Tree Tunnel, Eastern Sierra

Tips and Tricks

How many times have you come across advertisements, tweets, or the like where it starts out something like this, “20 Crazy Tips and Tricks to Make You a Better Photographer”.  I’ve seen more of these than I can count.  It seems that everyone is looking for a shortcut, some magic pill that will make them automatically jump to the head of the line and become the “best” photographer in town.  As you can probably tell, I’m not a big fan of this approach.

Are there any quick and easy ways to improve your photography?  Good question, and I don’t know that I have the answer for that.  I do know that there is one way to improve, and that would be to work at it!  Vince Lombardi said it best, “the price of success is hard work”.  What does that mean as it relates to photography?  Again, a good question and another that I don’t know if I have the answer.  To begin the process of improvement I think you need to know what it is that you want from your photography.  What inspires you, makes you want to take your camera out and push the button?  Is it the stark beauty of black and white, or is it the vibrant color of a landscape painted in Fall Color?  Or could it be to capture family memories as your kids grow up?  It helps give some direction to your quest for improvement by knowing what it is that you want.

“What about the gear?” you may be asking right about now.  You may be worried that you only have a simple point and shoot camera or just use the camera on your phone.  My thoughts on gear are pretty simple and while not original go something like this, the best camera is the one you have with you!  You might have the most expensive Canon or Nikon and all of the best lenses that money can buy.  Unfortunately that won’t do you any good if it’s sitting at home when something grabs your attention and you have nothing to capture the moment with.  So having a simple point and shoot or your phone is ok.  They may have some limitations that the higher end gear doesn’t, but in the end it’s the image and/or the memory that count.  Don’t get me wrong, you need to know how to use the device that you have.  You should know how to use it backwards and forwards so when the moment comes that you need it you aren’t wasting time fiddling around with the knobs and buttons.  This is the part that anyone can learn, the technical part.  It’s the other part that gets tricky!

What is the other part?  Still another good question, and I still don’t know if I have an answer for it.  To me the other part is the emotional impact that an image has.  It’s the thing that grabs you and makes you want to look at it.  You may wonder what it was like to be there, or what was the photographer trying to tell you,  or what’s the story behind it.  When this happens with one of my images I know I’m on the right track.  It’s very seldom that gear talk comes into play when I have successfully created an image with emotional impact.  Does the gear really matter at this point?  Only to those gear heads that can’t see beyond the pixels.  When I’ve successfully created that image that really works, who cares if I did it with a Canon, Sony or Olympus.  I don’t want to come off as insincere because I will post the gear used for a particular shot.  This is simply done as a matter of record to those that are interested.  Maybe someone is interested because they are in the market for a new camera and are looking for examples for comparison sake.  In that regard I hope the camera info I post is of use.

How do you learn the other part?  Another good and hard to answer question.  Hopefully I’m not coming across as dumb by not having the answer to all of these good questions.  I think these words on the subject are about the best you’ll find, “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.” ― Ansel Adam

Can this be learned in a class or workshop?  Personally speaking that approach doesn’t work for me.  But maybe it will work for you.  The best thing to do is get out there are try it.  Try a lot of things.  There are some great resources floating around out there on the web, and most of them are free.  If you want to step it up there are also plenty of lessons out there that may cost you a few bucks, but in the end they may be worth it.  If you are the sort of person that learns best from a classroom setting just be sure that you are there to develop your vision and not just mimic the instructors.  And I’d suggest that you check out the content of the class or workshop.  If you are interested in black and white street photography then signing up for a workshop focusing on landscapes may not be right for you.

In closing this post I’d like to point out something that I’ve learned in all of my years with photography, and that is that I still have a lot to learn.  Hopefully you’ll discover your own path and vision!

Below are a few images of scenes that inspire me.  What is it that inspires you?  Until next time, Happy Shooting!