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Want To Be A Better Photographer? Here are some of my helpful hints!!

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by gryphon1911, Jan 9, 2015.

  1. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA
    Andrew
    Here are my tips and it's probably not what you are thinking. I'm not going to sit here and show you sample images and lighting diagrams or sell you on a specific piece of equipment.

    Let's be honest with each other for a minute and remove ourselves from the wants, the marketing hype and the BS we see online. Marketers have a job and that is to get you to buy new stuff all the time. Getting new gear is exciting, but make sure you are buying for the right reason. The right reason is defined by me as getting something that will help you solve a problem, or make your life easier. By all means, if you have money to blow and just want to buy stuff, feel free. It's your money and I have no control over you.

    An example of getting the right gear might be buying a basic strobe kit(light stand, umbrella adapter, shoot through umbrella) and an SB-26 to learn about off camera lighting or to give you a key/fill light to enhance your portrait work.
    Shall we get down to it? What's are some ways to be a better photographer - in no particular order.

    Understand and master the basics
    So many people do not understand the most basic of things, and without that knowledge as a base, you lose out on so much. Make sure that you understand exposure - the interplay between the ISO, aperture value and shutter speed. Understand what happens when you have a fast shutter speed versus a slow shutter speed and what that means to your subjects. Understand that DOF changes not only with the aperture value, but also with the aperture value, focus distance and focal length. Know what image stabilization is and when it is useful and when it won't matter at all.

    Get a working knowledge of at least one good post processing package and come to the understanding that the post processing part of photography is just as important as the image capture part. It was true back in the glass plate and film days and it still holds true for digital today.

    With a grasp of the basics, you'll have a great foundation to move into more specific types of photography. You'll be able to concentrate on the shoot, the composition, the connection between photographer and subject and spend less time chimping or guessing what is going on and fine tuning the exposure.

    It's not about the gear, it's about your ability to use it.
    Everyone falls in love with their gear at some point. Nothing wrong with that. What is a problem is when people get all "brand loyal" and find the need to defend the brand they bought. They feel they need to justify their purchase by proclaiming what they bought is the best.
    I don't care if Joe McNally shoots with Nikon, Scott Kelby shoots with Canon or Bob Whatsisname shoots with Fuji or Olympus.

    Bottom line here is that just about any interchangeable camera system out today is plenty capable of producing great results. They may work slightly different and have slightly different strengths/weaknesses. Just do your homework, determine what your shooting requirements are and get the best gear for you that you can afford.

    For me, I shoot very fast and at times my subjects or scenes will develop very quickly in front of me. My requirements for street and event photography make AF speed and camera function speed of top importance.

    Requirements for landscape photographers or in studio portrait photographers will be different. Again, buy accordingly.

    While we are on the subject - just as a side note - it is generally a best practice to buy what you need versus what you want. You'll acquire less "stuff" and have more viable "tools". I see this a lot in off camera lighting gear and accessories purchases. Try not to fall into that trap. This is when having a good network of photographer friends comes in handy. Get together and check out the latest gear someone bought or go out on a photo walk and ask to try it out. Great hands on experience without the cost. Renting is also a good option to consider.
    Figure out what you like to shoot and be the best at it you can.
    No one can be a master of every type of photography. It's just not realistic. Determine the type of photography you love and be the best you can be at that. For me, it is portrait and event photography. For others it might be nature or sports.

    Never stop learning.
    Every day, I try and learn something new. I subscribe to blogs, read books, go to seminars and workshops, talk with others. I believe that whenever you stop learning, you will stagnate. Learning helps keep the ideas fresh and gives you time to experiment.

    Study other photographers and artists to help you cultivate a style.
    There are some photographers that have images I could look at everyday. Looking at others images or art can inspire you to look at things in a different way. It can give you ideas of how you might want to change up your compositions or angles.

    Practice, practice, practice.
    I learned from Jay Maisel, a commercial and street photographer out of NYC, that you need to do "visual pushups" everyday. I always have a camera of some sort with me at all times and if I see something that I want to photograph, I do. Everyday will not always provide you with an image that is worth a damn, but going through the process will help keep your eye and instincts sharp.

    Henri Cartier Bresson once said that "Your first 10,000 images are your worst". By this I believe he meant that your first 10,000 images are your playground - your learning curve. They are where you are going to learn to master your exposure and composition, figure out what you like to shoot and get to grip with your gear.

    Catalog your images and review them.
    Cataloging will allow you to go back later and study what you've shot. Find the images you took that you love and determine what made them your favorites. You'll be able to see what exposure settings you used, focal lengths, angles and what not.

    And by the way, I do practice what I preach. I started taking some painting classes to help broaden my skill sets. :D
     
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  2. AlanU

    AlanU Mu-43 Veteran

    484
    May 2, 2012
    I think what many newer photogs are not aware of perspective. Many fail to see that using a zoom in a lazy manner will flick their wrist and frame the shot ...press the shutter button.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jFMqmp2pYg

    There are times you play it safe with typical perspective for "normal" looking photos. This is fine but this can turn into boring photos. Sometimes if you look at someone taking up close photo of an antique fence showing details of the hinge this may appear compelling because this is a different perspective since your normally not looking at such details in real life. Sometimes shooting wide angle but getting close to the subject will produce a grandeur back ground accentuating the subject with minor distortion.

    This is where using primes force you to learn composition with a somewhat fixed perspective. Use your experience and now shoot a zoom but foot zoom equally as much as changing focal lengths. This is where you have all kinds of perspective on tap. What can happen is using primes forces you to compose with your feet while newbies may get lost in the viewfinder loosing the views of "perspective" in a zoom lens. Many will zoom and frame the shot with minimal use of moving the camera/subject distance. Next time you go shooting with a zoom and analyze your behaviour......it's extremely common to get lazy. If your limited in foot zooming (airshows, BIF "bird in flight", sports etc) this is a different discussion because you not able to change your subject/camera distance.

    For portraiture this perspective thing usually is kept "normal" for general acceptance. However shooting events this is where it changes the "feel" of the documentation. A 35m or 50mm prime without working the camera can be potentially be "boring" if the subject matter isn't eye candy. This is where you can have great street photography due to the nature of capturing images as they occur photo journalistic style. However normal mundane street images with normal perspective can be very boring. If your shooting portraits this is where the subject matter and skills of how the photographer poses makes a compelling image. Event photography is where you must take every opportunity in getting the money shot or document as it occurs. This is where perspective can change the dynamics of the feel of the image even though the subject matter isn't "wow" however if there's great subject matter the perspective give you a different "feel".

    As you can see I haven't even mentioned dof/aperture. It's up to the photog to determine when they want to isolate subjects with shallow dof. I find the m43 provide enough shallow dof for this purpose. This is expecially very common is to see bokeh junkie's as they are newbies to photography. However this is every individual's choice not a rule of thumb of how a photog should shoot. This is where a loss of subject background looses story telling abilities. Choose wisely.....

    Looking at other photog's work can be inspirational but bottom line is you'll find your style within. You'll find your style will vary and change through the years.

    With all that chatter.... go and look at your favourite photog's blog/website. Analyze the images and see what draws your attention... bokeh? perspective? extremely attractive models? analyze what you like and incorporate that into your style.

    Just remember it's easy to be a lazy photographer. If you push yourself to "work" the camera by foot zooming regardless of what lens you'll see a change.

    I dare you to try it...... it'll change your vision........
     
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