This isn’t so much a blog post as a summary of my talk on 20th March 2014 to TOGSQuad, a new-ish Derby photography group founded by Victoria Wilcox, the Picture Editor at the Derby Telegraph. The group has photographers at all levels of ability and here I aim to be an antidote to the notion that spending hard-earned money on fancy equipment is a sensible way to make better pictures. So here are the images and captions, and below is a summary of the points made:
Post processing isn’t inherently unnatural or dishonest
In the good old days of film you had to choose a the contrast level and the exposure in the darkroom. It was also normal to crop and to dodge and burn to deal with highlights and shadows. You still do. You may find Photoshop intimidating (it’s beyond me), but iPhoto on the Mac, the camera manufacturer’s software of Picasa (Mac and PC), and Snapseed (iOS and Android) will provide a simple and free introduction.
Is your camera good enough?
- Probably – look at the Flickr Camera Finder – find your own camera – and see what others are achieving with it.
- Are you making the most of it? Do you know how the features work? Have you gone through the menus?
- And practice, practice practice! Do you know which way the dial moves to open the aperture or do you fiddle? If you use auto exposure can you deal with tricky lighting quickly?
Learn from your rejects
Some typical faults:
- Dull, boring pictures
- Chopping off legs and arms
- Funny faces
- Not close enough
- Negative space
- Technical fault (focus, movement)
- Burned out sky
- Distracting background
Less that 5% of my rejects would be fixed with a better camera.
Analyse your rejects and apply suitable remedies, for example:
- Get closer
- Select moment
- Change position
- Shoot square
- Engage, direct the subject
- Further away
- Up the ISO and if need be
- … hide noise in B&W
- Find out how the camera works!
- Practice, practice, practice
- Check in camera
- Get up / down
- Get closer
Always carry a camera:
Lots of fun things happen every day in the street. It doesn’t need to be a fancy camera – you may not want to cart a bulky DSLR round all the time. Magic juxtapositions don’t just happen. You need to find element 1 and wait for element 2 to appear.
Keep your eyes open, look up and learn to see what the camera will see, not what you see.
Light is magic and free:
Low light is generally more interesting. With high, soft light black and white may work better. Know how the sun moves with time (left to right in the Northern hemisphere, 15 degrees per hour) and the seasons. If you want, play with The Photographer’s Ephemeris to see how a favourite place will be lit. When you see lovely light, keep the camera in your hand. Shooting by candle-light is possible – crank up the ISO.
What do YOU want to say?
Once you’ve mastered the camera’s operation, lighting and composition then what’s your project? What I did on my holidays? Life in multicultural Derby? A year in the garden? Something that will give you, say, a dozen images to show.
And finally – Artists Statements:
I don’t understand them either. Make your own at artybollocks.com