A friend was asking me the other day how to take really good pictures. I gave some advice about equipment and lighting though thinking back on it there’s a lot more to it then the advice I gave. Hence this first article in a series of short, non-technical posts.
No not camera focus. Focus of mind, and having a clear understanding of what it is that you want to capture.
When asked about how to take better photographs, one of the first thing I’d ask you back is if you already have a subject matter in mind. Spend the time to explore (maybe through other people’s photography, or your own experiences) what is it that excites you about photography.
Let me give you an example why it is important. If the mind set is “I’m just going to go out and shoot some of this and some of that, maybe a building, some flowers, some people…” you’ll end up with a lot of average photos. The reason for that is each one of those subjects (buildings, flowers, people, etc) have their own unique challenges in creating spectacular images, which aren’t learned by shooting the other subjects. You don’t learn how to shoot flowers by shooting buildings. You learn by shooting flowers, and reading about shooting flowers, and you talk to other experts on shooting flowers, and experiment with different approaches to shooting flowers.
If, like myself, you know that what you’re after is candid expressions of people dancing then you can focus and refine your skill at doing that one style really really well. You read about (thought there isn’t much out there) that specific topic, and you experiment with different techniques.
Once you have your focus, direction, your specific vision of what you’re after you can then ask better questions; you can search for specifics that you’re having trouble with in terms of technique or equipment; you can communicate your needs better, which will help you much more in getting better.
Knowing precisely what you want to photograph each time you are out shooting is key to getting great shots as well as developing yourself as a photographer.
The other side of knowing what you want to photograph is finding out what excites you as a photographer. What do you really enjoy photographing? And I think the more specific you can be to yourself about this the better as it will help you focus.
If you are starting out and don’t really know what excites you as a photographer (maybe because of limited experience behind the lens) then find out what photographer or photographs make you think “I’d like to take those kinds of shots” and learn to imitate that style. After all imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so get out there and start imitating. You’ll soon develop your own variation which is unique.
If you have any comments, or suggestions please let me hear them.