Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Things I have learned as a photographer

Everyone should compile a list like this just to gain an understanding of where they have come from so they can appreciate how far they have come. It is a simple thing to do really… just think back to the beginning of your adventure in photography and itemize all of those Aha moments you have experienced.

My list is really easy to compile. So here it is; "The fifty-five things I have learned that help me be a better photographer".

1. A better camera does not always mean better pictures. Many times I have seen some of the best photos captured with a cheap little point and shoot camera or even a phone.

2. Experiment. Ask yourself "What if?" all the time. What if I get down on the ground? What if I get closer? What if I apply this filter in photoshop? This is how you learn on your own.

3. Experimentation is best done on your own time. In-other-words don't commit to something, especially if you are being paid, if you have not successfully done it before without fully disclosing to customer your lack of experience

4. Shoot for yourself. Photography, like all other forms of art, is strictly objective. Unless you are shooting a commissioned piece, shoot for yourself. Do not disregard criticism completely, but rather use that criticism as a way learning new ways of doing things, as different perspective. Most importantly do not take criticism to mean you are not a good photographer. On the other side of the coin;

5. Never compare other people's work to your own. Treat each piece as a unique piece of art. You wouldn't compare a Van Gogh to a Jackson Pollack.

6. The only two things a photographer cannot have enough of: Batteries and Patience.

7. Three lenses that will allow you to shoot anything, anywhere, anytime: 50mm f/1.8, 17-50mm f/2.8 and a 500mm telephoto. Everything can be shot with these three lenses.

8. Take a camera everywhere. This does not mean take your DSLR, all lenses, flashes and tripod. This means at least carry a point and shoot with you at all times. Even if you may not get the shot you want, you can take a visual record of a place or event to revisit in the future.

9. Take a notepad and pencil with you everywhere you go and especially everywhere you photograph. Make notes on lighting, subjects, objects and or places of interest. Make notes on specific settings you use while shooting.

10. Photography will not make you famous.

11. Don't shoot anything that isn't of interest to you. If you do not find people interesting, your photos of people probably won't be interesting, regardless of how "good" you are.

12. Allow your emotions to help your photography. Let's face it, photography is art and art is meant to create emotion in the viewer. If you are having a bad day, good day, emotional rollercoaster of day or just a blah day, allow what you are feeling to be conveyed in the work you are doing.


14. Believe in your talents.

15. Unless you are shooting action shots like sports, children and active wild-life (where they tend not to take the time to perform just for you), take the time to compose. Composition makes or breaks a shot.

16. Use software as a tool, not as a crutch.

17. Wherever you are going and whatever you are doing, always take the time to observe.

19. Know your camera. If you don't know it; learn it.

20. It is always the photographer who makes the image what it is, not the camera. Take ownership of that.

21. Always dress for the weather; plus one extra layer just in case.

22. Print your images 8x10 or larger. The results will impress you.

23. Write about photography. Keep a journal of your advendures in photography. Writing in and of itself is a learning process and in writing about photography you will find there is still a lot to learn.

24. Know your light.

25. If you have an idea that you don't think will work; try it. In the age of digital, it is relatively free.

26. Take photos of yourself. You are a model that doesn't cost anything.

27. Always carry a tripod, you may need it.

28. Get your camera off the tripod! Sometimes it is the only way to get the shot.

29. Take the time to observe the place you are shooting before shooting.

30. Set realistic goals. To do this, learn about the trade. Learn about the industry. Use this knowledge to set goals for yourself that are achievable.

31. Take care of your equipment. For without it you are as useful as a painter without a brush or a pianist without a piano.

32. Join a local photo group. If one does not exist, form one and lead it.

33. As your own worst critic, be kind to yourself.

34. Study other people's styles, but develop your own and stick to it. Although your style will change over the years, it should continually be changing, but it should be yours. Would you want to watch the same movie over and over? How about read the same book over and over and over again? People don't want to look at the same photos or photo styles over and over either. They want variety and most of all; they want to see something new.

35. Learn to harness your creative energies. If you seem to be running low it is probably because you are in a rut. Do something different. Anything at all, but different.

36. When you are asked to criticize, be kind but be truthful.

37. Get out and shoot. There are 100 million excuses to not go shooting, but excuses are like armpits. Everyone has a couple and they usually stink so get out there.

38. Don't be afraid to expose yourself a little (not literally as this may get your photo taken at the local police station). Show the world a little about who you are in every photo you take.

39. Learn how to use your histogram. Can I get an Amen?

40. Always... and I repeat; Always... shoot in Camera RAW.

41. A good photographer doesn't just pick up a camera one day and shoot prize winning photographs. It takes time and practice to become a good photographer.

42. If you are approaching photography properly, the best photo is the photos you will take tomorrow.

43. Learn the rules of photography first, then;

44. Learn when it is okay break the rules of photography. Rules are not laws. Therefore, rules are meant to be broken.

45. Don't dwell on your failures. Learn from them and move on to the next. Always looking forward and drawing on the past only to improve.

46. People in a photograph can make many photographs better. People can add scale, character and life to an otherwise bland scene. Don't be afraid or frustrated about people in an area where you are going to be photographing.

47. When given praise for your photographs, accept the praise for what it is; someone likes your talent. Look the person in the eye and say, "Thank you, I am happy you enjoyed it".

48. As the saying goes, "Even the most important person in the world has to sit on the toilet at some point." Even the most successful photographer has embarrassing moments in photography. Not all of Ansel Adams' works were masterpieces; we only get to see the ones that were.

49. When commenting on someone else's photograph try letting the person what in particular you like about photograph. It doesn't have to sound sophisticated, but it will be much more appreciated that "Wow" or "Beautiful".

50. Regardless of your accomplishments, there will always be people around that do not appreciate your work. Whether it is your style, subject or you personally, someone is not going to like the work you produce. Focus on those that do appreciate it, but don't ignore those that don't as they are your path for growth.

51. Clouds make a sky more interesting.

52. Snapshot is a bad word to a photographer.

53. HDR has its place. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

54. Never delete a photograph off your camera. Wait to preview on your monitor it when you get home. The little LCD on the back of the camera will never do an image justice.

55. Don't be lazy! If it was easy it wouldn't be worth doing because everyone would be doing it.

There you have it. The fifty-five things I have learned about photography. I hope that you found at least one these useful.

Until next time... happy clicking!

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