Back to Basics

A customer came into the store recently and told me of a photo workshop she attended. The instructor, required her students to make every photo in manual mode – manual focus, manual exposure. Not only that, but every photo had to be taken on a tripod and when it came time to share the photos, they could not be “photoshopped”.

I love it. What a great idea. I can’t think of a better way to get get more “connected” to your image – to learn more about the craft of photography. No auto, point and shoot, motor driven images. Instead, each image requiring thought and purpose. Each image created from your eye, your brain, and your heart

I’ve learned the value of this approach recently. I have been shooting more with manual focus prime lenses and have noticed that when shooting with them, I feel much more connected to my photos. I’ve slowed down, and manually focused and exposed, and in doing so, I feel much more aware of what is in the frame. Shooting in manual exposure mode also gets me thinking more about the light and what I need to do to capture the mood it creates.

So, back to basics with these tips that we already know, but need to be reminded of occasionally :

Get closer. The biggest mistake photographers make is that they don’t get close enough to their subjects. Robert Capa said it best : “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

Know your camera intimately. Know what everything does, where it is located and how to set it. Your photography can’t improve until you feel comfortable with your camera.

Outside the box. As you compose a photograph run your eyes around the outside edges of the viewfinder, checking to make sure you’re not cropping someone’s head or feet off or that there is not some unwanted element coming into your subject or picture.

Anticipation/Seeing. Look for the “magic moment.” Be ready for it. Pre-visualize.  Ask yourself “what could happen” Watch body language and facial expressions.

Composition. Look for shapes and angles and camera placement that adds drama to the photo. Don’t just put your subject in the center of the frame. Think left or right of center. Will negative space help your photo, or will getting closer be better? Look for leading lines into subject.

Lens selection. Wide angle helps show subjects in their environment. Telephoto compresses the scene.  Know which lens will work best for a scene.

Perspective. Get low or get high. Most people see the world from eye level. Take the viewer of your photograph someplace where they’ve never been. It will make your pictures instantly more interesting.

Shoot layers of information. By layering your pictures with info they become more powerful and the message is stronger. Use foreground and background elements to create a message.

Read the light. Photography is all about light. Learn to see it; Understand how light can set a mood in a photo. Even when you are not photographing something look at the quality of the light around you.

Have something to say with your photography. Your pictures are a reflection of you. Your photography is how YOU interpret the world around you. Find passion in your love for photography.

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2 thoughts on “Back to Basics

  1. VERY cool Michael! Watching the sunlight march up El Cap and the wind effect on the Falls was particularly interesting. The zoom was very effective. Really enjoyed it — thanks very much!

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