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Tips for Better Pictures


Today's e-tip:

Learning from the best:

Great quotes that can
help improve your photography

Your digital camera doesn't see the way you do. Understanding the differences in the way you and your camera sees is the start of taking great pictures.
Learning from the best:

Great quotes that can help improve your photography

We’ve all seen people who go out with a camera or camera phone and shoot indiscriminately. They get lots of pictures but will never get anything very good.

This eTip isn't "technical" in nature. It doesn't talk about camera settings. And it has nothing to do with the type of camera gear you have.

It has everything to do with SEEING and TAKING a good picture - something no camera or lens you could ever own can do for you.

We're going to quote some famous photographers, and combine their quotes into a tutorial that will help you become a better photographer.

"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."

Ansel Adams, one of the greatest landscape photographers ever, once said:

"There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept."

This pretty much summarizes everything we do in photography. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking a landscape image, a portrait or just shots of the kids playing. It's often important to take a sharp image. But, if your image is confusing to look at, it will fail.

In order to take "good" pictures, you need to pre-conceive what you want to shoot BEFORE you actually shoot it. How do you do this? Read on...

The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.
Robert Mapplethorpe, a controversial B&W photographer said:

"The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer."

In order to eliminate any "fuzzy concepts" you may have, you need to provide your brain with some ideas.

Viewing the kind of pictures you would like to take can provide your brain with everything it needs!
Before you go out to shoot, look at good pictures that you would like to emulate. Just open your browser and search for the kind of pictures you will be shooting. A good starting point is http://images.google.com. By looking at what other photographers have shot, you’ll be planting the seeds of a solidified concept of what you want to shoot.

This is how you "conceptualize". The images you view will guide your brain in the direction you want to go. Once you’re out shooting, your images will be the better for it.

Only photograph what you love.
Another way to get better images, is captured in this quote.

Tim Walker, a British fashion photographer who shoots for Vogue, W and Love magazines, said:

"Only photograph what you love."

Your best pictures will always be of subjects that you love. A professional photographer doesn’t have the ability to shoot what they love – they have to shoot what the client wants. That’s one of the things that separates pro photographers from amateurs. Amateurs get to shoot whatever they want – pros don’t, but they still have to be able to take great pictures.

You, assuming you’re not a pro, have the ability to shoot what you like best – and doing this will make you a better photographer.

Emotional content is an image’s most important element
The photographer Anne Geddes has sold more than 18 million books and 13 million calendars. She said:

"I think that emotional content is an image’s most important element, regardless of the photographic technique."

Plain and simple: Images that don’t convey emotion aren’t good images.

If the viewer of your image doesn’t "feel" an emotion, then your image fails. When you photograph things you love, you will feel an emotional attachment to the images you take. This attachment helps you convey emotion in your images.

Don McCullin, a British photojournalist, recognized for his war photography and images of urban strife indicated:

"Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures."

A good photograph is knowing where to stand
Ansel Adams said so simply:

"A good photograph is knowing where to stand."

Before you quickly click the shutter to take an image, stop and think about where you should be standing. Sometimes it just takes a step to the right or left to completely change how your image will look.

Photograph what you love and look for the right place to shoot it from to convey the greatest emotion.

Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.
Henri Cartier-Bresson, a master of candid photography said:

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst."

It takes practice (but, maybe not that much practice!). There’s a lot to learn in photography, and you can't learn it quickly. I equate it to learning a second language. Becoming fluent in a new language can take years. You need to give your photography time. All it takes is practice - lots of practice.

The more you shoot, the better your images will be. But, you also need to become selective about what you take. Don't shoot indiscriminately - taking a lot of bad images won't make you a better photographer.

It takes lots of practice before you start taking good images on a regular basis. I’ve been taking pictures for over 50 years. During that period, whenever I looked back at pictures I took a few years previous, I always thought, "boy, I’ve gotten better since then". You will continue to progress, and you will continue to get better. It doesn't happen overnight, however.

We learn more from studying our mistakes than our successes.
Jim Coe, an artist with a passion for birds, nature, old barns, and relics of our rural heritage said about critiques:

"We don't want to be unkind, and therefore may be less than honest in giving negative feedback about images. I say let it all hang out! One learns little from someone telling us our work is "great" or that they "like it". In fact, it can further egoistic "gee - I'm an artist" attitudes that interfere with our true artistic progress. Just like NASA, we learn more from studying our mistakes than our successes."

The speed of your improvement will be hastened by honest critiques.

The curse of social media is when all of your social media "friends" tell you how good a photographer you are.

These "likes" are much more detrimental than helpful. You need an honest critique from people - something sorely missing from social media. It's more important to find out what people DON'T like, rather than what they do like. 

Seek out honest critiques whenever and wherever you can. Expect criticism. Hope for criticism. You’ll only learn from your mistakes when you know what your mistakes are. If you don’t know what your mistakes are, you can pretty-much give up hope of improving.

I have recently deleted my Facebook account, as social media is a really bad place to post pictures, and expect to improve.

As Ansel Adams so eloquently stated:

"The single most important component of a camera is the twelve inches behind it!"

Ansel Adams was referring to the photographer (he shot with a very large "view" camera, thus he was 12 inches behind the lens. Today, you may be a mere few inches!)

You are the most important component in taking great images – it’s not the camera, lens or any other accessory.

Become pro-active by using your most important photographic accessory - your brain - to take better images.


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