It has recently come to my attention that exactly 10 years ago, almost to the date, I took my very first step into the world of photography. I was fresh out of high school when I got conscripted to the army and later served as a military photographer. Whether it was to my liking or not, this is how I was set on this long path which has, since then, flourished and developed my passion for photography into my current career as a traveling, cultural and documentary photographer.
After many years of doing photography as an amateur, I came to a few simple and rather trivial realizations.
1. Focusing on the flaws of your camera is just an excuse to buy new hardware. Re-reading reviews of your current camera is the best remedy for that. The awesome features that made you buy the camera and overlook its shortcomings are still there.
2. Practically any current DSLR and mirrorless camera from Sony, Olympus, Canon, and Nikon is more than good enough if you are an amateur or enthusiast. That has been true for a while.
3. Reading the manual that comes with your camera is not a bad idea at all.
The truth is never easy to swallow. Take for example to answer for the oh-so-popular question, what camera should I buy? Most will suffix this questions with something like “I heard that the new Canon 5dmk4 is awesome” or “I am considering starting with the Sony A7III” to add some background. This is a weird thing to ask, considering that gear does not make your photography better. Sure, some gear makes some types of photography possible, but it rarely makes it better. The right answer to this question will probably save you quite a lot of money, but also force you to take responsibility for your final photos.
In this short video, Pye Jirsa of SLR Lounge explains why the best investment in gear is never buying new gear. (ok, there is a point when that latest model does make sense, but it is usually far, far down the road).
“Content is king” is what people say. Well, recently I delivered a video clip that was part of a series of clips I produced for a client. I wasn’t 100% proud of it on a technical level. So why did I still deliver it to the client? This was, after all, only one part of a series of clips. I could have delivered all the rest and explained to the client that this one wasn’t quite perfect and so would rather not release it.
I still sent it to the client because I knew that the content in the clip, the story if you would, was very engaging. And if you have a great story and decent audio, I believe you can get away with it if some of the shots aren’t perfect.
First, let me explain why the shots weren’t perfect. This was a corporate shoot and, very often in corporate shoots, you don’t have full control of what and how you’re going to shoot.
When my wife and I first met, we spent a week together in Vancouver. One of the things that made me realise that we were so well suited to each other was that we both loved taking photos. While walking around the downtown area, it took us about an hour to cover 30 meters because we both kept stopping to take pictures of various things that we found interesting along the way.
I also soon learned that she had a much better natural eye. Over the period of an hour I could take one hundred pictures and she would take ten, and all ten of hers were better than mine. She just sees shapes and angles that I miss.
I remember the first photography workshop that I took part in, one of the coolest things that came from it was that, for at least two to three weeks after the workshop, I was seeing potential images everywhere I looked. It was like some switch had been turned on in my brain and suddenly I was seeing the world in a totally different light.
And then, as time went by and I got caught up in the everyday work of everyday life, that switch in my brain slowly reduced in strength. It never completely goes away but, like any muscle, if you’re not regularly exercising that area of your brain, your photography fitness will wane. So what are some exercises that you can do that can help keep your image making fitness going?
Self-assessment after a year-long journey through uncharted waters.
By definition the answer is simple: It’s yes. Well done. Have a chocolate.
Clark Terry was one of the world’s best jazz trumpet players and educators (I guess he could DO as well as TEACH… who knew). He is also well known for stating the artists creative cycle in three short words: Imitate, Assimilate, Innovate. He was speaking toward musicians, but I am a strong believer that it is also applicable for photographers, designers, illustrators, dragster drivers, authors, animal trainers.
In short – it is simply how creative people learn to do what they do.
Lately, I started to do some research about becoming a better writer. Apparently a lot of the suggestions that I read also translate into photography and probably a lot more creative professions. Thinking outside the box is always advised to get some new kind of input and reading tips about photography written by photographer’s all the time can get a bit stale. Therefore I took the tips that are directed at writers and transferred them into street photography.
Have you ever seen that “CC Welcome” caption on photos uploaded to Facebook, Flickr and 500px? Basically it stands for Creative Critique or Constructive Criticism, and it is probably the worse way possible to ask for feedback.
Photographer Joe Edelman notes that one of two will probably happen: you either get a bunch of ego flattering, one worded, “awesome” comments. Or real criticism happen and the photographer starts defending their choices. Neither is really helpful. To combat this Joe suggests several tips that will solicit good feedback right from the start: