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Photo Tip of the Week

Express Yourself

You've learned all the composition rules you've learned but still struggle with getting the killer images you've anticipated. Maybe it's time to leap into the unknown.

Countless books have been written about photography. Most of us have benefited from reading at least a few. You can learn all sorts of things from books that can help make you a better photographer. Stop for a second and consider what it would have been like to buy a modern camera and try to figure it out with no help. Everyone knows that you point it at things and press a button, but why are there so many buttons and controls? If you stick with automatic modes, you could probably work out the basics of shooting if given enough time. If you accidentally switch to manual exposure, your challenge will increase exponentially, but let's suppose you avoid that complication. You'd be in for an uphill battle, regardless.

And your problems wouldn't stop once you figured out the whole exposure and focus thing. Merely pointing the camera at something and successfully pressing the right button is unlikely to result in overly compelling images. All I need do is look at some of my earliest images to confirm that. Let's just say there was room for improvement.

Whether you start by reading manuals and books, or you only turn to them when you get stuck, it's nice to know you can rely on the advice of experts. It can save you a lot of time and frustration. But there's a problem with this approach. All this advice is just a laundry list of general rules when reality only comes in specifics. All this advice can get you in the ballpark, but it won't substitute for your personal way of seeing things. Follow everything outlined in a photography textbook, and you'll be well-positioned to write one. Learn to see the world as your camera does, and you'll be on your way to being a photographer and to getting the images you want.

It isn't enough to take a picture of something interesting. A good image should express a point of view about that thing — your point of view. Once you know you're in the ballpark, set the rules aside, and express yourself.

Date posted: September 13, 2020


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