With this in mind, I would strongly suggest you read the entire article, even if you are an average amateur, just to refresh yourself on the mental side of photography. I’ve never written an article on my thoughts while taking pictures, but I think it’s great because it’s not like your everyday photography tip article.
So read on for a few secrets along with a few photos of course.
Learn to see creatively
The best way to learn to see creatively is to take more pictures. The reason is that the more pictures you take and the more time you spend on your photography, the more you start to see things that you would normally never see. A true photographer, or artist’s eye, sees shapes, patterns, light, and color while walking down the ally or down the street. For example, imagine I took a picture of a railroad track at night in a big city:
I see a good picture because of 1) the light reflecting off the metal 2) the color contrast between the wood and the metal 3) the strong diagonal lines of the track leading from edge to edge. Before I learned how to see creatively, I probably walked over those railroad tracks a million times and never looked the way I do now. All these things added together to make a great picture for the eye. That’s good and all, but, the photo is missing a strong message. It doesn’t convey a strong enough feeling/emotion when one sees the picture. To get it, you must:
moment in mind
If the following makes any sense, I believe everyone has the ability to see creatively in their own personal way. Seeing creatively, in my opinion, is about freeing your mind and getting in touch with your feelings. These feelings drive powerful photographs. And if you can connect your brain, eyes, and camera with your feelings, you’ve just opened a door to the potential for you to become a great photographer.
You want people to experience your photos; To get a strong emotional response because it’s all about feeling, impact, and structural composition of an image. There are a few key steps to improve the feel and impact of your photos, turning them into memorable masterpieces It’s definitely not as easy as you think and definitely not something you can learn in a few hours or a few days. This can take weeks, months, and sometimes years. How much time and dedication you put into taking photos and learning photography is up to you. When you’re out shooting and see something you want to photograph, stop and ask yourself these three questions:
Why do I want to take this picture?
What is the main message of the picture?
How am I going to take pictures effectively?
Keep asking yourself these three questions before you press the shutter and, I promise you, your photos will improve. Let me explain the question in more detail:
The question “Why do I want to take this picture” forces you to explain your feelings. You stopped taking pictures because you “felt” it might be a good picture. But why? Did it happen because the light was good? Did something extraordinary happen there? The more you ask yourself why and the more you answer why the more you begin to feel the moment and see creatively. Remember, it’s about feeling and communicating that feeling to the audience.
So now that you know why you want to take the photo, you need to ask yourself, “What is the main message of the photo?” This question will further refine the first question, helping you determine the real subject whether it is a delicate shape and color or a person whose face tells the story of a life-long journey of struggle. Whatever it is, it prepares you for the next question:
“How am I going to take the picture effectively?” Well, you can start by thinking about the first two questions and what their answers were. Imagine this as an example:
Say you’re sitting in a car at a red light and see a man crossing the street. You think it might make a good photo, so you ask yourself “why” and answer “because the sky is turning red and the time is right.” So you quickly ask yourself the next question, “What is the main message of the photo” and answer “To get the feel and mood of an urban sunset.” After that, you quickly pull out the camera (shame on you for not having it already) and ask yourself the final question; “How am I going to take the picture effectively?” You struggle at first, but then you realize that timing is everything. So you quickly compose the shot, frantically make sure the buildings are roughly aligned using the rule of thirds, and wait until the guy crossing the street is in the middle of the blinding sun, creating a great editorial-like silhouette.
These three questions will become second nature to you and soon you will find yourself subconsciously asking and answering these questions. Just remember, using your creative eye and brain to connect your feelings together through your photographs will create amazing, memorable photos.
Amazing photos and book study
Granted, I am by no means an amazing photographer, just an average amateur, but I believe that if you want to take good pictures, you can, and you can do it without going to school. I am self-educated in everything I do, photography being my main passion. A big influence for me is the amazing pictures. You can learn a lot by studying them and determining what makes a great photo by asking yourself the same three “why”, “what” and “how” questions mentioned above. I sometimes spend hours just analyzing the photos, enjoying and extracting the elements that make them a memorable photos. Go to sites like Flickr, Photo.net, 500px, and 1X because they don’t just have photos, they have amazing photos. Especially the 1X. Look at photos that interest you and ask yourself why they interest you. Just start studying them, and read people’s reactions to the photos. Learn all there is to know.
If you want to learn through books and read something good, I would recommend picking up at least 3 of the 5 books mentioned here as all 5 books have had a significant impact on my photography:
Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman
Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: Taking Great Photographs with Any Camera by Brian Peterson
Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 by Scott Kelby
The Hot Shoe Diaries: Little Flash to Big Light by Joe McNally
Cameras by Ansel Adams and Robert Baker (Ansel Adams Photography, Book 1)
Did you notice that I picked 5 books on 5 completely different topics? Because with these 5 books you can learn everything from off-camera lighting and composition to Photoshop and exposure. These books are great to read and study together, and since they’re written by well-known photographers, you know there’s good information to glean inside.
Get constructive criticism
Improving your photography and taking good pictures means you need to seek advice from professionals because they know where you are and the pros and cons, and right and wrong in photography. I have never personally spoken to a true “professional” photographer face-to-face. I have only chatted with professionals using web forums and email. I would suggest, if you can, meet some professionals and join them for a few gigs or something, which is actually on my to-do list because working with a real professional will give you hands-on experience and get real feedback, real constructive. Criticism, unlike the kind your family and friends give you.
I would suggest you sign up to one or all of these critique websites as they too can give you honest, but sometimes blunt, constructive criticism. To find sites, do the following on Google:
And last but not least my favorite and best of all, the 1X. You have to sign up to see and use their review system, but it’s totally worth it and free.
What you do is sign up to one or all of the critical websites and post a photo that you want to get some feedback on. Most of the time these sites require you to respond to at least one photo before you can post your own This keeps the community balanced, so everyone isn’t just posting pictures for criticism and not making any criticism themselves.
In addition to critical websites, there are a few photography blogs that I love. The first is the well-known blog written by David Hobby called Strobist. His blog is mainly about off-camera lighting, or as the name suggests, strobes. Ken Rockwell, for the sake of mentioning him, has to be mentioned. He is pretty much a Nikon fanatic who makes a lot of jokes about various things. He has a lot of great information on Nikon camera gear. Joshua Coffin is probably one of my favorite photographers because he sets up his shots as if they were movies. She also has a great blog so I recommend you follow her to see her latest amazing work and how she creates them.
And now for the no-brainer…
Keep pressing that shutter!
Practice makes perfect and taking photos is no exception. If you want to be the next best photographer in town or the world (hey it’s possible!) you need to get out and start shooting more. And for those who log 60 plus hours a week at work and still try to be a great photographer, you need to make time to get out and shoot. It’s hard, I know. I work about 50 hours a week at my retail job here in Berkeley, Michigan, and know firsthand how difficult it is to find time to take photos.
If you want to get better, you need to spend time taking photos. When I first got into photography I didn’t spend more than a few hours a month with my camera. And it showed; My photos are the same as when I first started. Something needed to be done so I got into the habit of spending a few hours every week on my technique. It eventually builds up every day in a few hours of learning to take photos. Soon I would find myself spending hours taking photos and learning, that I think my head had literally grown a few centimeters from all the information I had gathered!
The final word
If there’s one thing I’ve discovered over the past year while trying to become a better photographer, it’s the attitude of doing everything with photos. Most of this article has nothing to do with a real photography “technique” if you will because I think that if you are told to take photos in a certain way, you are constricted to a set of stupid rules and you will never be able to feel yourself. Explore photography with. However, I hope I have come up with some good points, which you will implement soon because if you do, I know you will soon discover that you have a great photographer in you. You just need to have the motivation to keep going and the right attitude.