Monday, December 29, 2014

Want To Be A Better Photographer?

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.

One of the things I like about doing this blog is that I an not sponsored or paid by anyone.  I don't get free stuff from anyone and I have no allegiance to anyone but myself and the clients that pay me for the work I'm hired to do.

Shall we get down to it?  What's the best way 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 on 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 "fanboy" 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.
  • 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 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.  Not everyday will 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, 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.

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