More Things I've Learned From Being a Photographer
Since writing an article last week on things I've learned over the years as a photographer, a number of additional ideas have come up that would have deserved inclusion. At this point, it seemed only fair to publish a sequel.
Photography is all about tradeoffs and compromises. Stop down for greater depth of field and you'll need to shoot at a slower shutter speed and risk motion blur. Or pump up the ISO and risk noise. Do you spend a lot of money on a new lens, or do you save up for that dream trip you've always wanted to take? Many of the choices you make will have an impact on other potential choices, limiting some, forcing others. In some cases. the ability to choose wisely comes from experience. In other cases, there may be no good choice, and you'll need to decide what to sacrifice. Sometimes, your best choice may be to spend your time on a different subject.
A good tripod is probably the best purchase you can make for landscape photography. It is probably the worst purchase you can make if you are interested in street photography. There's simply no way you can take long exposure images at sunset without a good, stable tripod. There's simply no way to discretely shoot images on a busy street corner if you're lugging around too much gear. Me, I use a tripod.
Buying a good camera won't necessarily make you a better photographer. Practice, and attention to detail will make you a better photographer.
Using good camera equipment is important. Having a good eye is more important. Learn to use your camera gear, but not at the expense of learning to see. You need to be open to seeing what is in front of you without judgement or labeling.
Think before you shoot, while there's still an opportunity to tweak your composition or your settings. It is indeed possible to fix some things after the fact with software, but it's generally much harder, and probably not as much fun as shooting.
The back of your camera features an LCD screen for a reason. Don't be afraid to use it if you need to verify whether you nailed a shot or not. "Chimping" is only a bad habit if it serves no purpose.
Compose for the full frame available. Cropping later wastes some of the megapixels you paid for.
Photography can be either a documentary endeavor or a creative one. I prefer creative shooting. If you work for a major newspaper, you might disagree with me. I have no problem with that.
Every photo is a self-portrait since it represents your point of view. Failure to realize this won't make it less true. The lack of a compelling point of view can be just as evident.
You don't need to travel to distant lands to take good images. Indeed, you are more likely to find a unique, personal take on subjects closer to home. Unless you count on luck, your best images will probably be of subjects you know well.
If you find a good foreground, look for a background to pair with it. If you like the potential of a given background, try to figure out what you can place in the foreground to provide added impact. Take a bit of time to see if you can combine more than one element in the same image. But if you suddenly find yourself surrounded by magical light, shoot as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Such light won't last long. Make the most of it.
It is quite possible to take good photos in bad weather. Just be careful and take reasonable precautions for the weather while you attempt to do so.
You are unlikely to be good at shooting every kind of subject. Don't ask me to shoot your wedding.
Make use of the entire frame. Or at least make sure the parts you don't care about don't compete for attention with the parts you do care about.
You will experience dry spells. It's not the fact that this happens that matters, it's how you react to dry spells that can make the difference. Dig deep. Try something new.
Not everyone will like your favorite images. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That's just the way it goes.
It's impossible to learn without making mistakes. If you only ever tackle "safe" subjects in ways you are comfortable shooting, your work will be repetitive, and you won't learn anything new. You have to be willing to push yourself. Maybe not all the time, but at least some of the time. Shoot the safe stuff, but then try something new.
Share what you know with people you know. Share what you know with people you don't know too. It will not only help them, it will help you too. There's no better way to really learn something that to teach it to someone else.
Profile your monitor. Learn at least enough about color management to get by. There's simply no end to the frustration you will encounter until you deal with at least the basics of color management.
Revisit your old images. If enough time has passed, you will probably find that much of your earlier work wasn't really all that good. But another way of looking at this is to realize how far you've come as a photographer.
Develop a system for organizing and cataloging your images. The sooner the better. It can take a great deal of effort to dig yourself out if you put this off too long.
Try not to let the day to day chores in life prevent you from getting out and making good images. But don't allow your photography to get in the way of enjoying your life. Try to strike a balance.
There's always more to learn. Learning is growing. And that's a good thing.