Jan 28 2010

Are You in the Photographic Doldrums? Then Challenge Yourself!

Digital cameras, image editing software, and post-processing techniques have revolutionized and democratized photography. Anyone who can get hold of a digicam and who has a computer to process their images can join in. But gear and technology only go so far. It’s the person behind the viewfinder and clicking the shutter who makes the difference between a so-so snapshot and a terrific photograph.

When you look through your photo collection, are you disappointed with their quality? Then ask yourself a few questions. When you take photos, do you always shoot from the same position? Is the main attraction always centered in the photo? Do you always have the light coming in over your shoulder? “Always” is a clue. If you always shoot in the same way or always shoot the same kind of pictures, that will lead to a mediocre photo album.

Good photos challenge the eye and the mind. They show unfamiliar scenes, or they show familiar scenes in a new way. Improve your photos by changing your perspective. Get down low and shoot up. Or get up high and shoot down. Crop your photos tight, either by zooming in, or by limiting depth of field. Get in close to things you usually see from afar. Look for textures, patterns, and contrasts. Cultivate an eye for scenes that tell a story. Expose the unexpected, show things in a way that your audience has never seen before. In short, surprise them.

Anyone can get lucky and shoot a fabulous picture every now and then, but to shoot consistently good pictures takes practice and attention to details. How? By learning your craft. Among other things, this means taking control of your camera. Read the camera manual thoroughly and figure out how to make your tools work for you. Learn how to use aperture, shutter speed, and depth of field to best advantage. Use a critical eye when evaluating your photos, and ask more experienced photographers to critique them. And practice, a lot. It pays dividends.

Need some motivation? Then set yourself assignments designed to concentrate your efforts on specific techniques or subjects. Go on shoots where you will get the best pictures you can of, say,…

  • Reflections
  • Shadows
  • Contrast
  • Textures
  • Patterns

Or how about shooting photos that fit a theme such as:

  • Motion
  • Stillness
  • Wetness
  • Cold
  • Abstract
  • Minimalism

Other approaches include…

  • Shooting scenes or subjects to be converted into black-and-white images
  • Shooting for appealing bokeh (out of focus areas of the picture)
  • Shooting only with a telephoto lens
  • Shooting only macro photos
  • Shooting only wide-angle photos

You get the point.This are not exhaustive lists of challenges (see examples at the end of the article). Make up some of your own. The important thing is to shoot pictures with a disciplined approach, critique them, learn from your mistakes, and shoot some more. Before you know it, I’m betting you’ll notice improvement. Instead of culling 95-percent of your photos, you’ll be labeling a larger proportion as keepers. So what are you waiting for? Go shoot! And don’t forget to have a good time!


 
Some examples:

Reflections:

Reflecting Winter

Shadows:

Bike Shadow

Contrast:

Contrast

Textures:

Beech Bark

Patterns:

Brambles

Motion:

Fast Chip

Stillness:

Dead Deer

Wetness:

Wet Daisy

Cold:

Winter Picnic

Abstract:

Wet Daisy

Minimalism:

Break Pad

Black-and-White:

Reflecting Winter

Bokeh:

Fenceline

Telephoto:

Telephoto

Macro:

Herding Aphids

Wide-Angle:

Herding Aphids

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