What is VC and Why Does it Matter?

October 21, 2018

With image making tech advancing rapidly and high-res devices becoming increasingly affordable, the distinguishing features between amateur and professional photography are not always easy to discern.  However, one element which I found that distinguishes the two is what I have come to refer to as VC. It is the stand out feature between the raws coming out of the image making devices of a pro and an amateur, even if both  use the the exact same gear.   

If you haven’t guessed what VC stands for yet, it is simply the initials for Variety of Composition.  This is the je ne sais quoi or elusive quality that I have found that clearly separates professionals and amateur photography card inventory. VC does not only refer to the obvious differences between a road-side snapper and an image-making pro who takes time in setting up a composition but more specifically refers to the variety of compositional content that emerges from the camera of a professional photographer. In other words, for a professional photographer, a single landscape scene has endless opportunities that will give a potential editor a myriad of choices for one vista or single wildlife subject.  Moreover, pros are usually able to fully extract this compositional content variety somewhat quickly before moving on to the next scene.

A good example of VC can be found in the daily work of acclaimed professional photographer Art Wolfe. In his blog, one can find images from his most recent shoots.  A standout feature of his content has always been the plethora of compositional variation.  Regardless of whether he is photographing nature, exotic cultures, wildlife, landscapes, or fine-art, the subjects are presented from every conceivable compositional perspective.  

Upon carefully examining a pro’s work, it quickly becomes evident that the defining element is not the gear but rather the professional’s ability to see the endless compositional options presented by a scene or subject.  This is not to say that other factors also play an important role in professional photography but VC is among the most significant elements that distinguish amateurs from professionals.  Although VC can eventually become second nature, keeping a small note card in your backpack with VC options is not a bad idea. The VC of pros may indeed sound overwhelming or a bit high-brow to many happy shooters but keeping VC in mind can certainly go a long way to improving the raws emanating from your next camera card.  Below is some of my recent work, including a video and a set of stills, in which VC played a key role in photographing a single subject: Alaska Bald Eagles.