Have you ever looked at photos online or at an exhibit and thought that it was something you could do? Perhaps you can. More than likely though you are one of the many who, although having no innate ability, are able to learn to do better. Not everyone can be an award winning photographer. It takes years of practice, experimentation, and patience to cultivate the skills needed for top notch photography. That doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and do a decent job with the photos you take. Just keep your expectations reasonable and you’ll be more delighted with the outcomes!
Choose Your Implements
What will you use to work on your photography skills? Will you choose a “regular” camera, or a digital camera, or a camera app on your cell phone? Each of these has benefits and drawbacks. Carrying a camera around is just one more thing to keep track of in life. If you plan to become a photographer or want to go beyond taking photos that don’t leave viewers scratching their heads, then perhaps a camera and equipment is a good idea for you.
However, each iteration of the cell phone camera becomes more refined and more diversely useful. There are attachments that can be bought for not much investment, allowing further refinement for those cell phone photos. Check online sales sources for information and purchasing these items. Local “phone” stores charge a lot more money than most of the attachments are worth.
Hocus Pocus Watch Your Focus
It’s important to practice holding the camera still while taking the shot you choose. No one is happy with blurry or wiggly photos, unless you have decided you want it that way. Use a flat surface to steady yourself and practice holding the camera without movement. Despite what you may have heard, practice does not make something perfect. Practice does however make things easier and more comfortable to do.
What is the most important image you want to capture in the photo you take? Is it a person, or a place, or a thing? What drew your eye to that place? How can you help the viewer see what you are seeing right now? According to William Schoellkopf, using the lens as a “third eye” will help you to decide and give more focus to your efforts. What is it about that person or thing that you find interesting? Would it be better as a close up photo or a glance shot, meaning something you take without too much composure to the frame? A good rule for photographing people and things is to consider dividing the “frame” into three equal horizontal sections. Place the subject mainly in one third of that frame. It is especially interesting to the viewer when the subject is offset, say in section one or three. Take more than one shot if possible. Be sure a couple of those shots are zoomed in photos. Be careful with that format, however. No one really wants a picture of a chin pimple in full bloom!
Try different angles. High, or low, from the side or straight on are primary ways to set up your shot. Experiment with each of them to see what you believe expresses what you are seeing. Is the item
or thing you are photographing colorful? Does one color stand out from the others? How might you emphasize that color without taking away from the overall image?
Everyone’s a Critic
Yes. Everyone’s a critic. So learn to be your first and best critic of all. Take lots of photos. Look through them. Make some notes on which ones seem to accomplish what you intended to do. Then wait a day or two. Go through the photos again, this time making new observations. Now that you have two sets of observations, compare them. Did you choose the same photos as representing your ideas each time? Why or why not? Did you choose the same photos as not worth printing? Why or why not? Use these ideas to hone your skills and help you to catch places wherein you might need to focus some practice and experience.
At last, be sure that you take advantage of opportunities to view others’ photography as well. Use the critical eye you are developing to evaluate those photos. What would you do differently from that photographer? Did s/he draw your eye where s/he intended you to look? How did s/he accomplish that goal? Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is just one more rung on the ladder to success. Sometimes we discover that the “fails” are the best photos of all.