the work I exhibit deliberately and with complete awareness of what I was doing. Therefore when someone tells me, for example, that the noise in the image bothers them, or that the colors are not to their liking, I always answer by saying that these do not bother me one bit, and that in fact I like them otherwise I would have made different aesthetic choices. They, as well as everyone else, have a choice when it comes to art and that is to not look at art that they do not like. I personally love my work and I have no desire to change it because someone does not like this or that. It is after all the nature of art that someone will dislike it, therefore by saying so those who do confirm that this aspect of art is alive and well.

Art is measured by how much emotion and pleasure it brings to us and to the viewer. I often say that if I do photography seriously and I am not having fun, something is wrong. I mean it. What is the point of doing something for fun if I am not having fun doing it? After all, no one forces me to do this. I do it because I want to, not because I have to. I do it because creating and sharing beautiful art makes life richer and more enjoyable.

Alain Briot

About Alain Briot
I create fine art photographs, teach workshops and offer DVD tutorials on composition, image conversion, optimization, printing and marketing. I am the author of Mastering Landscape Photography, Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available as printed books on and as eBooks on my website.

You can find more information about my work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to my Free Monthly Newsletter on my website. To subscribe simply go to and click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page. You will receive 40 free essays in eBook format immediately after subscribing.

I welcome your comments on this essay as well as on my other essays. You can reach me directly by emailing me at

Alain Briot

Monument Valley Avant Garde: How it was done

Monument Valley Avant Garde

I make it my challenge to photograph well known locations – icons as some people call them – in a new way. This is one of the reasons behind the ‘avant garde’ part of the title.  While I also photograph little known locations, I find it inspirational to photograph locations that are well known.  The challenge of seeing a location photographed by many with fresh eyes is a challenge that gives me motivation to create images that have not been done before, images that fit within a tradition while at the same time challenging this tradition.  The rebellious spirit that motivates this approach is part of my work.  It is assotiated with a focus on form and color, both of which are modified at will to fit my vision.

We visit this location during our Navajoland Workshop.  Here is next year’s Workshop description:

Best regards,

Alain Briot


Sunrise, Joshua Tree NP: How it was done

Sunrise, Joshua Tree National Park, California

The photograph above was taken during our Joshua Tree workshop this May. It is a single capture. Because of the dynamic range of the Phase One back that I use, and because of my processing technique, I was able to get details both in the shadows and highlights.

I initially wanted to do this image as a silhouette, the way I did in my previous visit to Joshua tree, but when I started processing the image I realized that the feeling of dawn breaking over the horizon would best be expressed by having some details in the shadows. Not a lot, but some, enough to give the feeling that night is breaking away, that we are starting to see into the shadows and that light is slowly filling the landscape, pushing away the cover of darkness and revealing details that could not be seen previously. I also want to express the feeling of warmth and color that comes with a late spring sunrise, as well as the transition between day and night.

This is why I made the top of the image a deep blue, dark enough to give the feeling of night breaking away, but not so dark that we feel it isn’t dawn yet. That’s also why I gave the lower portion of the sky, the part over the horizon, a yellow/pink/orange glow, to both echo the color of the sun rays and to contrast with the deep blue of the sky above. Color is very important in my work, and control of color is one of the aspects of digital processing that I enjoy the most and that I have learned to master over the many years I have been practicing photography.

Alain Briot

White Sands Gallery

White Sands & Bosque del Apache Gallery



About Alain Briot

Alain Briot creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers DVD tutorials on composition, image conversion, optimization, printing and marketing. Alain is the author of Mastering Landscape Photography. Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available on as printed books and as eBooks on Alain’s website at this link:

You can find more information about Alain’s work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to Alain’s Free Monthly Newsletter on his website at To subscribe simply go to and click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page. You will receive information on downloading the table of contents, plus over 40 free essays by Alain, immediately after subscribing. Alain welcomes your comments on this essay as well as on his other essays available. You can reach Alain directly by emailing him at

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona


Sunrise Reflections, Bosque del Apache – How I created this photograph

Sunrise Reflections, Bosque del Apache – How I created this photograph

Sunrise Reflections, Bosque del Apache – How I created this photograph

1 – How this photograph was created
Each time I visit Bosque del Apache I set it as a goal to take photographs without any birds. This was the first photograph I took that morning. When I created it I believed it would be the best image for that morning and it turned out to be so.

This photograph was taken during our just completed Bosque & White Sands Workshop. The sun was not up yet. I was so convinced that this was a strong image, a ‘keeper’ as they say, that I told the workshop participants that I had created my best image for that morning and that we could leave for breakfast now. Many participants joined me in capturing this scene.  Somehow I knew that this was a strong image, possibly the strongest image I was going to create that morning. How did I know? From experience taking tens of thousands of photographs over many years. In other words, because of practice.

I also don’t use a light meter on my manual camera, instead I set the f-stop and shutter speed based on my evaluation of the light level of the scene. After many years of doing so I have become quite good at it. Usually, I find the perfect exposure after 1 or 2 attempts. That morning I found it at my first attempt. In fact, the photograph above was the first exposure I took that morning. I saw it as a sign that this was a truly exceptional situation.

2 – Skill Enhancement Exercises
Practice finding out if you have a ‘keeper’, when you are working in the field, and when you first see the image on your LCD scren.
– Does doing this come naturally to you?
– Is it challenging?
– If yes, which aspect of this approach is the most challenging?

After returning to your studio, take a look back at the images you believed were ‘keepers.’
– Were you correct? Are these photograph as good as you thought they were once you convert and optimize them ?
– If you were not correct, why do you not like these images as much as you did in the field? What changed?
– If you were correct, what are the strong aspects of these images?
– What is it about them that makes them work visually?



Sunrise Reflections, Bosque del Apache

3 – About Alain Briot
Alain Briot creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers DVD tutorials on composition, image conversion, optimization, printing and marketing. Alain is the author of Mastering Landscape Photography. Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available on as printed books and as eBooks on Alain’s website at this link:

You can find more information about Alain’s work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to Alain’s Free Monthly Newsletter on his website at To subscribe simply go to and click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page. You will receive information on downloading the table of contents, plus over 40 free essays by Alain, immediately after subscribing. Alain welcomes your comments on this essay as well as on his other essays available. You can reach Alain directly by emailing him at

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona

Creativity Top 12

Creativity Top 12
How to stand out from the crowd 

Standing out among the ever-increasing number of photographers is becoming more and more difficult.  Gear and software are getting better and better.  Prices for photography hardware, software are consumables are getting more and more affordable.  Technical training is readily available. Information about locations that were once challenging to find is now just a google click away.

When everyone is photographing the same locations, knowing how to get to these locations is no longer an advantage.  When everyone has access to the same tools, and when these tools are both excellent and affordable, having these tools no longer gives us an advantage.  Mastering chemical photography involved owning gear that was expensive and  learning a process that was challenging. The large amount of time and money required to do this gave chemical photographers a significant advantage. Not so with digital.  While still expensive, digital photography gear is much more affordable than film-based gear.  Training, while still carrying a cost, is also much more affordable.  In addition, the number of teaching venues has literally exploded.

All this means that the advantage inherent in finding locations, owning equipment and knowing how to use it is no longer significant enough to create a noticeable difference between photographers.  As a result the gap between photographers is shriking and  it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out among the crowd. Furthermore, the number of photographers and the quality of their photographs is not only increasing, it is literally exploding.

However, being different is still possible.  The question is, how do you do it?  How do you stand out?  The answer is two folds.  First, you have to reconsider what are your true advantages.  It may be your personal experience, your background, your upbringing, a specific aspect of your training that nobody else has, a focus on art and technique rather than on technique alone, your connections, a unique expertise in a non-photographic field.  It may also be simply your attitude.

Second, in order to stand out in the environment that I just described you have to do things that the other photographers are not doing.  You have to create photographs that are different from everyone else.  Not because you used different gear and software, but because you used a different approach to creativity.

Creativity is the foundation that will enable you to create photographs that are different.  In turn, and over time, creativity will allow you to develop a photographic style that will be uniquely yours.  The development of a personal style and the demonstration of a personal vision are the ultimate goals.  By achieving these goals you will set yourself apart from the competition in a final manner.

These are long term goals and I address them during my workshops and in my Mastery Workshops on DVD tutorials.  In this essay my goal is to teach you how to become more creative.  Because creativity is a vast subject, I decided to narrow it down by writing a ‘Creativity Top 12’, a list of what I consider to be  the 12 most important aspects of creativity.  Here it is:

1 – Be interesting
Creativity is necessary to generate the interest of our audience and customers.  We will not generate their interest if we are not creative because people have become blasé about old ideas.  There are so many photographers out there that unless our work stands out as being interesting, different and unique we will not get much attention.

2 – Think differently
Being creative is about creating new things out of old things.  Taking old ideas that have proven to be effective in the past and re-inventing them by presenting them under a new appearance is the key to doing this successfully.

3 – Bring in the new
Creativity is an input-output, import-export business.  You can’t lock yourself in a room and expect to be creative all by yourself.  You have to be in contact with other artists and with other ways of doing things in order to foster creativity.  Think of this as a ‘creative think tank’ . The ‘water’ in the tank is the new ideas you bring in.  These new ideas that you bring in push out and replace the ‘old water’ that was previously in the tank.  By doing this regularly you have a constant flow of new ‘water,’ of new ideas.

4 – Get help
Learn from people who have solved problems similar to the ones you face.  Do not reinvent the wheel.  Instead, learn to use the wheel (metaphorically speaking) by studying with people who know how this is done.  The problem at hand here is how to create photographs that are different from everyone else.

5 – Set yourself free
You can’t be creative with your hands tied behind your back, metaphorically speaking.  To unleash your creativity you must cut yourself some slack.  To do so you need to decide what you are willing to do and not do in your work. Don’t be overly conservative.  Instead, push the boundaries and decide to do things you have not tried before or have hesitated doing until now.

6 – Ignore criticism
Creativity is fostered by self confidence.  You can’t be creative while being concerned with potential criticism at the same time.  In order to bring your creative ideas to life, you have to ignore criticism during the creative phase.  Their will be time to consider criticism later on, if and when it comes your way.

Sand Waterfall, Antelope Canyon, Arizona

7 – Get what you need
You need specific resources to give birth to your ideas.  These include classes, tutorials, tools and supplies.

8 – Engage your audience
You can’t be successful in a vacuum.  While your ideas don’t need to be interesting to everyone, they need to be interesting to your specific audience.  Engage in a dialogue with your audience.  Social media, blogging, live presentations, shows and personal conversations work well for this.

9 – Think simple
Simple ideas are easier to implement than complicated ideas.  Doing ‘simple’ is more difficult than doing ‘complicated.’  This is why most people do things complicated way. Learning to simplify takes time, but in the end it will save you massive amounts of time.  Saving time is the goal because we can’t make more time.  Therefore we need to learn how to use our time in the most efficient manner possible.

10 – Try it
Trying creative ideas is the key to success.  This is because there is other effective way of finding out which ideas will work and which ideas will not work. Only by trying new ideas will we find out which ideas work and which ideas do not work.

11 – Do it
Creativity means creating something, not just thinking of creating something!  This means that eventually you have to step up to the plate and get things done.  Create photographs, make prints, show your work to other people, write essays explaining why and how you do what you do and more.

12 – Defy authority
There’s ‘gurus’ out there that have been around and have achieved more than you have.  Just keep in mind that when they started these ‘gurus’ were in the same position you are in.  They were intimidated by  their own, older, ‘gurus.’  They hesitated to do things that had not been proven yet.  However, they succeeded because they did not let those ‘gurus’ intimidate them.  They defied authority and decided to do things their way. Do the same.

About Alain Briot
Alain Briot creates fine art photographs, teaches workshops and offers DVD tutorials on composition, image conversion, optimization, printing and marketing. Alain is the author of Mastering Landscape Photography. Mastering Photographic Composition, Creativity and Personal Style and Marketing Fine Art Photography. All 3 books are available on as printed books and as eBooks on Alain’s website at this link:

You can find more information about Alain’s work, writings and tutorials as well as subscribe to Alain’s Free Monthly Newsletter on his website at To subscribe simply go to and click on the Subscribe link at the top of the page. You will receive information on downloading the table of contents, plus over 40 free essays by Alain, immediately after subscribing. Alain welcomes your comments on this essay as well as on his other essays available. You can reach Alain directly by emailing him at

Alain Briot
February 2013

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Proust, Art and Photography

Proust, Art and Photography

 Thanks to art, instead of seeing one world only, our own, we see that world multiply itself
and we have at our disposal as many worlds as there are original artists.
Marcel Proust

1 – Introduction
I recently spent time reading Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, his most famous work, which was written in France at the beginning of the 20th century.

To say that Proust is difficult to read is an understatement.  A more accurate statement is that Proust is difficult to read. So much so that one of his readers, frustrated by the beginning of his book in which the first 17 pages are used to explain why he cannot sleep, wrote to him in despair asking to ‘please tell me what your book is about.’  Monthy Python made a sketch in which contest participants were asked to summarize Proust’s In Search of Lost Time in 30 seconds.  No one succeeded in doing it so the prize was given to the participant with the largest breasts.  This sketch points to the absurdidy that many assotiate with Proust’s work.

Reading Proust can certainly be challenging.  Yet, it can be rewarding as well.  More to the point in regards to photography, reading Proust can help us create better photographs. I know this probably sounds like an overstatement however it is not.  Let me explain.

The central concept in Proust’s work is the belief that while life goes on we are unable to bring back the true nature of past experiences intentionally. To better explain this inadequacy Proust separates memory in two categories: first, intentional memory which refers to that aspect of our memories that we access intentionally. Second, unintentional memory which refers to that aspect of our memories that we cannot access intentionally. Unintentional memories are emotional memories and we can only access indirectly. For Proust there are only two ways to access unintentional memories: through ‘chance’ events that are out of our control and occur accidentally and through art because art provides us with visions of the world that we could not otherwise access because they are those of artists and not ours.

For Proust intentional memories are simply ineffective at bringing back the true nature of an experience.  This is because the memories we are able to recall intentionally are essentially factual.  The aspects of life that we remember intentionally consist of places, events, names and other facts.  While those may be useful to describe a past event, they are ineffective at bringing back the true nature of that event. This is because only emotional memories can allow us to recall a past event in such a way that we can feel as if were living this event again.  The problem is that emotional memories are stored in our unconscious and can only be recalled by accidental events or by works of art.

Why art? Because Proust believed that art lives on forever and that its purpose is to bring an emotional response to the viewer.  Because of this emotional quality, art can bring back past experiences through unintentional memories and thereby allow us to relive past experiences to an extent equal, if not superior, to the original experience.

2 – Art as mnemonic device
It can therefore be said that art, for Proust, is a mnemonic device, a place where memories are stored and preserved.  Proust believed that trying to recall memories intentionally is futile and pointless and that memories can only be recalled two ways: first, accidentally through what he called ‘unintentional’ memories brought back by accidental events out of our control.  Second through art, because art is showing us the world as seen by another person, and as such is an unexpected, and unintentional, window onto the world as seen by that other person.  Art therefore is a reliable key to unlocking memories because unlike accidents, art is available all the time.  As evidence of the important art played in Proust’s life, over 100 works of art are listed in his oeuvre In Search of Lost time.

3 – Escape through art 

It is only through art that we can escape from ourselves and know how another person sees a universe
which is not the same as our own and whose landscapes would otherwise
have remained as unknown as any there may be on the moon.
Marcel Proust

As Proust says in the above quote, It is only through art that we can escape.  I believe that ‘escape’ for Proust did not mean avoidance of ourselves.  Instead, it meant going beyond the limitations of our intentional memory.  Proust was concerned, if not obsessed, with lost time, hence the title of his book: In Search of Lost time.  Proust believed that we cannot intentionally recollect memories because memories are not factual but, instead, emotional.  Therefore, the only way for Proust to recollect memories is through an emotional experience.  This experience cannot be created; it has to be accidental.  Art provides such an accidental event because art is a window onto another person’s view of the world, another person’s experience and memories.  As such art allows us to ‘escape’ the limitations of our own memories by providing an emotional ‘trigger’ that enables us to bring back what we forgot.

4- Why read Proust in the context of art?
Reading Proust while involved in artistic activities is helpful because Proust lived at the same time as the Impressionists.  The world that Proust describes in his novel is therefore the world that the Impressionists painted.  There is, in Proust’s writing, the essence of Impressionism and of other art movements.  There is the account of the life they lived and of the world they painted.  Therefore, reading Proust can, indirectly, help us understand Impressionism better.

Proust also lived at the time when Impressionism made room for Cubism, Surrealism, Dadaism, Fauvism and other art movements.  Proust socialized with the artists that were at the origin of these movements, artists such as Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Dali and many other.  Here too reading Proust can help us better understand these movements as well as the motivation of the artists who created them.

While the paintings created by the artists working in these different movements show us their visual representation of their world, Proust’s text gives us an intellectual representation of this world through the characters that fill the pages and through the descriptions and remarks that Proust makes about them.

5 – Proust and Photography

 Pleasures are like photographs: those taken in the beloved’s presence no more than negatives,
 to be developed later, once you are at home, having regained the use of that interior darkroom,
access to which is ‘condemned’ as long as you are seeing other people.
Marcel Proust
A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur (Within a Budding Grove)

 Proust is a latent image. His unconscious memories are waiting to be developed.  This was done by writing his book.  Because his book, when we reach the last page, calls for a second reading, it can be said, to paraphrase Ansel Adams, that the book is the score and our reading of the book  is the performance. While the text of the book stays the same, each new reading produces a slightly different understanding, or performance if you will.

Similarly, we are latent images ourselves when it comes to memory because we all have unconscious memories waiting to be developed.  These memories can be ‘developed’ or made ‘visible’ accidentally through ‘happy events or accidents’ that occur unwillingly.  Or, they can be made ‘visible’ as well with a certain level of control by developing a passion for the arts.  While through our own experience we can only have one vision of the world -ours- through art we can have as many visions as there are artists, each work of art presenting either the vision of a different artist or a slightly different version of the vision of a specific artist.

Art therefore provides a path to our unconscious memory by presenting us with emotions, expressed in a variety of medium, be it visual, auditory, olfactory or other.  While we may have experienced some of the emotions that art presents us with,  we would have been unable to recall these experiences consciously.  This is because our conscious memory is logical and therefore only able to recall places, names, events and other factual information.  However, the emotions attached to these facts and events are stored in our unconscious memory.  Unfortunately, we do not have access to it through intentional recollection and trying to bring back these memories intentionally is both futile and frustrating.  Only through accidental events and through the admiration of art can these memories be brought back.  At such times our logical mind gives way to an emotional response and it is through this emotional response that unintentional memories are recalled.  It is in that sense that we are latent images ourselves, or latent memories if you prefer, and it is through this process that these latent memories are ‘developed’ and made accessible, or visible, to us again.

6 – The challenges Proust offers to the reader

A – The book is composed of seven books
In Search of Lost Time is not the title of the book but the title of the oeuvre.  This oeuvre is divided in 7 volumes, each with a unique title,  as follows:

1 – Du cote de chez Swann (Swann’s Way)
2 – A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleur (Within a Budding Grove)
3 – Du Cote de Guermantes (Guermante’s Way)
4 – Sodome et Gomorrhe (Sodom and Gomorrah)
5 – La Prisoniere (The Prisoner)
6 – La Fugitive (The Fugitive)
7 – Le Temps Retrouve (Time Regained)

B – The last book ends where the first book begins.
At the end of book seven (Time Regained) the writer understands his life’s purpose and decides to write the seven books we just read.  This means we have to start all over again, at page one of book one and read all seven volumes a second time, this time with the awareness of the writer’s goal.

C – The number of characters is very large.
The number of  characters featured in the book is so large that it is difficult to remember them all and to make sense of all the relationships among them.

D – Locations and characters are organized spatially
The characters are organized in a spatial fashion, essentially around how Proust visits them.  When he goes out of his Aunt’s house in Combray, if he goes through the gate on the right side of the property he goes to Swann’s house because the right side gate leads to the side of Swann’s house.  To go through the other gate would mean making a huge detour and therefore being impractical and senseless. This fact gives us the title of book 1: Swann’s Way, a literal translation of the original French title.

The same approach is used for the second book, Guermante’s Way. Here Proust leaves the house at Combray through the left side which provides the most direct path to Guermantes’ house.

Another example of spatial organization is during Proust’s recovery when he goes to the ‘Champs Elysees’ which in the book means the gardens located at the bottom of the Champs Elysees, just before the Champs de Mars, and not the avenue itself contrary to what the term means today. Here the location is where Proust meets with his nurse and therefore the place comes to represent the person.  However, the name of this person also represents the place because the name of the person brings back memories of the events that took place there.  People and places are thus another form of latent image, because through their names one can recall memories of things past.

E – Proust writing style is extensive
Another challenge is Proust’s writing style, which is extensive, sometimes having a single sentence run for an entire page or longer.  Part of the reason for this style is Proust’s dislike for common or ‘dead’ metaphors, metaphors that have been overused and have lost their ability to surprise us and to create an emotional response when we hear them.  It is said that Proust would go into a rage, one of the few instances in which he would lose his composure, when presented with dead metaphors, and that he would complain about the speaker’s or writer’s lack of imagination and about the worthlessness of their prose, or speech, as the case might be.  Proust’s solution was to create his own original metaphors.  The problem is that he does so by constructing extremely long and complex sentences, which, as I mentioned, occasionally run for a page or more.

But there is another purpose, and outcome, for Proust’s writing style and that is to cause us to become immersed in the text, to forget what the exact context is, and to generate the type of dream-like state that is most propitious to recalling unconscious memories.  I therefore believe that his style helps achieve the very goal that his book sets to achieve, and that the difficulty of reading the text is, metaphorically representative of the difficulty of recalling emotional memories.

Just like we cannot recall such memories intentionally, neither can we benefit and enjoy Proust’s prose intentionally, by applying ourselves and being ‘studious’ readers.  Doing so is futile, no amount of ‘studiousness’ can allow us to read Proust without losing track of what we are reading at some point.  Instead, a better way to read Proust is by to let our mind wander as we read.  A better way is to let go of our concerns for lengthiness, to put aside our resentment for his overly complex prose, and to let the text flow in us, as if individual words were events leading collectively to the recollection of forgotten memories.  It is then, in my opinion, that we can truly appreciate his work and benefit from his message.

Proust’s prose works well for me when read that way. I often read Proust as if it was disconnected from the story, enjoying each word and each sentence  for the memories and the emotions it brings back to me.  I do not try to understand the story, or to follow the ‘plot’, if plot there is, because for me those are secondary in importance.  Instead, I approach the text as poetry, reading single lines as if they were precious in and out of themselves. Rather than try to understand the story told by Proust, if story there is, Proust’s writing creates my own story, the story of memories lost and found again through his prose.

7 – Conclusion
Proust understood that all human experiences are exposed to the destructive effects of time.  As a result, over time the memories associated with past experiences fade away until they are totally forgotten.  Furthermore, attempts to bring back these memories are futile and bound to be unsuccessful.

However, and this is the discovery that Proust brings us in his novel, these memories are stored in our subconscious.  While they are not available to us through intentional efforts, they can be recalled through the enjoyment of a work of art. For Proust art is therefore a “translation” of our worldly experiences.  Through art these experiences are transformed into ‘something’ — be it a painting, a musical piece, or other —  that can be accessed by anyone if we take the time to appreciate works of art.

As artists Proust’s discovery is highly valuable to us because it brings a new importance to the creation of a work of art.  Knowing what Proust discovered gives a new purpose to art.  Art is not just about aesthetics, or about sharing intellectual ideas, or about expressing artistic visions.  Art is also about providing a vehicle to help bring back forgotten memories, memories released through the emotional experience of appreciating a work of art.

Proust therefore brings us good news and bad news.  The bad news is that time is our enemy because it causes us to forget our experiences.  The good news is that time can be defeated because these memories are stored in our subconscious and we can recall them, either accidentally or through the contemplation of art.  Dipping a madeleine into a cup of tea can bring back memories associated with a past event. Similarly, admiring a work of art can give us a glimpse into how another person perception of the world and, in turn, surprise us by bringing back memories we thought were long gone.

Alain Briot
Vistancia, Arizona
December 2012

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